Jesus Was a Refugee Would we have not accepted him?

“Given the tragic attacks in Jerusalem and the threats we have already seen, Egypt cannot participate in any program that will result in Jewish refugees – any one of whom could be connected to terrorism – being resettled in Egypt,” Prefect Gaius Turranius said in the letter [to Caesar Augustus]. “Effective today, I am directing the Egypt Health & Human Services Commission’s Refugee Resettlement Program to not participate in the resettlement of any Jewish refugees in the State of Egypt. And I urge you, as Caesar, to halt your plans to allow Jews to be resettled anywhere in the Roman Empire.” [Adapted from Gov. Abbot’s letter to Presidnt Obama, found in this press release]

Thankfully this letter was never sent by Prefect Gaius Turranius, the person who served as Egypt’s governor when Jesus’ family fled Israel after Herod the Great went on a killing rampage in Jerusalem (Matthew 2.13-18).  Instead, it appears that Jesus and his family were able to find safety in Egypt for some time (estimates vary from a few months to three years).


“Escape to Egypt” by Sebastiano Ricci

But this letter (with the modern names, etc. added back in, of course) was sent in recent days from Texas’ governor to the US’s president, along with 30 other similar letters and declarations from other US governors.

That’s more than half of the states in the US!  More than half of the states in the US won’t accept people fleeing from the very threat is also feared within the US — ISIS, or the Islamic State.

Of course, ISIS is a horrible group that has committed numerous atrocities all over the world, one of which I’ve written about before.  And there is fear that some of those who are fleeing Syria are or will become a threat to America due to being radicalized.  And this fear may not be unfounded, since one of the suicide bombers in Paris was carrying a fake Syrian passport and apparently was himself on the run from the violence in the Middle East.

But none of this changes the fact that the Bible says some clear things about how to treat those who are refugees.  Let’s look at some of those passages (as found in this article at

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. (Leviticus 19:9-10)

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:5)

“As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name. (1 Kings 8:41-44)

No stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler (Job, discussing his devotion to God) (Job 31:32)

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)

And add to all of these passages this passage from Matthew 2 that I referenced at the beginning of this blog:

When they [the wise men] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. (Matthew 2.13-21)


Jesus Was a Refugee…So What?

What does all of this mean?  For those of us who follow Jesus, what are we to do with the clear injunctions from Scripture to care for those who seek asylum in the places where we life?  And what does it say to us that our savior and his family were people that were shown compassion when they became refugees themselves?

First, I’m not going to pretend that governing a city, state, or nation is simple.  Let’s be honest, I have a difficult time governing my own life sometimes!

I understand that there’s a balance to be struck between compassion and protection and that where politicians fall on that spectrum is based, in my opinion at least, on whatever may help them get re-elected to their current gig or help them position themselves well for their next gig.  Let’s not fool ourselves.  Politicians on both sides play to the emotions of their constituents in order to remain relevant, popular, and electable.

So, for a little while at least, let’s leave governing cities, states, and nations to one side and look at our lives as followers of Jesus instead.  We aren’t called to balance safety and compassion.  Nope.  Look back at the passages above and search for others that talk about how we are to treat foreigners.  The Scriptures are clear that God expects love and provision to be extended to refugees from those who claim him as their God.

On a personal level, as followers of Jesus, we have no other option, other than disobedience, of course.

So let’s not let fear, misinformation, possible ethnic prejudice, and political posturing prevent us from obeying God’s call to love the refugee.

But what does the fact that Jesus was a refugee add to this picture?

Here’s what I think: The fact that our savior was a refugee himself shows that he understands completely what it is like to leave everything behind because of terror.  He knows the long and hard roads that refugees face — roads full of danger, pain, and suffering.

And since Jesus was a refugee himself, as he leads his people to care for the refugees in their midst through the indwelling of the Spirit, he will know how to direct them to show true compassion.  It’s our job as followers of Jesus to respond to the Spirit: listening to him, learning from him, and obeying him.

I’m about to use a word I don’t use all that often: duty.  Caring for the refugees in our midst is our duty as followers of Jesus.  Leaving this duty undone is a grave disservice to current refugees and a slap in the face of our once-a-refugee-himself savior.


What about US History?

What role does caring for refugees have in American history?

Here are some brief highlights:

  • Many European settlers in the US were refugees themselves, fleeing persecution, natural disasters, poor economic situations, and war.
  • All throughout our history the US has been a beacon for the lost and the hurting in the world, even in very difficult and complicated times, such as in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War.  During that time around 125,000 Vietnamese made their way to the US [SOURCE], one of whom is a personal friend of mine!  And during the height of the Cold War, there must have been great fear about communism spreading in the US due to Vietnamese refugees, not to mention the potential security risk.  (Sound familiar?)
  • And for many years the US has had federal policies allowing for the migration of thousand of refugees into our country each year, many of whom are/were fleeing similar situations to that found in Syria.

It appears that the history of the US supports allowing for Syrian refugees to seek asylum here — plain and simple.


Now What?

The US is likely to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees, who will be placed all throughout our country, including in the states whose governors don’t want them.

So, what are we to do as followers of Jesus?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Give.  Just think about it…currently half of Syria’s population has fled their homes.  That’s crazy!  So those of us who claim to follow Jesus can help by giving to one of the many organizations who are helping with the Syrian refugee crisis.  Here’s one I recommend: Texas Baptists Refugee Relief.  The Texas Baptists are giving aid to a network of churches in Lebanon, where 1.5 million Syrian refugees have resettled.  Many other groups are offering aid.  Research one that you like and give.
  2. Advocate.  If you are a follower of Jesus and are convicted by the truths of the Scriptures about how to treat the foreigners among us, write to your state and national politicians, asking them to enact policies to help bring aid and compassion to those seeking asylum in our land (especially if you happen to live in a state whose governor has tried to close its doors).
  3. Act.  There’s a good chance that some Syrian refugees are already living near you, especially if you live in a major metropolitan area.  Whether that’s true for you or not, talk with your pastor, community outreach person, and/or your missions person at your local church.  Ask them if your church has a plan to care for the refugees entering our country and potentially our cities.  Ask if they’d be willing for your church to serve as a host church for refugees.  Have them ask your church’s denomination or wider church network about next steps.  And, if the Lord is leading you, perhaps open your home, cook some food, or offer whatever other acts of love and hospitality that you can.
  4. Pray.  Pray for those who are fleeing the continuing war in Syria.  Pray for the health and safety of the refugees.  Pray for the followers of Jesus all over the face of the earth to rise up to this great challenge.  Pray that this crisis can be used by God in order for his church to share and embody the good news with and among people desperate for it.  And pray for God to use you as he sees fit.


Thanks so much for reading this!  You may not agree with me on every point, and that’s fine.  Either way, let’s follow our savior who was once a refugee as he leads us to love everyone, especially those who are most in need.


Peace: Wholeness and Shalom A Spirit-Synced Way of Life


Peace: Wholeness and Shalom

What is peace?

I think our minds normally drift toward the semantic domain of safety when we try to answer this question.  Peace is the freedom from conflict.  Peace is security.  Peace is an absence of strife, we think to ourselves.

But is it?  It doesn’t seem that peace is only a want of quarreling.

I think at other times when we try to identify peace we might think of it as a glib salutation before we leave the presence of a friend.  “Peace out!  I’ll see you later,” we may say.

Another way we often define peace is with various notions that orbit the idea of tranquility (like the picture at the top of this blog!).  So peace would be something like a nice, calm quiet space or period of time.

As followers of Jesus we sometimes define peace in a quirky way.  We say things like “I have a peace about dating John” or “I don’t have a peace about quitting my job.”  So, in these contexts, it appears that “peace” means something like an agreeable inner-spirit (“peace of mind” so to speak).

But when we read Galatians 5 and the Apostle Paul says that a Spirit-synced way of life results in peace, does he have our modern notions of peace in mind?  Or does he think of something else?

Most surely the Apostle Paul, aka Rabbi Saul, had in mind Hebrew notions of peace.  Unfortunately, the Hebrew idea of peace is wrapped up in one beautiful word — shalom — that’s nearly impossible to translate well into English.

Here are a few sample ideas relating to shalom that are floating around out there:

  • Rabbi Joseph (c. 280-350  B.C.), a major figure in the Talmud (a commentary of a commentary on the Hebrew Bible) said this is Gittin 59b: “the whole of the Law is also for the purpose of promoting shalom, as it is written, Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are shalom [Proverbs 3.17].”
  • Aviezer Ravitzky, a professor at Hebrew University, writes the following about what shalom meant in the rabbinic writings (namely, the Mishnah, the Talmud, and the Midrash): “In the rabbinic texts, shalom primarily signifies a value, an ethical category–it denotes the overcoming of strife, quarrel, and social tension, the prevention of enmity and war.  It is still, to be sure, depicted as a blessing, a manifestation of divine grace, but in a great many sayings it appears in a normative context: The pursuit of peace is the obligation of the individual and the goal of various social regulations and structures.  The majority of passages on the subject of peace are concerned with family or communal life, that is, with internal peace among people, and only a minority are concerned with relations between Israel and other peoples. between nations and states…The Sages [i.e., ancient rabbis] went to great lengths in their praise of peace, to the point of viewing it as a meta-value, the summit of other values…Peace was the ultimate purpose of the whole Torah…”  (20th Century Jewish Religious Thought, “Peace” by Ravitzky, pg. 686)
  • Lastly, former president of Calvin College, Cornelius Plantinga, wrote the following about shalom: “The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom He delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” (Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, pg. 10)

I hope it is clear that the word that Rabbi Saul (the Apostle Paul) was using in Galatians 5 had the Hebrew word shalom standing behind it.  And this word, shalom, is a word rich with meaning.  Shalom, and therefore “peace” in Galatians 5, means universal flourishing, wholeness, and things being the way they ought to be.


Shalom, but How?

How do we find shalom then, as followers of Jesus?

Do we do it by taking courses on conflict resolution?  Well, that will only get us so far.

Do we engage in peace walks and non-violent demonstrations?  Sure, when the issues being brought to light are in line with God’s justice as seen in the Bible; but this won’t create the shalom we’re looking for.

Do we work endless hours efforting to bring about wholeness and flourishing for others?  There aren’t many things that would be more noble to pursue, but we’ll fail.  Guaranteed.

Do we pool all our resources in order to seek the shalom of our communities?  Sure!  But, unfortunately, we’re all people and invariably we’ll miss some people, we’ll seek shalom for some in unhelpful ways, etc.

So, we’re doomed in our efforts to find shalom then, right?


There’s a way.  In Galatians 5 Rabbi Saul spells it out pretty clearly: walk by the Spirit (16), be led by the Spirit (18), and stay in step with the Spirit (25).  Why is this idea of the Spirit’s leading important?  Because we’re human!

Rabbi Saul says it better than I ever could:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. (Galatians 5.16-17a)

Do you see it?  If we try to do things in our own power, in the flesh, then what we’ll accomplish will be contrary to the Spirit.  And if our goal is follow Jesus, that is, to live a Spirit-synced way of life, then we certainly don’t want to accomplish things that go against what the Spirit desires!

So, instead, we must walk by the Spirit!

How?  Here are a few pointers to get us started:

  1. Read the Bible — More specifically, discover the ways that the Spirit works, speaks, moves, and guides by reading the Bible.  A great place to start would be the book of Acts.  In fact, a great practice would be to write in a journal all the things that you see the Spirit doing in the book of Acts.  When you are finished, look them over.  What do you notice?  What did you expect to see but didn’t find there?  And, most importantly, how can the truths of how the Spirit operates in the Bible impact your life and the life of your family, your Christian community, and your church?  Then, and here’s the hardest part, begin listening for the Spirit yourself, and when you think you hear him, work through the next three steps, and then obey!  Note: it’s easy to read what we want into the Bible.  So what we learn from the Scriptures should be viewed very highly, but we should also run it through #s 2, 3, and 4 below for the purpose of having checks and balances.
  2. Worship and Pray — A prime way to walk with the Spirit is to experience him through worship and prayer.  And by worship I mean two things primarily: 1) The life-as-worship idea in which you offer all that you do, from scrubbing toilets to creating works of art, as worship to God; and 2) Gathered worship in which you learn, sing, pray, and congregate with other followers of Jesus.  And the notion of prayer here is not complicated!  All I mean is that you converse with God, meaning that you talk to him and that you give him space to answer you back.  (Is it just me or do most American Christians do a poor job of allowing God to get a word in edgewise?)  And it has been my experience (and the experience of followers of Jesus for 2000 years!) that you will experience the Spirit through worship and prayer.  And when you do, it’s always important to make sure that your experience of the Spirit is sifted through the sieve of the Scriptures (#1 above), Christian community, and Church history (#s 3 and 4 below)!
  3. Christian Community — There’s a theological truth that I don’t really think we all believe.  Here it is: everyone who has been saved by grace through faith in Jesus is filled with the Spirit.  Why do I say we don’t really believe this?  Well, because we so rarely interact with one another in a way that indicates that we believe we are indwelt by the Spirit!  Many of us would prefer a just-Jesus-and-me Christianity to what we learn in the New Testament about following Jesus.  Jesus never meant us to do this thing alone!  We were meant for community.  And by community I don’t mean sitting in rows next to one another while listening to people sing and speak at the front of the room (though, of course, there’s great value in gathered worship!  See #2 above.)  Instead, what I mean is a smaller group of followers of Jesus with whom you can be on mission, with whom you can be vulnerable, and with whom you can experience love (giving and receiving).  In so doing, you will very likely hear from the Spirit of God in ways you never could have imagined on your own!  Of course, run whatever you learn through #s 1, 2, and 4 before going all in!
  4. Church History — This sounds boring, I know.  But it’s not!  If we want to walk by the Spirit, we must look back at the history of the Church and see how the Spirit moved in the past.  Now, to be sure, the Spirit of God can do new things.  That’s one of his hallmarks!  But he also works in patterns, or so it seems to our simple human brains.  As we look back into the annals of the Church, we’ll begin to pick up on how it seems that the Spirit leads.  Then we can be on the look out for him leading us in similar ways.  So pick up some biographies of Christians from the past whom you respect and read them.  Find the writings of Church people from the past.  And, just like with the others, this one needs to be tempered against #s 1, 2, and 3.

To summarize this bit: There are four ways we can learn about how to be led by the Spirit…from the Bible, through our experiences of prayer and worship, through Christian community, and by looking at Church history.

These four things are not equal though.  What we find in God’s Word comes first.  The other three can vary in their order of importance from situation to situation and from person to person.  But what the Bible seems to say clearly about how the Spirit leads should always be given the highest respect!


Now to apply this to shalom: If we want to experience shalom in our lives, our families, and our communities, then we must live Spirit-synced ways of life and we must do so together.  The only way to do this is by seeking the Spirit out, seeing where he is going, and following him, all while using the advice above as best we can.

When we do these things, it is likely that we’ll experience the wholeness, the security, the rest, and the fulfillment that we’ve been longing for.

We’ll experience shalom!


What do you think?  What is peace and how is it a result of being synced with the Spirit?

Goodness and Micah 6.8 A Spirit-Synced Way of Life


I love the quote from the picture above: “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”  This is one of those aphorisms that just sounds right when you read it, hear it, or say it.

But it begs some questions.  First, what is goodness?  Second, how can we be more good?  And lastly is demonstrating goodness in our lives truly a foolproof investment?


What Is Goodness?

Biblically speaking, goodness is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5.  It’s often paired with kindness, probably because many people find that the two of them are difficult to differentiate.  The argument goes something like this: a kind person is good and a good person is kind.  True all the way around.  But that still doesn’t mean that the two concepts are the same.

As I’ve written about before, kindness is the ability to care for all people, whoever they may be.  But what is goodness?  Here’s my working definition: Goodness is demonstrated in our lives when we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.  Obviously within that definition kindness can and should be found.  But kindness is more about generally demonstrating compassion, while goodness is more about generally demonstrating righteousness and justice.

I come to this conclusion because of the way the Bible presents goodness.  When Jesus is called “good teacher” and is asked about what “good deed” must be done in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus gives some insight to this notion of goodness (Luke 18.18 and Matthew 19.16).  To both Jesus responds by saying that there is only one who is good — God himself.  Therefore, it is God and God alone who can define goodness.

But this is a major rub for us.  We want to define what is good.  We want to be able to say, “I’ve accomplished it…I’m good now!”  But our definitions of goodness will be faulty for any number of reasons, chiefly because we are selfish.  At the end of the day, we’ll define as good that which benefits us as individuals, family units, or communities.

But how does God define goodness?  You may have already gotten a hint of where I’m about to go. Perhaps the best place in all of the Bible to learn how God defines goodness is Micah 6.8:

 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

So based on this passage it seems clear that goodness looks like acting justly (fighting for what’s right and against oppression), loving mercy (putting the interests of others before our own), and walking humbly with God (having a devoted and intimate relationship with God).

Thus goodness seems to have to do with right relationships with others, whether other humans or God.

This may not sound earth-shattering but it is. When many of us think about goodness with think about personal piety.  We think about things that we do and things that we don’t do…probably more the things we don’t do!


“…Or with Girls Who Do!”

There was a funny saying in Christians circles where I grew up.  I went like this: “I don’t drink, smoke, or chew and I don’t go with girls who do!”

And while this little rhyme is funny, it’s also quite sad.  Here’s why: it highlights a sobering reality…followers of Jesus tend to be more identified with the things we don’t do and the things we oppose than with the things we actually do and the things we wholeheartedly support.

A quick perusal of the news or Google results will confirm this.  Christians tend to get the most attention by abstaining from sex, alcohol (or at least drunkenness), gambling, etc. and from being anti-LBBTQ, -abortion, -premarital sex, etc.

Here’s an honest question in response: Wouldn’t it be better to be know by the things that we do and the things we support?  Wouldn’t we rather the world know that we care for the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the immigrant?  Wouldn’t we rather the world know that we support protecting the rights of the fragile and forgotten?

Wouldn’t we rather the world know about the goodness that we demonstrate through our actions rather than the personal piety we attempt to build up privately?

Obviously the answers to all of those rhetorical questions is “yes.”  It would be amazing if the world could begin to see us differently.


It’s Time for a PR Campaign

So we have a public relations problem and we need to work to solve it.  Why?  Not because it’s nice or politically correct.  No.

We need to launch a fully-fledged PR campaign because we want people to come to know Christ and his transformative power.

We need to launch a fully-fledged PR campaign because we long for our cities, towns, and villages to be made better thanks to the presence of those who claim Christ.

We need to launch a fully-fledged PR campaign because the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-20) demands we do so.

But how?  One word: GOODNESS!

If we became the kind of people who were so deeply connected to the Spirit that his Micah-6.8 goodness oozed out of us everywhere we went, our reputation in the world would change for the better!

People would begin to see and experience the love of God through us, his ambassadors here on earth.

Friends, this is our duty.

Only one thing remains: Obedience.  Will we do it?!?


What do you think?  What does goodness mean and how can goodness change the world?  Let me know in the comments below!

Gentleness Is Power Under Control A Spirit-Synced Way of Life

By: Corey Leopold
This tiger reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ Aslan, an epitome of gentleness.

What do you think of when you hear the word “gentleness”?

I tend to think of two things: my dad and servant leadership.


What’s so gentle about my dad?  Well, if I’m being honest, my dad doesn’t look like a gentle man.  He’s large and traditionally quite masculine.  He has the kind of strength in his hands that can only come from a lifetime of manual labor.  And my dad is a fiercely protective husband, father, and friend.

But at the same time my dad is utterly kind.  And while he has all the physical strength that many people spend their valuable time and money at the gym trying to obtain, he only ever uses it to provide for his family or to protect those he loves.  My dad is a wonderful example of my working definition of the idea of biblical gentleness: power that is is used under control for the benefit of others.

And this same idea is idealized in the leadership style that has grown in popularity in recent years called “servant leadership.”  There are a number of conceptions of this style of leading others.  Here are a few that stand out in my opinion:

  • Robert Greenleaf, the person who coined the phrase “servant leadership,” says that a servant leader “is servant first…It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead…the servant-first [efforts] to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served”  (SOURCE).
  • James Hunter, a popular leadership author and business consultant, says “[t]he role of the leader is to identify and meet needs. We’re not here to do what people want—but we are here to do what people need” (SOURCE).
  • The CEO of Popeye’s Chicken, Cheryl Bachelder, says her idea of a leader includes being “courageous enough to take the people to a daring destination, yet humble enough to selflessly serve others on the journey. The dynamic tension between daring and serving creates the conditions for superior performance.  This is a Dare-to-Serve Leader” (Dare to Serve, 3).

So it appears to me that my working definition of biblical gentleness (power that is used under control for the benefit of others) meshes really well with the definitions of servant leadership which are offered by some of the thought leaders on the topic.

And if you’re like me, and I suspect that you are!, then it may be surprising to think that an effective leader needs to be gentle.  I think we generally think of leaders, especially business leaders and managers, as aggressive, selfish, and cold.  But anecdotal evidence, as well as some hard research, seems to point to the effectiveness of servant leadership, that is, gentleness in leadership.

Imitating Jesus’ Gentleness

The Apostle Paul encourages those who are connected to Jesus to imitate him in their attitudes (Philippians 2.5) and one word that defines Jesus very well is “gentle.”  Jesus uses this word of himself in Matthew 11.29: “I am gentle and humble in heart.”

But how do we do this?  As followers of Jesus, how do we develop gentleness in our lives?  Can we try harder, is that the answer?  Well, take the gentleness challenge: for one week try to be more gentle.  Record how it went and share your results with the world!

Here’s how it went for me: I started last Monday.  Things went pretty well for a few hours.  Then my son, Myron, woke up from a nap and cried loudly.  I was working on something important and didn’t really want to stop at that moment to go see what he needed.  So I sighed heavily and tramped upstairs very ungently.

Later that day I was driving home from the store and was behind someone at a red light.  I needed to to turn right and they hadn’t moved all the way over, thus preventing me from being able to turn.  I wanted to yell at them and let them know how stupid and selfish they were, but I resisted — not because I was trying to be gentle, but because my son was in the car with me.

Then later that night I dumped the stress of my day on my wife in a very ungentle way, burdening her with all my drama without taking a minute to think that she may have had a stressful day too.

So I didn’t make it through one day.  I need help to imitate the gentleness of Jesus!

So what’s the solution?

It’s not trying harder, knowing more, or anything else like that.  Nope.  Instead, Paul says in Galatians 5 that being connected to the Spirit is the answer.  As we live in step with the Spirit, the gentleness of Jesus is developed in us.  This is what Paul means when he calls gentleness an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit.  Gentleness is one manifestation of a Spirit-synced life.


So instead of trying to be more gentle, let’s invest our time and energy toward furthering an intimate connection to the Spirit through worship, Christian community, and serving the mission of Jesus to reconcile all things to himself!  In so doing, God will generate gentleness in us through his Spirit, the same gentleness that Jesus’ demonstrated in his human life!


What do you think?  How do you define gentleness?  How can gentleness be developed in us?  Let me know in the comments below!


Kindness and Everything Nice A Spirit-Synced Way of Life

Kindness.  The ability to care for all people, whoever they are.  The character trait of being radically others-focused.

Is it a lost art?  Was kindness ever really all that prevalent?

I’m not sure, but my experience tells me that true kindness is so foreign to the typical human condition that most of us experience it (as giver or receiver) all too rarely.  But the interesting irony is that when we finally do experience or hear about kindness, it is radically life-giving.

A few examples are in order:

  • My mother-in-law recently complimented a stranger’s dress, which led to a several-minutes-long conversation that was mutually beneficial for my mother-in-law and the woman in the dress.  They ended up talking and walking together for more than a block!
  • This past weekend a football coach was on the way home from a game that his team won.  It was raining like crazy when he saw two people who looked scared and lost.  He pulled over and offered them a ride.  The two men jumped in the coach’s SUV and over the ensuing conversation it became clear that the two strangers were fans of the team that lost to the coach’s team.  Both of the strangers reported to the media that they were genuinely surprised by the kindness of the coach.
  • Lastly, a friend recently told me of how having someone help him un-wedge his bag from a seat on a plane while he was trying to make his way to his seat renewed his faith in humanity.

Friends, the simple truth is that kindness really can go a long way.  And, I think this is in part because we experience it so rarely.

However, each time we do experience it, it brings a smile to our faces like just about nothing else can.


Why Kindness?

So, here’s the big idea: As we are led by the Spirit, he will make us more and more kind.  And as we are more kind people will be drawn to God, whether toward a closer relationship with his as followers of Jesus or toward beginning a relationship with him if they are far from God.

We see this in Jesus’ life very clearly in many places.  One of my favorite places is in Mark 1.40-42:

40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

41 Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

What is meant by the first part of verse 41?  Why was Jesus indignant?

  • Some translations have “filled with compassion” instead of “indignant.”  And while there are some ancient manuscripts that agree with that phraseology, “indignant” is the better reading.  There are two reasons: 1) “indignant” generally appears in more reliable manuscripts than “full of compassion” does; and 2) the harder reading is to be preferred.  Let me explain that second point.  When there are two readings, both with some ancient manuscript support, the one that is harder to understand is thought to be more likely to be original.  The reason?  Well, the theory goes that if an ancient scribe came across “indignant” in this passage, he might think it doesn’t fit.  And intentionally or not, he may change it to something that fits better, like “full of compassion.”  So, based on these lines of reasoning, “indignant” is probably the right reading.
  • So what do we do with this reading then?  Was Jesus mad at the leper?  No.  This doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t fit with what we know about Jesus from the rest of this Gospel or the rest of the New Testament.  Jesus is consistently kind to ostracized people, including several other people suffering with leprosy.  Jesus being mad at the leper doesn’t fit in this particular story either.  If Jesus was mad at him, why would he touch him (which was a great act of kindness…think about it!), have a conversation with him, and ultimately heal him?
  • So what was Jesus indignant about?  Here’s my take: Jesus was mad at the situation that leprosy had put this man in.  His whole world had been crushed — he was separated from his family, friends, jobs, religious experiences, etc.  He was isolated and desperate.  In fact, his situation was so bad that he was relegated to begging from strangers for help.  Jesus was indignant that a man who was made in God’s image and for whom he would soon die would be demeaned in such a way.
  • So Jesus saw this man, treated him like a human, felt deeply about his situation, and then acted in order to bring about wholeness and health.  That is a true act of kindness!  Not a random act of kindness; no, an intentional act of kindness to a person who seemed to have randomly crossed his path.

We would do well to imitate Jesus!  As we are led by the Spirit, whose pain and suffering do we need be be indignant about?  To whom do we need to show kindness?

This next paragraph is the one paragraph that I hope to internalize more than all the others in this post: You and I can’t will ourselves to be more kind.  We can’t and we know we can’t.  We know that in our own strength we are going to act selfishly more often than we’d like to admit.  So we must submit to the Spirit, listen for his lead, and then obey!


What do you think?  How can we demonstrate kindness more and more as a result of being led by the Spirit?  Let me know in the comments below!

Joy Despite Circumstances A Spirit-Synced Way of Life


My favorite shot from Myron’s 7-month photoshoot!


Joy Despite Circumstances

The photo above is of my son, Myron.  That shot was taken right in the middle of a crazy day.  He had been fussy just before this photoshoot and he was fussy right after it.  But right there in the middle of all that fussiness, Myron found some joy.

Sure, some of his favorite toys, books, and stuff helped.  But joy was found nonetheless!

To be honest, Myron’s experience of joy sounds an awful lot like mine.  As I’m seeking to live a Spirit-synced way of life, I often find joy wedged right in between hardships.

Right between a letdown at work and a car problem.

Right between bad news about a family member and a plumbing problem.

Right between violence in the neighborhood and burning dinner.

It’s right there that joy is found, the joy that is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit.


In Every Season of Life

The circumstances that shouldn’t impact our joy from the Spirit are not just limited to one-time events.  No.  We should find joy in all seasons of life, even those seasons that seem long, dry, and difficult.

How do we do this?  Do we try to manufacture joy on our own, putting on a happy face for the world to see?


By: Janelle

No!  When we try to drum up joy on our own, it may look cute for a minute or two, an hour or two, or even a day or two…but eventually people will see that this “joy” is as real as a plastic doll’s smile.

Instead we can only truly experience joy as we walk in step with the Spirit, as the Apostle Paul talks about in Galatians 5.  That’s where we’ll find joy.

The unending depth of joy that are available in the Spirit is our source of joy, not our will power, discipline, or acting ability!


Fake It ‘Til You Make It

So we shouldn’t fake it ’til we make it!  We should trust in the Spirit of God to infuse us with his joy as we walk with him.

Now if there’s anyone who needs to hear this advice, it’s us — Christians!  I bet this scenario sounds familiar to you if you’ve been part of the Church (at least in America!) for a while:

It’s Sunday morning and the time when you need to leave the house to arrive to the worship service more or less on time is rapidly dwindling.  Everyone in the house is harried, frantic, and on-edge.  People are yelling at each other.  There’s a fight over who showers next.  Maybe even an expletive or four are thrown around.

Then you get in the car.  No matter how long your drive is, it’s probably filled with continued stress and anger.  More yelling.  Threats of violence are leveled against the children.  Promises of eternal hate are returned.

Then you arrive in the parking lot that you use when you go to the worship service.  Until the doors to the car are opened, a few more tight-lipped verbal salvos are lobbed at one another.  But everyone is taking care to not look like they’ve just been angry at one another for at least the last ninety minutes!

Then the car doors open.  That’s when the plastic smile from the doll in the picture above is slapped across everyone’s faces.  The family must put on airs, appearing to be happy, loving, and joyful.

And the sad truth: everyone else is doing it too.  Okay, not everyone.  I know there’s a few of you out there who live this Spirit-synced life better than the rest of us!

But it’s truly sad that during our times of Christian community and gathered worship we are most tempted to fake joy or the manufacture it on our own.

It would be better for us to be honest with ourselves, our families, and our brothers and sisters in Christ.  At least that way we could begin to grow and learn.  As long as we’re pretending we don’t need to learn, we’re certainly not going to seek learning out!

So let’s NOT fake it ’til we make it.  Let’s pursue the Spirit, being vulnerable along the way.  Let’s admit our shared humanity and help one another find the joy of the Spirit more and more!


Biblical Joy

My favorite place in the New Testament that reflects on joy (to some degree) is the beginning of Philippians 2.  Here it is:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2.1-4)

Paul had a vested interest in the church at Philippi.  He planted the church in Philippi and was falsely imprisoned while doing so (Acts 16.11-40).  And so this church, which initially met in the home of an early female Christian leader named Lydia, had a special place in Paul’s heart.

You can see this in Paul’s words in Philippians 2.  He’s begging them to be unified.  And he says that if they are unified together — being like-minded, having one love, putting aside selfishness and embracing true community — then his joy would be made complete.

He doesn’t say that he won’t have any joy until this happens, just that if the church in Philippi his joy will be complete.  This word, “complete,” can mean “full” or “mature” as well.  It’s almost as if Paul is saying that his joy is like a fine wine, and when the church in Philippi finally gets unified, then his joy will be properly aged and ready to be enjoyed.

But I want to be sure we note a few things here.

  • First, this kind of joy that Paul longs for has its origins in a “common sharing of the Spirit.”  This isn’t a joy that can be manufactured on one’s own.  It comes from the Spirit of God working within and among his people.
  • Second, this kind of joy is communal.  Paul’s joy is deeply connected to the church in Philippi and their joy is connected to Paul and to one another.  Joy isn’t something that is reserved for individuals to enjoy on their own.  It’s born in community (through joint pursuit of the Spirit) and it is best expressed to one another within community.
  • Third, immediately following this passage at the beginning of Philippians 2, Paul writes that we should have the same mindset that Christ had.  In other words, in order for joy to be made complete, we need to be more and more Christ-like.  In fact, I’m going to make a revolutionary claim here: living a Spirit-synced life is a synonym for following Jesus!  *gasp*  As we pursue the Spirit, he’ll lead us to live like Jesus lived when he was walking around on earth.  And as we seek to imitate Jesus, we can only do so with the aid and help of the Spirit (and one another).
  • Fourth, joy and love are intimately connected.  As we discussed previously, love is a choice which is acted upon to put the interests of others before our own.  In so doing, joy can be made complete.  And as we experience joy (both as a recipient and a conduit), we’ll demonstrate our love for one another more and more!  Paul would talk about this more in Philippians 4, where he says that because of what he has found in Christ and within community, he can have joy, that is, contentment, in all situations and at all times.  I don’t know about you…but that’s what I want!


So joy means having a deep and abiding sense of contentment despite what life, circumstances, and others throw at us.  Joy is based on the unchanging nature of the Triune God and not on our moods, our life stages, or our friends and family.  But when we experience joy, it is one of those things that can only truly be enjoyed with others!


What do you think?  How do you define joy?  How does pursuing the Spirit help you find it?  Let me know in the comments below!

Patience Is Suffering with Grace A Spirit-Synced Way of Life


By: Oran Viriyincy

Patience is Suffering with Grace

Of all the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, not to mention the Christian life in general, patience is the one area where I need to show more evidence that my life is guided and directed by the Spirit.  And living in Los Angeles County doesn’t help this at all!

The picture above looks all too familiar to me.  I have somewhere to go and I need to be there fast.  It’s only a few miles away.  I jump in my car, confidently pull out of the garage thinking I’ll get there in no time.

But there’s construction, an accident, an event at the Rose Bowl, and a school zone.


I have to wait.

But it’s not just driving that tests me…

It’s texting too.  See if this sounds familiar: I send an important text to someone.  They don’t respond immediately.  Five minutes pass and nothing.  Hours pass, no reply.  Two days come and go and still nada!

I think to myself (or say to my wife!): Ugh!  This is so annoying!  Why don’t they just reply!

But the reality of the situation is that I make people wait all the time for text replies.  I’m such a hypocrite!

I could go on and on — the internet is slow, people are in my way, something doesn’t work as it was designed, etc., etc., etc.

And here’s the thing: I know I’m not alone.  A recent survey found that we’re all impatient and that we make decisions about where we do business and how we treat people based on how long we have to wait!

So when we think about patience, an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, which can be defined as suffering with grace, I think it’s fair to say that we’re in need of a bit more!


How do we get more patience?

So, we know we need to be more patient.  But how do we get more patient?  And can we do it right now…I mean, I don’t have time to be patient about being more patient!

Here’s the truth, almost all of us have said at one time or another that we need to be more patient.  But we haven’t made long-term, sustainable changes.  We’ve not become more patient.

If Dr. Phil was here he would say, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”

Really poorly Dr. Phil.  Really poorly.

We need more patience but we’re proving to ourselves and one another that we can’t will ourselves to be more patient.

So, what are we to do?  How can we inculcate more patience in our lives?

There’s only one way to build patience as a follower of Jesus.  And it’s by being synced with the Spirit, staying in step with him as he leads us.

That’s what Paul was getting at when he named patience as an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit.  He was saying that, as we live lives more in line with the Spirit, we will become more and more patient.  We’ll be able to suffer the aggravations of life with more and more grace.

By staying in step with the Spirit, he will build patience in us.  He’ll do what we cannot do for ourselves or one another.


Examples of Spirit-led Patience

So, what does this look like?  In reality, what does it look like to have patience that comes from being deeply connected to the Spirit of God?

Truthfully, I’m not really the guy to ask!  I’m so thoroughly impatient that every example I read about or think of seems idealized or forced.  (I know, I know…I need to be more connected to the Spirit myself!)

But there was one person who had a connection with the Spirit that was always unbroken, always effective, and always produced the fruit of the Spirit.  That person, of course, was Jesus.

And examples of patience in his life abound:

  • When he found out his friend Lazarus sick, he was patient.  He didn’t rush to his side.  He waited, because he knew that by doing so more glory could go to his Father.
  • Jesus’ interactions with his disciples are filled with patience.  They ask Jesus stupid questions, they tell people unhelpful things, they do the wrong things, they don’t get what Jesus is teaching and showing them, and they fight with one another for power.  Through all of that, Jesus was patient, knowing that there was a process they had to go through to become the people he needed them to be after he left.
  • And one majorly-overlooked example of Jesus’ patience dominates the majority of the time he was alive.  From the moment Jesus was conceived until he was 30 years old, we know almost nothing about him.  How could Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, simply bide his time as a poor carpenter’s son?  How could he grow into adulthood, while waiting to fulfill his purpose?  How could he withstand the ridicule that likely came with him remaining single all through his 20s?  One way: He was patient thanks to his deep and abiding connection to the divine life through the Spirit!

Like Jesus, we have a deep and abiding connection to the divine life through the Spirit too!  Yay!

Unlike Jesus, we don’t have the wherewithal to always rely on that connection the way he did.

But we know from the example of Jesus’ life, and from the countless other lives of people who are patient thanks to being synced to the Spirit, that patience is possible for those who surrender to the Spirit.

Maybe that’s the secret sauce: Surrender.  At its core, impatience is all about me wanting to get my way; while patience, at its core, is all about the Spirit having his way in us.

Let’s do more of the latter and less of the former!


What do you think?  Are you like me, impatient to no end?  Or have you figured this patience thing out?  Let me know in the comments below!

Is Faithfulness Dead? A Spirit-Synced Way of Life

Is Faithfulness Really Dead?  And Did the Millenials Kill It?

Full disclosure — I was born in 1979.  By most definitions of Millenials, I’m not included.  However, being on the cusp means that people my age or just about the same age as me are uber-judgmental about Millenials.  We tend to find as many ways as possible to distance ourselves from “them” and “their” ways.

Below you’ll find the predicted Google results that begin with “millenials are.”  I doubt that you’ll be surprised.


So they’re lazy, the worst, stupid, entitled, and broke.  The tree things on the list that aren’t necessarily negative are things that can be interpreted negatively.  They’re foodies — meaning that they’re picky about what they eat and they’re very smug when others eat things they deem “unworthy” (not to mention the constant photos of food on social media!).  They’re the most educated generation — meaning that even though lots of them go to college, they still don’t have jobs, don’t have good life-skills, and still live with their parents.  And they’re not lazy — meaning that Millenials have been stacking the search results by looking for ways to prove they aren’t lazy…”The lady doth protesteth too much.”

But here’s the truth.  Millenials are not better or worse than any other generation.  But every single generation ever has thought that they’re better than the ones younger than it.  This is called “juvenoia” and we all fall victim to it if we aren’t intentional.

But still, one of the things that people my age and older always say about Millenials is that they lack in faithfulness — they’re flaky.  They don’t keep their word, they’re always late, and the can’t be trusted.

But here’s some more truth.  Is this lack of faithfulness a Millenial problem or a human one?  The answer is easy.  It’s a human problem.

Want proof?  Look in the mirror and let’s be honest with ourselves.  Whatever age we happen to be we have ditched a commitment because something we’d rather do came up.  And I’m sure that we’re more late to things than we’d like to admit.  And if people knew who we really were on the inside, then they’d never, ever trust us!

And here’s some more proof: Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit.  Note than in Galatians 5 the Apostle Paul doesn’t say that faithfulness is the fruit of trying harder, more experience, or good intentions.  Nope.  He says that faithfulness is produced through the work of the Spirit.

So no matter what generation we’re a part of, even the much-heralded “Greatest Generation,” none of us can develop faithfulness on our own.

A Faithfulness How-To

So what do we do then?  Wallow?  Embrace our flakiness?

No!  Instead let’s follow Paul’s advice in Galatians 5: let’s walk with the Spirit and be led by the Spirit.  But how?

  1. Be indwelt.  When Jesus is our Lord, we are filled with the Spirit.  And this reality isn’t something that comes and goes.  Instead, once the Spirit comes to live with us, he’s with us forever!  We have intimate access to the divine life at all times!  How cool is that!
  2. Get acquainted.  The Spirit indwells us but we still need to get to know him.  We can do this by learning about him in the Bible (which he’ll help us do!), meeting him within Christian community (since other followers of Jesus are indwelt by him too!), and by experiencing him in our lives (by doing #3 below!).  Over time we’ll know him better and better and our desires will bend to become more and more like his!
  3. Obey.  Ugh.  What a dirty word.  When I was in seminary some of my classmates told me that they hated the song “Trust and Obey.”  Here’s a line: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus…”  The word “happy” is a bit weird, but without obedience what’s the point of following Jesus and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit?  If all we have to do is to pursue what we like best, then why bother with all this God-stuff at all?  The truth is that in order for the fruit of the Spirit (such as faithfulness) to develop in us, we must obey the Spirit who indwells us.
  4. Share.  Lastly, if we want to be more faithful, then we must be synced with the Spirit and we must help others be synced as well.  How?  Lead them through steps #1-4 above, making sure not to ignore #4!


So that’s it.  In order to demonstrate more faithfulness, trustworthiness, reliability, loyalty, etc., we must be deeply connected with the Spirit.

What do you think?  How important is faithfulness?  And how can it be developed in us?  Let me know in the comments below!

Love and the Interests of Others A Spirit-Synced Way of Life

Love is all you need.  These immortal words from the Beatles have been sung billions of times (and I feel like that number is conservative!).  But is it true; is love all that we need?

Well, on the surface of things it’s obviously not true.  Love is an abstract concept and as such it cannot provide our needs for food, water, shelter, and clothing.

But love can and does provide much of our emotional needs and can, in certain ways and at certain times, provide for our spiritual needs.

So maybe a more correct line would be “Love is a really important thing you need.”  But that just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

What Is Love?

To continue our musical theme, love is, as the Boston famously put it, “more than a feeling.”  I like to think of love as a choice, an intentional action which can lead to a lifestyle and not as a fleeting emotional pull toward someone or something.

But, still, what is it?  We’ve categorized it as an intentional action, a choice…but what is it?

Here’s where the Apostle Paul helps us.  In Philippians 2.3-4 he give us the best definition of love I’ve ever read (though, for full disclosure’s sake, he doesn’t use the word “love” in this passage).

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Paul’s implication is clear, love is an action that is aimed at the interests of others, not at the interests of the self.  Love is supposed to be others-focused.  It’s supposed to be sacrificial and communal.  It’s supposed to result from humility and not selfishness.

Love is, simply put, placing the interests of others before our own.

Geez, could anything be harder?!?


1 Corinthians 13 and Love

Paul gives us lots of information about love in the famous words of 1 Corinthians 13.1-8a.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

I know, I know.  This passage usually conjures up images of mushy wedding services or vow renewals.  And that’s fine.  There are no interests we should put first more often than those of our spouses!

But the chapters surrounding 1 Corinthians 13 make it clear that what Paul means by love here is the love that is shared within the Christian community and that is to be shared and embodied outwardly to the watching world.

But what does Paul actually teach us about love here?  Love is about placing the interests of others before our own.  That’s what he means when he says it’s patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, and not proud.  That’s what he means by saying love doesn’t dishonor others or that it isn’t selfish.

Love being defined as putting the interests of others first is seen in that it’s not easily angered, that it doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, and that it delights in truth and not evil.  A love that puts the interests of others first is protective, trusting, hopeful, perseverant, and unfailing.

That’s the kind of love I want to experience from others!  And as I learn to put the interest of others first, that’s the kind of love I’ll show them as well!


How to Be More Loving

But here’s the rub: How do we become more loving?  How do we put the interests of others before our own?

Well, there’s lots of sound advice out there.

  • Think carefully about how to love those closest to you.  Consider how they would want to be loved instead of simply loving them the way you want to be loved.
  • Learn from other people who love well.  Read the biographies of people who consistently put the interests of others first, no matter the cost.  Spend more time with your friends who love well.  Consider getting a mentor to help you do a better job of loving others.
  • Just try really hard.  Work hard at putting the interests of others first, even when you don’t want to.
  • Do what Jesus did.  He loved people, so you should too.
  • Pray about it.  Ask God to help you.


Love as an Aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit

But since love is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5, maybe we should seek Paul’s advice there.

In Galatians 5.16 Paul says to “walk by the Spirit” and in 5.18 he says be “led by the Spirit.”  These very similar concepts are set in contrast to the notion of succumbing to the desires of the flesh.

But how?  How do we walk by the Spirit?  How can we be led by the Spirit?  How can we not fall prey to the desires of the flesh?

  • Firstly, we must pray.  Prayer should be the start of any pursuit of living a Spirit-synced way of life.  We must ask God to make us aware of the leading of the Spirit.  In my limited experience and based on the advice of people I deeply trust, the more we pray to be led by the Spirit, the more and more we’re likely to notice him showing up in our lives, guiding and directing us.
  • Secondly, we must stop indulging the flesh at every turn.  Maybe one reason why we don’t experience the fullness of the Spirit in our lives is that we’re so distracted by our flesh.  And with regard to this aspect of the fruit of the Spirit — love: putting the interests of others before our own — our flesh desires our own interests at all costs.  Maybe we should learn to take stock every once in a while by taking a deep look at ourselves and our motivations.  Perhaps as we listen less and less to our flesh, then we will hear the Spirit more and more.
  • Thirdly, we should look at the life of Jesus.  Who in the history of the world was more in tune with the Spirit than Jesus?  No one, that’s who!  So as we read about Jesus’ earthly life, we’ll notice him putting the interests of others first.  Then we should go out an imitate him!
  • Fourthly, obedience, obedience, obedience.  One of the hardest things Jesus ever said was this: “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14.15).  Thanks for that Jesus!  But he’s right.  Love is demonstrated by actions.  And our love for Jesus should be shown by obeying his commands.  And what were they, what were his commands?  Love God with all we’ve got, love others as ourselves, and make disciples.  Pretty simple to say but pretty difficult to live out!  Oh, and it’s no surprise at all that immediately following John 14.15 is a long discussion by Jesus of the Spirit.  Obeying Jesus and experiencing the Spirit go hand in hand.
  • Fifthly, do this with others.  The Christian life was never intended to be lived in isolation.  (Neither was human life for that matter!)  So why do we try to do things like live a Spirit-synced way of life in our own power?  That’s just setting us up for failure.  Instead, call together your friends who follow Jesus, your small group, your missional community, your Sunday School class, your family, whomever, and commit together to pursue the Spirit together.  Then check in on one another.  Tell stories about how the Spirit is moving you to put the interests of others first.  Hold each other accountable.  Pray for one another.  And, above all, love one another because walking with the Spirit is tough because the pull of the flesh is so strong!

What do you think?  When you think about love as an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, what comes to mind?  And how can we stay synced up with the Spirit?  Let me know in the comments below.

The Fruit of the Spirit A Spirit-Synced Way of Life

There’s nothing quite like eating a great peace of fruit.  If it’s an apple — which it should be…apples are my favorites! — then its color is perfect and it has just right right amount of crunch and juiciness.  Mmm!

But very rarely do I consider that the fruit that I love to eat is the fruit of a lot of hard work and labor!

Think about it.  An apple comes from an orchard.  And an orchard must be cared for.

The trees need watering.  The weeds need pulling.  The dead leaves, limbs, and fruit need pruning.  The apples need picking.  And the final product needs selling, packing, and shipping.

That’s a lot of work!

Fruit of the Spirit

Well, I think a similar blind spot has been a part of my Christian development as well.  When I read the famous passage in Galatians 5.22-23 about the fruit of the Spirit, I tend to think about each aspect of the fruit as a final product.  Honestly, I rarely think about what goes into the production of the fruit of the Spirit in the life of a believer, whether in me or anyone else!

Maybe it’s the way that Paul wrote about the fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

I mean, they’re just so consumable individually spelled out like that, right?  They’re all there in a nice little row, one right after another.

And in my experience in the Church, whether teaching/preaching/leading or being the recipient of the same, this is the way the fruit of the Spirit is taught.

Let me be a bit more specific: When we think about it, we tend to think about the fruit of the Spirit as an opportunity to engage in character development.

Character Development vs. _____________?

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with having one’s character developed as he or she follows Jesus.  I know mine needs some work!  I could be a bit more patient (that’s the understatement of the century, just ask my wife, parents, sister, friends, and coworkers!) and exhibit more self-control.

And according to the way I was taught to think about the fruit, my course of action when I realize I’m lacking in some aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is to work on that specific aspect.  So, when I realize that I’m not as kind as a I should be, I work on being kinder.  When I’m not as peaceful as I’d like to be, I exercise my peace muscles.

Unfortunately, this is akin to forgetting the processes behind the fruit at the supermarket.

And, friends, there is a major process behind the fruit of the Spirit — namely, walking with the Spirit!

A Spirit-Synced Way of Life

Paul spells this out rather explicitly in Galatians 5.16-18:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Before he gets to the fruit of the Spirit — the things which are brought to fruition because of a life lived synced up with the Spirit — Paul tells us what produces this fruit…walking by the Spirit or being led by the Spirit!

This phrase (walking by/being led by the Spirit) is great for a number of reasons:

  • It implies an active lifestyle of following Jesus as opposed to the popular passive/getting-fed mode that lots of Christians (myself included!) are tempted to fall into.
  • It reminds us that we need to be walked with — we can’t do this thing alone.  We need grace and guidance from the moment we’re first alive until the moment we die.  And God gladly will hold our little hands through that whole journey!
  • And it means that following Jesus isn’t about me, people like me, my church, my country, or my standards.  Nope.  It’s about being led by the Spirit!

So instead of focusing on each different aspect of the fruit, shouldn’t we focus on how walking with the Spirit brings each aspect to fruition?  In other words, shouldn’t we focus more on the process and a bit less on the results?


What do you think?  Do you tend to think about the fruit of the Spirit as an opportunity to engage in character development?  Or do you tend to think about the fruit of the Spirit as the result of Spirit-synced way of life?  Let me know in the comments below!