The good fruit of correction


Not many of us like correction. When you were little were you timid and easily molded by your parents instruction or did you have a rebellious internal spirit, difficult to tame and lead, what Dr. Dobson would refer to as the “Strong Willed Child”? Maybe you were a mash up- delightful one minute but bullheaded.

Even if we were easily corrected as a child, no child really likes correction. Who loved a spanking or even a good talking to? Whether we cowered at our parents’ mention of time out or busted full throttle through a threat and on to serious discipline, the correction itself is not the part we liked so much as the satisfaction of independence.

As adults, we’re not much different. No one naturally likes a demerit at work, no one loves to be the one who receives a redo on a project, or a “honey, could you do such-and-such differently” at home. We might like the fruit of correction eventually – a promotion, better understanding, richer marriage communication – but criticism, even when it’s absolutely and wholly constructive, is not found on any of our lists of “Favorite Things”.

James has something to say about correction in James 4:5-10. First focus only on the center of this section and then we’ll zoom out. James 4:7-9:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

This is correction. A requirement to submit to the authority in charge, namely our mom or dad, our husbands, our teachers, our bosses, or our government leaders. Our internal spirit vacillates between relief that someone else is in charge and frustration that it’s not us. We like control, so submission, even in the most submissive of individuals, is a task of growth, best done intentionally.

Listen to James’s words – submit, humble, cleanse, purify. I’m reminded of just how hard it is to get my kids to remember to intentionally wash their hands after using the bathroom, much less the intentional work of submitting to my husband, even though he is kind of gentle, and to my government leaders when I rarely 100% agree with their ideas and laws.

But we submit to a Higher Authority first. Our big beef with correction when we get down to it, is that God is in charge and we are not. We like to choose our own path, direct our own ways and we simply were not made for that. James uses the best language imaginable for the type of submission that goes with correction in our relationship with God. Look back at James 4:8 –

Draw near to God…

Write it somewhere to remember it. If I were crazy (and I am) I would write it on my hand, or my foot, or the top of my knee, to remind me that relationship with God means bending said knee and bowing my pretty little head. It is submission and that’s important- He’s Holy and Mighty and Far Above. But God operates differently in relationship with Him than He does outside of relationship with Him. Submitting in relationship with God is drawing near, being held, and yes, being corrected.

Zoom out to the wider view of James 4:5-10. Read the whole passage below. If you have your Bible out, underline verses 5-6 to see the relationship that we are given with our Father through the Savior.

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

He gives more grace…

That’s Who He is. He gives more grace. Correction is hard…

That pinprick of the conscience when we know we’ve done wrong

Opening our mouth for words of apology when we have spoken too harshly

Walking the hard road because we took our own way the first time around

Correction is hard.

But take heart! Correction by the Father is always delivered with grace. We can see the fruits of it through this lens.

Forgiveness can come in –

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

Goodness comes in, completeness comes in  –

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.   2 Timothy 3:16

Rootedness comes in –

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
    but he who hates reproof is stupid.
No one is established by wickedness,
    but the root of the righteous will never be moved.          Proverbs 12:1,3

These are good fruits! God fruits.

James calls our laughter to be mourning and our joy to be gloom, but only because he knows that in that correction for a moment, we can see the light of Eternity forever.

We see our God clearer and closer. He’s right there, eyes in the back of His head, just like a Father, watching in tenderness.

He gives more grace…Draw near…

He’s ready to pick us up when we fall down, dust us off, and help us along as we journey the steep and the narrow, the wide and the open, always one day closer and nearer to Him.

 

Discussion:

What were you like as a child? How did you deal with correction?

Is there any particular instance of correction you remember growing up?

How has God corrected you in adulthood and when is a time you came through the correction, thankful for His guidance?

Grocery shopping and the steadfast fruit of forgiveness


I love the produce department at the grocery store. It’s full of colors and textures. There are piles of just-ripe oranges and pretty see-through containers of any kind of berry you could want. Displays are round and square and triangular. It smells fresh. Sometimes if you inhale just right there’s a snap of citrus for the sinuses.

The biggest bummer about the produce department is that there are seasons. I could buy blackberries right now, but only if I want to break the bank. And if I want a ruby red grapefruit in the middle of the summer, I’m gonna pay. I live in America. I can get what crazy outlandish fruit I want, when I want it, but it may be four times the price or traveled across miles to overripeness, because fruit can’t be controlled by my desires and whims.

God’s fruit is unlike the fruit at the supermarket. It doesn’t have a season or region. It just is. But like the fruit at the store, I can’t make it happen for me just whenever I want it. I can’t demand what I want and get exactly that. Fruit grows when and where it will, based on God’s plans. Still, God does promise we will never be without His fruit, because it is of His Spirit. This week, we’ll discover all kinds of tidbits about God’s fruit in us. James highlights a few different fruits in particular that come from a God who plants Himself in us to water and grow and build up one another in all we do.

Turn to James 2:17-20, to remember a discourse central to James’s viewpoint of fruit.

17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?

The word written work in our translation is from the Greek root word ergon – an action that carries with it the desire within. It’s not just work, it’s work done with purpose. It’s work done with the knowledge of the Creator. This is one reason we call it fruit. It’s the natural growth of the tree planted and watered by Christ in our baptisms, as we read the Word and worship together.

Our work is steadfast because He is steadfast. Our work is a sure thing, because He is as certain as the sun, and more so. Look back at James 1:17. Just how certain and sure is our Creator and Lord?

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 

The physical manifestation of His steadfastness in us creates doers. Look at Matthew 7:24-25 for a passage that shares what the fruit of a steadfast doer looks like:

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 

We don’t just change with shifting shadows either. Let’s honor that for a moment. Thank goodness for security in Christ when everything else seems to be crumbling around us.

That said, we are sinners. We can surely separate ourselves from the Word, whether by avoiding opening it or listening with one ear closed. Then it becomes harder, not impossible, mind you, but harder to be doers of the Word, producing bountiful fruit. How do fruit trees do in a drought? Not so well, I hear.

Jesus puts all the pieces together. Read Luke 3:8 –

Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 

While Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees here, James is also calling out our pharisaical tendencies.

The secret to fruit is repentance.

Whether we can see the fruit of God in us or not, whether we feel like the produce department at the grocery store or the dried and cracking field of a too hot, too dry summer, we simply turn to Him in repentance every day.

Lord, I have failed to love You and Your Word most. Lord, I have hurt others and put myself first so many times. Lord, open my heart to hear You, follow You, and know You more each day.

Christ is faithful. The Spirit in us is steadfast, not a shifting shadow. Forgiveness is His primary fruit that brings Life and Salvation and is that which all other fruits come from. In taking the time to admit our sin, we can be more aware of the work He is doing in our lives on any given day. Look- He offered forgiveness when I yelled at my kids. Look- He offered forgiveness when I avoided my neighbor. Look He offered forgiveness when…you fill in the blank.

Repentance keeps us steadfast in the Spirit, turning back, turning back, and turning back again and again to a God who loves us.

Let Him work that fruit of forgiveness and see what comes from it, friends. The grocery store produce section holds nothing on God’s bounty of abundant Life.

 

Discussion:

What is your favorite fruit to pick up at the supermarket?

When have you seen Him stay steady and faithful when the world seems to waver?

What repentance can you offer today, privately or with a friend or study group for accountability? What fruit do you think He can bring from that situation when forgiveness enters the picture?

Mama said there’d be days like this – when awake just isn’t working…

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Ever had the day when you’d like to just go back upstairs, put on your pajamas, crawl back into bed, and hide from the world around you? Yes? So this was my day last Tuesday. It took everything I had to leave my clothes on and walk around out where the people live.

These are the kind of days that we are reminded of a hard truth – we are sinners, living in a sinful world. Life isn’t always sunshine and roses, but it certainly is worthwhile. As much as I want to slip on my pajamas and hide under my covers, He calls me out for more.

Israel in the Old Testament had plenty of pajama-and-under-the-covers kind of days. Some were their own fault. They chased other gods, let lust have its way, and set aside the opportunities to worship for whatever seemed good at the moment. Sin creeps into our lives in ways we least expect as well.

We think we’re pretty good people, we go to church, we do alright. The Truth: Not one of us is without sin. We have blunt and obvious sin – hurtful words and anger, ignoring our neighbor, the chitter chatter of gossip, and more. We also have the secret sins – hate in our heart, lust, discontentment, thinking highly of ourselves.

Look at Isaiah 26:16-19

O Lord, in distress they sought you;
    they poured out a whispered prayer
    when your discipline was upon them.
17 Like a pregnant woman
    who writhes and cries out in her pangs
    when she is near to giving birth,
so were we because of you, O Lord;
18     we were pregnant, we writhed,
    but we have given birth to wind.
We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,
    and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.
19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
    You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
    and the earth will give birth to the dead.

As we read, we hear the Israelites proclaim their allegiance to the Lord and the Lord alone. They recognize their sin and the mess they’ve made, while looking around and seeing the sin and mess of the nations around them. They recognize the goodness and necessity of the Lord’s discipline. Consequences happen, but in this instance, instead of sneaking away, they cling tightly to the promise that only the resurrection can offer – life eternal and an eternal life perspective.

Sometimes God not only gives me grace, He also gives me excessively practical advice for these exact situations in my own life. Isn’t it nice when it works out like that? What can we learn for life from Isaiah 26?

They pray:

…they poured out whispered prayer…

He wants to hear our sin. He knows it, why say it? Why confess it aloud?

Hearing it from our lips and poured out from our hearts, gives Him the opportunity to pour in.

He pours into us forgiveness and life. He pours tenderness and healing. Do you have past sins that sit on your heart like a boulder? Do you ever feel like if people found out your real story, they would never look at you the same way again? God says, No. I heal. I restore. This sin, let me use it for my testimony. I have a plan.

“pray without ceasing…” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Pray unceasingly also means pray about all of it, even the ugly. God invites us to pour out every last sin and temptation to Him.

Pour it out to Him. Let Him pour in.

 

They rise:

(v.19 ) Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
    You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!

God invites us to confess, not to make us sit in the dust, but to pick us up out of our shame and pour Himself into us.

“…my cup overflows…” Psalm 23:5

This exchange of pouring is part of the overflowing cup – Him filling and filling and filling some more, releasing us from the burden of our own incapabilities and inadequacies. “Let me take that,” He says, “I already carried that cross.”

When faced with our sin, we can look to Jesus, or we can look away. We can crawl back into our jammies and hide under the covers, or we can let Him give us a New Day.

Pour it out to Him. Let Him pour in.

My cup overflows with mercy and grace. I pray you know the truth of this today. Forgiveness and grace, poured on you for every last sin, every last fail, for pajama days and rockstar days and every day in between.

fontcandy-42Exploration:

When was the last time you wanted to crawl back into your pajamas and hide under the covers? How did God tend to your heart?

Read John 17:1-5 Identify the following:

Who is praying?

Why?

What does he identify as eternal life and how does this perspective change each of our days?

 

*background images courtesy of Pexels.com, memes always sharable`

 

 

Planners and Pencils…I am His Child

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I’m a list maker. I love to-do lists and plotting and planning. I still use a paper planner. I tried the iPhone version and it just never took. I like to see things laid out in ink, nice and clear. Well, pencil. I only write in my planner in pencil because guess what…plans change, right?

As much as I’d like my plans to work out the first time, I would say that 75% of the time, I find myself applying eraser to said planner and going for plan B. Sometimes plan C, sometimes plan D, E, F, G, or Z.

Isaiah has something to say about planning also.

Open your Bibles to Isaiah 30:1-11, or read below.

“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord,
“who carry out a plan, but not mine,
and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit,
    that they may add sin to sin;
who set out to go down to Egypt,
    without asking for my direction,
to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh
    and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!
Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame,
    and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.
For though his officials are at Zoan
    and his envoys reach Hanes,
everyone comes to shame
    through a people that cannot profit them,
that brings neither help nor profit,
    but shame and disgrace.”

An oracle on the beasts of the Negeb.

Through a land of trouble and anguish,
    from where come the lioness and the lion,
    the adder and the flying fiery serpent,
they carry their riches on the backs of donkeys,
    and their treasures on the humps of camels,
    to a people that cannot profit them.
Egypt’s help is worthless and empty;
    therefore I have called her
    “Rahab who sits still.”

And now, go, write it before them on a tablet
    and inscribe it in a book,
that it may be for the time to come
    as a witness forever.
For they are a rebellious people,
    lying children,
children unwilling to hear
    the instruction of the Lord;
10 who say to the seers, “Do not see,”
    and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right;
speak to us smooth things,
    prophesy illusions,
11 leave the way, turn aside from the path,
    let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”

Well, that’s eye opening. How’s that mirror of sin for ya?

I would say that two segments really stick out to me, in light of our study of the word “Child.”

Verse 1 –

“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord,
“who carry out a plan, but not mine,
and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit,
    that they may add sin to sin;

Plans, yep. How often do I carry out, or more accurately, attempt to carry out plans of my own, rather than the Lord’s. I’m actually in a situation right now, as I type, that makes me want to go one direction, when I know the Lord is calling me to wait on His direction.

Have you ever been in a situation where you avoid hearing God’s Truth because you have a better idea? No, no, it’s just me? Say it isn’t so!

I don’t think it is. God’s Word in Isaiah simply points out the path of original sin. The Old Adam in us wants to plan and plot and follow our own way. In Christ, and only in Christ, can we tell Old Adam to talk to the hand. In our baptisms, Christ Jesus raises us as believers that can do a new thing. We can turn a new direction.

Verse 9 –

For they are a rebellious people,
    lying children,
children unwilling to hear
    the instruction of the Lord;

We are no longer these lying children. We are no longer “children unwilling to hear”.

We are sons.

Look up the following verses and share with me the joy of sonship. (The first is written in to get you started.)

John 1:12-13

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Ephesians 1:3-6

Galatians 4:4-5

We are adopted into a better plan.

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How’s that for life changing?

Bring on Your plans, Lord. Erase mine all you want. I give it to you.

 

Exploration:

Are you a planner person? How important is planning to you?

What area of your life could you use more flexibility?

Pray with me.

Oh Lord God, help us to wait on You, to watch for Your plans, to study Your word, to see your direction. Let our ears be ever open to Your instruction, Your voice, Your Truth. In Jesus, always and only, we pray. Amen.

Losing the lost, a prodigal season


Day 2 – Losing the lost, a prodigal season


Today we will piggy back off of Day 1, and look more into Luke 15 and the Lost Parables.

First, review Ecclesiastes 3:6 –
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;”

The word translated as “lose” in the ESV above, is translated a few different ways by other versions. Let’s take a look:
NASB – to give up as lost
NIV – to give up
HCSB – to count as lost
NLT – to quit searching

While many Hebrew scholars would argue for one text being more reliable than another, it gives us a good snapshot of what could be chosen from the original Hebrew word le-abad.
(Normally transliterated with various accents and such things that are missing here.)

The essence of the phrase is that there is a time when you had something, and it is now lost to you. There was a time of searching for it even, but that time has past. There is a time to search no more, to throw your hands in the air and say, “Done.”

In yesterday’s post we were seeking God. He was seeking us before we could even begin to consider Him. He is a seeking kind of God. But I do not want our desire to understand a seeking God, keep us from understanding the fullness of God. This week we will address again and again the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. We’ll get to know Luke 15 pretty well, so find a bookmark. When we look at Scripture, God not only gives us a clear Law/Gospel message. He also gives us pieces of who He is. This is vitally important when we look at the Word.

Let’s read Luke 15 and see who is seeking and who has reached “done.” –

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”


The people in the first two parables do not give up. There is no quitting in these stories. They search and seek until the sheep and the coin are found. In the third parable we get a bigger picture. The third parable helps us to see that there is a time to stop searching. We can reach and seek and search, but sometimes God calls us to stay home, and wait, as He, Himself has done.

Have you ever had that relationship with someone? Have you ever felt God speaking to your heart to just stop? To let it be? To leave that work to Him now?

Here is a hard truth that might be a stretch, but I think it’s worth exploring. There are passages in the Old Testament where our hebrew word for lose (le-abad) literally means “to destroy” and the root of the word (abad) can mean “to perish” even.

The prodigal Father knew the risks. He knew the heartache at the end of the prodigal road for His son. He loved Him, desperately, deeply. But He watched Him walk away. He let him walk the path of destruction. He knew that his son may even perish. He metaphorically raised His hands in the air and said, “done” or, maybe more appropriately, “Thy will be done.” He let him be lost. He did not give up on him. He gave Him up, so that He could be found.

Sometimes there are those people and relationships and plans and ideas in our lives that God calls us to say, “done” to. He does it for a purpose. Don’t misunderstand, God’s variety of done is never uncompassionate. We can pray and ask and seek Him, while He works on the details. Sometimes, we experience the pain of heartbreak, we see the one we love, or the plans we held so tightly to, fall into destruction or even perish.

Fear not. We have a God who knows infinitely better than we. Who has each of our names written in His book and Who is waiting on the road. Rest in Him.
Discussion questions:
Have you ever lost something dear to your heart or of value in another way?
Have you ever felt called to say “done” in a search or in a relationship or with a plan?
How did you do it? How can it be done well? (These things are not mutually exclusive.)