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Posts in Fruit of the Spirit
Whoa, Nelly!

As we wrap up our Fruit of the Spirit study, today we land on self-control. Let me be frank, I had a hard time with this one. I didn’t exhibit the best self-control in trying to get this post written. Because it speaks to one of my weaknesses, I found other things to do besides writing this (and am typing at the 11th hour to get it in for submission). *Sigh* Why is it, this Fruit, so hard?

When I first thought about this notion of self-control, what cropped up right away was “food.” And while I do love a good cake (and may or may not have a slightly unhealthy craving for Coca-Cola), I don’t really struggle with self-control when it comes to food. I don’t struggle with addiction, and I don’t really have any investment in any particular TV show that prevents me from getting adequate sleep or interferes with my ability to function as an adult. So, why does it stress me out to be writing about self-control?

After a good bit of thought, I realized it’s because what I struggle with having any self-control over are my thoughts and the way I feel about myself…what goes on in between my ears and down that pathway to my precious, beating heart. And then what I realized is that it’s essentially all the same—whether its negative self-talk or binge eating or excessive drinking or continuous TV streaming to the point of perpetual sloth. Or maybe it’s anger. Or fear. It’s all the same. It’s all about a lack of being in control of self. It’s a lack of moderation, a willingness to let the internal roller coaster dictate, and an inability to maintain balance.

So, why is maintaining self-control important? What does it matter? Proverbs 25:28 tells us plainly,

“Losing self-control leaves you as helpless as a city without a wall.”

This tells me that I need to recognize that I can certainly be my own worst enemy. How well do I know that’s true! You know, I really don’t want to be teetering on the edge of anything (outside of the occasional trip to Carowinds for a little bit of fun). I’d rather walk along a steady path, even if it’s not a straight one. Now, sometimes life just doesn’t work that way, but what God wants for us is to maintain our inner balance.

“The Law of the Lord is a lamp, and its teachings shine brightly. Correction and self-control will lead you through life” (Proverbs 6:23).

When we live with the goal of maintaining our self-control we are less likely to fall for the enemy’s tempting, too, or to believe the lies he tells us. If I can control my thoughts and my tongue, then perhaps I won’t find myself saying or doing things I’ll regret later. Exerting self-control means stepping away from sin.

Fortuitously, I recently saw a post by Lisa Harper (if you haven’t found her on facebook, you should look her up…she’s an amazing witness to Christ and a strong example for moms everywhere, but especially single moms). And she reminds me of what God needed me to see and hear and feel in contemplating this Fruit…

I believe staying in the Word and finding myself in prayer can go a long way to help me maintain my self-control—so that in my decision-making, I’m working from the position of “beneficial, respectful and God-honoring” as Lisa points out. If I fill myself up with the things of God, then there is less room for whatever temptations come my way (whether its more cake, or another Coke, or unkind words to myself).

My wish for you, for me, for everyone, is that we can intentionally work toward living out all of the Fruits each day, and in doing so, we can grow a little closer to our loving and forgiving Father, as well as to each other. God bless you, friends.

Jessica

He Could Have But He Didn't

There’s an image of gentleness that I can’t get out of my head. It’s of Jim giving our son his first shampoo at the hospital. My husband had never bathed a child, much less one a few hours old. But here he is holding onto Nathan as if he’s a priceless work of art. Truth is, Nathan is a priceless work of art created by God. Jim knew that. Jim knew that for him and for Brady. Because of that knowledge, Jim treats both boys with the gentleness (and me, as well). Jim imitates the gentleness of Christ. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear gentleness?

“A gentle person is not controlled by the response of others; they are controlled by God.”

That statement (author unknown) stings a little for me because it points out how much farther I still have to go in my faith. I still have to travel to the point where gentleness is a natural response that comes from a place of humility and trust of God’s work in my life. The trust is there, but the humility is often hiding behind a rock of hurt or misunderstanding. When I block humility, I block God from controlling my responses.

My husband will be the first to tell you I care deeply about others; he will also be the first to tell you that my facial expressions don’t always match my feelings or they match way too much. He often reminds me to check my face or to try to keep a poker face going. Its roots run deep for me. Beyond having a mother who speaks her opinions clearly and with facial expressions, is there something deeper within that is a stumbling block to my responding with gentleness?

I find hope in seeing the rare times where Jesus was outraged by circumstances and didn’t always respond with gentleness.

John 8:1-11 is a beautiful example of his gentleness. While others were attacking a woman caught in adultery, Jesus reminded them no one is without sin. I picture Him gently reminding the woman to sin no more because He has not condemned her. Can you imagine? Jesus, innocent, pure, loving, kind Jesus telling you He is giving you grace with a gentle rebuke. I’m pretty certain if I were in her shoes I would be in a puddle at His feet. The amazing part is, He offers that constantly to each of us for all of our sins. Which may explain my frequent tears. 

Y’all, Jesus could have done some damage, think of Who He is and Who He belongs to, the Almighty, the Beginning and the End. Yet, He reigned in His anger with those who wanted to condemn. He controlled His great power, strength, and passion by reminding them of what was said in Scripture. Jesus showed off His natural gentleness in this passage and proves it is part of His power.

The all-powerful Jesus could have responded harshly. He could have yelled at the stone throwers and the adulterer. But He didn’t. He corralled His power and showed gentleness.

My struggle to be more like Him is a constant effort to show gentleness in times of stress, in times of uncertainty, and in times of doubt. In moments when anger or disappointments overwhelm me I am reminded of the gentleness with which Jesus used for the woman and for those stone throwers. Do I want to be a stone thrower or do I want to be known for gentle redirection? I know what Jesus would do…

Shea

Faithfulness: A Tower Of Strength

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13

Sit down. This one is going to be rough…the 7th Fruit of the Spirit, faithfulness. It may upset your ideas or images of what you thought were important. Even in the midst of severe suffering, His Spirit can give you this wondrous gift. He resides in the deepest depths of your being. His work within you is very effective. God created us in His image and uses ordinary people like you and me to share our faithfulness regardless of the many challenges we are facing. And to share that faith comes without any excuses.

Believe it or not, the future is not ours to see. The light of your enlightenment is already within you. It is the same light that will help you to grasp the power of your faithfulness and your strength. Each time you can acknowledge, accept, and embrace the truth about yourself, your light becomes a little brighter confirming your faithfulness. Learning to trust your faith does not mean that you will never face difficulties because you will. You can, however, trust your faith by saturating your mind with Scripture and asking Jesus to illuminate it to you. Most importantly, faith is the only thing you can be certain about and it’s entirely up to you to live by faith.

“To learn strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm amid severe testing.” ~ George Mueller

The Bible is filled with countless stories that inspire, change and challenge. Allow these events and characters to sink into your soul. So, if we ever feel alone while struggling with faith, remember, it is very important to surround oneself with people who can impact your life for the good and not for the bad. In all relationships, regardless of their nature, there comes the moment when you realize that there are some things you will never understand. When you are standing in uncertainty, be okay with it. Just as I am most certain we shall never face some of the suffering as the Biblical characters, I encourage you to sense your faith, believe in your faithfulness and let it shine. You will gain so much more inspiration when you realize divine action is always working on your behalf. It is a God job! There are simply some things in life you are not going to be able to do anything about.

There will be those occasions when you simply cannot change what happens or how it happens. The only course of action is total, fearless trust. But the truth is, if you can trust God during challenge after challenge and see things from His perspective, the more accurately you can view your own life.

For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

You must have faithfulness in order to live life fully. I mean richly within your soul! You must have faithfulness that no matter what life brings you, you will be able to cope. You must have faith that your faithfulness will eventually lead to peaceful experiences. Experience teaches that your faith is paying off. Once you have had an experience, you just know that you know.

The difference between faith and experience is this: One you must work on. The other one works on you.

Don’t let the odds fool you; don’t give up and you will soon stand firm in your faithfulness. Whether odds are against you or not and your circumstances may look hopeless, God has a purpose specifically designed for you but it takes faith, a lot of faith! When that moment comes, nothing can extinguish your enlightenment!

I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. Ephesians 3:16-17

Use your faith to create better experiences. Use your experiences to activate a deeper sense of faith. Faithfulness builds endurance; endurance builds character. Without faithfulness, we have no hope. Jesus suffered alone on the cross so that you would never have to be alone in your struggles. Are you ready to devote the love and compassion of your soul to shine through you in all situations?

In Faith,

Lynne