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.

Staying Connected to God

Staying Connected to God

By Anonymous Contributor

“Life happens.” It’s a very familiar phrase and yet, so true. Our lives in this day and time are so busy with family, friends, school, work, hobbies, sports, social media… the list could go on forever. With all of this on our plates, it can be difficult to take the time necessary to nurture our walk with the Lord. So how do we stay connected to God and keep our eyes on Christ when life is constantly changing and challenging us?

For a moment, consider how storms on Earth can affect nature: they can be devastating, and at times, they can consume everything in their paths, with no exceptions. They present challenges for all that face them. But ultimately, they bring change to the landscape of the Earth. It is from that devastation that nature perseveres and becomes stronger in order to survive future storms. Isn’t this why God allows storms to happen in our lives? He uses the challenges of life to change the landscape of our sinful nature. Through this process, He purifies our hearts, minds, and souls.

I recently heard someone say that our lives are like chapters, with Jesus Christ as the author. This really shook me. It changed my perspective of how we are to react to challenging circumstances. Our knee-jerk reaction as humans is to stress over the least little thing that doesn’t go as planned. We get upset when our expectations aren’t met. I’m certainly guilty of this, as I have looked at past storms in my life as a hindrance. But, everything changed when I realized that those storms were part of the chapters that Jesus wrote. If Jesus is the author, and all that He allows in our lives is for our good, then we should embrace the storms as His way of doing a work in us. His work in us can ultimately bring glory to His name.

At times, staying connected to God can seem especially difficult when facing the “storms” of life. Let’s look at three ways we can stay connected with God and keep our eyes focused on Christ in spite of the situations we may face.

1. Daily crucify our flesh. We can start by crucifying our flesh daily. We have to put God’s will above our own, especially when facing challenges. When we do this, we are submitting to the work that He is doing in and through us and accepting the change that He is bringing into our lives. This can be extremely difficult when our will conflicts with His. But remember, He only wants what’s best for us and He knows the path before us because He is writing that next chapter.

2. Constant communication with God. Staying in constant communication with God is key to surviving the storm. We have to hold every thought captive before God and ask this simple question: Does this bring glory to His name? If the answer is no, then that thought has to be discarded. We can’t hold on to our own thoughts and ideals; we have to make room in our hearts and minds for Him to work through us for His glory. God longs for us to spend time with Him. By holding our thoughts captive before Him, we are allowing Him to speak to every aspect of our lives. Then, even in the simplest things, we can hear His voice directing us.

3. Praying and reading God’s Word. Need I say more? When I say prayer, I’m not talking about the little prayers we say in the moment or blessing the food on our tables. I’m talking about deep meditation and time spent pleading with God, laying the concerns of our hearts before Him, and listening for His voice. Remember, He cares deeply about the things that concern us and wants only what is best for us. (Can you see the recurring theme here?) And when it comes to the Bible, I’m talking about really consuming God’s Word, not just getting a daily verse notification from your favorite Bible app. God’s Word is alive and well and when we spend time reading His Word with the intent of applying what we learn to our daily lives, we will see Him working through us and all around us!

When the storms of life bring challenges and change, we have a choice to make. We can try to run from it and not accept what God has planned for our lives, or we can run directly into the eye of the storm, knowing God is about to do something great in our lives. Yes, the storm may cause us distress, uncertainty, and even pain, but God has a plan for our lives that is meant only for our good!

And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose. Romans 8:28 AMP

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: Faithfulness

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

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

In a today’s culture, where opportunism and self-appeasement are so prevalent, it can be discouraging to try to find “faithful” people. The primary word translated to “faith” from the New Testament Greek is pistis, which is the same word used for “faithfulness.” Therefore, it represents both assurance and belief. When we think of faithfulness as in Galatians 5:22, it is generally thought of as “reliability.”

It is interesting, I believe, that in the Greek, ‘pistis’ is used for both faith (a quantitative commodity) and faithfulness (a measurable attribute), as they are different in definition but connected from the same root in meaning. You see, the faith in the Lord that we have is in direct proportion to, and indeed developed by, our exercising of faithfulness. The Bible provides a direct definition of faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (see Heb 11:1). The only way to build the quantifiable substance of faith is to practice faithfulness!

I hate to admit it, but I am repeatedly guilty of waiting on God to miraculously endow me with any faith that is required whenever a crisis hits. But although God does often give me the faith required, the need for a miracle keeps repeating itself. However, if I were to exercise faithfulness daily, hourly or even minute by minute, the things that are considered crises now would be relegated to minor bumps in the road that we all travel!

Paul establishes faithfulness as a bedrock of Christian living when in 2 Timothy 2:2 he says, “And the things that you have heard from me, among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” It is said: “practice makes perfect” but I profoundly disagree! Only perfect practice makes perfect! God gives us all the gifts we need to “practice” perfectly. So keep swinging as life throws curve balls and fastballs down and in…but just keep swinging.

Looking at each one of the “fruits of the Spirit” individually has certainly called to attention to so much that is lacking in my life! What about yours? Just a thought…for the day.

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.”

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