A Counter-Cultural Fruit of the Spirit

The following is a snapshot of a recent interview with John Wegmeyer, diving into his thoughts about self-control and how God uses it in our lives.
 
When I think about the fruits of the spirit, “love” has always been the fruit that stands out to me. I don’t think it is just coincidence that it is the first one listed of all the gifts – I feel like it is the critical foundation for all of the other gifts. If we allow the Spirit to develop a sincere concern and caring for others in us, it will result in other fruits being manifested in our life. If we don’t show love, others will have a harder time believing the other fruits in our life are genuine.
 
That said, self-control is probably the most difficult for me – mostly because it is the challenge that I face nearly all the time. Most of the other fruits are relational and are most visible when we are interacting with other people. Patience, kindness, goodness, and the rest are usually only tested when others are present or involved.

Self-control is a 24/7 challenge and involves every area of life.

 

For some people, it is controlling their anger, or their tongues. My biggest challenge is controlling my use of time. Time is one of the greatest gifts God has given us and we need to make sure we are not selfishly wasting it. I need to continually challenge myself to make sure I am using my time to do beneficial things, pleasing to God and not just easy for me.

The first thing I think of regarding self-control is controlling the urge to say or do something without taking the time to think about what the consequences will be. The Bible has many lessons about how difficult it is to control our tongues. Self-control is even more important when we feel anger because we are more likely to say or do something hurtful. Everyone has different areas they need to be careful in, but apparently not thinking before we talk is a common human flaw, because God warns us over and over again to control our tongues.

Of all the many verses in the Bible about controlling out tongues, my favorite is James 3:2:

Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

Self-control requires making “self” less important and considering what others say or need.

 

I feel the most destructive aspects of our culture today is that it promotes the “me first” attitude. The whole world revolves around what “I” want or think. What God says is right or wrong has been replaced by what “I” say is right or wrong. Since “I” is correct, there is no need to think about or consider what someone else says that is opposed to my opinion since they are wrong and “I” am right. Our culture also encourages going after whatever you think will make you happy. It doesn’t matter whether or not you can afford it, or whether or not you hurt someone else to get it. Self-control is discarded since nothing else needs to be considered because the only thing that matters is if “I” think it will make me happy.

Considering others to be more important than self is contrary to the “looking out for yourself” philosophy that is promoted in today’s culture.

 

Self-control requires delaying what we want or think until we consider others first. This is very difficult in our “me first” culture with our human nature being naturally selfish. The only way we can develop self-control is to surrender our personal desires to God and let his Spirit help us. It takes supernatural help to overcome our earthly responses to the situations we face.

Self-control is a daily walk where we stop and think about each situation we find ourselves in. We need to ask ourselves how Jesus would respond. We need to surrender control of our self to God and let his Spirit direct our response.

Marriage is an essential place to put this into practice.

 

I like this description of self-control: choosing to do what you should do, not what you want to do. God’s challenge to men in marriage is to love our wives as Christ loved us. Christ made us his priority and gave his life for us. We need to do the same for our wives. That only happens if we put what they need in our relationship ahead of what we want. We need to choose to put someone else ahead of own desires. While this can be a challenge to our human nature, God has promised that the more we give, the more joy and satisfaction we will receive.

Unfortunately, I am oftentimes not good at recognizing when God is gently trying to get my attention. I’m not very good at picking up quiet, subtle hints. Since it is easier to see the faults of others easier than to see our own, God sometimes uses that to get my attention. Instead of being critical of the failures of other people, we need to use each situation to evaluate ourselves and make sure our responses reflect what God wants from us. No matter how good or self-disciplined we are, we all need God and his Spirit to open our eyes to our needs and of those around us.

The Pharisees blew it.

 

These men devoted their whole lives to trying to be holy and perfect before God by following all the rules of the Law. Jesus made it very clear they all failed miserably because they were trying to succeed on their own strength. We need fellowship with others to help us see areas we need to grow in. Only when we are ready to put aside our pride and ask for help/grace from God and other people will our efforts be fruitful and directed where they should be. Pride is a major stumbling block as we want to do things for and by ourselves.

Growing to be whom God wants us to be can be confusing and difficult. There are times it seems overwhelming because it seems like there are so many things we “should” do, and so many areas of our lives to grow in. With advice coming from many directions, it can be confusing as to what God wants us to do. At these times, I turn to one of my favorite verses about what God wants from me.

Micah 6:8 says
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you; to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” God also will give us the strength to do these things by the power of his Spirit.

2 Peter 1:3 says
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a Godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.

God will give us everything we need to walk with Him – if we let Him. Whenever you need encouragement, look to God’s word and let his love show you that you are valuable and that he will be with you through every situation. Cooperate with what He’s trying to do in you, and you will grow.
 
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Defensiveness and Denial – The Two Issues of Cain – Part 2

The last time we visited the story of Cain, we looked at his issues with denial – and his refusal to acknowledge responsibility in his relationship with his brother. Today, let’s examine how denial played an even larger role in his relationship with God in Genesis 4:1 – 24.

The story opens with a brief introduction of the main characters – Cain and Abel – the two sons of Adam and Eve. When the boys become men, it’s time for them to take responsibility for their own relationships with God.

In time, they both offer sacrifices to God in worship from the fruit of their own labors. The next thing we know, God has accepted Abel’s offering of animal sacrifice but rejected Cain’s offering of grain. Cain responds to the rejection with anger and despondency. Later, he lures his brother out into a field to talk about it. In a moment of rage he strikes him, killing him.

I used to struggle just a bit with a small sense of injustice for Cain’s sake. How was he supposed to know God didn’t want an offering of vegetables? After all, God instituted a grain offering years later through Moses (Leviticus 2:1 – 15). Besides, this came from him and what he was good at doing. It kind of feels like the parent who doesn’t accept a small child’s art project because it wasn’t good enough.

Thing is, Cain knew exactly what he was doing. He was worshiping God on his own terms without care or concern for how God would feel about it. That’s not a healthy relationship. Let me explain…

 

The expulsion from Eden would have been far more devastating for his parents than we might think. The exclamation point of watching two animals get slaughtered to cover the nakedness of their lives after sin might have been far more personal than we realize… they weren’t likely just farm animals.

God’s covenantal relationship with them was established and sealed with blood, and Cain would have known the story all too well. For Cain, worshiping God on his own terms carries at least some similar characteristics to his parent’s sin. Cain wanted to be in control of the terms of the relationship rather than submitted to the expectations of someone else (God) like his brother, Abel.

Taking control places him beside God, which is similar to the enemy’s sin as well.

Even then, in a moment of mercy, God beckons Cain to see where he is, and to reach out in trust to Him when He says, “7If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7 NIV)

Denial keeps us from recognizing where we truly are by keeping us focused on only ourselves… our rights… our own version of justice or fairness. It keeps us from hearing the heart of someone else and finding the path to wholeness. Whenever that happens, both people are robbed of life. Often times, those effects play out in the lives of others in the vicinity.

 

Take a moment and ask yourself if you’re trying to be in control.

It may help you realize whether you’re in denial in your relationship with God and/or someone else in your life.

God was indeed reaching back to Cain. If only he had noticed God’s compassion before he crossed a line that stole Abel’s life… a theft that affected his parents, himself and all the members of the family he was about to have.

God is indeed reaching to you. Reach back to Him and let Him walk with you to restoration.
 
Author:
Faith Assembly

 


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Defensiveness and Denial – The Two Issues of Cain

You can find the story of Cain and Abel, the first two sons of Adam and Eve, in Genesis 4:1 – 24. This is the story of the first sacrificial offering given to God after their parents left the Garden of Eden. It’s made famous by Cain’s dodging question to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Strangely, it seems Cain’s question makes its way into every generation, even among those who have no idea where it came from.
 
But, for those who are familiar with this story it tends to present two issues that most of us struggle with.
The most obvious issue is defensive denial.
 

 

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

God asks Cain where his brother is, and this is his defensive answer. Cain had just killed his brother in a fit of rage and jealousy after God accepted Abel’s (his brother’s) offering of animal sacrifice but rejected Cain’s grain offering. It’s a classic case of denial – a skill he learned from his parents. They did the same thing when they were confronted by God after choosing to disobey Him, elevating their own desires above God’s or anyone else’s.
It’s interesting that when his parents shifted the blame, they made someone else responsible for their actions. Not Cain. Cain wanted no responsibility at all. If he had fully copied his parent’s logic, he should have at least behaved the same way they did by pointing to some other person nearby. Nope. He swatted away blame like an annoying fly, and didn’t even care if it found a landing place… but, the fly always come back to land.
 
God simply wasn’t buying it. Cain was justly called out, properly given consequences and graciously spared. The issue of Cain’s question wasn’t really identifying his responsibility for his brother as most sermons and teachings go with this story. It has a great deal more to do with his stark disregard – or callous indifference – toward anyone but himself, even someone that was family.

Most all of us have seen that before. Typically, we recognize the look of that in someone else and at the same time linger in denial of its presence in our own lives.

 
In January, our church takes time to focus on prayer while hearing what the Word says about Self-Control. We’re directing all messages for the month to our adults, children and teens onto the same theme to move our church families at the same pace toward the same conviction. We’re defining Self-Control as “Choosing to do what you should even when you don’t want to.” The memory verse for the month is 1 Peter 1:3a “God’s power has given us everything we need to lead a Godly life.”
 

Dealing with someone who turns away with Cain’s indifference can hurt beyond description. Be careful not to return the favor. It will only hurt you further. Cry out to God with your hurt. Call a trusted pastor, friend or counselor who will help you to find God’s healing.

On the other hand, dealing with lingering denial requires a blatant honesty, and that only comes by great effort to control self-protective tendencies. There’s really only one solution to this. Turn toward both the One who is confronting (ultimately) and the only One who is big enough to help you beyond yourself. Essentially, that’s choosing to do what you should even when you don’t want to.

 
If Cain would have turned to God rather than putting up a wall of denial, then the rest of his story would have been different. We can be confident in that because even in his denial, God didn’t take his punishment as far as He could have.
 
One thing I have learned about God… He’d far rather deal with us where we really are than where we pretend to be.
Take courage from these words in 1 Peter 1:3a “God’s power has given us everything we need to lead a Godly life.”

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Embracing Humility

On Wednesday evenings, Pastor Jon has been taking us thru the book of Philippians. I would like to take a moment and concentrate on Philippians 2:1-11.  In these verses, we are encouraged to imitate Christ’s humility.
 
Let’s first look at the definition of humility:
A modest or low view of one’s own importance, humbleness. Some synonyms for humility are lowliness, meekness, submissiveness.
 
In verses 2- 5, Paul gives us insight into how to take on some of these positive traits as we interact with one another.
– Be like minded
– Have the same love
– Being one in the spirit and of one mind
– Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit
– Not looking to your own interests but to others
 
End of verse 3: “…rather in humility value others above yourself.”
 
Verse 5: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” So if we have the mindset of Jesus, we serve with a humble attitude.
 
Verses 6-11: ”Jesus, even though He was the Son of God did not use that to his advantage.” He took on a servant attitude as a human.
 
As you read on, verse 8 talks about how Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even the cross.
 
It becomes very clear in these verses that to imitate Christ, we must humble ourselves to our brothers and sisters in Christ and this world – just like Jesus did.
 
Finally in verse 9, God exalts Jesus to the highest place and gives him the name above all names. He states that every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
 
Living by Jesus example and imitating Him every day is what God is calling us to do as His children.
 
His call on our lives?
-To love our brothers and sisters in Christ,
-In unity, to cleave to the same mindset as Jesus
-To embrace being of one spirit,
-To put ourselves aside for the wellbeing of others
 
Sound familiar?
James 4:10 says: “Humble yourself before the Lord and he will lift you up.”
Author: Ken Drew
 

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Faith of the Next Generation

As my wife and I had our third of five children turn 30 this past week, it was an opportunity to stand back and say thank you God. We wonder aloud how the time passes so quickly! I mean, these five children were just learning to ride bikes, skip stones, climb trees and splash in the crick. In addition to watching our own children grow up, we now have the opportunity as grandparents to do the same with our grandchildren who are growing up as fast as our children did. Instilling faith in the next generation is a privilege and responsibility.
 
We pray all the time that we will be found faithful to have been used by God to have poured into the succeeding generations. When trials and tribulations come (which they will), we pray the next generation will choose Jesus and the principles of righteous living. In a world that competes nonstop for the hearts and minds of our children – and children’s children – with things that conflict with the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control), we need to be deliberate to not just talk about Godly living but model it too. Guess what… when we fail we need to talk about that too.
 
We want the faith of the next generation to be their own. We want their obedience to be out of thankfulness and not simple compliance, so when trials, tribulations, and temptations come, they will make the right decisions… which often are the hardest ones.
Deuteronomy 4:9 reads, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
 
So as parents and grandparents, we are first warned to be careful and watch so we don’t forget. The strong declaration here is that we too…
-can be distracted
-can forget who and what must be first
-can take the easy way out
-can grieve the Holy Spirit
 
When this happens, the direct consequence is we affect our ability to teach our children and their children, our grandchildren. I am thankful when I am distracted (and my wife never is – wink wink), God gives me as many do-overs as it takes to get it right.
 
Do you need a do-over? God knows we can’t parent or grandparent without Him and appreciates the humility to recognize this early (or late) in our tenure as parent and grandparent. Wherever you are in this process, reach out to Him for help every step of the way. The Lord will bless you with the wisdom, endurance and courage to parent and grandparent in His ways and in His love.
 

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Stand for the Truth

Pastor Jon’s sermon last week on honesty really convicted me, as well as the many people kneeling before the Lord at the altar.
Every day, it seems we have opportunities to make big and not-so-big choices. But are there really “not so big” choices?
 
Sure, in our way of thinking a choice to not be truthful (more appropriately called a lie) is much worse and more condemning when compared to exaggerating how many or how big the fish really were… or embellishing a real achievement to make ourselves look just a little bit better.
 
But according to God’s way of thinking, a lie is a lie- pretty cut and dried.
 

As we learned, every time we exaggerate or embellish the facts, it gets a little easier to do it the next time. We stretch it just a little further each time we embellish. Eventually, this is who we become and reflects our way of interacting on everything- from what we say and how we act to what we get in the habit of doing.

Some of my friends and I- way back from high school- still talk about a person we knew who always “climbed a little higher” or “ran a little faster” than we all knew to be true. It is sad to see how these seemingly insignificant embellishments (over several decades) now have affected his employment, marriage(s), reputation and walk with the Lord.

As for me, I can easily be tempted to wear the Admiral’s star or the sheriff’s badge. Meaning this:  when I use inappropriate leverage to get more help, drum up additional resources or win additional funding for a new project. This can often include an embellishment (a.k.a. an outright lie) regardless of whether or not it’s a “not so big” exaggeration.

Consider this example. Do you recall growing up and saying to your siblings, “mom said you are supposed to go do this” when really she told you to do it. This is where it starts, little by little. Before you know it, it turns into exaggerating a project requirement at work to be competitive since you know others are doing it. Yikes! It’s an all-too-easy, slippery slope that so often we don’t even realize is happening.

The Bible has a lot to say about truth-tellers (those that don’t exaggerate, embellish, pretend, tell outright lies), as well as how God feels about those that practice deceit.
 
One of my favorites though, is what Jesus says in the gospel of John verses 31-32: “To the Jews that believed Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free’.”
 
Bottom line? Run from falsehood whenever temptation strikes.
Run towards Jesus and His revelation of Truth in every part of your life.
Be a truth-teller and be set free.
 
Author:
Randy Ortgeisen, Elder at Faith Assembly

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Honesty Is the Only Policy

 
As a student at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, one thing other students always would try to argue and prove in class is that there are times when it is not wrong or immoral to lie. They would try to find a situation in which I would find it expedient, advantageous or necessary to lie.

This is the point they missed: I am not the standard or authority

that makes lying or dishonesty immoral.

It’s an absolute in natural law and from God.

 
If I lie to save or protect myself, my wife, or even my sons; it’s still a lie and it’s still wrong. I must repent, confess and seek God’s forgiveness.
My fellow students were sure I would find lying acceptable if I was the one “sinning”. But God sees, and eventually the truth comes to light.

No, honesty is not the best policy- a.k.a. the best choice among other equally good options-

honesty is the only policy.

 
One reason the message of honesty is so important is because people (individuals) and groups (i.e. a culture or nation) are on the path to self-destruction when it has contempt for truth. Our nation has contempt for truth. Honesty has lost its value in our world.
So where are we headed as people? As a nation?
 
“Thou shalt not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16) is not a suggestion or a negotiation according to God.
It’s a commandment applying not only when we are in court, but honesty in general… in all of life.
With Him, with yourself and with others- God wants honesty always.

Honesty is more than not telling lies and more than saying something false. Honesty is speaking that which conforms to truth and reality. It is living in integrity and Godly character; which includes moral rightness, truthfulness, trustworthiness and to be free of deceit.

 
The Bible does not teach that “honesty is the best policy”  like Ben Franklin liked to think.
The Bible teaches that honesty is the only policy.
 
May the Truth reside in your heart, mind and in deed- always- for the glory of God.
 
Author:
Pastor Liandro Arellano
 

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Everyone Needs Compassion

“Everyone needs compassion” are the first lyrics in Chris Tomlin’s
song “Mighty to Save.”
This word “Compassion” has really become a focal point for
me over the past 10 years.
I think about our compassion for others and Christ’s compassion for us.
 

How many times a day do we receive grace?

How many times a day does God look at us with compassion and mercy?

The answer is an emphatic…Unending!

 

We can look throughout the Bible and see God’s compassion in the Old Testament and Christ’s compassion in the New Testament. Through Christ, we can see a living example of what compassion is supposed to look like.

God has worked on my heart to be more compassionate. What better way to show the love Christ to others then to be compassionate towards everyone? Not just the people that are easy to get along with, but those we don’t always see eye to eye with.

Ephesians 4:32 says

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
 

We have a tendency to be quick to judge and condemn just because someone isn’t living the way we are living or doing the things we are doing. Through all of the negativity, political differences and racial tensions that seem to divide our country; is it possible we can let compassion and the love of Christ shine through what we say and do? Let’s put those things aside and be compassionate to all.

1 Peter 3:8 tells us to

…be like minded, be sympathetic, love one another, compassionate and humble.
 

One of God’s challenges for us today- and every day- is to love one another and show compassion to those hurting and in need.

Take a listen to this Hillsong version of the song, and join me in this compassion journey.
 
Author:
Ryan Bivins
Worship Leader, Faith Assembly

 

 

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