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“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Take notice that this passage begins ‘The fruit of the Spirit’ and NOT the fruit ffof the Christian, the reason being that the fruit belongs to God and is for bringing Him glory. The fruit of the Christian is a myth. When the Bible declares in Matthew 7:16 that people will know us (identify us as Christians) by our fruit and that good trees bear good fruit, the reality is that they will know we are followers of Jesus when they see the Holy Spirit and His attributes in operation.

Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:14)

When we receive the Holy Spirit, it’s a package deal – where He goes His fruit goes and it’s consumer-ready from day one WITHOUT law or regulation. The Christian on the other hand is the shipping crate and it’s his duty is to pop the lid off and display this Spiritual produce to God’s glory.

Let us abandon the notion that we’re babes in Christ and that our fruit needs to mature or other such nonsense. The reality is that in ourselves we will never master these qualities, but we have something better in the Holy Spirit. We just get need to get out of His way (die to our selfishness) and allow Him to do what He desires to do. As a result folks will occasionally notice how loving or how patient we are, at which point we will say, “Dude, that’s not me. To God be the glory.”

It’s not the power of the fruit, it’s the Power behind the fruit.

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)

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Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

Love is that fruit of the Spirit that allows God’s power to flow through us by way of the gifts that He has provided. Loveless-ness causes friction. Removing love from this blueprint would be akin to removing the oil from your engine’s crankcase. A car without oil will run for a while, making a whole lot of noise, and then stop entirely.

A Better Illustration From God

And they made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates on the hem of the robe all around between the pomegranates: a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, all around the hem of the robe to minister in, as the Lord had commanded Moses. Exodus 39:25-26

bellWhat’s the significance?

We might notice how the bells are symbolic of the Lord’s gifts and the pomegranates are representative of His love; a fruit of the Spirit (and friction-fighter). In other words, God has painted a ‘bell-fruit-bell’ picture for the church, with the pomegranate (love) as the cushion. Without this buffer of love between each gifting, would we not be left with a cacophony of metal clanging against metal, but with love in-between, each jingle is a clear tone, distinguishable one from another and harmonious one with another! This is how our spiritual gifts should flow.

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An open letter to my children, my brothers, my sisters, my nieces, my nephews, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, and my in-laws:

A few of you know Jesus Christ in a personal way. In other words, you have not merely attained historical faminformation about Jesus, but you walk in His ways. You are in fact followers of Christ. You believe that His word, the Bible, is inerrant, and His testimony is true. Jesus is in actuality your Lord God and your Savior, you are submitted to His will, and your lives are a living testimony to your Creator. You have received His free gift of grace. Please know Michelle and I pray for you daily, and that God will continue to bless and protect you, and grow you in your faith. Our bond is deeper than genetic; it is Holy and eternal, as it has been purchased for a great price through the suffering, the blood, and the crucifixion of Jesus.

I have much joy knowing that you know Jesus, and that when we leave this life for the next, there will be a grand reunion in Heaven. At the same time, I am saddened that not all of us will be there. When I dwell on the notion, that as of today, most of our family will not be with us, my heart aches. They will be living for eternity, but not in Heaven. The rest of this letter is to those of our family that we may never see again.

Dear Family,

What I am about to write, you may have seen or heard before, but my prayer is that you will read it until the end.

First, I love you.

The love I speak of is not the same kind of love that I have for my wife, or my children, or even chocolate ice cream. This kind of love is called ‘agape’ in the Bible, and it’s the kind of love that compelled Christ Jesus to go to the cross. It goes beyond mere affection, although it certainly includes that. It’s a kind of love that is driven by God the Father, and not of emotion, despite the fact that deep emotion is often a part of it. When Jesus Christ came and took-up residence in my heart, He brought this love along with Him. Today, it is the very thing that compels me to do things that I would not have otherwise ever done, such as write this letter. From this point forward, if I am bold in what I write, please recall that it’s written in love. I must risk driving you away in order that you hear this message.

I will be sharing some portions of the Bible (in blue). It’s important to remember that what I’m going to share is not an opinion, but it’s borne out of the Word of God. For those of you who are closest to me [know] that I am not the same person I used to be, to God’s glory. That is to say that I’m no longer a scoundrel, a drunk, a villain, or a worthless fellow. You can plainly see that something has changed for the better. You only see the outside, but I’m here to tell you I’m changed on the inside as well. I’m not perfect and it could best be said that I am a work-in-progress.

If you have witnessed any of these changes in me, please read on.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

This is not where I tell you that you’re a sinner and that you’re going to hell. This is where God does. Please look at the second word in the sentence. ‘All’ means every single person who ever was or ever will be. We all have sinned and it only takes one sin to separate us from God. Don’t let that anger you. It’s been said that God is so perfectly good, He cannot have any sin around Him; darkness (sin) cannot share the same space with light. Based on this portion of Bible scripture (and there are many others), we can know that no person can be good enough to get into Heaven on their own merit. Just one sin will exclude you. In other words, if Mother Teresa did not know Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, she too would be excluded.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Everybody dies, but the death spoken of here is often referred to as hell and it is eternal (it’s forever). It’s a place that God did not make for human beings, but for satan and his minions. If a person ends up in hell, God is not responsible because He has given everyone a free-way to avoid it. This might sound a little moronic, but God’s free gift is free. It cannot be earned or worked for by us. It’s just to be received.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

What Christ Jesus did on the cross encompasses the free gift. This sacrifice Jesus made paid the penalty of our sin. Somebody had to pay; that’s the way God laid it all out, and Jesus was sent to earth in the flesh to be a perfect sacrifice.  There was never a perfect sacrifice before Jesus and there will never be another one. Jesus is the only solution to our sin and separation problem. Don’t be angry that God only gave us One way — be grateful that He provided a way.

One problem, one solution — God kept it incredibly simple for us, because He loves us.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

What do you have to do to receive the free gift? Accept it! Acknowledge that you are the rightful recipient! Agree with God and say:

“Yes Father, I am a sinner. Jesus Christ is exactly who You have said He is. Jesus is the Only solution to my sin and separation problem. Somehow, in a way I cannot fully understand, Jesus took all my sin upon Himself and paid the penalty in full so I don’t have to. He willingly went to the cross, was crucified, He died, and He rose from the dead, and now lives forever!”

Nowhere does the Bible say that we need to understand how Jesus did these things, but only by faith that we believe He did. When you do this, your life will change miraculously as you follow His ways, and your life will be a living testimony that Christ Jesus is alive!

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19)

Repent means to turn away from,’ but in the case of a Christian, it means more. It means that we have agreed to turn our backs on our sinful pasts and turn towards Jesus in order to follow His ways. It may sound difficult, but because you’ve demonstrated your commitment to Jesus, He will (freely) provide you the power to stop any sin you struggle with. As I shared earlier, I was once a drunk and I turned away from drinking many times on my own, but was never able to stop being a drunk, that is until I came to Jesus. When I repented; that is, turned away and turned towards Jesus, He lifted the addiction away entirely in one moment.

My last drunk was in 1997.

Does this mean you will never sin again? No, it does not, but what it means is you’ve rejected the notion of being an habitual sinner; the kind of person who purposely sets out each day to do what is wrong. Repentance in many ways is the sign to the world and to God that your faith is true. You cannot accept the free gift of salvation from God and willfully live in habitual sin, believing that God doesn’t care. God does care. He will accept you in any condition that you come to Him, but He surely does not want you to stay in that condition; God wants to refine you into the best you can be, for His glory and not ours.

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

No one is exempt. God’s free offer is available to everyone. Call on His name by faith and be saved. You have not committed a sin so great (or sins so great), that God will not forgive you.

“We have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

What does ‘justified by faith, mean? Simply put, the word justified means, just-as-if you never sinned. That’s right! If you believe in Jesus and have received His free gift of salvation, God the Father looks at you as if you were spotless and without sin. The Bible tells us this is so because we are robed in Christ’s righteousness; Jesus has essentially given us a clean garment to put on!

Faith is the same as belief, but it’s more than just having knowledge about something. Everyone has the knowledge that a parachute has the capacity to save a person, but it only works if you put it on. So it is with Christ Jesus. I have had conversations with many of you, and most of you have knowledge of who Jesus is and what He has done, but you have not put Him on by faith. Faith says we will also do what Jesus says to do.

Knowledge alone will not save you.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Plain and simple, if you believe these things and do them, you will not suffer the second death, condemnation.

At this point, you have a decision to make.

If you decide to become a follower of Jesus Christ, God will recognize your sincerity, and there is nothing more you have to do to acquire salvation! Jesus proclaimed on the cross that the work He came to do was finished!

If however you have decided to wait, you need to examine your motives. Is the sin that your holding onto truly that much better than living in Heaven eternally? No one, not even God denies that sin is pleasurable for a season, but that season is always short, especially when compared to eternity. And of course, we have no idea when our lives on earth will end. The youngest person reading this must know that people younger than you die unexpectedly every single day. You are not guaranteed a long life.  And do not be fooled into believing that you can live any kind of life that you desire and then make a last second commitment of faith on your death-bed. Can you possibly guarantee that your death-bed commitment would even be sincere in God’s eyes? Who has guaranteed you that you will even have a death-bed experience?

Dear family, don’t be foolish. If you have read this far, Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart and He wants to rescue you. You might not see it, but He sees that you are drowning and He’s come along side of you to pull you into he lifeboat. No longer reject His free gift. Do you have questions? I know it’s a bit awkward, but please let me know. I’ll answer your questions or can get together and talk more in-depth. Truly, your eternal life depends upon it.

If I didn’t love you, I would have not written to you. Michelle and I pray for you daily.

In Christ’s love,

Dave — your father, your brother, your cousin, your nephew, your uncle, your in-law

 

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Its all about Bells and PomegranatesYou shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. There shall be an opening for his head in the middle of it; it shall have a woven binding all around its opening, like the opening in a coat of mail, so that it does not tear. “And upon its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe all around. And it shall be upon Aaron when he ministers, and its sound will be heard when he goes into the holy place before the Lord and when he comes out, that he may not die. Exodus 28:31-35

Everything in the Tabernacle–from massive tapestry to curious thread, prophetically picture and point towards Jesus and our life in Christ. The skeptic may say that as we draw our Messianic parallels that we are merely grasping at sanctimonious straws in an attempt to somehow qualify our Jesus as Lord. “Coincidence!” they screech. Frankly, I might agree with them if not for the enormous rate-of-occurrence on each and every page of the Bible. Jesus Himself verifies our claim when He in effect declares that the entire Old Testament is a testimony to Him.

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. John 5:39

Bells

Envision the High Priest and his bell-hemmed robe. Only he could enter the Holy Place and Holy of Holies, that tent within a tent inside the Tabernacle. Those in the Tabernacle’s courtyard could hear him as the bells on his garment jingled-away as he serviced the fixtures inside the tent–a witness that he was engaged in ministry. Lots can be said about active ministry, but one thing is for certain—active ministry has a sound.

Pomegranates

We need not be theologians to grasp that the pomegranate depicts the fruit of the Spirit which the book of Galatians reminds us is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Since all those latter things are essentially attributes of love, we could simply say the pomegranate is a depiction of love. So why then the repetitive bell-pomegranate-bell-pomegranate pattern on the robe’s hem? The Apostle Paul gives us that answer.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

Paul asserts that as we go about our continual pattern of Christian service—making noise for the Lord as it were, if not seasoned with love throughout, appealing chimes become appalling cymbals. Love must be sandwiched between every word and deed, lest the sounds of loveless ministry frighten everyone away.

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35


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Then Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, “I am a foreigner and a visitor among you. Give me property for a burial place among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” Genesis 23:3-4In the World…

Imagine your dad has given you a beautiful and luxurious new car. You then take that car, drive it over to the local new-car dealer, and park it directly in front of the showroom window. You exit the car, walk over to the first salesman you see and announce to him, “I want to buy that car!” As peculiar as this might seem, in a sense this is what Abraham has done in our story.

“I am a foreigner and a visitor among you…”

Abraham proclaims to these locals after the death of his wife Sarah. At first it doesn’t seem that odd a statement; he is sojourning with his wife, she dies, and he needs a burial site for her—it’s not that unusual. But then we remember that Abraham already owns all this land.

…The Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” Genesis 15:18-21

Abraham is asking to purchase that which already belongs to him. The question is why and it is an answer we discover in the Book of Hebrews. While it is true we learn (in Hebrews) that Abraham’s greatest asset is his faith, we also gain some insight to Abraham’s mindset as it pertains to the things of this world.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance… (but) he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Hebrews 11:8 + 10

What’s Really Going On

Abraham, in his grief, chooses to be a witness to those around him; his behavior a living testimony to his God. The demonstration cries out to the world, “This is not my home; my home is with the Father!” In Abraham’s case, the heathen world took notice, even though it was not very long before some would take advantage. In spite of that, Abraham stands firm through this devout pursuit, opting to pay any price rather than sellout on principle.

Whose Image Are You

It is not an accident that Abraham acted as he did, nor is it an accident that these events are recorded for our consumption, but make no mistake about it, Abraham’s manner is so much more than a pattern for sinful man to follow. The concealed message is not where we are going, but by what means we are to arrive. When Jesus asks His disciples whose image and inscription was on a coin, the implication was whose image do we reflect—do we look like the world or do you look like Him?

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone… Ephesians 2:19-20


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Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:1-2Could You Do as Abraham Did?

I could not, but that is only because God has not prepared me to do what Abraham has done; God is preparing me to do something else and He is preparing you to do something else. We would recall that God commenced His work in Abraham when he was seventy five years old and does not ask him to sacrifice Isaac until fifty seven years have elapsed. In other words, God had invested over fifty years of spiritual preparation in Abraham and perhaps more importantly, Abraham submitted himself to it.

Are You Submitted

We can admit it. So many of us will not tender ourselves to God because we fear that He might ask us to do something we aren’t prepared or willing to do. The old cliché, “God never gives us anything we can’t handle, ” just doesn’t seem to ring true for us. Well, that’s a good thing, because that little chestnut is erroneous. A proper adage would declare that God never gives us anything He can’t handle—God makes our way, not the other way around.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

From Comfort to Completion

Hopefully the truth of 1 Corinthians soothes you, but you might wonder why a Christian would want to be positioned similarly to Abraham. Of what benefit could it possibly be? We do not know if Abraham fully understood the implications at the time, but we have the advantage of being able to examine the entire sequence of events permitting us to see the bigger picture…a picture perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-3

Starting With Faith…

This is exactly where Abraham started his expedition. The Book of Hebrews reminds us that by faith Abraham obeyed. Faith always comes first and it can only ripen as it steeps in blind submission. Compliance of that sort looks like this:

…He was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. Hebrews 11:8

Drawing on Hope…

When it was revealed to Abraham that he and his matured wife would bring forth a nation from a yet conceived child, he chose hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. ‘Hope’ is an oft misused word in today’s culture, but as applied by Abraham, it came with the notion that he absolutely expected fulfillment of God’s promise. Only active faith gives birth to that kind of hope.

Abraham, who is the father of us all…who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” Romans 4:16 + 18

Maturing in Love…

You might find this incredible, but we see God using the word ‘love’ for the very first time in the Bible in this passage about Abraham and Isaac. It is not an accident. God has fundamentally waited twenty-two chapters to introduce us to this word and when He does, it is within the context of a father’s love for his son.

Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love… Genesis 22:2

Have you ever wondered why? Well it certainly is true that what God is asking Abraham to do with Isaac is a symbolic depiction of what He would later do Himself on Calvary with His Son Jesus, but that’s not the entire story. It is here where God essentially declares to Abraham; ‘Love me more than that which you love the most.’ This is the place God desires to bring us! In this position we fully realize it has never, ever been about us, but it has always been about Jesus. That is why it is a journey worth taking and why an intelligent person goes.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16


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Covering SinAnd above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

Jesus Washes Feet

When I read the account of our Lord washing the feet of the disciples, I see an illustration of how on a daily basis (minimum) we are to bring our sin to Jesus so that we can be cleansed. A complete bath is not required, for essentially we are clean—you might say that we just need to freshen-up allowing the Lord to remove the filth that we contract as we walk in the world.

As we read the account in John 13, we might notice a couple of other occurrences. First we see that Jesus uncovered Himself in order to cover (and ultimately remove) the sin we have accumulated; a depiction of what He was about to do: allowing Himself to be exposed through false arrest, unlawful trial, and illegal crucifixion. The other thing we tend to overlook is that Jesus washed the feet of Judas also, knowing full well what he [Judas] was about to do. That’s love.

In Contrast

But he who repeats a matter separates friends. Proverbs 17:9b

God, through Solomon, gives us the probable outcome when we opt to reveal the sin of others rather than by love cover them. While the Proverb affords us the truth, this account of Noah in Genesis 8 gives us an illustration that further demonstrates that certainty. To summarize, the flood has come and gone, Noah plants a vineyard, gets drunk, and is ‘uncovered’ by his gossiping son Ham. We pick up the story in verse 22…

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said: “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brethren.” Genesis 8:22-25

How Did Noah Know

…Take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out. Numbers 32:23

How did Noah know that Ham betrayed him? I submit to you that Solomon’s proverbial wisdom provides the only clue we need. Ham’s exploit created a separation between him and his brothers that was evident to Noah when he arose from his drunken stupor. I envision a scene like this: Noah opens his eyes takes a quick inventory of himself. Looking up he sees his boys, but they are not together. He observes and compares the body gestures and the glances between the two factions. Ham stares at the floor; gazes toward the ceiling, avoiding contacting his father’s eyes. Noah was merely able to do what any godly man can do—discern the truth.

Why the Curse

Why then did godly Noah curse Canaan, Ham’s son—it does not seem to line-up with what a loving father would do? I might have some detractors, but I sense that Noah was not imposing a curse, but rather identifying the inevitability of children becoming cursed as a result of being raised by ungodly parents. Today we might say to Ham, “Son, the apple does not fall far from the tree.” That’s less a curse and more a warning and a pronouncement of fact.

Fast-forward to the New Testament

Covered or not, ‘we know’ that Noah sinned–for whatever the reason, Noah got wrapped up in the world and got drunk. Amazingly, even though Jesus Christ had not come on the scene incarnately, godly Noah; faithful Noah is cleansed of all his sin. If you don’t believe me consider the New Testament accounts of Noah or any of the Old Testament patriarchs for that matter—their sins are not recorded. Go look—Abraham, King David, not even Sampson’s sins are mentioned. Do you know why? You know why.

By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. Hebrews 11:7


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