Posts Tagged ‘Fruit of the Spirit’

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A FABULOUS PAIR OF LEGS – July 13

July 13, 2014

“Thus you will recognize them by their fruit.” Matthew 7:20

English: Recreational floaters on the Boise Ri...

My family and I recently floated the Boise River. While we waited in the rental line, I noticed a man in line before us. This man was probably in his fifth decade but he had a striking characteristic. He had fabulous legs. He did not have the legs of a middle-aged man. His legs were so distinct that I nudged my wife and whispered, “Check out the legs on that dude.”

the-razors-edgeThese were legs to be admired. They were chiseled masterpieces of bronzed muscle. The definition of his calf muscles hinted to a power unusual for a man of his age. The large veins that traveled along the inside of the ankle were visible up across his shins noting an uncommon endurance. It was obvious that these fabulous legs had been crafted over years of rigorous training and hours of intense activity. These sorts of legs don’t just happen.

These were the legs of an athlete.

It did not take much insight to determine what activity had crafted these legs. The tan-lines had distinct edges starting just above the ankle and ending just beyond the knee. However, the conclusive clue was what was missing. There was a feature normal to a man that was absent from these legs.

His upper body demonstrated a genetic ability to grow a furry coat. However, the legs contradicted his natural state. These legs had been groomed clean. There is only one type of athlete, who has legs that are muscled to the point of veins, tanned in this particular pattern, and shaven.tan-lines1

These were the legs of a cyclist – a long-time cyclist.

As I admired these fabulous legs, I narcissistically wondered what the person behind me thought about my legs. I wondered if my athleticism was as evident in my conditioning. As I glanced back at my own calves, giving them a little flex, I questioned how well my continence revealed the passions of my life to an examining eye.

Beyond my vanity, the important passion of life looms large. I really care very little about getting recognized for a great pair of legs. However, there are characteristics that I hope are recognizable in a casual observation.

Does the person next in line see self-control in my behavior?
Has my wife come to expect gentleness in my response?
Are my kids accustomed to patience and kindness in my reactions?
Do my co-workers consider me a peaceful person?
Would my biography describe me as a joyful and good man?
Am I recognized by love and faithfulness?

Our passions are obvious to those around us and the fruit of our lives are revealed in a myriad of manners. I hope that we all can be identified by characteristics that are more important than a fabulous pair of legs.

PRAYER: Father, I want to be known by the fruit of your Spirit.  I want to be recognized as a child of God.  Lord, continue your work within my heart.  Transform me into your likeness.  May the world see you in my life for your glory.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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SKIPPING GYM CLASS – April 4

April 4, 2014

“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds so doing when he comes.” Luke 12:43

We heard the news with glee, a substitute. My high school freshman PE teacher was out for the day but the class was going forward with a substitute teacher. We knew this substitute teacher – old, crotchety, and devoid of humor. Before we even knew what the day held, we hatched a plan.

We were going to skip class.

Locker Room

My two accomplices and I waited to implement our grand strategy. As the class exited the locker room, we turned left when they went right into the gymnasium. We scurried to the back of the locker room and waited for the sound of sneakers on concrete to dissipate.

We had done it. We had escaped from the tyranny of that humorless substitute teacher. We now had a whole hour of freedom. Except, we were confined within the belly of the high school. We had not thought about that in our hasty decision. If we left the locker room, we would be caught. We were dressed in our gym clothes; if we went anywhere, it would be obvious that we were skipping gym class. Besides, it was too cold to go outside.

The enthusiasm of our rebellion faded into boredom as we settled onto the locker room benches to wait out the class. We could hear the bouncing of balls and the excited shouting of games at play. However, it was too late to blend back into the class. The teams would have been picked and roles assigned. We would be caught if we tried to join the fun going on in the gym.

We filled the time with the combination of head-locks, talk of girls and toys, and the typical silence of adolescent boys. Our banal discussion came to an abrupt halt when we heard a door open and close. Someone had entered our sanctum. Footsteps began to fall on concrete with the unmistakable sound of an adult. To our horror, the footsteps were heading directly toward us.

We retreated deeper into the locker room. We were going to get caught. I did not want to get caught. I was not sure what awful punishment would befall me but I did not want to find out. The footsteps were relentless in their progression. They were not deviating in the least. The even pace of each step mercilessly pushed into the confines of the shower/toilet room. There was no escape – we could not get out. Yet, our rebellion was not done. We were determined not to get caught.

English: photo of toilet seat

Our only choice was to hide. A co-conspirator and I entered the toilet stall with its walls and doors. We quickly perched ourselves upon the toilet seat, so that our pursuer would not see our feet, and closed the door. There we waited, backs to the wall, frightened face to frightened face. In hushed silence, we listened to the footsteps.

He had come into our section of the locker room. He was coming down the row of lockers, clack, clack, of one foot step after another. He was taking a direct route to our confine. Does he know? How could he know? On he came; one step after one horrible step, until we heard the steps stop just outside our toilet stall. Could it be that he has to go the bathroom?

While the footsteps were bad enough, they were nothing compared to the bang on the toilet stall. I was lost in my hope of escape. So, the bang nearly frightened me off of my perch and into the water below. We were frozen until the next bang was followed by the words, “come on, get out of there”.

It was over. We were caught. I don’t know how. He must have been part blood hound. I reached over from my perch and unlatched the door. As it lazily swung open, I received the most disapproving look of condescension in my life. There the varsity basketball coach stood with two of the most pitifully idiotic teenage boys still perched upon the toilet seat before him.

Trip to New Zealand

Trip to New Zealand (Photo credit: miss_rogue)

He did not say anything other than, “let’s go” with a roll of the eyes and a shake of the head. And with that, our rebellion was over. We had been caught and now had to make the humiliating walk to the principal’s office in our gym clothes.

I later found out that our rebellion had saved us from the best day of gym class, ever.  The substitute teacher had let everyone play whatever they wanted to do, while he read the paper.

I had rebelled against supervised freedom for unsupervised confinement and punishment. That had not been a good choice.

How often do we make this sort of bad choice in our spiritual lives?

We rebel against God’s instruction in anticipation of freedom and pleasure. We refuse obedience because it seems like we are being forced to do something awful. We run from the presence of God thinking we can escape only to find that what we have escaped to is not as we had imagined.

It is foolish to think that our rebellion and sin will not be discovered. God will relentlessly pursue us. He will back us up into the confines of our own choosing until we are revealed perched upon the toilet seat of bad decisions.

While we have endured the anxiety of being pursued by God, what have we saved ourselves from? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control…yeah, that is horrible. How idiotic is it to run from real freedom under the loving supervision of our heavenly Father for the unsupervised confinement and punishment of rebellion and sin?

Seems like an easy choice to me.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for running from your blessings. Forgive me for foolishly thinking that I know what is best for me.  Thank you for being so good.  Thank you for being so gracious and patience with my idiotic decisions.  Thank you for the freedom that you have given my in your Son, Jesus Christ. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“RUNNING ON A FLAT TIRE” – July 26

July 26, 2013

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:3-4

flat tire
flat tire (Photo credit: helga tawil souri)

“Not again,” was my thought as I walked onto our porch and saw the deflated back tire on my road bike.  I have experienced a rash of flat tires.  This was my third flat tire in four outings.  Fortunately, none of the causes have resulted in a deflation that left me standing along the roadside.  They have all been slow leakers.  I get done with my ride and the tire is a little squishy but the damage has been done.  Through the night the precious entrapped air escapes.

Without air in my tires, the rim will grind into the asphalt if I were to try to ride it.  The air in the tire creates some very important separation.  Road bike tires are impressive for the very small amount of area that actually comes in contact with the pavement.  The smaller that area can be results in less friction, which means you go faster.  However, you must have air in your tires.

I have come into contact with my world for my entire life, like a tire to pavement.  I have learned a few things when pressed up against family and friends.  I am aware of the effect when the weight of interaction is applied in school, work, church, or any other social occasion.

Flat Tire

Flat Tire (Photo credit: sam.d)

The more of me that comes into contact with other people the more friction there will be.

My flesh only knows the interaction of self-interest.  The pursuit of one’s self-interest will always result in friction.  I can grind into my world with a purposefulness of my self-interest that reveals itself in rivalry and conceit.  My values can get squishy when I pursue what I feel is best for me.  I become about as effective as a flat tire when my self-interest is given the lead.

Flat repairI know that I need separation.  I know that the less of me and my self-interest that interacts with the world the better.  That is why I need to be filled with the Spirit.  It is only by the filling of the Spirit that rivalry and conceit can be banished.  It is only through the power of the Spirit that our flesh can be pushed back so we can even see the interests of others.  The fruit of the Spirit is like a tire pump.  With each sustaining pump of the Spirit into our lives (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control), the amount of interaction between our flesh and others is reduced.  That reduces friction.

I have never wanted to seek other interests when I have been spiritually flat.  There was way too much of me grinding into my world to care about the interests of others.  We need the work of the Spirit in our lives to fill and lift us.  As the Spirit fills us from one degree to another, our sanctification will increase like the pressure in a tire.  I look forward to the day when my flesh is completely destroyed.  Until that day, I will rely upon the power of the Spirit to separate the remaining tentacles of my flesh from the world.

How is the pressure of the Spirit in your life?

PRAYER: Lord, I realize more each day how much I need you.  Thank you for sending your Spirit to teach and guide me.  Thank you for filling me and making me a new creature.  Father, help me to set my mind on you and not on myself.  Lord, develop the fruit of your Spirit in my life.  Transform me so that my nature will be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  That is who I want to be.  Father, raise me to be that kind of man.  May the world see more of you and less of me.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“RACE EXPECTATIONS” – July 14

July 14, 2013

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealously, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.  I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace,  patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such things there is no law.”  Galatians 3:19-23

I am a Spudman.  Yesterday, I competed in the Spudman Triathlon, which was my first triathlon of the year and my first try at the Olympic distance.

I was a little disappointed in my results.

I had hoped to finish with a time between 2 hours 30 minutes and 2 hours 45 minutes.  I had it all figured out.  Swim the 1.5 K in 28 minutes, ride at a 20 mph average, and run at a 8:30 minute/mile pace, then I would finish right where I was hoping.

My race did not turn out as I had envisioned it in my head.  My mind pictured me gliding through the water with the race leaders.  I saw myself flying up the two big climbs like I was in the Tour de France.  The visualization was to conclude with me running like a gazelle along the Boise River.

In reality, I finished at 2 hours, 51 minutes, 37 seconds.

039As usual, I was right in the meat of the race bell curve; The Meat of Average.  I did not swim with the race leaders.  I was jostled about with swimmers all around me throughout the swim.  I emerged from the water after 31 minutes, 17 seconds.  However, I swim 1.6K in a 25 yard pool at around 32-33 minutes.

Therefore, my swim was right about what I average in training.

079The professional cycling teams will not be seeking to take me to the Tour de France next year.  The two big climbs of the course humbled me to 8 mph.  I made up time on the descent and the flats but the climbs were brutally long stretches and my average speed was only 18.7 mph.  However, I finished a similar hilly course two weeks ago and averaged only 17 mph.

Therefore, my ride was right about what I average in training.

The tranquility of the Boise River Greenbelt was not sufficient to transform me from an ox into a gazelle.  I plodded along as other competitors continually passed me and I passed no one.  There were so many familiar faces that I had raced past on the bike only to see them gracefully stride past me on the run.  It was depressing as I labored in at a 9 minute, 14 second per mile average.  However, I normally run a 10k just under 9 minutes per mile.  When you consider that I had just swam 1.5K and cycled 25 miles, my run was right about my training average considering my tired legs.089

Race day expectations should be guided by everyday training experience.  There was nothing in my training that supported my vision of 2 hour, 30 minute finish time.  However, that had not prevented me from creating all of these justifications for why my race day expectations would be different from my training experience.

There are many people who are discouraged by how they respond to temptation.  They wonder how they could get caught up into something so completely of the flesh.

Why did I click on that website;
Why did I flirt with that person;
Why did I say such a mean thing;
Why did I get so angry;
Why does that person irritate me;
Why can’t I stop wanting their life;
Why did I do something so unethical;
Why did I drink so much?

It seems to me that many folks have  expectations of  responding well to big temptations that the experience of their daily spiritual walks’ do not support.  It should not surprise us that we fall when we are not regularly and consistently walking by the Spirit and setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.

Adultery never just happens –
it comes from habitually allowing our minds to linger on the sensual and lust.
Fits of anger never just happen –
it comes from allowing our selfishness to regularly be irritated for not getting what it wants.
Major lapses into the unethical never just happen –
they come from a pattern of compromise and justifications.
Feuds never just happen –
they come from years of pride and a refusal to reconcile.

Most of us want to think that we will never do those “big” sins.  What is your confidence built upon?  Is the confidence of victory over temptation based on hopeful speculation or experience?

How is your training been going? 

Does your daily walk support your expectations? 

There are many folks who expect a spiritual response when their path has not been of the Spirit.  They expect godliness when their minds have been languishing in the godless.  Our daily walk in the Spirit is a good indicator of how we will respond to those bigger challenges of our faith.

We need to have realistic expectations.  This is no place for speculation.  If your daily walk in the Spirit is not what you know it should be, then do something about it.  All of our minor flubs and foibles do matter because they show us where our minds are set.  Those mis-steps should not be merely dismissed and justified.  They should turn us back to our Lord and Savior in repentance, love, and a desire to follow Christ with our whole heart.

We can face temptations with confidence when we face them through the power of the Spirit.  Let’s make sure that we are actually living in the power of the Spirit.  Let’s run this race of life with realistic expectations based on the joyful experience of being daily trained by the Spirit himself.

PRAYER: Lord, you know that I want to persevere to the end.  You know that I want to run well.  You also know that I am very weak.  Father, help me; fill me with your Spirit and help me to set my mind on the things of you.  Lord, I need your help to walk in the Spirit.  Thank you for helping.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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