Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Self Control

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

I suppose it requires a bit of self-control to write anything about self-control. So, seriously, what qualifies me to write about it? Because this is the fruit of the Spirit I struggle with most. To keep my heart with all diligence as the graphic below instructs, I must be submissive. (Raise your hand if you absolutely love being submissive.)

I believe the fruit of the Spirit don’t come to us in the order they’re listed in Galatians. In other words, we aren’t first given love, then joy, then peace, etc. The Holy Spirit grows each of them simultaneously because we always need each of them to live a holy life.

Certainly, love leads the way. Without the same love the Lord commands, we’ll never understand the other fruit.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:36-40 

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31  

When Paul the apostle said we would grow in grace according to God’s plan, he was aware of God’s commandment given to the children of Israel. He knew Jesus had also commanded that love each other. “As I have loved you.” “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

Describing what self-control looks like isn’t easy. We may be exercising self-control without anyone around us even knowing it.

  • At the restaurant buffet, you select only one dessert.
  • Your teenager grumbles about his punishment for breaking the rules and you refrain from threats of making the punishment more severe just because you can.
  • In traffic, although you’re in a hurry, you stop and wave the driver into the lane ahead of you.
  • You decide you don’t need to have the last word.

My default mode is “Self,” so in any given circumstance, without the help of the Holy Spirit, I’ll think of my desires first. The circumstance may be pleasant, or it may be unpleasant, but I’ll find some way to make it all about me. Self-control was—for me anyway—first practiced with a white-knuckle grip. Eventually the Spirit only needs to whisper for me to loosen my grip. I give up what I want for the sake of harmony.

Most good ideas are simple ones. As my relationship with God became deeper, I could see how his ideas are simple; we’re the ones who complicate things. The idea of self-control is simple: it comes down to submitting to God and to others. However, carrying out a simple idea isn’t always easy. When we submit to God, allowing the Spirit to work in our lives, he makes it easier and easier to submit to others until it becomes a natural response.

For my next feat of self-control, I’ll stop writing this blog post before I start to sound like a wind bag.

Be a blessing to someone today.

Praying a Humble Prayer

She prays this earnest prayer when she realizes she is prone to behaving like, as we used to call it, a ‘fuddy-duddy.’ I believe the prayer fits no matter what our age is.

Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am growing older and one day will be old.

Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs.

Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy.

With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all; but you know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.

Seal my lips on my aches and pains, they are increasing and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.

I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of other’s pains but help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.

Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint, some of them are so hard to live with, but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talent in unexpected people, and give me O Lord the grace to tell them so. Amen

Anonymous Nun, Seventeenth century

 

“The Seven Deadly Friendships” a Review

The Seven Deadly Friendships by Mary DeMuth, copyright 2018, Harvest House Publishers, 208 pages

Recognizing seven types of toxic relationships, DeMuth describes each type with patterns of behaviors to look for in friends who can ultimately destroy relationships. The seven deadly are called Narcissist Nolan, Unreliable Uma, Predator Paige, Conman Connor, Tempter Trevor, Faker Fiona, and Dramatic Drake.

The book impressed me because DeMuth talks in plain language and doesn’t use language intended to prompt guilt or shame, in the reader or the person she suggests we avoid. She just says we should be aware, and if we need to, move on. Her tone sometimes suggests we need to have a forgiving nature toward others, no matter the hurt they cause us.

I read about the characters she describes and related to the problems because I’ve encountered all of them at one time or another. I called them “people who suck the life out of you.” I also related to the problems of each character because I’ve been each of them at one time or another. It was hard to admit that I was also at one time sucking the life out of people. I played Dramatic Drake like I was born to it. *sigh*

So does DeMuth offer any advice? Yes. She includes checklists to identify and evaluate a relationship based on patterns of behavior. For instance, the occasional case of a friend being unreliable is forgivable, but it’s the patterns she says that should send up red flags.

According to the author, red flags also apply to the reader and they should ask themselves if they also display these patterns. For instance, when Unreliable Uma is someone we identify with, we should ask ourselves if we say what we mean and mean what we say. She also helps us to understand why we may be attracting toxic people.

I’ve lived on both sides of the tracks of toxic relationships, so to speak, and the book gave me an opportunity to look at my blind spots. None of us, I suppose, is ever free of these tendencies. The messages in “The Seven Deadly Friendships” encourage us to rely on God to make our decisions about how we respond to others and what to do in each case.

DeMuth uses scripture to explain how to face the reality of broken relationships and how to heal and move on. The last three chapters are guides to finding healthy relationships based on the character attributes of the biblical characters, Jesus and Joseph. The book closes by describing seven life-giving practices.

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

In some Bible translations, the word ‘meekness’ replaces the word ‘gentleness’. Many of us struggle with a clear definition of the word ‘meekness,’ but we know for sure the demonstration of gentleness when we see it. We picture a mother … Continue reading

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

  “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13 In our relationships, we value trustworthiness in people. We want to be able to rely on them. The Holy Spirit grows this virtue in … Continue reading

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

Goodness may be defined as “the deliberate preference of right to wrong, the firm and persistent resistance of all moral evil, and the choosing and following of all moral good.” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary) However, goodness is also difficult to define it without using the word ‘good.’

As I continue to learn about how the Holy Spirit works in me to produce fruit, I’m glad that Easton’s dictionary uses verbs like choosing and following because the words imply I need to be aware of what’s going on around me.

When a rich young ruler approached Jesus hoping for a place in the kingdom, Jesus asked him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19)

The Greek word translated “goodness” is agathosune and means “uprightness of heart and life.” While God sees me as righteous because of my right standing with him, I might want to let others make the judgement call about how upright I am in life. After all, Jesus, who is God, gave all goodness to God alone. He could have claimed it, but in his humility, he glorified his Father.

So can I refer to myself that way, or is it up to others to call me good? Jesus told the man that inheriting the kingdom was more than obeying commandments; he was expected to show his heart, then follow.

I also appreciate that, to be considered good, I must be deliberate, firm, and persistent. Indeed, according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, being good is not a passive quality. The Spirit leads, I listen, I obey.

Ultimately, the fruit of the Spirit called “goodness,” is defined by, as are the others, the Holy Spirit himself as he works in us to make us good. With the Spirit working in us, we’re able to live a fruitful life. We love, we exhibit joy and peace. We act with kindness, and we have the potential to be good.

So far, so good.

Gracious Father who is all that’s good, continue to lead me in the way. Help me to see the life of Jesus as my model, growing in goodness and giving you all the glory. Amen.

Foodie’s Dips and Spreads

Walking through the cracker aisle for saltines, I decided to pick up a couple boxes of snack crackers. I have my favorites and I usually know exactly what I’m going to use for a spread or dip. I mean, you can’t eat a cracker without a spread or something to dip it in. Can you?

I never met a cheese I didn’t like. So today, Foodie presents three dips and spreads with cheese. Their flavors range from zesty to rather mild.

Creamy Horseradish Dip

  • Half pound Velveeta cheese spread, cubed
  • One third cup horseradish sauce or 2 T. horseradish
  • 1 fourth c. milk
  • Microwave ingredients in a one-quart microwave safe bowl on high at 2-minute intervals, stirring each time, until cheese is entirely melted or until you can stir them into a creamy mixture.
  • Makes about 1 and 1/3 cups. Serve with vegetables, chicken nuggets, or chicken fingers. Sometimes I add a dash of hot sauce for a little more kick.

Bacon Cheese Spread

  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 T. finely chopped onion
  • One third c. sour cream
  • 3 slices crisp-cooked bacon, crumbled
  • Mix all ingredients together until thoroughly blended.
  • Makes about 1 one half cups

Serving suggestion

Hot Artichoke and Spinach dip

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • One fourth cup mayonnaise
  • One fourth cup grated parmesan cheese
  • One fourth cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • One fourth t. garlic powder
  • Half t. basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 14 oz. can artichokes, drained and chopped
  • Half cup frozen spinach thawed and thoroughly drained
  • One fourth cup grated mozzarella
  • In a large bowl, beat until smooth the cream cheese and mayonnaise. Blend in the Parmesan and Romano cheeses, garlic, basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl.
  • Gently stir in the spinach and artichokes. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. Transfer mixture to dish. Top with mozzarella and bake at 350 degrees until cooked through and bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  • In addition to the old standby tortilla chips, pita chips and crusty bread are good choices for dipping in this one.

And here’s one that uses dairy, but not cheese, and adds something fruity to your zesty dip choices.

Fruit Dip

Mix by hand 1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream, 1 fourth t. paprika, 2 t. honey and 1 fourth cup crushed pineapple (drained). Chill for about one hour before serving for flavors to blend. You can use the juice from the pineapple to soak apple slices for dipping. Dip the usual fruits or try vanilla wafers. For a sweet/salty taste, dip mini pretzels.

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

When someone says the word ‘kindness,’ what we think of can be a mixture of other words as we consider how to define it. We think about how people are nice; that they act in a loving way; or that … Continue reading

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

The word is Patience, but in some Bibles, it’s translated as ‘longsuffering.’

That’s interesting. “Suffer long” isn’t something I would say I’m good at. Compared to even a couple years ago, I’m more patient, but I still experience times when I want immediate relief.

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. And when the Spirit fills us, we will develop patience. The Holy Spirit begins to grow us in virtue and character when we decide to fully devote ourselves to Jesus. Patience isn’t dropped from Heaven in one fell swoop. We listen to what God’s Spirit is saying, then it’s up to us to behave in a patient manner. We bloom, then reap a harvest of fruit.

It isn’t necessarily a bad idea to pray for patience. But we want to remember that saying “Be careful what you pray for.” A friend of mine shared her experience praying that way. She said, “I prayed for patience, but God didn’t send me patience all wrapped up in a box with a bow on top. I got pregnant.” She was happy about the gift God did send and she certainly learned patience raising that boy.

We learn to love by exercising love. We have joy and peace when we exercise faith. God says, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18).

Listening to the Holy Spirit, whose native language is love, joy, peace, and patience, means we’re hearing the logic of exercising those things. Surely God has emotions and he gives us emotions to help us in our times of need. But he also wants us to think. Things just go better for everyone when we are patient, not wanting our way or being unable to accept whatever is going on in the moment.

“Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way” (Psalm 37:7).

The wisdom from Heaven is mature, for it is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (James 3:17).

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like what patience must be like. I confess though, sometimes it doesn’t sound like me at all.

Patience is associated with maturity. We put away childish things. How I exercise patience and what the lack of it looks like became more clear when I could make this distinction: there’s a big difference between being childlike and being childish.

Simply put, our lives can be so much better when we see how patience smooths the way.

How has God spoken to you about patience? How has he given you opportunities to exercise patience?

Lord, you are patient with us; teach us to be the same. We ask for the humility we need to exercise patience and to give up control. Lead us through every circumstance and show us what’s getting in the way of trusting you and keeping our heads in things great and small. Amen

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

In the list of fruit which will be evident in our lives as we submit to the Holy Spirit, peace is mentioned third in line. But that doesn’t mean we should master love and joy before we can have peace. The Spirit begins working all fruit in us as soon as we give our lives to Christ and decide to follow him.

If you’ve read my thoughts on Love and Joy, you might begin to understand that we don’t ‘tackle’ them as if striving to exhibit the fruit. Jesus says these are for the taking when we’re surrendered to his will. After a while, peace is our natural state of being. In my experience, agreeing with God about his purposes and the way he does things has proven to be a pretty good idea.

“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” Psalm 119:165

When Jesus healed a woman who had suffered bleeding for twelve years he told her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:48) Likewise, a local woman known for her sins crashed a party and poured expensive perfume on Jesus, washing his feet with her hair. While others criticized her, Jesus affirmed her. “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:48, 50)

When a Jew talks about peace, the word means ‘shalom.’ Shalom encompasses more to a Jew than a state of mind and body. To wish someone this kind of peace is to also wish them prosperity and wholeness. I think it’s significant that Jesus also recognized the faith they had in him. Trusting God completely will bring that kind of peace.

“And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

From the moment Christ’s birth was foretold, peace defined him. His character and attributes never suggest chaos or unrest. His wholeness, peace, love, and joy become ours. The peace the world offers is fleeting and often based on emotions, but God’s peace is based on the faith we have in him. It’s based on his gifts of unconditional acceptance and unconditional love. With the peace of God, our condition can be calm and not anxious, regardless of what’s happening around us.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Do you know someone who seems to always be at peace? What can you learn from them about living a life of peace? How do you respond when your circumstances challenge your inner life?

Jesus, we offer ourselves to you and trust you. Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to grow us and mature us in the grace you give, a never-ending grace. Your peace is what we need. We ask you to not remove us from the world, but protect our hearts from the anxieties we see there. We come to you for rest and worship you as our Prince of Peace. Amen