The Fruits of the Spirit – Part 3

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-24

Today we finish our discussion on the fruits of the Spirit. We’ve determined that in order to embody the fruit of ‘love’, we simply need to BE loving. To be joyful we need only FIND joy in all of nature and all of creation. And to enjoy the peace that passes all understanding, we could simply BE peacemakers. It couldn’t be easier, we need only to act upon the nudgings of the Holy Spirit. Faith requires action.

So let’s dive in to today’s discussion starting with ‘faithfulness’. Faithfulness is merely being full of faith and acting on it. So what is faith and where does it come from?

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Let’s stop there and think about this a minute. One fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness. We must have faith in order to please God. The good news is that He rewards us when we diligently seek Him. I like that. But, where does this faith come from? Are we born with it? Did we pick it up in elementary school? Did we dissect it in science class? Just where do we get this thing called faith? The answer can be found in the book of Romans.

“So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

So, it would seem that all we have to do to get faith is to listen. But that is not actually the whole picture. If we read the entire passage in Romans, (Ro 10:14-22) we find that Israel was told but they did not receive it, they rejected it. God put it out there for them, but they rejected this gift of faith that God had put out there. They listened but did not hear. Their ears were shut dumb. They did not do their part in the transaction: they refused to hear.

If you have any measure of faith, my friend, you have God Almighty to thank for it. For, by His grace, he put the information out there and all that is needed from you and me is to receive it. To accept it. To act upon it. And the way we thank Him is by being faithful. Loyal.

Like everything else, it all points back to God. Our faithfulness comes from Him and it goes back to Him. It is a fruit of the Spirit. His Spirit. The Spirit that is living inside of you (if indeed you are saved).

How do we become faithful? We pray. We meditate on His Word both day and night. We engulf ourselves within the flame of His being. It really is simple. We have the capacity for being faithful because being faithful is what the Holy Spirit is all about. It doesn’t just happen. It is given to you. And you build up your faith by spending time in the word. Again, it’s all about God. It’s about bringing glory to the one who called you and saved you and is faithful to you. He deserves our loyalty.

He deserves our faithfulness because He is faithful first.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

God has proven over and over and over again that He is faithful. And He desires us to be faithful as well. Part of our obligation is to read scripture and learn about Him. How can we know what God wants if we don’t know anything about Him? It’s about His grace. And we show our appreciation by being good stewards, faithful priests in His service.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

If you are saved, then you have voluntarily accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior. You have accepted the gift of salvation. You are a new creature. But that’s not the end of the story. We were created for ‘good works’. We could be bringing glory to God by our ‘living sacrifice.’ Not doing so is to disregard the gift.

“By grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift from God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

Okay, so faithfulness is something that we can aspire to. Something we can perform. It is nothing more than being obedient and desiring to bring glory to God in everything we do. The Holy Spirit inside you may nudge you from time to time, even daily or hourly, to see if you are listening and hearing and accepting the faith that God has entrusted to you and you alone. We each get a certain measure of faith. It is unique to us. With it we can be faithful in our duties as servants of Christ. And we are servants. We have traded death for life, and our reasonable service is to dedicate our lives to God. To be holy. Set apart for Him.


Now gentleness is a quality that everybody can agree Jesus had. He showed compassion on the crowds and fed them. He permitted the children to come to him. He healed lepers and the sick. No doubt, these folks were used to experiencing discriminations and persecutions. And you don’t just walk up to someone and bolt your hand out to them and say, “Your sins are forgiven!” What doctor have you ever gone to that was loud and obnoxious and treated you with indignation? No, a physician has to be gentle. Jesus is The Great Physician. And aren’t you a physician? Aren’t you entrusted with the care of the people of this broken world? You are a holy priest. Dead to sin. Raised incorruptible. As a servant of Christ, and His friend and brother, we are to shine our light upon the world and preach the gospel to the lost. We are to bring them to the Great Physician, the Holy One of God. Our job is to be everything the Spirit wants us to be.

Do you look upon the masses as a shepherd or a wolf? Are you compassionate, or, do you hate people? Are you totally annoyed by the things they say and do? Could you live the rest of your life happily if you never have to deal with ‘idiots’ ever again? Are you always the victim? Are you self-less or self-ish?

Where is your heart, O man?!

We are supposed to be acting like Christ. Christ was gentle. Humble. Obedient. Loving. Are you any of those things? Do you get on your knees and ask to be these things?

Gentleness, like all the other fruits of the Spirit, is already something you have the capacity for (if you are saved). You need only ask that the Holy Spirit guide you into obedience for it. It’s like what you set your mind on, your body will follow. It doesn’t come in a day, necessarily. It could take you the rest of your life to say comfortably that you are a gentle person. But, the point is that you take a step toward that goal each and every day. Many times a day, if need be. You can do it. God believes in you. Otherwise he wouldn’t have entrusted you with the gift. Remember, he doesn’t call just ‘anybody.’

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)

He called you. He justified you. And He predestined you to be like Christ. Christ endured. Paul endured. We were created to be conformed in the image of Christ, in every way but one. We are not perfect, nor ever can be.

Like all the other fruits, we strengthen them by using them. Be gentle. Be faithful. Be loving. Be a peacemaker. Be. Do. Act.


Oh, we’re not done yet are we? Ah ha! We have come to this: the gift of self-control. Did I say gift? Oh. Maybe I meant the fruit of self-control. Maybe, but they both point to the same thing. The Holy Spirit.

Ah yes, self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. We can experience it the same way we experience the rest: do it. Be it. Act it out. Embody it. Practice it.

Self-control has gotten a bad rap, though. People misuse the phrase or mistreat you in their use of it. “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you have any self-control?! Just stop it! Go cold-turkey! Don’t you have any willpower? Dang, you are weak! Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! Get it done! Why can’t you be like so and so?!”

Addicts know what I’m talking about. Those words don’t just come from the outside. We say them to ourselves on the inside too. Our inner dialogues are littered with these damaging phrases and attitudes. But there is hope. We can look to the Father for help. We don’t need to make any wild promises. We don’t have to give up our treasured freedom for it. We need to simply get on our knees, faithfully, daily. It will surprise you how quickly you will see results when you practice standing on your knees for this.

And isn’t a blessing that the Holy Spirit provides this fruit for us? Yeah, it’s in you. Right there with all the other fruits of the Spirit. Don’t take it for granted. Instead, explore it. Make it an archaeological hunt. You know it’s there, you just have to dig a little to see it. And then when you find a piece of it sticking up out of the ground, you can get your handy-dandy shovel and brush and expose it, little by little, day by day, until one day, God says to you, “Well done my trusty and faithful servant.”

Self-control is merely a matter of focus. “Set your mind on things above.” (Colossians 3:2) Be deliberate. Be determined. Set it in your mind that you absolutely will live in the Spirit. That you will control your body and your mind.

If you find yourself making excuses for NOT being in control, don’t judge yourself. Just reset the clock and try again in an hour. Otherwise, the thief can come in and steal your focus. Drive him out by giving yourself a break and loving the process. No one is perfect. Only Jesus. Not you. Not me. Not your spouse or your mom or dad. No one but Jesus. So, don’t be hard on yourself. Give yourself a break. Try again.

A famous quote states that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Another says that one step at a time will complete any undertaking. So, just take one step. And when you have firmly planted that foot on solid ground, take the next step. Before long, you will have noticed that you are getting closer to your goal and further away from where you began the journey. Taking one step is not difficult. Just do it.


The fruits of the Spirit are there for one purpose: to bring glory to God. Each fruit is a character trait that we can embody. And these fruits are easy to display. We need only to be loving, find joy in everything, be a peacemaker, work on our patience, be kind, do good, remain faithful, be gentle and walk with self-control. If we do these things, we will be ahead of the curve. We will be like Christ.

“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)

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Brothers and sisters read the scriptures. Live the fruits and glorify God: our Father.

Peace. Love and Light

Eric

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-24

Fruits of the Spirit – Part 2

Today, I would like to continue our look into the fruits of the Spirit. Last time we covered the spiritual fruits of love, joy and peace. This time out we will be looking at patience, kindness and goodness.
First, let’s remind ourselves of what the fruits of the Spirit are:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-24

I remember how, in times past, I would ask the Lord for patience. People looked at me like I was crazy. They told me that I didn’t want that. That God would surely send me some terribly difficult trials in order to ‘give’ me patience. They would say, “Look what He did to Job.” I didn’t understand their fear. I still don’t understand it. Why on God’s green earth would anyone NOT want God to help me/you/us with gaining the fruits of the Spirit? How weak does your faith have to be to cower at the thought of God helping you?

I asked anyway, “God give me patience.” And he did. Some. I did not keep at it. I did not do my part. I did not exercise that fruit as I could have, so I didn’t get a lot of it. Let me back up a bit. Last time out we learned that the fruits of the Spirit are already inside us. The Holy Spirit has a treasure chest for us that contains all the fruits of the Spirit. We simply need only claim them, use them, and live them. If we don’t exercise our spiritual muscles, they will not grow. They will just atrophy and be weak. Almost useless.

To grow to be a loving person, we need to be loving. To find joy, we need to look for it in everything that is out there, to enjoy God’s peace we need only be peacemakers. It’s not so much that we are given these fruits, but it is that we need to exercise them. It’s kinda like how James says, “Show me your faith without works and I will show you my faith by my works. We have to engage. Take part. Act.

So, what about patience? Where do we find it? The ‘Dictionary of Bible Themes’ (Martin H. Manser, author) describes it thus: “The quality of forbearance and self-control which shows itself particularly in a willingness to wait upon God and his will. Believers are called upon to be patient in their expectations of God’s actions, and in their relationships with one another.”

We find patience on our knees. By waiting upon God. By slowing down and not reacting to every little ‘crisis’ that rears its head. The words ‘patience’ and ‘longsuffering’ are found over 80 times in the Bible. Mostly in the O.T. they are spoken of in relation to God’s patience. In the N.T., patience occurs 25 times and is mostly associated with a believer’s character. What this says is that with the new covenant we are to rise up and take on the character of Christ. To be Christlike is to become obedient, faithful, and humble. We must not forget we are servants of the Lord now. We need to take on His character for He is our example. When we were sinners, we behaved in a manner not unlike the sinful angel, Satan. We have a new master now – Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Nothing new here. We need to cultivate patience by looking up. When frustrations mount, we need only look to the cross and ask for help. That is the whole idea anyway. Help. We need it every day in every way. God wants to help us. He wants us to rely upon Him. And, we can always look to scripture to see how God showed His patience back then and how He shows His patience to this very day.

Consider the book of Nehemiah chapter 9. In recounting scripture there we read again how the people of God tested His patience for years on end. All the way back to the time in the wilderness, the people of God cried out and then grumbled and complained, built idols unto themselves in direct insult to the Lord Almighty. God’s patience was tested again and again and again.

Today, His patience is tested by well-meaning believers who accept the resurrection as truth, but they go and live as if they were never saved. They remain carnal, living as if they have license to abuse God’s grace. They cower at the thought of being tested for patience. This is not how we grow as Christians.

We grow by pushing, climbing, clawing to reach that next step. We are in a battle here. This is not a game. We are not merely taking the dog for a walk. We are facing the enemy each and every day. And we need patience to deal with his many tricks.

What I am wanting to get across to you is that if you or I are going to become a mature Christian and shine our light upon the world, to reflect the One True Light, then we need to be willing to cultivate EVERY fruit of the Spirit. Even patience.


Kindness is another fruit of the Spirit that requires us to stop thinking about ourselves and instead look to Christ. In fact, they all do. All the fruits ask us to look to the cross. For Christ was obedient even to the death. But, praise God He lives!

How do we cultivate kindness? It’s an attitude thing, I think. If we go through life thinking people suck, then we won’t be cultivating kindness. If we think that everybody is out there trying to scam us or use us, that too will suppress our efforts to being kind. No, we have to be selfless. We must adopt that mindset referred in Philippians 2:4.

“Not looking unto your own interests, but each of you to the interests of others.”

We need to be like Christ. We should be/could be doing things for the sake of someone else. We could be living lives of sacrifice. And why not? We have everything we could ever want. We have the promise of eternal life in the presence of God. We have the guarantee of the Holy Spirit within us.

No matter what this life is like, whether we are rich or poor, tall or short, disabled or able-bodied, we are only here temporarily. We are pilgrims on a journey and our home is with Jesus. So, we need to stop being greedy with our fruits and start sharing them. Share your kindness. Give it away every day. Make a concerted effort to smile. Did you know that a smile has the same meaning in EVERY language? Try it out. The next time you see someone who is not like you, smile to them. Not at them, to them. Share it.

There are all sorts of examples in the Bible of God’s kindness and compassion. Jesus too. Here are just two:

I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD
And the praises of the LORD,
According to all that the LORD has bestowed on us,
And the great goodness toward the house of Israel,
Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies,
According to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses.
Isaiah 63:7

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Matthew 9:35-38

Now we can begin to discuss the next fruit: goodness. This one is a little more difficult to verify because goodness is described as, “the state or quality of being good.” I was confused because I associated this word with righteous, as in, “there are none righteous, no not one” – Romans 3:10. But as I looked it up, I found this:

Psalms 14:2-3 – “The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one”

And good means, basically, morally excellent. Now let’s look at what Jesus says:

Luke 6:43-45 – “43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

“For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” There ya go.

We do have a head start. We are grafted into the vine by Christ’s sacrifice and our accepting Him as Savior. But again, this goodness lies waiting within us by way of the Holy Spirit. We need to cultivate it. To help it grow. And we do that by keeping in the Word. Remember, we can do nothing without Him. And we will not know Him if we do not read, study, and memorize scripture.

We will either walk in the Spirit or we will walk in the flesh. If we walk in the Spirit and strive after spiritual things, then we will slowly, probably, exhibit more and more good behavior. And if we walk in the flesh there is no way we can please Him. We therefore simply must set our minds on things above and desire to be good.

Romans 8:5-8 – “5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

What do you think will be pleasing to God? That you look after your spiritual fruits and exercise them, cultivate them, or, that you profess to be Christian and yet remain carnal? We were created for a purpose. We are a holy people, created for good works (Ephesians 2:10).

Therefore, we should/could try to spend our time being like Jesus; behaving like Him, acting like Him, thinking like Him; seeing like Him, caring like Him; loving like Him. Imagine what the world would be to us if we truly worked on being like Jesus in every way? Let’s work today on cultivating patience, kindness, goodness and all the fruits of the Spirit. Let’s act like the sons and daughters of our Father in heaven.

I wish you all Peace as only Jesus can give it.

Thanks for stopping by and reading, sharing, and thinking on these things with me.

Love you

Eric

Spiritual Fruit – Part One

Today, I would like to dive into the fruits of the Spirit. These are attributes of a Christian’s life that should be/could be easily seen by anyone and everyone whom we come in contact with. The qualities are what Jesus displayed while here on earth, and these are qualities that come with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which He sent to us once we were saved and baptized in His name. The challenge is that sometimes we don’t even know they are there for us and so we don’t know how to bring them out.

So, let’s look at what the fruits of the Spirit are:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

                                                                Galatians 5:22-24

Let’s begin with the end of this passage: “Against such there is no law.” What does Paul mean by this? To what is he referring? Look back at verse 14:

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Galatians 5:14

ALL the law. Not just the ten commandments, but ALL 600-someodd laws that were proclaimed in the Old Testament. And love is therefore the fulfillment of our obligations. “Against such there is no law.” If we walk in love, we are walking as Christ walked. We are thinking and acting like Christ. We are putting our neighbors before ourselves as expressed in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi:

…not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:4

So, love is one fruit of the Spirit. It is the firstfruit of the Spirit. Without love, everything is useless. There is an entire chapter devoted to the description of ‘love’ – 1 Corinthians 13. I won’t go into too much detail about it here, but basically it is this – we could possess all of the wealth, health, and fame that this world has to offer, but if we have all of that without having love, we are nothing. We are useless. There is no place for us in God’s family. Period.

When working to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit, the first thing we should have on our minds is to become lovers – of everything. Love the sun. Love the rain. Love joy. Love the pain. Love the right. Love the wrong. Love the people. Love the animals. Love God. Love Jesus. Love the Holy Spirit. In this way, we will see our relationships become more meaningful. Our behavior towards the little things in life will become more profound. Our perspective on life’s ups and downs will not be so heavy, so crippling. Our maturity as Christians will become evident to everyone around us and everyone we meet. Love breathes life and light to a darkened world. A world starved for compassion and all of the other fruits of the Spirit. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.


The second fruit listed is ‘joy’. What kind of joy are we talking about here? “Oh, I just received the kindest compliment from the grocery clerk.” “Oh, I just won the lottery!” “Oh, my children are my whole life!” “Baking cupcakes brings me joy.” “Oh, what a joy it is to sit and put my feet up and relax.” Are these the kinds of joy we are talking about? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

The kind of joy I think Paul is talking about here is Spiritual joy. Godly joy. Joy that surpasses all understanding. Joy that finds us still smiling when our spouse just wrecked the car. Joy that envelopes us even when we lost a fortune on the stock market crash. Joy that fills our spirits even though we just lost a loved one to cancer or disease. That kind of joy only comes from knowing God and knowing the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. That kind of joy only comes from knowing that although Jesus died on the cross, He rose three days later to a victorious life eternal. Remember the parable of the hidden treasure?

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Matthew 13:44

Note here that the man sold ALL THAT HE HAD. Everything. He sold everything he had. All of it. Every last item. So great was this treasure he had found that he gave up everything because this treasure is so valuable and brought him joy that was unsurpassed. That’s how the kingdom of heaven is. That’s how salvation is. That’s the message of the Gospel. If we don’t have that kind of joy over our salvation, over our acceptance into God’s family, then we are missing something.

How do we find that kind of joy if we don’t have it? That’s a very good question. The answer is right there in front of you. It’s not a mystery. It is as plain as day. Here it is: if you are born again, if you have confessed the Lord Jesus and accepted Him as your Savior, then the joy you are seeking lives right inside of you. It has been there from the very moment you accepted Jesus into your life. Let me repeat that. The joy you are seeking LIVES inside of you. It is always there. Always available. Always true. All you have to do to experience it is to surrender. Give up your selfish thoughts. Give up your idea that you are the center of the universe. Stop looking to material possessions to bring you lasting happiness. Stop chasing happiness as if it is something that comes from having more. More of this; more of that. Happiness is fleeting. Godly joy is everlasting.

Godly joy is cultivated by loving God, one; loving your neighbor, two, and loving this gift of life eternal. It is cultivated by exercising it.

I expect a tool that we can use to cultivate joy is a Gratitude Journal. A gratitude journal helps us recognize the little things and the big things. A journal forces us to think. To go beyond reacting to situations, and instead to step back and look at those situations and search for the joy that is hidden in them.

Godly joy lifts you up. It sustains you. Just like God’s grace, His joy is sufficient in every circumstance. No matter what might be going on in your life, joy is there at your service. Whether you are hailed as a hero, labeled a fool, or damned as a curse by ignorant people, Godly joy is available to you in that moment, in every moment. All you have to do is exercise your spiritual muscles – and look within because the Holy Spirit lives within you and His joy is fulfilling and vibrant and real. His joy, along with all of the other spiritual fruits, is always there waiting for you to claim it, exercise it, live it.

Whether you are facing bankruptcy or winning a singing contest, God’s joy is right there with you.


What’s next on the list? Peace. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit. This too, is a product of looking within and finding God and His love within you. This is a feeling that envelopes you. And sustains you.

You will find that when you have God’s peace, you can withstand the trials and tribulations that are bound to inject their pains in your life. What will change is the energy that surrounds you and is within you. You will have strength. Calmness. Sanity. Your levels of stress will be reduced significantly. You will be able to handle the pressures of this life with uncanny ease. No matter the crisis, you will not be moved.

And again, you can find that peace within you. It is brought to you by the Holy Spirit. That’s his job. That’s part of his treasure chest that lives inside you. It’s never far. It’s always near. And again, it is cultivated through your acts and thoughts. If you are full of love, if you find yourself caring about what happens to neighbors, strangers, animals, trees, societies, then you are cultivating peace through the love of your fellow man and woman.

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

The peace of Christ lives within you. His Spirit lives within you. And look, he even says ‘be of good cheer’! He knows we will have times of trouble, but He has overcome the world. Therefore, if we are in Him, and He in us, we have the ability to be at peace no matter what you are experiencing. His peace sustains us. Be of good cheer. Be at peace.

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

John 14:27

Be not troubled or afraid. Be at peace. “My peace”, he says.


The fruits of the Spirit are within us. We can grow them by claiming these fruits and acting upon them. These things are what the Holy Spirit has brought to us. They live inside us. They are always there. We just need to focus our attentions on them and exercise them like we would our muscles. The more we use them, the more they grow and the stronger they get. If we never use them, they atrophy and shrivel up. Oh, they’re still there, but they are weak and of little use because of their little use. We need to use them and strengthen them daily.

Have you ever seen a bodybuilder? They spend hours, days, weeks, months focusing on each muscle group in order to build them up. There are different exercises for each muscle. You can’t do pull-ups and expect your calf muscles to strengthen from the exercise because the calf muscles have their own specific way of growing and strengthening.

I remember when I used to go to the gym. I would begin with some stretching exercises. This was so that I could put in some hard work on the muscles without hurting them in some way. I would stretch those muscles for a period of time and then I would follow a routine depending on what day it was and what muscle group I was focusing on that day.

Our spiritual muscles are the same way. We need to stretch them. We do this by reading and studying the word, and, by praying. When we pray, we focus on areas of our life that need stretching. Love, patience, endurance, etc. We ask God for help to be this way or that way. To guide us into His peace. To move us to compassion. To bring healing to our friends and families. To reveal Himself to non-believers. All these requests stretch our spiritual muscles. That is why it is a good idea to begin in the morning with a good dose of prayer. When we do so, we prepare for the trials and troubles that will surely come throughout the day. Then, in those times we can exercise those spiritual muscles by focusing on the different fruits of the Spirit.

Start your day with a plan. Stretch your spiritual muscles. Exercise your spiritual muscles. And then end the day/night with thankfulness and gratitude for God bringing you through the day and growing your muscles.

To exercise the fruit of love, be loving. To strengthen your joy, find it in everything. To be at peace throughout the day, be a peacemaker.

Start a ‘Gratitude’ Journal. Gratitude is a great attitude to cultivate. And it is so easy. All you have to do is say, “Thank you.”


When I was in college, I received ‘A’s’ for my coursework. Not because I was a great writer, but because I spent a lot of time exercising those writing muscles. I would do draft after draft after draft. With each attempt I homed in on the message I was trying to convey. I spent a lot of time stretching those muscles by preparing – reading, studying, and contemplating. I took notes. Only after I had assembled enough information did I sit down and begin to write. We can do the same with the fruits of the Spirit: spend time readying, studying, contemplating. Take notes. Memorize scripture if you can. And then go out and exercise those spiritual fruits. It will be slow at first for most of you/us, but if we keep at it, soon we will see those fruits growing and sweetening our life’s experience, and, people will begin to notice. And our light will start to shine brighter and brighter until one day, we will hear the Lord say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”


Next time we’ll look at the fruits of longsuffering (patience), kindness and goodness.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for being an inspiration.

Until then,

May His peace sustain you.

Eric

The Study of Ephesians – Week One

Bible Study – Ephesians

Anne Graham Lotz’ 3-question study (link below)

Week 1: Read Acts 19:1-20:1

Day One’s reading: Acts 19:1-10

We are introduced here to a situation where Paul was in Ephesus for more than two years preaching in the synagogue and the hall of Tyrannus. Paul’s time in the synagogue was cut short to only three months because a group of Jews began to cause a disturbance. They had ‘hardened their hearts’ to the message Paul was sharing. So, Paul wisely decided to leave the synagogue and teach elsewhere.

What can we learn from this?

  1. We need to be mindful of the atmosphere and energy around us. When the message is being resisted, we can say our goodbyes and let it rest in God’s hands. We need to move on.
  2. We can always find another location, another opportunity, another audience. We don’t have to stay and fight. In fact, we shouldn’t fight at all. We should be like Christ and be humble, meek, gentle and patient. No need for disturbing the peace.

Day Two’s reading: Acts 19:11-16

vv. 11-13 – “God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul’s hands, 12 so that even facecloths or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them. Now some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists also attempted to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus that Paul preaches!”

The first thing to note here is that God, Himself, was performing the miracles. Paul was simply one of the vehicles by which the miracles were performed. Secondly, even fabric was used to heal and exorcise. Finally, God did NOT give authority to these Jewish exorcists to be his messengers. This is something to keep note of. If a person is NOT on God’s team, then they will have no power. They are impotent.

In the above passage, it is good to note that what came after was that the evil spirit talked back to these Jewish exorcists and told them point blank, “Jesus and Paul I know, but, who are you?” And straightway the man with the spirit in him attacked these exorcists and chased them from the area in humiliating fashion. They left ‘naked and afraid.’

Day Three’s reading: Acts 19:17-22

vv. 17-20 – “When this became known to everyone who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, they became afraid, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high esteem. 18 And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices, 19 while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. So, they calculated their value and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 In this way the word of the Lord flourished and prevailed.”

Through all of the events thus far, the name of Jesus became famous and the result was that practicing magicians not only gave up their practice, they also burned an enormously valuable collection of books, AND, they proclaimed publicly that they had quit their practicing of magic. This was no small thing. People were turning from their wicked ways and turning to the Lord Jesus.

Day Four’s reading: Acts 19:23-31

23-27 – “23 About that time there was a major disturbance about the Way. 24 For a person named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, provided a great deal of business for the craftsmen. 25 When he had assembled them, as well as the workers engaged in this type of business, he said: “Men, you know that our prosperity is derived from this business. 26 You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this man Paul has persuaded and misled a considerable number of people by saying that gods made by hand are not gods. 27 Not only do we run a risk that our business may be discredited, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be despised and her magnificence come to the verge of ruin—the very one all of Asia and the world worship.”

Here, we find that money has come into play. This Demetrius fellow noticed that business was beginning to shift because of Paul’s ministry and he gathered his fellow craftsmen to make a stand against Paul.

Paul was preaching the truth and people were converting in large enough numbers that business for the idol makers was in decline and they were feeling the pinch. So they created a mob scene to disturb the peace and blame Paul, the converts and the Jews.

Day Five’s reading: Acts 19:32-20:1

32 Some were shouting one thing and some another, because the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some Jews in the crowd gave instructions to Alexander after they pushed him to the front. Motioning with his hand, Alexander wanted to make his defense to the people. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

The crowd was confused. In this state they are either easily led or indignantly ignorant and unreasonable. With Alexander, the Jew, they were unreasonable. They found him to be one of the problems. And with this, they spent two hours – two hours – being unreasonable and unreachable.

Only after their energy was all but worked out of them, did the city clerk come in and calm them down.

We should expect that some people will be greatly distressed when we preach the Good News of the Gospel out in public. We must be prepared to keep the peace. To do whatever is necessary to extend the hand of peace to these lost souls. For they are acting out of fear and confusion. They do not know what they are doing. Had they known; they would not have crucified the Lord. Sound familiar?


 

To sum this week up, we need to be mindful of the audience we are speaking to. What are their motivations? What perspective do they come to the conversation with? Are they fearful of losing something? Are they holding tightly onto a lie? Can they be reached?

We need to not become instruments of chaos, but instead, God requires us to be peacemakers. If we have the mind of Christ, then this comes easy, yes? Maybe for some. But, for me, it is still a learning and growing thing. I am not yet a mature Christian. I still fight with the flesh on a daily basis. But my goal is to be like Christ. As long as I continue to look to the cross and to the future, I will stay on path and slowly make my way down the road.

Next week we look to the book of Ephesians, Chapter One, which promises to be a full-bodied hug.

Until then,

Peace be with you.

Eric

The link to Anne Graham Lotz’ study is here:

3-question Bible Study on the book of Ephesians

Since we are in lockdown

Since we’re all at home for a long while, I’ve had time to explore other things. And I found a Bible Study the other day by Anne Graham Lotz. Yes, Billy Graham’s daughter. Pretty cool. I am happy that she is keeping the faith and is living her life for God.

I googled ‘Bible studies on Ephesians’ and found her site to have a free study available, so I went and looked and found what I believe to be a really good study guide.

Rather than beginning in Ephesians, Anne starts her study in Acts chapter 19 where Paul is first mentioned to be in Ephesus.

The study is simple. It’s one of her “3-Question Bible Studies”. It’s quite easy, and she lets you expand on the 3-questions deal. If you are looking for a study that is not so ‘heavy’, this would be a good one to try.

https://www.annegrahamlotz.org/3-question-bible-studies/

I’m not quite ready to write up anything on what I’ve done with it so far, but there is one verse that I’d like to share: verse 19:11 in Acts. “God was performing extraordinary miracles at Paul’s hands…”

That verse jumped out at me because it tells us that God was performing the miracles, not Paul. Paul was just the instrument through which God was performing the miracles.

That really hit me between the eyes because I had been thinking all this time that the apostle’s were doing the miracles (albeit with the power of the Holy Spirit within them). This verse clarified the hierarchy, if you will, of how miracles are performed.

Verse 12 goes on to say that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched Paul’s skin were used to perform miracles as well. And that just opened up another idea for me that it is us but it is the power of God. The power can inhabit anything. Even a handkerchief.

How totally cool is that? God IS everywhere. And IN everything. He can be and say and do whatever He wants from wherever He wants and that just blows me away! He is worthy to be praised!!

Okay, so that’s just an appetizer for what’s to come in the next few weeks as I do this study. Really cool stuff in the books of Acts and Ephesians. Come back and see what I’ve found.

Peace

Eric

Been away for a while.

Hi folks. Sorry for the disappearance. I have no excuse for not writing. Just living the Bipolar life: dealing with depression every. single. day. It can be a bear. There are many days I long to be manic because I miss being energized and full of life. Ha! I don’t even know the last time I felt great.

But like I said, it’s no excuse. I mean, how hard is it to simply say, “Hi.”?

I guess I put a lot of undo pressure on myself to be perfect. To say just the right thing. To touch all the bases. But, I learned that that is part of being a people-pleaser and I should not be a people pleaser. I should be pleasing God.

So, without further ado, herer is something I wrote today.

In Mark, chapter 15 verses 25 to 32 we read:

“It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews. They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” (NIV)

I often forget how cruel the people were to Jesus as he stood on the cross. They visibly mocked him. They made fun of him. If Jesus was not spared from the humiliation of ignorant folks, then why should I think that I will be free from such people? Do I hold back my faith in front of others in effort to avoid the shame and humiliation that they will throw at me? Am I timid about my faith? If so, does that mean that I am weak in the faith? Do I need to change my perspective so that I can ‘boldly’ proclaim the Gospel everywhere at any time in front of anybody? Am I hiding my faith when I should be/could be stepping out with confidence?

What about you? Do you remain silent when opportunities and the nudging of the Holy Spirit tell you to say something? Can you remember a time when you spoke out in front of people you knew would silently or openly mock you? Did you feel ashamed or did the experience energize you? How can we shore up our strength to endure such insults and mockery?

I can think of two things we can do so that we can step out boldly and proclaim our faith no matter who is listening. 1) Prayer. We can ask God to embolden us and grow us so that we may endure the insults just as Jesus did. 2) We can read the Bible. We can seek out scripture that deals with building our character. And, we can seek out scripture that helps us to change our perspectives.

Remember, we are to be ‘spiritually minded’. If we walk in the Spirit, we can overcome the failings of the flesh. We CAN be strong through Christ. Philippians 4:13 says that we can do all things through Christ because he strengthens us.

If Jesus endured mockery and humiliation, we can too. Don’t be a shrinking violet. Be a lion. Be bold.

Here is a link to a resource that may help you learn to walk in the Spirit:

How to Walk in the Spirit

God Bless.