Sunday, May 20, 2018

Guard Your Heart

Guarding Your Heart

Proverbs 4:23 says to guard your heart "for it determines the course of your life" (NLT). Think about that. Whatever's in your heart is eventually going to show up in your everyday life. Whatever's inside will eventually find its way out, where anyone and everyone can see it.

That alone makes it extremely important to monitor the things we allow to shape our hearts. I don't want something nasty, sinful, and selfish finding its way out and damaging my relationships with others, and I doubt you do either.

A large part of guarding your heart means learning how to control your thoughts, your words, your disposition and your general outlook. What you think usually comes out in what you say. What you say affects how you feel, and that shows up in your overall attitude.

In the course of everyday life, this is what determines how you handle your circumstances, whether you'll have peace or fall apart in a stressful situation. It governs how you respond to others, either with compassion and understanding or with judgment and arrogance, especially when you disagree with them!

You can try and keep your inner thoughts from altering your words and attitudes, but I find it's much easier to have godly thoughts to begin with. Spend time in God's presence, and let the Holy Spirit fill your heart with His goodness.

Lord, I only want my heart to be filled with thoughts and desires that are from You. As I spend more time in Your presence and focus solely on You, I know that my heart will change for the better, affecting the rest of my life in godly ways.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing!

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Fruit of Peace

Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

One of the greatest human desires is for peace: peace between nations, peace between neighbors and peace within our own minds. Yet our experience confirms the biblical assessment: “The way of peace they have not known” (Romans 3:17; quoted from Isaiah 59:8).

Acting in a way that leads to true and lasting peace is not part of our natural human tendencies. Instead, the apostle Paul wrote that our human nature leads to “hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions … murders” (Galatians 5:20-21). In contrast, those who are baptized and receive God’s Holy Spirit can have access to a new nature that allows us to grow in the fruit of peace (verse 22).

What is peace?

The word Paul used for peace was the Greek word eirene. This word includes the meaning “peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).

Peace includes a calm, harmonious absence of conflict that this world has never known. There may have been isolated times and places where conflict was halted for a time, but real world peace has never been seen. That hasn’t stopped this world from pretending, however. Think of all the peace treaties that have been broken almost as soon as they were signed.

Notice Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (emphasis added throughout). God’s perfect peace is one of those wonderfully deep things of God that have not “entered into the heart of man” but are only “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:9, 14).
The fruit of the Spirit of peace also provides the inner peace of mind and contentment found by living God’s way of life—even in less-than-peaceful situations.

“Usually in the New Testament eirene stands for the Hebrew shalowm and means not just freedom from trouble but everything that makes for a man’s highest good” (Barclay’s Daily Study Bible). Peace is more than the absence of war or something felt in the mind. It is a way of living life in a proper relationship between man and God, as well as man and man.

Why does God want us to demonstrate peace?

Peace is so alien a thing in this world. Imagine a world:

Where people actually let others finish speaking instead of interrupting them.

Where people don’t have heated arguments.

Where differences are settled with patience rather than fists.

Where people show compassion to others even when they don’t deserve it.

Why, in Romans 12:18, does Paul say, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men”? He said this because God wants His entire creation to be at peace, and this must start one person at a time. Repentant, baptized followers of Christ are given the gift of the Holy Spirit now (Acts 2:38), and they are the first of hopefully billions to follow.

God wants us to be a part of His family as sons and daughters, and His family must be peaceful. Eventually the whole world will be part of this peaceful family; but now, amidst the hatred and conflict, it must start with us.

Peace self-examination questionnaire

How are we doing in growing in the fruit of peace? To find out, ask yourself questions such as:

When conflict comes, do I strive to make peace or add fuel to the fire? Why?

What areas of my life or actions demonstrate that I am truly a peacemaker?

Do I know the difference between godly peace and the world’s peace? How do I know?

Considering specific interactions with others, ask: Did my email/phone call/text/Facebook post/conversation/behavior promote peace or strife?

How do we demonstrate more peace?

We must practice the way of peace starting in the only area we can really affect: our sphere of influence. Remember, Paul urged us “if it is possible” and “as much as depends on you” to live peaceably with “all men.” This will be challenging. Here are a few ideas:

Drop conversations that are getting out of hand. This might involve saying something like: “Let’s agree to disagree.” Then be satisfied that you can’t change someone else’s mind about certain things. Peace is knowing that God’s intervention might be necessary to change someone’s thinking (including our own).

Make yourself stand out as the calm and collected one in whatever encounters you experience. Others may fight or say insulting, jealous or prideful things, but we should edify, build up and walk away from an encounter if necessary.

Respect other human beings as potential future members of the family of God. Remind yourself that God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), no matter how angry you are at the person at the moment.

God’s peace transcends earthly matters growing in the fruit of the Spirit of peace. Believers are to be "anxious for nothing," for God promises to "guard your hearts and minds." It is a peace “which transcends all understanding”; that is, to the worldly mind, such peace is incomprehensible. Its source is the Holy Spirit of God, whom the world neither sees nor knows (John 14:17).

The Spirit-filled Christ Follower has a peace that is abundant, available in every situation, and unlike anything that the world has to offer.

Be Blessed and be a Blessing!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother’s Day!

The modern holiday of Mother's Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. St Andrew's Methodist Church now holds the International Mother's Day Shrine. Her campaign to make Mother's Day a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War and created Mother's Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is "the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world".

In 1908, the U.S. Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother's Day an official holiday, joking that they would also have to proclaim a "Mother-in-law's Day". However, owing to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, by 1911 all U.S. states observed the holiday, with some of them officially recognizing Mother's Day as a local holiday (the first being West Virginia, Jarvis' home state, in 1910). In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother's Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.

What’s your favorite Mother’s Day memory?

How do you want your children and/or grandchildren to remember you?

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Love and Joy

Love and Joy 

These are two of the fruits that I discussed in previous posts. See links below. The "fruit" is the product of the Holy Spirit's cultivation of character in a heart. 

This love is not a feeling, but a choice. It is the choice to be kind, to sacrifice, to consider another's needs greater than one's own.

Joy is the natural reaction to the work of God, whether promised or fulfilled.

The Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 are the Life of God flowing from our hearts in abundance.

The forces of life and power coming out of our hearts will be in direct proportion to the amount of Word (the Bible) that goes into us. God communicates with us through our spirits (Romans 8:16-17; John 4:23-24). The spirit confirms that we belong to God (John 14:20) and opens or understanding of spiritual things teaching and instructing us (1 Corinthians 2:14-15).

When we walk in the Spirit, we allow Him to rule our minds and control our thoughts (Romans 8:5). We feed on spiritual food to keep us spiritually strong. If we program our minds with spiritual things, then the Spirit overflows from our lives.

When we walk in the Spirit we have fellowship with God (1 John 1:7). We have joy, peace, understanding, and patience. We also have strength and power over the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) with the ability to see the consequences of following the fleshly life.

When we ask Him for help, He is right there with the power to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. God works on us from the inside out, not from the outside in. While we try to practice self-control (a later post), God is teaching us Spirit-control.

Be blessed and be a blessing!

Monday, May 7, 2018


"The Fruit of the Holy Spirit – Joy?"

The "fruit ofthe Spirit" is what happens when the Holy Spirit indwells a believer. The "fruit" is the product of the Holy Spirit's cultivation of character in a heart. Galatians 5:22-23 describes what that fruit looks like; the second characteristic listed is joy.

The Greek word for joy is chara. Joy is the natural reaction to the work of God, whether promised or fulfilled. Joy expresses God's kingdom—His influence on earth (
Romans 14:17). The Spirit’s production of joy can manifest in several different ways:

Chara is closely related to charis, which means “grace” or “a gift.” Chara is the normal response to charis—we have joy because of God's grace. The next step in the progression is to allow our joy to become an action as we express it, although sometimes joy can be so great it is inexpressible (
1 Peter 1:8).

Possessing joy is a choice. We choose whether to value God's presence, promises, and work in our lives. When we yield to the Spirit, He opens our eyes to God's grace around us and fills us with joy (
Romans 15:13). Joy is not to be found in a fallen world; it is only fellowship with God that can make our joy complete (1 John 1:4).

The joy of deliverance: When God sets someone free, rejoicing is in order. 

The joy of salvation: Our greatest reason to be joyful is that God wants to save us and spend eternity with us. Nothing is better than this. 

Luke 15:7: All heaven is joyful when a person accepts God's provision of salvation. 

The joy of spiritual maturity: As the Holy Spirit works in us to bear more fruit, we become confident in God's promises and rejoice in our walk with Him and with other believers. 

John 15:11: The fullness of joy comes to those who continue in the love of Christ and obey Him.

The joy of God's presence: The Holy Spirit draws us to God, in whose presence we can know true joy. Without the Holy Spirit, no one would seek God.

Psalm 16:11: “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Why demonstrate joy? If we truly believe what God has told us in His Bible, then we have plenty to rejoice about. There will be times of mourning in this life (deaths of loved ones or life changes), but even in those times of sorrow and weeping, the underlying joy of God’s plan for humanity (including the resurrection of loved ones and the solving of this world’s problems) must reign in our hearts and actions. Easier said than done, right?

Joy self-examination questionnaire

How are we doing in growing in the fruit of joy? To find out, ask yourself questions such as:

Am I more positive or more negative? What examples from my life prove this?

Is my joy for the truth the Bible and God’s Kingdom greater than my joy for physical things? How do I know?

Am I a complainer (do I criticize and tear down) or an encourager (do I build up)? How do I know?

Would others describe me as joyful, or as negative and grumpy? Why would they say that?

How do we demonstrate more joy?

We face many things that can steal our joy: stressful jobs, illnesses, deaths of loved ones, economic strain, dangerous situations, daily annoyances and frustrations, people calling us delusional for following the Bible, etc.

So how do we demonstrate more joy in our lives? The answer is simple: We must change our thinking. It’s important to realize the process is a lifelong struggle with our minds. Here are some ideas:

When praying, list as many physical and spiritual blessings as you can think of. Strive to have a spirit of gratefulness and excitement about everything you’ve been given.

Remind yourself to continually think about the benefits of God’s way vs. Satan’s way. Compare the way the world is now vs. the way the world will be at Christ’s return. You may want to put reminders on your phone, write messages on sticky notes or do something else to make yourself stop and think about this regularly.

Text, write or call others with encouraging phrases, Scripture quotes or even funny comments, knowing that joy in God’s blessings and truth is contagious with believers. For example: “Have a great day at work being a light to a dark world” or “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b) or even “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight” (Phyllis Diller).

When we consider, and truly believe, the amazing truth of the coming Kingdom of God and our part in it, how can we not be purely joyful in every aspect of our lives? For the Joy of the Lord is my strength!

Be blessed and be a blessing because you are blessed!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Fruit of the Spirit - Love

What is love?

“Love” has been horribly abused in today’s world. It’s been seen as an uncontrollable emotion that leads to destructive behavior, or as empty words thrown back and forth with no substance.

The love that is listed as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 is much different. It is translated from the Greek word agape, used here to express the highest form of love that comes through the Holy Spirit. The love we are supposed to be demonstrating must be a godly love, which comes from God, the being who personifies this attribute.

This agape love which the Holy Spirit manifests in believers in the Greek language is very precise. This love is not a feeling, but a choice. It is the choice to be kind, to sacrifice, to consider another's needs greater than one's own (Philippians 2:3). Agape is used in all of the “hard” love verses in the New Testament:

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (
John 15:13).

"For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another" (
1 John 3:11).

“Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back” (
Luke 6:35).

"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome" (
1 John 5:3).

It is because of love that God carried out His plan to save the world: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (
John 3:16). It is only by love that we can keep the greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).

2 John 1:6 says, “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it” (emphasis added throughout).

The love Christ-Followers are expected to demonstrate as a fruit of the Spirit is based on the two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:35-40). Love can be defined as outgoing concern demonstrated by following the commandments God has written in the Bible. The 10 Commandments show both how to have a true relationship with the Creator (appropriate respect and worship practices) and how to interact with and treat other human beings (avoiding what the Bible calls sin, which destroys relationships).

What is love? Love is a great gift from God. The Bible tells us that love suffers long, is kind, does not envy, does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things and never fails (paraphrased from 1 Corinthians 13, often called the Love Chapter).

Becoming more like God

God is love. The apostle John describes this: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

God loved the world so much that He gave up His Son to face torture and crucifixion, taking the penalty of sin on Himself, so that we might have our sins forgiven and have access to His Holy Spirit (John 3:16). Those who say they are Christian and who strive to walk as Christ walked (1 John 2:6) realize that God wants us to demonstrate the selflessness of love because He wants us to become more like Him.

Humanity has tried for thousands of years to get by without loving God or loving one another, and it hasn’t worked. The world is full of misery, pain, death, suffering and many other horrible realities. The world’s version of love unfortunately does not come from God, but rather from Satan, an embittered fallen angel who will stop at nothing to twist anything good God has given to man.

Why does God want us to demonstrate love? It is who and what He is, and He wants us to experience that and show those around us that they don’t have to settle for Satan’s mirage of shallow or twisted love.

Love self-examination questionnaire

What is my definition of love? Does it coincide with what God has revealed?

Do my actions show God’s love? Or do my actions show the world’s idea of love? Why?

Does my love mainly benefit me? Or does my love largely benefit others?

Do I love God more than any human being? What evidence in my life shows this?

Agape is kind. Agape never fails. God desires to show His perfect, selfless love to a world that is routinely confused about what true love is. God’s children are the conduits of His love, as they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Study and internalize God’s 10 Commandments (instructions about how to love God and our fellow man), and then strive to follow them every day of our lives.

As Christ- Followers we are to be the beacon of a different love, a love that will ultimately save humanity.

Be Blessed and be a blessing – be that beacon of Love

Monday, April 23, 2018

Fruit of the Spirit, Part 2

The Bible often uses the metaphor of fruit to describe the produce of our lives. Are we producing fruit? Fruit can be either good or bad. Romans 7:5 says, “For when we were in the realm of the flesh . . . we bore fruit for death.” A fruitful Christian (Christ Follower) will produce better results: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life” (Proverbs 11:30).

Fruit is the direct result of whatever controls our hearts (Matthew 15:19). The fruit of a life not surrendered to Jesus includes “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage,” and many more evil acts (Galatians 5:19–20). In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit of God is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23).

God the Father is the gardener and He desires for us to be fruitful. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). As branches cling to the vine, we cling to Christ, drawing our very life from Him. The goal is “much fruit,” as Christ uses us to bring about blessed, celestial results in a broken, fallen world.

When we have committed ourselves to Christ and live to please Him, the natural result is behavioral choices that look like His. He was clear that true followers of Christ will be recognizable by their fruit: “Do people pick grapes from thorn-bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

There are many ways Christ Followers can be fruitful. True fruitfulness begins in the heart with the fruit of the Spirit. That inner fruit affects outward actions; our words and our activities will glorify the Lord, and God’s will is accomplished. God’s desire is to transform us into the image of Christ and make us as fruitful as He was. In our allegiance to Him, we want to be characterized by good works, humility, and forgiveness. We want to always be ready to “give an account for the hope that is within you.” We desire to be the “good soil” Jesus spoke of in the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:3–9. The result of spiritual fruitfulness is that God is glorified, we grow, and others come to know Christ—this is the ultimate fruitfulness for a child of God.

Fruit results from planted seeds. When seeds grow the bear fruit. Fruit represents outward, visible behavior.  Here’s list of inward qualities:

Love: Am I motivated by love for people?

Joy: Do I exhibit an unshakable joy, regardless of circumstances?

Peace: Do people see my inward peace and take courage?

Longsuffering/Patience: Do I wait patiently for results as I develop others or goals?

Kindness: Am I caring and understanding toward everyone I meet?

Goodness: Do I want the best for others?

Faithfulness: Have I kept my commitments?

Gentleness: Is my strength under control? Can I be both tough and tender?

Self-Control: Am I disciplined to may progress tow my goals?

Be Blessed and be a Blessing!

Fruit of the Spirit

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Guard Your Heart

Guarding Your Heart Proverbs  4:23  says to guard your heart "for it determines the course of your life" (NLT). Think a...

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