Different fruits for different folks

Artwork attributed to Jennifer Tinkey. Find the free printable link at the end of today’s post.

What kind of fruit do you most want to shine in your life?

Are you familiar with the Galatians passage about the fruit of the Spirit? Let’s look at it for a moment to gain some Biblical insight on fruit. Open your Bibles or read below, Galatians 5:22-23 –

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

These are good things. God things. Which has spoken to your heart before? Which have you sought more of in a particular season?

I abound in joy. Even in dark times, joy is something that weeps out of my pores. Patience have I sought. Self-control, God has called me to pray for particularly in the areas of my words and in parenting.

I love this list. It helps me focus in and consider all God offers me. But we can get so caught up in one list of Scripture that we forget- God has more fruits!

Look at James 3:17. We’ve read it before, so it may sound familiar. You can also find our printable of it at the end of the blog today.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

The word fruits in this verse is the same Greek root word as the one we find for the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 – karpos. The Bible Helps tools found at biblehub.com tell us that karpos is fruit, or anything done in partnership with Christ.

What do you do in partnership with Christ? Don’t limit yourself to seeking patience; although it’s a good fruit, it’s not the only fruit. God gives more grace, remember?

What good fruits have you seen in James so far that God gives us? Let’s make a giant list. Skim through the book of James and see what fruit you find. Jot down a list of anything you get that speaks to life with Christ, things done in partnership with Christ.

One thing I think you’ll see clearly if you wrote any kind of list, no matter how large, is that when we speak of fruit and a life lived in partnership with Christ, that fruit could be boiled down to relationship with God and with one another.

The fruit we find throughout Scriptures that we often miss is Life Together.

I can have joy, but I can’t have it without Christ, not truly. And it is best experienced with others.

I can have self-control. Without Christ, self-control is really just morality and that breaks down. Where do I turn in my moments of weakness and temptation? Self-control is also best seen in our relationships with others. Where better to harness some self-control than with those we love, at work, or with His people?

I can have gentleness, but without Christ, it’s just nice. With Him it ministers to the souls of all the faithful and all those who do not know of His faithfulness around me.

Do you see it? We’ll return to this passage at a later date, but look to James 5:13-16 and see a vivid pictures of life together turning toward Him together in any and all of life’s situations –

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 

Suffering? God offers the fruit of Life Together.
Praising? God offers the fruit of Life Together.
Sick? God offers the fruit of Life Together.
Leading? God offers the fruit of Life Together.

Pray. Turn one another to Him. Sing with one another. Isn’t it gorgeous? What ripe and plentiful fruit we have in one another.

Who is part of your tree of fruit from the Lord? Who do you work in partnership with for Christ? Who prays with you? Share with us today. Let’s encourage one another in the good fruit of all He gives us on the journey.

Free James 3:17 printable

 

Discussion:

What do you do in partnership with Christ?

Who do you work with in partnership with Christ?

What fruits from Galatians or James or anywhere in the Bible are you seeking to grow in today? Share with us so that we can pray alongside you!

 

The forgotten gift of warmth

 

This January we bought a house that was built in 1885. I love it. It has nine foot ceilings, hobbit doorways, and comes in just under 1000 square feet. It’s very “us” and I wouldn’t trade it in for the world.

I do miss warmth though.

Any historic homeowner knows that the struggle is real. Yesterday I dared to crank up my heat to a wild and aggressive 72 degrees, lest I actually freeze to death in my own home. Hot tea is no longer a nice little luxury, but a necessity for warming your hands on cold, cloudy days.

I layer on my cabin socks, my chunky Irish knit sweater, my slippers, and, let’s be real, sometimes a hat. I grumble and then I look out my front window and am reminded just what a lucky girl I am. Blessed in my place and time in this life with a home, blankets, a family to fill it all with joy. Blessed to have hats and scarves if necessary. Blessed to realistically crank up the heat to 75 if I so desired and still be able to pay the bill, albeit reluctantly.

James 2:14-17 talks a lot about clothes and food and the blessings of daily life. But what really spoke to me when I read through it again today was warmth.

Read James 2:14-17 so we can be on the same page:

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

When we look at this passage our eyes and ears immediately go to the word dead. It’s natural. It’s a shocking and dramatic word for us. Couple it with a big word like faith and all kinds of anxiety starts poking out. We also don’t want the relationship between faith and works to be misunderstood. It’s important that we don’t pile up expectations on ourself (see yesterday’s study 😉 ) or act like God could care less about our life here on earth, so we spend so much time explaining verse 17 that we never get around to hashing out verses 14-16.

So we glide over simple words like clothes and food and settle on the bigger words, haphazardly giving them a place of higher importance and in need of greater explanation.

But today, I want to talk about warmth. It’s a little word, so mundane and basic. James imitates the flippancy of a person who is slapping a Band-aid on a person’s gushing wound, in verse 16.

And the gushing wound of our current cultural context is warmth.

We may (or may not) be clothing the homeless, feeding the impoverished, caring for the brother or sister in need, but I think our bigger problem, the root of the problem, is warmth.

Christ Jesus is not only loving, caring, compassionate, holy, good, and true. He is warm. He takes time for people. He invites people in, even when he knows it’s going to hurt, when there will be loss, when there will be betrayal, when there will be drama.

We have so little time. I understand that. But how can we show Gospel-bred warmth to our spouse, to our families, to the people we pass along the streets?

Note the language in James 2:16. We are the ones saying, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled.” Rather than saying, “Come, take a moment. Rest a while here with me. Let’s pray together. Let’s tackle life together.”

What if “Go in peace” turned into “Come, let me help you see His peace”?

The Greek word for be warmed back in James 2 is thermainesthe. It’s related to our word for thermos. What if it was as simple as sharing food with someone rather than handing them food? Shopping for a coat with someone rather than putting it in a collection bin? Inviting a friend over, into our stack of dirty dishes and cluttered chaos, rather than, well…not?

The world is hungry for warmth, friends. It’s a door to the Gospel. It was as true at the time of Christ, as it is today. Read Matthew 14:13-21 in your Bible. Jot down or take a mental note. What kinds of things does Jesus do that offer warmth to the people?

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.”19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Jesus also sees our need for Help and gives us the Holy Spirit. His Spirit is warmth filling our hearts and souls so that we ourselves can share it.

If you’re like me, you have a thermos tucked away somewhere, or a to-go coffee tumbler. Let’s put them to use today. Bring a warm beverage to someone in your life. It’s simple, I know. But it’s a start. Life-giving Gospel sharing is built on life lived together and that starts with some warmth. Go meet a neighbor. Bring a fresh bag of Starbucks. Put a Bible verse of encouragement with it. Bring a pot of tea to boil and pack it in a thermos for that mid-afternoon slump at work. Share it around and share a little bit of yourself and Jesus in the process.

We are free, friends. Free to live different, to take time, and to open our chilly but wonderful houses and hearts to those around us.

Discussion:

What’s your favorite hot beverage, warm piece of clothing, and/or thing to do on a cold day?

Make a list of what gifts of warmth Jesus has given you. I’ll get you started – love, compassion, fellowship…

When has someone shared the gift of warmth with you?

How can we connect the warmth that we share with the message of Christ, be it immediate or over time in relationship? We’d love to hear your examples and experiences or ideas!

The shock of generosity

Our youth have been known to do wild and crazy things. Zany really, not dangerous or concerning, more out of the box and unexpected.

One year, we were robbed of our Christmas caroling plans by a massive snow storm. We were bummed, but we found solace in hot cocoa, popcorn, and Christmas movies. Fast forward to Easter. We’re still bummed. Enter one of my finest ideas ever – Easter caroling! Not just any Easter caroling… Easter caroling at fast food restaurants to cashiers with Easter baskets of encouragement. Ta-da!

We were so jazzed. We practiced our Easter ditty, “Up, Up, Up, He Arose” four Sundays in a row, gathered our Easter goodies to share, and invited all our outgoing friends. We organized restaurant stops progressive dinner style and brought dollar bills to take full advantage of the value menus. McDonald’s was our first stop for side salads. We walked up to the cashier to order, asked if we could sing her a carol (no need to freak anyone out), sang her our tune, and offered up an Easter basket of Gospel and chocolate fun, sharing our thanks for her willingness to just be herself and taking our order.

The look on that woman’s face I will never forget. There were actual tears in her eyes. It was like Bob Barker and Drew Carey had called her down for the showcase showdown.

“For me?” she asked.

“Yes, for you.”

“Why?”

“Because, God loves you and we just wanted you to know.”

“But, there’s lots of stuff in here. Should I share it?”

“That’s up to you. But this basket’s for you. We wanted you to know that Jesus died and rose for you. Happy Easter!”

We are not freakishly generous people. We aren’t special messengers from God. We entered a McDonald’s and gave a gift. We did the same a Wendy’s and Taco Bell, and DQ and got many of the same responses.

People are surprised by even remote generosity. I think the idea of generosity almost makes us nervous in our current cultural context. What do people want from me in return? What will they expect from me? It brings up all our “I’m not worthy” instincts.

But we have a generous Father. He loved us first, He loves us more.

Generosity is a huge part of the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And what this generosity does may surprise us. Look at James 1:17 again and underline each instance of the word “every” in your Bible.

“Every good and every perfect gift…

Not some, not a few, but so many gifts…”every” says something. It says that God is generous of Himself. You’ll hear James talk again and again, throughout the book, about how we respond to this in the Spirit.

“Every” wells up in us and pours out to the world who could do with some “every”, because they’re so used to scarcely.

Now read on to James 1:19-27. My choice of this passage in illustrating generosity may surprise you, but bear with me.

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

God generously shows us who we are in the mirror. He shows us both our sinfulness and our salvation. He shows us our beauty as His creation and the mark of the cross eternally etched in our forehead.

God’s generosity isn’t limited to love. He also gives honesty, sincerity, steadfastness, hope, joy, courage, and more…generously.

He generously gives us purpose, rather than a void. We hear the Word and then He generously gives us work to complete, vocations to fulfill, grace to be shared.

What kind of generosity is God pouring in you today? How might that reach out to others around you for His Kingdom?

Maybe it’s generosity of affection, generosity or discernment, generosity of care or kindness, or generosity of time. Let Him work in you. The implanted Word has saved you. Now let it reach out to every single person you meet, whether it’s your family and friends, or a cashier at the store.

They just might be the person who needs to see His generosity the most today.

Discussion:

When you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see that tells you what a generous God we have? (This may be a physical feature, something special about yourself, or a theological truth that serves as a good reminder.)

What kind of generosity are you most aware of God giving you in this season of your life?

Who is someone you feel called to share a touch more generosity with today?

Create your own post-it note truth of God’s generosity to place somewhere you can see today and/share the message of the meme below on social media or anywhere.

 

 

Wake up to love

 

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Who has an alarm song? Do you wake up to an annoying and persistent beep-beep-beep, or a duck quack, or does your alarm blast out one of your favorite tunes in the wee hours of the morning to motivate you to get out of bed?

My husband sets our alarm every night. It has been his job since we were newlyweds in our tiny studio apartment in St. Louis. I don’t know how he got this job. Every night he would flip a switch on our old-school clock radio, make sure it was tuned to a local rock station, and climb into bed next to me. At 6am our alarm would sound to a roll of the dice, either an alternative grunge rock hit or a loud obnoxious DJ with morning pizazz. You can see why we were really excited when the iPhone alarm transformed our lives and we could pick the song we wanted for our morning wake up call. It’s still my husband’s job, but now he picks a song, inputs it into the alarm settings and voila – praise music is our jam at 6am.

There are still limits to this set up. Dave picks the song, but at some point both of us are like, “If I have to wake up to Mandisa singing Good Morning one more time…” “If I have to hear the Sidewalk Prophets reminding me that He Loves Me Anyway for the fortieth time…” It’s a ridiculous reaction, but I bet many of you are as friendly to get out of bed in the morning as we are, and at some point you’d like to tell these sweet artists who offer their beautiful songs to zip it, simply because it’s 6am.

God thinks of mornings a little differently than I do. In God’s economy each day is fresh, not the repetition of a long ago set alarm. In fact, God, Himself, awakens us each day. He is our Dawn and our Bright Morning Star, bidding us to rise.

Let’s read Isaiah 50:4-7 to hear a new message this day.

The Lord God has given me
    the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
    him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
    he awakens my ear
    to hear as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
    and I was not rebellious;
    I turned not backward.
I gave my back to those who strike,
    and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
    from disgrace and spitting.

But the Lord God helps me;
    therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
    and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

This passage, again, like so many in Isaiah, is a prophecy of The Servant, aka Jesus. Jesus is the one who is never rebellious, who inclines His ear to the Father’s calling, not just once, not when he needed it, but every time. Because of His work for our salvation, we can have a relationship with God where His mercies are new to us. He wakes us every morning, the Father’s gentle breath of forgiveness on our face before we even roll out of bed. He makes us ready for our callings in the wee hours, whether that’s 6am, 11am, 4pm, or 11pm.

Scripture tells us that the Father, unlike my blaring alarm, is found in the gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12), but sometimes he’ll use trumpet blasts to wake me up to His presence (Acts 16:26). However He chooses, He does awaken. Our passage in Isaiah reminds us that He is really the one who Wakes. He sustains our eyes to open, our breath to refresh us, our muscles to strengthen us for the day ahead.

We awaken because He determined that this day is for His work.

When I take that first cognizant breath in, that’s the Spirit, letting me know that God has designed this day for me as His child to go forth. He has plans for me. He’s not finished with me yet.

And what is the work of each new day?

“The Lord has given me the tongue of those who are taught that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary…”

Jesus in us, means that we wake up to love.

We wake up to say, “I am loved.”

We wake up to say, “Who needs His love.”

We wake up to reach His Hand into the lives of those who need His fresh breath in their lives.

We wake up to Love.

Christ woke up from the tomb. He did not stay underneath the covers of darkness and sin and shame. He rose up on that bright morning in the garden many years ago, and that bright morning lives in us to reach a weary world each and every day.

“He awakens my ear to hear…”

Wake up to Love today. You, yourselves, are so very much valued and treasured. Go and share it with a world who does not know morning, like we know morning. Wake up to Love.

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Exploration:

What time do you wake up most mornings? What is your usual morning routine?

What would or do you choose for an alarm song or sound?

What does the message of “Wake up to Love” speak to in your life?

AWAKE

AWAKE Scripture Engagement Tool

Knowing who’s the potter and who’s the clay

There are things in this life that people try to explain to me that I simply will never understand. Radio waves and how sound travels, I just don’t get it. Anything beyond the very basic laws of physics – nope, don’t understand it. Abstract art, for the most part, you could explain it until the day is long, but I still miss the point most times.

I’ve made peace with this. At 37 years, I’m just old enough to know that life is short, and young enough to still be going full throttle. While I want to understand things, I can accurately identify when to say, “I’m so thankful other people understand that. Thank you, Lord, for the diversity of the human mind.” Sometimes it’s ok to just be perplexed. It feels really good. It means that there is something bigger than us, that we don’t know everything, nor are we intended to, that we need each other, and one another’s gifts, God is God in His courts, and I am not He.

Today, we will learn that, as clay, there is freedom in understanding. We have a place in this art of understanding.

Please read Isaiah 29:15-19 –

Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel,
    whose deeds are in the dark,
    and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?”
16 You turn things upside down!
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay,
that the thing made should say of its maker,
    “He did not make me”;
or the thing formed say of him who formed it,
    “He has no understanding”?

17 Is it not yet a very little while
    until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field,
    and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest?
18 In that day the deaf shall hear
    the words of a book,
and out of their gloom and darkness
    the eyes of the blind shall see.
19 The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,
    and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

So often in this world, we want to be the potter and not the clay.

We want to know, but on our own time, our own topics, in our own place. We are the hiders from the Lord’s counsel (v. 15). We think we know, when really we just don’t. We turn things upside down.

Look up these supporting passages to get a fuller picture of wisdom and understanding from the Biblical perspective.

Proverbs 1:7

1 Corinthians 1:25

Colossians 2:2-3 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

And God does open our eyes and our ears, our hearts, and our minds. He is our potter, and He works the clay and turns the wheel in ways we least expect it. Colossians above tells us that we won’t just receive understanding from knowledge, but that we will receive understanding from encouragement and unity and love.

We become a fruitful field like Lebanon in Isaiah 29:17.

We obtain fresh joy (v. 19).

Why? Because we opened a Book.

When we come together in community around the Word there is no understanding quite like it. God opens minds, and God alone. Drugs are created and healing happens because God ordained it. Radio waves collect together across space and do whatever they do because God wants us to hear. Art becomes art because we were gifted with vision and color and talent from a Creative God. But no wisdom, no understanding is quite as magical as the beauty of the blind seeing and the deaf hearing (Isaiah 29:18) because the people of God gathered round to hear the words of the Bible. This brings us out of darkness into the light of understanding.

Lord, open our eyes, open our ears to Your wisdom. Give us hearts that are encouraged and minds that fire neurons that are continuously growing in You. You, oh Father, are our Potter. You, Jesus, mold us in Your image every day. Spirit, grant that our knowledge would always be accompanied by the Love and Unity with Your people. Lord, help us each day, that what we learn and grow in may always glorify You and lead us in Your truth and lead others to Salvation in Your Word. In Jesus name we pray, by the power of the good and gracious Holy Spirit. Amen. 

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*photo made with the retype app
Exploration:

What leaves you perplexed in this world?

What connection do you see between knowledge, understanding, and love?

How does God work understanding when people study the Bible together or offer one another Christian wisdom?