It’s A Matter Of Life and Death

Did you ever stop to think about how we use the phrase “it’s a matter of life and death”? It just seems to me that these words are used far too much. For instance it’s a matter of life and death that dinner gets done in time. It’s a matter of life and death that I get to my hairdresser appointment. It’s a matter of life and death that I get this new CD, TV or whatever. The list goes on and on. Why in life is everything a matter of life and death?

To me the only thing that these words should be used for is a medical emergency or a conversation dealing with a person’s salvation. It is a matter of life and death about where you spend eternity. Too many times we do not sense the urgency in helping our non-Christian friends and acquaintances understand the impotence of accepting Christ as their personal savior. In fact many times we place more urgency on what we need to do instead of putting an emphasis on what really needs to be done: witnessing. 

Christ said that we should go into the world preaching and teaching others about Him. Christ knew it was a matter of spiritual importance that we tell others because we do not know when we are going to face death. Every time we meet someone new we must say to ourselves “it’s a matter of life and death” that I witness to this person. 

As Christians we need to see the importance of preaching God’s word and helping others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I am not saying whatever else you do in life is not important, because we are called to be good stewards of what we are given. All I am saying is that the next time you are tempted to say the words “it’s a matter of life and death” think about, is it really or is it something that can wait while we take the time to listen to a friend in Christ or to share the Good News with a non believer. 

Think about it!

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Comparing yourself to others is hazardous to your health

It can take our focus off of the task we are asked to do. It can also allow us to mentally rate ourselves against another person’s performance. This can cause us to belittle our contribution to the work of the Body of Christ or to make us feel like what we are doing is more important than what someone else is doing.

In John 21:21-22 when Peter asked “What about him?” referring to John and what type of death he would succumb to Jesus answered by saying basically don’t worry about him “You follow me”

In other words don’t worry about the other guy is or isn’t doing; the most important way of life is to follow Jesus. 

Another verse to look at is Luke 6:41-42
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thane own eye?

This is a classic verse on comparing yourself to someone else. I know it is mostly about judging someone else while you have hidden sin, but think about it if you compare yourself to someone else and find yourself wanting you are judging yourself by your own standards not God’s. Likewise if you compare yourself to another and find that you have more abilities you are judging that person, again by your own standards not God’s

Comparing yourself is a foolish game to play?

We all have different gifts and talents so when we compare ourselves to someone else we are foolishly putting ourselves at a psychological advantage or disadvantage. So my gift is not your gift. If we combine our gifts we can work together in the body of Christ. 

Open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 12:18-.27

Here Paul tells us that god made our bodies with many parts, each with a specific purpose. One part cannot work without the other. It is the same in the body of Christ, God made us with a specific purpose in mind so we should concentrate on fulfilling that purpose and not waste time on comparing ourselves to other people. 

Comparison to another person, where God given gifts are concerned is foolish 

You can free from the need to compare by:

1. acceptance of yourself and your talents to you by God
2. celebrating your calling as a gift from God
3. knowing that what you are doing is a privilege and is to used for God’s work no matter what you are doing or how well you do it.
4. realizing that God looks at us individually 

if you read Galatians 6:4-5 brings forth the idea that we are to do our own work for the personal satisfaction of knowing we have done our work well and then we will not need to compare ourselves to others. 

Remember we are all in this together.

A Good Self – Esteem

What makes me as a person, valuable and important?

In our society we tend to measure our value on the basis of external measurements. We constantly ask ourselves, “do I measure up to what the world expects me to be?”. If we fall short of the measurement we are left wanting. 

That is why all those reality shows are so popular because we want to fit in, both in the way we look and perform. I am not saying loosing weight and looking good is a bad thing. It all depends on the reasons you are doing it. If you are doing to get healthy that is ok, but if not you better check your motives.

We are made in the image of God so we are valuable to Him, no matter what. That is what we should draw our self worth from, the fact that we are God’s creation not some image in a magazine or on TV. Did you ever see some of the so-called glamorous people without makeup and not in retouched photographs? They look just like you and me. The only difference is that they work a little harder to keep up an image that you buy into.

God says that we are special because we are made in His image. So no matter what we look like, thick or thin, tall or short we are His children.

Think about the fact that God knew you before you were born and the Bible says He took great care to form you in your mother’s womb. That is the central idea of Jeremiah 1:5

So he took that much care to from you, does it come to reason the value He places on you simply because He took the time to create you.

Lets look at a couple of verses that show how much God values you. 
Psalm 139:1-36 talks about how God watches over you personally. He follows your every movement. That can be both comforting and scary at the same time. Think about it.

1 Corinthians 6:19 also tells us that God values us so much that He indwells those who believe and our bodies become living temples. 

So if God values us so much we need to develop a healthy self esteem.

How to develop a positive self-esteem

1. As we have been saying see yourself as God’s creation not the world’s re-creation. 
2. Romans 12:3 says to honestly appraise yourself. Hold yourself to God’s standard not some standard that you cannot hope to attain.
3. Again sung Romans 12:3 Use YOUR gifts for the Lord’s work. Don’t try to attain gifts that are beyond your capabilities, which sets you up for failure. 
4. 1 peter 4:10 says that we must also give away our gifts, which from personal experience helps build up not only you but also the Body of Christ

So in the end remember the words of Jesus in 10:29-31 where he talks about how God know when one sparrow falls to earth and we are more valuable then the sparrows. This means that God is there with you no matter what. So the next time you are tempted to measure yourself against the worlds standards go look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are ok the way you are because you were created by God

Fruits of the Spirit – Self Control

What is Self Control? – A World View
I don’t really know if there is a worldview of self control anymore? When you come right down to it, this world seems to be spinning out of control. The word self is in but instead of self-control is it self-expression. The buzz throughout the secular world is that there is a desire to do what they want, when they want and with who theywant to. To put any controls on their self-expression is to go against their rights as a free and independent citizen. All I can say is give me a break. 

The lack of self-control has caused a downward spiral in this country that if it does not cease we may see the end of the United States, as we now know it. If we are to understand how out of control our world has become all you need to do is look at the dictionary definition of self-control is.

What is Self Control? – The Dictionary definition
Control of one’s emotions, desires, or actions by one’s own will. 

When you look at this definition you see two things right away. The first part of the definition is the control of one’s emotions by one’s own will. All you need to do is look at the headlines to see what happens when God and Jesus are taken out of the equation. We are left to wander around reacting to our own emotions out of control. In my local paper last year alone there were at least twenty or thirty killings which were due to anger and emotional reactions to bad drug deals. One has to wonder how many of those killing would have been averted if people knew the Lord and lived by the Fruit of the Spirit. 

The second half of the definition is control of one’s desires or actions by one’s own will. This is one area I think even Christians have a hard time dealing with. Our desires control who we are and the person we will become. That is why control over our desires or actions is crucial. The problem is that sometimes we are confused about what is a desire and what is actually a need. Do you buy a fifty thousand dollar new car or one for a lot less? Our desire says we want to look good and impress others so we go with the fifty thousand dollar new car.

Now using a fifty thousand dollar new car may be an extreme example but I used it to get your attention. Anytime we go against what is right and react out of impulse, without thinking it through, and do what we know to be wrong we are acting on our own desires. Do we tell the person about Jesus or do we skip over it for fear of looking bad? We are letting our own desires to not look bad get in the way. By the way Jesus said if we are ashamed of Him here on earth then He will be ashamed of us where it counts in Heaven before the Father. 

What is Self Control? – Paul’s vision in Galatians
So the question needs to be asked what does self-control have to do with the Fruit of the Spirit? When you think about it a Christian must have a higher degree of self-control than non-Christians because we are always under scrutiny. If we give into an inappropriate desire then it will tarnish not only our witness but also maybe the witness of many other Christians. 

If we are left on our own then our desires will take control of us and may even consume us. Paul knew that well after all he was the guy whose desire was to persecute and even kill Christians. The one-day on a lonely road Jesus came to Paul and changed the desire of his heart. This is what happens to us when we come to Christ the Holy Spirit changes the desires of our hearts. Paul knew that when he wrote this verse that if we truly focus our love and joy on Jesus and put our faithfulness is in Him not in our own actions then not only will we have peace and the other Fruit of the Spirit but we will also have self-control. 

Not in our own power but in the power of the Holy Spirit. I know in my life there are many times I have felt the Holy Spirit say no when my desire was to say yes. It was only by the power of the Holy Spirit that I could have had self-control. The important thing then is to listen to the Holy Spirit. After all if we love God then we must place our joy and faith in the fact that when God says no then there must be a good reason for Him to be doing it. Many times Paul wanted to do something or go somewhere and God said no. I am sure there were times when Paul thought about going against God’s advice but out of self-control Paul listened to God.

The list was written with self-control last because when you look at is this way until you truly love God in your heart. This means that you do not share any space in your heart with anything else, but allow God to be the only tenant there, you will not know any of the other Fruit of the Spirit. Also I feel that until the other Fruit of the Spirit are evident in your life you do not really have self-control but will every now or then give into a wrong desire. Without the love joy, and peace of God inside you cannot show the patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness and faithfulness of God to others, because you do not fully have self control in your actions through the Holy Spirit.

What is Self Control? – Some parting thoughts and a couple of questions
Man’s desires are to do his own thing but it is important that as Christians that we practice self control not only for our good but the good of others. Also when we do not give into temptation and practice self-control we are showing God how much we love Him and are grateful for what he has done for us.

Think about it, have you truly practiced self-control today or are there thought or actions where you gave into your desires?

Also is you life one of self control or is it one that is out of control Monday through Saturday but brought back in line on Sunday only?

Fruits of the Spirit – Faithfulness

What is Faithfulness? – The Modern View
The world has a distorted view of faithfulness. This is evident in the way ad campaigns are run and products are sold. Being faithful in our society means to be true to ones self and our self interests. Faithfulness is a temporary feeling that can come and go. One day I can be faithful to my team, my spouse or whatever, but if something better comes along, my interest and faith shifts.

What is Faithfulness? – The dictionary definition
The dictionary defines faithfulness as the quality of being faithful. 
In light of this definition we must find out what it is like to be faithful. 

The dictionary defines being faithful as
· Adhering firmly and devotedly, as to a person, cause, or idea; loyal. 
· Having or full of faith. 
· Worthy of trust or belief; reliable. 
· Consistent with truth or actuality:

As you can see none of these definitions conforms to what the worldview of faithfulness is. The world’s faithfulness is temporary, while God’s faithfulness to us is permanent. The Bible says in 

So what is faithfulness based on Galatians 5:22 I think in light of the rest of the passage Paul was striving for the idea of a Christian being firmly planted in the truth of the Gospel and being worthy
of trust

What is Faithfulness? – Paul’s Vision
Paul when writing to the Galatians wanted to stress the importance of a life built around a relationship with God. In light of this he first lets the reader know in Chapter 5:19 that if we follow our own inclinations, or a life that is not consistent with the truth we will have evil results: idolatry, lustful pleasure and the list goes on.

Paul then goes on to let us know that people who follow their own path will not inherit the Kingdom of God, why because God’s kingdom is built around the truth and as Christians we must accept the truth so we can be free. Faithfulness is accepting the truth and then adhering firmly to that truth as a devoted person of God. Paul notes that this Fruit is firmly rooted in the Holy Spirit. The reason for this is that without the work of the Holy Spirit we do not understand the truth and we do not exhibit the Fruits of the Spirit. 

Paul list contains faithfulness because it is an outward action of the first three Fruits, love, joy and peace. That which you truly love you will find the most, joy in, have the peace with and put the most faith in. Can you see how faithfulness ties the other Fruit of the Spirit together and how with the other Fruit of the Spirit faithfulness will naturally follow: Love in Christ, Joy in Christ, Peace in Christ, Patience through Christ, and the Goodness of Christ exhibited through us. 

Paul’s list then is a natural conclusion to the work of the Holy Spirit in us and is the truth at work as opposed to the illusion of truth that we have when we follow our own inclinations of a sinful heart. The Holy Spirit is the light our soul needs to see that which incarnate man cannot usually see.. 

What is Faithfulness? – What to do with it.
What then will you do with your faith? The answer is to exercise your faith. Expressing your faith is an inward but also an outward expression of your love, joy and peace in Christ. It is ironic that when we put our trust and faith in say a sports team, we wear their colors, praise their names and celebrate their victories, but for many Christians when they put their faith and trust in Christ you do not hear a word from them.

What is Faithfulness? – A couple parting questions
Where is your faith firmly planted? Don’t be to quick to answer think about each day of your life and what you do, then answer the question truthfully.

Do people see that you are devoted and have faithfulness in Christ?

Fruits of the Spirit – Kindness

What is kindness? I think most people would define kindness as going out their way to help someone. The dictionary defines kindness as:
1: the quality of being warm-hearted and considerate and humane and sympathetic
2: tendency to be kind and forgiving
3: a kind act

Paul’s definition of the Fruit of The Spirit in Galatians 5:22 lists kindness as the fifth fruit which if you think about it, is a natural progression with the list so far. If we manifest the first four Fruits of the Spirit, (love, joy peace and patience) how can we not help but exhibit kindness? 

After all as the dictionary states kindness is being warmhearted and considerate which is a manifestation of love, joy peace and patience. 

Our God is a God of kindness. If He weren’t we would not be here right now. We have but to remember where the Fruit of The Spirit comes from and we will see that God who is a God of love, joy, peace and patience is also overwhelmingly kind to His creation when we are anything but kind to Him.

The Bibles has a lot to say about kindness and being kind:
I Thessalonians 5:15 says, “to always be kind””
Ephesians 4:32 says, “to be kind and compassionate”

These are only two of the verses in the Bible dedicated to kindness. If you would look up just the word kindness in a Bible concordance you would find 36 passages that use the word kindness. Most of the passages on kindness deal with followers of God showing sympathy or being considerate to others in word, action or deed. There is a great importance placed on the believer being kind to others. The question then is whom should I be kind to? Which others? The Bible has a great illustration of kindness in the parable of the Good Samaritan. I am not going to list it here but if you would like to look it up it can be found in Luke 10:30-37.

It is interesting to note that in the passages right before that parable, Jesus is asked about what a person must do to inherit the Kingdom of God. Jesus then asks the man the question “what does the law say” The mans answer saying, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”‘; and, “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The man knew in his heart what he had to do but he was without love, and joy and peace and patience for everyone so he asked Jesus the question of “who is my neighbor?” which leads to the parable of the Good Samaritan. So just who are we to be kind to? The answer is according to Jesus is our neighbors and our neighbor is everyone we come in contact with, good, bad or otherwise. 

No matter the situation, no matter how we feel about the person we are to shoe kindness. There is no need to worry thought because when we have love, joy, peace and patience, kindness will be in our hearts, kindness to all. 

Of the three people in the parable of the Good Samaritan who do you see yourself as, the priest, the Levite or the Good Samaritan? If you answered anything other than the Good Samaritan it is time for you to ask God to change your heart. 

Paul knew how important kindness was He was on the receiving end of God’s loving kindness on the road to Damascus. He was a man who many Christians saw as an enemy but God saw him as someone worthy of His love and bestowed on Paul the greatest act of kindness, eternal life. If we have love, joy, peace and patience will we being to see the world as God sees the world a place in need of kindness. Take a good look around your neighborhood and you will see many souls in need of kindness and who knows your act of kindness to your neighbors may be what God will use to bring another one of His children home.

Fruit of the Spirit – Joy

What is joy? The dictionary defines joy as: an intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness or to be filled with ecstatic happiness, pleasure, or satisfaction
What do you think joy is? Sure it is to be filled happiness but I think the true feeling of joy as described in the Bible goes much deeper than that. 

In the Bible the word joy is used to describe any range of human experiences from the birth of a son or daughter to sexual love. In our society joy is often found in these same types of experiences. The problem with this type of joy is that it is fleeting. When the excitement of the experience is over the joy seems to end with it. 

This type of joy is based on emotions. I think God intends for our joy to go much deeper than just an emotion. God wants us to not only feel joy, but also to know God’s true joy. Feeling joy is only temporary and goes away when the feelings end but knowing joy goes beyond the feeling. True joy is with you no matter what happens. This is the type of joy that keeps a person who is ill, smiling or a person who feels that life is nothing, hoping.

Our joy is not found in someone or something that looses it’s luster after a few days, months or years our joy is found in God and the truth of love, which was shown on the cross. Lets look at a few passages that show us where our joy should rest. These verses I think sum up what Paul intended for the word joy to mean when he laid out the Fruit of the Spirit.

The first thing you notice about the word joy in Galatians is that it is listed second to love. I think this was intentional because without love you cannot have joy.

The Bible says in Proverbs 29:3 “A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth”

This verse has different interpretations but I think this verse in proverbs show that when our love is placed on the Father’s wisdom not on the ways of the prostitute (the world) we will have true joy: joy that cannot be taken away from us. You see when we make the wise choice and accept the love offering of Jesus, which is to give our life to Him for what He has done for us we will have joy. First comes love then comes joy.

This is why I think Paul’s list of the Fruit of The Spirit is written in a specific order first must be a love for God and His Word which brings wisdom and the wisdom of what God has done for us will manifest as true joy in our lives. 

This idea is also brought forth in verses such as Psalm 45:7 which states that “ love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy”

This verse shows that of we first love God and righteousness we will be anointed with joy. Again first we have love and then we have joy. Think about it if you take way love what do you have hate and misery. So with love you have joy without love you have hate and misery. The choice is yours.

So the answer the question of what is joy would be knowing God and experiencing His love which moves us from a place away from God to a place by His side. This is joy an intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness or to be filled with ecstatic happiness, pleasure, or satisfaction because of love and what love has done for us. Do not confuse God’s joy with world’s joy because without the love of God, joy is just a fleeting moment in the sun that leaves with coming darkness and waits for renewal at the coming sun of whatever comes along.

The question that must be asked of us is what are we going to do with our love and joy.