Monday, September 3, 2018

Guest Blog - Cooking With Fruit

I would like to give a special thanks to David Crawford for preaching for me at Pleasant Grove UMC while I am away on study leave.  David serves as the music minister at my church.  In addition to being a wonderful husband, dad, gifted musician, and a really funny person, David is also an excellent speaker.  Most of all, David is a true disciple of Christ.  He serves with humility and caring and leads people--not only to accomplish great things, but--to know they are truly loved.  Thank you, David, for stepping out of your comfort zone to preach and for all that you do in the Kingdom of God.  I also want to thank you for allowing me to feature your message on my blog today while I'm out of town.

Cooking with Fruit, by David Crawford
...I thought I would share some of my reflections on the messages [Chris is preaching on the Fruit of the Spirit] and look at how they apply within the context of the scripture found in James 2 verse 26, which reads as follows: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Would you pray with me, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer.” What good is knowledge about the Fruit if we aren’t consuming it and using it to fuel our Christian walk?

Before we start cooking with the Fruit of the Spirit, we’re going to do a little prep work and review a
couple of items. First, while the Fruit of the Spirit grows within us, we cannot grow the Fruit of the Spirit. Only God as the Holy Spirit within us can grow the Fruit. We must accept Jesus as our Savior so the Holy Spirit may dwell within us so God can grow the Fruit. Second, we have to prepare the garden in which the Fruit may sprout, grow, ripen and be harvested. We do this by maintaining a relationship with God. We pray, ask for forgiveness, act on the prompts from the Holy Spirit, attend worship services, lift praise to God, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And third, the Fruit of the Spirit is a collective of all the fruits. Each of the fruits grows within each of us as the Fruit of the Spirit. To me it’s kinda like a sassafras tree. If you’ve ever noticed, the sassafras tree has different types of leaves, but each one, though shaped differently, is still a leaf from a sassafras tree. Each of us has the capacity for growing all of the fruits that make up the Fruit of the Spirit. So we don’t get to say things like, “Well, I reckon the soil in my garden just wasn’t rich enough to grow self control”, or “This has been a bad year for patience in the garden, it just didn’t take root.” The Holy Spirit is a master gardener, and will grow in abundance all the fruits that make up its Fruit when we do our part.

Now, if we are tending this garden well, the harvest will be abundant, and the next question must be,
what do we do with all this Fruit. When the fruit in our earthly gardens is ripe and heavy on the vines, bushes, or trees we usually keep some for ourselves, and give some away. It’s not that much different with the Fruit of the Spirit. I love going out to my blueberry bushes and looking for the most plump, sweet blueberries, picking them off, and slowly eating them one by one. They are warm from the sun, sometimes wet with dew or rain, firm enough to pop but soft enough to press them open on the roof of my mouth with my tongue, and sweet, oh so sweet. They are my blueberries, I planted them, watered them, mulched around them, placed a bird net over them, watched the stems bring forth leaves, then beautiful flowers, pale green berries and finally a deep blue covered by a light powder. Hmmm, mmm. If you can’t tell, I enjoy my fruit. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, in fact it is intended to be a blessing for you as well as others. In this hectic world who doesn’t yearn for just a few moments of peace? A respite from your job, a retreat from your responsibilities, a moment to yourself not spent in the bathroom, which seems to be about the only place there’s at least a chance of peace and quiet. Peace is a fruit that is for you as well as others. The first time I filled in for our pastor and spoke before our congregation, I was extremely nervous. My hands were clammy with sweat, my heart was beating very quickly, I felt overwhelmed and wondered just how badly my voice would be shaking and whether my trembling hands would be noticed from the congregation. I sat there in that chair watching our choir walk past and take their seats in the pews, leaving me alone in the pulpit. I had never felt so exposed. And then, the Holy Spirit went into the garden, plucked a nice ripe fruit of Peace, and cut it open and fed it to my soul. Just as the nerves and fear had been monumentally intense, so was the Peace. Immediate relief and inexplicable calmness spread throughout my entire being. I hope you’ve had a chance to experience that Peace, as it works wonders for your faith, but if you haven’t, and you want to, just volunteer to speak for DJ one Sunday when he’s going to be gone, and maybe you’ll bless yourself as well as others. So what happens when we take a bite of peace? Amazingly, it’s almost the opposite of what we would think, but it causes us to be brave, courageous, and step outside our comfort zone because the Fruit of Peace reminds us that all is well when we are walking the walk and talking the talk for God. The Fruit of Peace is for you, but also for others, because when you are at peace, you are more able and willing to share some of the other Fruit of the Spirit; for example, The Fruit of Patience, which pairs quite well with the Fruit of Kindness and Gentleness. It is very difficult to show patience and kindness if you don’t have peace. As a matter of fact, dealing with people who try our patience is one of the main reasons we seek peace. Most of us have at least one family member, co-worker, member of the church, customer or someone from somewhere with whom we find it hard to be patient and kind, and though we might not like to admit it, chances are we are that someone for somebody else. But when we cook with the Fruit of Patience and Kindness, when we sprinkle them onto our interactions, the actions we take and the way we carry out those actions become a blessing for those with whom we are patient and kind, we are a witness to those around, and we increase our faith because we trust in the Holy Spirit and rely on God’s promises.

Now, if I went around the congregation, and asked you to name your favorite earthly fruit, I’m sure
I’d get a lot of different answers, and I also bet that at some point someone would name a fruit that another person didn’t really care for, or perhaps disliked entirely. Well, there is a Fruit of the Spirit that sometimes requires us to acquire a taste for it, and that is the Fruit of Self-Control. Food, video games, gossip, social media, news outlets, hobbies, Netflix binge watching, and the list goes on; but if I didn’t hit one of your vices, the next time you’re doing anything other than praying, reading the Bible, witnessing, or acting on the will of God, just ask yourself, how long have I been doing this, and should I be spending a little more time doing something else? We live in an era where there are more temptations than ever and I believe more are on the way. It is hard to eat just one Krispy Kreme donut, I don’t want to stop playing the video game until I reach the next level, sometimes we’re so eager to tell the latest gossip we don’t even give Self- Control a chance before we’re half-way through the story and realize it’s too late. Social media lets us hide behind our screens, phones, and tablets while we tweet and retweet, and post and share without giving much thought to our witness before we click that mouse or tap that phone. Our hobbies can pull us away and suck all the extra time out of the day, and if you really want to wonder where your weekend went, binge watch a series on Netflix. The Holy Spirit is in the kitchen, cooking up a nice dish that’s just loaded with self-control, but sometimes we’re like a toddler, with his lips pressed firmly shut as we try to push strained squash through. Self-control may not be the tastiest fruit in our garden, but if you want to grow spiritually and really see God at work in your life, start taking a daily dose. When you choose not to eat that donut, when you put down the video controller, when you keep your mouth closed, or stop working on that project, or don’t start the next episode in the Netflix series, then you are acquiring a taste for Fruit of Self-control. After a little while, it becomes easier and that Fruit becomes tastier, until one day you may find you actually enjoy it. There is immense satisfaction in resisting temptation, just remember, the power to say “no” comes from the Fruit Of the Holy Spirit, not our own strength, but the strength afforded to us because of God’s love and mercy.

James 2:26 - For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

The Fruit of Faithfulness is sometimes difficult to cook with, but it is so important because just as
faith without works is dead, so the fruit of faithfulness without action spoils quickly once ripe. The fruit of faithfulness requires self-control, and we know that self-control can be a bitter fruit to swallow. Faithfulness requires us to pray, to attend worship services, to interact with people we don’t know and witness to them, to read God’s word, to serve in God’s kingdom, and to be consistent in these actions is exactly what Faithfulness is. The Holy Spirit is faithful in it’s promise to grow the fruit of faithfulness. The Holy Spirit will convict us and guide us so we may be faithful in our service to God and His kingdom, but we must take actions, as led by the Holy Spirit, that draw us into a deeper relationship with God. Only through consuming the Fruit of Faithfulness can we have the relationship God seeks to have with us. God has always been and will always be faithful to us, so much that He gave His only Son as a living sacrifice for us, how can we turn up our nose at this fruit and pass the plate around the table.

My idea of cooking with Joy may seem a bit strange, because to me cooking with Joy looks like you
put a bunch of other fruits in a blender and made them into a delicious smoothie. When you are joyful, you act peacefully. Have you ever seen a joyful person engaging in road rage? Yeah, me neither. When you are joyful you act kindly. Have you ever seen a person full of joy take a lollipop from a small child? When you are joyful you are content, and when you are content it is easier to exercise self-control. Joyful people are energetic people, and energetic people have the stamina to be faithful to run the race, no matter how long and strenuous it becomes. Have you ever seen someone filled with joy enter a room? Sometimes they enter quietly and there is simply a warmth about them that spreads throughout the room as their smile settles in. Other times they bounce in with a radiance that dares you not to smile back. Joy is a blessing to you and others, it will grow within you just like the other fruits that make up the Fruit, and Joy is a fruit that others take note of, and ask themselves, “I wonder what that person has that I don’t, that makes them feel so good?”

Lastly, the Holy Spirit grows the Fruit of Love within us. Love is the ingredient whose flavor
permeates all the other ingredients and ties everything together. If you have patience, but are not patient because of love, you might as well not listen at all. If you exercise self-control, but do not do so out of love, you might as well give in. If you act on all the fruit of the spirit, but do not do so out love, you may as well let the fruit whither on the tree. We love because He first loved us. Our actions must be born out of this love in order for the Fruit of the Spirit to work through us and make us an outward and visible presence of God in this world.

So, cooking with the Fruit of the Holy Spirit is taking the blessings of the Holy Spirit and putting them into action in the world around you. I hope you’ll take time to see what is already ripe and ready for the picking, and also take note of what may need a little extra attention and fertilizing. Pray, actively seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and get into the kitchen and start cooking.