Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit - Kindness - September 27, 2015

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

Mark Twain once stated that ... Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. King Solomon said simply and poignantly in Proverbs 19:22 (New American Standard Version) that ... What is desirable in a man is his kindness ... . The wisdom of these two men concur in that kindness is most evident when it is present, and when its not, is equally evident in its absence. As all the fruits of the Spirit are grounded and based in love, so kindness is oftentimes the direct manifestation as love gets "acted out". The other eight fruits of the Spirit are often more positional, meaning that they are evident within a human soul by simply the in-working of His presence. We are full of love, because God dwells within us and He is love. We are full of joy because God is full of joy. However, kindness is often conditional and can be measured more so by "acts" toward others. Certainly, all the fruits of the Spirit can be both positional and conditional, but as we will see kindness is often the hallmark manifestation of its fellow fruits and most demonstrably by love. While the word "kindness" is found only 44 times in the bible (New American Standard Bible), the word "lovingkindness" is found 182 times, denoting the conditional outworking of kindness from the positional fruit of love. Kindness is simply the outworking of the nature of God's love in all instances.

"Acts of kindness" appear every day all around us. All are noteworthy and important to sustain a balance of love on this planet we call Earth. The Law of Reciprocity, which many believe to be a universal law, states that what we give we will get back in return. Those of us who believe in God and Jesus Christ know that ... whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap. With a belief and an understanding of this immutable law, it is important for all humankind to look beyond themselves and extend kindness to others. However, being kind to others can have its roots in humanism and new age beliefs and also diametrically rooted in the fruit of God's Spirit. One will have a temporal, time-bound result while the other is eternal and everlasting. It all has to do with whose nature one is operating from -- God's nature or that of the unregenerate, fallen nature of those who don't know Christ as their Savior. Peter talks specifically about operating from the Divine Nature in II Peter 1:4-8. He begins by stating that those who know Christ have become partakers of Christ's Nature. With that Godly Nature, Peter exhorts the churches in Asia to both "apply" and "supply". As Jesus Christ's gift to all humankind was His Divine Nature, it is our responsibility and duty to make sure it is manifested throughout our lives. Peter states in verses 5 through 7 that you who have accepted God's gracious gift should be ... applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. As stated, diligence is the only thing that should be applied, and we should then supply the remainder from His Nature He has bestowed. Peter hits a crescendo by finishing with love which of course is the main driver for all the fruits of the Spirit. Brotherly kindness is tied directly to love, for without the out-working of this potent fruit there is a lack of validation of true love. Love should always be tied inseparably to kindness as it manifests its way. Peter goes on to say in verse 8: For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle knew that to be growing in all the fruits of the Spirit, especially brotherly kindness in love was "true knowledge", not the knowledge of this world that would seek to imitate that of the Divine Nature.

As previously stated, kindness can be recognized daily in numerous instances. However, where there is genuine, sincere kindness that is borne from above, there is ALWAYS a counterfeit that Satan conjures up to mimic that which is of God. If the devil can get folks interested in being kind and benevolent to others, devoid of having accepted Christ and being rooted in the Divine Nature, then he has succeeded in masquerading kindness to appear to be godly. Without a doubt, there will be many on that last day when standing before the Lord who will say "Lord, were we not great philanthropists and did we not give all of our time and money to charity to help others?" He will say on that day to many of these, "Depart from Me, for I never KNEW you." Jesus is not interested in people giving of themselves unless they first accept that He GAVE everything in the greatest act of kindness the world has ever known. That supreme act of love and generosity is being patiently worked out daily as God woos the lost to accept His free gift. Paul wrote in Romans 2:4Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? Beloved, before we can be kind or before we can be loving, we must first accept Him and allow His Divine Nature to live through us. Otherwise, it means very little in our temporal states and NOTHING for eternity. Sure, if someone does not know the Lord and is kind to another individual, they will enjoy a brief moment of affirmation. They might even experience good things happening in their lives due to their generosity and kindness in others, due to the Law of Reciprocity. However, as Paul stated by the Holy Spirit in I Corinthians 13:3And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Paul speaks of the kindness and love that only come from that Divine Impartation, for without His kindness motivating us to help others it is futile and of no lasting value.

Jesus taught a remarkable lesson in His parable regarding the tares and the wheat. In this life lesson, Jesus reveals how "good and religious persons" might look in comparison to those born of His Spirit and producing the fruit therein (Matthew 13:24-30). According to the parable, an enemy planted tares amongst the wheat of a landowner. The tares, or the "counterfeit" wheat did not become evident until they had grown side by side with the wheat for some time. (Tares have a remarkably similar plant structure, and are not easily identifiable except by those who know the difference until they reach maturity.) Rather than pulling up the tares, the landowner told his servants to let them both grow until the harvest and then the tares would be thrown into the fire. Beloved, there are many nice, kind-hearted people all around us that are doing seemingly wonderful acts of kindness, yet they are counterfeits in the eyes of God if they have not given their lives to Jesus and are not living in His nature. There will be a time and a day when we all stand before God to give an account of our lives. Many will seek to justify themselves BY their "acts" or their deeds. Jesus Christ will be attesting to those who loved Him and served Him by the acts that they did THROUGH Him. The only difference between the genuine and the counterfeit boils down to relationship. What is the motivating power behind the acts of kindness we demonstrate? If it is not motivated through His nature it amounts to nothing other than selfish, earthly interest that has a temporal lifespan. However, if our acts of kindness are born through a Divine relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, they will last forever having been born out of the eternal source, God Himself!

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your kindness in that while we were yet sinners, You died for us. Let us go forth as ambassadors of your love and kindness to a dying world. In Your Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit - Patience - September 20, 2015

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

Patience is often misunderstood in the carnal, fleshly mind. What many believers regard as the fruit of patience is often a reluctant tolerance toward something or someone that is in reality irksome to them in the present moment. Some might judge their level of patience by how well they can handle rush hour traffic when the guy in the next lane swerves in front of them without a turn signal or even the slightest notion of intent a moment sooner. Those who don't lay on the horn will probably judge themselves as patient and loving, able to turn the other cheek. At least this time. The same set of circumstances the next night might reveal totally different behavior. A new day of life situations may be setting up this seemingly patient fellow from the evening before into a predictable tizzy. The following morning (after his "gracious" behavior) he found out that his proposal for the new contract would need more work, according to his boss. Later, he can't find a set of keys for the storeroom that he borrowed from a co-worker. Not to mention his computer (that IT said they had fixed) crashed twice today, thereby losing three hours of work time trying to restore his system. Now, as he tries to hurry to the house so that he can get changed and head to his son's baseball game, some guy tries to "steal home" by cutting him off. This time, he has had it and lays on the horn. Then it hits him. It was the same circumstance as the night before. What had changed?

The truth is ... nothing had changed. This normal, usually good-natured, even-keeled person was merely revealing his own character. To the same degree that one might be surprised at these times of impatience which demonstrably manifests themselves, in the same token a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ might be equally taken aback when these moments display the very opposite. Most of us are familiar with I Corinthians 13 which is known as the Love Chapter. In verse 4, Paul begins listing a number of descriptions equating with love. He first mentions Love is patient. We know from I John 4:8 that God is Love. His very nature is love, as is His nature the embodiment of patience. God has no other way to react to any given situation rather than in patient love. Anything less would be selfish impatience, which carnal, fleshly humans manifest with ease since this is a natural out-working of the sin nature. However, a believer that is growing and maturing in the Lord and bearing fruit in some of the most unlikely places will begin to demonstrate a patience beyond anything that they themselves could contrive. The Lord Jesus Christ always showed perfect patience toward all humankind, because He was perfect love made manifest in mortal flesh. To live like Jesus on this earth would mean to display a patience that would typify the examples that Christ gave on the Sermon on the Mount. Does someone want your shirt? Give him your coat also! Did he strike you across the cheek, or did he rather hit you full-fisted? Give him the other cheek to strike also! Not only does this display divine love but it shows the patience of God at work -- knowing that He is the one who rewards both the righteous and the wicked. It is not our place to be patient with some and not with others. God will sort out the victors and the villains, the righteous and the wretched in the end. He just told us to be patient with all.

Before we can be patient and loving toward humankind, God allows us to learn from Him and His nature regarding patience. A dear friend of mine lay paralyzed from the neck down for 33 years before the Lord took him home. Pat was injured in a high school football game that would leave him many times in a fight for his life during these years of paralysis. Through the years, this patient man never lost hope that God would someday heal him. That was not to happen in this lifetime. However, through his endurance Pat learned how to be an incredibly patient, loving friend to all those around him. He learned love through his long-suffering, thereby passing on this depth of character he had learned to many others. Patrick had a special love for young people and with his loving, nurturing ways was able to steer many a wayward teen back on the right path. His patient soul spoke volumes to these who needed a caring ear to listen and to understand which inevitably provided them an anchor to hold fast during the storm which soon passed as they matured. Redemption is always waiting for those who will but wait for the Lord. For Pat, it came in May 2007 when the Lord called him home.

As Pat endured his hardship for more than 30 years, he would sometimes reflect on biblical characters such as Abraham who waited on the promise of God. This patriarch believed God, with the patient love from the Father, that His promises would be fulfilled. Furthermore, Abraham believed God was able to provide him an heir and patiently waited for another 15 years for God to perform this miraculous feat through his aged body of 100 years and that of his wife Sarah's of 90 years (Romans 4:18-25). Through the apparent deadness of their own bodies, God was able to bring forth life. Another was Job, who in his seemingly hopeless state where all of his offspring, livestock, and possessions were taken from him despaired not but patiently waited for God to vindicate him. Even in his plagued state of mind and body, he refused to subject his situation to selfish impatience. He knew whom he had put his trust in and would not falter in his trust toward the Lord. It is a spiritual axiom that out of death, sickness, and weakness, God can and does bring life, health, and strength. However, It is not always how we might imagine. Abraham imagined that God would make a great nation from his seed, Ishmael, whom Sarah's maid Hagar bore him yet it was through Isaac the blessing would come. Job despaired of life and thought he was ruined, yet God brought abundance once again to him by giving him greater wealth including more sons and daughters (James 5:11). Pat never realized that he was actually waiting for his own death to be complete once again in the new life. Through the last few years of his life there was a resignation to the will of God, and a patient attitude no matter what the outcome might be.

Impatience is a lack of love and an attitude of mistrust toward God and the final outcome of His dealings in our lives. No matter if it is waiting on traffic or waiting on healing from paralysis, God is to be patiently trusted in all circumstances. Once we get past our own selfish desires to understand and orchestrate our lives, then God can take over as we patiently surrender. Just as patience is synonymous with love, so does God desire for us to love Him and wait patiently for His deliverance in every situation of our lives. Love IS patient -- just as God is love and is patiently shaping us in to vessels of honor that He can us for His Glory!

Lord, who hast suffer'd all for me,
My peace and pardon to procure,
The lighter cross I bear for Thee,
Help me with patience to endure.

- Prayer for Patience - William Cowper -

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit - Peace - September 13, 2015

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

Aristotle ironically stated ... we make war that we may live in peace. I will take it a step further and say that without conflict there cannot be true lasting peace. Just as light must have darkness to juxtapose both dark and light qualities, respectively, so too must peace have conflict to reveal its true character. In the greatest conflict and victory in the annals of human history, Jesus Christ became our peace by destroying the enmity between God and us, namely sin (Ephesians 2:14-15). He made war on transgressions by becoming sin for humankind's sake when He was nailed to the cross, and then by dying to sin once and for all. Once raised into newness of life, he reigned victorious over sin establishing eternal peace for us all to dwell in. God is not a respecter of persons -- this is His gift to all humankind. As Paul states in Philippians 4:7 through the Holy Spirit: And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. The only prerequisite to share in this peace is to be "in Christ Jesus". Without His indwelling presence, there is no true peace (Isaiah 48:22).

Paul shows us a sometimes overlooked characteristic of peace in this passage, namely that it "surpasses all comprehension". If Christ's peace is beyond comprehension, then it certainly would be impossible to adequately describe. However, while we may not grasp the fullness of God's peace, we can understand it through the character of Jesus and the early disciples. Furthermore, the truest examples we have of peace in the scripture are in the midst of intense conflict. As aforementioned, the greatest example of peace portrayed was in the passion of our Lord's scourging and crucifixion. Throughout this horrendous and barbarous affair, the Lord Jesus displayed perfect peace in the face of a demonically-inspired attack, both physically and spiritually. From His nature flowed peace and assuredness that His Heavenly Father would not forsake Him, but would accomplish through Him all that He intended regarding humankind's redemption. Isaiah 53:7 states that the Suffering Servant, Jesus the Messiah did not open His mouth but like a sheep being led away to the slaughter, He humbly gave Himself up for our sins. As the devil directed all his hate and discord toward the Lord Jesus, the Son of God demonstrated the fruit of peace as He humbly submitted Himself to God. (It is important to remember that Jesus never submitted Himself to man's wishes and desires, but only to God's. He knew that perfect submission to His Father meant that man had no power over him.)

The early church offers many examples regarding conflict and the subsequent out-flowing of peace. Peter knew and understood the shalom of God as he waited in prison to be brought forth before Herod. From the scripture in Act 12, it is clear to see that Peter had submitted himself to God in the midst of this conflict. Verse 6 states that the apostle was so much at peace that he was actually sleeping between his guards! This passage tells us that Peter is miraculously rescued from the clutches of Herod that night by an angel who leads him out of the prison. Peter of the book of Acts is a different person than that of the gospels. This man was once an unpredictable, impetuous and sanguine character that would often speak inadvertently at just the wrong times and would then act with foolish zeal as with attacking the high priest's servant. After Pentecost, we see a man that is sure of himself because he is sure of the One who leads and guides his life. Peter had become a living testimony of the Person of Jesus Christ and the embodiment of peace within. Paul and Silas were a couple of others incarcerated for the testimony of Jesus. Did they fret when those in Philippi committed them to the inner prison? No, they sang spiritual songs and hymns, testifying of the Lord's goodness and faithfulness (Acts 16:25). They understood that their submission was not to the Philippian jailer or to the Roman officials, but that their lives were submitted to Him who was peace in the midst of their conflict. As with Peter, God miraculously delivered Paul and Silas as they bore the righteous fruit of peace in the midst of a dire situation fraught with danger.

A more recent and notable example of peace that passes all comprehension is the story of Horatio Spafford. Wikipedia gives us a summary of how this bereaved man wrote one of the most endearing hymns out of tragic loss and conflict of soul:

This hymn [It is Well With My Soul] was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the S.S. Ville Du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with another ship, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone." Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.
Horatio Spafford is just another example of someone that went through a tumultuous conflict of supreme loss yet yielded the fruit of peace as a gift back to the Lord Jesus. Just as Peter, Paul and Silas experienced their respective "Calvary's" complete with repeated conflicts and humiliations, so did they also experience their subsequent "Pentecost's" overflowing with the power to live in a peace that confounded their attackers. While the fruit of peace may be something that is beyond comprehension or description, it is notably understood and marveled upon once it is yielded up from broken vessels such as these examples. The peace which comes from this type of brokenness and conflict of soul is eternal and will stand the test of time. It is the very peace that He Himself became for us as He entrusted Himself to the One who was His shalom -- the Perfect Peace from above.

Our Lord and Savior, thank you that you are our Peace. Thank you for the ultimate conflict that you endured. By enduring the cross, you won the victory for us. And with that victory, we are living in the peace of your Holy Spirit for all time and eternity. We rejoice in it and give you all the glory as you confound the wise of this world with a peace that defies comprehension. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit - Joy - September 6, 2015

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

True joy is unmistakable. I'm not talking about the emotion created from a joyous experience or a feeling of happiness created by any given situation. I am speaking of the source from which this state of well-being derives. When the source of a supposed joyous or happy state is convoluted or temporal, then the natural result will be a temporal emotion that will quickly disappear. Often, folks will buy something such as a new car and feel a sense of elation and happiness for a season. However, in a short time, this elation dissipates -- usually about as long as it takes the new car smell to disappear. Then, all folks are left with are the monthly payments. Conversely, when joy springs from the Eternal Source, then it is never ending and permanent. Just as love does not originate through expression but through identification with the God of Love, in the same way we find the remaining fruits of the Spirit are first to be received and drawn upon through His person, and then expressed through our own characters as He wills.

Psalm 16:11 in the New American Standard Bible describes the perfect plan to live in the totality of God's joy at all times. David spoke through the Holy Spirit in this passage stating: ... In Your presence, there is fullness of joy ... . One might rightly say, "How does one continue ALWAYS in the presence of God where this fullness dwells? In reality, few find that place. It is important to note, however, that David speaks regarding "fullness" with the implication that the joy of the Lord is to be enjoyed on a daily basis in one degree or another. Those who truly know the Lord should never languish long in their own doubts and despair, but should return to their Maker who gives an endless supply of joy. Many godly saints throughout the ages having found this place of pure joy in His presence refer to it as the secret place of the Most High. Consistently, these humble men and women of God state that their lives were caught up for years and years in the art of practicing putting themselves back into God's presence whenever they felt His absence. It is an act of will that is demonstrated by a loving desire to always be with Him. The Song of Solomon 3:1-4 is an exquisite example of how the bridegroom has departed and the bride’s frantic search for her beloved. By her continual searching, she finally finds him again and will not let him out of her grasp. This is the type of joy expressed once we find the true Lover of our souls. By practicing holy behavior before our holy Lord and refusing to be denied access into His presence, we can and will live in that place that is complete with ... joy inexpressible and full of glory (I Peter 1:8).

An extraordinary example of someone who lived in this fully surrendered state of joy was a French monk of the17th century, Brother Lawrence. A collection of his letters and conversations were published after his death which quickly became a testimony of one who continually dwelt in the presence of the Lord and experienced unfathomable joy. (This small booklet, entitled The Practice of the Presence of God is available as a free download.) There are few books that have touched my inner man as this one. Lawrence was an unassuming man that found the secret place of intimate prayer; whether it was during devotionals or during his menial duties in the monastery kitchen. However, there was a time in his early pilgrimage toward God when he struggled to even understand that he was truly saved. Brother Lawrence writes about his conversion below and his consequential joyous existence:

Finally he reasoned: I did not engage in a religious life but for the love of God. I have endeavored to act only for Him. Whatever becomes of me, whether I be lost or saved, I will always continue to act purely for the love of God. I shall have this good at least that until death I shall have done all that is in me to love Him. From that time on Brother Lawrence lived his life in perfect liberty and continual joy. He placed his sins between himself and God and told Him that he did not deserve His favors, yet God still continued to bestow them in abundance.
In Lawrence's fourth letter, we find a matured, loving, joyful monk. His joy, he states, would become so rapturous at times that he would have to conceal it unless others might not understand.


He is now so accustomed to that divine presence that he receives from God continual comfort and peace. For about thirty years his soul has been filled with joy and delight so continual, and sometimes so great, that he is forced to find ways to hide their appearing outwardly to others who may not understand.
Brother Lawrence had learned the secret of dwelling in the shadow of the Most High and drawing upon the safety, security, and awesome strength of living always in the Lord's presence. Like Lawrence, the word of God gives us examples such as Nehemiah who understood that joy was not a place of weakness but it was empowering. It allows all those who choose to dwell in His shelter an unlimited source of power and strength to overcome any and all obstacles. The displaced cupbearer to the king, now wall-builder of Jerusalem, proclaimed to those Israelites returning from captivity in Babylon that they should not be grieved or stricken with any sadness or fear because ... the joy of the Lord is their strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Understanding the source of this strength did not give them a sense of arrogance or invulnerability, but it allowed them to understand Who was truly watching over and protecting them from their enemies. Paul was another who tells us in Ephesians 5:18 not to be drunk with wine (which gives a false sense of bravado and invulnerability), but to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we are filled up and overflowing with His presence in our lives, then His strength and power are truly perfected. With this new found strength, the direct bi-product created by the joy of His presence, one is brought to a new place of humility. One only has to look at the life of Moses, the most humble man who ever lived yet one who lived in the light of His presence for forty years in the wilderness [Numbers 12:3]). Biblical history, as well as more contemporary times are filled with examples of those who gave up all to live in His presence -- to be empowered with His strength to live a holy, exhilarating life continually in the presence of the Most High God. God is not a respecter of persons and desires for us all to come into His presence and to be bathed with his joyous strength. Only as we continue to practice His presence in our lives, will we then be joyous participants of His rapturous delights that He daily sets before us.


Lord, that we may live in your presence, not only one day in glory, but even now -- here upon this earth. For in your presence is fullness of joy and life inexpressible. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick