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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Stars and Sand

It was a beautiful summer evening. My husband and I decided to go to Hamlin Beach. We took off our shoes and felt the sand between our toes as we strolled along the shore of Lake Ontario. Darkness descended and stars appeared. It was beautiful. So many sand granules beneath our feet and so many stars above our heads.

As we gazed upon the magnitude of stars, I was overwhelmed with awe. I thought about Abram, later Abraham. I wondered how he felt as he looked into the heavens many years ago. On one of those special nights, God spoke to him about stars and sand.

Genesis 15 records Abram’s vision and his conversation with God that culminated with a covenant. Genesis 15:5 says, “He (God) took him (Abram) outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars–if indeed you can count them.’ Then He said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” God intentionally wanted Abram to be aware of the vastness of the heavens when He spoke His words of promise. It is important to notice in verse 6 that, Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

In Genesis 17, we learn that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. The name change was a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham and his future descendants. God says in Genesis 17:7, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.

Years went by and God reiterated His covenant with Abraham’s son, Isaac. God confirmed the covenant He made with Abraham to Isaac in Genesis 26:4. “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed,.” Abraham’s descendants were increasing.  Their numbers were becoming more like the stars in the sky and the sand on the earth.

God is described as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This meant the oath needed to be extended to another generation. Jacob, Isaac’s son, had a dream about a ladder. Genesis 28:13-15 says, And there at the top the LORD was standing and saying, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you now lie. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and east and north and south. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. Look, I am with you, and I will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

These scriptures help us understand how Abraham’s descendants became as numerous as the stars and sand. The story began with God’s promise to one man. When the Israelites left Egypt to travel to the Promised Land, it is estimated that there were approximately 2.4 million people. That is a lot of sand granules and twinkling stars!

God’s covenant was a promise to the generations of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Spirit Filled Life Bible says that a covenant is one of the most theologically important words in the Bible. Covenant comes from the Hebrew word berit defined as a pledge or agreement made by God with His people. The greatest provision of the Abrahamic covenant is that it is the foundation stone of Israel’s eternal relationship to God. All other Biblical promises are based on this.

So, how many promises are there in the Bible? I tried to find the answer online. I liked the comment on bibleQ. “The Bible is so full of God’s promises, that it is not really possible to count them. Some people have tried and come up with about 3000. Others have counted 7000. Herbert Lockyer wrote a book called All the Promises of the Bible and claims to list 8000.” God’s promises are as hard to count as sand and stars!

Today, God desires to fulfill more of His promises than we realize. Isaiah 55:11 says, “so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.Going back to Genesis 15:6, we learned that Abraham believed God. So, let us believe. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.

Paul gives glory to God in Ephesians 3:20,Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” My attention is drawn to the word “immeasurably”. Not only are we not able to accurately count all of God’s promises, but neither can we measure God’s power available to us. Sand, stars, promises and power are all more numerous than we can comprehend.

I recall our starry evening on a sandy beach. Now I understand the symbolic message in relation to God’s promises and power. Praise the Lord for His abundance!

One final scripture comes to my mind. I declare with David the words of Psalm 139:17-18, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God. How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.

 

Happy Birthday, USA!

You are invited to a birthday party! It will be a big party. Over 327 million people are invited. July 4 is the birthday of the United States of America. Tomorrow we will be celebrating the birth of our nation. It will be our 243rd birthday!

The birth certificate of the USA is known at the Declaration of Independence. This formal statement was written by Thomas Jefferson. It was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The original 13 American colonies declared their independence from political ties to Great Britain.

Today, our nation has grown from 13 original colonies to 50 states. We have grown up to be the leading nation of the free world.

Over the years, we have undergone many growing pains. One of the biggest challenges for our nation was the Civil War from April 12, 1861 to April 9. 1865. It was a war within our own country caused by differing views of slavery. Our country was divided into the North and the South during that time. Finally, the war was over and our country was reunited.

As Americans, we recite a Pledge of Allegiance to our flag and country. Through this pledge, we acknowledge our unity as one nation and our dependence upon God and our commitment to liberty.

The pattern for this pledge was originally written by Francis Bellamy in August 1892. After a couple of additions, our pledge affirms the following. “I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our country is unique in that we are composed of 50 individual states that have agreed to work together for the betterment of one country. We declare to be indivisible – not able to be separated. I believe this is only possible because we are a nation submitted to God. We are under His guidance and protection. God has blessed our nation and we must continue to rely upon Him for the survival of our nation.

Regardless of our political ideology, we must work together to stay together. We must pray together to stay together. Titus 3:1-2 outlines a positive way that we can work together as a nation. “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” In I Thessalonians 5:17, we are told to pray without ceasing. This directive can be applied to our prayer responsibility for our nation.

A birth certificate has been written for our nation. However, may there never be a death certificate issued for our nation!

We will probably not sing the traditional “Happy Birthday” melody at our birthday party. However, I believe there is an appropriate song for us to sing. The chorus of God Bless America by Irving Berlin (LINK) is a wonderful song and prayer for our nation.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

Let’s celebrate our nation’s birthday! Happy Birthday, USA!

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!

Progressing Spiritually

I am challenged by Sarah Young’s statement in Jesus Always, “Your life is a gift from Me, consisting of millions upon millions of moments.” I stop to ask myself, “How do I fill my millions of moments? What opportunities exist within these multiple moments?” Jesus’ response to my questions is found within more of Sarah’s words, “Fill your moments with My presence.”

Millions upon millions” is a phrase that causes me to think about several spiritual progressions.

Glory to Glory
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,
are changed into the same image from glory to glory,
even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
I Corinthians 3:18 NKJV

In Qualities of a Spiritual Warrior, Graham Cooke says we are always learning how to be changed from glory to glory into God’s likeness. “In Christ” is our starting point. “Christ in us” is our finishing point. We move from the first glorious state of salvation to our destiny as sons and daughters of the Most High. Cooke points out that each stage we pass though reveals more of God’s nature. The New International Version of I Corinthians 3:18 uses the words, “being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory.

Daily, the Holy Spirit promotes Christ to us and Christ in us as the hope of glory. Our Heavenly Father deals with us through the context of eternal glory. Glory to glory.

Let’s consider another progression.

Grace upon Grace
For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
John 1:16 NASB

Hebrews 4:16 says, “We draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

There is grace – and then there is more grace. There is an inexhaustible supply of grace always available to us!

The New International Version uses the phrase, “received grace in place of grace already given.” This could mean that old grace is replaced with new grace. As we grow from glory to glory, our understanding of grace increases. So, we gain new grace. We can never deplete His supply of grace. God always extends grace upon grace.

Faith to Faith
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith;
as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH
Romans 1:17 NASB

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Our faith grows as our walk with the Lord deepens. We go from glory to glory as we receive grace upon grace. This results in our growing from faith to faith. Ephesians 2:8 declares, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Faith is not passive. Right words, right thoughts, right actions – all allow us to grow from faith to faith.

Line upon Line
Precept upon Precept
Whom will he teach knowledge?
And whom will he make to understand the message? . . .
For precept
must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line. Here a little, there a little.”
Isaiah 28:9-10 NKJV

II Timothy 3:14-17 validates the words of Isaiah. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Our understanding of God grows when we repeatedly read the precepts and lines of scripture. Hearing the same Bible stories again and again influences nd increases our faith. Throughout our spiritual walk, we continually gain a deeper knowledge of God’s Word.

Little by Little
The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little.
You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once,
or the wild animals will multiply around you.
Deuteronomy 7:22

Whatever progression we may be encountering, we will always go from level to level little by little. This can be difficult because we want what we want now. We do not like waiting.

The writer of Deuteronomy refers to “little by little” as the means by which the Israelites would conquer their enemies in the Promised Land. God told His people that He was going to deliver them little by little. He knew that if everything happened at once, it would not be good for them. He was taking them on a journey and teaching them to trust Him and follow His leading.

Victoria Osteen has written, “I believe God is doing the same with you and me today. He is leading us, little by little. He’s teaching us to trust, little by little. He is revealing His plan, little by little. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Don’t get frustrated when things are not happening as quickly as you’d like. Just thank God that you are moving forward. Trust in His timing. Trust that He has your best interest at heart. Trust that He is leading you into victory as you keep moving forward, little by little!”

We are given millions and millions of moments to grow in our relationship with the Lord. Moment by moment we progress into His presence. However, we must remember that we never experience any of these progressions in our own power. In Zechariah 4:6, the Lord says,Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.Receive the power of the Holy Spirit! Allow the Spirit to lead you from glory to glory through grace upon grace so you may increase faith to faith. Learn line upon line and precept upon precept. Little by little, you will draw closer to God because James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.

Let us fill our millions of moments with God’s presence!

I conclude with the words of the old hymn Moment by Moment by Daniel Whittle.

Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
Living with Jesus, a new life divine;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

(Refrain) Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;
Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

Never a trial that He is not there,
Never a burden that He doth not bear,
Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
Moment by moment, I under His care;
(Refrain)

Never a heartache and never a groan,
Never a teardrop and never a moan;
Never a danger, but there on the throne,
Moment by moment, He thinks of His own.
(Refrain)

Never a weakness that He doth not feel,
Never a sickness that He cannot heal;
Moment by moment, in woe or in weal,
Jesus, my Saviour, abides with me still.
(Refrain)

 

 

 

 

Grace Giver

When I awoke the other morning, I heard “Grace Giver” whispered in my spirit. I believe Grace Giver is an accurate description of God. He is the giver of grace. Grace is God’s gift to us.

Let’s take time to unwrap the gift of grace. Let’s meditate upon words of scripture and words of prominent Christian authors and speakers.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

Grace is the power of the Holy Spirit available to you to do
with ease what you cannot do by striving in your own strength.
Joyce Meyer

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
Ephesians 4:7

But grace is at the center of the life God calls us to—
and reflects the heart of the One who calls.”

John Ortberg

My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.
II Corinthians 12:9

The true definition of “grace is the power of God,
not the unmerited favor of God.”
Bill Johnson

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace.
Hebrews 13:9

Grace is the empowering presence of God that enables you
to become what He sees when He looks at you.”

Graham Cooke

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find
grace
to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

Grace sees potential – potential is more powerful than mistakes.
Grace sees what you can do, not what you have done.
Rev. Robert Reeves

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through
the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

II Peter 1:2

Grace: more than we deserve, more than we can Imagine.”
Max Lucado

(Calligraphy image done by our granddaughter Grace.)

For Mom

Our parents gave each of us a first and middle name when we were born. This is the name by which we are known. When a woman becomes the caregiver of a child, she inherits a new name. A few variations of this name are: Mother – Mom – Mommy – Mama – Ma. Throughout the day, she may more frequently respond to this new name than her given name.

Mother is more than a name. Mother is a role and a responsibility. Some may refer to it as an occupation or a title. However, I believe being a mother includes more than any of these descriptions. Being a mother is an honor.

I think about biblical mothers. There are numerous nameless moms.

In scripture we have many references to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Each of these men had a mother. We know Sarah was the mother of Isaac while Rebecca was Jacob’s mother. However, who was Abraham’s mother? We do not know her name. Abram had to have called some special lady Mom. I wonder how she felt when God called her son to move far away. I wonder if she ever knew that God changed the name she gave her son from Abram to Abraham.

I think about such prophets as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Micah, and Zechariah. Each of these men had a mother but we know nothing about them. No prophet could have come into existence without a mother. God chose a particular woman to give birth to each of these men. Their prophetic words never would have been heard without these women.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were nurtured by their mothers long before they wrote the gospel accounts. Were these women proud of their sons’ accomplishments? Of Jesus’ twelve disciples, James and John were brothers. Peter and Andrew were also brothers. Here were two mothers who each watched two of their sons leave home and follow Jesus during His earthly ministry. Neither mom is given a name in scripture. However, these women had a part in creating the written word of God.

I wonder about the mothers of Noah in the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament. I suspect neither woman had any idea what their son would do for the Lord. I could go on and on.

However, there is one more unnamed mother that I want to highlight. In John 6:6-14 we read about a young boy who gave Jesus his lunch of five loaves and two fish. Jesus multiplied this little lad’s lunch to feed 5000. While this account is found in all four gospels, we never learn the mother’s name who made this lunch for her son that morning. (This was pointed out to me by Melanie Shankle in Church of the Small Things.)

Maybe you are a stay at home mom who makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches five days a week. Maybe you are a working mom who has to hurriedly throw a piece of turkey or bologna between a couple of slices of bread before you leave for work. Do not underestimate your responsibility or your privilege. You do not know who you may be feeding. With whom might your son or daughter share their lunch? What are God’s plans and purposes for the young person for whom you provide daily nourishment? While being an attentive mom of your children, you fulfill Proverbs 22:6. Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Being a mother can sometimes feel like a thankless responsibility. However, your place in the family is part of God’s design for His bigger family. You may be known as (insert your son or daughter’s name) mother. Consider it a blessing.

Your children may only know you as mom. That is OK. God knows you as a mother and He also knows your name. Isaiah 49:16 NLT says, “See, I have written your name on the palms of My hands.

In just a few days, we will be celebrating Mother’s Day and honoring the extraordinary women God has called to be mothers. It does not matter if you have achieved world fame or have your name written in history books, you are special in God’s eyes. God has entrusted His little ones (and not so little ones) into your care.

Proverbs 31:25-20 is a good description of how the Lord views mothers. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her; ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’

Happy Mother’s Day to all women who fulfill the role and responsibility of a mom!  You are honored!