Summer Fruit and Spiritual Fruit

Fresh fruit! Peaches, cherries, pears, apricots and plums! Available during the summer.

Spiritual fruit! Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, good, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control! Available year round.

Fruit trees and fresh fruit are part of God’s creation. In Genesis 1:11-12, it says that God made “fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them.” Genesis 2:9 stresses that the “trees were pleasing to the eye and good for food.”

Galatians 5:22-23 describes the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control are the nine virtues of spiritual fruit.

A natural fruit tree produces only one kind of fruit. It is a fruit tree – not a fruit salad! During summer, the tree’s branches hang with an abundance of fresh fruit. Peach trees bear peaches, cherry trees produce cherries etc.

Spiritually, it is quite different. Spiritual fruit is singular and all inclusive. This fruit is within us rather than upon a tree. Galatians 5:16 tells us to live by the Spirit. Each of us is capable of bearing all nine  attributes with the help of the Holy Spirit. Excerpts from Psalm 1:1-3 declare,How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, . . . But his delight is in the law of the LORD, . . . He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

A peach tree laden with peaches does not just appear overnight. First, a peach seed is planted. Then it grows into a seedling and eventually matures into a tree. Over time, it blossoms and produces fruit. We can apply the message of Mark 4:28 to the growth of a peach tree.The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens.”

We can learn how to become a spiritual tree bearing good spiritual fruit by observing the growth of a peach tree. Just like a peach that starts from a seed, so it is with us. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we become a new creation according to II Corinthians 5:17. When we are planted and watered in the good soil of His written word, we grow in faith. Jesus says in John 5:14-15, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Colossians 1:10 tells us to bear fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. As with any fruit, we won’t see the full results of this fruit immediately. Over time, it will grow and our ability to offer this fruit to others will increase.

Matthew 7:17-18 tells us, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.”  

Jesus says in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” The fruit of the Spirit we bear will be lasting! It will not spoil like an overripe peach. Spiritual fruit is not just picked and eaten once. As we offer spiritual fruit to others, the abundance of fruit increases. In contrast, once all the peaches are picked for a season, there will be no more peaches until next year.

We can taste the sweetness of summer fruit in our mouths when we bite into a fresh peach. We can express the sweetness of spiritual fruit when we praise the Lord with our mouths. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.” 

I enjoy fresh summer fruit that is produced on trees. However, I also desire to produce the fruit of the Spirit in my life.

It’s vital that Christians bear fruit in their lives—the fruit of the Spirit. But what does that fruit look like? In Jesus Christ we have the perfect example of what God’s Spirit should produce

It’s vital that Christians bear fruit in their lives—the fruit of the Spirit. But what does that fruit look like? In Jesus Christ we have the perfect example of what God’s Spirit should produce in our lives.

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Extra Ordinary!

I have an extraordinary God who makes extraordinary people”
Smith Wigglesworth

This statement recently caught my attention. I have been meditating upon it.

Synonyms for extraordinary are exceptional, amazing, marvelous, outstanding, and phenomenal.

God being extraordinary is not hard for me to comprehend. He is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient – all extraordinary characteristics. The fact that Jesus died upon the cross for our sins is extraordinary. This is beyond what an ordinary person would do.

The possibility of our being extraordinary is more difficult for me to understand. When I look at a crowd of people, myself included, I see ordinary people.  

I see ordinary people because I look at their outward appearance. I only see from an external perspective. God sees differently than I do. I Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” The Holy Spirit makes the difference within the heart. When the Holy Spirit dwells within a person, there is an internal change. He or she becomes extraordinary. Jesus promised in John 14:16, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” 

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:16, “I pray that from His (Jesus Christ) glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.” Inner strength is extraordinary strength.

The Lord says in Zechariah 4:6 says, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.” Any ordinary person can exhibit might and power. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we accomplish extraordinary things.

Ephesians 3:20 NKJV says, “(God) is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” This power is the power of the Holy Spirit.
I Corinthians 2:9-10 NLT declares, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him. But it was to us that God revealed these things by His Spirit. For His Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.”

In Romans, Paul distinguishes between the flesh and the Spirit. The flesh refers to what is ordinary and the Spirit describes what is extraordinary. Romans 8:5 and 9 says, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. . . . However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.”

Romans 12:2 advises, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” As we yield to the Holy Spirit, our minds are transformed from the mind of the flesh to the mind of the Spirit – from the ordinary to the extraordinary. I Corinthians 2:16 states that we then have the mind of Christ.

Paul says in Philippians 4:13 NKJV, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Paul does not stop with just saying he can do everything. He explains that he can only do all things when Christ gives him strength. His ability to only do ordinary things expands to extra ordinary things with the Lord’s help.

I John 4:4 tells us that greater is He who is in us (the Holy Spirit) than he who is in the world. Worldly people are ordinary. The Greater One who is in us makes it possible for us to be like Him. Smith Wigglesworth says, “Our incapability has to be clothed with His divine ability, and our helplessness has to be filled with His power of helpfulness.”

Since our God is extraordinary, we can become extraordinary. Romans 8:14 tells us, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” We are part of an extraordinary family!

 

Just Like Dad

You are just like your father!”

These are six powerful words. Have you ever spoken them? Have you ever heard these words spoken to you? They can create either positive or negative feelings. Since we will be honoring fathers this coming Sunday, let’s think about the potential meanings of this proclamation.

You are just like your father!”

These words may refer to a likeness in physical appearance or emotional temperament or spiritual beliefs. If there is a good father-child relationship, this phrase can be received as a compliment. The father may be fulfilling Proverbs 22:6 NKJV, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.A father’s positive influence is invaluable.

The same words have painful potential if the father and child do not have a good rapport. A dad’s behavior by words and actions greatly influences his children. Colossians 3:17 is a good reminder for all fathers, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

You are just like your father!”

This statement may be one of the best compliments anyone can receive! Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.This gives everyone the privilege of being just like their father – their Heavenly Father of whom they can be proud. I John 4:8 says, “God is love.” Love is the nature of our Heavenly Father. We have the potential to love if we are like our Father. I John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.Fathers love children and children love fathers.

Jesus sets a good example of a loving father in Mark 10:13-16. In verse 14, Jesus says, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.And in verse 16 “He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.

Fathers, you have the potential and the privilege of being just like your Heavenly Father. However, this trait is not something to be taken lightly. Galatians 6:7 warns, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Unless an earthly father is a positive role model for his children, he will not be known as being just like his Heavenly Father.

Fathers, you have the best role model for fulfilling your responsibilities of being a dandy dad. Be “just like your Heavenly Father” so your children will be honored to hear the phrase “you are just like your father” spoken to them.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads!

A Gift for Our Priest

Gold, frankincense and myrrh – the three gifts of the Magi. We usually think of these gifts in correlation with the birth of Jesus rather than His death and resurrection. However, we are going to look at these precious and expensive gifts from a different perspective as we prepare for Resurrection Sunday.

We will begin by focusing upon frankincense.

The Magi’s gift of frankincense was a prophetic picture of the role Jesus would fulfill as our Great High Priest.

Frankincense is an aromatic incense. It is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. The Old Testament priests used it when making sacrifices. In Leviticus 2, the priests put frankincense upon the grain offerings. In Leviticus 6, it was used with meat offerings.

The priests were from the tribe of Levi. They interceded to God for the people by offering the sacrifices required by the law. However, all the sacrifices only temporarily covered the people’s sins.

Jesus offered the final sacrifice when He became the sacrifice. Jesus was greater than any other priest, so He became our “Great High Priest”.

John 19:17-19 describes how the sacrifice of Jesus was made. They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.”

The writer of Hebrews points out several distinctions between Jesus as the Great High Priest and the former Levitical priests.

“. . . we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. . . . For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.Hebrews 4:14-15

The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.Hebrews 7:23-25

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Hebrews 9:14

We no longer need to go through earthly mediators. When Jesus died on the cross, the temple’s veil was torn from top to bottom. Jesus restored our relationship with God and we no longer rely upon earthly priests.

Romans 8:34 says, “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Jesus made the final sacrifice. However, His mediation for us continues. Jesus reveals the will of God to us through the Holy Spirit. John 14:26 says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

I John 4:10 sums it up well saying, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Yes, Jesus embraced the Magi’s gift of frankincense to the fullest by becoming the greatest sacrifice.

Can we apply anything about frankincense to ourselves? I think so.

I Peter 2:5 says, “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Peter adds in verse 9, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We are priests!

Romans 12:1 states, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.There is a sacrifice for us to make. However, we are encouraged to be living sacrifices rather than a gum resin in a bottle.

II Corinthians 2:15 declares, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” Maybe the aroma of Christ that we emit can be compared to the fragrance of frankincense.

Frankincense was presented to Jesus by the Magi when He was about two years old. Frankincense was a prophetic symbol pointing to when Jesus would die on the cross approximately 31 years later. According to Romans 8:34, He now sits at the right hand of God interceding for us as the Great High Priest.

 

 

Lion and Lamb

There is an old proverb about March that says, “In like a lion and out like a lamb.” As a child, I would always watch the weather on March 1. Was it like a lion? Was it like a lamb? I have also heard that if March comes in like a lamb, it will go out like a lion. Not much truth in this saying other than March weather can be a volatile. Spring arrives in the middle of the month but plenty of winter still hangs around – especially in the northeast where we live. March is a month with ferocious lion-like winter days as well as milder lamb-like spring days. 

Lions and lambs. Two very different animals. Both terms are used for Jesus Christ. He is the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb who was slain.

Lions are fierce animals that symbolize power. A lion roaming its territory creates a sense of majesty. A lion is known as the king of the beasts. What a powerful prophetic picture of Jesus!

In Genesis 49:9-10, Jacob blessed his son, Judah, saying, You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness – who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.The tribe of Judah became known as the kingly tribe.

I find it interesting that Judah was referred to as a lion’s cub. Was it significant that he was a cub while Jesus later became the Lion of Judah?

Lambs were often the sacrificial animals throughout the Old Testament. They were symbolic of Jesus who would become the sacrifice of all sacrifices. Hebrews 10:14 states, “For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

In Genesis 22, God provided the lamb for the burnt offering so Abraham did not have to offer the sacrifice of his son Isaac. The account of the first Passover is recorded in Exodus 12. The sacrificed lamb provided protection for the Israelites.

John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” in John 1:29. Three years later, Jesus fulfilled the role as the Lamb of God when He died upon the cross for our redemption.

In the last book of the Bible, Jesus is described as both the Lion and the Lamb. John says in Revelation 5:5-6, “and one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ Then I saw a Lamb, looking, as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by four lining creatures and the elders.

While Jesus is described as both a lion and a lamb, each animal reveals a different aspect of His character. We see Him as the conquering King who will slay the enemies of God when He returns. And, we see Him as the sacrificial Lamb who took away the sin from His people so they can share in His ultimate victory.

In one of his sermons, Augustine emphasized that the lion stands for Christ resurrected and the lamb for His sacrifice. His words are “He endured death as a lamb; he devoured it as a lion.”

I like the song The Lion and the Lamb. Partial lyrics are as follows:

Who can stop the Lord Almighty?
Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before You
Our God is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world, His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
So open up the gates, make way before the King of kings
Our God who calls the saved is here to set the captives free

Lions and lambs create an interesting topic whether we are talking about weather or Jesus Christ. According to the calendar, we know March 1st is coming in a couple of days. Then we will find out whether the weather is like a lion or a lamb for 2019. We do not know when Jesus will return. However, the Lamb of God promises in Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon!

Be a Waiter while Waiting

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait,
Psalm 130:5

The Psalmist says that he waits for the Lord. I guess I should follow the Psalmist’s example. In this context, what does it mean to wait for the Lord? Do I just stand around doing nothing? I don’t think so.

Two types of waiters come to mind. Both are found in a restaurant. Waiters can be people who serve those seated at the tables. Or, waiters can be people seated at the table waiting to be served.

The job of the first waiters is to efficiently serve the restaurant’s customers. They often greet their patrons by asking, “How may I help you?” Waiters politely and accurately take food orders. Shortly after serving the food, waiters check to see if everything is to their patrons’ liking.

Waiting is serving. Jesus is an example of a waiter. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

All of us are waiters who serve. We serve people and we serve the Lord. Psalm 100:2 NKJV says, “Serve the LORD with gladness: come before His presence with singing.” The New International Version reads “worship” rather than “serve”. Worship is waiting upon the Lord by giving Him the glory and honor He deserves. It is a privilege to wait upon the Lord by worshiping Him.

The second type of waiters are people who are waiting for something to be done for them. They wait expectantly whether it be for restaurant food or for an answer to prayer. These waiters wait with a sense of anticipation.

People seated at the tables expect to be served plates of delicious food in a short time. They do not always wait patiently. Sometimes we can be like them while waiting for the Lord to move in our lives. Scripture gives us a word of caution. Psalm 27:14 NLT says, “Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”

Isaiah 40:31 NKJV says, “But they that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Other translations use “hope” or “trust” instead of “wait”. For  me, hoping and trusting are spiritual activities. Effort is involved. The same can be true of waiting. Waiting on God can be faith at work. Lamentations 3:25 ESV tells us, “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.”

I believe it is our privilege to wait on the Lord by serving Him and those around us while waiting for answers to specific prayers. When serving other people, we can be encouraged by Hebrews 6:10. “God will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” If we are waiting upon the Lord by serving Him, let us follow the advice of I Samuel 12:2, “Be sure to fear the LORD and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you.” While waiting for the Lord to move in our lives, remember Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Which ever type of waiter we may be, let us fulfill Romans 12:11, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

Continually Give Thanks


G
ive thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:18

In the United States of America, we will be celebrating our national holiday of Thanksgiving tomorrow. It is an opportunity for us to pause and thank God for His blessings upon our nation and our families.

All of our family will be together. Before we eat, we will pray and thank God for the food set before us. We will ask for His blessing upon our Thanksgiving dinner. While eating, each of us will express gratitude for at least one thing. It is easy to give thanks for situations where we have seen God move. However, can we give thanks for a blessing we have not yet received?

Jesus sets the example for when we should give thanks. Before Lazarus was raised from the grave, Jesus gave thanks for what was about to happen. John 11:41 says, “Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard me.’” However, it is not until verse 43 that Jesus commanded Lazarus to come forth. In verse 44, Lazarus came back to life. Jesus thanked His Heavenly Father for what He was confident His Father would do. Jesus gave thanks before He received the answer to His prayer.

In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp explains that eucharisteo – thanksgiving – always precedes the miracle. Ann writes, “Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation our Yes! to His grace.”

Thanking God in advance may not appear to make sense in the natural. However, Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Giving thanks prior to receiving the answer to our prayers reveals our confidence in God’s willingness and ability to answer our prayers.

Psalm 119:90 states, “Your (God;s) faithfulness continues through all generations.” The fact that God is faithful to answer our prayers is a valid reason to give thanks.

Giving thanks before we have received our request is an expression of our faith. Hebrews 11:1 NKJV says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

In I Chronicles 16:34 NIV, we are told,Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.Ephesians 3:20 NKJV says, “(He) is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” God is good and God is able. Two reasons to give Him thanks – even before we have His response.

Psalm 71:14 NLT says, “But I will keep on hoping for Your help; I will praise You more and more.” We thank God for what He has done. We praise Him for who He is. The more we praise God for who He is, the stronger our faith becomes regarding what He will do for us.

Philippians 4:6 tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Asking and thanking are both aspects of prayer. God gives us the privilege of asking. We have the responsibility of thanking.

The Thanksgiving holiday gives us the opportunity to focus upon giving thanks. Most of the time, it is easier to ask God for something than it is to thank Him for what we have received. It is even harder to thank Him for what we are still waiting to receive.

I encourage you to take your thankfulness to a deeper level this season by giving thanks in all circumstances. God will bless you in return. He loves to hear you say, “Thanks, God!”