Monthly Archives: December 2016

No Choice

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“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” John 15:16-17

Jesus chose to love us and die for us as individuals.  Without Him, we would have no choice and no purpose at all! Our lives would be meaningless.  Amazingly, He chose us to be His friends (you will find this earlier in the same chapter) and for an important reason, to bear fruit, the fruit of love.  This is the harvest that will abide or last.

“Love never ends”  1 Corinthians 13:8

The worldly fruit we produce (money, knowledge, power, influence) is transient.  The fruit of love is eternal.  Like so many other topics the Lutheran Ladies have discussed this year, it all comes back to love.

The lesson?  Invest your time, talent and energy in the best fruit, the fruit that will last.  Cultivate love and give the harvest away.  That’s what the Christian life is about.

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Have a Little Faith

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FAITH

In listing faith among the fruits of the Spirit, Paul obviously does not mean faith in Christ, but faith in men. Such faith is not suspicious of people but believes the best. Naturally the possessor of such faith will be deceived, but he lets it pass. He is ready to believe all men, but he will not trust all men. Where this virtue is lacking men are suspicious, forward, and wayward and will believe nothing nor yield to anybody. No matter how well a person says or does anything, they will find fault with it, and if you do not humor them you can never please them. It is quite impossible to get along with them. Such faith in people therefore, is quite necessary. What kind of life would this be if one person could not believe another person?

The quote above is from Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians.   It reminds me once more of the “love” verses in 1 Corinthians.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:7)

When we love others, we  believe in them.  We think the best of them.  We want the best for them.  This doesn’t comes naturally (there go the works of the flesh rearing their heads again!).  It is so much easier to criticize, to envy and be distrustful.  This kind of faith requires taking a risk.  It requires humility.  It requires sacrifice and putting the other person first.

Sometimes our faith in others will be disappointed, but often it will be rewarded.  It will make both parties better people.  Be a faithful friend, spouse, parent, neighbor — you may change somebody’s life, and you will surely change your own.

Pruning

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

Well, it’s past time I chimed in and put my thoughts in on this month’s theme.  I try to help out as much as I can, but with everything going on…  it’s just hard.

So my question would be this:  How many of you felt or had the fruit of the spirit during the Christmas Holiday?  How many of you felt that, perhaps, you failed?  Join the club.

Just a little farming information:  Did you know that fruit trees need to be pruned yearly?  Let me take some pruning advice from The Modern Farmer:  “Within a few years of lovingly planting fruit trees, most folks find themselves with scraggly overgrown bushes, rather than the Garden of Eden they had envisioned. The key to keeping fruit trees attractive and productive is annual pruning.”

So, if the Lord wants fruit out of us, He has to prune.  Ouch!!  We don’t just sprout out of the ground and have all the Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control down pat.  No.  We don’t grow all that stuff, we’re human.  However, the Lord will prune, and prune, and prune.  Go to the link above and see what pruning is all about.  If I think about it in a spiritual sense then I hurt all over.

Under the “Clean-Up” heading it talks about clipping off all the dead limbs and the “suckers” at the bottom of the tree and the “watersprouts” that grow straight up beside the main trunk.  Then it says “With all these clean-up cuts, it’s important to prune the branches back flush to the larger limb they’re growing from — don’t leave little stubs.”  Back to the larger branch.  No stubs for us!!

Then there is the “Thinning” and I don’t mean of the physical body!!  (Don’t we all wish???) Anyway, back to the Modern Farmer: “The goal of thinning is to allow light and air into the canopy, which boosts fruit production and reduces problems with pests and disease.”  OK!!  Light and air.  Love that, letting the Lord with his Light shine more into my life!!  But it’s got to hurt while those snippers are going to it…..

OK, step three just freaks me out.  That’s the “Haircut” as they call it on the website.  Just snipping away with clippers all over.  Here is their reason: “The idea is to prune back the outermost growth of the tree so the branches become shorter and thicker as they grow, rather than long and gangly. This keeps them from snapping under the weight of the fruit, but pomologists (fruit scientists) will tell you that it also causes the tree’s hormones to activate growth lower in the canopy, making for smaller, more fruitful trees.”  Yup, just to make us stronger.

I’ve always thought of hardships in my life as being pruned.  You have to submit, you have to walk through it to reap the benefits later.  I’ve walked through a lot in my life, an alcoholic father, my mother getting sick and turning into a vegetable, a husband with COPD and brain cancer.  I’ve walked through it.  The Lord never left me, although I was really mad about my mom.  I still have things (or issues) I have to walk through and trust the Lord to help me deal with them.  Life isn’t easy.  The Lord never said it would be.  I’ll close with one of my favorite bible verses:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Famous Christmas Carols – Story Behind the Carol – “O Come All Ye Faithful”

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Another story behind the story of a carol mentioning the fruit of faith and joy.

Jlue's Weblog

“O Come All Ye Faithful”was written by John Francis Wade. Wade was said to have written the song in 1743 and to have based the song on the Bible passage Luke 2:15-16. It was first known as “Adeste Fideles.”

Verses 1-3 and verse 6 were translated from Latin to English by Frederick Oakeley in 1841 while verses 4 and 5 were translated by William Thomas Brooke (1848-1917).

While there has been some controversy surrounding the authorship of the song, the beauty of the melody, along with the worshipful and meaningful words have blessed many over the years.

“O Come All Ye Faithful”

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;

Refrain

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the…

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The Joy of Heaven – Martin Luther

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A Luther quote that seems appropriate to the season and our theme!

Christmas Quotes

Good news from heaven the angels
bring,
Glad tidings to the earth they sing:
To us this day a child is given,
To crown us with the joy of heaven.
– Martin Luther

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Why Are You Joyful?

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“…there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord.'” Luke 2:8-12

Our sermon at the Christmas service last night was called, “Something to Celebrate.”  When we’re filled with joy, we want to celebrate, but what inspires this joyful spirit?

Some are joyful in anticipation of giving or getting the perfect gift.  What is it your heart desire?  The latest electronic gadget?  Clothing with the most popular designer label? Or maybe that special gift is something very practical, something needed but out of reach financially.  I remember the year our younger daughter gave her sister her old car when she purchased a new one.  This was a generous gift of the heart, that helped the rest of the family out tremendously.

Some are joyful at the prospect of getting together with friends and family, maybe some folks they rarely see during the year.  Yesterday my daughter, granddaughter, two of my siblings and two nephews spent some time visiting with my mother, who has dementia and Parkensen’s.  The joy in her eyes was apparent as she smiled at us.

Others are filled with joy in following the many traditions of their family, church, or community.  Singing particular carols, attending the candlelight service, baking fruitcakes and cookies, decorating the tree:  all these things bring joyful memories to mind.

If we’re honest quite a few of us are joyful when the visiting is done, the decorations are put away, the presents unwrapped, the cookies baked and eaten, and we can go back to “normal” life and get some rest.

Amidst all the Christmas trappings, the glitter and the glitz, the generosity and the greed, the hospitality and the stress, we need to take time to remember the true source of our joy.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Now that’s cause for joy in every season!

 

 

Fruitful Gifts

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“Love is patient and kind;  love does not envy or boast;  it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on it’s own way;  it is not irritable or resentful;   it does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

You’ve probably heard these verses many times before.  1 Corinthians is known as the “love chapter” (my Bible titles it The Way of Love) and it is often read at weddings.  However, placed in its context, Paul is speaking these words to the Christian community and it follows a description of spiritual gifts.

It is certainly good advice about how to behave towards our spouse, but it is much more than that.  These verses tell us how we should behave as part of the church.  Love is the “greatest” gift and the one that will remain when all our works have ceased. Love is not just what we do, it is who we are.  Notice that love also encompasses the fruit of the spirit:  patience, kindness, self-control, joy.

Paul goes on to tell the Corinthians at the end of chapter 13 and in chapter 14 that love is an indication of spiritual maturity.  He advises us to put away childish things (13:11) and be mature in our thinking (14: 20).

So “pursue love” (14:1) and “strive to excel in building up the church.”(14:12).  The fruit of the spirit will follow and will be a blessing to you and to others.

God loves you and so do I!

How to Bear Fruit

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“Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in me, and I in him,  he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:4-5

Jesus is speaking to the disciples here, and his words are clear.  To be fruitful, they must abide, or remain in Him.  He compares the Christian life to a vine which will wither and die if it is separated from the root.  The fruit of the spirit flows from a life that is rooted in Christ.  The disciples could not do it on their own, and neither can we.

How do we stay connected to Christ?  It’s simple.

  • Stay in His word.  Read it daily.  Study it.  Memorize it.  Think about it.  Respond to it.
  • Stay in prayer.  Prayer is our lifeline, our personal connection to Him.  Pray first, last and always.  Pray to ask, and pray to listen.
  • Stay with His people.  Go to church.  Offer hospitality.  Encourage one another.  Love one another.

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”  John 15:8

Increasing the Fruit

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“…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  2 Peter 1:5-8

No farmer is satisfied with a poor harvest.  He works to increase the yield and quality of his crops.  As Christians, we should also want to grow in our faith and understanding of Jesus Christ.  The verses above tell us how.

To grow in Christ, we need to “supplement” our faith by practicing Christian virtues:  the fruit of the spirit.  This requires discipline, or self-control.  I mentioned in a previous post that our default position is sin which leads to the “bad” fruits–anger, jealousy, dissensions, lust, etc..  I find in my own life, these kinds of emotions rear their heads quickly, especially when I feel criticized, humiliated, irritated or ignored.  It takes a little holding back to avoid giving in to them.  However, the effort is worthwhile.  When I yield to sin by becoming angry, confrontational or self righteous, a bad situation escalates and becomes even more sinful.  On the other hand, pressing the “reset” button and remembering to be kind, gentle, loving,  and patient defuses the problem and leads to peace and joy.

I read a story once about an Indian grandfather.  His grandson said to him, “Grandfather, there are two wolves fighting inside of me;  one is cruel, angry and destructive.  The other is peaceful, kind and loving. Which wolf will win?”  The grandfather answered, “The one that you feed.”

Feed the gift of faith that God placed within you;  let the fruit of the spirit become your habit.

 

 

Good and Bad Fruit

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” You will recognize them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” Matthew 7:16-18

In the second Chapter of Acts, we learn about the coming of the Holy Spirit to the believers.  In Galatians, Chapter 5, we find a list of the fruit that flows out of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  There is another list, the list of “bad fruit.”

“Now the works of the flesh are evident:  sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these…”Galatians 5:21

The fruit of the flesh comes naturally to us;  when sin entered the world, it became our default position.  The fruit of the spirit comes from being rooted in God, and is part of being born again and transformed as Christians.  As we become more like Christ (sanctification) the good fruit will be evident in our lives.

Which kind of fruit is growing in your life?  Are you walking the walk, or just talking the talk?  Remember, the world will know what Christianity means by the fruit you display in your daily life.

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit…”  Galatians 5:29