The Fruit of the Spirit is……..

 

 

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When a fruit tree grows it only reveals its true identity when the fruit is produced. Until that point it is simply a tree. The fruit starts small, and, as long as the tree stays connected to its roots, receiving the correct nutrients the fruit will continue to grow and mature until it is ready to eat.
We have an apple tree in our garden – we always try and eat the apples before they are ready – and it is never a good thing. They need to be left to get bigger and sweeten. We can taste the potential – we know they are going to be good – but they need to be left for a while.
If left alone, the tree will eventually drop the fruit – it will enrich the surrounding ground, but little else. Our apple tree usually produces more apples than we can pick, or eat (and the wasps usually have a few too), but many of them end up creating an ‘apple carpet’ at the bottom of our garden.
If a tree is properly cared for (we try, but gardening really isn’t our thing) the fruit is picked and consumed – others benefit from the goodness.
Notice that the tree itself doesn’t eat the fruit – it is for the benefit of others.

So it is with the Spirit filled Christian. Attached, plumbed in to the nutrients of the Word, local church and Holy Spirit, the fruit that only comes from Holy Spirit begins to develop. Young at first, we will quickly mature and produce good fruit.

But just like the fruit tree the fruit isn’t for our consumption.

Being connected to people I think is really important – otherwise the fruit we are producing goes to waste. How can we demonstrate the fruit of kindness and gentleness if there is no one around to be kind and gentle to?
Don’t let it fall to the ground, ‘uneaten’, stay connected to the source, produce fruit, and lots of it, and sweeten the community you are a part of.

 

 

 

The Son is always shining

 

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Stella Plage 9/8/17

We had arrived in France on holiday, unpacked the car, and headed down to the seafront. There was a beach to be played on, and if I played my cards right, some frites from a takeaway nearby. It was early evening, but still light.

It had clearly been raining earlier in the day though. There were puddles on the road, it was windy, and dark clouds filled the early evening sky.

The clouds were multiple shades of grey – almost like they had been piled and layered up on each other – the ones in front the darkest as they had many layers of clouds behind them.

Right in the centre of my view though, the sun was beginning to break through. The heat was evaporating the murky light caused by the clouds. Where this happened, blue sky was visible, but the thing that really caught my attention was the area where the sun had broken through. The brightness, intensified against the grey, revealed bright white clouds above the greyness. Although small in area, the light was dazzling, almost blinding.

It got me thinking………the sun is always shining, even when we can’t see it.

It seems to me that there are two reasons that we might not see the sun.

First, and perhaps the most obvious is that there are clouds in the way. Clouds often build up over time, but sometimes suddenly as a result of a strong wind, blowing them in, blocking the sun.

Whether they arrive quickly or over time so we just don’t notice, they are rarely a welcome addition to our experience of life. There are not many of us who like grey overcast days, with threats of rain.

The second reason that we don’t see the sun is that it is shining somewhere else. Either we are simply in the wrong place, or it’s the wrong time.

As I looked – I saw this as a great analogy of the Christian life. How often do clouds of doubt, stress, trouble fill our skies? Building up over time, we miss the fact that the brightness of the Son shining over us is slowly being blocked out.  We find that life is getting on top of us, that there isn’t anything good happening any more. The fact that the build-up has been gradual means that it has become “normal”, and we can stop looking for the brightness anymore.

It can get very frustrating when we think that God is “over there, blessing them – but doesn’t every seem to come here anymore.” Why does it seem that all the stories coming out of Cwmbran, Bethel, HTB or Hillsong never seem to happen where I am? Why do I have to go to Newday or Soul Survivor to see God move in power.  What are they doing differently to me?  Are they better than me? Do they deserve more than I do? And so the clouds of doubt continue to stack up.

Do you get bitter and upset because it isn’t happening where you are (perhaps it used to, but something has changed), or are you excited, and want to rush off on a pilgrimage so you can say you have been there. Maybe something will brush off on you and you won’t have your personal or corporate clouds anymore. My experience is that this works for a bit – and then the clouds and doubts start to form again – slowly at first, but in time all brightness has gone. You are then left with a choice, do you run back to where the Son was shining or figure out a way to live with the clouds.

I guess the first and most obvious question we must ask ourselves is have “I done something to cause the clouds to form? Have I taken my eyes off Jesus, focusing on something which may even seem worthwhile, but isn’t actually Him?” I might be throwing all sorts of energy into church – but if I am pursuing program over Him I am missing the point. If I am doing what I have always done, because I’ve have always done it without asking Him if it’s what He wants – I won’t see the blessing He has for me.

Do these “other” places and people not have problems? If they do, how come they don’t seem to struggle to see Jesus the same way I do?

Ephesians 2:6 says “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” If that is true (and it is), the I should have a completely different perspective on clouds. I sit above the clouds, seated where the Son is shining from. It’s not that the clouds aren’t there, but I see them from heavens perspective. From my heavenly seat, there is only the blinding light of Jesus. I can focus purely on Him, without worrying about the clouds that come to block my view of Him.

Bill Johnson once said, “Faith doesn’t deny a problems existence, it denies it a place of influence.” You see, clouds exist for all of us. Those who are experiencing the Fathers blessing right now also have worries and cares. The difference is that they don’t allow the worries and cares to shape their lives. They have faith in one who exists above the clouds – surrounded by bright light of Jesus.

Life can be tough, problems, hurts and worries will be a part of all of our lives. We need to navigate life keeping our focus on Jesus.  He is the one who calms the storm (Luke 8:22-25). He is able (and willing) to calm our storms.

Focus on the Son – and the grey clouds won’t look grey anymore.

 

 

Create the future, don’t guard the past.

I think we all know someone who’s opening line in any conversation is along the lines of “back in my day”, or “I remember when …..”.

Often, they are remembering something positive – (funny how we seem to forget the bad stuff after the passage of time isn’t it?” Reminiscing is fun – and can be useful. The danger arises when we begin to “live” in the past and the (tainted) memory of how good it was. Because we only remember the “good old days” and not the “actually, life was really tough old days”, we have a very tainted view of the past.

It is the same with the Christian life. Remembering the goodness of God is helpful – the Psalms are full of David remembering what God has done in the past and calling for Him to do it again.

God never changes – so looking back to what He has done is useful – but He is also “doing a new thing.” It is vital that we don’t miss the new thing that God is doing because we are looking backwards to what God did last week, last week or last century. We can learn lessons from all sorts of different people, denominations and cultures. We need to grab hold of the truths, embrace them, and apply the lessons to the next thing God is doing.

Nevertheless, …………

Remembering the past is important though. We call it testimony, and Revelation 19:10 tells us that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Recounting the things that Jesus has done builds faith. There is a “hope” that is raised when we hear that someone has been blessed by God. We celebrate with them, but perhaps secretly wish that we could get a similar blessing.

That we might also have a similar blessing is not a vain hope – because talking about these things releases something in the spiritual realm that really does enable more of the same to happen.

So, there is no doubt that testimony of the past is important.

But we can’t be constantly looking back – we risk missing what God is doing next. It’s like walking backwards all the time – we risk knocking into something, or worse falling over and hurting ourselves.

You see, the thing is, whilst it is great to hear of the things that Jesus did, the fact is He is still doing things today. We shouldn’t have to look very far back to allow testimony to build our faith.

When we create the future, we build on the lessons of the past. Things that have gone well, things that have challenged us. Without these lessons, there is the very real possibility of things falling apart around us.

I think it was Bill Johnson that once said, “God will never contradict His word, but He has no problem with contradicting our understanding of His word.” It’s great to wrestle with understanding the bible. Spending time in the word shapes us, helps us to be more like Jesus, and helps to ensure that we can “preach the word, being ready in season and out of season.” Recognising how different parts of scripture fit into the whole biblical narrative is vital. But spend too long focusing on one bit, and we may miss Holy Spirit moving in a different place.

We can look to the past to learn, but we can’t afford to live there.