the gift of fruit

 

A precious and still vivid memory of my grandparents’ house is a string of small decoupage plaques on a dark green velvet ribbon hanging on the thin strip of wall dividing the living and dining rooms.  On the plaques were 9 simple words, painted in beautiful script – the fruit of the Spirit!

LOVE

JOY

PEACE

PATIENCE

KINDNESS

GOODNESS

FAITHFULNESS

GENTLENESS

SELF-CONTROL

My grandparents lived a simple life.  Their home was clean and neat and inviting, but far from extravagant.  There were only a few special things that decorated their walls – so we noticed them!  I stood in front of those little plaques on that green velvet ribbon often, trying to soak in the values Grandmom & Granddad held in such high esteem and lived out in front of us!  Two large, black leather-bound Bibles sat together on the coffee table, well-worn and ready for daily reading together.  My grandparents spent intentional time in God’s Word together, learning what mattered to Him.  It was always their desire to reflect our Savior’s heart, His character.

From my earliest memories, being in my grandparents’ home was always a joy.  It was never harried, never tense, always orderly and quiet, always soft and respectful.  Without any explanation, we knew that their commitment was to be faithful – to the Lord, to the work He had called them to do, to be a walking testimony of His grace.

My grandmother was also a prayer warrior!  She never coined this phrase, but she lived it: “pray it, don’t say it.”  Her words were few, but her prayers were many!  She had confidence in the power of prayer.  And I know that those hours at the feet of the Savior impacted her as much as the people she prayed for so faithfully.  He was drawing her heart into rhythm with His own.  He was cultivating these character traits and molding her to bear fruit in service for Him.

With a warm smile, I thought of those little plaques on that velvet green ribbon again as I read Amy Carmichael’s thoughts this morning:

Before the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy, He loved me and chose me as His own (Job 38:7, Ephesians 1:3).  Therefore today every spiritual blessing may be truly mine – the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience toward others, kindness, goodness (that sweetness of heart that was Christ’s), good faith, meekness, self-restraint.  So that in the pressure of life I need never fail.  And all this is to the praise of the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:6).  The Lord give us to possess our possessions! (Obadiah 17)

It is interesting to me that she called them the “fruit” of the Spirit (singular!).  Because of His grace, ALL, not some, ALL of them are given to us!  My grandparents modeled for us how to live out God’s grace, with an overflow of the fruit of His Spirit in their hearts and in their actions.

I don’t know whatever became of that green velvet ribbon or the beautifully scripted words it held, but I know God’s Word endures forever and the fruit of His Spirit is available in limitless supply!  It is not as much something I can strive for as something I can open my hands to receive as a gift from God.  These choice fruits are blessings from Him!  May I reach for them and treasure them, knowing that as I give space for the Spirit to fill me with His character, His fruit can overflow from me too.

Just as the Lord chose my grandparents, He has chosen me.  His desire is to draw my heart into rhythm with His, to mold my character to reflect His own.  I am forever grateful for a legacy of faith in Christ and a Godly example to follow.  And I know that my grandparents would say without hesitation, “don’t follow my footsteps, follow His!”

fruit of the spirit

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His offer stands

She took a deep breath and headed out the door.  The sun beat hot and dry on her walk to the outskirts of town, but the cooler part of the day risked meeting too many people with too many questions she didn’t want to answer.  The questions swirled enough in her own head and she was weary of trying to come up with explanations.  The water pot on her shoulder felt heavier than usual, even before there was any water in it.  The haunting details of her life seemed to sink her as deep as the well from which she would draw the water.  Hurtful choices and decisions made by herself and others had left her deeply wounded… broken.

In her brokenness, and in that place she specifically went to avoid meeting up with anyone, she met the one Someone she desperately needed to know.  JESUS had purposely detoured to her side of town – to have a personal encounter with her!  Without hesitation, He broke through her assumptions and comfortably struck up conversation with her. He had different questions for her.  And He didn’t need her to explain her complicated life – He already knew those details!  He simply wanted her to meet Him, to understand Who He was, and to reach for the lasting solutions He offered her:

True worship is not in a place, but in a Person.

True living water is not from the earth, but from the Maker of heaven and earth.

The true Messiah does make all things clear and right and she no longer needed to wait to meet Him.  He was standing right in front of her.

Placing her trust in the true Messiah would change everything.

She left her water pot, no longer concerned about the practical needs of the day.  She went straight into the center of town, seeking out the very people she took great lengths to avoid.  She had a new story to tell and it had nothing to do with her and everything to do with her Savior!  He had overwhelmed her heart with truth and pointed her to eternal life and she couldn’t wait to share it.  “Come and See!!!” excitedly spilled from her lips as she met one face after another with urgency.  And those people who probably hadn’t paid much attention to her in the past?  They were captivated by her news… and they came!  They confidently proclaimed: “We know that He is indeed the Savior of the world.” – John 4:42

That is our Messiah – He draws people to Himself.  He opens their eyes to understand who they are and who He is – that sin needs to be dealt with, but He is ready and willing to offer the only solution – to all!  And our Savior doesn’t just meet the need, check the box and move on to the next person.  Yes, He frees us from the penalty of sin, something no one else can do, but an impersonal provision of security is not what He has in mind.  He wants to reach our hearts!  He impacts individuals with human touch and words of truth, unshakable reason to hope, and deep healing that is life-changing.  He transforms His redeemed ones in such a way that they cannot keep it to themselves!  Those who know grace cannot be silent.  Their testimonies are so powerful that others cannot help but notice and want to know more!

We simply know this dear lady as the woman at Sychar’s well in John 4.  There are so many wonderful things to ponder about her story, but I find myself coming back to two of them:

(1)  Once Jesus has her attention by offering her living water, He cuts right to the chase, “go call your husband.”  Jesus meets us in the middle of our messes. No mess of ours is big enough to deter Him.  He is saying “I know your story and My offer still stands… your story is *why* My offer stands.”  He knows He is the only One who can rescue us and He wants us to know that too.  He longs for us to reach for Him and to experience true and lasting deliverance!

(2) She is a Samaritan, with whom the Jews have no dealings whatsoever, and yet she talks about her father Jacob and confidently says that she knows Messiah is coming who will tell her all things.  She is watching for the Messiah! She may be on the wrong side of town with a whole host of bad life choices, but Jesus sees beyond all of the exterior details and knows her heart!  She is watching for Him and although she doesn’t “get it” all, she knows there is something wondrous about this Man and she can’t wait to tell anyone who will listen that she believes the Messiah is here!

If Jesus met me face to face in my daily grind today, what questions would He have for me?  What broken places in me might He want to expose so He could bring healing?

What would it mean to me to know that He had purposely detoured right into my path to have a personal encounter with me?  What does He want me to understand about myself or about Him (or both!) that would bring restoration and clearer path to true worship?

Have I invested time and effort into deep dialogue with my Savior today?  What might He reveal to me that would send me in eager search of anyone who would listen – so I could urge them to “come and see” the Messiah?

Seeing the Lord interact with this woman touches my heart.  Being reminded of the ways He so gently yet persistently reaches into my own heart is beyond precious.  Reading these personal encounters with the Savior and realizing that I have the awesome privilege to enjoy that same level of intimacy with Him on any. given. day. just stops me in my tracks.  His offer still stands!  It motivates me to see how many things I can say “no” to so I have more time to come into His presence, eager to know Him more!

May He fill me with a deepening knowledge of Who He is and prime the pump of life-giving water in me so that its overflow can draw others around me to know Him too!

Read more here!  –  John 4:4-42 – John 12:32 – Acts 4:12 – Ephesians 1:18 – Ephesians 3:17 – Hebrews 4:16

Thailand waterfall in Kanjanaburi (Huay Mae Kamin)