Walk In One Spirit

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We have one divine spirit, the Spirit of God’s exclusive love(agapaō). All other types of “love” can be captured by our mortal enemy.

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE(agapaō) YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” (Galatians 5:14)

That’s it! It’s the key to God’s plan, for here and for eternity.

It’s that simple? Simple because God spoke the universe into existence. Simple because He gave us His Word. Simple because the Fruit of God’s Spirit is simple.

If you want your life filled with God, you need to bear God’s Spiritual Fruit. If you don’t want God in your life, take your chances with cruel fate.

God’s Simple Fruit

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:18)

God’s domain rises infinitely higher than any given law. If you want wordly law, enjoy its bad fruit.

The Fruit of God’s Spirit is just one fruit.

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)

It’s singular, ie the fruit. It’s not one kind of fruit called love, another called peace, a third called patience, etc. Singular fruit may have many characters, like sweetness, tartness, tenderness, scrumptiousness(getting a bit carried away). Also like fruit, it might be dry, grainy, tough, or other unflavorful characteristics.

This essay would become impossibly long if I covered the whole list. Instead, I will try to do a good attempt at each time I deal with it.

To be continued …

Rainy Day Blues

My roomie’s little kids were slumped on the couch watching cartoons, fighting and whining. Was the blustery, gray day outside just a coincidence?

Through my window I saw a slate gray sky, but I also saw the trees waving at the sky, almost as if they were dancing with joy. Maybe they knew something that the kids didn’t.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem the last time, crowds of admirers threw their cloaks and palm fronds down in front of His donkey, waving and welcoming him as if He were about to free them from their harsh, Roman occupiers. Here’s part of the story:

And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: ” ‘BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:36-40 NKJV)

Yet, mere days later those same admirers demanded that He be crucified.

Life is seldom as it appears; high above that depressing, gray overcast, mountains of blinding white cumulus clouds reached toward heaven. Sheets of rain fell to water the earth and complete the natural water cycle our Savior created to keep our planet beautiful and fruitful. The tragedy of His sacrifice redeemed us from slavery to the evil one, and His resurrection guaranteed us new, eternal life.

Despite the appearance of alleged evidence to the contrary, we have Jesus’ faithful promises to give us hope for a beautiful eternity with Him:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:2-4 NKJV)

As we face the blues of uncertain, and just plain lousy, circumstances, we must look past them to our Savior, the ultimate promise keeper.

Have You Ever Been Lonely?

Patsy Cline’s song has replayed itself in my mind since a show I watched included it. No doubt it’s a catchy little ditty, and in all honesty I have to admit my answer to her question is in the affirmative. A literary cliche mentions being lonely in a crowded room. All such thoughts are intended to emote feelings of dejection and longing for the better times before, “My Darlin’, she went away.”

When I feel sorry for my solitary self, God reminds me what He gave up to indwell Jesus, live among His creation, and subject Himself to all the abuse we could dish out. Think about it; the I Am, the eternal One, the Creator of the Universe, stepped out of His eternal comfort to be born of a virgin, not to set up His kingdom and be worshiped by all mankind, but to be tempted in all the ways that we have—without sinning—and in His innocence to be treated like an accursed sinner, even a criminal, to buy us back from the lying enemy who swindled humanity with promises of God-likeness.

I know you’ve heard all this before, but how often do you think about it, meditate on it, shed tears of conviction for taking Him for granted, and thanks for His unending love, forgiveness and faithfulness toward you personally. Here’s God’s promise, along with one of His requirements, from Hebrews 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU.”

In view of all that, we should live in a constant state of thankful elation, but we don’t. We let our short-term worries distract us from our long-term hope. We need to memorize Matthew 6:25-34, then meditate on His words, controlling our worrisome emotions and trusting Him as we say we do.

Father, in Jesus name I ask you to give me the joy of Your salvation, instead of letting me wallow in my own self-pity. Let me see You as You are, faithful, even to Your own hurt. Make me always grateful for your free gift of reconciliation with You and eternal salvation.

More Tears of Joy

Abundant Supply

Today’s Our Daily Bread reminded me once again of my Savior and Creator’s endless, boundless love for me. If you haven’t read it, click on the link above. It’s a true page-turner, even though it covers one scant page.

Glimpsing God’s personal love for me never fails to exercise my tear ducts. The only times I’ve been let down are then I’ve tried to accomplish things in my own strength, which seems to be most of the time. And I should know better—I have precious little of that commodity.

That’s the positive side of our glorious, unspeakable joy in Christ, but those sweet tears are always mixed with a touch of bitterness; His perfect, absolute love also humbles me, even grieves me when I think of my imperfect humanness. Or I should have said my perfect humanness, because humanity’s best (altruism) is terribly imperfect.

Thank You, Father, for resolving to love humanity, even though You knew when You formed Adam that we would need a Savior to complete us, and what that act would cost You. King David’s prayer complements my own:

Psalms 36:5-7
(5) Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
(6) Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD.
(7) How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Amen!
BTW: Those in the know realize the photo at the top of this page portrays an unwise practice. We’re not supposed to feed any wild critter, even birds. Though we love to watch them eat, and think we’re doing them a favor, it spoils their God-given, natural foraging behavior. If you must feed something, feed the needy and the homeless, ’cause we humans are already spoiled.
You’re welcome.

The Fruit of the Spirit is …

One fruit, many nuances of flavor.

Sometimes I feel condemnation when I read God’s Word, because I fail to measure up. I realize what Romans 8:1-7 tells me, but the qualifier prevents me from easily claiming the passage and applying it to myself. It is a promise, “to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Can I claim to walk according to the Spirit? The problem is, I just don’t know. If I truly bore the Holy Spirit’s fruit, would I have any doubt?

According to Galatians 5:22-25, the foremost flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit, indeed, its very essence, is love. Where is my love? What does it look like? Loving those who love me is easy, but what of those who despise me and everything I stand for? Do I truly love them?

God’s word doesn’t tell me to feel loving toward such haters, but it does tell me to treat them well, to meet their needs, to show them grace, because that is the way Jesus treated His enemies. Do I go out of my way to show that sort of love to those who refuse to receive it? I don’t want to admit my honest answer to that question.

So, what about joy, the second flavor of the Spirit’s fruit? When I feel loved, or experience good fortune, I feel joy, and that’s only natural. But therein lies the problem; it is natural joy, and not joy from God’s Spirit. Is the joy I feel simply an emotional response to some favorable stimulus? If I don’t feel loved, but feel threatened, insecure, angry, inpatient, or doubtful, what of the Holy Spirit’s joy then? In the Holy Spirit’s context, joy must underlay all other emotions, whether negative or positive. In the flesh, that is impossible.

Like joy, the Holy Spirit’s peace must transcend all human emotions. This peace is not simply a lack of conflict, as the world defines it. The Holy Spirit’s peace comes from reconciliation with God. When I know that He no longer recognizes my sins, but has chosen to forget them completely, as if they never happened, peace overwhelms me, and all that inner conflict about falling short of His expectations just evaporates away. That’s the peace that defies understanding(Philippians 4:6-7).

Another flavor of the fruit of God’s Spirit is longsuffering, or patience, as the more contemporary versions translate it. Personally, I prefer the longer word, not because it’s longer, but because it paints a more vivid picture in my mind. Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:4, tells us that love, “suffers long,” and I love that idea; love is willing to suffer(endure, not passively, but passionately), and to keep on suffering indefinitely. God expresses that idea most strongly in Psalms 27:14, where He tells us twice to wait on the LORD.

Kindness goes right along with the first four flavors combined in one sweet fruit of the Spirit. I think these five could be characterized under one label: grace, both God’s grace toward us and our grace toward those around us. Even if the fruit of God’s Spirit didn’t go any further, it would be the most beautiful of produce. But it does include more flavors, and each of the following four could stand alone under the category of Christlike character.

Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is God.” (Mark 10:18) Obviously, then, goodness is a “God thing.” Yet, the fruit of God’s Spirit includes goodness demonstrated in us. That fact, as much as any other, tells us that God must live within us if we are to bear His spiritual fruit.

In the same way as goodness, as God is faithful, we must be faithful as well if we are to bear His fruit. That means consistently being good to our word, truthful and honest. I’ll be the first to admit that such faithfulness is unnatural behavior for me, and is a tall order in this unfaithful, lying and dishonest world. Yet, we are not of this world, are we? (John 17:16)

The next flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit is gentleness. Am I wrong, or is each new characteristic becoming more challenging? God’s church has picked up the idea that we must stand militantly for our beliefs. After all, Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 9:33, “as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.'” So there you go; God told us to be as offensive as needed to get our point across. Right?

Wrong! Jesus is the Stone of stumbling and Rock of offense, not individual Christ-followers. If we are to bear the true fruit of God’s Spirit, we will behave with gentleness of spirit and mildness of disposition. In other words, meekness, just as Jesus did when he faced the kangaroo court of religious Jews.

But wait, it gets even harder; the last flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit is self-control. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have no natural self-control. But if it came naturally, it wouldn’t be from God, right? That means, at least for me, when I demonstrate self-control, as sitting at this keyboard for hours writing this stuff, I must be demonstrating the fruit of God’s Spirit. And the fact that you’ve sat reading this far demonstrates a good deal of supernatural self-control as well.

So that ends this particular list. I dealt with the fruit of God’s Spirit because the preceding few verses of this chapter reveal the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21), and I much prefer dealing with positives rather than negatives.

Remember, “against such things (the fruit of God’s Spirit) there is no law.” Oh, one other thing: Matthew 12:33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.”

Through the Perp’s Eyes

While watching a murder mystery on Netflix (yes, I watched a secular TV program), I thought of how predictable such police dramas really are. The detective’s investigation presents certain telling facts to him, or her, as in the case of Miss. Marple, that the audience only knows about because of a change in the music track’s tone. At the climactic expose, the brilliant detective gathers everyone involved in the mystery and dramatically reveals everyone’s motives for committing the crime and all his clues until he points his finger at the perpetrator, who usually makes a silly attempt at escaping.

I wondered what sort of drama would unfold if the whole story were spun through the perp’s eyes. We would witness his disadvantaged childhood and his falling in with the wrong crowd, or the heinous act that drove him to murder. We would watch him plan the perfect murder, and applaud him for trying not to hurt any bystanders. We’d follow the insensitive detective’s investigation draw ever nearer to the poor, misunderstood murderer, hoping against hope that he would somehow escape. And if the program were executed well enough, we might even draw a tear or two when our hero is captured and sentenced to death.

As the prophet Nathan told King David, “Thou art the man!” The world doesn’t call us criminals because we sin, but we’re exactly that in God’s eyes. He sees the murder in our hearts when we hate another, or the inner adultery when we lust after that attractive someone, or our secret idolatry when we envy what doesn’t belong to us. Yet, even though we may be aware of those sins, we excuse them because, “I had good reason for that,” or, “I didn’t do anything really wrong.”

Apostle John tells us, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1) First comes conviction of sin, understanding that you are not perfect and are, in fact, a depraved sinner. Second comes heart-felt confession, which includes repentance. Then comes forgiveness and renewed innocence, leading to a changed life.

Quit looking at your life, “through the perp’s eyes,” and see yourself through the Judge’s eyes. It’ll pay eternal benefits.

Why Lukewarm?

Francis Chan

I mean, not speaking of myself, of course; it’s all those people. You know, the less-spiritual “brethren:” The ones who don’t spend enough time in God’s Word. The ones who don’t help out. The ones whose lives are too hurried for much prayer. The ones who fill their minds with worldly entertainments. And the ones who follow pop-culture’s behavioral and fashion trends, rather than Godly principles.

Wait a sec! That’s me, except for the last one. No one would ever accuse me of being trendy. Those are the kinds of things that gradually cover our eyes with worldly-colored contacts, nudging our world view and priorities away from what Jesus taught, one teeny-tiny step at a time. Walk that path very long, and no one will recognized Christ’s presence within—that is, if He’s still there.

Bible Gateway sent me a link to the article, Biblical Literacy by the Numbers: Fixing the Problem, where Ed Stetzer suggests: 1) Viewing the Bible as a whole, as opposed to fracturing it into sound-bites to suit our purposes, or taking a, “spiritual fast-food,” approach to our “McBibles.” 2) Creating a reading and study plan, personally or congregationally, since becoming conversant with God’s word flows from the top down. 3) Teach the Bible, not predigested curricula that may, or may not, present Biblical principles faithfully. 4) Teach and preach from the best contemporary translations, while taking older, more established versions, into consideration.

Stetzer summarizes with, “Reading the Bible is actually part of the abundant life Christ has given us,” but I say it’s far more. Only when God’s Holy Spirit makes His Word alive within us, will we understand His life-giving principles, but each Christ-follower—that’s you and I—must commit to learning them. We cannot live the Christian life without them.

The resurrected and glorified Jesus told His disciple John to warn the Laodecian church about the consequences of their lukewarm commitment to Him (Revelation 3:14-22). If there are ages within the historical Christian church, we are now in the Laodecian age, where we take our ease, having, in our own minds, satisfied Christ’s minimum requirements for salvation. We are rich (by the world’s standards), we have become wealthy, and have need of nothing … nothing but repentance.

The ISIS Apocalypse (warning, graphic image)

Please forgive this horrible image, and remember that this is not a man, but the vestige of one who is now with his Savior. Rejoice for him, for his hope is now fully realized.

I received a long e-mail detailing the horrible atrocities that the hoodlums of the Islamic State are perpetrating against Christians in Iraq. I’ve seen graphic images of children without heads, and heard of the rape and pillage of Christian families. And my feelings go beyond outrage, to apprehension, and even fear. “How long before they take over our country, as they promise?”

That is my fleshly reaction to this evil that seems to be spreading, unchecked, but when I look to my Savior instead of such scare tactics, my response is quite different. Of course it’s easy for me to sit in this comfortable chair in front of my computer monitor, smack in the middle of one of America’s havens of freedom, and say I truly believe none of this Islamic State business is taking God by surprise. The truth is, God is not wringing his hands and desperately commissioning the West to step in and correct all the hideous wrongs. Rather, God is allowing this genocide to wake up his church, to open our eyes to the fact that we are not safe in this world, that our safety is spiritual, and that no matter what happens to our property, families or selves, he is always faithful. We are not to fear those who can kill us physically, but only him who controls our eternal destiny (Matthew 10:28).

I believe God is giving grace to his beloved Christ-followers when we face persecution, and even execution, for his name’s sake. He cannot abandon us because he is Love personified, but he can and will allow whatever our hardened hearts require, in order to make them soft toward him.

Never think that Father God is made of stone, that he feels nothing for his suffering church. Good heavens! He gave his own beloved Son over to worse torture than ISIS, or any other Satanic force, can dish out, so we his enemies could be saved.

My prayer is first, that God will glorify himself through this time of tribulation, and second, that his suffering church will look to our Savior for his supernatural peace, and die with psalms of praise on our lips. We dare not submit to a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (1 Timothy 1:7-8).

So look up, for our Savior is drawing near, and pray for gratitude, and courage to face whatever God allows in our future.

Lessons From the Rich, Young Ruler

Today’s Our Daily Bread title is, “Giving It To God.” So, what is, “It,” and why? Let’s put the account of, “The Rich, Young Ruler,” under a magnifying glass to find out.

All three synoptic gospels cover this event, so we know it is note-worthy. Luke said the guy was a ruler, though he didn’t mention his jurisdiction. Matthew and Mark said he was young, which agrees with his inquisitiveness. As an aside, have you ever noticed that as we age we tend to “know” everything worth knowing? Truth is, when we quit learning we quit growing, and anything that has quit growing is dead. You may think you’ve quit growing because you haven’t grown taller in years, but your cells keep reproducing to replace any damaged or dead cells, or if you’re a body builder you are growing muscle mass (to impress the opposite sex or enhance your self-worth?). Anyway, let’s see what we can learn from that inquisitive leader.

  • The young man ran up and knelt before Jesus (Mark 10:17), showing that he was desperate to learn, and considered Jesus his superior.
  • He called Jesus, “good Teacher,” showing his esteem for him.
  • He said, “What shall I do …?” which from the outset was the wrong question. So Jesus answered it anyway, but not in the way the young man would have preferred.
  • He used the phrase, “inherit eternal life,” demonstrating that he realized simply being a religiously faithful Jew didn’t entitle him to gain eternal life.
  • Jesus asked him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but one: God.” (Mark 10:18) Jesus gave him the choice of either retracting his “good” statement, or admitting that Jesus was God. But Jesus left that hanging, as he narrowed in on his instruction.
  • Jesus said, “You know the commandments ….” And Matthew’s narration has him saying, “But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” The young man follows that with, “Which ones? (Mark 10:19)
  • Then Jesus obliges him with six of the Ten Commandments (five in Luke). Matthew adds part of the Great Commandment, making it seven (Matthew 19:18-19). Mark’s account extrapolates “Do not covet,” to “Do not defraud,” in the spirit of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
  • Matthew’s account quotes the young man as replying, “All these things I have observed from my youth. What do I still lack?” Mark and Luke leave out the question, which is implied. We can safely infer that the religious young man sensed he was falling short of God’s requirements, despite his faithful obedience to Moses’ Law. That speaks … no … screams of religion’s impotence in the spiritual realm. Matthew’s inclusion of, “love your neighbor as yourself,” plows even closer to God’s true requirements for receiving eternal life, but it’s still no cigar (so to speak). So, what in this guy’s religious observance is still lacking?
  • “Sell what you have,” as in, liquidate your possessions, “and give to the poor.” Please note that Jesus didn’t say, “make the check out to, J-E-S-U-S–S-O-N–O-F–J-O-S-E-P-H.” So, where would the money have gone? Straight to heaven, via the stomachs of those who couldn’t otherwise eat. That’s what “love your neighbor as yourself” truly means. Should Jesus have considered the possibility of creating a welfare class of “po folks” who feel entitled to support? Of course not! In those days people were rarely poor due to their own laziness. Unlike today, able-bodied people always found at least menial work sufficient to keep themselves from starving.
  • So, how did this rich young ruler respond to Jesus’ advice? He walked away dejected, as it was just too much to ask. His response typifies today’s attitude toward possessions. Of course, that’s only the unbelievers’ attitude. Right? Sorry, but wrong. Simply persuading today’s pew-sitters to tithe is a major chore, let alone prying them loose from their excess possessions. Most churches have to beg and plead for the funds necessary to keep the lights on and the preacher’s kids in shoes. This should not be!

Have we learned nothing over the years of hearing this true story from our pulpits? Apparently, most of us have missed Jesus’ lesson. We conservatives constantly bellyache about our federal welfare state, yet few of us are willing to sacrifice our affluent lifestyles to give genuinely needy people a godly alternative. Are cars, entertainment systems, toys, recreational activities and “financial security” really important enough to disobey our Lord Jesus for them?

We call ourselves “Christian,” but we ignore Jesus’ Great Commandment. How does that work?

We praise God with emotional tears and uplifted hands, but we refuse to glorify him with our abilities, and the funds we derive from them. We act like self-made men, owing nothing to anyone—including God—for what we can do, and still we wonder why God’s church is stalled in its advance against hell’s gates.

I find myself asking, “Do I truly belong to heaven, standing in Jesus’ presence for eternity? Or does my self-centered attitude actually belong in hell?”

What is, “Therefore,” There For?

Apostle Paul had the unfortunate habit in his letters of starting thoughts with, “Therefore,” which Greek word, according to Thayer’s Greek Definitions means: “then, therefore, accordingly, consequently, these things being so.” He was so fond of that word that he used it 497 times, with over half of those instances translated in the KJV as, “therefore.”

Simply stated, that is an easy way of keeping statements in the context of what came before, without having to repeat it. I said, “easy,” but to correctly understand what a passage means, a student must know what came before “therefore.” The more analytical preachers have a saying, “A text without a context is a pretext,” and that applies to garden-variety Christ-followers as well.

You already know that the only way to faithfully walk with Jesus is to internalize his word through study, memorization, meditation and prayer. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us what that means: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. “Rightly dividing” means, “to dissect correctly.”

Have you ever correctly dissected portions of God’s word? It can seem daunting at first, but as you’ve seen, it’s not an option, and with so many excellent Bible study tools freely available on the Internet, you have no excuse for ignorance. I’ve listed them in a previous post, but in case you missed it, here they are again:

  • The one I use most often is e-Sword, possibly the best over all Bible study software out there. Author Rick Meyers offers it free-of-charge as a ministry, but after you use it for a while you will feel obligated to help support his work. The free version comes with the KJV and KJV + Strong’s numbers, which are linked to the Strong’s Dictionaries that also accompany the free download. Other free resources are available by an easy selection box within the application itself. Besides those, Meyers has provided links to premium resources, available from their publishers for a considerable discount. My personal e-Sword installation contains less-than $50 dollars worth of premium resources that would normally cost hundreds.
  • On-line Bible study sites that I use provide bunches of excellent resources for anyone with Internet access. I can rate none of them as over all best because each offers unique features that recommend them to different needs. They are, BibleGateway, Blue Letter Bible, Bible HubOpenBible, and Studylight dot org.

“Therefore,” my prayer is that conscientious Christ-followers will stumble upon this post, and that it will motivate them to act on 2 Timothy 2:15.