Category Archives: spiritual sight

Fruit of the Spirit – faithfulness

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.’ (Galatians 5v16-23)For many Christians, the call to faithfulness is obvious. The trouble is that while God’s Holy Spirit lives within each believer, our ability to make good decisions depends on the way we choose to orientate our freewill – either towards God or away from Him. That’s why Paul writes:

‘Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.’

Faithfulness to God requires that just like real fruit, spiritual fruit is cultivated through the discipline and desire to nurture it to its full potential. A process that means setting aside our own agenda and taking up God’s plan as we allow this to permeate our daily lives. Yes, there will be times when we take a wrong turn and follow a different drum but the call of God is always to faithfulness.


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Fruit of the Spirit – goodness

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.’ (Galatians 5v16-23)For some reason, the term ‘goodness’ always reminds me of Jesus’ response to the man who addresses him as ‘good teacher.'”Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10v18)

I love this exchange between Jesus and the man. Was Jesus hoping the penny would drop and the man would realise Jesus was God? The man doesn’t ask how people might one day be considered good. Likewise,  Jesus doesn’t explain the process by which God’s Holy Spirit will enter into believers but he does state that no-one can be considered good by any goodness of their own but only as the goodness of God resides within them.


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Fruit of the Spirit – kindness

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.’ (Galatians 5v16-23) Continue reading Fruit of the Spirit – kindness


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Fruit of the Spirit – forbearance

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.’ (Galatians 5v16-23)

So far, the fruits we have encountered have been easily recognisable  – love, peace, joy (etc). However, today’s fruit –  ‘forebearance’  – is problematic in that we seldom use the term nowadays. Ask yourself: when did you last use ‘forebearance’ in a sentence?

Now while words like patienceself-controlrestraint and tolerance give us a rough idea of what forbearance is about, they do not give us it’s exact meaning. For Paul – who studied law under Jewish teacher Gamaliel –  ‘forbearance’ is a term associated with the wronged party refraining from exercising their legal right to have justice. In other words, showing leniency rather than forcing the guilty person to repay in full.

Paul’s instruction to the Galatians to show forbearance is a call to exercise generosity to others. Not setting the law aside but refusing to punish and admonish the person so they too might experience something of the grace and goodness of God and (in turn) do the same to others. This is forbearance: not negating the law but exercising the right to set it aside so others may know God’s grace and goodness – and reveal it to a watching world.


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Grace to all?

“Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2v7-12)As a writer, I love the subtle nuances found in this passage. Luke – who is the author of Acts – frames the dilemma of the visiting Jews who hear their native language coming out of the mouths of Jesus’ disciples. Now, while I don’t want to focus on the semantics of the piece,  there can be no doubt that the visitors curiosity is picqued by the ‘how’ of the situation they find themselves in

“Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? (v7)

Later, as Peter explains what happened to Jesus and how all of humanity are responsible for this rejection, he delivers his coup de gras:

‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’ (v37)

Challenged by the fact they also are culpable, the visiting Jews respond in the only way possible:

 ‘Brothers- what shall we do?’ (v38)

 Peter’s answer doesn’t seek justice, restitution or payment.

 ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ (v39)

So, in summary: God is in the business of meeting with people. He does this by drawing alongside (through his people) and getting their attention.  A model, the church has found to work and been using ever since.

 

 


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Speaking the language of love?

‘Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.  Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?’ (Acts 2v5-7)

I don’t know about you but I sense the crowd’s bewilderment at what was happening. It’s one thing for everyone to be speaking the same language in your own province  but to do it in a foreign country with a group of seemingly uneducated men speaking to you about the wonders and glory of God? Well, that’s another thing….

For the crowd, their amazement at being spoken to in their own language seems to have been quickly surpassed by incredulity as they realise the men are from Galilee – a place held with little regard by most from outside it and yet God’s Holy Spirit enters these ‘lowly’ people and instructs them to  announce the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God.

However, God isn’t finished yet. Peter – a fisherman and disciple of Christ – steps forward with the other eleven and explains God’s plan of salvation to the visiting Jews. Finally, Peter finishes by explaining the need for the crowd to repent and be baptised and 3,000 visitors are saved as moist eyes give way to tears of repentance and the tag team of Holy Spirit and  humanity rolls on…


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Raving mad or Saviour of the world?

‘”No one takes (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” The Jews who heard these words were again divided.  Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”’ (John 10v18-21)

Most people would agree that death is the inevitable consequence of having life in the first place – rather like the comic observation about how there are only two sure things in life – death and taxes. The moment that anything is born, it’s one second closer to it’s demise – such is the nature of life and death by old age, illness, accident, malevolence or whatever. We all die. So imagine the surprise of Jesus’ listeners when he  claims:

‘No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.’

If someone said the same thing to us, we would think it improbable – not just the idea that you can sidestep illness, ageing and injury but rather, you have control over death itself in such a way that the grave can never hold you down. No wonder, those who heard Jesus’ pronouncement responded the way they did. After all, only the mad or demon-possessed would suggest such a thing.

For christians, Jesus is the only one who can make such a claim because he exists both inside and outside of time. Jesus was present at the beginning of Creation as Logos, speaking and directing God’s words in unison with the Divine Father  as the Holy Spirit brooded over the waters and the Trinity went into action – see Genesis 1  and 1 John 1. However, unlike those that were quick to dismiss Jesus, there were others – more rational and open in their thinking – who  on the evidence of the miracles they had experienced were ready to defend Jesus. Moreover, people who could see beyond the immediate to the potential of a different future where death would no longer have the last word.

But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”’

 

 


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Abandoned to death or saved by Christ?

 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.  The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. (John 10v11-13)

I took this photo four years ago. It was at the start of the 100 year commoration of the First World War and a ceramic red poppy was placed in the moat area around the Tower of London to represent each life lost during that conflict. A truly poignant pictorial representation of all the lives lost.

On the day I attended, the approximate count of poppies placed was somewhere in the region of  800,000 with more to be added. Can you imagine it? Eight hundred thousand people dead? Each one with parents, siblings, spouse and friends, all left to grieve their  violent passing. A terrible tragedy affecting millions upon millions of people. (Even worse, the war to end all wars did not do as predicted with 45 wars more wars since that time).

So what has all of this to do with Jesus as the good shepherd?

Well, the Christian belief is that Jesus has won a battle that makes people free from the shackles of death, decay and darkness.  Long before young men and women were cut down in the prime of life, Jesus came to earth to die and be resurrected, determined that the wolf should not have the final victory over humanity. Hence, Jesus’ response to the dying thief on the cross who petitions him to show favour  after he dies. Jesus’ reply answers the ageless question of what exists after death:

“Truly I tell you: today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23v47)


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Life to the full?

‘Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”‘ (John 10v7-10)

I love the imagery being used here by Jesus  –  ‘I am the gate for the sheep.  All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.’

In the 1st Century, Jesus’ listeners would have been all too aware of the dangers facing sheep. Corralled into their pen for the night, the sheep would be dependant on the shepherd to sit in the gateway and ensure no animal or person came in to steal them. Hence, Jesus words: ‘whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.’

But what of his statement that ‘All who have come before me are thieves and robbers?’  Well, by occupation, Jesus was a carpenter not a shepherd so he is describing the spiritual role he is about to fulfil as carer for those who will place their faith in him. People who believe that in death they will pass through a cross-shaped gate to be with him for eternity. Which begs the question: what is it that the people are being saved from?

Jesus says:All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them…(and) the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (but) I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

In short, thieves and robbers bring nothing to the table. They exist to steal and destroy and do this by distracting people away from Jesus who provides the opportunity for eternal life to all. At the time, Jesus was often speaking against religious leaders who opposed his message though today it could just as likely be an institutional practice or system that reduces humanity to anything less than their full spiritual potential  Today, praise God that the full potential of God lives within you as you trust Jesus for the route ahead.


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Enough trouble for today?

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6v34)

Is it just me or does Jesus’s advice seem completely sensible yet hard to put into practice? Yes, we all know that stress is a killer. It’s rather like those moments in Western movies where the travellers are circled by hungry vultures  who are ready to drop on the next person who succumbs to death and falls from their horse. But is Jesus asking  the impossible in instructing us to not worry about the problems of life?

Clearly, the enormity of things we will encounter in our lifetime does seem quite  daunting. Indeed, if all these calamaties came on us at once, the burden would be too great to undertake. And yet, human experience tells us that most big problems do not arrive in one overwhelming strike – but rather in a drip feed of one issue after another over months and years.

In the passage, Jesus’ words sound  a clarion call across the ages. A warning for all people to keep perspective when problems come upon them. Not that each should shirk from their responsibility to respond to bad situations but rather not allow these concerns to alter the way they think about the world by seeing it as a place of curse rather than God’s blessing.

This week, thank God for His provision. For the wisdom, strength and discernment given to you though God’s Holy Spirit. And, having peace with God, resolve not to worry but steadfastly hold on and trust the Divine Creator for all that lies ahead.

 


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