Posted in Verses I am Glad I have Read

Verses I’m Glad I’ve Read: Learn To Fish

Give a man to fish, the saying goes, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

When Jesus came to earth as man, He not only gave us the ultimate fish, His gift of saving grace, but He also spent the bulk of His ministry teaching His disciples and followers how to fish.

After almost five decades on this planet, I am convinced it will take me a lifetime to learn how to live according to Jesus’ simple truth: love God first and foremost and love everyone else with the same fervor with which you love yourself. The truth of the gospel is as simple and as complicated as living each day in humble acknowledgment that God is in control and by continually acting out one’s faith through love.

How can something so simple on the surface be so difficult to achieve in practice? I don’t know. Every day, I worry when I should say, God, I entrust myself to Your mercy. I indulge in self-pity and judgment of others and myself when I should be asking the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts. I let pride guide my actions instead of bending my knee to the will of the Almighty.

And all of that before I even finish breakfast.

But examples of living in ways that will bear fruit abound when you study the life and ministry of Jesus. He challenged judgmental people, trying to take on the role of God by passing sentence on a sinner, to cast the first stone at the adulteress, refusing to condemn her and admonishing her to go forward and sin no more. He prayed often, with His whole being, so passionately in the Garden of Gethsemane that His tears leaked blood.  He gave generously of His time and energy, preaching and healing past endurance, never discriminating or seeing Himself as better than anyone else. He never gave in to temptations, not even when He’d been in the desert for 40 days without sustenance.

Learning to fish in a spiritual sense is learning to make the most of the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised before His crucifixion:

And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive [and take to its heart] because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He (the Holy Spirit) remains with you continually and will be in you. (John 14:16 -17 AMP)

Paul expounds on the outward signs that show a life lived by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He tells us the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). These characteristics are not separate, not fruits, but one, all-encompassing embodiment of a life lived as much as lead. The Amplified Bible version of these verses explains it this way:

But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. (Galatians 5:22-25)

Not only does God’s word provide us with food for our spiritual lives, just as Jesus more than once filled Peter’s nets full to bursting with a live catch, it also provides the instructions for living each day in a way to bring about the most abundant harvest. Looking closely at the fruit of the Spirit, I think about how much better my life can be if I work to make the Holy Spirit the central focus of everything I do.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In my daily planner app, I have long since assigned these qualities to different days of the week as a gentle reminder of where my focus should be. In the end, if I fail to learn how to live according to the Spirit in me, why did I bother inviting the Spirit in to begin with?

In Christ,

Posted in Christian Living, Christianity

The Art of Grace

swimming pool

In an attempt to find an exercise that will help loosen up my always-tight shoulders, I have recently taken up “swimming.”  I put the word in quote marks because I don’t want to offend the true athletes out there who would not call my freestyle flapping in the water actual swimming.  I keep meaning to google for tips on how-to or to download Swimming for Dummies, but I’m usually lucky to find time to swim in the first place.

Still, I wasn’t the only one to notice my need for a few pointers.  One of the other ladies at the all-female gym where my exercise pool is located obviously also took note because she offered me some unsolicited advice.  Because she managed to present that advice in what I thought of at the time as a Southern-lady approach, I was very glad to get it.  I put it into practice during my next swim, and I feel like it is helping me do better.

Only later did it occur to me that what I first defined as Southern-lady style might be better described as a truly Christian approach.  Because the woman assumed nothing, approached me with gentleness, and offered advice that could only make me better if I were smart enough to use it, I think she taught me more than just a few swimming tips.  If I can remember her approach the next time I see an opportunity to share a Biblical truth, I will do much better than just improve my breathing strokes.

Before I dig into what are really just a few, simple steps for approaching a person with a lesson of any sort, but especially on Biblical truth, let’s look at what the Bible says about such instruction:

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted, Paul implores the Galatians (6:1).

Peter writes:

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis added).

Timothy adds:

. . . with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth. . .(2 Timothy 2:25).

Christ, the ultimate Teacher, reminds us:

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).

In other words, when we are sure that what we wish to approach a person about is a subject that comes from our love for that person and that we are likewise clear on exactly where we stand in relation to that same subject, then we may attempt to approach that person in love with gentleness.

It may go without saying, but I will say it anyway: No process like this should be attempted without prayer and without the support of the Holy Spirit. God is powerful. He can hear our words even before we utter them, and He can answer our prayers before our next heartbeat.

So, here is the promised, practical approach to a Southern-lady style, a Christian style of offering advice or wise words that may or may not have been requested in the first place:

  1. Approach the other person by assuming the very best about that person:
    • “You are so much younger than me, I’m sure you got to have lessons for swimming”–was the kind lady’s opening line to me.
  2. Ask for permission to give advice:
    • “I had to ask my daughter for advice on how to do the strokes and breathe because all I knew how to do was stay afloat.  Would you like me to tell you what she told me?”
  3. Find something good/great to say about the other person as part of your conversation:
    • “You have such a nice swimsuit.  Where did you get it?”
  4. Close the conversation with the possibility for future communication:
    • “It was so nice talking to you.  I’m sure I’ll see you here again.”

When you talk to somebody from the heart in this way, with no ulterior motive except a true leading from the Holy Spirit, how can you fail?

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14:26