Encouragement From The Word

Gentleness

When we think of gentleness, our minds often go to instructions we give children on how to pet an animal, or advertising for dish soap, but as a fruit of the Spirit, there must be more to it than that.

The word from the original language of the New Testament that is translated as “gentleness” doesn’t connote “meekness”, as some older translations put it; commonly, according to one commentator, the term was used to describe a person in whom strength and gentleness would meet.

That commentator goes on to say that gentleness often refers to one with a humble disposition that submits to God’s will, and is associated with such characteristics as love, forbearance, patience, humility, and avoiding quarrels.

I wouldn’t mind being known for gentleness when I grow up, that’s for sure!

The apostle Paul gives this encouragement to Titus, as he oversees a young church:  “Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone” (Titus 3.1-2, NLT).

Maybe in these days, especially, gentleness is an important character trait for us to develop.  Give it a shot, with God’s help.

Encouragement From The Word

Faithfulness

Faithfulness:  literally, it means to be full of faith.  But in context, it also can mean the same thing as fidelity or loyalty.

We talk of being faithful to our spouse, or being loyal to the monarchy.  But when it comes to God, there’s more to it than that.

Faithfulness is about more than having faith; it is also about practising faith.

As the writer to the Hebrews puts it, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11.1, NLT).

That sounds a bit ethereal, but it’s true:  faith does show us the reality of what we hope for, and it gives us evidence of things we cannot see.

To put our faith into practice means taking risks, sometimes.  

When I plunk myself down on a chair, I’m acting in faith that the chair will hold me.  (I’ve been known, on occasion, when visiting someone’s home, if the chair in which they invite me to sit will hold me – particularly if it is an antique or is somewhat rickety-looking.)  Every day, I act in faith in ways I don’t even think about.

But when it comes to our faith in Jesus, acting on it means living in daily relationship with him, in the same way we would with a spouse.  In that sense, faithfulness to Jesus is fidelity to Jesus.

Take a step of faith today.  You will find that God is even more faithful.

Encouragement From The Word

Goodness

“Goodness.”  It’s a strange term in our culture, isn’t it?  It has so many uses.

Sometimes, it’s a substitute swear word:  “Oh, my goodness.”

Sometimes, it’s an exclamation:  “Goodness, me!”

Sometimes, it’s a character trait.

For a lot of people, “goodness” is what characterizes everybody:  “He’s such a good person”, or “We all have inherent goodness.”

And there is some truth to that:  all human beings are made in God’s image, and there is a certain goodness that comes with that.  The challenge with that is that our inherent goodness is badly stained by sin.

I once heard the late renowned theologian and apologist, R.C. Sproul, offer what I thought was the best answer to the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” 

His response?  “There are no good people.”

Not very encouraging, eh?  But he was right.

The apostle Paul, in writing to the church in Rome in the first century, said, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3.23, NLT).

In other words, the goodness in us is tainted by the reality of our sin, our inability to measure up to God’s perfect standard.

Thankfully, God also gave a solution to our problem:  Jesus.  As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5.21, NLT).

This means that when we place our faith in Jesus, receiving his death and resurrection as being for us, personally, we receive the righteousness of Jesus by faith.  So when God looks on people of faith, he sees only the righteousness – the goodness – of Jesus.

That’s why we can bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit – a fruit that includes goodness.  It’s not something that comes from within us; it’s something that is borne through us by God the Holy Spirit, who lives in all followers of Jesus.

And for that, on this Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, we can be thankful.

Encouragement From The Word

Kindness

There’s a meme floating around social media that has grown more popular through COVID times.  One variant of it says this:  “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Always be kind.”

Another says this:  “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

Very warm and fuzzy indeed.  But what does it mean to be kind?

The dictionary refers to it as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.  Fair enough.  But when we remember that one of the fruit of the Spirit is kindness, that kicks it up a notch for followers of Jesus.

Anybody can be friendly, generous or considerate when they need to be, or want to be.

Followers of Jesus, who have the Holy Spirit living in them, are called to bear the fruit of kindness, which is on an entirely different level.  Consider what the apostle Paul wrote:  “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4.31-32, NLT).

See what I mean?

Being kind means more than being nice.  There’s stuff to get rid of and stuff to appropriate.  Paul suggests that being kind involves being tender-hearted, and forgiving other people in the same way Jesus forgave you.

Now there’s a challenge.

The good news is you can do it, because if you follow Jesus, you have his Spirit in you, and his Spirit enables you to be able to forgive in his way as part of being kind.

Are you harbouring a grudge against anyone?  Today’s the day to let go and forgive.

That doesn’t mean what the other person did was right.  It doesn’t mean you will forget.  But it means you can release whatever was wrong into the merciful care of God, without taking it back.

You can do it.  If you follow Jesus, his empowering Spirit will help you.

Encouragement From The Word

Patience

Whoops! Forgot to post this on Friday!

You want to have a big party, but you can’t right now because it’s not safe to do so.

You’d like to cross the US border and do some shopping, but the border’s closed.

You have had it up to here with electronic meetings and online school.

Your patience is running thin, six months into the pandemic.

Well, join the club!

As a society, we have been so used to having the freedom to do certain things that when that freedom is (temporarily, we hope) removed, our patience is tested.

As followers of Jesus, people who have the Holy Spirit living in us, we are called to bear the fruit of the Spirit.  But there are two of them that are wildly unpopular and often in short supply, even among the people of God.  One of them is patience.

Even though there are many circumstances working against us right now, we need patience and we need to ask the Lord to give us more patience.  Often, though, we forget to ask!

The Bible is replete with stories of people who had patience in the midst of trying circumstances:

Abraham and Sarah were promised a child, and they were in their eighties before Isaac came along.

Joseph was tormented by his brothers, sold into slavery, and had to rise up in the ranks of Egyptian officials before he could help to redeem his people.

Job lost everything he had, but never cursed God.

If those stories aren’t enough to make us want to ask God for patience, we can remember how patient God has been with his people over the course of time – even you and me!

So ask God for more patience.  The good news is that he is willing to give and give and give if we are willing to ask for it.  Say something like, “Lord, I need you to help me be more patient with my family, my coworkers, even the people driving near me on the streets and highways.  Give me more patience, so that I can witness to your patience with humanity, and shine your light in the world.”

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” (Psalm 103.8, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Living In and Through

Following up on last week’s message, this one is intended to help us understand the importance of living in and through the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit, the church is dead.  With the Spirit, the church has joy and power.  Based on Galatians 5.16-26, you can listen to the message here:

Encouragement From The Word

Patience!

I hadn’t had time to deposit my stipend cheque until this morning, so I took a minute and went to the bank on my way to the church office. The bank I use has one ATM – we live in a small community! – and there was a fellow ahead of me at the machine. It appeared he had several things to do, including deposits and passbook updates.

In the meantime, another fellow came in, a few minutes after I did. He queued up behind me, and started sighing loudly immediately. It was obvious he was in a hurry, and after making his displeasure known through body movements and deep sighs, he decided he couldn’t wait. He walked back to his truck and rushed out of the parking lot.

It was only perhaps a minute after he left that the fellow in front of me was finished his transactions, and mine took under two minutes. If that other chap had been patient enough to wait, he could have done his banking. But he was not.

Of course, we don’t know what awaited him at his next stop; perhaps he had a boss who was fussy about a sharp arrival time at work. Nevertheless, his movements and noises indicated that waiting just wasn’t his thing.

We spend a lot of time waiting in this life that is filled with technological advances. It used to be that we waited in line at the grocery store or the bank or the movie theatre. There’s more to it today; think about how much cumulative time you have spent waiting for debit or credit card transactions to be approved.

I’ve said it before, but time that is spent waiting is time that can be redeemed. While you wait, you can engage in friendly conversation, if appropriate; or you can pray for people for whom you have committed to do so. You can even pray for the people around you in line; you have no idea what burdens they may carry.

We all have places to be and deadlines to meet. If you can build enough margin into your schedule to allow you to use the time spent in line for communion with God, and Kingdom-building purposes, there is much good that God can do through you, beyond what he’s already doing now!

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!” (Galatians 5.22-23, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Why Do I Want The Holy Spirit?

Last week, we talked about our need of the Spirit; today, we’ll get more practical and consider why we’d want the Holy Spirit.  This message is based on Galatians 5.16-26. Near the end, I show this video of NHL star Mike Fisher, to illustrate how putting God first as the Spirit lives through us matters most.  Listen to the message here:  

 

I also reference this comic, from Radio Free Babylon’s “Coffee With Jesus”.

Encouragement From The Word

Are you like a tree?

Earlier this week, I heard an outstanding message on Psalm 1, with a focus on how those who delight in the law of the Lord are “like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit in each season” (Psalm 1.3a, NLT).

It’s true:  when we are planted firmly like trees, and our roots deepen and expand, we bear fruit.  But what is this like, and what brings it about?  I’ve been rq518f9998thinking about that ever since.  Let’s consider it.

Our roots deepen and expand when we spend time in God’s Word, reading Scripture not just to amass information but to be shaped and transformed through it by the Holy Spirit.  Our roots deepen and expand when we serve the Lord with our gifts, talents and skills.  Our roots deepen and expand when we live the Christian life fully and authentically for the glory of God alone.

And what happens?  We bear fruit.  What kind of fruit?

Well, when we’re being transformed by the Holy Spirit, it stands to reason that we are bearing spiritual fruit – the fruit of the Spirit.  The apostle Paul, in the letter to the Galatians, says that “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5.22, NLT).

If you want to discern what kind of tree you’re looking at, you observe the fruit it bears, right?  Apple trees don’t bear pears.  Peach trees don’t bear plums.  Each bears what it’s designed by God to bear.  So it is with the follower of Jesus:  when we live an authentically Christian life, we bear the fruit of the Spirit – not because we want to appease God in some way, but because we are living authentic Christian lives.

A healthy apple tree can’t not bear apples.  A healthy follower of Jesus can’t not bear the fruit of the Spirit.  The question becomes this:  am I bearing the fruit that God designed me to bear?  Also, am I living authentically in Christ?  Are my roots deepening and expanding?  Am I delighting in the law of the Lord?  Am I like a tree planted along a riverbank?

A lot of questions.  But when we let God live his life through us by the Holy Spirit, we experience the joy of fruit-bearing and know that it really is the life we were intended to live.

We’re getting into the season where leaves fall off trees and fruit is borne no more.  But as Christians, God invites us to bear fruit all year.  Is there a particular fruit of the Spirit that you’re working on right now?  May you know God’s blessing as you seek to bear fruit for him.