Fruit of the Spirit: Conclusion

The Choice is Ours

Since we live by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:25

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Thanks and Thoughts

First, I want to thank again the poets who helped to unify and enhance these themes. They are all listed at the end of this post with links to their blogs. Please join me in thanking them by visiting their sites.

Second, I want to close this series by thanking all of you who commented on posts, followed my blog and uplifted me in ways you cannot imagine. I hope you’ll stick around for the next series.

Third, want to offer this thought: that following the Spirit is a daily choice we make – hour by hour sometimes – to think, speak and act in ways consciously different than most people.

Choose Love –Love God and love how He loves; unconditionally, with compassion, grace and mercy. Look up to God so you look down on no one. No person or group of people justifies your hatred.

Choose Joy – Refuse to be controlled by your circumstances. Say, “no,” to the temptations of cynicism, sarcasm and bitterness. Allow God to lead you deep into new thinking.

Choose Peace – Let Christ’s love and forgiveness reach down inside your heart. Let the freedom he brought break the chains of captivity that keep you from forgiving others. Let him transform your heart.

Choose Patience – Breathe. When you’re in your car, standing in line; at work, at the doctor’s office; waiting for news, a job, a break, a plan, some quiet time or answered prayer. God has been so patient with you; each time you stumble, He helps you up with His gracious hand. Offer that to someone else, to your circumstances, to yourself. Wait upon the Lord.

Choose Kindness – Speak life. Speak encouragement. Speak compassion. Speak from a humble place. Disengage from gossip. Avoid complaining. Offer an unexpected act of kindness.

Choose Generosity – Work hard at seeing someone else’s point of view. Refuse to judge. Put someone else first. Go the extra mile for someone who has asked a favor, then don’t talk about it.

Choose Faithfulness – Do what you say you will do. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Pray. Be thankful for your blessings.

Choose Gentleness – Give God the honor for your gifts and accomplishments. Apologize if you have hurt or offended someone. Look for ways to authentically uplift others.

Choose Self-Control – Indulge in the Bread of Life which will fill your heart. Get drunk on the joy of God which will fill your senses. Be influenced by the Holy Spirit and the words of Jesus, which will set you on the narrow path.

Third, I want to give thanks to the Holy Spirit, without whose words and courage I could not have written a single letter of this series. I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, on this Good Friday in glorious anticipation of Easter Sunday, for calling me to him and bringing me to the Father in such an extraordinary manner.

I want to thank God for His everlasting love, and His always present grace and mercy, for the peace beyond comprehension, and for the opportunity I now have to see Him face to face.

The Poets

Love: John Blase The Beautiful Due

Joy: Diana Rasmussen Prayers and Promises

Peace: Ken Mudenda I Am Poetry 

Patience: Belinda Borriadaile Idiot Writing 

Kindness: Oliana Kim Traces of the Soul

Generosity: Heidi Vars Wings of the Dawn

Faithfulness: Daniel Ng Daniel Frugalberg

Gentleness: Anne-Marie Hurley scottishmomus

Self-Control: Mike Bullock Versical Rhymes

Finally, I want to offer a quote and prayer.

The quote is from a book I just finished reading by David Lomas, called The Truest Thing About You.*

God won’t stop with partial transformation. But to what end is God working? What are we being transformed into? God’s will is to work in us a character of love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control. God is working that in us – and here’s the crazy part, the part I have trouble believing most days: God will complete that work in me.

The prayer is one the apostle Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus that seems to be particularly appropriate here and now.

I fall to my knees and pray to God, the Creator of all things in heaven and on earth. I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resource He empower you with inner strength through His Spirit so that Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grown down into God’s love and keep you strong. May you have the power to understand how wide, how long, how high and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to fully understand. Then you will be made complete with the fullness of life that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

 

http://www.marmarthunder.wordpress.com

*David Lomas, copyright 2014 The Truest Thing About You, p. 199, David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, CO

Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

The Spirit which God gave us does not make us afraid. His Spirit is a source of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against these things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

As we practice the fruit of the Spirit, we have a choice. We can either attempt to produce this fruit on our own or depend on God to help water and harvest these seeds in us as a natural outcome of abiding in Him and surrendering to the prompting of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

© Susan Irene Fox

© Susan Irene Fox

If you have ever attempted to acquire a new skill – play a sport or learn a musical instrument; study a book of the Bible or grasp a new language or subject; train in a new profession or specialize in a new technique – you had to rely on lots of practice, and a coach, a book or manual, illustrations, study notes, diagrams, a mentor, or just a darn good teacher to help you along the way.

~~~

SELF CONTROL

by Mike Bullock

I’m shaking at the prospect

Of trying to deny

My need of certain gimmicks

To make my time pass by

I gaze at sites like E-Bay

Perusing all they’ve got

if I had my fleshly way

I’d go and buy the lot.

 

Self control is difficult

It’s something I should learn

Just to live within my means

My money not to burn

Store your treasure up above

A cheerful giver be

Peace will reign inside your heart

Just you wait and see.

~~~

Self-control is unattainable on our own. We must rely on God to sustain it. It is impossible to exhaust God’s self-control. It will be much more difficult to drain your self-control if the source of it is the living water of the Holy Spirit within you.

Self-control is not an act of will; it’s a state of being.  It’s the sum total of all the seeds of the fruit once they have reached their full bloom. It is the completed, fragrant bouquet.

If I am feeling a lack of self-control, I need to look at the core of the fruit of the Spirit to determine where I need more practice. Do I need to ask God for more patience? For a more generous spirit? For more faith in Him? For ways to find joy in my current circumstances? Sometimes I feel so inept, like I should already have mastered this skill. Then I remember the apostle Peter and know I am in great company because I, too, am a disciple.

Peter, the lead apostle, at the beginning of his discipleship with Jesus, rarely used self-control. Peter was bold, but often used his boldness in foolish, unthinking or violent ways. He rebuked Jesus (Matthew 16:22), and when he saw Jesus walk on water couldn’t wait to try it himself (Matthew 14:28). He cut off the ear of a servant (John 18:10), bragged about his loyalty (Matthew 26:33), then turned around and denied knowing Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75).

Yet once the Holy Spirit came upon him, he learned the “great love, grace and mercy” we have been given, and how that leads to freedom if we use it with our hearts surrendered and open to the direction of the Holy Spirit. Peter began to use his boldness in more reflective ways. He courageously preached the gospel. He refrained from violence. He was no less passionate, but his passion was blended with the humility of truly knowing the love of Christ and having the inexhaustible self-control of God’s indwelling Spirit.

He had learned the hard lessons, and in his letters was passing along his experience and wisdom to other believers. He wanted us to know the inexplicable “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,” the treasure that awaits us at the end of this journey, the blessed gift that we have received through our faith in the amazing grace of Christ Jesus.

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” 1 Peter 1:5-7

I am still learning from Peter, and from Paul, and of course from Jesus. It’s a lifelong journey, one He will not finish in me until I meet my Lord face to face – and perhaps not even then. All I can say is that with His help, I practice self-control. And I pray that, with His strength and wisdom, I embody and produce this fruit. Why? Because at the end of the day, I don’t want people to look at me and see me or my struggles. I want them to look at me and see Jesus.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6-7)

Self Control copyright 2014 Mike Bullock

Mike is a humble Christian who writes Christian poetry, “which I share on several websites and forums for other followers of Jesus. May you be blessed by what you read and thank you for visiting.  God Bless, Mike.” You can find Mike’s poetry blog, Versical Rhymes at http://ploosh61.wordpress.com/

This post can also be seen at Mind’s Seat, www.marmarthunder.wordpress.com

Am I Beating a Dead Horse?

Ears to Hear

On Sunday, I commented on a blog of another Christian that I thought was rather spiteful. It wasn’t that I necessarily disagreed with everything he said, but the way he communicated it had a way of fomenting anger, vitriol, and division. Which is, of course, exactly what occurred in the nearly 800 comments that followed over the next two days. And I’m sadly certain he viewed the wreckage with pleasure.

I received a few responses of my own, most of which disagreed with my comment, but most of which were respectful. The blogger did not respond to my original comment.

However, on Monday, there was a second blog, which sarcastically criticized my comment and those like them, calling our points of view, “The Nice Doctrine.”

This is my response to Matt Walsh’s blog.

Redefining “Lifestyle”

Most of us are familiar with how the word lifestyle is used today. It is used by many in an accusatory fashion, as in, “I don’t agree with ‘their’ lifestyle.” This accusation usually goes along with the statement, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” And for some unfathomable reason, these statements generally reference only one sin.

pebbles

I think it’s time to take a long, hard look at the word lifestyle; how it was used in our recent past, and how it was used in Jesus’ time.

First, let’s look at the definition of the word lifestyle.

Lifestyle is defined as “the habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, economic level, etc., that together constitute the mode of living of an individual or group.”

Back in the ‘80s, Robin Leach was host of a popular television show called Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. It featured the ostentatious, extravagant lifestyles of wealthy people in entertainment, sports and business. It captured the attention of people who worshiped celebrities at a time when the series Dallas, the longest lasting, 60-minute, primetime drama in TV history, was at its zenith.

In the first century, the Pharisees maintained a certain lifestyle. Let’s take the definition above one at a time and apply it to the Pharisees.

Habits – According to Jesus, the Pharisees had a habit of praying in public where others could see them pray. They had a habit of fasting publicly, so others could see them looking gloomy and hungry. They had a habit of giving publicly and announcing it so all could comment on their generosity. Yet, they did not do any of these things in private so only God could take notice. (Matthew 6:1-18)

Attitudes – According to Jesus, the Pharisees considered themselves above others. They did what they could to prevent those they considered sinners from knowing God, from becoming a member of God’s family, from entering God’s kingdom. It was their job to usher all toward God with a loving hand, yet they failed to do this because of their own stubborn attitudes. They picked out Scripture to keep people away from God instead of shepherding them toward Him. (Genesis 12:3, Matthew 5:20, 5:38-48, 23:1-4, 13-15)

Tastes – According to Jesus, the Pharisees liked to sit in the best seats in the synagogue, drink the best wine and wear the best robes. They looked down on anyone they deemed “less than.” In this honor and shame culture, the best professed status and honor. (Matthew 23:5-8)

Moral Standards – According to Jesus, the Pharisees were always ready to cast stones (remember the woman found guilty of adultery?), yet were never ready to look into their own hearts to repent of sin. Even as Jesus exhorted the Pharisees, he expressed deep sorrow for their own lack of repentance; He desperately wished them to be with Him in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 23:25-28, 23:37-39)

Economic Level – According to Jesus and historical data, the Pharisees, while not as wealthy as the Sadducees, were more wealthy than most. They held themselves above the common people and kept themselves separate because of their knowledge of Mosaic Law. (Matthew 23:16-24)

This is not, as Matt Walsh suggested, a “propagation of the Nice Doctrine.” (I was also indirectly accused by him yesterday of “not knowing Scripture” and of “heresy.”)

This is telling the truth about the people Jesus was most riled up about. The people most ready to point an accusing finger at others. This is about the strong, steadfast, Jesus who denounced and rebuked the holier-than-thou “older brothers.” The Jesus who also wanted them to open their eyes and ears and hear his true message: “Love God and love your neighbor. Now go and sin no more.

The apostle Paul writes a large list of sins to the members of three different churches, yet we always focus on sexual sins. How about the other sins he lists? There’s an entire roster from Romans 1:28-32, Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11:

Sexual immorality, idolatry (worshiping anything other than God), causing strife, jealousy, anger, selfish ambition, causing division, drunkenness, malicious behavior, greed, boasting, gossiping, murder, name-calling, haters of God, those who practice homosexuality, liars, slave traders

We point fingers at those who commit the sins we do not, expecting those around us to applaud us for being “unafraid of confrontation,” and possessing “righteous anger,” while quoting Scripture about Jesus overturning tables in the Temple. We forget that when Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” he meant us, too.

We forget that when he read from Isaiah 66, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,” it wasn’t just for us; it was so his salvation would reach “to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 66:1-2, 49:6)

When did we forget about compassion? When did we forget to pray for our enemies? When did we decide that taking a stand meant slashing at the dignity of our fellow believers? When did we become so arrogant, so…prideful?

Whether we agree or disagree, our job is to love people and show them this beautiful, grace-filled freedom called God’s kingdom. How is it that name-calling, creating division and strife, and purposefully promoting vitriolic words or behavior advances the kingdom?

We have the Holy Spirit in us to remind us of what Jesus said. He told us over and over what he wants from us. Will we be like the disciples before they were given the Spirit?

Will our stubbornness cause Jesus to ask us, “Do you not yet perceive or understand?”

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

God’s Gentle Grace

Paul, in his letters, continually reminded followers that we are heirs of God’s grace, and because of that inheritance, we are to, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,” (Colossians 3:12) and “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:2)

© Susan Irene Fox

© Susan Irene Fox

James, the younger brother of Jesus knew about gentleness, but only after his older brother died for his sins. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to visit him upon his return (1 Corinthians 15:7). What a conversation that must have been; forgiving and loving enough to place James in the room with the disciples when the Holy Spirit came upon them all. And James learned an incredible lesson which served as the foundation for the remainder of his life.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

~~~

Gentleness

by Anne-Marie Hurley

 Help us to speak from a spirit of kindness

When woe’s words seek to hurt to the core,

Help us to see that those who are hurting

Try their best to hurt more.

Help us to know that empathy helps

When others are struggling to find

Hope in their lives, some sense of certainty

Some salve for a more peaceful mind.

Give us a reason to see past the bitter,

A more loving heart to reveal

A measure of more understanding

Till others around us may heal.

Help us, please, Spirit so loving,

So generous with all you bestow,

Help us to love more fully our Lord

And others around us to know

That all we desire is found in one God

Made manifest in His plan,

To love with all gentleness brothers, sisters around.

Simply to love God and Man.

~~~

James warned us to refrain from speaking against our brothers and sisters, from discouraging or shaming anyone. He asked us to tame the tongue. “It is a restless evil full of deadly poison. With it, we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:8-10)

Being gentle, or meek, is not being weak. It is having a controlled strength, a willingness to put others first, an outward humility toward others.

I believe with all my heart this is what Jesus was telling us when he summed up all the law and words of the prophets in the two commands, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

I believe this is what Jesus meant when he said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

To speak with kindness and compassion.

To give hope and encouragement.

To love with all gentleness.

To be filled with God’s gentle wisdom and mercy.

To pass on the gentle and humble heart of Jesus.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

Gentleness copyright 2014 Anne-Marie Hurley, who blogs at Scottishmomus http://scottishmomus.wordpress.com. She is mother to 7, wife of 26 years, sister, aunt, godparent, daughter, friend, teacher and a poet who sets words to the music of your heart.

Her prose is on anything that she sets her mind to: parenting, politics or humor, and her musings are above the cut. She’s rarely bereft of an opinion, and will often lead you down the garden path with a glass of wry and Scottish.

This post can also be seen on Mind’s Seat, www.marmarthunder.wordpress.com

Walk by Faith, Not by Fear

“Two men went to the temple to pray.”

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” Luke 18:10-11

One wonders how the disciple Matthew, a former tax collector, must have felt upon hearing this parable.

Jesus most certainly told the story to convey a message to the Pharisees: those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who are humble will be exalted.

He also wanted to communicate to those in this honor and shame culture that those who were traditionally the subject of finger-pointing, shaming and humiliating were those who Jesus himself invited to the table to eat the Bread of Life and drink his Living Water. It is a message not just for first century listeners, but for 21st century readers of the Gospel message.

copyright Susan Irene Fox

copyright Susan Irene Fox

The Pharisees of the first century were determined to keep people out of God’s kingdom. That is not God’s intention. Jesus came to invite everyone; it was a radical idea then. It’s a radical idea now. Though we may be loathe admitting it, we still live in an honor and shame culture.

Let’s get real for just a moment: in Western culture, there always appears to be a minority that seems acceptable to kick around. Oh, it’s changed over the decades, but if you really think about it, you can identify which one was the hot topic of political agendas over the years. Now, it’s the LGBTQ community, particularly in certain circles of Christianity. And the trigger word around this topic is “lifestyle.” But here is a radical, “new” concept about lifestyle.

If we are going to be ready for Jesus Christ, we have to stop being religious. In other words, we must stop using religion as if it were some kind of a lofty lifestyle – we must be spiritually real. [emphasis author’s] (Oswald Chambers, c. 1912*)

Being spiritually real means inviting the Holy Spirit to speak for us. It means putting aside our own, small, “religious” agendas and our fear of the differences of other people to let the love of God speak into our hearts so we can speak it into theirs.

It means courageously and outrageously speaking “the message of the gospel, of Christ absurdly serving, sacrificing, and loving people so much that He would die for them [so it is not] drowned out by morbidly dark warnings, shame tactics, ruthless accusations, angry rants, manipulative sermons, fear mongering, and vicious attacks.” – Stephen Mattson, Red Letter Christians http://bit.ly/1ff5yPA

It means opening our hearts and minds, it means embracing instead of pushing away, it means humbling ourselves to see that maybe – just maybe – our point of view of judging, shaming, accusing, denigrating and loving conditionally is wrong. It is not love. It is not following in the footsteps of a loving God.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:7-9, 18-21

If you are still unconvinced, please set aside 34 minutes to watch http://bit.ly/1jjXkHq for an eloquent and personal story.

It will be well worth your time.

We weep. We seek heaven for grace, mercy and redemption, as we try, not to get better, but to be better. And we pray that God can somehow use our story to help other parents learn to truly love their children. Just because they breathe. Linda Robertson, http://justbecausehebreathes.com

This post can also be seen on Mind’s Seat, www.marmarthunder.wordpress.com

*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, © 1935, 1992, Oswald Chambers Publications Assn, LTD

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

knotted vortex in nature Dustin Kleckner and William T. M. Irvine Livescience.com, March 6, 2013

knotted vortex in nature
Dustin Kleckner and William T. M. Irvine
Livescience.com, March 6, 2013

Gordian knots

by Daniel Ng

Trudging high mountains to the valleys, dark below,

Where breath grows thin and courage flees to cold,

Draw warmly then to our sweet Lord, beware to lose Him not,

Grasp that hand with sure faith! 

He will loosen life’s Gordian knots.

 Our Faithfulness

We often make God too small; we put Him in a box, nice and neat, with certain definitions and parameters that conform to our theology, rather than allowing Him to transform us. Because of our finite humanness, cannot have all the answers. It is not about us having all the answers.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

Neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are my ways higher than your ways

And my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

We are restricted and limited by time. Our present is momentary. God is not. He is in the past, present and the future. We cannot wrap our minds around that. It is beyond our ability to comprehend. God is unknowable, unsearchable, unfathomable. Rightfully so.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths
. Proverbs 3:5-6

Ah, but trust is difficult for all of us at times.

On Ash Wednesday, our sermon was all about handing our worry over to Jesus. It was about not hanging onto worry, because in doing so, we sin; we sin by communicating to Jesus that we don’t think he is worthy of our trust and faith in Him. So worry not only sucks us into darkness by throwing us into anxiety and depression. It removes us from our Lord by denying Him, just as Peter did. The good news is that He forgives and redeems; He welcomes our regret and return. Oh, how He loves us.

Many of us, in proclaiming our faith, use our own personal transformation as a testimony to our faithfulness, our steadfast belief in God’s work in our lives. We know, without a shred of uncertainty, that God exists, because Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, has laid claim to our hearts. He has shifted our thinking, our willingness to be vulnerable, our commitment to leading honest lives based on love. He has caused an internal and permanent tectonic plate shift; we have been humbled, and we thankfully praise him for that. We know he is with us because we know that except for His grace, we would not be in this place.

Yet, just like Abraham, we try to ‘help God along” by finding ways to push His plan forward, widening the path, jack-hammering road blocks, rushing to achieve God’s promises in our own time. Abraham lied to the Egyptian pharaoh about his relationship with Sarah, endangering both of their lives. Later, he used his servant Hagar to produce a son, even though God had a plan for both Abraham and Sarah in His own time and His own way.

God is in the driver’s seat in this lifelong journey, yet so many times I have tried to shove Him aside to grab the steering wheel. Even though He has made it clear to me where we are going, I still insist on control, still insist on navigating, still insist on wanting Him to be the passenger. How incredibly arrogant and unappreciative am I when I forget that He is the One who has developed the plan, negotiated the terrain, determined the strategy and knows the destination!

Like an obstacle course on a long, narrow and windy road, with a steep cliff on one side and a sheer mountain face on the other, God’s plan can appear arduous and stressful; it can seem like it takes too long when I think I know a shortcut.

Waiting on God takes delighting in Him; it takes being patient and yes, long suffering. It takes trusting with all your heart; it takes understanding that whatever He has planned for you will be beyond your imagination and expectations.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

That is faithfulness.

God’s Faithfulness

We have also experienced God’s faithfulness. Yes, we have read about it in the Bible.

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease.

For His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning.

Great is His faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Aside from knowing about God’s faithfulness, many of us have also been blessed by His faithfulness in our own lives. God’s faithfulness is particularly evident when we choose to walk toward him instead of away from him in those circumstances that evoke fear, grief, anger or doubt.  And it is in these circumstances – in our weakest moments – that God shows His strength. That God lifts us up. That God embraces us and comforts us when we allow Him to.

We receive wisdom or provision or help with a problem we’ve been grappling with for months or even years; we know the solution didn’t generate with us, but came from an unexpected or inexplicable source. We receive strength to turn from bitterness or addiction or stubbornness after years of holding onto to harmful habits; we know it is not within our nature or power to do so on our own. We receive peace or comfort beyond our understanding, as though we truly have been made to lie down in green pastures, led beside still waters, and had our soul completely restored.

How else can we explain the faithfulness of God who extends us love without condition; grace when we have done nothing to merit it; mercy when we do not deserve it at all?

I pray that in faith, as our poet Daniel writes, you “draw warmly to our sweet Lord” who is ever faithful, who reaches out, who will meet you where you are. Let him have your fear, your grief, your anger, your doubt. He will give you love, grace, mercy and forgiveness in return for your honesty. He will surround you and uphold you; He will loosen the knot in your heart.

Gordian Knots copyright 2014 Daniel P.-K. Ng

Daniel writes soul searching poetry that glorifies God’s love and creation. His photographic images enhance his poetry (or maybe it’s the other way around). If one picture can tell a thousand words, his few lines of poetry can tell a lifetime.

Please find Daniel’s poetry and photos at Daniel Frugalberg http://danfrugalberg.com or https://facebook.com/danfrugalberg/

This post can also be seen on Mind’s Seat, www.marmarthunder.wordpress.com

Fruit of the Spirit: Generosity

Agathosune

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works (agathosune), which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

The Greek word agathosune (ag-ath-o-soó-nay) means an active goodness, the virtue of “doing good, beneficence, generosity. It is the word most Bible versions use. It is sometimes, however, confused with chrestotes (khray-tot’-ace), which means having excellent and good moral character. The NRSV listed this seed, instead of goodness, as generosity, as I’ve done here.

Just as we know how to love because God first loved us, we know how to be generous because of God’s generosity toward us. This generosity is called grace. It is undeserved. It is a gift. It is bestowed upon us by a Giver who loves us for who we are, not for what we do. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more; there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. His great love and grace are so generous it is, to quote the song*, like trying to swallow the ocean.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8

It is this grace that makes most of us desire to be generous. It is this salvation that transforms our hearts, leads us to understand that without God everything else is worthless. It is this seed of grace planted in our hearts that opens us to goodness and generosity.

Seeds.B

~~~

The Goodness Seed

by Heidi Viars

I felt the Father sow one day
A seed into my heart.
His seed of goodness, there it lay-
Waiting to break apart.

God poured His love from His deep well,
Abundantly to me.
God’s Spirit worked, and moved, and dwelt  -
Broke open heart and seed.

He then asked me to mind the seed,
To till the soil inside,
Surrender all – and His will seek -
In Christ’s Words to abide.

Now fruit of goodness grows quite fast
In tenderhearted soil.
This generous fruit is meant to last,
For goodness doesn’t spoil.

~~~

Christ gave each one of us the special gift of grace, showing how generous he is. (Ephesians 4:7) The Lord generously poured out the Spirit into us through Jesus Christ. (Titus 3:6) The Spirit then gave each one a manifestation of Himself for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7)

In other words, we have been generously given unmerited grace and the Holy Spirit. In turn, the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon us certain gifts – talents, if you will – to use generously and compassionately for the good of others.

Think of this gift as a pay-it-forward offering. The apostle Paul explains it this way:

So I beg you, brothers and sisters, because of the great mercy God has shown us, offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him—an offering that is only for God and pleasing to him. This is truly the way to worship him. Romans 12:1

Rather than using your unique gift for self-indulgence, use it to generously enrich the lives of others. If you’re not certain how to do this, ask God.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

The Goodness Seed copyright 2014 Heidi Viars

Heidi’s blog, Wings of the Dawn http://heidiviars.com/ contains beautifully organic photography and poetry that speak to the beauty and majesty of God. Heidi, like many of us, was rescued from darkness by the incredible light and love of Jesus. Through her art, she hopes her readers “sense His hand leading you, even if you are “taking the wings of the dawn or dwell in the remotest part of the sea. (Psalm 139)”

This post can also be seen on Mind’s Seat, www.marmarthunder.wordpress.com

*©2013 Swallow the Ocean, NewSong, HHM Records/ NewSong Ministries