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FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – Self Control

One of the first things we did as a family on Easter Sunday was to have coffee, hot cross buns and to send the girls on an Easter Egg hunt. Before long our girls came back with a fair amount of chocolate in a basket. You should have seen their faces! They just wanted to dive in there and devour as many eggs as their little bodies would allow. But we explained to them that they would only be allowed 1 Easter Egg now and that they could have some more after lunch. You should have seen their faces now! They were seriously wrestling with disobeying daddy or practicing something of critical importance: Self-control.

We are no different as adults. We all have our ‘chocolates’ – things that strongly appeal to our desires. Sometimes our chocolates are bad things, things that are plainly sinful. Sometimes they’re good things. But all things can be made idols – things we turn to apart from God for joy, satisfaction, a sense of worth, a sense of purpose – and we need to learn to say no at times in order to honour God and protect ourselves and those around us. Sometimes we’re strong and are resolute in standing against temptation but if you’re anything like me, there are certain things that are just very hard to say no to and there are certain times when it’s harder to say no than others.

So how do we get it right? Some of us try our best but keep failing in the same areas. Some of us are frustrated with ourselves. Some of us feel like there is no hope to overcome. Some of us have given up trying. But I want to tell you this morning that there is hope – why? Because the resurrection proves it! Jesus has overcome death and sin and Satan. If the Holy Spirit is in you, He has started a work in you which He will finish. He is making you more like Jesus each day. That’s called sanctification and it’s His work. But I also believe that until that day, we can grow in resisting temptation and growing in self-control.

For me, one of the most powerful examples of self-control in the Bible is when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert. Now you may say to me: Dave, that’s not a good example. Jesus was God. He never sinned. It was easy for Him to practise self-control. But let’s not be so quick to jump to conclusions. Jesus was also fully human and experienced the same temptations we did as powerfully if not more powerfully than we do. He can fully relate to our temptations and just how hard it can be to say no. But in the wilderness, when Jesus was hungry and tired, Satan came to tempt in 3 powerful ways. And yet each time He was able to say to no. I love what Jesus says in response to Satan’s first temptation in the desert:

Have a look with me at Luke 4. I’m reading from the second part of verse 2:

“He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

Luke 4: 2-4

How is it that Jesus was able to say no this powerful temptation?


The old Scottish Theologian Thomas Chalmers once said that the only way to displace an affection of the heart is to replace it with a new and more powerful one. For Jesus, the only way He could say no to the strong desire for bread was because His heart was satisfied by a far greater, more powerful affection – a desire for His Father.

The key to Jesus being able to say no was the all-satisfying intimate relationship He experienced with His Father. It is therefore no surprise that right before being sent into the wilderness to be tempted, in Luke 3 we hear God the Father affirming His Son with these words:

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:22

This was the power to practice self-control – knowing that He is God’s Son, that He is loved by His Father, and that His Father is proud of Him.

Can I say to you this morning that you are God’s child. He loves you. He is proud of you. If you want to grow in practicing self-control, dive into that truth. Invest in your relationship with God until the intimacy is so sweet that the other chocolates in your life lose their sweetness in comparison.

He desires you. He is able to you. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

God bless you today.


Activity for kids

1.       Bake Nutella filled pastries:

Before you do this, read 2 Timothy 1:7 with your child: ‘For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control’. Explain how God gives us the Holy Spirit when we trust in Jesus. The Holy Spirit changes our hearts and helps us to be full of patience, love, gentleness (and all the other Fruit of the Spirit) and to have self-control. It’s almost like God takes all the bad stuff out and fills us with good things like love and self-control (unfortunately not Nutella!). Proceed to baking the filled pastries, celebrating how God fills us with his Spirit. 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – Gentleness

Today we look at the fruit of gentleness. One of the synonyms for this word in the Bible is ‘meekness’, which doesn’t sound particularly attractive does it? Perhaps that’s because it sounds like ‘weakness’. But meekness is not weakness, it is power under perfect control.

Picture a world champion boxer, who gets picked on by somebody, someone who obviously doesn’t know who he is! The boxer could totally annihilate the one picking on him, but instead chooses to deal calmly and reasonably, instead of resorting to exercising his authority in an aggressive manner.

That’s the idea behind meekness: it’s not weakness, but power under control. Or perhaps to put it more accurately: meekness is authority exercised gently.

Think about how counter-cultural this is in our modern society. We are living in an age known as ‘the age of outrage’, a time where it seems everybody is fighting everything, and certainly not in gentle ways. It seems to be all-out aggression without any restraint! Gentleness therefore comes as something so counter-cultural, and therefore so attractive at the same time.


If you think about it, why are people so aggressive, fighting everything so vehemently?

Inevitably the source of our aggression is fear. We’re afraid that if we don’t fight for ourselves then we won’t get anywhere, won’t achieve anything, and won’t be able to claim our slice of the proverbial pie! So we aggressively bulldoze or take by force what we think we need, desperately fighting for our survival.

We also resort to aggressive defense mechanisms whenever we are criticised or challenged in any way. We immediately feel like we have to rise up and angrily defend ourselves.

Now, think about this from the perspective of someone who believes in a Sovereign God. Someone who, through Jesus, is now living under the very rule and reign of that sovereign God.

The picture given us of this God is of a King who is sovereign in His providence for His citizens, sovereign in His protection over His citizens, and astoundingly, physically present with each one of them! This should, if anything at all, give us an immense sense of peace.

This means we don’t have to desperately defend ourselves or fight for what we need, because we trust God our King who fights for us and provides for us.

It is this inner sense of trust that enables gentleness, which is why it’s a fruit of the Spirit! It is something that arises deep within us as the Holy Spirit reminds us of God our loving King who is sovereign over every aspect of our lives.

That’s why Jesus says in Matthew 5:5:

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:5

Notice: those that are ‘blessed’, ie who have all they could need, are the meek. They ‘inherit’ the whole earth! They don’t need to take it by force, they inherit it! This settled knowledge fuels our gentleness.


I truly believe that what the world needs to see these days is gentleness in action. It is something so attractive that it will gather attention from the watching world in the most remarkably positive way! That’s what Philippians 2 indicates:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…

Philippians 2:14-15

That’s how attractive true gentleness can be! We will shine like bright stars amidst a pretty dark and desperate world.


Questions & Activities for kids

1.       Play the banana game:

In a circle, pass a banana (or any other soft fruit) around using only your chins – no hands! If someone drops the banana, start all over again. See how many times you can go around the circle. 

Talk about how the banana had to be passed around calmly, carefully and gently. What would happen if we squeezed too hard? Link this to today’s devotion on gentleness, discussing God’s gentleness towards us and how we can show that to others.

2.       Resting in Jesus’ gentleness:

At some point today, take some time to rest on a soft couch or fluffy pillow with your child. Read Matthew 11:28-30 to your child:

‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Discuss what Jesus meant when he said that he is gentle. How does Jesus give us rest? Discuss how Jesus is a compassionate, gentle and good Shepherd who lovingly gave himself up for us.

3.       Make a ‘Gentle Words Jar’:

The Bible tells us that one of the ways we can be gentle (or harsh) is with the words we choose to use. Proverbs 15:1 says ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’ Collect soft things (to represent gentle words) and hard things (harsh words) from around the house (this could include cotton wool balls and stones, for example). Drop each of the objects on a sheet of baking paper, and ask your children which of these words they would like spoken to them – gentle or harsh? Next, decorate a ‘Gentle Words Jar’. During the week, let your children fill up the jar with small soft objects (like cotton wool balls) every time they use gentle words. See if you can fill the jar by the end of the week!

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: FAITHFULNESS

Welcome to the Lockdown Lookup series of video devotional through the Fruit of the Spirit. We have been looking at the graces that make up the fruit of the Spirit. Today, we are looking at faithfulness.

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

Galatians 5: 22-23

Wikipedia defines Faithfulness as the concept of unfailingly remaining loyal to someone or something, and putting that loyalty into consistent practice regardless of extenuating circumstances. I agree with that definition.  Faithfulness may be exhibited by a husband or wife who, in a sexually exclusive marriage, does not engage in sexual relationships outside of the marriage. [1] Faithfulness It can also mean keeping one’s promises no matter the prevailing circumstances, such as God’s covenant to love his people, we learn from Scripture that God is a covenant-keeping God. [2] Literally, it is the state of being full of faith in the sense of steady devotion to a person, thing or concept.

Now let’s break that down into two parts.

  1. The literal definition of faithfulness is the state of being full of faith in the sense of steady devotion to a person, thing or concept. Hebrews 11:1 in defining faith in action, it says:

 1Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1

The word faith is Greek simply means to trust. It means to have a growing trust in God.

Faith is both a gift and a fruit. In other words, it is one thing to believe in God (which is where get justification, salvation of sins) but it’s also another thing to believe God. So we have believing in God and believing God.

Remember, our struggle with sin, fundamentally means we do not believe God, we have unbelief. Which then leads to sin. We believe that sin brings joy and so we fail to believe that God will give us the pleasure we desperately want. Sin has an appeal to us. Just to be sure, sin gives pleasure but it robs of the kind of joy and peace that we have been looking at in Galatians 5.

So in this first part of the definition, faith is believing God. It is having this confidence and assurance in God. The Spirit working in us accomplishes this confidence and assurance that we ought to have in God. It is believing God. It produces this ability to remain loyal and trusting God regardless of our present circumstances because God says in Exodus 34:6,

6The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,.”

Exodus 34:6

and 2 Tim 2:13 says,

13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself,”

2 Timothy 2:13

God is faithful. Faithful is who God is. So Spirit working in us produces this capacity to remain loyal and trusting God (believing God no matter what). I find that as a beautiful outworking of the Spirit. It is always amazing to me when you remain loyal and trusting (regardless of the situation), even when our members don’t want to and then he proves to be faithful over and over again. This is encouraging in that the Spirit’s work accomplishes in us something that is counter-intuitive to our human nature.

And then the other way I want us to look at faithfulness is in our interpersonal relationships:

  1. Let’s look at our definition of Faithfulness is this concept of unfailingly remaining loyal to someone or something, and putting that loyalty into consistent practice regardless of the extenuating circumstances.

So this speaks into our interpersonal relationships. When spiritual growth takes place in our soul faithfulness becomes the fruit that is evident. This fruit has a direct impact on our relationships with others. It produces this loyalty that we cannot make up or live out in an of ourselves. This fruit of faithfulness is then lived out in relation to our spouses, to our employers, and to the government. For instance, our national government has put in place the lockdown to curb the spread of the Corona virus. So us staying at home and adhering to these measures will prove us to be faithful and loyal.  An ultimately this points back to our faith in God. So we work so as to please to God. So our faithfulness is the outworking of this deed-seated faith in God.

My encouragement is to keep walking in the Spirit for the Spirit and accomplishes this elusive fruit of the Spirit.


HOW TO CULTIVATE GOODNESS?

Hey everyone. Welcome to today’s Lockdown Lookup.

What an incredible weekend we just had celebrating Easter. Even though we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis, we can rejoice because our Saviour is risen! He is risen indeed!

On Thursday morning Pastor Richard helped us understand what Goodness is. Today we’re going to focus on how to cultivate Goodness in our lives.

So to recap, last week we saw that Goodness is far more than just an adjective – you make good coffee or I feel good this morning. Goodness really means that something is functioning according to it’s purpose. And so a good person isn’t simply someone who isn’t doing bad things. A good person is someone who is living in line with their God-given purpose.

Now when we think of purpose we usually think of some kind of life or career path – I’m a teacher, dedicated to educating kids that will become good citizens– I’m fulfilling my purpose. I’m running an honest business that is creating job opportunities and adding value to society – I’m fulfilling my purpose. Yes. But our purpose is far greater than even that.

Have a look at 2 Peter 1:3 with me:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

2 PETER 1:3

From this verse we can see that God is by nature Good. He is glorious and good. He is the source of Goodness, Perfection, Beauty, Holiness!

This verse also gives us an indication as to what our purpose here on earth is – it is to reflect God in our life, to live a godly life. Our purpose here on earth is to be mirrors of God.

That means that if God is Good, we are to reflect His Goodness in the way we live.

Let’s keep reading:

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

2 PETER 1:4

Last week Richard reminded us that God, in Christ Jesus, has given us a new status. That status is Righteous or Good. He has declared that we have the perfectly Good status of Jesus, who never sinned and was indeed Good. This is what this verse is saying. We are able to participate in Christ’s perfect nature.

But the problem is obviously that we all know that we don’t live good lives befitting of people who have been declared good. Richard explained how our lives have to catch up in one sense to the righteous or good status that we have received in Christ.

But how? Look at V5:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness.”

2 PETER 1:5

And Richard pointed out that it isn’t wrong to try and be good. There is effort involved in trying to live the good life that reflects the goodness of God. We are to do everything possible to live a godly life. A godly life is to display the fruit of the Spirit that we’ve been looking at. But do you know that we can strive all we like to be good and not get it right. What is the secret?

How do you become good, or rather, how do you grow in reflecting God’s goodness in your life?

We used to have a saying at Varsity. You’re a product of who you hang out with. And it was true. I had one particular friend that I spent a huge amount of time with. He was a bit older than me and I looked up to him. Soon I started to talk like him, dress like him and do the things he did.

The same applies in our relationship with God. The more we look at Him. The more we spend time with Him. The more we get to know Him, the more we begin to look like Him and do the things He does. We begin to reflect the Goodness of God in the way that we love Him and others. What we begin to find is that effort isn’t as much effort as it is us being transformed into His likeness.

So although I could encourage you to try and be better, to add to your faith goodness by striving to be good, I want to rather encourage you to become a product of the God you hang out with. With every fibre of your being, get to know Him. Spend time with Him, reading your Bible, praying to Him, looking at Jesus. And slowly but surely you will begin to reflect God and to live the godly life that Peter talks about – a life that reflects the goodness of God.


FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – Goodness

‘Good’ is a word that’s used a lot, for all sorts of reasons. ‘Man this coffee is good!’ How you doing? ‘I’m good’. ‘Good times!’

Goodness is not just an adjective to describe a burger, it’s a lot deeper than that. What Goodness really means is something functioning according to its purpose.

For example: f you say that you have a good car, what you normally mean is that it’s lasted long and done it’s job faithfully. Typically you’re not talking about the fancy leather seats but how well it does it’s job, that which it was designed to do. In the same way if you’re complimenting your child and you say ‘good boy’, it’s because he did something that you wanted him to do.

In Genesis 1 when God made the earth and said it was ‘good’ he meant it’s going to achieve the purpose He created it for. When God made people and said that they were ‘very good’ he didn’t mean that they looked amazing, but they were going to accomplish amazing things according to the purpose for which He created them.


Typically we would tend to think of a good person as someone who doesn’t do bad things. But that’s not the definition of goodness. A good person is someone who is walking in line with the path for which they were created. Of course that includes avoiding doing bad things, but it extends further than that.

There’s another powerful verse that talks about this, one of my favourites:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with  patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-2

The opening line is intriguing: ‘Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called’.

This is a very picturesque sentence. In Greek the word ‘worthy’ is the word ‘axios’, which is also the word used to describe a set of scales, the much older kind where you balanced a known weight of lead against your pumpkin in the grocery store. Once the scale was at rest then you knew the two weights were ‘worthy’ of each other.

When we think about this in a profound Christian sense we realise that a ‘good’ person is not just someone who has received a declaration of righteousness thanks to Jesus, but is also someone who walks in a manner ‘worthy’ of that declaration! ‘Goodness’ would describe someone whose life slowly, surely, begins to catch up to the righteous status they have received from Jesus.

It is in this arena that we sometimes come across a misconception about grace. We absolutely know that it is by grace that we have received this declaration of righteousness, but then we stop, and say that therefore by grace we shouldn’t pursue any efforts to be good!

Dallas Willard has been so helpful on this subject for me. He says:

‘Grace is not opposed to effort, grace is opposed to earning’

As you strive for goodness, as you put in effort, you’re not negating the grace you’ve been given. You only negate grace when your striving to do good is to earn favour with God: you don’t need to! By His grace you are loved, saved, and declared righteous!

But you were created to pursue a life that ‘balances’ the good declaration you’ve received. So do that, make that your goal, your intention!

But remember: the power to do that, comes from the Holy Spirit (its a fruit of the Spirit, right?) As you pursue the Spirit and intentionally ‘walk by the Spirit’, you will find yourself doing good works, the right way, according to God’s beautifully created purposes for you.


Questions & Activities for kids

1.       Bake (or buy ;-)) Gooey Chocolate S’mores Cupcakes:

All the goodness is inside, and spills out when you cut the cupcake open. Discuss today’s devotion on goodness, and how the Holy Spirit’s work in us creates goodness inside of us. When we are ‘cut open’ or squeezed real hard, will goodness also flow out of us?    

2.       Generosity Challenge:

Read the creation account in Genesis 1-2. Write down or draw how God has been good and generous to us. What is your favourite part of creation? Next, decide as a family how you can be good and generous to others. What of what God has given you can you share with someone else?

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – Kindness

 

The fruit of kindness is unique among the fruit of the Spirit, and in a way, is the ‘fruitiest’ of the fruit!

Kindness is the most outwardly visible of all the fruit of the Spirit, because it is primarily an action, as opposed to an inner disposition, or even a withholding of an action. For example, peace is about an inner settledness, despite possible turmoil on the outside. Patience is perhaps less about doing something, as it is about not doing something! For example, not responding in anger or frustration when our patience is tested.

In contrast, kindness is most definitely an action. You cannot be a kind person, and not do kind things! A kind person will end up doing acts of kindness. Thus kindness is truly defined by outward activity, and it is clear on the outside whether someone is kind or not.

It’s interesting that the word ‘kindness’ in Greek is the word ‘chrestotes, from the word ‘chrestos’, which of course is very similiar to the word for ‘Chris’t which is ‘Christos’. It’s so similar in fact that in the first century Church they called the people who followed Jesus ‘the kind ones’! Now that may just be confusion over words, but I think it’s pretty apt that Christians should be known for being kind!


That’s what makes kindness unique, but what about it being the ‘fruitiest’ of the fruit?

To see this we’re going to dig a little deeper into the word for kindness. The root of the word is a combination of two words: ‘goodness’ and ‘integrity’. That seems like a strange combination to make up ‘kindness’!

‘Integrity’ is this rather nebulous concept, but simply means ‘integrated’. The idea is that a person with integrity is someone who is ‘integrated’, in that what you see on the outside is an accurate reflection of what is happening on the inside.

Now, when you couple that with ‘goodness’, you see that kindness is nothing other than internal goodness, being integrated with external actions! Kindness is goodness in action! Notice however, that it stems from an integration with inner goodness, it’s not something you simply tick on the outside!

That’s what makes it the ‘fruitiest’ of the fruit! The metaphor of ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ in general speaks about the Holy Spirit inside of us, bringing these characteristics to fruition in real ways in our lives. Well kindness is exactly defined in this way! That’s why it gets the title of ‘fruitiest of the fruit’!


There’s a passage of scripture that brings these ideas together:

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior”

Titus 3:4-6

This is one of those passages that includes so many amazing elements: ‘goodness’, ‘loving kindness’,’mercy’, ‘Holy Spirit poured on us’ etc. It’s this wonderful combination of God in Christ saving us, and now the Holy Spirit transforming us.

One of the ways the Holy Spirit will transform us will be outward, demonstrable, visible acts of goodness expressed in kindness and mercy.

May we all grow in kindness in this lockdown season. Our families, community & colleagues are going to need it!


Questions & Activities for kids

1.       Read the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17).

How does Jesus show us here what true kindness is? Let each person in the family choose one way they can show true kindness and serve one another today.  

2.       Throw kindness like confetti!

Make a confetti popper with toilet paper rolls. Discuss how God has ‘showered’ his kindness on us and what it might be like if we freely shared that kindness with others.          

3.       Not-so-random act of kindness:

Plan a way that you as a family can show kindness to a neighbour, friend or family member. How can you generously share what you have? This could include a simple phone call or text message, or maybe a homemade cake, or making a gift for when lockdown is over. Use this as an opportunity to talk about how being kind requires doing or giving something without expecting anything in return, but that it is how we can show God’s kindness to others: God saved us through Jesus in his kindness, not because of anything we have done (Titus 3:4-6). 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – Patience

 

On any normal day there is a lot to be impatient about … slow internet, crazy people in the traffic, a demanding boss, unmet expectations. Impatience spews out of our mouths with words like: “Hurry up! Slow down! Speak up! Not now! How many times have I told you not to? When are you going to do what I’ve asked?” 

But these are not normal days: how much more is there to be impatient about in this season of lockdown? We are like prisoners in our homes and prisoners can be a rowdy bunch. Today my neighbours in the house behind us, were having a massive screaming match that had their whole family screaming at each other out in their garden for all to hear! 

What makes impatience so easy for us to slip into is the level of uncertainty, the lack of control, the lack of routine, the fact that we are in each other’s space all the time. But one of the fruits of the Spirit is patience. We have been studying in Galatians 5:22-23. Some bible versions translate “patience” as: “forbearance” or “long suffering.” 

The Greek word in Galatians 5:22 for patience comes from the Hebrew word for long-suffering which is: long nosed. Someone who is patient is “long of nose”. The word used here in the Greek is: makrothumia. Makro = long & thumos = breathing hard. Someone with a short nose has a short fuse and gets into a huff very easily. But someone with a long nose is patient because it takes longer to breath hard and for the angry air to push out through their long nose. So being patient is being “long nosed.” 

The opposite of patience is impatience: a strong sense of annoyance. Impatience is usually our response to the unintentional actions of others. They annoy us and push our buttons and step on our toes. Perhaps, they haven’t done what we have asked in the way we asked, or they are not performing on our timetable, making us late, taking too long in the queue in front of us or in the bathroom. 

Husbands & wives; parents & kids; employers & employees; technology; uncertainty; finances, fears, lack of control – the list of what can cause impatience in this season is endless! 

“be patient, bearing with one another in love.” – in other words: cut each other some slack! 

Ephesians 4:2b

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:4: “love is patient.” The fruit of the spirit from which all others fruit flows is love! 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 

Colossians 3:12-14

Irritability takes impatience even further. Irritability is impatience on steroids. Irritability is the frequency of our impatience. Most of us will be impatient at times, but an irritable person is impatient most of the time at even the smallest thing! An irritable person may not even realise that they are grumbling against God! 

My impatience & irritability is evidence that I want to be God – and I’m frustrated that I’m not God! We hate waiting, but waiting is the only way patience is developed. You can’t just pray for patience – patience is developed by waiting – there is no short cut! This is the season to experience the fruit of the Spirit. Impatience is evidence that we’ve created hoops that the people around us must jump through in order to make us happy. If we’re honest – while we may not verbalise it – we may even be grumbling under our breath: “God, you better jump through my hoops too.” 

Oh how patient the Spirit of God has been with me & with you – despite our impatience! It is when I reflect on God’s patience with me, that I am led to repentance and pray again: Holy Spirit fill me with the fruit of the Spirit – with patience! 

I remember after 9/11 reading the many stories of impatient people who were late in getting to work in the Twin Towers – one lost their keys, another spilt the milk, one was delayed in traffic, another missed their train, another had trouble getting their child ready for school. How different their impatient outbursts looked in the light of the tragic events of 9/11. Those disruptions and interruptions that were beyond their control had actually saved their lives. How foolish to think we are sovereign and all knowing! We believe these disruptions will save lives! Patience lays down its schedule and trusts God and waits expectantly to see what God will do! 

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. 

Lamentations 3:25-26

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. 

Psalm 5:3

What will God do? Are you ready to be amazed at what God is going to do in you and through you in this season and after this season? Leave control to God. Leave timing to God. And in the meantime while we wait, leave vengeance to God: 

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 

1 Peter 4:8

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. 

Proverbs 19:11

While I wait I will worship; serve; I will ask God to fill me with His Spirit and be who God wants me to be. 

The Lord knows that it is the little things, those continual irritations, the ongoing attacks that have the power to drive us away from His provisions in Christ. It is the small things – the mosquitoes that can eventually drive us mad and become a stronghold for sin in our lives. 

A yesterday experience of the Spirit is not enough. The Holy Spirit wants to make Christ real to you amidst all that is going on! Repent and invite the Good Shepherd to anoint you with oil and manifest in you the fruit of patience! 


Questions & Activities for kids

  • Read the story of how Abraham and Sarah had to wait for a (very!) long time before they could have a child (Genesis 12-21). Discuss how they might have felt, and how they had to be patient and trust God while they waited. Ask your child if there is a situation where they find it hard to be patient? One thing we learn from this story (and throughout the Bible) is that God always keeps his promises, so we can patiently wait and trust that he will do as he said he would. How might this help us to trust God and wait patiently?    
  • Play a board game together. Ask your children: Was it difficult to wait your turn? Why is patience important when playing a game together? What makes it hard to be patient with each other? Remind your children of how God is perfectly patient with us, and how he helps us to be patient with those around us.    
  • Do an activity as a family that takes some time and requires patience (for example building a puzzle, baking cookies or bread, planting some seeds). Use this as an opportunity to discuss and reinforce today’s devotion on patience.

If you’d like something to test the patience of your kids, here is a 10 hours-long video of paint drying!

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – Peace (part 2)

“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

Greetings and Peace to you! Welcome to our Lockdown – Look-up series of devotional focusing on the fruit of the spirit as found in Gal 5:22-23. This is part 2 of Peace as the fruit of the Spirit. The last time we were together, Richard reminded as that peace is not the absence of hostility or tensions, or conflict between the warring parties. Rather, peace, as the fruit of the spirit, is the inner quietness despite our circumstances.

So, I invite you to further reflect with me and/as we focus our attention on this important and sought-after virtue, which seems to elude so many of us today – A virtue that everybody pursues, but very few possess to the fullest

Biblically speaking, peace implies, harmony, safety, friendliness, and relational tranquility. You see, as human beings, we are incapable of creating such conditions and environment.

My simple working definition of Peace is: Knowing that the Lord of the universe is by my side no matter what, and that I can rest in him and not strive. Once I know this, then I ready myself to face life and its challenges. This kind of Peace, is something that you and I can’t attain or produce it in our steam or efforts. Only God, through his Spirit, can establish such peace.

So, when Paul says that the fruit of the spirit is peace, it means we know that when we have the Spirit in us, we are filled and empowered so that we can we walk by faith not sight, to live in victory not in defeat. We are able to rest in peace, because the Holy Spirit is with us and the peace of God is in us. That is why the Psalmist declares:  Be still and know that I am God!

Authentic/True peace comes not from the absence of trouble, but from the presence of God, and will be deep and surpassing all understanding and knowledge. And I will add, it will surprising.

A life of peace is inclusive, comprehensive, as well as emphasizing wholeness and harmony with God and others. A life of peace is safe and secure both physically and mentally. 

In Isaiah 26:3–4, the prophet talks about what it means to be at peace with himself, with God, and with others.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”

Lets look closely at three words that Isaiah uses in these verses:

The word “steadfast” is from a term that means ‘to lean, to rest, or to support.” It’s the idea of being sustained as a result of leaning on something supporting you.

The words “whose mind come from one verb that means “to frame, or to fashion, to form.” In the original Heb. language, this particular construction has an idea of “a frame of mind.” A frame of mind that is receiving support from leaning and therefore is being sustained.

That brings us to the main verb, “will keep” The term means to guard from danger, to watch over. To garrison one from enemy attacks.

God’s promise for us is this: He will support us, when we lean on him, he will watch over us if our minds are fashioned and focused on him, rather than our circumstances. His “shalom” will gives us a sense of an unending security, uninterrupted, perpetual rest and calmness. This kind, doesn’t come from anyone else – but from the God upon whom the person leans.

Peace is a result of allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and minds. When we have peace, we do not have to fear and worry about anything, whether it is our finances, our health, our family, our safety, our salvation, our future, or even our lives beyond this one.

Peace is the product of God having reconciled us, sinners to himself, so that we are no longer his enemies, but sons and daughters at peace with him.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is evident in the peace that comes even when our circumstances are far from tranquil.

Listen to the following encouraging words of Jesus to his troubled disciples and followers, found in the Gospel of John:

“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

And he further said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” 

John 14:27

We conclude, Peace as the fruit of the Spirit, is the outworking of God in our lives so that we will be fruitful and effective in relating to him and others.  Peace is knowing that our God is in control. I don’t have to strive. Our responsibility is to daily depend God because there’s no other way to be at peace, than to obey his will.

Peace be with You!


Activity for kids

Peace-makers vs Peace-breakers:

Make a list or draw all the things that we could do as a family to be peace-makers. On a separate page, write down or draw the things that would ‘break’ the peace. Discuss how we would say sorry to each other if we have been peace-breakers, and how we can make peace again.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – Peace (part 1)

The reason we’re doing this series on the Fruit of the Spirit is because it’s such an important list of Christian characteristics, yet it doesn’t seem to get the airtime it deserves. Part of the reason for that is because some of the characteristics on this list just don’t seem particularly exciting: patience? self-control?

Except for when you get to today’s fruit! Today we’re looking at Peace, which is something everyone, everywhere, wants. This is particularly true right now, in our heightened state of worry and fear amidst the Coronavirus.

However, while it’s encouraging that people desire this particular fruit, I think part of that desire is based on a misconception about peace. In most people’s minds today, peace is a sort of tranquil existence that comes with the absence of conflict.


A few days ago we saw how love was not defined by the absence of hurt, and yesterday Justin did a great job of describing how joy not being defined by the absence of sorrow. It’s the same with peace!

I think this is something important for us to understand about all these fruit: they do not exist in a continuum. In other words it’s not like there’s a balance scale, where if sorrow goes up, for example, then joy must come down. If hurt goes up then love comes down. Or if conflict goes up then peace comes down. Peace, love, joy and all the other fruit exist despite their negative partners, not in absence of them.

So, when we pursue the fruit of peace, it does not mean we’re pursuing a life of no challenges, no suffering, no refining of faith, no getting out of our comfort zones, no conviction of the Spirit. That’s not the Christian life at all!


You can see this in the word used for peace, which is ‘Eirene’, the technical meaning of which is ‘inner quietness and rest despite circumstances’. Remember the power of this metaphor: peace is a Fruit of the Spirit internally, not the product of circumstances externally.

Which means its source is way down deep, not swirling around us when there’s a temporary vacuum of conflict.


What’s interesting is that the word is formed from a root verb which literally means ‘to join together, or ‘restore something that has been broken’. This is the same with its Old Testament Hebrew partner, ‘Shalom’, which means ‘wholeness or a state of well-being in relationship to something’.

The primary relationship that has been restored, that brings peace, is our relationship with God. Romans 5:1 says:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

At the risk of perhaps creating some confusion I have to say that peace with God IS the peace that comes about as the absence of hostility! We see this in Colossians 1:

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death…

Colossians 1:19-22

It’s true that there was hostility between us and God! We were ‘hostile in mind’ towards Him, and that incurred His judgment and wrath against us. But Jesus absorbed that for us (as we saw on Sunday), and now we are at peace. But even then, it’s more than just the absence of conflict, it’s a new state of wholeness, or completeness, that comes as a result being ‘reconciled to God’.

It is this new wholeness, this new ‘complete’ state, that then leads us to experience a deep sense of peace, despite the crazy circumstances around us.


Activities for kids

Pool Noodle Boats / Or Lego or Paper Boats

Read the story of Jesus calming the sea (Mark 4:35-41). Make pool noodle boats (or Lego or paper boats, otherwise play with toy boats) to reinforce the story. Talk about how we don’t need to be afraid of anything, and can have real peace, because God is in control and he loves us.        

Paint a ‘Peace Stone

Paint or decorate a stone, or simply write the word ‘peace’ on it. When you feel afraid, worried, or unsettled, hold on to the stone to remind you of God’s love for you, that through Jesus you have peace with God, and pray for the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, to guard your hearts in Jesus (Phil 4:7).

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – JOY

Hi everyone. I hope you’re surviving the lockdown.

I love optical illusions. You may have seen this one. What do you see? A grumpy old woman? But watch what happens when we look at this picture from a different perspective and flip the image upside down. It turns into a beautiful young princess.

Isn’t it amazing that people can experience the same set of circumstances and yet interpret them differently? It all depends on whether you have a biblical perspective (which brings joy) or some other perspective which can bring cynicism & despair!

Welcome to our daily devotion: the Lockdown Lookup. We may be locked down, but in looking up we get a different perspective on our circumstances! Each day we have been looking at a different Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. Today we want to talk about the fruit of joy which the Holy Spirit planted in us when we became Christians. But what is joy?

Definition of Joy: Deep & Abiding Happiness in Christ

The Greek word for joy is: chara (which means gladness, delight, happiness). We could describe joy as a deep & abiding happiness in Christ that is not dependent on our immediate circumstances. Joy is the fruit of God being the delight of our hearts. Joy is the gladness produced by an awareness of God’s love for us. The Holy Spirit’s work is to make the gospel real in our lives. He does this by convicting us and showing us our sin; He then shows us our need of Christ; He points us to the beauty of Christ’s person and work on the cross; the Holy Spirit magnifies God’s grace through the cross till we are led again to say: “What!? God loves me?” God’s grace should wow us every day!

Unchanging & permanent in Christ

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians (4:4): Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

We don’t rejoice in our circumstances which change like the wind, but we rejoice in the Lord who does not change like shifting shadows. “In the Lord” is like being “in an aeroplane”. Whatever happens to the plane happens to us. We are in Christ so because He never changes, our joy can be unchanging and permanent. The Christian lives at two addresses – we live in Philippi (so to speak) and we live in Christ Jesus. Paul addresses this church in Philippians 1:1 as those who are “in Christ” and “at Philippi”.

In my garden I have a tall Plane Tree that is decades old and probably about 50m tall! The tree lives in two places – above the ground and beneath. No matter what storms have come over the years it has stood firm so far! The fruit of joy is produced by the root of joy that runs deep into the soil of God’s love for us in Christ.

Jesus described the fruit of joy this way:

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

John 15:8 & 11

How do we cultivate joy so that it may grow to completion?

Jesus prayed to His Father in John:

“[Father] I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

John 17: 13, 15, 17

There is a link between our joy and the truth of God’s Word. Circumstances often shout loudly and try to get us to take our eyes off Christ. We must remember:  “Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ; our future is secure; we know that in all things God is working for the good of those who love him.” These are the truths we must dwell on if we want to know a deep & abiding joy in the midst of trouble. Our sinful nature will fight against joy and seek to produce grumbling, bitterness and negativity.

In the Hebrew language, the root word for: “meditate” and “murmur” is the same! What you keep thinking about is what shapes your perspective. Psalm 1 talks about the blessed / happy / joyful man who is like a tree planted by streams of water who bears its fruit in season. He meditates on God’s law day night. Will you meditate on the truth and know joy? Or will you mutter (meditate) about your circumstances and know bitterness.

James writes,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

James1:2-4

Your thoughts & emotions may be racing everywhere; you’re tempted to doubt & fear, but you must lead yourself to consider greater realities in Christ until they shape your perspective on your circumstances and bring a deep & abiding happiness in Christ!

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:2:

Prayer:

Father thanks for the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Oh we long to experience an outpouring of the fruit of joy in our lives. May that joyful perspective bring hope & healing to those who only see fear & death. Holy Spirit enable us to experience Christ’s love and forgiveness in the midst of troubling circumstances. In the words of Peter we say: Oh Father though we have not seen Christ, we love him and even though we do not see him now, we believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for we are receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls. (1 Pet 1:8)

Amen!