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Posts Tagged ‘fruits of the spirit’

Christ Pantokrator mosaic, Ravenna, 6th century.

Christ Pantokrator mosaic, Ravenna, 6th century.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. [Ephesians 1: 17 – 19a, CEB]

At my church, I often have the privilege of “hosting” one of the morning services. In this capacity, I welcome the people, introduce the substance of the service, pray for the congregants, sometimes lead communion, give announcements, and finally, release the people at the closing with a final word and/or blessing.

Today, I am touched by these words from the lectionary for they speak from my heart what I desire for you, my reader. What greater gift can I offer you than a revelation of God and an open heart to the presence of God in your life whose promises await you (and me)?

This week, on Facebook, a friend challenged her FB followers to define beauty in three words. One of the best answers I read was “Revelation of God.” That made total sense. For all things beautiful have their roots in the creative hand of God.

So, with that in mind, I bless you. I pray for you beauty and all the other benefits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and even self-control. What more do we need in this world to walk the Way?

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Fig Tree by Dee Schenck Rhodes

Fig Tree by Dee Schenck Rhodes

A parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” [Luke 13:6b-9]

One more year; one more growing season to change; one more opportunity to work with the gardener and produce fruit.

We’re not so great at parables anymore, or maybe we’re just as dense as the disciples were back in Jesus’s time. So many times the disciples had to ask Jesus to explain the stories. But not this one; this one is up to us to figure out.

Who is the owner of the vineyard? Who is the one who cares for the vineyard? Who is the fig tree? What is the fruit? Why didn’t the tree produce fruit? How would the soil be fertilized? And what does it mean to be cut down?

God is the owner. Jesus is the farmer/caretaker. I am the tree. But what is the fruit?

I did a little investigating and apparently the fig tree was one of the most valuable trees in Israel at that time because it bore fruit three times a year. So, in the parable, that means that this particular tree, still hadn’t produced fruit in any one of the seasons that had passed. So, why keep this tree? It was planted for the purposed of yielding fruit. That was the job of the tree, not acting as a shade tree, not as an art object, and not as a road marker. Fig trees bear figs. Fig trees don’t bear apples or peaches or cherries.

Each human “fig tree” has its own fruit as well. Oh, sure, there are the fruits of the spirit (See Galatians 5:22-23 if you want to review the list). And certainly, all trees should have these attributes. On the other hand, a friend of mine said that the fruit of the tree is more believers, more followers of Christ, more like-minded, like-spirited people. This interpretation makes me feel like it’s a numbers game (how many people have you “saved?”).

No, I’m much more interested in the specific and unique fruit that comes from me. Or you. Or any other believer. We each bring something to the table of community and to the Body of Christ. Sometimes, it’s a complex recipe and my part may be small compared to another, or vice versa. I know there are seasons I have missed. But I am grateful for a merciful gardener who is willing to tend and nurture my soil. I am still growing. I am still in the orchard.

The soil is fertilized through prayer and study and relationship.

I can only say, I am still here. And as along as I am, then I will take comfort that my seasons are more fruitful than I may realize. It is not I who must judge the harvest.

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I am not very good at waiting for the fruit of anything. I am a product of my culture and generation. I want it now. But faith in the good ending of a situation is the cornerstone of hope and takes time.

Hebrews 12:11
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

It takes practice to believe in the good end despite the circumstances. It also takes experience. The more personal examples I have of God’s reliability, the easier it is to trust God the next time.

And, apparently, each instance of my faith and hope in God, lays a path for others to follow. That is a by-product of my journey, my willingness to hold my hand to the plow.

I live in northern Maryland near the Pennsylvania line and a few times a year, we take a trip up into the Lancaster area where many Amish communities have evolved. I really enjoy watching the spring planting season as the men work the ground with teams of horses or mules and plows. It’s clearly hard work but it is also a kind of dance. Like any farmer, these men are trusting that their labor will bear a plentiful harvest. Outside forces can impact their efforts, but they still carry on, believing that all will be well.

A God follower is similar to these farmers, willing to cultivate the land of human, believing the ground can be tamed, seeds can grow and new life can flourish.

But, like the farmer, this process is long and painstaking. I cannot rush through it. Just as plants grow on their own timetable, so do souls.

In the Amplified translation of this verse, righteousness is expanded to mean “conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God.” This is true human and this is the harvest we are intended to pursue here on Earth. And with this relationship comes peace within.

This is the promise, the ultimate fruit of discipline.

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Here it is, something to ask God to do for me every day: fill me with the knowledge of His will. Think about it! The perfect solution to every situation, every setback, every decision, and every sorrow embedded in the knowing of His will. This is my new “catch-all” when I am overwhelmed.

Colossians 1:9
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

There is a second fall-back scripture for me in times of trouble, “. . . We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” [Romans 8:26] I allow the Spirit to guide in these circumstances.

But now I have this other way, this simple prayer for knowledge of his will. And I’m pretty sure I won’t have a conscious awareness of the knowing. Instead, I will have the effects of it [Matthew 7:18]: the fruits of the spirit [Galatians 5:22-23], the ability to endure and to be patient and to manifest a spirit of thanksgiving in all things [I Thess 5:18].

This is a prayer God will always answer. It’s not one of those “yes, no, or maybe” prayers. Paul prayed in this fashion for others. I can do the same and I can pray it for myself.

When Paul was “kicking against the goads” [Acts 26:14], he was going against the will of God in such a dramatic and determined way that he experienced a physical miracle — and not a pleasant one, no matter how “spiritual” we’d like to make it sound. He was thrown from his horse, lost his sight, heard voices, and had to be led to Damascus in disgrace. After that, he didn’t eat or drink for 3 days. He despaired and expected his own death.

I think I have experienced my own version of going against God’s will, I can tell by the fruits of it: impatience, anger, discontent, harshness, and even cruelty. When my mouth and mind engage in all those sorrows and negativity, I am operating in a vacuum and missing God’s will.

Fill me today, Lord. Fill me to overflowing that the knowledge of your will becomes a sweet aroma to others. Amen.

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Print by Missy Mohn Schwartz

In how many ways do I have to be told that the essence of walking after Christ is birthed in the Spirit. This is an inside-out faith, not the outside-in. The law was created to initiate the “external” expression of faithfulness. The Messiah finished this work by planting it within.

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

If I can operate in the center of love, joy, peace, etc. then the law is unnecessary because I wouldn’t break the essential laws (10 commandments at the least). One doesn’t lie or covet or kill someone we love or cherish. The gentle soul does not rage or participate in sexual orgies. Self-control brings all things under its umbrella.

At the same time, none of these Spirit fruits can be manufactured externally alone. I can’t act in a patient way without being patient. I can’t exhibit kindness without knowing what kindness is . . . or goodness. . . or peace. Love (in this context) is not just a that girly-boyfriend feeling, it’s “agape” and carries the deepest of meanings and expressions. There are inner motives that drive these fruits of the Spirit. They are fruits that must come directly off the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

And as these fruits become ripe within, they become ready for harvest. And when they are harvested, they are distributed freely to all those around us. . . slave or free, gay or straight, black or white or brown or red or yellow or mixed media, Muslim or Hasidim, Mormon or Witnesses, young or old, male or female, . . .

If we are fruitless, then there is nothing to harvest and the only protection we have, the only way to curb our less admirable desires, is the law. First, there is the spiritual law that God gave as a covenant to the people. But, if that fails, then there is the secular law. Neither is particularly known for mercy or grace.

Perhaps we should be more like those cliche mothers who are reaching out encouraging others to “Eat, Eat, Eat,” or like Jesus, “Take, eat; this is My body.” [Matthew 26:26b]

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Sometimes I hear people say they are doing this or that “for the glory of God” and I wonder, exactly, what does that mean? How can my puny acts glorify the King of the universe? Do I really have anything to offer?

I Corinthians 10:31
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

As I considered this idea today, I decided it’s not so much that I’m doing one thing or another, but it’s all of me.

Some years ago, I got very interested in deaf ministry. I wanted learn American Sign Language and I wanted to learn how to sign worship songs. I studied for about two years and although I was never very good in basic conversations, I did learn a large body of songs. One of my favorite signs is “glory.” The arm is carried up and across the body and the fingers flutter like twinkling. And so, I think of the Glory of God, light that washes across the world.

As a believer, I have asked for the presence of Christ within me. This supernatural, mystical experience manifests in light–God’s Light. My transparency adds light to the glory. When I am in God’s will, when I am loving, when I am manifesting any and all of the fruits of the spirit, I am light as well. I am adding light to the glory light of God. I can be bright or I can be dim.

I dim the light when I go my own way, when I choose to act selfishly.

Let me say it again, more simply still. I am part of the light, by default, as a believer. Instead of thinking that I must do something for the glory of God this day, I need to realize that I am part of the glory of God. That is, until I choose unwisely or willfully sin or hurt another person. Then my light is shuttered like a theater lamp, the beam is narrowed.

For years, I have felt guilty that I wasn’t consciously saying, “This is for the glory of God” each time I started a project or left the house or taught a class or wrote an essay. It’s all for the glory.

And instead, I ask God to forgive me for the shallow times, for the shuttered times, for the sins.

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I keep forgetting who I really am. I mean, there is a core, where Spirit resides within, where the Redeemer mystery took place, and that nucleus is holy. And worse, in the same way I lose myself, I also lose the “sacred other”: same core, same potential for good.

I Corinthians 5:7
Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

If I could just hang on, daily, to the truth of the core, then the yeast of life’s challenges and bad choices wouldn’t find such a comfy environment to multiply. Instead of over-reacting to someone’s slight, I could draw on my shared center where the work was already done by the sacrificial lamb. I could forgive on the moment, instead of waiting for conscience to kick in later. Instead of replaying conversations, I could stay in conversation with the Spirit, a much more productive exchange. Instead of gossiping and tale-telling (oh, so cleverly), I could be building a new story with the God of Hope.

I am redeemed. I don’t have to be the ugly American, the chip on her shoulder worker, the judgmental observer, the pessimist.

Today’s yeast is no different than the biblical yeast: malice and wickedness. Do I really want that for my life? Do I want to allow my being to be consumed by this yeast unnecessarily? Or do I want to be that unleavened bread marked by sincerity and truth? [I Cor 5:8] The answer is a “no-brainer.”

Here’s what I have to do today: practice. That’s right. Practice sincerity and truth. Practice kindness and patience and self-control. Practice love. Believe in peace and joy and goodness. [Galatians 5:22]

These fruits are present already. They are the default harvest from the Holy Spirit within. The more I engage these fruits, the easier it will be to eat them and share them. Selah.

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