Patience

The fruit of the Spirit – Patience

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the spirit is…patience

Patience is never a subject that Christians want to hear a message about. We’ve all experienced praying for patience, only to have the worst day ever. This may be where the saying “Be careful what you wish for” came from. It seems that when we pray for patience, the Lord gives us some training.

But we should all strive to show patience, so that others may see that something different in us. We must be the ones in the frustrating situation who are keeping a cool head. This is an open door to witnessing to nonbelievers. When we keep our cool, even though everyone around us is losing theirs, people may ask us how it’s so. We must walk through that open door.

If we are to bear fruit as a witness to our Savior, we must have patience to deal with all things that come our way. If we do not have patience with nonbelievers, we will not show them love. If we do not have patience, we will not show kindness in a world that lacks it. Without patience, there is no self-control, and so on and so forth.

To bear any fruit of the spirit, we must exercise patience.

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The fruit of the Spirit – Peace

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the spirit is…peace

Love…joy…and now peace. The fruit of the spirit begins with three very related attributes that a Christ follower should exemplify. Related because the first leads to the second, and the second leads to the third. Without love, we would have no joy; and with no joy, we could have no peace. This means that, indirectly and directly, we cannot have peace without love.

Peace is a byproduct. If one merely strives for peace, but does not achieve the other fruit of the Spirit, peace will not be reached. Much the same can be said for the remainder of the fruit. And it all starts with love.

Peace can be a very elusive thing in our time. With our world constantly growing more busy, one can barely find the time to think about peace, let alone obtain it. It doesn’t help that we’re told from every source around us that we should only look out for ourselves and our own pleasure. The lie of the world is that we will gain peace by seeking the things of this world and thinking only of selfish ambition. But peace will never be reached in this way.

True peace, the kind that Christ promises, cannot be caught by trying to catch peace. No, it is a byproduct of a Christ-centered attitude and heart. When we follow after the will of God, when we love others, when we help those in need, when we exemplify love and have joy, we will get peace. The peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7) will be ours if we seek the Lord first and foremost in our lives.

Joy

The fruit of the Spirit – Joy

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the spirit is…joy

What’s the first thing that the nonbeliever can see about a professed believer? It could be argued that one’s emotional state is the first impression that an observer can pick up. If we, as Christ followers, have no joy we don’t send a very appealing message to those watching. If we are to convince the unsaved that we have something that they should want, we should act like it.

This is not to say that we should, at all times, have an ear-to-ear grin on our faces. Times will come in our lives that are nothing to smile about. But if we have the joy of Christ inside us, the way we handle the bad times will be different than the way someone who doesn’t have Christ would handle them. We can show that we have an overall joy in our lives even as we go through down times in our lives. It’s in these times that we will be watched the most.

It can be quite easy to put on a happy face and act like life is perfect even though we know it isn’t, but real joy isn’t about putting on a facade to fool everyone. The Lord’s instructions are not to fool anyone. It is about living out the joy that is within us. Look to Christ as an example.

A few scriptures that offer some help in this area are Matthew 6:27, John 15:11, John 10:10, Romans 8:35, 2 Corinthians 4:9, Psalm 5:11, Psalm 28:7. There are many more that would also offer guidance.

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The fruit of the Spirit – Love

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the spirit is love…

Paul starts out the portion of his letter to the Galatian Christians on the fruit of the spirit by stating that love is one of the quality traits we should bear as followers of Christ. One should think there is no coincidence in the fact that this is the first trait listed in the fruit of the spirit. Love is a major theme in God’s Word.

Why is it that love is so important in the life of a Christ follower? Why would love be so important to be listed first among the fruit of the spirit, mentioned so many times throughout the scriptures, and spoken of so often by Jesus Himself? Because without love, everything else is worthless.

Many wedding ceremonies include a reading from I Corinthians 13. We call it “the love chapter”. A wonderful chapter it is, but we often hear it quoted starting in verse 4. This is where the characteristics of love are given. Look just before that verse to find what Paul says on the importance of love. “…if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned; but have not love, I gain nothing.“(2b-3)

Did you catch that? If we have the faith to move mountains, but don’t have love in our hearts, it’s worthless faith! All too often we place more importance on faith and works than on love. The fact is, that those works and that faith ought to be based in love. When we perform kind acts, it should be out of love, not duty. When we sing songs of praise to the Lord, it must be out of love for Him, not obligation.

When Jesus Christ was questioned as to the greatest of the commandments, He listed near the top “love your neighbor as yourself“(Matthew 22:39). If we can keep this commandment, almost everything else we’re instructed to do will come as a natural byproduct.

They will know we are Christians by our love. Let it show.

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Believing God Today

Matthew 9:29 and 30 NIV – Then He touched their eyes, saying, According to your faith, be it done to you. Their eyes were opened.

We are sitting at over two weeks into the new year. Did you make resolutions? How have you done?

About.com lists the top ten new years resolutions as follows:

  • Become Fit and battle the Bulge
  • Spend more time with Family
  • Get out of Debt
  • Quit Smoking and Enjoy Life More
  • Quit Drinking
  • Learn Something New
  • Help Others
  • Get Organized

The gyms are slowly becoming less popular and fast food restaurants are becoming more popular. Maybe a couple of us have buckled and swiped the credit card a time or two since 1/1/12. Our human nature gets the best of us and we tend to make more compromises each and every day. We begin to listen to our body and give in to whatever temptation holds us back. No matter how many amazing things that God does, sometimes it’s hard to remember what he can do, and what he does. Our God is a God of moving mountains. When we fail, He has already won. Every step we take on our way to transformation via trusting God and according to His will, is one more step of trust and growth.

What did you resolve to do in 2012? Perhaps a transformed sense of faith is in order this year, or even today. In what ways does God want to transform you in 2012? Whatever it is, it always begins with a first step.

John 3:23 ESV

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

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Affirm others

Proverbs 3:27 (NIV)  Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.

 

There is a lot to be found in scriptures about others believers poorly. A believer is told to turn the other cheek in Lamentations 3:30, and the entire book of Job is filled with stories of distress. Life as a Christian does not come with a built in guarantee that happiness and joy will come easily. But God tells us how we should treat others while he reminds us that life isn’t always going to be easy.

 

Proverbs 3:27 is one of my favorite verses. In my opinion, one of the most empowering things that you can do for someone else is to give credit where credit is due. A variety of things get in the way at times. We get too busy. We are too proud. But one of the best ways that you can give someone strength is to pay them with your words. Give them verbal credit when they have earned it. It may feel uncomfortable, but giving positive words of affirmation can be completely what another person needs and perhaps God wants to work through you today!

 

Ecclesiastes 7:5 It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke than to listen to the song of fools.

 

Self Worth is earned when we work hard for something and earn it. Let someone earn positive words of affirmation today that come from you. They may be surprised, and honored. Flattery doesn’t find it’s way into true self worth. Your genuine words of truth and affirmation are a special and unique gift that can only be given by you.

 

Those of us who have children can apply this in a practical way today with our little ones, and affirm them with positive and appropriate words. Even children know when adults simply flatter them.

 

Even better, affirm people in the presence of others. Giving credit where credit is due is a gift that is deserved. It will fill your children up better than a drive through meal and appropriate, deserved affirmation will give them more self worth than the half dozen other activities that we tend to enroll our children in, and then subsequently rush them to throughout the week.

 

Galatians 6:10 (NIV) Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

 

Word blocks

The gift of our words

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Facebook is an amazing reflection of the relationship between the voice in ones head, and voiced expressions. Statuses update regularly with statements about how old, or young, the cashier at the grocery thought that the writer was, a comment that someone’s boss made, and what someone’s teacher said about their child. Various surface interactions don’t often require our full attention, but at times, they consume our full attention and tend to leave us thinking about the exchange of conversation. Later, we facebook about it:

“I can’t believe I got carded at Publix…”

“My son’s teacher told me that I look tired- I must look terrible today!”

“The Walmart cashier asked me when I was due; the baby is 4 months old!”

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

What we say, although seemingly fleeting, often lasts much longer than we realize. I think that we can all relate to an unwelcome harsh word that sticks with us longer than we would like, or the blessing of an uplifting kind word that sticks with us for days, months or even years.

Words that we speak can give someone the discouragement necessary for them to give up on trusting God for something big.

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

In fact, planting something positive in someone’s life is one of the best ways that you can ever pay it forward. We don’t easily forget the kind things said to us, or on our behalf. The blessing of positive words can be life affirming and can arm a person with confidence and security needed to walk with God, even when it is scary or uncomfortable.

Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle- Plato

Give someone a beautiful gift today by speaking positively into their life. Give somebody something wonderful to facebook about!

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Enduring limbo

Limbo, in my opinion, is one of the hardest human states to be in. It’s the last place I want to be.  Instead of grieving a loss, limbo is about angst.  It’s about the struggle within the loss of control that we have that makes it seemingly ever so hard. Every question about what will happen, and what should a person do, could potentially fit into this area.

Roman Catholic Church theology has identified Limbo as:

The abode of unbaptized but innocent or righteous souls, as those of infants or virtuous individuals who lived before the coming of Christ.

(Limbo has not been defined by the Roman Catholic Church)

It has also been defined as:

  • A region or condition of oblivion or neglect.
  • A state or place of confinement.
  • An intermediate place or state.

Whether the Limbo that we experience is ephemeral or prolonged, to call it torture might be an understatement. The parent of a missing child, a perpetual single individual still seeking a spouse after years, or the spouse of a patient in emergency surgery; who can measure the agony?

God says a few things that speak to me on this matter:

Knowing that God is with me, covers me in His security while I am in limbo:

Psalm 16:8 I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Knowing that God will provide a peace that is like nothing else:

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Knowing that God has equipped me for the struggle, and that He knows what the struggle is for:

Psalm 18: For God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless

Psalm 18: 28-30 You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. As for God, his way is perfect:  The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.

Most of all, it speaks to me to know that God advocates for my perseverance:

2 Peter 1:5-7 (NIV) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

Is God asking you to take the first step to something that feels impossible? Are you struggling in the wait? Know that God is in your limbo, and that we need not be shaken. Know that God provides a peace that only he can provide. Know that God equips those who he calls. Know that God can keep your lamp burning, and can provide you with endurance.

 

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Love never fails

1 Corinthians 13:8 Love never ends.

There’s one thing in this world that will never end, can never be defeated by the forces of darkness and continues on into the next life. God’s love never ends, it never fails, and there’s nothing we can do to affect His love for us. The Lord is sovereign and He will chose whom to love.

It should be noted that nowhere in all of Paul’s descriptions of what love is and is not does he ever refer to it as an emotion.  Love is so far beyond just being something we feel, though we make it out to be nothing more.  We talk of “falling in love” and then “falling out of love”, but that just isn’t characteristic of love at all.  Love cannot be fallen into or fallen out of because it’s an action, not a whim.  Loving is a choice, and we must choose to love everyday.

God’s love for us is unconditional, not based on feelings or circumstances. He chooses to love us, just as we should choose to love those around us, regardless of whether or not they deserve it. Love never fails, it can never be defeated, and it will endure forever. When God chose to sacrifice His Son on the cross to take on the punishment we deserved for our sins, love won, once and for all.

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Love always perseveres

1 Corinthians 13:7  [Love] endures all things

Relationships are never a walk in the park every single day. No matter how much you love someone and they love you, there will be moments of disappointment, struggle, discontentment, and resentment. The simple reason for that is that relationships consist of human beings and human beings are not perfect. We all hurt those we love and they hurt us, whether it’s intentional or unintentional.

The truth of the matter is that far too many people these days are bailing out instead of sticking around through the hard times. It’s easy to just say goodbye rather than putting in the time and effort it takes to reconcile with someone. What no one wants to hear about love is that it takes a lot of hard work. It takes perseverance, humility, and the willingness to press on.  Love is made up of imperfect people who continue to love despite their hurts and hardships.

No one was more betrayed and hurt by those He loved than Jesus. The very fact that He had to suffer the pain of the cross was due to the fact that those He created turned against Him and sinned.  God had to sacrifice His own Son because His creation failed to love Him as He so loved them.  But despite our rejection of God, He did make that sacrifice, paying the ultimate price to reconcile with us, His fallen creatures. Love won out because our Father was willing to do what had to be done to restore our relationship with Him.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known