Last night I was invited by a gentlemen in our church to go to our local salvation army dinner. The goal of the evening were to celebrate the wonderful things they have done in the past year, as well as recruit "bell ringers" for the upcoming Christmas season. Through all the celebrations and handing out of awards, I was wonderful to see what God has used incredible people (many who do it voluntarily) to do in West Chester. During dinner I was able to sit next to a woman who had been a bell ringer the prior year. As we began to dialogue I heard her story. A little over a year ago her 18 year old son took his life. Tears began to well up in her eyes and throughout the evening she would continually take brief moments to gather herself. I tried my best to encourage her, to let her know of loss I have had and how even though we never believe it at the time, it DOES get easier. Tears turn to smiles, loss turns to recognizing the blessing that we were blessed to have the time we did, and life in general moves on.
I was in love with her story for one particular aspect. After her son took his life she began to go through his bible. She bought around 50 of the exact same bible and highlighted ALL the same scriptures her son had highlighted in his bible. Her goal was to find some of his friends, or anyone who has gone through loss and grief and give them to them. Strong is the heart of a mother. Stronger then grief.
The theme of the night was Salvation Army's general theme "Doing the most good". Nothing could have been more demonstrated to me that night then a mother who loved her child, and desired to do the "most good' out of a horrible situation.
I was reading Pete Wilson's blog today and he spoke of a story where someone texted him this powerful scripture. It sums up where our hope, courage and faith comes from.
Lamentations 3:21-24The Message (MSG)
It’s a Good Thing to Hope for Help from God19-21 I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember--
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
22-24 God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.
Take The Fruit of the Spirit Inventory The Holy Spirit Produces Fruit In Our Life
In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul writes the church and tells them that God wants to work in their lives to produce fruit. Jesus once cursed an olive tree. The disciples had not eaten all day and there was an olive tree in the distance. It was not the season for fruit but by all appearances this tree was loaded with fruit. As they approached the tree, even though it appeared to be in season, it was barren. Jesus used this as an illustration of having the outward appearance of fruit, but no real substance. We can go to church, go to group Bible Studies, but if there is not the fruit of the Spirit in our life then we are like what James said “faith without works is dead.”
What is spiritual fruit? It is our outward evidence of the inward life of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22 Paul writes:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
When we consider God equipping us for ministry, what better way than His Spirit producing in our life, the qualities we need for effective ministry? The Holy Spirit works in our life to produce what Paul calls the Fruit of the Spirit. These are love , patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. It is through the living out of these attributes that God ministers to those around us. We are vehicle of God’s Holy Spirit. When we yield our lives to God He then produces in us a life that He can use as a witness of who He is. You can tell a tree by the fruit that it produces. Likewise people will know about Jesus by the way we live out the fruit of the Spirit.
Not only does the Holy Spirit give us power and make us competent for ministry, He also helps us emotionally. Notice that the fruit has to do with our emotions. Love, joy, peace. These are emotional. Patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are heavily affected by our emotions. We are emotional beings. Ministry is emotional.
Look at Romans 15:13:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Part of the job of the Holy Spirit is to work with our inner person to give us joy, hope, peace and love. Paul shares that God’s Kingdom has a different value system then the world’s. The world says that happiness in life is going after physical gratification. It is giving in to lust, greed and selfishness. Instead, God’s kingdom is about true happiness and satisfaction that comes from living with the Holy Spirit guiding our life. In Romans 14:17-18 Paul writes:
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
What about love? We always say that Jesus loves us, but did you know that Paul shares about the love of the Holy Spirit? In Romans 15:30 Paul writes:
I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.
Have you ever thanked God for that love?
Is the Fruit of the Spirit Growing In Your Life? Examine yourself with our Fruit of the Spirit Inventory.
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT INVENTORY
Look at the list of the fruit of the Spirit and indicate by a number 1-5, how you feel you are experiencing each particular fruit in you life right now. (1 = not experiencing this particular fruit of the Spirit in my life right now, 5 = I am really experiencing this particular fruit of the Spirit in my life right now.)
Are you being led by the Spirit in reaching out to others in a loving manner?
Do you treat your family and those around you with love? Are you self sacrificing, preferring others over yourself? Circle where you are 1 2 3 4 5
Is the Holy Spirit producing a real joy in your heart that spills into the life you live? Do you choose joy over worry? Do you rejoice in God’s presence in your life? Circle where you are 1 2 3 4 5
Is your life full of peace in spite of your circumstances? Are you trusting God and not fearful about your circumstances? Do you experience the peace of God that passes all our understanding? Circle where you are 1 2 3 4 5
Do you accept interruptions and delays with grace and peace? Do you see God’s larger plan at work in your circumstances? Do you surrender to God when things don’t go your way? Circle where you are 1 2 3 4 5
Is your first inclination to be kind to others? Do you seem to go out of your way to put others first? Are you sensitive to the needs of others? Circle where you are 1 2 3 4 5
Is your behavior of a high moral standard? Are you living a pure life that is honoring to God? Circle where you are
1 2 3 4 5
Are you a person of your word? Do you follow through on what you start? Can others count on you? Do you give your commitments 100%?
Circle where you are 1 2 3 4 5
Are you quick to listen and slow to act and speak? Do you have of your anger? Are you healthily assertive yet non-aggressive in your relationships? Are you meek in your approach to others?
Circle where you are 1 2 3 4 5
Do you have mastery over your behavior? Do you exercise discipline in your life? Are you free from addictions and uncontrollable behavior?
Circle where you are 1 2 3 4 5
Which of the paticular attributes did you score low in today? The good news is that we don’t have to stay there. The goal of the Holy Spirit is to produce the fruit in your life. He has all the power we need to turn around any low scores. How? Through conviction and guidance and indwelling. He convicts of negative behavior. When we repent and submit ourself to His control He will begin to guide us and direct us. Soon you will find the fruit more and more evident in your life.