Where Are You?

Where Are You?

By Jane Horvath

“But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” Genesis 3:9

My love of cop shows started when I was 10 years old. The television program name was Car 54, Where Are You? It was a comedy that ran on NBC from 1961 to 1963. The story was about two NYC police officers based in the 53rd precinct of the Bronx. Car 54 was their patrol car. As a child, it was funny to me that no one ever seemed to know where the officers were located. The radio was constantly heard broadcasting, “Car 54, where are you?”

In Genesis 3:9, God calls out to Adam and Eve. He asks them, “Where are you?” Unfortunately, it is not funny in this instance. It is tragic, but also full of grace. God knew exactly where Adam & Eve were when He asked. They were hiding from God as a result of deception and disobedience. That is the tragic part. God was calling out to them. He was offering them a chance to confess. The confession of their sin would re-establish the relationship with Him and remove their shame. That is grace.

When we are in the middle of challenging circumstances, God wants to know where we are in our heads and our hearts. He wants to know if we are being deceived by the enemy or trusting in His plan for our lives. We need to be sure we are not hiding in shame and blame. Call out to Him and let Him know exactly where you are. He will meet you where you are. Learn to hide in His shelter, safe from the enemy (Psalm 27:5-6).

Today, God is asking, “Where are you?” He is not asking for a physical address, He wants to know where we are in relationship to Him. He is giving us the opportunity, seasoned with grace, to confess our sins without condemnation (Romans 8:1). He’s providing a chance at forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9). God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Give Him the answer to this question every moment of every day.

Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

By Pastor Ben Hill (reproduced with permission)

“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 5:22-23

We have come to the final fruit of the Spirit and it is self-control. As I have been meditating on it, I have asked myself the following questions: “why is self-control the last of the fruit?” “Is there any significance in the order that they are listed?” Well, while I cannot give a definitive answer to these questions, there does seem to be a strong argument at least for the “bookends” (first and last) being in their respective positions.

Love comes first. That is true in every aspect of the Christian experience. In the Gospel, John 3:16 reads, “For God so LOVED the world that He gave…. His Son…” and in the Christian’s interaction with the lost, as found in Luke 10:27, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, (i.e. love God first – spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually) and your neighbor as yourself.” The truth is that without love, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13, I am NOTHING! So, love makes all the other fruits possible, because without love nothing else is genuine.

Likewise, I believe that self-control is the perfect other side of the bank of the fruit of the Spirit “river” that (hopefully) freely flows in our lives as Believers. A river with only one bank (i.e. “love” in this case) is not a river at all but rather just a swamp or marsh. Another bank is required in a river to keep the waters flowing, to keep them contained and effective. Self-control is that “river bank” of the fruits of the Spirit. Without it, the other fruits lose their effectiveness, and even identity. Self-control is required to show true Godly love, necessary to define genuine joy, essential to recognizing peace, a prerequisite for patience, and the absolute boundary that gives kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness credibility. Without self-control, the other fruits, regardless of how much they mean to you, are wasted. Loss of self-control makes the other fruits unbelievable, simply running off into the “swamp” of just another hypocrite.

The truth is that lack of control is what is in the natural man. Take, for instance, a temper tantrum: frustrating but acceptable in a small child, but ridiculous and damaging in a grown adult in the workplace! Paul outlines in painful detail the frightening results of a total lack of self-control in the previous three verses to our passage found in Galatians 5. To navigate the “river” of this life, I submit that if you follow the path that is defined by the “riverbanks” of LOVE and SELF-CONTROL, then the other fruit of the sweet Holy Spirit will be both evident and revealed in our lives!!

 

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

By Pastor Ben Hill (Reproduced with permission)

“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 5:22-23

Picture, if you will, a beautiful meadow with the wind softly blowing the tall grass and dandelions, a barefoot child in light spring clothing, playing just an arms-length from a laughing and engaged mother, butterflies dancing daintily on the breeze. Or the care with which a mother lifts her newborn from a crib. Perhaps these are the images in your mind when you hear the word “gentleness.”

The word in Galatians that is translated into gentleness is the Greek word, ‘chrēstotēs’. It can also be translated as meekness. This word certainly does not mean “weakness” or “timidity”; rather, it means a humble attitude and appreciation for God, and a polite and restrained demeanor when dealing with our fellow man. The fruit of the Holy Spirit in a maturing and surrendered Christian is manifested as strength and authority, cushioned by humble and respectful (or gentle) dealings with others. Notice it doesn’t mean questioning or turning away from truth or the strength of one’s convictions. It is similar to the way submission to God and His control brings an ability to correct others with ease and patience rather than with an argument in anger and resentment.

As I was preparing my amazing father’s funeral message, God kept directing me to the fact that, looking back, I could clearly see the evidence of all the Fruits of the Spirit in my father’s life! But, the one that seemed most prominent to me was this one, “gentleness.” Daddy was indeed a Spirit-filled and “gentle” gentleman. He had the conviction to boldly and unapologetically preach the Truth of God’s Word, while at the same time treating everyone with kindness, humility, and respect…yes, with gentleness.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in this excerpt from his poem “The Village Blacksmith,” paints a wonderful word-picture of this strength and power, wrapped in soft velvet:

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man…

Then he tells of the blacksmith sitting in church listening to his daughter sing:

It sounds to him like her mother’s voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.

Be gentle and show the love of Christ!

 

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

By Pastor Ben Hill (reproduced with permission)

“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 5:22-23

Once I was greeted by a stranger in passing with the standard, “How are you?” And I responded with the equally predictable retort, “I’m good, you?” Now ignoring the fact that we had both just repeated what is a common “greeting” here in the south, and not really an expression of deep concern for each other’s general well-being, the thought came to my mind: “can I really, honestly say that I am good? That, after all, presumes an awful lot!” Let me explain.

God is good. It is His nature. Goodness permeates His very being and that reality never ever waivers. God cannot contradict Himself so there is never a time when, or an action where, God is NOT Good! Me, on the other hand, well…. I’ll let you fill in the blank (and you won’t have to look at me, just look at yourself and the answer will come).

Remember being told by a parent, or telling your own child as a parent, “bye, have fun, and BE GOOD”? If your experience is anything like mine, that advice was followed with varying degrees of adherence, to say the least. But we all knew what it meant: do good, behave right, perhaps even, “don’t embarrass me!” How effective was that? Is that all the fruit of the Spirit “goodness” means? Jesus told the rich young ruler in Mark 10:18, “no one is good except God alone.” The young ruler had tried to earn God’s favor by doing and following all His commandments and by being morally right, but Jesus said it wasn’t enough! Teaching others to simply “do good” can easily become legalism.

The rich, young ruler was trying to earn his way to heaven by doing “good” and “following the rules”, but he lacked the most important thing… a genuine love for the rule-maker.

You see, the “goodness” that is a fruit of the Spirit is not merely self-righteous moral behavior, but rather is an excellence of character. It takes our good faith effort to do good and mixes it with the reality of God being good to produce in us an expression of His goodness. This is only possible through God’s divine work in our hearts. To enjoy the “goodness fruit” of the Spirit, get lost in and follow the great commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your might” and from that you will see the fruit of goodness as you “love others as yourself.”

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

By Pastor Ben Hill (reproduced with permission)

“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 5:22-23


Glen Campbell sang:

If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and say, “You’re going the wrong way”

You got to try a little kindness, yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Now to those of us who are old enough to the remember the song, and now have it “stuck” in our heads I say, “You’re welcome!”

Kindness…of all the fruits of the Spirit, this one is perhaps the most innately understood. Most everyone we meet has some idea of what kindness is, and can recognize kindness where it exists and where it doesn’t. Kindness doesn’t require any special knowledge; it is free, doesn’t need a program and doesn’t require special permission. No. Kindness is the simple act of being…well, KIND.

To express the love and grace of God necessitates kindness. How willing is someone going to be to listen to the Gospel if the one “preaching” it isn’t first and foremost kind?! The legalist shouts “truths” with condemnation while feeling secure in their self-righteousness. However, the Holy Spirit-led and passionate Christ follower wraps everything in a blanket of kindness and ministers grace and Truth to the community around them.

Another thought: As I typed the word “kind,” I was reminded of my niece, Kylie. She used to work for the KIND Snack company, and stocked us up well with their delicious snack bars. I remember thinking at the time how ironic it was because Kylie is by nature such a lovingly kind person! Well, curiosity kicked in and I did some quick research on the company; and there it is, where the name came from… it is just that, kindness. Their communicated goal is to 1) foster kindness to the body by using all natural ingredients; 2) Be kind to taste buds by making them taste great; and 3) Try to spread kindness through communities, country and the world.

Well, snack bars by themselves won’t get it done, but Jesus can! “Try a little kindness…” today and tomorrow and on and on… watch what the Lord does as we show the world the “kinder, gentler, loving side” of the church.

Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

By Pastor Ben Hill (reproduced with permission)

“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 5:22-23

“Patience” …everybody’s favorite word! Not really, is it? When we think of this particular fruit of the Spirit, what often comes to mind is the tongue-in-cheek saying, “Don’t ever pray for patience!” Why? Because the Bible tells us in James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

The thought is that since, according to James, the “testing of your faith” or “trials” is what produces patience, then to avoid trials, don’t pray for patience! Well, while it may be cute or catchy, that is just plain wrong theology. Patience isn’t something to be avoided, rather it is another sweet expression of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives!

It all deserves a closer look. In James 1:2-4, the word translated “patience” is the Greek word ‘hypomone,’ and it literally means “an underneath abiding.” It can be passive, i.e. “endurance,” or developed through trial as in trials in general (Luke 21:19), in trials coming from service in the gospel (2 Cor. 6:4; 2 Cor. 12:12; 2 Tim. 3:10) or chastisement from God the Father (Heb 12:7). Or it can be active, i.e. “persistence, perseverance,” as in well doing, (Rom. 2:7), in fruit bearing, (Luke 8:15) or in running the race (Heb. 12:1).

However, the word in our text of study that is (unfortunately, in my opinion) translated “patience” in some translations, is the Greek word ‘makrothymia.’ It comes from ‘makros’ = “long” and ‘thymos’ = “temper.” Long-tempered means “long suffering.” This concerns the interpersonal relationships we all navigate in life. You see, because of our sin nature, the big “I” in the middle of sin or “Self – Ish – Ness,” we cannot just develop a strong enough Christian character. No, this is where God must work in big ways. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. The flesh screams “lash out, retaliate” when we are wronged. But the Spirit says, “wait, love, suffer long, leave it to the Lord.” As it says in Romans 12:14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”

To be able to “turn the other cheek” is a product of the fruit of the Spirit. Surely, you’ve noticed by now that it only comes from intimate, personal time with Him.

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