Sunday, January 31, 2010

Reaping Righteousness

One night at church, as the Bible lesson neared an end, my smiling 12-year-old son hovered in the doorway. His Scout meeting down the hall was over, and he didn't realize he was a distraction. After I interrupted the lesson to shoo him away, he went into the next room and idly began ringing a bell.

I knew he was unaware that he'd become an ever greater distraction. Our teacher continued summing up her lesson, not letting frustration lessen her focus. And her focus lessened my frustration. When our meeting was over and my son returned, I was able to smile as I pointed out his mistake and told him to apologize.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22,23

In the car, I told him how I'd enjoyed the lesson, and benefited even more from the teacher’s example of patience, which bore witness to her maturity in Christianity.

A few days ago, I'd been shopping for groceries, and I passed up the bananas because they were as green as grass. The fruit was fully grown, but it was in no way ripe. I explained to my son that the fruit was like a lot of adults that I encounter: long grown, but still not spiritually mature.

I added that green fruit doesn't always ripen. “Sometimes it just starts to rot,” my son replied. I nodded, pointing out the danger for a spiritually immature adult – that without growing into faith, life can go to waste.

But placing a green banana with ripe ones can lead it to ripen as well.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:15,16

Our lesson had exhorted us to feel an urgency to share saving faith with others who don't yet realize the love of God. And I was learning because of my time spent with the others at the church. The patience I’d seen had helped me to yield it too. The fruit of the Holy Spirit, once shared, helps other Christians mature and be fruitful. Sharing the fruit of the Holy Spirit with those not yet acquainted with Him, sows the Holy Spirit into the world.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Genesis 1:28

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Troubling Times

Do we exalt, or exult in, our troubles?
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope. Romans 5:3,4 NAS
That’s the verse as it should be; I didn’t refer to it correctly in my first post. I typed in the word “exalt” instead of “exult”.

But both the verse and the error challenge us. How many people did I invite to my last pity party? Do I tell my troubles over and over, gaining sympathy but actually exalting those troubles and their power over me?

–verb (used with object)
1. to raise in rank, honor, power, character, quality, etc.; elevate: He was exalted to the position of president.
2. to praise; extol: to exalt someone to the skies.
3. to stimulate, as the imagination.
4. to intensify, as a color.
5. Obsolete. to elate, as with pride or joy.

Likewise, I don’t intend to praise the work of evil in my life – certainly not “to the skies”. Nor do I mean to stimulate evil imaginations to further trouble; nor to intensify trouble’s effect. And it would be all too ironic to elate my enemy, when it was God’s intention that I be an heir to true joy.

–verb (used without object)
1. to show or feel a lively or triumphant joy; rejoice exceedingly; be highly elated or jubilant: They exulted over their victory.
2. Obsolete. to leap, esp. for joy.
1. delight, glory, revel.

I don’t want to bypass the peace that follows releasing those troubles to God, and I don’t want to bypass the joy that comes from transformation by the Holy Spirit. Our troubles present opportunity, for God to lend His perseverance, His character, and hope in Him. It is an opportunity for victory.

When we could delight in the occasion to prove out God’s power in our lives, all to His glory; when we could choose to revel in the Word He has given us, instead of choosing to rebel by seeking false relief in complaining -- what a pity it is.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Children of God: Born Again and Growing Up

We choose to be born again when we first state faith in Jesus Christ, accepting Him as Lord and Savior.

We become children of God, and are embraced just as Jesus was when God publicly recognized Him as his Son.

Immediately after that, Jesus was led into the wilderness, where he faced hunger and the perils of temptation.

Trials also follow our statement of faith. Scripture tells us to expect and even exalt these tribulations.

The difficult times of our lives parallel times in the wilderness as described in the Bible.

For the believer, it is a wilderness like that the Israelites wandered in after deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Our deliverance from slavery to sin came when we first proclaimed faith. But our journey to intimate relationship with God can be swift -- or like the Israelites', it can be delayed years by rebellion and mistrust.

This is my body which is broken for you...This is my blood which is shed for you.

Meditation on their journey, and honest study of our own struggles, reveals that the times we spend in the wilderness are necessary to our spiritual development. Consider that time in the wilderness is the gestation period for spiritual rebirth. A child in the womb has a simplified menu, nourished through direct contact with its mother. He receives only what his mother supplies. He feeds from his mother's blood. And growth leads to an appointed time to emerge and exercise what has formed over time. Likewise, spending time in Communion with our heavenly Father and feeding on His word -- receiving it and letting it fuel our thoughts, words and actions -- makes growth inevitable.

Give us this day our daily bread.

The Israelites spent years feeding on manna, a sustenance they could not stockpile. Their water often came from a rock, a source they could not reroute and reservoir. When we are in the wilderness, facing our struggles and crises, we are ultimately forced to rely on God's daily providence rather than our failing prowess and wit.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.

Just as the child in the womb feeds from the blood supplied by his mother, a nursing child draws nourishment from the very body of his mother, strengthened by its nutrients. He receives precisely what he most needs, exactly as he needs it. We who would grow in Christ continue to need Communion with him, to feed upon the living water he provides. We need to drink in his Word. Then it nourishes and becomes part of our newer expanded selves.

It is also at birth that a child, having outgrown the confines of the womb, is delivered into an expanded reality. So it was with the Israelites, who were sorely challenged by life outside the more predictable bounds of slavery. So it is with us, coming to understand life outside the bonds of sin.

As we grow, we take on our parents' form, so that those who see us know whose children we are. Once grown, our relationship with our parents deepens, as we remain their children still. Children of God mature and walk in His footsteps, speak His word and show His face to the world.