Bearing Fruit

The term fruit has loads of applications. It is in its simplest form the ripened ovum of a plant, which bears the seeds to pass on its line to the next generation. It can be those same seed bearing parts which are used for food (apples, oranges, and such). It can also be used more generally, as a term for useful outcome of one’s labours.

God told Adam and Eve to go out and “be fruitful,” meaning to reproduce and also to be productive.

Paul picks up the metaphorical use when he presents the Fruits of the Spirit. In Galatians 5 he writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (verses 22-23).

We have been transformed from “the old self, one characterised by selfishness, into new creations. The Holy Spirit indwells us, and in this we receive and bear fruit by the Spirit.  Paul starts his list with “love, joy, and peace.” Love is the basis of relationship (with God, and our fellow people), but also of selflessness.  The Spirit assures us of God’s love for us. And if we are showing (and feeling) acts of love to others (being loving), we are less likely to be “self-obsessed.” Joy can come from this. This sense of uplifting is often a byproduct of our human relationships, but even more so in our divine encounter.  God Lifted Me is the name of a hymn, but it is also a truth for those in relationship with Him.  The Spirit fosters such joy within us. With this uplifting, many of our doubts, fears, and pains can be lessened. This brings peace.  Peace is not just the absence of conflict, but of stillness, contentedness, and tranquility.

These positive inward benefits of the Spirit’s fruit transform us.  This leads us to forebearance, and kindness.  When we are transformed to joy and peace, and this clothed in love it is far easier to deal with others.   It gives us patience (forebearance) and enables us to see past others’ faults or perceived faults. We can then positively act on this patience with shows of kindness.  In the same way Jesus showed us infinite kindness giving Himself for us, we can be giving to others.  This need not be physical or monetary (though it can be), but emotional and spiritual as well.  We can “be there” for others, building them up.  We can also teach, counsel, and mentor all as acts of kindness.

Goodness (Godness) is a positive quality as well.  Eschewing evil, yes, but even more so making a positive example in our moral and ethical walk.  It fits in with kindness, as we can “do good” for others.  It is walking in the Spirit, living a life which mirrors Jesus.

This goodness is linked with faithfulness.  The Spirit helps us remain on that godly walk.  The transformational power helps us through our conscience and the awareness of God’s standards for our lives. We as loving, joyful, peaceful people patiently and kindly moving towards our goal above will as we progress onwards find it as second nature to continue (with the Spirit’s help).

As such loving and kindly people we can also become gentle. Not harsh is our actions or words.  We can build up, and not tear down. This gentleness is one aspect of self-control.  We don’t need external factors, or the treat of punishments to guide us.  Our Spirit transformed selves will as noted above have a new or second nature.  A godliness that is as more “us” than the old sinful self ever was.

These fruits, inward and outward manifesting are among God’s bountiful gifts to us.  Let us open ourselves to the Spirit’s guidance today, and see the fruit that will result.

Padre

 

Risen Completely

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Sister Amba finished our series on the Risen Christ with a message, “Completely Risen.” Over the lead-up to Easter topics such as, since Jesus is risen our minds are renewed, and we are risen to reign.  Amba closed this with our complete raising in His rising.

She noted that to be complete is to be fulfilled.  She then showed us three aspects of fulfillment brought about in the Easter story.

The first is that Jesus’ mission was complete. In John 19: 28 -30 we read,

“Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”  A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

Jesus Himself said “It is finished.”  Mission completed! But there is more to the passage, notice that in His words and actions on the cross “Scripture was fulfilled.” This completed mission had been established before time.  The prophecies (including Psalm 22) had been met word for word.  But even this does not show the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice.  This plan called for Him to set aside Heaven, and become Emmanuel. He also had the power to defeat those who opposed Him physically (see John 18: 4 -6), but was true to the plan and His statement in Gethsemane, “Father, Your will not mine.”

But if the mission was completed on the cross, the story continued with the grave. Jesus did not remain in the tomb. He was raised to glory!  He was raised with power.

In His rising we are “fulfilled in power.” Romans 8:11 tells us, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” We are raised by the same power, a power that transforms us completely.  We are made “new creations” who are transformed and renewed in our minds, souls, and who are lifted up that even giving us life everlasting.

Yet many do not show this total completeness.  This comes not from the Spirit’s “failure” to raise us up, but from our failure to take hold of the promise, the power, and the transformation.  We hold on to the self-limiting (see Battle for the Mind) views that deprive us of “the peace that passes all understanding.”

But Amba clearly reminded us that Jesus in His passion gave us His all in all. He not only left Heaven, but He faced the trials of betrayal, denial, arrest, beating, and ultimately execution. He “gave it all.” How then can we still hold on to the passed He died to free us from?  We need to make Him our all in all.  Colossians 3: 5f challenges us,

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: 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 also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew,circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

If we put the past behind us, from which He has freed us we will be transformed:  transformed beyond our circumstances; transformed beyond our earthly desires; and transformed beyond our doubts and fears.  We will be raised completely, through His rising!

Padre

[Thank you Amba for this message. For anyone interested, Sister Amba has recently written a book on her reflections on 2 Corinthians.  If you are interested in checking it out please let me know, and I will put you into contact with her].

 

Risen to Reign

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Pastor Rich continued our series on the Risen Jesus Raising Us.  His theme was “Risen to Reign.” He began his message with a reference to Revelation 1: 5b and 6, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.”  We are through His resurrection, and His love, raised up to be a kingdom of priests, and He has freed us from our sins.

This is truly a raising up.  We who were slaves to sin, are now elevated to priesthood.  Our reign is not a rule of power and conceit, but of service and holiness. Sin is mastered, and no longer master through the transformational power of the resurrection.

This is evident in Romans 5:17,  “For if, by the trespass of the one man (Adam), death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!”  We are transformed by grace to reign in life.  This reign is fantastic. We who were lost through the nature of Adam, are now adopted into the family of the King of kings, and Lord of lords.  We are the younger siblings of the Prince of Peace, and the adopted children of the King of the universe. How’s that for being lifted up?

But again, we are not to be arrogant or prideful in this.  It is through no merit of our own, but by the grace of Him crucified, that in His rising He has raised us as well.

Returning to the transformation into mastery, it is now that we have the ability through the redemption of the blood, that we can rise above circumstance and even our “old self” (the slave self). This is not by works “lest any may boast.” As Pastor Rich rightly said (and in keeping with James’ epistle) we work not to be saved, or to be raised. Grace equals salvation and works.  Works do not equate to salvation. We work not to be saved, but because we are.  This service to God, and our fellow man is reflective to our reign as a “kingdom of priests” (Rev 1: 6).

Rich illustrated this raising with Gideon in Judges 6. Here is a man, the least of his family, the least family of Manasseh, the least tribe of Israel. Yet, God addresses him as “mighty warrior.”  Gideon immediately questions, rather than accept the salutation.  But God had ordained him to lead his people.  This man who is found hiding in a wine press becomes Judge over Israel. This is the rising we too have through Jesus’ rising.

We have despite our pasts, weaknesses, or doubts been raised to reign.

Padre

The Battle For the Mind

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Pastor Vince brought a terrific message this week as part of a series leading to Easter.  The theme of resurrection, and of new life, this week found its focus on the “renewing of our minds (Ephesians 4:23).”

As Christ has risen to a new life, so too are we to be lifted again.  This in the body, but also in the spirit, and in the mind.  But all too often we despair.  We make assumptions that our lives, struggles, and trials are somehow fixed.  We see that our old nature is “who we are,” and as such have no real expectation of things ever being different.  This is clearly a case of “stinking thinking,” and it is self-limiting. Proverbs 23:7 makes this clear, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he . . .”

The pastor noted, however, that this is not the case. Ephesians 4: 8 proclaims, “Wherefore he saith, When he [Christ] ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” God, in Jesus’ resurrection overcame death.  He led us away from the captivity of Hell, but also from the captivity of our own self-limiting.

Satan (whose name indicates that he is one who opposes and obstructs) wants us to be self-limited.  He wants us to believe that we are bound to sin, bound to fail, bound to suffer. He is a deceiver, we saw this in Eden. His lies are just that, lies.  The power that raised Jesus from the tomb, now raises us. The devil has no power. It is the Gospel, and the power of the resurrected Jesus which (as in Matthew 16:18) the “gates of hell” will not be able to withstand.  Note here in our battle for the mind, that Satan (and hell’s gates) cannot prevail (and gates are a defensive weapon).  The real power is on our side. Let that thought help “renew your mind.”

Any suffering we experience is temporary.  Jesus was three days dead, but ROSE! We too shall be lifted up.  And these temporary trails are just that, temporary.  God is sovereign. Even in the case of Job, Satan could not do anything without permission.  The devil is not the master of circumstances.

So in this battle for the mind, we need to be steadfast.  Yes we mess up, yes we daydream instead of focus, yes we even backslide.  But this does not mean we are “unchanged” by the resurrection. Our changing of our mindset, is like the rest of our change in Christ. To repent means to “turn around” to go another way.  Our minds can do likewise. Romans 8:11 tells us, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” To our mortal bodies and our minds.  The battle is to “love the Lord our God, with all our mind, heart, and strength” – our whole renewed being.

Too much of our 21st Century world view is linked to scientific determinism.  If A , then B.  All things are predictable, all things are set by laws of nature and physics. But the resurrection of the son of the Nain widow, of the daughter of Jarius, of Lazarus, and of Christ Himself, show us otherwise.  We need not say like Lazarus’ sister, “its too late, now he [I] smells.” But rather, like Lazarus we are to “come forth.”

Let us not succumb to the assaults of our own “old voice,” but “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”

Padre

House of Prayer

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Photo credit:  The Western Wall Heritage Foundation

Pastor Vince drew his message from Isaiah 56 this past week.  It was the first message in a series on prayer, and made a powerful starting point.

Let us first acknowledge that prayer, “our communication with God,” is central to our faith.  With this in mind we can examine Isaiah and see the power of this “realm” of the house of prayer.

It is transformational! This is immediately clear in verses 4 and 6.  In the first of these, eunuchs are addressed.  In Deuteronomy 23: 1, eunuchs are cut off from the worship of the Hebrews, “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.” Yet, in Isaiah’s prophecy of the kingdom to come, eunuchs are welcomed.  Not only welcomed, but they are given a promise, that what they have been deprived of physically in life, will be more than compensated for. Isaiah reads, “to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure for ever (verse 5).” 

In ancient Israel, having offspring to continue “your name” was of great importance.  This was the issue with Abraham, and the significance that he would become a great nation. But here, God promises, that the choices (or accidents) of life can be overcome within this “house of prayer” for those who seek Him.

The second passage in verse 6, notes that those not of the line of Israel also have a promise. In fact, in verse 7 it reads, “these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.” Gentiles will be welcome. This was winked at in Solomon’s temple.  The outer court was the “Court of the Gentiles.” Non-Jews could come this close to the Holy Place.  

This gives a great context to Matthew 21: 12-13, “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”  The merchant had set up in the Court of the Gentiles. Jesus righteous anger was totally justified, but also a timely symbol.  This House of Prayer was to welcome those outside of the Covenant of Moses; a welcome about to be facilitated by Jesus’ own death.

So what was the Gentile promise? “Their burnt offerings and sacrifice will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations (verse 7).” Here again transformation.  They, like the eunuchs, are no longer cut off from the worship of the Most High. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).”

We who are to be given “a new name” in Jesus are to be lifted up with Him, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6).” Now there is a transformation, a transformation stemming from The House of Prayer.”

Padre

Made New

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New Beginnings

In Genesis we find the account of creation. God’s Word speaks all into existence and concludes with the statement, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day (verse 31).”

This “very good” world, was termed as paradise, and God had intimate contact  with it, and even, “walked in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen 3: 8).”  But the relationship was short lived, as sin entered into the world. Milton called this “Paradise Lost,” but the alienation of the creation from the Creator, had a remedy.

“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”  He made a way to not only rebuild relationship, but to bridge the gap and to heal the creation itself.  Second Corinthians 5 reads, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we [Paul for certain, in his rejection of the resurrection] once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come [The Word of creation, has become flesh, and renewed our relationship]. The old [fallen self] has gone, the new is here!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation (verses 16-19).” [Italics are mine].

Brother AJ recently reflected, “The moment we place our trust in Jesus, we become brand-new people. That is the basis for our capacity to think correctly (that is, to think more like Christ) and therefore make wise decisions in life. This doesn’t mean we will always think right thoughts, but we now have the responsibility—and power through the Holy Spirit—to steer our mind in a heavenly direction.”  What a wonderful take on our role in the reconciliation.  We are no the arbiters of the new beginning, but the beneficiaries who should now make the most of our fresh starts.

Scripture not only tells us we are made new, but assures us that a day is coming when all creation will undergo a transformation. Revelation 21 reads, “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea,  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away {verses 1-4).” Let each of us newly restored creatures look forward to that day, and until it comes to be like Paul, “Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us . . .  implor[ing others] on Christ’s behalf: [to]be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:20).”

Padre

 

Preparing to Move

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Pastor Emmanuel Kokonyo delivered an incredible message today on our transformation in Christ.  He based his message on James 4:10: “ Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  In Christ we can be elevated, lifted up to greater things.

This has two stages, as the Word makes it clear.  We must first humble ourselves.  That is our job.  We cannot do the elevating.  That would be self-exaltation or pride, and in it all we can expect is a fall.  Nor, should we (as Brother Emmanuel so rightly said) call on God to humble us.  If we do, He will be faithful, but beware the results.  Just look how far He allowed Job to fall, and he didn’t even ask for it.  So the humility of the heart, the appreciation of God given gain is up to us.

The second stage, it that God will prepare us for the elevation to come.  He will give us the opportunities, skills, mentors, and challenges to prepare us to make the move.  This is not the time for stagnation.  When you see the building equipment, Brother Emmanuel explained, you know something new is coming.  Are we ready to face the challenge?  If we are truly humble to the Lord’s guidance, then we like Christ will say “Your will, not mine be done.”

When the stages are complete, God will lift us up to new heights, new opportunities, and new responsibilities.  This building up is God’s job, not ours.  He is faithful and true, He is the exalter.

So be humble, be vigilant, be ready to grow.

Padre