Feeling Fruity: Joy

Galatians 5:22 Says “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

This week let’s talk about JOY.

Joy is an interesting fruit, because it is more of something we feel and less of something we do. That being said, joy is different than happiness. The two are similar and often confused with each other, but they are not true synonyms. Happiness occurs because of circumstances. Joy occurs, in spite of circumstance. Both are beneficial but serve different purposes.

Happiness is fleeting and in the moment. It’s something that our human minds strive to possess.  However, it’s just that, human. James says that we are mists, here today and gone tomorrow. (James 4:14) As people we crave happiness, but we cannot hold onto it forever, because we’re not forever. Situations are not permanent and people will let us down. We will certainly let ourselves down. Happiness will never last.

Joy is completely different. Joy is permanent and eternal. It is something that our eternal spirits crave. We too often forget that we are spirits first. When you enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ, your spirit is able to feel the true joy of a daily walk with God and the greater joy of an eternity with Him.

Knowing this about joy is all well and good, but when life gets really hard and you really cannot see even a glimmer of a future full of hope and joy and peace… you begin to doubt God’s plan for you. You even begin to doubt His love. Jesus, Himself knows this feeling. From the cross He asked God “why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) Of course, He could have saved Himself, but He didn’t.  He knew what He was doing.  Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection would insure that His people would live with Him forever. An eternity with His children was worth His own death.

I am a worrier and a planner and a person that always feels the need to know what’s next. This often robs me of my joy, even worse, I am robbed of the hope for the future I was promised. (Jeremiah 29:11) I am blinded by worry about my future as a mortal, so I must remember that my future won’t be spent here on earth. I will have an eternity with the One who suffered the cruelty of the cross, because He knew the joy that was coming when I enter eternity with Him. (Hebrews 12:2) Knowing this gives me great joy.

 

 

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Feeling Fruity: Self-Control

Galatians 5:22-23 Says “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

It’s a new year and we are making our resolutions once again! Which of course, it take lots of self-control to keep up with a list of improvements we need to make. We often set up unrealistic expectations and fail at keeping our resolutions before we even start, or we make resolutions to do things that should just be an everyday part of our lives. These things may be beneficial, but not as life changing as we may think.

As humans, we focus on a list of things that can improve our lives. The way we look. The way feel physically. The way others perceive us. I’m sure many of our New Year’s resolutions list look something like this:

  • Drink more water
  • Read more books
  • Make time for me
  • Go to the gym
  • Do more face masks

When Jesus talks about fasting in Matthew 5, He says not to bring attention to ourselves. Don’t make it obvious, God will see what you’re doing so there is no need to show your great “self-control” off to others.  This makes me think about our resolutions why we choose what we do.  We do things that will make us look better. Things that will make us feel better. Yet, with all this effort we end up choosing resolutions that we can brag to our friends (real or on Facebook) about when we succeed or when we fall short we seek the support of others who have no self-control and fail to achieve their own resolutions. So many of our resolutions are temporary fixes and don’t have any real lasting impact on our eternity. In Matthew 5:19-20, Jesus goes onto say “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy… But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”

What if we changed our perspective from “New Year’s Resolutions” to “Daily Spiritual Goals”?

  • Drink more Living Water (John 7:37-38)
  • Read more books of the Bible (Romans 10:17)
  • Make more time for others (1 Peter 4:10)
  • Exercise your testimony (Romans 10:14)
  • Take your masks off and be more genuine (1 Samuel 16:7)

In Titus 2:11-12, Paul tells us that it is God’s grace that teaches us right from wrong and compels us to live upright and self-controlled lives. Let our prayer this year be “God, please help me to stick with the human goals I have, but more importantly, let me glorify you in everything I do. Give me the discipline and self-control to do what is right, physically and spiritually. In Jesus name, Amen.”

 

 

 

 

Feeling Fruity: Love

Galatians 5:22-23 Says “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Love. A word with vast meanings. Even in the Bible there are multiple meanings of love. At the time the Bible was written, and in the various languages of the authors, the word love could mean different things. Love of a brother. Love of a friend. Love of a parent. Love of a spouse. Love of the Lord. When the Bible was translated to English we dumbed down all of the different uses of the word LOVE. The writers of the Bible used careful consideration when choosing the words for the type of LOVE they meant.

The English language has just one common word for love and we apply it to all kinds of love. I think we sometimes overuse it and it begins to lose its true meaning. It is like when you repeat a word over and over and the word stops sounding like the word you said in the first place. We say we love a pair of shoes. We say we love television shows. We say we love celebrities. Jesus said there’s no greater love than to lay one’s life down for his friends. (John 15:13) I don’t think I’d lay down my life for a pair of shoes.

A big problem today with our perception of love is that we don’t have many great examples. Of course, we have the Bible, but we make plenty of excuses as busy people of the 21st century not to read it. Many of us don’t even have an example of true love in our own homes. Divorce has ruined many people’s ideas about love causing them to think love is temporary and incomplete. People start to associate what happened in their homes as children with how God sees them; how the world sees them and how they view God and the world.

My parents just celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary and have been together for over 40 years. They met in high school in the seventies. Having a very cinematic imagination, I probably over romanticize their meet-cute. My dad played dumb so he could get my mom to be his math tutor. He had long fluffy blonde hair and an affinity for Jim Croce. More importantly, an affinity for my mom. My mother was popular (sorry for the disappointment that I couldn’t follow in your footsteps) she was the school mascot and wore bell bottoms; however, she was not easily impressed. When my dad eventually asked her to go steady, her response was literally, “fine, can I go to my locker now?”

After six years of dating and basically raising each other they got married! They finished college and got jobs. My dad had been in the Army Reserve and then went full-time to the Air Force. They got stationed in a new state, uprooting their whole lives. Moving to a place where they were the only two people they knew. Even in my dad’s civilian career, this became a trend in their lives, ultimately in my life as well. Throughout the years, jobs and life’s twists and turns had us moving all over the country. I’ve never seen them complain, though. They pray and make an action plan.

You see I’ve always had a great example of all kinds of love in my household. My parents not only loved each other as spouses, but as best friends. They’ve cared for each other as parents. They’ve stuck together like siblings. They’ve loved the Lord with all their heart. Although not always actively teaching me what love really means or how to love well, they showed me what love really means. When Jesus talks about laying down one’s life, of course he refers to Him laying His life down for us, who he calls friends. For us, sacrifice doesn’t have to be literally laying down your life; my parents have certainly laid down everything they knew as their life for each other. Every day they make sacrifices. Every day, I see them living out the true purpose of marriage. They are an example of how Christ loves His church. My mom is a true Proverbs 31 woman and my dad is a true Ephesians 5 husband.

Mom and Dad, thank you for insuring that I would never have a distorted definition of love. Happy Anniversary.

 

 

Feeling Fruity: Goodness

Galatians 5:22 says “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Throughout time people have thought they could get into heaven by being good.  Each religion or culture defined “good” in their own way. Vikings thought conquering and  pillaging would impress Odin enough to get into Valhalla. Catholics believed that performing certain sacraments and saying prayers to saints would keep them in God’s good graces. Jewish people were actually bound by law and a covenant with God to act a certain way and then make sacrifices to atone for their sins when they fell short of the law.  Many evangelical Christians are still trying to measure up.  Two thousand years after Jesus fulfilled the law, many of us still feel the need to do good on our own and discount the work He did to break the chains of the law.

To understand “goodness”, we need to answer three questions:

1: What does “goodness” really mean?

2. Once we define goodness, how do we we accomplish it?

3:  What role does goodness play in our relationship with Jesus?

I believe goodness is really defined in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Jesus defined the law as loving God with all of our hearts and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Essentially, goodness like the other Fruits of the Spirit is an attribute of Gods relationship with us and how we should relate to each other. When you are exhibiting the Fruits of the Spirit because of the work Christ has done in you, you are being GOOD and doing GOOD.

We should not “do good” to impress God, it is simply something He wants us to do to express love for each other because He is good.  Goodness can never come from us on our own. Our relationship with Jesus is only defined by His goodness, it is never defined by our ability to be good.  We can never be good enough to save, but we are loved enough for salvation.

To answer the last question, it’s much more simple. The answer is written plainly there in scripture. Ephesians 2:8-10 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Paul goes on to say that we were created to do good works, but they were prepared in advance by God for us to do.

All of this being said, I still struggle with being able to decipher the difference between doing good for my glory and doing good to bring glory to Jesus. This can be very confusing and I can easily fool myself. I start out attempting to do good and be Christ-like, but more often than not I end up finding more satisfaction in the attention I get for doing good, than the fact that I’m doing what I was created to do! I am so thankful that my efforts are not required to impress Jesus, I would fall immeasurably short.

 

Feeling Fruity: Patience

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us the Fruits of the Spirit. “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines patience/patient as:
1: bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint
2: manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain
3: not hasty or impetuous
4: steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity
Twenty-First Century Christians define patience/patient as:
1. something to never ask God for
2. a form of twisted punishment
3. a fruit of the Spirit we memorized as children
4. an unrealistic feeling while waiting in line at Starbucks
Why is it that a secular dictionary I found on Google has a better understanding of what patience truly is than we do? We are the Church after all! Aren’t we supposed to be experts on the Word? Well, not necessarily. Everybody is going to have a different understanding and perspective when reading the Bible, however our perversion of the word PATIENCE is something to be dealt with.
My entire life, I’ve heard the phrase “don’t pray for patience, or God might give it to you.” The suggestion being that if God grants the patience you pray for, He then will dish out plenty of obstacles and trials to exercise your new found patience. Therefore, my entire life I have had a confusing definition of patience. I know that the in the Bible it says that “patience” is a Fruit of the Spirit that I would produce, because I was a Christian. Although, much of the time I did not feel “patient.” In fact, I have felt impatient much of my life. I have felt like I’ve just been stuck in the middle. Waiting. Waiting on the big things. Waiting on my coffee. Waiting to reach 5 feet tall. Never praying for patience, for fear of more WAITING. I associated patience with waiting, waiting with anticipation and anticipation with disappointment. My perception of patience was completely off base. Not what God had intended for me at all. Yes, even ME. The Girl in the Church Pants. This self-proclaimed “know-it-all” had it wrong.
Praying for patience does not cause God to enact some sinister plan to torture you. Actually that might describe someone else. When you pray for patience, God gives you contentedness in the waiting. He gives you strength to endure the time passing. He does not add more obstacles to your life to test you. God loves you and gives you grace and mercy to be able to face any obstacle. Whether you’re waiting to hear back about a new job or simply frustrated at the busyness of the mall during Christmas time. 2 Peter 3:9 Says “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.” And Hebrews 10:23 says “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” Remember who it is that made these promises to you. The One who will never leave or forsake you.

Why I Wore Church Pants.

I understand and appreciate a church’s right to have their own style and vary when it comes to things that are not essential. But, what I don’t like is when they confuse something that isn’t essential with being doctrine. Paul says in Galatians 6:15 “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.” In a letter written to a church 2,000 years ago, Paul talks about what is essential and what is not. The early churches had varying beliefs on whether new Christians should be circumcised. This is why Paul uses that as an example, but what he’s really getting at, is that all that legalistic law didn’t make a difference anymore. Jesus had came and fulfilled the law and made us new creations.

My whole life I’ve been in church, but I have a unique perspective. As a member of churches that were always “come as you are,” I never put too much thought into what I wore to church. Until I visited my friend’s church that couldn’t be more opposite. It was made very clear me that how I normally dressed on a Sunday would not cut it in this very legalistic congregation. So, I asked my friend “what should I wear?” She replied, “a dress would be fine, or church pants.” I had never heard that term in my life. I made her elaborate. She explained that “church pants” are what girls wear when they should be wearing a dress. Baffled and cynical, I said “what happens when they don’t want to wear either?” That Sunday, I managed to scrounge up what I thought was the most closely related to “church pants” item of clothing I owned. That’s when I took on the identity of “The Girl in The Church Pants,” as I was the only when in the sanctuary wearing them. Churches today, still have trouble understanding the difference between opinion and Biblical truth. Our outward appearance, the way we dress or keeping an ancient covenant does not make a difference in Jesus’ eyes. He cares that we love Him and love His people.