Calm and Quiet

Some time back, as an action point for a sermon (and apologies to my pastor, I have no clue what the sermon was about), we were challenged to pray through five different psalms during the week. It was a very encouraging exercise; many of the psalms were familiar and it was sweet to meditate through them with the Lord. But one particularly grabbed my heart.

I Have Calmed and Quieted My Soul
A Song of Ascents. Of David.

Psalm 131

The Psalms of Ascent were sung on the approach to the temple in Jerusalem. They are songs designed to prepare the heart for worship, to rightly orient the heart of the worshipper towards the God of Israel. Intentional preparation for worship is a good thing; too much of our daily, secular lives take our attention away from the Divine, from the God of our Salvation. Purposeful reorienting is incredibly valuable.

Over the past week or two, my wife and I have been memorizing and meditating on Psalm 131 as a call to worship before we pray. It’s a very short psalm, only 3 verses, but it is packed with incredible depth and wisdom. Walk through it with me, and allow me to unpack it.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;

A lifted up heart speaks of pride. The best antidote to pride is to look at someone better [smarter, wiser, kinder, richer, funnier, prettier,…] than me. Coming before the Ruler of Heaven and Earth makes it pretty easy; I don’t have to look any farther. No matter how highly I may regard myself, in comparison to God I am nothing.

There is a big difference between humility and humiliation, though. They both come from a root meaning “low” but humility is the state of being low (in heart), whereas humiliation is the act of being (publicly) brought low, or shamed. Humility is a place where I can (should) hang out; I don’t have to make much of myself because God has already made much of me, by redeeming me from my sin and adopting me into his family.

On the other hand, there is security in being humble before God, because he will never humiliate or shame me (Ps 51:17).

    my eyes are not raised too high;

Related to the posture of the heart is the focus of the eyes. In part, this also speaks to humility; in the hierarchical society of David’s day, the lesser would look down, or avert their eyes from the greater. Looking down was a sign of deference. Not raising my eyes “too high” is a declaration of knowing my place before God.

At least in our modern day, the aim of the eyes is also aspirational. Goals are a good thing, but we do not want to be like Satan (Is 14:13) and set our eyes on something that belongs to another. Neither do we want to devote ourselves to unattainable goals. Such goals would be frustrating and destructive. 

I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.

Simply put, I don’t worry about things I can’t control. But the language is much richer than that. 

The word translated great speaks of magnitude, intensity, or importance. Some things are just overwhelming. It is also used in relation to age (older). Think of how we preserve the innocence of children, by not exposing them to things too great for them.

Similarly, the word translated marvelous speaks of things that are too difficult, beyond my power. It is the same word used in Gen 18:14, when Sarah laughs at the prospect of bearing a child in her old age. To her doubt,  God asks, “Is anything too marvelous for the Lord?”

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

The heart is prone to worry, but worry is the enemy of worship. I must choose where my mind dwells, and on what I spend my energy. The psalmist’s example is to choose to “stay in my lane” and leave the big stuff to God. Easy enough to say, but how about some help here?

    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Weaning in David’s time occurred sometime between the age of 2 and 5. Remember that Hannah brought Samuel to live with Levi at the tabernacle after he was weaned, so we aren’t talking about a swaddled infant here. Consider such a child, somewhere between toddler and rambunctious little boy (three of my grandchildren are currently in this age, so the picture is vivid for me).

These are not calm and quiet children. They are perpetual motion machines, a seemingly inexhaustible source of energy that, could it be harnessed would solve all of the worlds energy needs. Yet this energy defies harnessing; rather, they are chaos engines wreaking havoc and destruction wherever they go.

Except… let one of them become hurt, tired, hungry, or afraid and there is just one place they want to be, safely snuggled in momma’s arms. Whatever the injury, a kiss and a hug allows them to release the pain and regain their security that the world is a safe place. How? An unshakable faith in Mother’s ability to make it right; a bedrock knowledge of Mother’s fierce love; this is what calms the weaned child.

Here, then, is the clue on how to calm myself. Instead of churning and fretting over things I have no business with, I throw them down and run to my God, who truly is able to make them right, and who loves me more deeply (Rom 5:8) and more fiercely than any mother ever did.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore.

Biblical hope is not wishful thinking, like “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” The word translated hope here has a root meaning of waiting. In the more intensive Piel form here, it means to wait (expectantly) for. 

Contrast what the psalmist admonishes with how we normally hope. We set our hope in an outcome: a test score, a promotion, a healthy child, secure retirement. Instead, Israel (and by extension, all who worship the living God) is to hope in a person, the covenant God of Abraham. I can’t help but be reminded of C.S. Lewis’ classic quote:

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

C.S. Lewis, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”

SDG

Fruit of the Spirit – Self Control

As we wrap up our guest blog series by Debra, how has God challenged you? Which fruit of the Spirit do you need God to develop in you more fully?

We have come to the last fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 – self-control.  

Vine’s Bible dictionary defines self-control as the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites.  Another dictionary says sensual is defined as pertaining to, inclined to, or preoccupied with the gratification of the senses or appetites; carnal; fleshly; worldly; materialistic.

I think of self-control as the power and ability to respond and react in ways that are honoring to the Lord, instead of ways the enemy wants us to act.  My old sinful nature just wants to please myself.  The Holy Spirit is waiting for us to ask Him to help us act, sound and be like Jesus.   Usually that is a huge difference!  When I am allowing the Holy Spirit to work in my life, showing self-control means that I am also exhibiting other fruit of the Spirit too.  

There are so many Bible verses that address our attitudes, actions and reactions.  The book of Proverbs gives a great deal of contrasts in what to do instead of what not to do.  It contrasts wise choices with the unwise.  I recommend reading through the book to get some good reminders.

God gives us all the same power through the Holy Spirit to live a life pleasing to Him.  Although we do have to make the decisions on how we will respond and live, it is only through His power that we can be successful.

2 Timothy 1:7  “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

The apostle, Paul, wrote a letter to a man named Titus who was in charge of choosing men to be leaders in the church, and teaching men and women to lead by example in their spheres of influence.  Notice that all groups of people are directed to be self-controlled.

Titus 1:8  “Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”

Titus 2:2  “Older men are to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.”

Titus 2:3-5  “Older women are to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Titus 2:6  “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.”

Here are some verses that show the importance of having self-control and being alert, watchful and ready to pray.

Proverbs 25:28  “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”

Titus 2:11-12  “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and    to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

1 Peter 1:13-14  “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.”

1 Peter 4:7  “The end of all things is near.  Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.”

1 Peter 5:8  “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Our challenge is to ask the Holy Spirit to have control over every part of us each morning when we wake up, and then again as we go through our days.  This will include our thoughts, attitudes, actions, words, etc.

Here is my prayer for you.

Colossians 1:9-12  “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way:  bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”

Amen.

Fruit of the Spirit – Gentleness

Today’s guest blog by Debra gets real … does God confront you where you live? Are you vulnerable to his correction?

I need to confess that some of the delay in writing more from Galatians 5:22-23, was that I had an interaction with a non-paying customer at our car wash a few nights ago that made me realize that the Holy Spirit still has a great deal of work to do in my heart.  I have to admit that there was no “fruit” on my “tree” that evening.  I reacted and became angry, and I had to repent to the Lord and ask His forgiveness.  I am so grateful for His mercy and grace!

As I said in the beginning, these challenges are as much for me as for anybody.

Today’s word is Gentleness.  A few of the definitions:  kindly; amiable; mild; moderate; not severe, rough or violent.

Do you have anyone that comes to mind when you hear this word?  I have a teacher at the preschool I used to work at that comes to my mind.  He is so calm and gentle with the children, even when they are being very challenging.  His temperament is always the same, and yet he gets their respect and their attention.  He truly is a picture of Jesus to them.  I really admire him and how he allows God to work through him!

Let’s read some verses on gentleness.

Our first verses refer to our speech and tone of voice.  When we are dealing with an opposing view, or when we are sharing the gospel with people, our words need to be gentle and respectful.

Proverbs 15:1  “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

1 Peter 4:15  “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Jesus gave us a great example to follow in living a life of gentleness and humility.  Although, there was that one episode in the temple, where He was so angry about His Father’s house being turned into a marketplace where people were being cheated.  NOT gentle then!  But here in Matthew, He describes Himself in ways that help me trust Him to take my burdens.  I love reading this verse.  It definitely gives me a sense of peace and rest.

Matthew 11:28-29  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  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.”

The rest of these verses are all about how other people see us and how we represent our heavenly Father.  I need to be reminded that we are His representatives, and when people see us we are supposed to look and sound like Jesus.  Wow!  That is quite a big responsibility!

Ephesians 4:2  “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

1 Peter 3:3-4  “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”  (this is specifically for women)

Philippians 4:5  “Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.”

Colossians 3:12  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

I am praying that as we read these verses, that we are going to choose today (and tomorrow and the next day, etc.) to clothe ourselves with gentleness and kindness.  Will the people who live in our homes hear gentleness in our voices?  Will our words to them be encouraging and loving?  Will our children and spouses know they can tell us anything, and our response will be words like Jesus would say to them?

Will we be known as having a gentle and quiet spirit?  Will we be known to have humility and compassion?  Will our gentleness be evident to all?

Fruit of the Spirit – Faithfulness

We are in the final stretch of this guest blog series by Debra… I hope you have been challenged to press in to the Holy Spirit and cry out for greater fruit in your life.

Today’s word from the Fruit of the Spirit is Faithfulness.  Let’s start with some definitions of faithful:  true to one’s word, promises, vows, etc; steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant; strict or thorough in the performance of duty.  My dictionary also says the synonyms imply qualities of stability, dependability, and devotion.  Faithful implies long-continued and steadfast fidelity to whatever one is bound to by a pledge, duty, or obligation.  Constant suggests firmness and steadfastness in attachment.  Loyal implies unswerving allegiance to a person, organization, cause, or idea.

Wow!  These sound serious!  I had never looked up the meaning of faithful before.  Think about these definitions as you read these Bible verses.

First, let’s think about God’s faithfulness to us.

He never changes and He cannot lie.  His promises to us that are written throughout the Bible will always be true. 

Psalm 33:4  “The word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.”

Psalm 86:15  “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

Psalm 117:2  “For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.”

Psalm 145:13  “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.  The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made.”

Second, here are some verses on how God’s relationship with us is evident in His faithfulness to us.

1 Corinthians 1:9  “God, who has called you into fellowship with His son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23  “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3  “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”Hebrews 10:23  “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”

Third, these verses are for us to live out. 

The verse in Revelation is referring to the end times when God commands us to stay strong in the face of really tough decisions we might have to make as His followers.

Proverbs 3:3-4  “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”

Romans 12:12  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Revelation 14:12  “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”

We all know people who are faithful to sports teams, brands, companies or organizations, and political groups.  Being faithful to our spouse, family and friends is vitally important for those relationships to thrive. But our priority as believers in Jesus Christ is to be faithful to God above all else, no matter the circumstances.  Is this evident to the people around you?  Do you share with them how faithful God is and how you choose to live in faithfulness to Him?   Can they tell that your relationship with Him is the most important and unwavering?  Do we show God our faithfulness to Him through our thoughts, how we spend our time, what we watch and listen to?

Our last verse is our challenge.

Go back and read the definitions again and see how you can answer this question as to your relationship with God. 

Proverbs 20:6  “Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?”

Fruit of the Spirit – Goodness

As our guest blog by Debra on the Fruit of the Spirit continues, I hope you have been engaging with this challenge to experience God more deeply

Our word for today is Goodness.   Some definitions:  moral excellence; virtue; kindly feeling; kindness; generosity; excellence of quality; the best part of anything; essence; strength.  Some synonyms:  integrity, honesty, uprightness, benevolence.  Antonyms:  badness, evil.

I have to say that I am a little overwhelmed at the expectation of living a life of goodness (along with all the other Fruit of the Spirit, for that matter).  Sometimes I feel like I am living up to these standards, but sometimes not so much.  God’s Word reminds me over and over of my need for the Holy Spirit to dwell in me and give me the power to attain what I cannot on my own.  His help is there for the asking.  Thank you God for the Holy Spirit!

The first song that popped in my head when I started this email was the song, “God is So Good.”  The words are “God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me.”  And then you can add other verses about Him answering prayer, and loving us so, and whatever else you can think of.  Simple enough to teach preschoolers, but reassuring to all.  Everything about Him is good.

There are so many Bible verses on the word “good”.  Here are a sampling of them.

The psalmists repeat how good God is.

I love these assurances of the goodness of God.  They show me His love, protection, favor, forgiveness and faithfulness.

Psalm 34:8  “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”

Psalm 84:11  “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

Psalm 86:5  “You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.”

Psalm 100:5  “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

I found many verses on having to choose to do good.  It is very intentional.

Psalm 34:14  “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Psalm 37:3-4  “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Micah 6:8  “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Romans 12:9  “Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Romans 12:21  “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I found a few with warnings. 

I feel like the days we are living in are exactly what this first verse is talking about – good is seen as evil and evil is seen as good.  Christ will be returning soon and will judge everything according to His holiness.  Be cautious of the influences in our lives.  Make sure we are living a life doing exactly what God has asked us to.

Isaiah 5:20  “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

I Corinthians 15:33  “Do not be misled.  Bad company corrupts good character.”

James 4:17  “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

I also found some verses with promises and blessings when we choose to do good.

Psalm 112:5  “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.”

Proverbs 14:22  “Do not those who plot evil go astray?  But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.”

I found these verses for wives. 

Do our husbands feel like they have been shown favor from the Lord by marrying us?  Are we being noble and bringing good to them?  If you are not sure, you might ask him and see how he answers.

Proverbs 18:22  “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”  {I totally agree 🙂 }

Proverbs 31:10-12  “A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

I found these verses that remind us that God created us to be like Him – to do good things and to live a life of goodness.

Galatians 6:9-10  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

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

1 Timothy 6:18  “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

This final verse reveals the fruit that is on our trees.

What kind of fruit can others see?  Is God living inside us?  Have we invited Him to be our Lord and Savior?  Have we given every area of our lives to Him?  Are we full of His goodness?

Matthew 12:35  “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

Fruit of the Spirit – Kindness

Day 5 of our Fruit of the Spirit Challenge guest blog by Debra. This is getting real. Only God can produce these fruit in me. How about you?

Kindness.  In a preschool classroom, I remind the children to be kind to each other.  God is asking us as adults to be kind to one another also.  Kind to our spouse, kind to our children (no matter how big or small), kind to our neighbors, kind to our co-workers, kind to the clerk in the store.  You get the idea.

What is kindness?  Some synonyms:  benevolence, generosity, charity, sympathy, compassion, tenderness.  An antonym: cruel.  

So, think about the words we use as we communicate with others.  Even if there needs to be a correction given, we can still be kind.  Our words need to be ones that encourage and lift one another up, not tear anyone down.  My heart aches when I overhear someone speaking harshly to another, when they are saying things that are cruel and demeaning, especially to children.  I pray for the recipients that they come to know our Savior who thinks only the best of them and loves them more than they can imagine!

Colossians 3:12  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

When God says to “clothe yourselves”, can you see the picture?  To choose these from our closet and put them on so that others can see (and hear) what we are wearing.  It is a choice we make every day in what to wear, hopefully with the intent to honor God in all that we do and say.  Sometimes we need to make that choice hourly!  

Ephesians 4:32  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Kindness includes forgiving others.  Sometimes that is tough to do.  God set the bar pretty high when He told us to forgive others like He forgave us.  And He says that if we want Him to forgive us, then we need to forgive others. And if we don’t forgive others, He will not forgive us.  (Matthew 6:14) 

Proverbs 11:17  “A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself.”

Proverbs 14:21  “He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.”

Proverbs 14:31  “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”

God really does love and care about each and every person, and He wants us to do the same.  Someone who is needy might be someone we know or a stranger.  Watch for ways to be kind – maybe a smile, maybe a hug, maybe a kind and encouraging word, maybe a helping hand, maybe cookies for the neighbor who irritates you.  (That was for me to do!)  Ask God for practical ways to be kind to someone in need that will show them the love of Jesus.

1 Corinthians 13:4  “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” 

1 Thessalonians 5:15  “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.”

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are commanded to love and be kind.  Even in difficult situations or relationships, we are told to be kind.  We are never given an excuse not to be – no matter how other people are acting or treating us. When it seems like that might be impossible, that is when the Holy Spirit reminds us that He is living within us to help us do the impossible!

Love,
Debra

Fruit of the Spirit – Patience

Day 4 of our guest blog series by Debra continues, but this is where it gets hard. How is God working in you to produce His fruit?

Today’s focus is on Patience from the Holy Spirit.  When I first think of patience, I think of having to wait a looong time for something to happen, and not liking it!   As I read these Bible verses today, I learned that it can have some other meanings too.  

Patiencequiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence

Colossians 3:12  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

1 Corinthians 13:4  “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

Ephesians 4:2  “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

1 Thessalonians 5:14  “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

Patiencethe quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

Proverbs 14:29  “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.”

Proverbs 15:18  “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

Romans 12:12  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Psalm 40:1  “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.”

Patiencean ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.

James 5:7  “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.”

James 5:8  “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”

Our challenge then, is to be patient with others, patient in tough situations, and patient waiting for Christ to return to take those who believe in Him to Heaven with Him.  I am so ready to be in Heaven, but am definitely choosing to be patient and wait until He is ready for me to be there.

We need to evaluate our patience level and make sure that we are being patient while waiting on God to act on our behalf too.  Sometimes that is the hardest part for me.  I want to see immediate answers to my prayers!  I am challenged in the waiting process to be patient and allow God to work as He knows best and in His time.  A good example of waiting on God would be the promise from God to Abraham that he would be the “father of nations.”  He waited 25 years for God to give him the son that would begin that process.  25 YEARS!  That’s a long time!  And God waited until it was impossible for that son to be born in any other way except for His miraculous work in the womb of Abraham’s wife, Sarah.  I want to be patient enough to see God work miracles.  

Love,
Debra

Fruit of the Spirit – Peace

Day 3 of our guest blog series by Debra continues… How are you doing? Are you “bearing much fruit”?

Hello Ladies,

Today’s word “peace” comes at a time when we are being bombarded by messages of just the opposite – chaos and turmoil.

I read about the Hebrew term “shalom,” and this is what I learned.  “The Jewish people use it as a greeting, and it has such a rich meaning.  It comes from the root word that means “to be safe in mind, body or estate.”  It speaks of completeness, fullness, or a type of wholeness that encourages you to give back – to generously re-pay something in some way.  True biblical shalom refers to an inward sense of completeness or wholeness.”

Now doesn’t that sound like something we all desire?  Safety, completeness, wholeness.  I found some Bible verses that talk about peace from God.  We will start with a famous blessing that originally was from God to the Hebrew people.  I definitely want this blessing from Him.

Numbers 6:24-26  “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Here are a few verses straight from Jesus while He was on earth:

John 14:27  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

John 16:33  “I have told you  these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Here are a few verses that are directives and call to action on our part:

Psalm 34:13 “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Romans 12:18  “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

2 Timothy 2:22 “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

Hebrews 12:14  “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

These are some verses that let us know the benefits of living in God’s peace:

Psalm 29:11 “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”

Proverbs 14:30  “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

Isaiah 26:3  “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 32:17  “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.”

Romans 5:1  “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 15:13  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

1 Corinthians 14:33  “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”

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

Wow!  That is a lot of verses!  Hopefully you took the time to glance/read through them.  There definitely are some amazing benefits of having God’s peace in our hearts and minds.  

What are we pursuing?  How do you think our thoughts, actions, reactions, and responses might change if we were allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us with the peace that only He can give?  Would we have a different outlook?  Would people closest to us notice a difference?

I want to have His kind of peace!  The only kind that no matter what is going on around me, my heart and mind will stay focused on God and others will be able to sense His peace in my life.   

Shalom,
Debra

Fruit of the Spirit – Joy

Our guest blog series by Debra continues today with another fruit

Today’s fruit of the Spirit is JOY.  God gave us so many Bible verses on joy, but we will only highlight some of them in this post.

My understanding of the word joy is a deeper feeling than just happiness.  I equate happiness to a temporary emotion based on a temporary situation – something that puts a smile on my face or makes me laugh.  I feel like the meaning of joy is much deeper than that.  The joy that God gives us is not dependent on positive outward circumstances.  In fact, some of the Bible verses say just the opposite.  More on that later.  True joy can only come from the Holy Spirit living in our hearts.

Psalm 5:11  “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.”

Psalm 66:1  “Shout with joy to God, all the earth!  Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious!”

John 15:9-11  “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Romans 15:13  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 12:12  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16  “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

James 1:2  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

The first group of verses are easy for me to understand.  Praising God.  Singing of His glorious works.  That definitely fills my heart with joy.

The second set of verses are encouraging and comforting.  God is the source of our joy.

That third group of verses are much harder for me to understand and live out though.  The ones that say to “consider it joy when I face trials” and “give thanks in all circumstances.”  I don’t know about you, but I have been through some tough circumstances that I have had a difficult time thanking God in.  Can’t say I was joyful in them at the time. 🙁

God wants us to give Him our burdens, our pain, our grieving, our doubts, our concerns.  He wants us to trust Him in His sovereignty with ALL of our circumstances.  He wants to give us a deep joy that can only come from Him.  He wants us to praise Him for all He has done and for all He will continue to do.  He wants to give us joy that will be evident to others no matter what we are going through.  And when people ask us about this joy, we can share with them the source and how they can have it too.

I have a sweet “joy from God” story that I can only attribute to coming from Him at a time when I really needed it.  He wants to give that joy to all of us, when we trust Him. 

Our challenge is to not let any person or circumstance negatively affect our joy from the Lord.

Debra

Fruit of the Spirit – Love

Today we continue with our guest blog series on the Fruit of the Spirit by my friend Debra

Day 1 Fruit of the Spirit challenge: Love.  

There are so many verses on love; too many to count.  So here are several that God brought to my mind.

Deuteronomy 6:5  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied:  ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 5:44  “But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

John 14:15  “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

John 3:16-17  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

Today’s challenge is to search our hearts to see if we really love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.  Do we love Him even when things in our lives are not going like we think they should?  

And do we really love others as ourselves? Our challenge is to deeply love others, no matter how they respond to us, or treat us.  Love them like Jesus does.  His love is unconditional.  His love is never ending.  His love sees deep into our souls, knows all about our issues and shortcomings, and loves us anyway.

God loved us so much (while we were enemies of His – Romans 5:8) that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to live on earth, be beaten, and die an excruciating death in our place on the cross.  He did that so that we could have eternal life with Him in Heaven.  Now that is an amazing love, that I still cannot fathom!

Do we really care about loving others enough to give up _______ (whatever) in order for them to know about His love for them and the glorious eternity He wants them to experience?  Has God put someone in your life who is waiting for you to share His story with?

How does God want us to show His love today?  Will it be an expression directly to God?  Spending some quality time with Him?  Will it be something we do for someone?  Will it be the way we respond to people in our own household?  Will it be the way we respond to people we encounter at work, or in a store, or in a parking lot?  Ask God to show you.  He will.