The Fruit of the Spirit

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25

“The fruit of the Spirit wasn’t intended to be a list of goals for us to produce–it is the Holy Spirit through us who produces fruit.” ~ Dan Kimble

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

“Therefore, as God’s people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12

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When “Holding On” is Unhealthy

Heavenly Father, I’m holding on to something which I need to release to you. Give me strength to trust your love. I want to be free and receive your blessings and the only way to do it is to believe you will do what you promise. Give me peace about this decision because I’m fraught with fear of the unknown. I pray this for your glory and in Jesus’ name. Amen.

I Can Only Imagine

This past Sunday, the Church behaved as a church should. Well, my church did anyway.

Lately, I’ve been experiencing the downward spiral that naturally and always follows mania. My diagnosis is complicated and it took years for me to understand it. True depression can be inexplicable. If someone asked me, “What’s wrong?” I could say, “Nothing” or I could say, “Everything” and both answers would be correct.

Having manic-depressive illness is something I’ve accepted, but being mentally ill sometimes always stinks.

Now about the Church being what they’re supposed to be…

I went to church under the influence of a medication I took for anxiety the night before. Sleep was eluding me, so I took the med the doctor prescribes “as needed.” It was surely needed. The anxiety was crippling and I only got about three hours of sleep because I was so agitated. I drove to church seeing double. It helped if I closed one eye, but driving one-eyed has its limitations. All through the sermon, Pastor kept splitting in two as he moved about the stage.

Between services I told our spiritual growth pastor I probably wouldn’t be able to write the sermon study because I hadn’t been able to concentrate and I had scanty notes. I gave her the lowdown. She must have moved into action right then. Brothers and Sisters began to approach me to let me know they would make sure I got home safely.

Imagine a church body that in a crisis acts like Jesus. I felt no judgements on me for being sick. The people involved treated me as if I had a “respectable” illness. They touched me just like Jesus was willing to touch the man with leprosy. They spoke to me without condescension. I was given time to just be comfortable until church was over and they could help me get home. I could almost hear them saying, “(Let’s) Go in peace.”

I wish every church body could understand––or at least try to accept––mental illness as a real sickness. Too many times we hear people tell us we could be healed if we had more faith. People suggest we pray more. I’ve been told I’m possessed.

Listen. I have faith in the healing power of Jesus. I pray. I trust God will get me through the tough times because he already has on numerous occasions. But Jesus didn’t heal every sick person he came into contact with while he lived here, walking around preaching the Good News. Maybe I’m one of the people God has decided to not heal. He hasn’t healed my good friend who’s been insulin dependent for over 30 years either and I know she prays and has faith in God.

It’s okay I’m still manic-depressive, even though, as I said, it stinks. Because I’ve experienced peace when I should have been crawling the walls. I’ve been able to read my Bible and know the words are meant for me right then, in the scattered state I’m in. Or in a funk so deep I’m reminded of King David’s “pit.” Those are the times when nothing can make me leave the house except maybe firefighters insisting upon it.

Helen Keller was an amazing woman. Read her autobiography some day. For the most part, she had a good attitude about life and didn’t let being disabled hold her back from what she wanted to accomplish. My disability isn’t the same as hers. But I find these words of hers something I relate to and am grateful for.

“I thank God for my handicaps for through them I have found myself, my work and my God.”

What will it take for God’s people to be more accepting of the poor, the uneducated, the ‘sinners,’ the foreigners, the criminals, and anyone who’s just plain different from them? I’m not sure, but I experienced on Sunday what I believe Jesus had in mind.

Love.

Hope, Anger, and Courage

augustine-on-hopes-daughters

The world is full of trouble. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. Jesus knew we’d experience trouble.

“In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33

Jesus doesn’t leave us without hope, however, because in the same breath he says he’s giving us his peace. He says he’s already overcome the world. The Amplified Bible version adds the words “I have deprived it of power to harm you.”

Knowing his peace and the fact that troubles have no power over us doesn’t mean we hide our heads in the sand and not looking at the world’s troubles. That isn’t the message Jesus means to convey. He certainly said a lot about acting to help those in need. To be a good neighbor. Pray for our enemies. Forgive from our hearts.

Jesus got angry. But it wasn’t selfish anger; it was anger that was justified. The things that made him angry needed to be made right because innocent people were suffering. The call to be like Jesus means we follow his lead. Are you measuring your anger about a situation or against a person based on Jesus’s example?

Are you bold like Jesus? Do you take risks to make the world a better place, even if it’s just the little space of world where you live? What is he calling you to be courageous about today?

Pray for the ability to make change and bring justice to a situation as Jesus would. Then, you’re offering hope to the world that is full of trouble.

When The Enemy Weasels In

“Around, around the cobbler’s bench, the monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought ‘twas all in fun. POP! goes the weasel.”classic Jack in box

As I turned the crank on my grandson’s jack-in-the-box, it played that familiar song. Like a little kid who had never played with such a toy, I was startled when the clown popped out of the lid. My daughter-in-law had been watching and laughed.

“You always know he’s coming,” she said, “but somehow he always surprises you.”

Yes, I had been caught, but I think it’s a natural thing. The little guy does seem to spring out of nowhere. I guess that’s the point.

Later, I thought of how Satan, the enemy, works the same way. I’m just going along, when all of a sudden I realize there’s something wrong. That haunting melody of lies is playing in my head and I feel out of sorts.

Everything seems to be falling apart. I can’t concentrate when I pray. My best Christian friends are getting on my nerves. My confidence is flagging.

Oh… I get it…I’m under spiritual attack.

The Bible says we should “Be self-controlled and alert.(our) enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). It’s possible for me to let my guard down with Satan taking full advantage of the situation. Sometimes by the time I recognize the culprit he’s already pounced, robbing me of joy and peace.

Jesus told his followers that the enemy is a murderer and a liar. Lying is his native tongue. What is he killing and with what does he try to accomplish the kill? Here are a few of the taunts he’ll use as ammunition:

• You’re inadequate (as a Christian, mother, husband, employee, etc.)
• God can’t forgive that sin
• People are out to get you
• It’s okay to indulge this one time
• Your attempts to succeed will fail

Recognizing the lies means the difference between victory and defeat. Knowing the difference between his condemning voice and Holy Spirit conviction is key.

ex cu woman prayingThose in Christ Jesus are no longer condemned but live under grace. God examines our hearts and we can turn to him to discover truth to any message we suspect may be a lie. We don’t need to go looking for the enemy under every rock, but we ought to be aware of his schemes. If we recognize that we’re truly under attack, we stand firm and claim truth. We can also call on a trusted friend to stand with us in prayer.

In addition, there’s no substitute for wearing our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:13-18).

If the enemy is toying with you, like the little clown did who jumped up at me, slam down the lid and walk away. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Satan needs to be reminded that we know he’s a liar. He knows that he is powerless when we live in the power of Jesus Christ.

Five Ways to Tell if Someone Loves Jesus

all-about-jesus

They Love Others
People who love Jesus genuinely love others. Their love is marked not only by words, but by actions. Their vocal expressions of love leave you knowing that they mean it. Read: Romans 12:9; Philippians 2:1-4; James 2:17

They Have True Peace
If someone truly loves Jesus, they exhibit a peace that’s near inexpressible. It comes from being close to him and trusting him. They don’t try to have peace. The world can’t crowd in and steal it, nor can the enemy. His peace never comes from worldly expectations. Read: John 14:27; John 16:33; Philippians 4:7

They Obey Him
If someone is in love with Jesus, they know what he wants from them and for them. He doesn’t teach commands that make life difficult; but better. People who obey do it out of love for him. Read: John 14:23; 1 John 5:3

They Submit To His Authority
Those who love Christ realize the need to make him Master of their lives. They know that without his leadership, they might get some things right, but the effect won’t be the same. Nor will their actions have positive, lasting consequences. Submitting for these people isn’t a weakness, it’s freeing. Read: Luke 9:23; John 12:24-26; 2 Corinthians 3:17

They Serve the Body of Christ
When someone loves Jesus, they love his “brothers” so much they want to serve them. They look for opportunities to help and even go the extra mile. These people use what God’s given them to build up others’ faith, comfort them, guide them or provide whatever a brother or sister needs. People who love Jesus also serve those who are outside the church with the same kind of love. Read: Matthew 25:35-40; Ephesians 4:12-16

Are there more ways to tell if someone loves Jesus? What ways would you add to this list?

Choosing My Battles

david-goliathHow is a bathmat like the giant Goliath whom the future king David slew with a stone from his sling (1 Samuel 17)? A bathmat becomes like the Philistine warrior when it presents an opportunity to wisely choose which battle we’ll fight and which battle we’ll walk away from.

My battle of the bathmat taught me a good lesson one evening with what I’ll call The Bathmat Issue. What a silly thing I had been doing. I kept nagging my kids to put the bathmat back when they were done bathing so it could dry out. I would go in after them, pick it up, fuss at them and be irritated. In fact, after my yelling, everyone was irritated. One particular night, when I was picking up the bathmat, I had what could be called a “light bulb moment.”

Obviously the kids didn’t care about picking up the bathmat; it wasn’t a big deal to them. It was only important to me. Giving it more serious thought, harmony in my home was more important than how the mat made its way off the floor. God was pointing out to me in a gentle way what was really important. I decided to let go of The Bathmat Issue.

The apostle Paul advises us

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). We are to “seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34: 14)

So even when we find ourselves in a situation where we have to fight a “battle” for what we believe is right, a resolution of peace is the goal. It involves risk, but it will be worth it. Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers” for good reason.

In addition to learning how to pursue a peaceful resolution, I’ve learned something else from the bathmat experience. There’s a difference between picking my battles and picking fights. When I go into “battle,” I don’t have to be a bully.

With an eyeful of wisdom, and sometimes the eye of a wise friend, I can see whether I’m just being selfish and my attitude needs adjustment. I’m still learning how to choose my battles and how to behave when fighting them. I ask questions like:

“Does it make a big difference one way or the other if things turn out my way?” “Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?” “Will my actions in fighting this battle harm someone or harm the relationship?”

In all cases, I try to be discerning.

David, who fought Goliath in the familiar story, recognized that the giant was wrong to mock the army of the Lord of hosts. Depending on God, David knew it was a battle he was meant to fight. On the other hand, I was upset about a soggy inanimate object.

In choosing my battles, I try to also remember that the key to all of them is prayer. Because that’s how important is the end result.

Facing Adversity

The journey of spiritual maturity isn’t always easy. From the first tentative steps we take as Christ followers, we experience hard times. Adversity comes to everyone, not just those who live in obedience to the sinful nature.

Yet with our eyes focused on Jesus, adversity doesn’t have the power over us it once had. If we’re living in his presence and listening for his voice, we understand more about who Christ is and we grow deeper in our relationship with him.

As we stay in step with the Holy Spirit, we experience less of the troubles we once made for ourselves. However, when those inevitable times of adversity come, we’re promised that they’re only for a specified time, which God has already ordained.

We also know that God is present in any circumstance, good or bad, and provides the resources we need to get through. The resource may come in the form of another person’s assistance, finances, a specific need for our health, or the prayers of the saints.

When hard times come and put us to the test, God always does his part; what is expected of us? In my experience, relying on God and deepening my conscious contact with him brings peace. Rather than running full-tilt to try and solve a problem, he’s shown me it’s better if I slow down. That doesn’t mean doing nothing. It means I slow down enough to hear what he has to say to me.

“I tell the Lord my troubles and difficulties, and wait for Him to give me
the answers to them,” said one man of God. “And it is wonderful how a
matter that looked very dark will in prayer become clear as crystal by the
help of God’s Spirit.” I think Christians fail so often to get answers to their
prayers because they do not wait long enough on God. They just drop down
and say a few words, and then jump up and forget it and expect God to answer them.
Such praying always reminds me of the small boy ringing his neighbor’s doorbell,
and then running away as fast as he can go. ~ E.M. Bounds

Scripture says we can rely on the power of God to help us through times of adversity. “We are struck down, but not destroyed.”

Jesus warned that in this world we would have trouble, then assured his disciples that he himself had overcome the world (John 16:33).

Following the Master means denying ourselves, which is to die to our rights; carrying our cross, which is to die to our old nature; and to follow, which is obedience.

What does that mean for us? Trials are bound to come in life even with our new life in Christ. But with the power of God working through us, we can overcome any situation and live the abundant life promised to us.

Without God, we’re helpless; but with him all things are possible

Don’t Melt…Down

In the city where I live, there’s a busy road on which I travel often. And as I do, I nearly always catch the flashing message on a particular digital sign as I drive by. It says, “DON’T MELT… DOWN.”

The sign is for a jewelry store and I realize the rest of the message is about gold and silver jewelry and what the owners hope you’ll do with it. Nevertheless, “Don’t melt down,” is a reminder I need to hear now and then.

My lifestyle isn’t frustrated by busyness or a lot of noise. However, I’ve taken my turn at worrying. That’s when the reminder “Don’t melt down” comes in handy and my best reminders are from scripture.

Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount not to worry. He says our Father in heaven considers us more valuable than birds. Of course, Jesus is right. And why would I want to borrow trouble from tomorrow when I have today to deal with?

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Jesus originated the idea for taking life one day at a time.

For those of us who can’t slow down, Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man.” We all need to stop and take time to rest. King Solomon observed that we “stay up late, toiling for food to eat” echoing Jesus in regard to our need for rest. Apparently even in ancient times there were “workaholics” who needed a reminder to take it easy. Not doing so would even affect their sleep.

Because I can’t always stop the inner head chatter on my own, I’m glad I have God’s word to help me. I’m not always driving down that busy road with the blinking jewelry store sign to remind me.

Besides, His voice is a better reminder for me to not “melt down.”