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Monday, September 24, 2018

The Fruit of the Spirit - Goodness


Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ has the Holy Spirit of God living inside them. 
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul said the Holy Spirit produces Christian virtues within everyone who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and follows him day by day.  These fruits don’t appear overnight.  But like a garden—when tended and nurtured—they grow within us over time until we reap a bountiful harvest.

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I hope you will memorize these 9 fruits of the Spirit.  Better yet, I pray you will cooperate with the Holy Spirit that He may grow them more abundantly in your life.

Goodness
Today, I will discuss goodness.  We need more goodness in our world.  Galatians 6:9 says, "So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up."  Don't wear yourself out with all the volunteering, giving, and serving you do.  There is always more good to be done.  If you try to do good from your own limited supply of goodness, even the best will soon be exhausted.  However, God's goodness never runs dry.  We need to share goodness with others from the unlimited source of God's goodness.

Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit wants to grow more goodness in our lives.  And if we cooperate, the Spirit will.  Since you and I are in the world (though not of it), we can be and instrument of God to bring more goodness into our world.  Will you cooperate with the Spirit in this noble task?  Will you fertilize your spiritual garden with the Word of God and listen to the Holy Spirit so you will know how to be good and then do the right thing at the right time in the right way?

The great shepherd, king, and psalm writer—David—wrote that famous 23rd Psalm that has brought comfort and hope to so many throughout the ages.  “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters…”  And he ends his beautiful passage with this promise of hope.  “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”  There’s one thing my faith has always helped me to believe:  God is good!   My faith helps me to believe that God is good even when things go badly.  I believe that God is on my side.  

God is good and He wants goodness for you and me.  A lot of people get Christianity all mixed up.  They think it's all about rules.  They say, "If you're a Christian, you can't do this and you can't do that and you have to do this."  That's not it at all.  There are rules, but the rules are there for our benefit because God is good and He wants good for us.  He knows that we can avoid so much trouble and suffering and that's why He gives us some rules to steer us in the best direction.

Our Good God Created a Good World
Genesis 1:31 says, "Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!"  Created a good world.  Unfortunately, the world we see has a lot of sin and suffering and darkness.  A lot in this world is not good.  So what happened?  

It's not God's fault that the world is broken.  He didn't break it.  We did.  In the beginning, the world was perfect and people were perfect and our relationship with God was perfect.  In order to make love possible, God gave the first humans--Adam and Eve--a simple test of faithfulness.  He told them you can eat anything you want from the garden, but don't eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Unfortunately, they chose to disobey God. Their sin violated love and broke their perfect relationship with their Creator.  The results were catastrophic.  Paradise fell apart and the world became a place were darkness and suffering and death are as much a part of our experience as goodness and love and light.  

The miracle is that God still didn't abandon us.  He has been working to clean up our mess since the very day humanity messed it all up.  We don't deserve it, but God has always been good to our world.  In the story, when Adam and Eve sinned, they realized they were naked and ashamed and afraid and vulnerable.  What did God do?  He could have abandoned them, but He didn't.  He protected them by making clothes for them--even though they didn't deserve it.  And throughout the ages since, God has been working out our salvation by:
  • Saving Noah and the animals on the ark through the flood
  • Calling Father Abraham to leave his homeland and go start a new people in the Promised land
  • Paving a way to redemption through Moses, King David, and the prophets
  • And He fulfilled His plan of salvation through His Son, Jesus
I don't just know God is good because of stories I've read in the Bible.  I know because God has been so good to me, personally.  He saved me at the age of 8; when I had no father in my home, God adopted me as His own son and He became my perfect Father.  He changed the course of my life from a very bad path to a path of light and love and eternal life.  He has been good to me by leading me down a path of life-long spiritual growth.  Thankfully, I am not the same immature Christian I was when I was 8 (or 16 or 25 or 35).  God was good to me by giving me a wonderful wife.  I don't know why Kelly agreed to marry me.  All I can say is it was the goodness of God that encouraged her to agree.  And God has given me three awesome children.  Each one is special in their own way.  And I cannot take credit for how good they are--I can only praise God for His goodness in the matter.  And God was so good to me to give me a gift for speaking and a love for serving in the church and the ability to make a living for myself and my family as a pastor.  I am blessed beyond all measure, because God has been good to me.  Has He been good to you?


God has Been Good to Us.  Let’s be Good to Him.  But How?
Micah 6:7-8 tells us how.  It says, "Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?  Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins?  No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:  to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."

So here we have in verse 8 a simple explanation of the good we are to do.   

First, It Says Do What is Right
The Word of God and the Holy Spirit work in concert to show you the right thing to do, at the right time, and in the right way.  It is not good to just following the shifting trends of a fickle society.  For in one decade they say one thing is bad and in the next they say, "Oh, that's okay now," and some other behavior becomes the unpardonable sin that will ruin  your career and make you an oucast from society.  Neither is it good to take the Bible out of context and use it as a tool to prove you are right (as many southerners did in the 1800s to prove that their slave trade was justifiable in the eyes of God).  The Bible is not a tool we use to justify our misbehavior.  The Bible is the Word of God the Holy Spirit uses to challenge us to be more like Christ.  Goodness is humbling yourself before God, listening obediently to His Word in Scripture, and relying on the Holy Spirit to lead you to do the right thing, at the right time, in the right way.

Second, It Says Love Mercy
God has been so merciful to you and to me. We also, ought to show mercy. Be merciful. No, that’s not enough! It say, love mercy. That's much stronger, isn't it? Look for ways to be merciful. Let your first thought not be how to punish or get back at soemone, but be: "How can I apply mercy in this circumstance?" Ere on the side of mercy. Now, I must say, mercy is not pretending there isn’t a fault. It means, there is a fault but you will forgive the fault anyway. In order for the to be real forgiveness and mercy, you must recognize that an offence has occurred--sometimes a very devastating and despicable sin--but you are going to show mercy and forgive anyway. So, do what is right, love mercy, and...

Walk Humbly with God
Remember who’s in charge. This life is not about you. You were created to worship God, not the other way around.  Society tells us in so many ways that this life is about us and our wants and our happiness.  But where did God ever say that in His Holy Bible?  Life is not about you.  We were made to worship God.  Also, if you are going to walk humbly with God, you need to stay close to Him. It says walk humbly with God. That means He isn’t standing still. He’s moving and you should be too. If you’re in the same spot spiritually you were five years ago, you might not be walking with God. Maybe you were five years ago, but He’s moved since then. Have you moved with Him? Maybe it’s time to catch up. The Good News is, the Holy Spirit can show you the way!  Devote yourself to prayer, which is rubbing up against God, and you will find you are walking humbly with Him day by day.

Sara Brooker’s Letter
I want to share a good word from a lady I know who is filled with incredible goodness.  She is a matriarch of my church and her godly reputation has spread throughout our community and far beyond by the many people who have come to know and love her.  At the age of 92, her health has declined until she is not able to attend church regularly anymore.  However, she is still a joy to visit and she blesses everyone she meets.  This letter is an open letter she wrote to her grandchildren (and she has more than I can list) to give them a good word of wisdom to bless their lives.  May these words she wrote to her grandchildren inspire you to goodness as well.
09/05/2018
Sara Brooker
My Dear Grandchildren 
As I reflect over the 92 plus years of my life, I vividly see God's hand shaping and guiding my life to the present day. All of you are gifts created by God and deeply loved by me. You are a constant in my prayers as you grow and assume responsibility for the decisions in your lives. My most fervent prayer is each will chose a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the most important and wisest choice you can and will ever make in your lifetime. 
l Timothy- 1:19 
Cling tightly to your faith in Christ and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences, as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. 
A live and growing faith is the legacy I wish to leave you. A faith that grows through life, daily trials and struggles, with the knowledge that our God will never forsake us. His love is steadfast and everlasting. 
It is not only a Grandmother's love that I leave to you, but foremost the love of Jesus Christ. 
My prayer is each one of my beloved accepts "His" love personally and fully. That you live and grow in that love. For even before I knew or loved you, God did. 
Loving you always, 
Mammaw Sara

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Fruit of the Spirit - Kindness

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ has the Holy Spirit of God living inside them.  The Apostle Paul says the Spirit produces fruit—Christian virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  I challenge you to memorize this list of virtues.  More importantly, I challenge you to seek to have them all more abundantly in your life.

Over the past several weeks, we have already studied:
  • Love – the greatest Christian virtue. We are to love God and love others the way Jesus loves us (even gave His life for us).
  • Joy – a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.”
  • Peace – the wholeness that comes when we live in harmony with God
  • Patience – persevering through whatever trials you face while you wait for God to set things right in His time according to His perfect will.
  • Last week, my guest blogger David Crawford, shared a creative message about cooking with the fruit of the Spirit (i.e. tying all the virtues together in your life).
  • Along the way, we have learned that you don’t grow the fruit of the Spirit yourself.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit.  We are called to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and nurture the fruit He produces in us—through worship, prayer, practice, and discipline.

Today we will consider another part of the fruit of the Spirit, which is kindness.

Kindness is simple. Give it a try.  The definition of kindness is:  the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.  Kindness is so simple, even a child can understand it.  The challenge for this virtue is not in understanding, but in doing.

You may not know this, but I have trained in martial arts almost all my life.  I started out learning a Korean form of "karate" called Tang Soo Do when I was just a young kid. My instructor was very kind to me. He recognized my interest and encouraged me to take more classes, but I could only afford one class a week—and that just barely. So, in kindness, my Kyo Sa Nim (that’s the Korean term of respect we used for him) said I could take classes for free! In addition, he even drove to my house every day to give me a ride to class. I was ashamed that Kyo Sa Nim should be so kind to me when I could do nothing in return.  I offered to pay for his gas once and he simply said, “No, no, no. It’s my gift.”  

“But I feel so bad because you’re always paying my way.”

My instructor just looked at me and said, “Don’t worry about it. Somebody was kind to me once. One day, you can be kind to someone else. What you do for them, you’ll be doing for me.”

I think about his words quite often now that I’m older and can afford to pay for my own gas. I’m thankful every time I have the chance to be kind to someone and remember that I am only returning the kindness that was shown to me.  

Even more important, Jesus is infinitely kind to us.  He came to live with us, walk with us, teach us, empower us, live, die, and rise for us. We never deserved his kindness, but he was kind to us anyway.  Whenever we are kind to others, we are simply thanking Jesus for being kind to us. Pray that the Holy Spirit will cultivate the fruit of kindness in you more and more.

Don’t Just Act Kind; Be Kind
Jesus told a short parable in Matthew 21:28-31 that encourages us to follow through on kindness.
28 “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. 30 Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.
31 “Which of the two obeyed his father?”
They replied, “The first.”

Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do.

Some people are polite and look or act kindly on the surface, but they aren't really kind.  They are like the one son in the parable who politely says "Yes sir", but doesn't really obey.  Others are like the other son who initially said "no", but eventually went and obeyed his father.  They are like some people you meet who look rough or speak rudely, but are truly kind down deep inside.  I would encourage you to do both--speak kindly and follow through by acting kindly.

Practical Steps to Nurture Kindness in Your Life
  1. Make a commitment to be kind throughout your day.  Start your day off with a prayer that God would help you be kind throughout the day.  Keep your thoughts focused on it.  If you mess up (as we all do sometimes), just ask God for forgiveness and try again.  Focusing on kindness will help you remember to be more and practice will help you improve, with the Holy Spirit's help.
  2. Genuinely care for others. When I was a young man, I was so overwhelmed with how kind Jesus was to me.  I wanted to see the world with more compassion like Christ sees us.  And so, I prayed that God would help me and fill me with more compassion like Christ.  Through the years, God has helped me become more compassionate, to truly care more about people. I still have a ways to go, but I am more caring today than I was twenty years ago.  How about you?  Ask God to help you genuinely care about others and you will start to be more kind.
  3. Don't be kind for the sake of getting what you want.  There is a type of kindness that says, "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine."  But that's not the type of kindness the Holy Spirit wants to grow within you.  Jesus specifically said to be kind to people who can’t do any for you.  For he said, "If you are kind to those who will be kind to you, you already have your reward.  However, if you are kind to those who cannot do anything for you, God will reward you." (At least, that's a loose paraphrasing of Luke 6:32-26.)
  4. Be kind to yourself. Sometimes, we are our own harshest critics.  I am amazed sometimes at how hard I can be on myself.  My inner voice sometimes says things to criticize me that I would never in a million years say to someone else.  I have to stop myself and say, "Be nice!"  So don't be so hard on yourself.  Give yourself a break.  Cut yourself some slack.  Be kind to yourself.  If you mess up, ask forgiveness and forgive yourself! And remember, it's the Holy Spirit's job to grow fruit in your spirit; your job is just to nurture it with love and tenderness.  So be kind to yourself (and this may also help you be kind to others).

Spiritual Gardening
Throughout this series, I’ve tried to relate the Fruit of the Spirit to gardening.  You can’t make a garden grow.  Only God can make a garden grow.  However, there are some things you can do to help nurture the Holy Spirit's work--fertilize the soil, pull up some weeds, water the garden, protect it from pests, etc.  And of course, nothing is likely to grow in your garden if you don't plant some seeds.  Showing kindness it like planting seeds.  Kindness is often just a small thing, but it can grow into something beautiful and even reproduce and spread like wildflowers that color our world.  I challenge you to look for ways to color your world with kindness as much as you can.  Here's a video to inspire you.

Closing Prayer
"Father, thank you for being so kind to us through Jesus Christ.  Help us to focus on kindness throughout every day.  Fill us with Christ's compassion that we may truly care about people.  Help us to be kind to everyone--especially those who don't deserve it or can't do anything to return the favor.  Help us even to be kind to ourselves.  We ask in Jesus name.  Amen."

Thursday, September 6, 2018

What is the Reading Level of My Bible?

In my morning study today, I came across this interesting information that indicated the reading level
of various versions of the Holy Bible.  I thought you might find this interesting too.  The Bible is a great book to read.  It is known as the bestselling book of all times.  Actually, I believe the Bible is more than a typical book.  It is a living word from God.  That is, it is sacred tool God uses to speak to us.  If you read the Bible prayerfully, God speaks to you.  Time in the Word is a conversation with God.  All books can speak to us in some sense, but God speaks to us in the Bible in a special way.  

However, can you understand your Bible?  Many people have expressed to me their difficulty in reading and understanding the Scripture.  I understand and have at time faced this difficulty too.  Today, I found some information on biblegateway.com that indicated the reading levels for various translations.  How difficult is it to understand your translation?  If you are having trouble understanding your Bible, maybe you should choose a translation that is easier to grasp.  Here is what biblegateway says about the reading level of the various Bible versions:


Not everyone agrees about the minimum grade level of every translation or the formulas used to calculate them. But we offer as general guidelines the following range of USA school grade levels (taken from information provided by the publishers of the various translations wherever possible) and age levels. The first number is the grade level for which the Bible is generally considered accessible; the number in parentheses is an estimated age at which a reader can fully read and understand it:
Mounce — 12+ (ages 17+)
KJV — 12+ (ages 17+)
RSV — 12+ (ages 17+)
Geneva — 12+ (ages 17+)
WEB — 12+ (ages 17+)
NRSV — 11+ (ages 16+)
NASB — 11+ (ages 16+)
Amplified — 11+ (ages 16+)
MEV — 11+ (ages 16+)
LEB — 11+ (ages 16+)
ESV — 10+ (ages 15+)
J.B. Phillips NT — 10+ (ages 15+)
NABRE — 9+ (ages 14+)
NIV — 7+ (ages 12+)
CEB — 7+ (ages 12+)
NET — 7+ (ages 12+)
GNT — 7+ (ages 12+)
ISV — 7+ (ages 12+)
NKJV — 7+ (ages 12+)
HCSB — 7+ (ages 12+)
The Voice — 6+ (ages 11+)
NLT — 6+ (ages 11+)
CEV — 5+ (ages 10+)
GW — 5+ (ages 10+)
The Message — 4+ (ages 9+)
Living — 4+ (ages 9+)
ERV — 4+ (ages 9+)
NCV — 3+ (ages 7+)
ICB — 3+ (ages 7+)
NIrV — 3+ (ages 7+)

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.