Growing in the Fruit of Faithfulness

~This devotional was used by our women’s group in conjunction with a study from Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.~

Growing in the Fruit of Faithfulness

George calls her chapter on Faithfulness, “Following Through in Faithfulness”.  She has built this picture of how love, joy and peace change hearts. As a result, patience, kindness and goodness desire the best for everyone. Then, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control bring us victory in life’s “more challenging moments,” giving us follow-through by conquering self.

In Galations, the word for faithfulness is the Greek word, “pistis,” which refers to the character of one who can be relied on.

George teaches that a woman of faithfulness:

  • always comes through, no matter what
  • shows up for others, “whether a message or a meal”
  • keeps her word,”her yes means yes, and her no means no” (James 5:12)
  • doesn’t cancel out of commitments or appointments, and “successfully transacts business—carrying out any instructions given to her,”
  • “discharges her official duties in the church”–and is still committed to worship,
  • and is devoted to duty just as Jesus was in His example here on earth.

Elizabeth George also pointed out the struggle involved in being faithful… feeling tired or lazy ever get the best of you?

Or how about feeling discouraged?

Procrastination?  I might be looking forward to the devotional on self-control.

Rationalizing?

What about apathy… sometimes we just don’t care, even when we really do.  Life can get hard.  Some may drift from God.  Sometimes we just plain ole’ rebel, and we can develop a spiritual numbness.

As a Fruit of the Spirit, faithfulness is something God is responsible for cultivating in our lives. Charles Stanley, in his book, The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life, says that when we’re living life led by the Spirit, that these characteristics come about with little effort.   Yet reading over this list left me feeling overwhelmed and a little discouraged.

But wait. . .

This word pistis, which is used in Galations 5:22, can also be interpreted as faith; that’s how the King James Version interprets it.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galations 5:22,23 KJV

Faith is:

1.) the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ.

2.)  a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God

3.)  belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same

Faith, like faithfulness, is provided to us by the Holy Spirit, and isn’t possible for us to experience in our own power.

“. . .  no one can say, “Jesus is [my] Lord,” except by [the power and influence of] the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:3 Amplified Version

By the grace of faith, God grows the character of faithfulness, or reliability, in our character.  He helps us be faithful to Him, and faithful to our calling.

 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2,3 NIV

That list of “works” that Elizabeth George explained personifies a woman of faithfulness… it’s possible, if our work is produced by faith in Christ Jesus.  Obedience becomes a labor of love for our Savior, and we can persevere even when we feel tired, discouraged, unmotivated or apathetic because of the hope we have in Christ.  That hope, Hebrews tells us, is anchored to the Throne of Grace in heaven; it pulls us onward.

Hands And Leaf Purpose

If you are a believing child of God, then you have been given Spiritual Gifts to use in whatever way that He has determined you should serve; God also gives each of us the faith to use those gifts.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:3-8 NIV (emphasis, mine)

Do you know how God has wired you to serve?  If you’ve never given thought to this, you can visit www.spiritualgiftstest.com to learn more about the different Spiritual Gifts.  Your results will be based on your current experience, and can help you identify your areas of strength so that you can pray about how God wants you to use the gifts He has given you.  Don’t be surprised if different strengths rise to the top of the list in different stages of your life, depending on how your experience changes and on how God wants to use you at in different seasons.  He will gift you appropriately for your purpose.

God also wired you with personality, learning style, love languages, skills and talents, ministry style, resources and experiences to compliment your service within the Body of Christ.  They make you unique.  I would love to give you resources to explore each of these areas in a future post.  Don’t compare yourself to others!  Each individual is equally important to the function of the Church, and God’s plans.  Comparison is a trap that can discourage you, or it can lead to an inflated ego. . .  but, humility is what God requires.

If you struggle with following through on your commitments, it may be wise to prayerfully re-evaluate the tasks you have undertaken and ask God if what you are trying to do is suited to your gifts.

I’m not talking about the marriage covenant, responsibilities as a parent, or promises made–if you have made them, God will give you the strength to keep them.  What I do mean is, for example: that someone with a gift of helps, who likes working in the background, may not be cut out to be an up front teacher! The areas we choose to serve within need to compliment our Spiritual Gifts.  They also need to compliment the season of life we are currently in.  The Proverbs 31 woman did a LOT of good things, but I often think she probably didn’t do them all at once!

Be intentional about doing good.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:4-8 NIV (emphasis, mine)

When you feel discouraged, remember that your help is always with you.  God poured His Holy Spirit out on you, generously!  And He will never leave you.  Being faithful does not have to be tedious.

Choose your commitments carefully, and don’t try to do more than is truly possible.  When we leave others in the lurch, we damage our testimony.  When we follow through, we are blessed too. (James 1:25)

 

Work produced by faith in a faithful God.

Labor prompted by love for a loving Savior.

Endurance, inspired by hope in Savior who gave what He had for the hope that was set before Him–securing your eternity. 

 

What Happens When Women Pray

What happens when women pray photo

Every year or so, there is a theme that God chooses to teach me.  One year it was Biblical Womanhood, another it was Gratitude, yet another was Being Established.  The past 2 years have been on the topic of Prayer.

Have you ever shopped for books written about prayer??  Oh, my goodness, there are SO MANY!!  I have not actually gone looking, but when God picks a topic, it pops up everywhere.  Before I know it, I’ve accumulated a shelf full of resources without even trying.  I’ve read a little in this one and a little in that, however, my all time favorites are

1) simply reading what God says about prayer and the examples we’re given in God’s Word, and

2) Evelyn Christenson’s book, “What Happens When Women Pray”.  I found this little book at a garage sale, full of notes (so it must be good, right?).  I’ve read it 4 times, and I learn something new every time.

The Christian Missionary Alliance Church also chooses a theme every year, and their women’s ministry piggybacks on that.  This year the Alliance Women’s theme is “MORE”.

In my home church, our own Alliance Women are specifically studying how we can experience “MORE” power in prayer.  I’m so blessed to be able to do this study with my own church family, and I am over the moon to see how God is going to use these women and their prayers in the life of our church.

Prayer Is:

*A privilege*  ~My husband’s grandpa taught me that.  He called me monthly, until the day he died, to catch up and find out how he could be praying for us.  I was so blessed by this man who was not a blood relative, but who loved me so strongly in word and in deed.

*A responsibility*  ~Did you know that it is designed by God as part of our relationship with Him, and the health of our prayer life is an indication of the health of our Spiritual lives?

*A gift*  ~Imagine if we could not go to God.  Or imagine if we still, like the Israelites of old, had to go through a priest as a mediator, offering sacrifices, in order to maintain our relationship with God?  When Jesus died for us, and conquered sin and death by rising again, HE became our mediator and now we can go directly to God in Jesus’ name.

What a precious gift, and yet, it is one of the most neglected privileges and responsibilities within the Church Body today.  The truth is that too often we do not give enough thought to how and when we talk to God.  What’s more, many of us are not aware of the stumbling blocks that prevent God from inclining His ear to answer.

As my Jesus Sisters and I go through this study together, I’ll be sharing what God is teaching me in a series of posts entitled, “More Power in Prayer.”

I hope you’ll join me!

Who is the Holy Spirit?

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

~This devotional was used by our women’s group in conjunction with a study from Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.  To find more devotionals on the Fruit of the Spirit, visit this page.~

As we’ve been studying the Fruit of the Spirit, we’ve been acknowledging that it is only available through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Only those who have accepted Jesus’s gift of forgiveness and salvation have access to the Spirit.  This Fruit, or Godly Character, is the evidence of salvation and an ongoing relationship with Jesus.

There is absolutely no way we can live the Christian life on our own.  It’s impossible!!  God knows it’s impossible.  That is why Jesus told the disciples that it was to their advantage that he go away.  He explained to them, as they grieved the idea of his leaving, that if he didn’t go away, the Helper would not come to them.  “but if I go, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7

Holy Spirit dove photo

Jesus did return to heaven, after His death and resurrection.  Today, we as Believers are privileged to have this Helper, the Holy Spirit, in our lives.

I don’t remember the Holy Spirit being discussed much when I was growing up.  As an adult, I developed a hunger to understand who he is, and have intentionally studied to learn more about him.  Since scripture teaches that he is part of God, and a gift to all Believers, we really should want to be able to recognize Him and his handiwork.

There are several books out there that talk about the Holy Spirit.  However, the book that I have enjoyed the most is Charles Stanley’s, The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life.  He basically pools the scripture that speaks about the Holy Spirit, and when taken in all together, it paints a clear picture about His personality and purpose, and Stanley focuses in on what it looks like to live out our faith with the Spirit’s help.

Charles Stanley uses this illustration to explain the Holy Spirit’s role:

Jesus said He is the vine, and we are the branches.  The Holy Spirit, then, is like the sap that runs from the vine into the branches, carrying the power of God into our lives to will and to work for His glory.  It is HE who is responsible for producing fruit in our lives, not us.  We simply bear fruit through ABIDING, and in yielding to His will.  

In other words, God bears the burden of responsibility for producing fruit in our lives.  We just aren’t capable on our own. Our responsibility is to remain in Him and submit to what HE wants to do in our lives.  A seed doesn’t bear a crop unless the gardener plants and tends it.  When the seed does germinate, it doesn’t choose what to bear.  Its fruit reflects the identity of what the plant is meant to be… it is what it is, and completely dependent on the gardener to weed, feed, and prune it to yield a harvest.

We are children of God, and we’re meant to reflect God’s character for the world to know HIM.

If the pressures and temptations in our life push us into reaction mode, it’s a sign that we’re trying to produce righteousness on our own.  If we’re trying to do the producing  instead of just being the vessels that do the bearing, we’re going to be frustrated by failure, and we won’t experience the Peace that God means for us to have.

So who is the Holy Spirit?

  • He was present when God created the world. “and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:2-3
  • He is part of the Trinty of God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, in whose image mankind was created. Genesis 1:26
  • He is God’s official mark on us, as believers, when we are saved.  “After listening to the gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you were sealed in Him (Christ) with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance…Ephesians 1:13-14

What does it mean to be sealed with the Holy Spirit?  Being sealed is a sign that Believers belong to God.  It is a sign of the security and protection and inheritance (eternity with God in paradise) that we have in Christ.  When God looks at us, He sees the Holy Spirit.  So do all the other spirits out there.

What are some aspects of the Holy Spirit’s personality?

He is knowledgeable.  1 Corinthians 2:11,12 states, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?  Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit… The Holy Spirit knows the thoughts of God and imparts knowledge to believers.  He gives us the “mind of Christ”.

He has a mind and a will of His own.  In 1 Corinthians 2:11, the apostle Paul is teaching the believers at the church in Corinth about Spiritual gifts (this is different than the Fruit of the Spirit).  “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”  emphasis mine.

The Holy Spirit has emotion. In Ephesians 4:30, Paul tells the believers in Ephesus not to grieve the Holy Spirit.  And in Romans 15:30, Paul mentions the “love of the Spirit, or love given by the Spirit.”  Grief and love are emotions.

What are the roles of the Holy Spirit?

He Convicts. ~  “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement.”  John 16:8-11

He illuminates. ~ “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” John 16:12-15

He searches the mysteries of God and reveals them to the saints.  these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.1 Corinthians 2:10

He teaches and reminds.  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”  John 16:12-15 AND John 14:26

He guides.  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.“emphasis mine  Romans 8:14

He asssures.  “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,” Romans 8:16

He intercedes and prays.  He helps us and does the will of God.  “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 16:26-27

He directs and He warns.  The Holy Spirit directed Paul, testifying to him daily, and warns him of the suffering that he was going to endure.  Acts 20:22

He communicates with us“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  Acts 13:2

How the Holy Spirit communicates with us today can vary according to the person and the circumstances, but He very much still does speak to individuals.

He produces Godly character in our lives.   “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galations 5:22-23

He apportions Spiritual Gifts to individual Believers, to be used in the building up of the Church.4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-12

As we can see from scripture, the Holy Spirit is a thinking, feeling, and active person of God, working together with God the Father and God the Son (Jesus Christ) to bring about their collective will in our lives.

What a wonderful gift God has given us in the person of the Holy Spirit!

Growing in the Fruit of Joy

joy bubble

 

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:8,9

~This devotional was used by our women’s group in conjunction with a study from Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.~

 

Of all the Fruit of the Spirit, I find at times, joy is the one most difficult to be deceived by a counterfeit.  When hard times come, and heart break is inevitable, joy cannot be pretended.

1~ Joy is Supernatural.

Joy is only available to the Believer who is living a life in step with God.  None of the Fruit of the Spirit are available without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, leaning in close to the Savior, walking in His will.

In John 15, versus 8-11, Jesus tells His disciples that when we bear fruit (lives oozing with Godly character) we glorify God and prove to be Christ’s disciples.  He explains how He loves us as God the Father loves Him.

He has been explaining our relationship with Him, using the analogy of a vine and its branches.  Can you picture Him, walking the disciples through a vineyard as He talks and points out the familiar vines, and paints for them a word picture they can understand and keep close to their hearts?

“Abide in my love.” He tells them.  “ If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

And then Jesus explains why it is so important that we abide (remain, tarry, be held).

 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”  John 15:8-11

This word, full, also means full to the brim, so that nothing shall be wanting.  It means to render complete; perfect.

Just picture your heart, so full of joy that it can’t contain anymore.  It is complete.  It is perfect; but only if we are abiding. Obeying. Tarrying for Christ and his desire for us.

2~ Our joy is Positional, not Circumstantial.

Happiness the counterfeit we most often mistake for joy, but happiness is circumstantial.  The very word tells us it is so.  “HAP” means chance.  It is the root of happen, haphazard (dependent on mere chance), happenstance (a chance circumstance), and the word “happy”.

Happiness is an emotion that changes with our circumstances, but our emotions are not a reliable reflection of the truth of our position; our situation.

Before we believe in Jesus and what he did, trusting in Him, and relying on his death, burial and resurrection as payment for our sin–before that, we were enemies of God.  That was our position.

Praise the Lord, we don’t stay there, because when we place our trust in Him and accept the beautiful gift of sacrifice he gave on our behalf, our position changes.  He removes us from the position of enemy and places us in the position of friend of God.  And now our position allows us to experience the full life and full joy that Jesus wills us to have.

But only in Christ!

The New Testament word for Joy, or Gladness, is Chara.

  • the joy received from you
  • the cause or occasion of joy
  • of persons who are one’s joy

Jesus is our salvation, and we (Believers) are the recipients of the surpassing riches of His grace (that which affords joy! 🙂  )  Ephesians 2:4-8

Our joy doesn’t disappear, diminish, or change when hard times come calling.  It stays, because He stays.  Our joy is positional, not circumstantial.

3~ “Joy looks out and up, not inward.”

God doesn’t want us to dwell on our circumstances.  He wants us to look to Him, trusting His goodness and His faithfulness, and to stay mindful of our position and His promises.  When we focus on those things, a wonderful thing happens.  Gratitude.

The natural result of Grace is Praise.

Gratitude is an essential ingredient for joy.  And, it is a commandment.

1 Thesselonians 5:16-18 tells us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Emphasis Mine

Psalm 50:23 tells us that the one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies God.

How?  To borrow from Charles Stanley:

  • Giving Thanks strengthens our witness to unbelievers,
  • gives us eternal perspective,
  • motivates us to look for God’s purpose in our circumstances,
  • keeps us continually aware that God is close by,
  • brings us our will into submission to God,
  • and it reminds us of our dependence upon HIM.

What about Sorrow?  What place does it have for a people of joy?

Godly Sorrow is Okay.

According to Isaiah 53:3, Jesus was “… a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

Jesus felt sorrow over our sin, and grief over what He was to suffer on our behalf.  And yet, Hebrews 12:2 explains that “for the joy that was set before Him, he endured the cross.”

How should we treat sorrow?

In the book of Lamentations, chapter 3, Jeremiah sets an example for us.  He spends the first 19 verses acknowledging his terrible circumstances, like this:

verses 17-19,

“I have been deprived of peace;
    I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
    and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.”

But then, in verse 21 he begins to turn it around and he praises God.

“Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

And Jeremiah goes on praising the Lord.

It is okay to acknowledge our sorrow, just do not go on about it until it becomes toxic.  Turn it around and praise God.

“Although I am going through this _____________, the Lord___________________.”

When I was going through this last miscarriage, I was grieving.  I was sad… confused…helpless…frustrated.  I didn’t understand why God was allowing me to go through such loss, yet again.  But smack dab in the middle of the grief there was joy in knowing I was not alone.  God was right there in the middle of the grief with me, and he was holding me, giving me strength, and reassuring me.  At the end of the day I could say, “Although my heart is hurting, the Lord is good.  Although I don’t understand, the Lord is trustworthy.  Although I am helpless, God is my Helper.”

We will have bad days.  Some of us will have a bad decade,  but “because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed”.  Because of his love, compassion, and faithfulness our hope is anchored to the throne of heaven, and we take joy, even in times of sorrow.

The Lord is our portion… our “possession, reward”;

therefore we will wait for him.

This word “wait”, it’s a different word than Jesus used for “abide” in John 15, but it carries a similar meaning… to expect, hope in, tarry.

Isn’t that beautiful?  So many years before Jesus walked in the garden with his disciples, Jeremiah vowed to do exactly what Jesus would command them to do.

Tarry for the Lord… abide, and he will give you His joy, and your joy will be over the top, greater than all you could ask or imagine, FULL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Measure of a Good Father

When summer camps ended, hubby took a few days off to regroup and get things done at home, and we took the whole family down to the cities to visit Como Park.  They have a free zoo, live butterfly exhibit, and plant conservatory.

Como Park Collage

 

I took the driving shift going down, and I was pretty tired.  I found myself singing along with the radio to stay alert when the song, “Good, Good Father,” came on.  It’s familiar to me. We have sung it in church, and my own story makes it especially meaningful.

“You’re a good, good Father.  It’s who You are, It’s who You are.”

I have heard so many women talk about how they have a hard time relating to God as Father in any kind of positive light because their experience with their earthly father was so bad.  And yet, I ponder, what are we using as a measuring stick for determining what makes a good father or a bad one?

Abigail with butterfly

I was one of the lucky kids.  When all my class mates talked about their parents divorcing, I was one of the few whose parents stayed together.  Through thick and through thin, through disagreements and arguing behind closed doors.  Through depression and repentance.  When other marriages would have failed, their commitment to perseverance kept them together, and they still are (together).

Mother and baby giraffe

My dad was present.  If not emotionally, he was there physically, and he always provided well for us.  As a child, I felt safe when I was with him.

He took me for a motorcycle ride when I was 6 or 7.  Somewhere, mixed up in those memories, is a conversation where he told me how much he loved me.  He said that he would cut off his hand for me, if only . . .

It’s the “if only” that stuck with me–that little conditional add on that squeezed my heart.

He said it more than once over the years.  I don’t remember his exact words, but I remember the feeling I experienced when he said it.  I cringed at the thought of my dad suffering for me, and yet I felt doubt that I could ever meet his expectation.

If only _________. You fill in the blank.  If only I could be obedient enough.

Be good enough.

BE enough.

How does a child that age even translate that kind of doubt in their ability to be what someone else wants them to be?  In his words, his willingness to give for me depended upon me.

When I was 30 my parents became offended and my dad told me to have a “nice little life”.  It was the day after Valentines Day, and only one of 2 occasions I have ever seen my husband tear up over anything.

“Little”…this is what the value of my life, not meeting expectations, had been reduced to.

Ouch.

My kids were 5, 2, and almost 1.  The next 5 precious babies were born after this, and my parents have never met them.

I grew up with the head knowledge that God’s love is unconditional, but all my examples had been of conditions.  When things were going well, I subconsciously thought it was because I was doing “okay.”  I thought I must have been reading my bible enough, praying enough, being good enough. When things were not going well, I felt like it was because I was messing up.  I wondered what area of my life needed to improve.  “Not good enough” was the lying voice in my head.

I was abandoned, even though I was an adult, by people I was supposed to be able to trust most in this world.  I was wounded.  I was angry.  I had that plum sized lump of grief in my throat for so many years that I thought it would never go away.  They were really. rough. years.

Looking back I know God was ripping out the faulty foundation in my life.  That’s a big job.  It’s a lot easier to lay a right foundation to begin with because everything is built on that foundation.  Remove the foundation and the whole stinkin’ house comes down.  Yet, that’s not how God works.  Because God can do anything,  He held the house together, but while He was laying a new foundation He was also putting up new supports.  He has been teaching me to live, as Nancy Leigh De Moss puts it, with the roof off and the walls down. That is “open and humble before God (roof off) and open with other people (walls down)”.

He turned my gaze away from what other people thought of me and my desire to please others, and taught me instead to keep my gaze on Him.  What He thinks of me is really the only thing that matters.

God has had to help me redefine who He is and embrace who I am in Him…begin to align my version of truth with what God declares is truth.  When we do that, a really spectacular thing happens. You begin to live loved, valued, and accepted.

blue butterfly at Como

My life is hidden in Christ.  That is where my worth lies.

And where do we get that measuring stick that determines who is a “good father” and who is not?  God is the measuring stick.  He is the ultimate Good Father.  He never messes up, He is fully present, His provision is generous . . .

His love is exactly what you and I need.

God is the Perfect Father.

And while I listen to others say they can’t stand to think of God as Father because their own father broke their heart, I say it was because my father broke my heart that I understand how good my heavenly Father is.  If I had not been rejected, I would not be able to experience my Father God’s love in the same way I can today.

I used to read the verse where God says, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you,” and think it was just saying the same thing two different ways; but these two things are very different.

People leave us.  They move away from us.  They die.  But that’s not necessarily rejection. They still call, write, etc.  God will never leave.  He will never move away from you or from me.  We may sin and choose to move away from Him, but He will never leave.

To be forsaken?  Well, that is something altogether different.  That is rejection.  That is “leave” on steroids.  No phone calls.  No letters.  No, “See you on the other side.”

Forsaking is renouncing.

Forsaking is rejecting.

Forsaking is abandoning.

Forsaking is turning your back on.

That is what happened to Christ our Lord when He laid down his life for us.  “By this, we know what love is.” (1 John 3:16)  He was forsaken in order to write us in on His inheritance as a Child of God.

When you’re a Child of God, he will never forsake you.

He will always, always, always be with you.

Always intercede for you.

Always sing over you.

Always provide for you.

Always love you.

God is a Good Father.  He does not punish his children; He disciplines them, gently and lovingly, for their good.

He will never hurt your heart.  He is not harsh with his children.  He will heal your heart.

God will never try to control your actions.  Instead, He will transform your heart . . . your actions will automatically follow.  People will start to notice how much you resemble your good Father.

His love for you is not dependent upon your performance.  He never loves you more because of what you do right, and he will never love you less because of what you do wrong. His love for you is not based upon you at all.  His love for you is completely dependent upon who HE is.  It is UN-CONDITIONAL.  In Lysa TerKeurst’s words,

“His love isn’t based on you, it’s placed on you.”

He will not instill fear . . . He will cast out fear, and replace it with His peace.

He is enough.

He is everything, our “exceedingly great reward”.

He is a Good-Good-Father.

It’s who He is.  And I’m loved by Him.  That’s who I am.

Linda at Zoo

 

 

 

 

Growing in Gentleness

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Gentleness is not weakness.  Gentleness is strength under control.

In our books, Chapter 11, titled “Growing Strong Through Gentleness,” teaches us that Gentleness:

  • Trusts the Lord
  • Submits to God
  • Follows Christ’s example
  • Bows the soul–worshiping God in humility
  • Makes the decision to put on Gentleness–we’re faced with this decision every day
  • Gentleness “takes it”–endures ill treatment

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Gentleness looks like humility, but from where does humility come?  James 3:13 says that humility comes from wisdom.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”

How do we get wisdom?  Proverbs 9:10 tells us.

 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” ESV

The Amplified Version puts it this way: “The [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] is the beginning and the preeminent part of wisdom [its starting point and its essence],
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding and spiritual insight.”

Wisdom is merely seeing life from God’s perspective and responding accordingly.   In humility or gentleness, respond accordingly.

James tells us there are different kinds of wisdom.  There is worldly wisdom:

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

And there is wisdom from above… Godly wisdom:

17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Stop and think about the type of circumstances you find yourself when you are NOT being gentle… What is the sin nature that is showing itself in these circumstances?

  • I tend not to be gentle when I’m not being patient. (too tired, too hungry, stressed out, when I’m offended)
  • When I’m disappointed.  (That just ruined my whole day!) (You ruined my life! {My small children like to use this one}) Maybe I’m feeling crabby over having to change my plans.  Perhaps I’m lacking faith in these circumstances?  And the result is that I do not respond to life in a spirit of gentleness.
  • When I’m inconvenienced…
  • When I’ frustrated with people or difficult circumstances (not getting my own way)

Getting REAL, what is the sin issue in these examples?  PRIDE, self-centered-ness (is that a word?), selfishness!   In these examples I’m forgetting to trust God has things under control, lacking the faith that He’s going to work things out in my best interest despite my disappointments, or not stopping to make the intentional decision to have an attitude of gentleness.

Jesus is our perfect example of gentleness.  In John 12 he was preparing his disciples for his crucifixion.  He knew that in order to bear many into the kingdom of God, he first had to die.  This is what he told them:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.  If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”  verses 24-26

Jesus gave up self, and submitted to the Father, dying in order to bear fruit–in order to bear souls into the kingdom of God.  He birthed every believer into the kingdom.  Every mother knows what a sacrifice it is to give birth to another and put their child’s welfare first.

Philippians 2 calls us to follow Christ’s example of humility.

Lets put Gentleness into 2 categories.

1.) Gentleness with GOD: Obedience to God

This TRUSTS His plans for me are good!

This has FAITH in Christ’s sacrifice, BELIEVING I am truly free–he has broken my chains, so I should not keep walking like I wear them!

This dies to self DAILY.

2.)  Gentleness Toward Others

Philippians 2:3 tells us, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

When the kids are being difficult, I am to count them as more significant than myself.

When people in my job situation are demanding and hard to get along with, or persecuting me because of my beliefs, I am to count them as more significant than myself.

When someone cuts me off in traffic,

fails to follow through on a promise,

says something hurtful to me,

wrongly judges my intentions,

YOU NAME IT—Whoever they are, and no matter what they’ve done, I am to count them as more significant than myself, and respond (NOT react) in gentleness, remembering it is my responsibility to point them to Christ.

Hard, hard stuff!  That is why it’s a Fruit of the SPIRIT who is living in me… I can’t do it on my own.  I can do it only when I submit to Him.

1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. ” (Concerning not offending others or causing them to sin)

When I have difficult people in my life I am to call on that fruit of LOVE,

Convinced that it is not about me (part of that Fruit of Peace),

remembering that God is working in their lives and is concerned for their sanctification (or salvation) as much as mine.  I need to do well and put on a spirit of Gentleness instead of being offended so that I don’t get in the way of what God wants to do in them, regardless of whether they are being cooperative.

I am not talking about being a door mat.  I am not saying we should deliberately place ourselves in a position to be hurt over and over, or that we should stay in abusive relationships.  I am saying that when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances or have no choice about the people who are around us, we are to conduct ourselves in a Christ-like manner.  In the event that it is prudent to remove ourselves from a relationship, we may do so humbly, and with grace.

Remember, James 3:17 gives us a check list based on the wisdom from above to help us evaluate our responses before we respond:

  • Is my response coming from a pure heart?
  • Is my response peace loving?
  • gentle?
  • willing to yield to others?
  • Is my response full of mercy?
  • Is my response full of the fruit of good deeds? (yikes!)
  • Is my response free of favoritism?
  • Is it sincere?

“And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” verse 18

I can wisely do this when I lose my life in Christ; I can ask for God’s exchange–HIS character for mine.

 

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit  by Elizabeth George.  The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.

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Growing in Goodness

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In her book, “A Woman’s Walk with God,” Elizabeth George teaches that Kindness notices people’s needs and makes plans to meet those needs.  Goodness, then, actually follows through on those plans.

I am reminded of Mordechai’s admonition to Esther, in Esther 4:14, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

God has placed you here and now with a purpose.  As children of God, we are to be walking in Goodness.  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Part of God’s purpose for each of us is for us to be doing good works, which He planned in advance.  He has equipped each of us, individually, so that we are prepared, and he has placed us here and now.

Those who are within your sphere of influence have been entrusted to you,

yours to point to Christ,

yours to love,

 yours to disciple,

yours– to recognize needs and do your best, with God’s empowerment,

to care for them the way He cares for you.

We are not all equipped the same way.  The needs you notice, and the way you go about meeting those needs, will look different than Goodness in my life.

My teenage girls will notice a young mom with a crying baby, and know that mother will need a respite.  They would think of that because we’ve had so many Littles in our house. They know the joy of babies, and they also know sometimes mom gets tired.  A teenager who has not grown up with a house full of Littles may not notice a mother’s need for a break–not because they are unobservant, but because their experience has not trained them to recognize that need.  They will notice something different, in an arena they have talent or experience.

Your walk and your gifts may be different than mine, but where our journeys intersect we can learn from one another, partner with each other, and compliment each other.

So who and what has God entrusted to you for such a time as this?

Who is within your sphere of influence?

How have you been equipped to do good to those God has placed in your path?  We will talk about that next time…

 

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit  by Elizabeth George.  The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.

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Growing in Kindness

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Our ladies’ group has read the chapter on Kindness in Elizabeth George’s book, “A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.”  We learned that Kindness:

  •  genuinely cares about others and pays attention to the circumstances of their lives.
  •  thinks–consider other peoples’circumstances, wonder what we can do to help them… what do they need?
  •  notices–sometimes we don’t need to wonder about people’s circumstances; if we’re observant we will notice people’s needs and know what we can do to help them.  She gives examples of the Shunammite woman’s kindness to Elisha (and then he showed kindness toward her when he asked God to give her a son), Dorcas in the New Testament, and of course, Jesus.
  • touches–she says it helps to cultivate kindness when we think of it as a touch of concern and kindness.  We instinctively touch those we care about.  She gives examples of how Jesus touched people all the time.

What else can we learn about Kindness?

Kindness Defined:

If we look in the Greek Lexicon at the meaning of the word Kindness (chrēstotēs), we see that it means:

  1. Moral goodness, integrity
  2.  Benignity (tolerance), kindness

There are times that the word is also translated as gentleness and goodness, which is interesting since these are also fruit of the Spirit; one fruit with characteristics that are interdependent.

Have you ever done a word study?  A word study takes a particular word or subject and looks up all the scriptures that reference that word.  Read everything you can find in the Bible about that word, and make observations to grow your understanding of it’s meaning.

In this case I was looking up all the verses I could find that used the word Kind or Kindness.  Don’t forget to ask God what He wants to teach you on the subject!  You will be amazed by the verses you will trip over, and how the relevance will stand out for you.

How We Learn Kindness

In Titus 2:3-5 we learn that while kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, it is also something that we learn by example.  The older women are to be:

“teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible (self controlled), pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” Emphasis is mine.

And in Proverbs 31:26, in the famous passage about the “Worthy Woman,” we learn that, “She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

As Christian women, we have a responsibility to not only model kindness in our daily lives, but also to intentionally teach kindness with our words, and to grasp opportunities to give those we influence the opportunity to participate in kindness.  We see Jesus teaching in these ways when he lived among his disciples.  Many learning styles are engaged!

When my family was younger, I remember taking our little troop of 4 or 5 to and from town.  One occasion in particular I remember standing in the doorway of our home, with all these little girls trying to shuffle inside.  The youngest toddler was struggling to get up the step and inside, and my hands were full.  I watched one of the older girls standing behind her and she was just watching.  It was a trend I had been noticing a lot, and I told her, “Honey, don’t just stand there and watch your sister struggle.  Help her!”  It didn’t come naturally to her at that time, and she needed the suggestion to reach out and help.

Teach kindness.

Titus says that one of the reasons for us to walk in kindness is to protect the honor and integrity of the Word of God. The world will not believe in the kindness of God that the Bible teaches if they do not see us living what we proclaim.  Our lives are to be the proof of God’s love.

What Kindness Does

In order to live this out, we have to invite God to empty our hearts of what is not Godly in order to make room for the characteristics God wants us to have.  Paul, in Ephesians 4:32, tells us to Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave you.”  Amplified Version

Kindness is forgiving.  Laying aside personal hurts and instead desiring what is most beneficial for another person.

Kindness is compassionate, not selfish.  Philippians 2:4 says, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

John Piper says, “The idea behind “tenderhearted” is that our insides are easily touched. When your skin is tender, it doesn’t take a very hard touch to make it feel pain. When your heart is tender, it is easily affected. It feels easily and quickly.

When you stop and think about it, it is remarkable that this is commanded by the apostle. You can’t just decide to be tenderhearted and turn it on like a faucet. It is a deep character quality.”

Kindness isn’t just something you do. It’s who you are: a woman after God’s own heart.

When I began teaching my daughter to help her younger siblings instead of watching them struggle, I also began to pray for her that God would give her a tender and compassionate heart, and that he would help her notice the opportunities to help others.

Today this is the child who teaches her younger siblings to ride bike.  She dresses them to brave the winter weather and takes them sledding, patiently helping them even when it slows her down.  She brushes their teeth when mom is helping someone else, reads them books, and she is enjoyed by her younger siblings.  By faith the Holy Spirit has softened her heart toward others, and she has learned to be gracious and kind.

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Helping Sister with Math

Kindness to Who?

We are to show kindness to other believers.  “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galations 6:9, 10

The world is watching us, Beloved.  God is raising up a standard!

We are to care for those who cannot care for themselves.  In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel’s mother taught him to, “Open your mouth for the mute, For the rights of all the unfortunate.  Open your mouth, judge righteously, And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” And the worthy woman “extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy.” (verse 20)

Isn’t this the crux of the gospel?  We were afflicted with sin, and helpless, unable to save ourselves!  God, in His mercy, took action in His loving kindness and did for us what we could not do for ourselves.  Jesus took our burden of sin upon himself, suffering the consequences for us, and imparted his righteousness upon us so that we can stand blameless before a Holy Father.  We were the helpless and the needy.  Now we are the redeemed and reconciled.

We are to extend kindness to our enemies.  In Luke 6:35-36, Jesus said, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Do our enemies deserve our kindness?  No, but God is gracious toward me despite my undeservedness, and He expects me to love others as He loves me.  Sometimes all we can do for our enemies is to pray for them, and that is a lot.  We have assurance that the heartfelt and persistent prayer of the righteous accomplishes much. (James 5:16)

Kindness is Merciful.  However, it isn’t always nice.  Really.

Kindness isn’t always pleasant and agreeable.  Kindness proactively looks out for the best interests of others.  It meets needs, which isn’t necessarily always what a body wants.

Romans 2:4 tells us that God’s kindness leads us to repentance.  This change of heart involves humility and conviction, and all too often the road to recognizing our wrong and what our soul is hungering for involves discipline.  In this case kindness has to be tough.  It has to be tenacious.  Oh, yes, it must be self sacrificing.

When my nephew, Joshua,  was little he was infatuated with trains.  Our house was situated just off the highway.  The road laid between us and the train tracks.  On one occasion Joshua heard the train whistle, and captivated, he darted away from his father-my brother–and ran across our yard and straight into the highway.  I’ve never seen my brother run so fast in his life.  Hot in pursuit, he caught his son up into his arms in time to pull him out from in front of an oncoming car. He later told me that they were so close to the car that he had made eye contact with the driver.  It scared him to death, but his son was still blissfully pointing and straining for the train.  In kindness, his parents saw to it that he knew better than to ever leave the safety of the yard again, train or no train.

Isaiah 54:7,8 God said, “For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you.  In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you, says the Lord your Redeemer.”

In this passage, Israel’s disobedience had resulted in her captivity and dispersion.  God allowed her to experience pain to bring her back into relationship with Himself.  Better a “brief” time of suffering to lead them repentance so that they could enjoy an eternity of lovingkindess in paradise with God.

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As Christ followers we are commissioned to share the truth of the gospel with boldness, even if it causes others or ourselves discomfort.  We all know John 3:16   “For God so loved the world” that he gave his only Son to die in our place.  What Jesus endured for our sakes was severe, so that we would not have to experience the severity of God ourselves (Romans 11:22), but can continue in God’s kindness.

Scripture lays out guidelines for discipline in the church, to bring us to repentance and fruitfulness if we abide in Christ.  Parents are instructed in Proverbs 23 not to withhold correction from their children. God himself says that He disciplines those whom He loves.

Kindness isn’t always “nice,” but it is always loving, and It is God’s will for you.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone;  just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Colossians 3:12-14

 

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit  by Elizabeth George.  The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.

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Abiding in Christ, the Secret to a Fruitful Life

To Use the Index of the Other Posts in this series, please scroll to the bottom of the page.

 

The theme that our Women’s Ministry adopted for this year is “Abide.”  We’re  learning what scripture has to say about the Fruit of the Spirit, reading Elizabeth George’s book, “A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.”

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Why We Need to Abide

Jesus explains the importance of Abiding in John chapter 15:4,5.  “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Jesus has just washed his disciples’ feet.  They have observed Passover together in the upper room, and Judas has gone on his errand of betrayal.  Jesus has been telling them that He is going to be leaving to go to His Father. Can you imagine that they may have felt frightened and confused?   Jesus comforts them, telling them that He will not leave them as orphans.  He is sending them a Helper, the Holy Spirit, and they can continue to have fellowship with Him, and so can we, if we abide in Him.

When we are saved into a relationship with Jesus, the secret to living a fruitful life is Abiding.

Abiding: What is it?

I am assuming that if you are still reading, that you have some idea about the choices we can make to continue growing in that relationship: spending time reading God’s Word in order to learn more about His heart and what He wants for us, talking to Him in prayer, taking time to listen for His voice in our lives, and obeying Him.

The Greek word for abide, in its various forms, means to remain; it’s where you put down roots and make your home; it’s to be held, continually; it endures; remains as one and doesn’t leave; abide tarries for… it waits.  Does your heart wait upon the Lord?

There’s a difference between going through the motions of reading, praying and obeying because it’s the right thing to do and getting up in the morning with anticipation, looking forward to spending time with Him and seeing what the Lord has for you today.

I can’t tell you what truly abiding should look like for you because everyone has to come to that place of audacious love in their own way.  I think the secret lies in recognizing the magnitude of what Christ has done for you.  The cry of my heart this past year has been, “Jesus, help me love you more!”  I want to be like the woman in Luke 7 who annointed Jesus with sweet smelling oil and washed His feet with her tears.  When the Pharisee who owned the house where they were meeting criticized her, Jesus told him that it was obvious that her many sins were forgiven because of the great love she showed him. “He who is forgiven little, loves little.” (verse 47)

Don’t let the joy of your salvation diminish as time passes.  Keep your awe over what Christ has done for you.  Pour your time and effort into this relationship you have with God, and watch how He pours more into you than what you have given.  The more you give to Him, the more fruit you will see in your life.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control… these will be rich hallmarks of your character and will saturate your interactions with others.

A Misnomer explained

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away;” (verses 1,2a)

Several years ago I watched a video series by Focus on the Family which featured Ray Vander Laan.  It was a tour of the Holy Lands, and in one tour he elaborated on these verses in John 15.  He explained that grape vines were planted where they flourished best: in harsh soil.  He also explained that the translations we read are not the best explanation of what the original language meant to imply.

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The vine is established and the branches are cultivated by the vine dresser, the gardener, for one purpose only–to bear fruit.  “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, he takes away;” (vs 2)  It’s a common teaching that this is referring to “dead wood” or those who are not living Christ-like lives because they were never really saved.  We often read this and think it means that they will be removed and carried away.  Only this verse says, “Every branch in Me,”  If we are saved we are in Christ, and if we are in Christ as this verse says, we know that the will of God is that Jesus will never lose those who the Father has given Him (John 6:39).  They are not removed.

The more accurate translation would say that He will lift them up.  If the plants are allowed to lay on the ground they can become too moist and dirty and can mildew.  If they become sick, they do not produce.  The vine dressers in the old country lifted the vines up by placing large stones at the base of the plant.  The branches have to be washed and tied up–lifted up– so that they can begin bearing.  Notice what the next verse says,

“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”

When we put our trust in Jesus as our Savior, our sin is forgiven. We are in Christ and belong to Him, but we are human and we still sin, even when we don’t want to.  Paul put it like this:  “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15

The sin that persists in our lives is like the dirt and mildew on the branches… God must lift us up and clean us so that “we may share in His holiness.” Hebrews 12:10  This looks like discipline.   “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”( verse 11)  It is in our best interest to cooperate with his discipline.  The results are worth it!

And what about the branches that are already producing fruit?

“He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”  (verse 2b)

When we bought our house it had an old apple tree in the front yard.  A very large aspen tree had grown up behind it, shading it, and so the branches of the fruit tree had grown up and over, all to one side.  My husband took out the aspen tree last spring to allow light to get to the tree, but, unfortunately a good pruning wasn’t on the docket until fall.  I have never seen a tree with so many blossoms, and the bees did their job!  Oh, the apples that grew!  Many dropped off when they were still tiny because the tree simply could not sustain so much, but what continued to grow had us so excited.  Fall could not come soon enough!

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Then a wind storm came.  Need I say more?  Those big branches that were growing the wrong direction?  Snap.  They were still hanging, but not by much.  We propped them up and prayed for them a lot.  The apples on those branches never reached their full potential.  They were smaller than the fruit on the other branches, and did not ripen completely, so they were more sour and not sweet.  They were good for sauce, but not much else.

Sisters, we don’t want to be like those broken branches.  We want to be pruned so that we grow straight and strong.  We want light to get where it needs to go and put our energy into the things that are worthy of our calling.

Grape vines are heavily pruned, much more than apple trees.  My understanding is that the vine dresser cuts them back so far that they can look quite pitiful, but the more that is cut away, the bigger, sweeter, and more plentiful the harvest.  This is what we want. This is what identifies us as belonging to Him.

I have gone through seasons of pruning.  It’s not pleasant.  God cut away relationships. He cut away pride.  He hacked away at my sin of worry–one by one, as the circumstances I had always feared came to pass and as I was forced to let go of self, I learned I would live and, I learned to lean into Him more. After awhile, like Job, sometimes God will restore what He has removed from our hands, but He reminds us to remain in His love. When the season of pruning has ended, don’t go back.  Don’t forget.

Jesus said that he shared these things so that “My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (verse 11)

Our piano teacher is going to be 95 this month.  She is the most wonderful lady.  She saw me reading one day and asked me what I was learning.  I told her I was studying John 15 and pruning and she sat down across from me, smiling, and said, “Well now, that’s the thing,” her eyes twinkled, “I’m not the person I used to be.”

Isn’t that the glorious thing?  I’m not the person I used to be, and I am so very thankful!

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”   1 Corinthians 15:10

 

 

You can find the other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit on  THIS PAGE.

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit by Elizabeth George.

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Thanks to Pixabay for the photos of the grape vines.

Growing in Patience

 

patience

 

Patience.  I chose this picture because the cup in the cold window reminds me so much of me and my own need for more patience.  I love a big cup of herbal tea, but I leave some good head space when I pour my cup so that when it has brewed I can add some cold water to cool it down and get to enjoying it.

I’ve been asking God what He wants to teach me, and here it is: Four. Little. Words.

“It’s not about you.”  

When I was young my mom used to do this thing when I wanted something and she was stressed.  She would say, “Linda, the world doesn’t revolve around you.”  I hated that.  So much so that it was on my list of “Things I will never say to my children.” (And I haven’t.) It made me feel selfish and despicable inside, even when there wasn’t anything wrong with what I was asking.

When I sensed the Lord whispering this to me, “It’s not about you,” in response to my searching, it really brought up that dreadful feeling I used to get as a child.

“Lord, I know that.”  I responded.  “I know it’s not about me.”

Right?  I waited.

I felt as though I was being held under a microscope, and the discomfort of being wrung out so that my mess was on display.

And then a new understanding overtook me while my mind was suddenly flooded with thoughts of the times I tend to be impatient. (Psalm 139:23,24) I know it’s not all about me, but my reaction to my circumstances prove that my heart and my head are not always in sync.

Beloved, you and I are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

We were made by God, not for ourselves, but for Him.

Luke 1:74-75that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

We are here for His Purpose.

Put another way, 2 Corinthians 5:15  “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

We are His agents, on His Mission, with His Perspective.

The gospel is meant for you and for me, but it does not stop with us.  We are to be about His business of reconciliation.  Our mission is to serve people by loving them and leading them to Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

This reconciliation is possible because of the cross.

Jesus loved us, served us, reconciled us, indwells us, and works through us!

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The King James version, when listing the Fruit of the Spirit, does not say “patience.”  It says “longsuffering.”  That sounds pleasant, doesn’t it?  The Greek word means patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, slowness in avenging wrongs . . . .

I am reminded that I, like Paul, am running a race that I want to finish well,  (2 Timothy 4:7). God is so gracious to give us gifts to help us in this race.  The fruit of the Spirit go hand in hand.  They are dependent upon one another and work together.

Love helps me extend patience toward other people who I find challenging along the way. Seeing people the way Jesus does, and remembering that “it’s not about me” lets me love them the way He loves me.  This is forbearance.  This is steadfastness.  Sometimes, as Elizabeth George put it, it is “waiting for the judge.”

I feel the need to point out that sometimes the one we need to love and forgive is ourselves.  When we get stuck, we surely are making “it” about us and we aren’t able to move on to the good works God has planned for us to do.  Also,

“To the extent that we resist reconciliation and forgiveness, we (the church) lessen the visibility of God’s grace to the community.” ~Jake Anderson

We need to see ourselves the way Jesus sees us if we want others to be able to embrace God’s grace for them.  If you’re holding a grudge against yourself, repent.  Forgive yourself because God does, and move on.  Go forth!

Joy helps me have patience to keep running when I am experiencing less than ideal circumstances.  On days when it feels like I’m being rained out of the race, it’s not about me.  Giving thanks brings me back to God’s perspective.  This is endurance.  This is also forbearance.  This is longsuffering.

Peace helps me experience patience during seasons when I wonder, “How can what’s happening to me right now really be part of God’s plan for me to carry out His purpose?” When life doesn’t make sense. When my heart breaks. It’s not about me.  I can trust God.  I am reminded of the lyrics to the song, “Trust in You,” by Lauren Daigle:

“When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!”

This is constancy; This is steadfastness!  This is abiding.

Patience isn’t always what you feel.  Sometimes it’s what you do.  It can be obedience. Obedience is not always what you want to do. It’s just that–obedience . . . you choose it, and God changes your heart along the way.

So, when you take time to consider, when is it that you are not patient?

  • When I am under physical stress: hungry (low blood sugar), sick, tired, or in pain.
  • When I am in emotional distress: some kind of emotional pain, when I am offended (can you say PRIDE?) or when someone/something has pushed my buttons.
  • When I am experiencing spiritual or mental stress.  I feel that these two are closely intertwined: experiencing a need for spiritual renewal (not spending enough time with God), experiencing worry (a sin), and when I am caught off guard (sidelined by something difficult without having time to prepare myself).

I realize that these are situations which tend to initiate a turning inward to focus on myself.  What are some practical ways I can help myself to walk in patience?

  • Prayer.  This is the most important place to start.   Daily, I need to ask God to change my heart, give me a “longer fuse,” and give me the attitudes He wants me to have.  And then I need to ask him to give me wisdom and open my eyes to the practical ways I can be more patient.
  •  Taking care of myself!  Intentionally getting enough sleep, planning ahead for meals, eating right, and drinking water through the day will help me avoid the physical stress that can make patience more challenging for me, and help me be more present for my family.
  •  On the emotional front, spending time with God every day keeps me healthier. Giving Him my hurts instead of dwelling on them, obeying scripture that tells me to pray for my enemies, and remembering to dwell on all things lovely (Phil. 4:8) are all part of my heart care.
  • Removing opportunities to sin.  Ah.  This is challenging!  I need to constantly evaluate myself. One example is that if I notice that I suffer with impatience when the whole family is going out, people are running late, gloves are missing, etc… I can help myself avoid this scenario by having everyone pack “to-go bags” the evening before.  I can lay out gloves in pairs and put the “little people’s” shoes in order.  I need to develop more systems to help myself avoid stress and chaos.  It will be better for the whole family.  I sometimes get sidetracked by the urgent, feeling discouraged when it feels like my children are slow to learn the practical skills I am responsible to teach them (like cleaning up after themselves!)  When I stop to remember that the greater responsibility is for my attitudes and actions to point them to Jesus, the every day messes fall into their proper places.
  • Following  Jesus’ example.  Jesus kept the main thing the main thing.  He came to do the will of His Father.  He was God, yet he had a flourishing prayer life.  He said he did only what he saw his Father doing (John 5:19).  He didn’t veer from the plan.  He wasn’t side tracked by his enemies who abused him or by his disciples who sometimes loved ignorantly.  For the joy set before him, he was steadfast.  Our joy is in Him.  If we remember this we can keep the main thing the main thing.  We can remember that our purpose is to bring Him glory by carrying the gospel beyond ourselves “because of the tender mercy of our God . . . to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,” (Luke 1:78, 79),  and we can do it with patience.

 

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit  by Elizabeth George.  The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.