Monday, July 09, 2007

Summer Fruit

We just had a week in Kelowna- complete with the stomach flu, simple fun chasing rabbits, and shooting Nerf darts at just about anything. We also had an enormous game of Mini-golf. Don't believe anything that Anola tells you about who won and by how much!

The Okanagan Valley is known for orchards, wine and amazingly fresh fruit. Cherries, strawberries, and peaches, the whole nine yards of the fruits family. Rainier cherries- ever had some? Unbelievable- like Ambrosia.

The Bible teaches us about fruits too. These fruits are very attractive and they elude us many times. They aren’t the goal of following Christ, but a by-product of accompanying Him on the journey of life.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

These expressions of God’s character are often contrasted with the works of the flesh: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other.”

The journey of life isn’t always easy, in fact many times it’s a struggle, as we’ve all discovered once again with painful consequences here at Community of Hope over the past while.

In our midst we have hurt and pain because of things that were done and not done; things that were said and not said; hurt because our friends have been hurt and pain because we may have some friendships that don’t seem as friendly as they once did. In times such as these the negative emotions can seem to far outweigh the positive ones that I’ve just mentioned.

What are we to do?

Galatians 5:13-25
13-15It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?

16-18My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

19-21It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.

22-23But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

23-24Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

25-26Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

Our time together today, which includes our potluck and meeting, is an act of using our freedom to serve one another in love. When we say "I love you," we often mean "I love me and I want you!" That’s not the kind of love Paul is speaking of.

We want to have ‘faith as a verb’: “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” (Verse 25)

The whole orchard business and industry is a challenging one. High costs, difficult growing conditions, rain at just the wrong time can destroy a good crop of cherries. Good fruit can be very hard to come by.

Let’s look at a couple of interactions of Jesus with His most committed followers and see their expression of ‘fruit’:

Luke 9:51-62
51-54When it came close to the time for his Ascension, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead. They came to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for his hospitality. But when the Samaritans learned that his destination was Jerusalem, they refused hospitality. When the disciples James and John learned of it, they said, "Master, do you want us to call a bolt of lightning down out of the sky and incinerate them?"

55-56Jesus turned on them: "Of course not!" And they traveled on to another village.

(It’s natural for us to lash out at those who’ve hurt us- isn’t it?)

57On the road someone asked if he could go along. "I'll go with you, wherever," he said.

58Jesus was curt: "Are you ready to rough it? We're not staying in the best inns, you know."

Jesus said to another, "Follow me."

59He said, "Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father's funeral."

60Jesus refused. "First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God's kingdom!"

61Then another said, "I'm ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home."

62Jesus said, "No procrastination. No backward looks. You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day."

James and John come back rejected by the Samaritan village and ask “so, should we rain fire down from heaven to consume them?” Jesus just had to have rolled his eyes. These guys were a real piece of work. So exactly when did raining fire down to consume the villages of folks they didn’t like become an option for them?

If you go back to the first verses of chapter 9 to check what Jesus said in sending out His disciples it reads, ”power and authority to cast out demons, healing and proclaiming the kingdom,” but strangely enough, incinerating an entire village because they made you look bad is strangely absent.

Christian love and allowing Jesus to cultivate a life filled with the fruits of the spirit is easy except for one little problem: the annoying people around us. Seriously, being a slave to the annoying or the mean or the manipulative.... this is a real problem. But Paul is pretty clear on this one: “Through love become slaves to one another.”

So when it comes down to it, we all reach a threshold where we realize, “I just don’t think I can show that much love.” Seriously. When it comes to love and attitudes of joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and (for sure) self-control, you and I can come up pretty short. But here’s the good news - these are not the fruits of Stewart, or Joe or Elaine. These are the fruits of the Spirit.

Maybe that love is not from us but from Christ through us. If our face is set towards Jerusalem, then we are set towards the cross and God’s reconciling and redeeming work in the world, not our work in the maybe the love by which we are to be slaves of one another is already accomplished and thankfully does not rely on our own efforts.

"In the gap between the life we live and the life we hoped for is either transformation or despair" Bob Mayo

The voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new horizons but in seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust

We need the eyes of Jesus, as in Matthew 9:36, “Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. "What a huge harvest!" he said to his disciples. "How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!"

It means a full surrender to the ways of God, and purposes of God and needs of God.

ULTIMATELY there is tremendous grace in suffering –- not because of the pain of the suffering itself but because suffering allows us to reorient ourselves in ways that we simply could never have done had life proceeded in an untroubled manner. Suffering gives us the occasion to listen as we never have listened before – both to new words and to new sources of wisdom – and to turn listening into seeing. William Long and Glandion Carney

“Spiritual formation in Christ is the process by which one moves and is moved from self-worship to Christ-centered self-denial as a general condition of life in God’s present and eternal kingdom.” Dallas Willard

Come up to pick up your words- one fruit of the spirit and one work of the flesh. Allow God to speak to you as you reflect on the different attitudes that they represent. Perhaps you'll want to start you day each morning by looking at the two choices they represent; or perhaps you'll end your day reflecting on which way it went, be it to the flesh or to the spirit. Ask God to help tend to your heart orchard and produce some summer fruit that'll last a lifetime!


sexual immorality


selfish ambition


factions and envy


idolatry and witchcraft


hatred and discord




fits of rage




Which do you want to see evidenced in your own attitude?


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