GOD WANTS US TO BEAR THE FRUIT OF HIS SPIRIT

Since being freed from the law to now serve in the newness of the spirit we are no longer in the oldness of the letter. After the Apostle Paul tells us about the wife/us being joined to Christ by way of being co-crucified with Him, he then proceeds to describe for us what life looked like when we/the wife attempted to please the first husband/the law in her/our own power.

Essentially the first six verses of Romans seven gives us a parable to describe us “believers” as a wife who has died with Christ in order to deliver us from the first husband represented by the Law. From verse seven through the rest of chapter Paul illustrates how the wife/we attempt to please the husband/the law and how the enemy/sin takes advantage of us by the very Law we are attempting to fulfill. He says the Law is holy, just and good therefore the problem isn’t with the law rather it’s us. We, the wife, even though having the best intentions, simply cannot live a life that is pleasing by way of the law.

The Apostle Paul’s struggle, and ours, is really about him not seeing himself as having been crucified, buried and raised back in Christ. He says, “The thing I want to do I can’t do, and the very thing I don’t want to do I keep on doing.” You see as long as we see ourselves as independent beings trying to obey the law we will be destined to sin and misery and this is how God wants it. What you say? Surely God doesn’t want me to sin does He?

Look with me at Romans 5:20 “The law entered, that the offence/sin might abound, or increase. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” The truth is without the law we would still have sin but God’s plan is that the law would expose the sin He already sees to us. Essentially the law is given so we would see ourselves as we really are and we might cry out for deliverance which is exactly what the Apostle Paul finally did at the end of Romans seven. He cried “O wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

When it comes right down to it God’s plan is for us to finally be exposed to our true state and discover we have believed a lie our whole lives. Yes, we have lived our lives as if we, independent of God, can produce righteousness “for” God apart from God. This is what the parable of the wife is all about. We have absolutely no ability to produce what God is after in and of ourselves. The lesson then of Romans seven is really telling us we need a deliverer. We need someone besides ourselves to free us from the trap of seeing ourselves as independent, trying to keep the law, failing, trying and failing again. This would be the equivalent of a woman determining to get pregnant on her own. I can see her now; she goes to the pharmacy, gets a home pregnancy tests, goes into the bathroom to only come out minutes later saddened because it’s negative again. Well, I guess there’s always tomorrow she says as she gives herself a pep talk essentially saying I guess I just have to buckle down next time.

Thankfully the scriptures don’t leave us there. No, after the Apostle Paul cried out for deliverance at the end of Romans seven, he begins to describe how God’s plan is to live in and through us rather than having us perform for Him. The Spirit of God will produce all that He requires of us in our lives but first we have to come to the realization we can’t.  He wants to produce love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance in us but it is the fruit of the Spirit not the work of the flesh.

Louie

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LIVING IN THE SPIRIT

Have you ever had one of those days when you just wanted to be somewhere else? It’s time to be there, you know you’re late, and there’s nothing you can do about it? That happened to me as I was on my way to the jail, but I had to work late. My flesh was throwing a fit, like a two-year-old. I was so mad. I knew there was nothing I could do about it so I started to focus on the fruit of the Spirit, knowing I already have the fruit of self control. Before I knew it, I was at the jail with a sigh of relief.

The Lord had prepared me to talk about Hebrews 4:12 and what it teaches us about soul and Spirit, joints and marrow, thoughts and intentions of the heart; it’s okay to have temptations and pulls. We talked about how our circumstances don’t have to rule how we behave, when Jesus lives on the inside, He exercises Spirit living inside us. I don’t understand it all, but I do know we can trust Him to do it.

Afterward I talked with a lady whom I have seen a bunch of times. Her note indicated that we haven’t talked in a while. She is leaving for rehab in a couple of weeks and wanted to let me know about it.

The next woman I chatted with had given her life to Jesus the week before. She had tears in her eyes as she poured out her heart about how it bothers her about the negativity from the other girls in her cell. I asked her if this was anything different than other times she was in jail. “It’s me that has changed this time,” she said. “That stuff never bothered me before, but now, I can’t wait to get out of here,” she continued. She proclaimed how she is never coming back to this place ever again. Her ex-husband, who is in prison has written to her and asked to be reconciled. I asked her if she was still in love with him and she said yes. He has also given his life to Jesus and wants to be the Christian husband he was intended to be.

It was getting late, so I looked for the other ministers to say good-bye. They invited me into the law box with them and an inmate who was struggling with anger and unforgiveness. Wait till you hear what happened next. She shared with us the hurts and anguish she has suffered throughout her life since she was 12 years old. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer, she began to let go of some horrific things. Each of the ministers were laying hands on her as she started to confess forgiveness for each person by naming them out loud. When it came time to forgive the man who sexually molested her as a child, she began to shake and her body temperature rose. I wanted to lay my hand on her head, but when she said this man’s name, God told me, “now”. When I put my hand on her head, the shaking immediately ceased and she became visibly calm. Everyone in the room knew a miracle had taken place. You should have seen the smile on her face once we left that room!

These are the very things that make my heart long to be where Jesus is, and this is one of the places He likes to manifest Himself for His glory.

Thank you, Jesus for who you are and what you are doing in the lives of people who seek your face. Thank you for you grace and mercy and love.

Tracey

 

SCHEDULING, DISCIPLINE AND SELF-CONTROL

We have friends who tease Tracey and I because we live our lives in, what some might call, a regimented manner. For instance we generally go to the grocery store on Monday nights, and some will say things like “Oh, you can’t do such and such because it’s grocery night.” Of course we don’t take offense to this type of thing, but if the truth was told we would say the reason we go on Monday’s, rather than another night, is because “WE’RE OUT OF FOOD!” I know, I know it’s crazy, but we only buy enough food for a week at a time so when Monday rolls around it’s time to buy more.

I thought of this today as I listened to an elderly woman talking about growing older. She emphasized the importance of self-discipline. She said it was extremely important and besides look at the alternative. When you live your life with no self-control you only have chaos, frustration and disorder to look forward to.

Sometimes others criticize us because we are “scheduled” in how we do things. They will say this type of thing implying that we are rigid or we can’t ever change our plans.  I suppose this depends on what commitments we have made and how faithful or trustworthy we want to be. If I don’t care how my life affects others, and their schedules, then I don’t have to follow through on my commitments. For me being scheduled or regimented really means I’m dependable or faithful. It’s funny how others see things completely different isn’t it?

Now to come at this from another angle if you are one who has had a past filled with addiction and a history of being flaky the path to sobriety is probably only going to come with planning and commitment. Without a plan someone struggling with addiction is setting themselves up for failure because they are prone to wander. With the wandering will almost always come trouble and with the trouble will come the excuse to use again. Getting on some sort of schedule is one of the first steps toward getting your life back together. When I was in what I suppose could be called “recovery” the counselor I talked with always had me to write out three short term and three long term goals. Goal setting and accomplishing them is an important part of getting back into the swing of the real world especially after a long time in the land of make believe.

Do you remember how God started this whole thing we call life? The Bible tells us in the beginning God saw that the earth was formless and void, and darkness was there, so the first thing he did was say, “Let there be light.” Then he started to organize things. Once the light was turned on he saw the mess the earth was in and started straightening things out and putting them where they belonged. He divided the land from the water before he let things produce. Once they were in order he said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them.” He made lights to govern the night and lights for the day. I’m not going to write it all here you can read it for yourself, but I think you get my point. God is a God of order, and if we are filled with his Spirit it only seems logical to me that our behavior would reflect his.

In the list of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians one of them is self-control or if you’re a King James person it’s called temperance. Either way it is an attribute of the Spirit of God in one’s life and not just something this one or that one has. There are plenty of people that act as though they can’t be disciplined, but according to the Bible it is the Spirit of God in the person rather than simply the person. It really just all boils down to how much we want to open ourselves to His control. As we do this he will work the discipline out in our lives as he sees fit. For most of us, like everything else, we have to get our belly full of the disorder, frustration and pain that results from living in the flesh before we are willing to give His Spirit a try.

P.S. Don’t misunderstand me I know when you are walking according to the Spirit changing of plans will occur, but what I’m talking about here is a lifestyle of discipline as opposed to a lifestyle of drifting and disorder. No one else can do it for you, unless of course you end up in jail or prison and then you will no longer have any choice. You see discipline is coming either way. One way or the other it’s coming so we can do this the easy way or the hard way it’s up to you.

Louie

DOES GRACE MEAN PERMISSION TO SIN?

A drawing illustrating the fruit of the Spirit from one of the ladies in jail

A drawing illustrating the fruit of the Spirit from one of the ladies in jail

“The law came in so that the transgression would increase, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then, are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? The answer is May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” That is the question most ask when looking at this through the eyes of flesh. Remember Adam in the garden when he ate of the forbidden tree? God said he would surely die, but he didn’t die. Wait a minute, Adam died in his spirit because he was separated from God. The law is what makes the transgression increase, not grace.

For example, it’s as if a man who owned a cafeteria heard a commotion in the alley where the dumpsters are. He sees the most pitiful man he ever saw fighting the alley cats for scraps of food. He has compassion on him and brings him into the cafeteria and offers him free food everyday so that he wouldn’t have to eat out of the garbage cans anymore. He tells him he can have anything he wants, “anything I want?” he asks. “Yes”, he says, it’s yours for the taking. Then the guy asked him, could he go back to the dumpster and eat more garbage? He thought he was crazy. That is the very thing we are saying when we ask can we go back to sinning or how close to sin can you get without touching it? It’s when we know that Jesus Christ laid down His life for us to take away our sin and to free us from the bondage of sin and death. He was raised from the dead and He gave us His very life to experience. Why would we want to go out and sin or eat more garbage? He came that we might have life and have it to the fullest! No, the grace of God does not give us a license to sin. The grace of God frees us from the bondage of sin and death and allows us to experience the very life of Christ.

We have to take it by faith, like Abraham believed God, before he had any children, that God has reckoned it to be so. Abraham believed God and He credited it to him as righteousness. That is the same way we do it too. We believe God by faith that Jesus finished the work. We rest in Him and let Jesus do what He does in us and through us. For me, that is the best part about living this life resting in Him, through the midst of the storm. It’s by grace that I never want to sin. I don’t think about it, I don’t run into it, but sometimes, I slip, fall, stumble, and occasionally I am drawn away, but I never stay there. Jesus always provides a way of escape from temptation.

Why do we still sin if we are dead to sin? It’s because of our unrenewed mind. We forget who we are and we forget the pain and abuse that sin took us to. Most people in jail don’t want to be there, but they forget once they get out and end up back in the same ole bondage. Once we experience true freedom, when you really know you are free, you never go back.

That’s how 2 out of the three ladies I talked to tonight felt about it. “Bucky” talked about how she was confused about how long to pray and wanted some guidance. “Princess” wanted to talk about how God has changed her this time in jail. She mentioned how other ladies come in and out of there so much and it makes her tired and she is living differently this time because of Jesus. The last lady I heard from was “Riley” she is getting out soon and wanted us to pray with her about not messing up. It is unlikely that she won’t mess up. How would that look to other people who know her and see that she never messes up anything? They would start to talk wouldn’t they?

Well, now she sees how important it is to lean on Jesus and let Him pick her up when she falls, and let Him love her through all the great things there are to learn through failure. It didn’t seem that comforting at the time, but I know she will see how most of us tend to learn the hard way. The good news is that we don’t make the same mistakes over and over. When Jesus Christ lives inside us, He does great things through us to glorify Himself.

That sounds like grace and mercy to me.

The cafeteria illustration taken from “Classic Christianity” by Bob George

Written by Tracey

THE CAUSE AND CURE FOR THE DRAMA

Just a little note for today.

If you find yourselves caught in a spin over something all the time, what some call “Drama”, you’re  in the flesh. There are so many well intentioned Christians living in the flesh and are unaware.

Galatians five gives quite a list of things that reveals what we can expect from the flesh. If you are in fights, jealousy, anger, complaints and criticisms you can be sure you are there. The problem seems to be a lack of teaching or understanding how to walk in the Spirit.

Being born again means we are born from above which really means our dead human spirit has been joined to the Holy Spirit; a resurrection of our spirit you could say. Having lived a fair share of life according to how we felt or reasoned is not an easy habit to break. Thank God we don’t have to break it but rather we simply rest and let the Holy Spirit take the reigns.

The Apostle Paul told the Galatians he longed for “Christ to be formed in them.” This means he wanted them to be mature believers that no longer lived in strife and envy with one another. Living in the flesh will never produce the fruit of God. Only the Holy Spirit himself can bring the love, joy and peace we are all looking for. The solution is always to look to Christ and trust that he’s living his life in you. He is the only one that can bring peace to your spirit. Rather than attempt untangling all of the things that are causing the stress and conflict learn to speak the truth by faith.

The truth is Christ in you isn’t confused. He isn’t out of control. He isn’t fearful. It is only when we turn to fix things, or figure them out, in our soul-emotions and intellect-that we find ourselves in the drama. Do yourselves a favor and rest in Christ today and ride out the spin with the Holy Spirit.

Written by Louie

GOD IS OUR KEEPER AS WE WALK IN THE SPIRIT

Walking in the Spirit may look or feel bad but it is the only way to bear fruit. If we are continuously led around by the emotions and intellect of the soul realm we’ll never live in the love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control that is found in the Holy Spirit.

How many times have you lost your cool because things didn’t turn out the way you planned? I remember a time when I was running late for lunch and I started to feel frustrated. The thought occurred to me “I can get upset and agitated and still be late or I can just do what I’m doing, keep my peace and get there when I get there.” Those are the moments when you realize “I am not my keeper–God is, because if I was the keeper I would have thrown a fit by now!”

The Bible says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) God is in the business of sanctifying us and making us complete and blameless in Christ! Did you catch that last part? “He also will bring it to pass.”

Jesus told his disciples just before his arrest and crucifixion, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives.” The world’s version of peace only comes with the end of all wars and conflicts which will never happen. Jesus’ peace reigns even in the midst of the war and conflicts because his peace is a peace from within. With the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives we can live in the same sin-soaked world as everyone else but we can have peace and contentment.

Even though we still live in a world where things break down and they don’t always go our way, we live our lives based on how God sees us rather than on how our circumstances appear. We are told to “walk by faith not by sight.” We live our lives with the understanding that Christ is all we need. When we received him, we received all we need for life and godliness. If we find ourselves needing patience, we look to him and discover he is our patience. When the need is a little bit of faith, we discover it is really his faith that is sustaining us. No matter what our need, he is sufficient.

Louie

Be Still and Know that I am God

Shhh listen. Can you hear Him? I know things are distracting you, aren’t they? That’s what the enemy does, or is it the enemy? Could it be that moment, which defines what you are made of? God often uses things to move us, either in thought or action. My life has taken on some major changes and the answer is not clear at this moment on what to do. One thing I know for sure is I can trust the Lord and lean not unto my own understanding. I am reminded that anything that is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23)

As I looked over the crowd in room 954 at the Christian County Jail, girls were tearing up because they too are distracted at things around them and don’t know what to do. We all want to do the right thing, but how can we know what that is? The verse that comes to me says, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus  (I Thes. 5:16-18).

Could it be that easy? I think it is if you are born again, because He is living His life inside you and He will move us into obedience. It works best like that and the result is the fruit of the Spirit. Just like when our bodies get enough water, sleep and exercise; so it is with our Spirit, which works best through faith and love. The storm is raging in our soul and that will change in the next moment. The thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love.

There was one line in the video; “The Lump,” from Rob Bell, that caught the attention of every one of us in the room. It said, “There’s nothing you can do to make me love you less.” He was talking about his son who had hid himself under the cover in the middle of his bed because of the shame he felt for being caught in a lie. God also tells us that, there is nothing we could do to make Him love us less; that is because He already knows we can’t do anything on our own and we need Him.

Rhema Word came to tell the girls about how they made it through life so far through Jesus. Sha Jackson, Linda Parks, JoAnn Stanley, Tammy Carr and I agreed that all we have to do is trust God for everything in our lives. We talked about how we have all been in darkness, sin and self destruction, but Jesus is the Light and He will chip away all things that don’t look like Him, by finding out what the Word of God says. God already knows, we can’t hide from Him because wherever you go, that’s where you are and He knows you inside and out. He made you.

As I was talking with Sweetness tonight, she was telling me “you don’t know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you got.” She had to come to the place in her life where she was quiet, and that was when she came to jail. Right now is the time to be still and know that God is who He says He is, she said out loud. She felt alone in her shame abandoned by her guilt and wanted to give up to the point of death. That is when she saw Jesus there with open arms, waiting for her. She received Him and has never looked back. Two more weeks she rejoiced, “I still don’t have a job or a place to live, but I don’t care. Because I know God is keeping me and He has it all worked out. I am so excited to see what He has for me.” She learned to be still, which means to stop striving, and know that He is God.

Written by Tracey