A Fruitful Year

With the beginning of a new year there’s a lot of talk about what we all want to do differently or how we want to have a better year than previous years. Those are great things to think about, but more than just the things you’re going to do, what about who you’re going to be this year? What changes are you going to make in your heart, mind and soul this year? What changes and experiences will God bring you through to help you grow and bring you closer to becoming the person He’s created you to be? I think a great starting point for who we’re going to be this year is Galatians 5:22-23a:

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

One of the best changes you can make in your life and goals to have is to become a more loving, joyful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and/or self-controlled person because this will overflow into other areas of your life improving them as well. You’ll have better relationships, improved self-esteem, a better attitude and deeper connection with God when you make the Fruit of the Spirit an active part of your life. Yes, it’s great to work on improving your finances, getting a better job/career, having a healthier relationship, losing weight or spending more time doing the things you love, which is what many people choose as their resolutions, but they’re all directly impacted by other people and the world around us. While the Fruit of the Spirit are things that you work on in your life, without needing any agreement, support, allowance or input from anyone else.

You can choose to work on them all at the same time, pick one to focus on all year, work on one each month, or pick one out of a hat or box each day to work on that day. Plus, there are lots of great devotionals that you can read throughout the year as well to support you in learning about and growing in these Fruit. Will you join me in incorporating the Fruit of the Spirit into your life this year?


The Choice of Unity

As we think about this month’s topic of help and of all that is going on around the US and the world, today I want to take a minute to talk about the topic of unity. It’s where people come together over something that essentially erases barriers. It’s when people who are rich and poor are both affected by a flood. It’s when people who are of multiple spiritual practices come together to say a prayer for healing in a city after a violent attack. It’s even when kids of various cultures, races, and sexes come together to play on a playground before school. Unity doesn’t mean that the differences don’t exist, it means that they’re ignored for a reason and/or for a time.

The Bible is interesting because there were some pretty clear divisions in the early books, but after the birth and death of Jesus some things changed. Take a look at these passages from Ephesians and Galatians:

“So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.” Ephesians 2:19

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

What became clear after Jesus death, and what Jesus emphasized through His ministry, is that faith is more important than your heritage, your race, your political beliefs, your economic status or where you call home. Being different is the way God made us, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t focus more on the things that bring us together, and the things that God has called us to, than the things that would separate us.

This week I encourage you to look for and encourage opportunities of unity, opportunities to work together and help each other. If we want to see more unity and more teamwork in the world, that has to be our focus instead of our differences.

Creating a Habit of Love

This month as we talk about the topic of freedom I thought we would start with a great verse from Galatians. Galatians 5:13 says “Use your freedom to serve one another in love.”

We’ve got a lot of choices that we have to make as we navigate through each day of our lives. Sometimes we make choices because we’re tired or frustrated or annoyed or we don’t like someone or someone was mean to us. In those cases we are known to make some snap judgments and say things that we may not necessarily mean. Yes, there are things we can do to reduce those issues and increase our freedoms, and we’ll talk about that in another post. But the question is if there’s one thing, one habit, that we can take on that will make our lives and choices better what would it be? Galatians reminds us that it’s love.

Love is a persistent theme throughout the Bible. It’s not something that the Bible is shy about or paints as one dimensional. In fact the Bible can be pretty graphic about it, certainly so for a book that’s read by kids and adults alike. And while the Bible may not offer specific advice about certain situations we find ourselves in some 2000+ years after it was written, I can confidently say that there are a few things that haven’t and won’t change, including Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection which forever changed the futures of all who believe, and the importance of love in our lives.

If you’re looking for a little freedom in your life, for your life to start improving, for your relationships to get better, or even for a way to serve God more, I would encourage you to work on creating a habit of love in your life. It’s not something you’re able to get overnight like you can get a t-shirt or other special delivery, it’s something that you have to work on developing through changes and commitments in your attitude, heart, and mind. Not only will you benefit from choosing love in your life, so will the others you interact with. Will you choose love this week?

Supporting Each Other

This week I’ve been thinking again about my place in this world, and yours too. It’s challenged me to really consider who I am, what I’m good at, why I’m here and how my imperfections work into all of it.  If you can’t admit that you struggled with something this week, shame on you.  Unless you buried your head in the sand for the whole week, I know that you’ve been challenged by something this week.  I’ve really been challenged by how much I can’t do.  I’m OK with it, but at the same time, not being able to excel at everything gets to me occasionally.  If I’ve had a particularly bad day lists of my faults and failures can parade through my mind without my permission.   Maybe you’ve dealt with some of these insecurities too.

These struggles really reminded me why it’s so important that we let others in our lives, that we not try to get through this life alone, that we make the effort to build relationships and support those we come in contact with.  Often it’s those relationships and those other people that challenge us the most, but they also make life the most rewarding.  So how do we get past the challenges and let others into our lives, let others take control in areas that we’re not so strong or capable in and they are?

First, I think we have to be humble and admit that we aren’t alone in the world and need others. It’s not easy to admit that you have weaknesses, especially if you have an image with someone.  But opening up and admitting that you’re not perfect creates an opportunity for you to grow a deeper relationship with them.

Second, Galatians 5:22 says “But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.”  When we choose to enter into relationships, and sustain relationships, with the fruit of the spirit, not only will we pave the way for a satisfying relationship on our end, the other person will benefit too.

Finally, find the point of reference, point of unity, or common ground you two have.  Everyone has something in common.  It may take a while to discover it, but it’s there.  For many people, a common point of interest is faith, especially faith in Christ.

Our relationships should make us stronger because they force us to work together, make us learn how to work together, and to learn how to communicate what we need and want.  This week I encourage you to be honest with yourself and the people who matter most to you in life about what’s going on in your life, where you stand and what you need.  Most people would be thrilled to step up to the plate for you and give you a hand if you would just ask.

Changes for Easter

Easter was yesterday and as has happened in past years the weather was a little more drab and dark.  It doesn’t always feel like Easter when it’s not warm and the sun is shining, but with it as early as it was this year, despite spring being early itself, it’s not surprising it wasn’t really warm or sunny yesterday.  Easter is always to me a festive occasion, Christmas is more of a quiet celebration, while Easter is bigger and more of a cheerful celebration, especially since it’s after Good Friday.

Easter is all about new life.  If you attended church or watched a service online the pastor probably encouraged you to look for the areas of your life where you need to make changes and encourage new growth.  There are lots of ways to encourage new growth in your life, but with growth of any kind usually comes change.  So I was thinking about how we could make the transition to new life and new growth through the necessary changes a little easier and Galatians 5:22-23 came to mind:

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

It’s not easy to make big changes in your life like jobs, relationships or location, so what if we started with something a little less involved but no less challenging: changing our attitude and how we treat others.  It’s not easy to look at people you’ve known for a long time in a new light, nor is it easy to not fall into old habits and rhythms. But God challenges us to let the Holy Spirit guide us into better relationships and better hearts.

So what will your choice be after this Easter?  Will you choose to start turning over a few new leaves in your life?

Hope to Push On

We’ve reached the second month in 2015 and I know that already many people are feeling tired and worn out. Yes, some of that’s due to it being winter here in the US, seasonal affective disorder affects millions of people every year. But your struggle with feeling tired and worn out could also have to do with your hope or lack thereof. It’s not easy to continue on day in and day out doing good in the world, helping others, offering advice and trying to meet all of your commitments and responsibilities with all the evil and hate we see everywhere we look.

If you’re struggling as we enter this new month know that you’re not alone. There are just some days that you feel like throwing in the towel and giving up. When I get in that position I try to remind myself of what I’m working for and why I want to keep going.

Don’t give up because God is with you.
Don’t give up because you’re not alone.
Don’t give up because I believe in you.
Don’t give up because there are future generations depending on you.
Don’t give up because all is not lost, all is not wasted.
Don’t give up because there is still hope.

The fight is not over yet, the future has yet to arrive, and every day even more people are joining in the fight for a better tomorrow. God has surrounded you literally or figuratively with a powerful team, a group of people who will support you, who have the same mission as you, who believe that there is a better future to be had, and that each of us is capable of playing a key role in developing that better tomorrow.

Don’t give up if today is not a good day, rest in God, get support from friends and believe that tomorrow can and will be a better day.

“We must not get tired of doing good. We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time. We must not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Lessons from 2014

We’ve reached the end of another year. Today’s the last day of 2015. I can’t believe it’s already been 365 days since we started this year and now we’re just about to step into a new one. It’s scary and exhilarating all in one. I wanted to finish the year today with where I started the year, Galatians 5:22-23:

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

This year we’ve looked at these fruit and forgiveness, compassion, and thankfulness as well. I’ve learned a lot this year, and if you’re on my newsletters you read a couple things I learned already. But the lesson I wanted to share with you today was one of faith and trust. I have a long way to go on both of those things, probably a lifetime, but this year I learned that I should trust myself, that I should believe in myself, and how important it is to surround yourself with people you believe in and trust.

We’ve seen a lot of upheaval and unrest around the world from missing or downed airliners to people rioting and fighting, the world is an unsettled and confusing place and it’s hard to find the line between right and wrong sometimes. But Galatians 5 reminds us of 9 things that are right and will always be right. Love is always the answer. Peace is beyond all our understanding. Kindness can do what words can’t. Self-control can transform the world. Joy is such a treasure. And there isn’t a price you can put on forgiveness.

It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not, but we can look to these foundational principles and find some guidance to how we should live our lives. 2015 will bring some new things, shake up some old and reinforce others. What has 2014 been for you and what will 2015 be for you, what will you make of it?