“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
So if we want these qualities in our lives, how do we get them? Is it by trying harder? By putting reminders on our mirror or fridge to say “be kind today.” “Be patient with the crazy driver in front of (or behind) you.” “When you get angry, hold your tongue.”
We so often try to produce these ‘fruit’ by working harder. And yet, God says that doesn’t work…and how well I know it. Just before these verses Paul describes the works of the flesh, i.e. those qualities and behaviors that come naturally to us, as “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (verses 19-21).
I can think of a time when I exhibited four of these in one incident when my temper got the best of me. So first of all, I’m grateful, deeply grateful, for the forgiveness of God that wipes out my sin.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I John 1:9 ESV
Second, I was reminded by our pastor today that these fruit of the Spirit i.e. love, joy, peace … are HIS work in me, not mine in myself. My challenge is to spend time with Him, focusing on Jesus, loving and worshipping Him, allowing His Holy Spirit to produce these characteristics in me.
What a joy. It’s not my job to make me like Jesus. It’s my job to rest in Him, trust in Him, and allow Him to change me. That’s His job! And He can do what I cannot do myself!
Thank you Lord, for producing more of your likeness, for growing a good harvest in me as I focus on, spend time with you. I love you.
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.
Jude 1:24, NLT
We were talking about my friend’s house, which she enjoyed with her husband for quite a few years. Now he has passed into glory and she is thinking through her next steps. “Remember,” she said, “Home is not a place, but a Presence.”
“Presence” — defined as the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. Another definition is “a person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen.” Scripture adds to this one of the names of God–“Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us”.
What a promise! God, creator of heaven and earth, is with us! Psalm 139:7-10 state that
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.
I looked up some synonyms for presence at thesaurus.com:
The Scriptures often speak of God’s presence in human history. His presence may bring fear to man’s heart, as when Adam and Eve sinned and hid from God in the Garden of Eden.
But God’s presence also provides comfort in times of trouble or anxiety (Joshua 1:5; Psalm 42:5). So if we are actively living in the presence of God, we will know the assurance of his companionship, his promise never to leave us, to guide us, to grant us his wisdom.
The presence of God finds its greatest expression in Immanuel, God with us.
God himself came to save. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, entered a teeming humanity to give his life as a ransom for us.
In his grace, God buys us back in the most unimaginable way possible: God in Christ became a man, walked among humanity, and died for his people.
J Ryan Lister (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is professor of theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.
And one day those who have trusted Christ’s atoning work on the Cross will be fully in His presence in heaven, rejoicing and worshiping him for all eternity. As that precious song says, “I can only imagine …”
I can only imagine what it will be like When I walk by your side I can only imagine what my eyes will see When your face is before me I can only imagine I can only imagine
Surrounded by Your glory What will my heart feel Will I dance for you Jesus Or in awe of You be still Will I stand in your presence Or to my knees will I fall Will I sing hallelujah Will I be able to speak at all I can only imagine I can only imagine…
Delight in the Lord with me as we walk this journey, knowing that His presence is the source of our strength, our peace, and our comfort; and that we are at Home there, both now and for all eternity.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
The harmonies of the old hymn filled the chapel with full, rich tones. Tears filled my eyes as I realized that I, and those with whom I grew up, learned to sing, to harmonize, to make beautiful music as we raised our voices and hearts in praise to God. It was a part of our culture, our worldview, our worship. Now we raised our voices together in harmony at the memorial service of a dear friend.
I’ve often thought that, while sermons and words reach my mind, music touches my soul.
And how we need something to touch our souls in these uncertain days, when mass shootings have killed 32 in the past week and a half. Many here in California, in Texas and Ohio are traumatized and fearful as they deal with the senseless loss of loved ones and the trauma of being in the line of fire.
Others have written about the solutions, and I don’t intend to take on that subject here.
But we as believers need to be salt and light in the midst of this carnage. How can we help? Can we reach out to someone who has been hurt, by these shootings or by something else, and minister peace and love to them?
Our pastor said Sunday that Christianity is not a subculture but a counterculture. We are priests who are desperately needed in a culture of hate.
One of the songs that ministered to me in a significant way when I went through a turbulent time personally says,
In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place ‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry
Keep me safe till the storm passes by Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more Till the clouds roll forever from the sky Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand Keep me safe till the storm passes by
Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by” But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise Where the storms never darken the skies
Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more Till the clouds roll forever from the sky Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand Keep me…
-Written by Thomas Mosie Lister
How can we be priests and agents of peace in a hate-filled world?
We can pray. Jesus turned to the Father in every circumstance, praising him, asking his help, and acting in obedience to the Father’s direction. Sometimes we think prayer is the least we can do. If we are praying along with the Father’s heart, it may be the most important thing we do.
We can be agents of peace in our own neighborhoods, seeking healthy, building relationships and encouraging others, whether they are children, younger adults, or seniors whom God brings into our lives. When there are disagreements we can look for positive resolutions that build bridges with our neighbors. When our neighbor didn’t like the solar equipment on the side of our house that she sees regularly, Don said “I think we can come up with a good solution,” and built a lovely latticed box to surround the equipment. My Don was an agent of peace and our neighbor, and the homeowners’ association, are delighted with the outcome.
What other ways have you found to be an agent of God’s peace and love in your world? I’d love to hear what solutions you’ve found.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.…”
I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.
Secrets. Deadly. C.S. Lewis lost his beloved wife, Joy, to cancer. But he didn’t hide his grief, writing about it in A GRIEF OBSERVED. His wisdom is meaningful because it comes out of his own life experience.
Our culture tends to think of pain as a negative, as something to sweep under the proverbial rug.
“How are you?” “I’m fine thanks. And you?”
We may not want to take someone else’s time to share the truth of our journey, the faith crisis we’re in, the pain of loss, a wayward child, bankruptcy, or challenges within a community, a ministry, a marriage.
But secrets divide us. They raise barriers. Don’t go past this point. No more questions. Change the subject.
Have you been there? I have. In my last three posts I’ve written about being part of an inner city ministry for ten years, years that included times of significant joy and reward as we helped people through times of personal crisis, led children’s clubs and adult Bible studies, a teen choir, food and clothing distribution, and started a school in the ghetto. Joy as some committed their lives to Jesus Christ and started to walk a new path, making different, more positive choices than many around them.
But those years also included times of pain, with a controlling leader who told us not to talk to family or friends about doubts or issues with his leadership. So, along with others, I held a lot inside. I kept secrets. Was I fine? Definitely not. Did I tell anyone? Not for years.
So being with other women who were part of that organization two weeks ago was extremely meaningful. We shared honestly and openly, asking and answering questions and also sharing about our current lives. Although I know there was and is more to share, we spoke the secrets aloud. And it was healing.
Someone said when people speak about their joy, people listen and affirm. But when we speak our pain, people lean in. All of us have experienced pain, whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. And pain spoken loses some of its power, while pain held in spreads like a cancer.
Obviously we need to be wise. Sharing everything with everyone is neither prudent nor effective. But we do need safe places where we can be authentic with a few trusted individuals.
When we speak of our pain (within appropriate boundaries), others want to hear. They may be experiencing something similar, and they want to know how we overcame. What gave us the strength to move through the pain to new understanding, to finding hope again?
Perhaps we can begin to welcome pain as a gift to help us grow or warn us of needed changes. The child who places her hand on a hot stove learns not to do that. The pain of betrayal may caution us against trusting too quickly, about delving more deeply into a person’s integrity before getting too involved.
The pain of distance from God may remind us that we need to spend regular time with him, enjoying this most important of all relationships.
None of us wants pain. Few of us invite it. And God doesn’t send it. But he can use it in our lives as it reminds us …
that God is our comfort as we move toward rather than away from him. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (I Peter 5:7)
to serve others–God comforts us so that we can pass that comfort along to others in need (II Corinthians 1:3-5)
to patiently endure–“My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71) and
to rely on God–“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life” (I John 5:12).
Out of pain and problems have come the sweetest songs, and the most gripping stories.
Those are reasons to be thankful for pain’s impact in our lives.
May God guide you as you open your heart’s secrets to him, our ultimate Counselor; and to trusted confidantes, so that you may be healed.
Don and I moved to a lovely over-55 community in September last year. Since October, the beautiful home we left behind has been on the market. We’ve had many people come through the house; comments have been extremely positive about both the main and the guest houses and the property itself, in a beautiful little hill valley five miles above Capitola Beach.
But to date we’ve received only one low-ball written offer. Dear friends are in the same situation, also waiting for a sale. This has become a stressor, and yes, we’ve been discouraged.
Don still maintains the property, pays taxes, insurance, and energy bills. We had hoped and prayed that the house would sell before he felt obliged to plant new spring flowers and re-beautify the yard. After all, we moved to simplify our lives and reduce some of those demands.
We’ve prayed for a good buyer–oh yes, we’ve prayed, as have friends and family. But at times it feels like our prayers have gone unheard.
Have you ever been there, wondering why God appears not to answer?
I prayed for my late husband’s recovery following dual transplant surgery, along with hundreds of others who knew and loved us. God’s answer was “not here.” Because he had accepted God’s promise of eternal life to those who accept the forgiveness and new life promised through Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am confident that Jerry is healed, whole, and is rejoicing in the presence of God. And while that gave me great hope, it did not remove the pain of loss.
And now, Don and I are again being stretched. Will I trust God in this long season of waiting, knowing many have far greater needs than ours? Or will I choose not to trust because things aren’t going according to my plan?
Will I believe and act on the truth that God is still, and always will be, my loving Father, or will I complain and allow bitterness to creep into my spirit?
I look back and recall God’s faithfulness in all the seasons of my life:
The times I’ve made mistakes that God has redeemed, and through which he has brought something good.
The breakup of a relationship I believed would lead to marriage but didn’t –and how grateful I am for that “no”!
Ten years of service and God’s protection as I served with a team in the L.A. inner city.
Healing from the stresses of those ten years.
Marriage to a wonderful man at the ripe old age of 36.
God’s faithfulness and strength and mercy and comfort, as we faced his death twenty years later.
In grief at other losses–of my nephew, grandparents, dear friends, my father.
The marvelous gift of a second love and life with my Don.
God’s promises of eternal life, of comfort and peace and Presence in all circumstances.
So if I complain now, it seems a bit–well, more than a bit–selfish. As I look back I can see how God led in each situation. Minister and author V. Raymond Edman once said “Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.”
Life is hard sometimes. It can be confusing. And we were created to love and serve and honor our God–not to understand Him. But He has given us His great and precious promises to help us in just such times as this.
So, despite moments of stress and lack of understanding; despite concerns about the house still being unsold, I will choose to trust for His best, knowing He loves me more than I can comprehend, and that His purpose for me goes far beyond the sale of a piece of property.
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3
Are you questioning why your prayers seem to be unheard in any certain area? I’d love to hear how you’re dealing with your questions and doubts.
May you be encouraged by the peace and Presence of God.