Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up, and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also; I the LORD have created it. – Isaiah 45:8
Reign and Rain down, Glorious One
You alone are God
There is no other
Reign and Rain down, Glorious One
Let all the earth open to your gifts
New life and right relationship springing up
Budding and blooming in our wasteland
Life comes to our mortality
to our frail clay
to our dust
You hold us and wash us and form us
You flood us and fill us
That we may carry this great grace as it carries us
O, the glory of your grace
Grace extending more and more
More and more to us and more and more through us to others
O, bring the reign of redemption and reconciling
Salvation and solidarity
The fullness of your unfailing love
Reign and Rain down, Glorious One
Creating power flows from you
For you alone are God
There is no other
Who wants more of this in their life? We all do. If you had to pick one to have more of in your life, which would you pick? (I want patience. Give me patience now!)
They are all good like a good piece of fruit. They are good gifts from God.
God expects fruit in our lives. They are the natural progression of being a follower of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit at work in our life. Growth in grace. Being alive and multiplying. Being rooted and grounded in Christ.
This is the fruit of abiding in Christ. The Spirit abides with us and in us. This is the natural fruit from believing and praying and trusting and seeking and serving.
It’s very simple: A follower of Christ should look and act differently than someone yet to believe.
Where’s the fruit? Do we look all that different?
Where are the saved crying out in thanksgiving?
Where are the bodies, families, and unjust systems healed for the Glory of God
Where are the leaders leading out of Godly wisdom and humility?
Where are the abused, angry, and addicted rejoicing in Christ’s freedom?
There is fruit my friends, but too often we don’t tell anyone about it. We hide it. We’re afraid of bragging, being weird, we’re shy.
Testimonies of Grace Stimson, Alida Noel Provence, and Pam Rader.
The Holy Spirit is at work. There is fruit. It’s about having eyes to see it. It’s about wanting it. The Spirit is never forced upon us.
Galatians 5 is all about freedom.
Galatians 5:1 For freedom, Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Freedom from a false understanding of the law which lays a heavy burden on us
Purpose of the Law was to show us our need of a Savior- we can’t fulfill the law in our own strength
Good gift of the law was twisted into a set of rules – follow the rules you’ll earn God’s love and salvation
How are we saved? By grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by your own doing, not of works and rules (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Galatians 5:13-14 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers, and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Wide swing to another end of the spectrum in understanding freedom in Christ
Christ has set me free so I can do whatever I want
No- our freedom is so we can love and serve one another
In true freedom, we live by the Spirit not the law, not rules In true freedom, we are guided by the Spirit not our fleshy selfishness or achieving
Galatians 5:16-25 NRSV 16 Live by the Spirit, I say and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious:
a “sin list” of 15 actions
fornication, impurity, licentiousness (misuse of the good gift of sex)
heart of war sees people as objects, obstacles to be overcome or fixed, projects, problems, a means to an end. People not as people
drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. (misuse of the good gift of celebration)
I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Tug Of War Battle: Flesh vs. Spirit, Heart of War vs. Heart of Peace, Old Life without Christ vs. New Life with Christ. Just like in Tug of War, there will be a surrender. Will you surrender to the flesh or will you surrender to the Spirit? Do you want the Fruit of the Spirit or do you want the crazyville of the sin list?
The Fruit of the Spirit is the evidence we’ve surrendered to the Spirit, that we’re finding true freedom in Christ.
There is an awful, scary warning in the middle of this passage. (v. 21) If you act like the sin list you won’t inherit the Kingdom. But I still get angry… I still envy… I want patience NOW… I don’t have self-control over chocolate, or something else.
We’re awakening and becoming self-aware. The warning is serious, we take it seriously, so we get to work. I’ll work on my patience.
Did you hear the W word? I’ll work on being more patient and there we are trapped again. We turn the list of the Fruit of the Spirit into a new set of laws which will bind us. We work hard to achieve them in our own strength.
Truth: We can’t create the Fruit of the Spirit. All we do is surrender to it.
We give ourselves grace because it takes a long time to bear fruit. If you were to plant a fruit tree, how long would it take before it bore fruit? If you were to plant seeds, how long would it take? The Holy Spirit is the seed.
John 15:4 Jesus said, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”
We abide. Every day we open ourselves to the Spirit. Grow fruit in me. It’s that simple.
An apple tree doesn’t have to focus and work really hard to produce apples. It’s the natural result of seed meeting soil, sun, water.
The Holy Spirit is the seed. The Spirit meets the soil of our soul. It’s watered by our openness and trust, prayer, scripture, community, seeking, surrender.
Give yourself grace. Tell someone about the fruit.
Followers of Jesus nurture their relationship with God by “doing devotions.” We head to the bookstore, or maybe even our local church, to pick up a guide to read on a daily basis. It’s a great way to build a habit of spending time with God and very helpful for stretching us in our understanding of God’s character and Word.
Here’s where it can be problematic:
We’re always reading about someone else’s encounter with God in place of having encounters ourselves. We stay at a distance from God.
Our devotions become knowledge-driven or emotion-driven rather than Scripture-driven and encounter-driven. We may find what we read interesting, we may be stirred by the story, but are we receiving it as a call to apply spiritual truth to our life?
Our prayer life stays shallow if we only use the prayers of others and never practice praying ourselves.
We can become forever dependent on an “expert” rather than trusting God wants to speak to us right now, at whatever point we are in our journey of faith.
So do we dump the devotional books/guides and just read the Scripture? Well… Reading Scripture can be a powerful daily devotion option, especially when you use one of these approaches to give you some structure. “Just me and my Bible” can also be intimidating, confusing, and lonely.
It’s no wonder we struggle.
For many of us, we need something in between. We want to encounter God in a transforming way through the Scriptures, but we also need some guidance. I found this in between, this sweet spot of devotional practice, through a resource called Pray as You Go.
Pray As You Go is an audio and written prayer practice offered six days per week via a free website and app by Jesuit Media Initiatives. It is helpful for both Catholics and Protestants because it’s so Scripture driven.
Each session begins with a bell or chime followed by music to help you settle into a prayerful frame of mind
A Scripture is read
Reflection questions based on the Scripture are offered with time for you to respond by simply talking or listening to God
The Scripture is read again followed by a closing blessing
The aim of Pray as You Go is to help you to:
become more aware of God’s presence in your life
listen to and reflect on God’s Word
grow in your relationship with God
How I find Pray as You Go helpful
Its peaceful meditative tone is a very different tone than my loud, full, rushed day. I need this time of stillness and contemplation.
The questions appeal to my imagination. They open me to explore the Scripture, to listen deeply, to engage it for myself. It is an experience. The questions can also challenge me to look at a passage in a new or deeper way.
The open-ended questions help me apply what I’m hearing
I feel connected to a community of believers rather than by myself. I especially like the music selections from around the world.
It uses texts throughout the Bible so I don’t just read my favorite passages
I like to settle into a comfortable chair when I use Pray as You Go. Others use it during their morning commute, on a break during the work day, while out for a walk, etc.
After the 10-13 minute devotion, I’m motivated to continue praying or journaling
I’d love to hear from you!
Give Pray as You Go a try. How was the experience?
What is your current devotional practice? How is it helpful to you?
How have your devotional practices changed as you’ve matured in faith?
May the Lord bless you and bring strength and transformation into your life through your devotional practices. – Lisa <><
My spiritual life grew richer and deeper thanks to the practice of spiritual journaling. When I first started, I used to put everything in one journal- some reflections on a scripture next to memories from a trip next to notes from a lecture next to a prayer next to a brain dump for an upcoming project. It was a mess and I had trouble finding the treasures when I needed them again.
This year, I made a change- dividing my writing needs into four journals. It’s been a huge improvement. Maybe it will be helpful to you as well.
For most of my journaling, I use inexpensive, college-ruled composition books. I need a place to write and they serve that purpose. Three of my four journals are composition books. I leave a page or two at the beginning of each for a table of contents.
A journal for general note taking, project planning, and brainstorming
My fourth journal is a Clever Fox Planner. I wanted to try bullet journaling for scheduling appointments, to do lists, resource lists, etc. The Clever Fox Planner is a hybrid with predesigned spreads at the front (such as goal setting, monthly calendars, and weekly scheduling) and standard bullet journal pages at the back. I like the quality of this planner, especially the thick pages and that it lays flat when open. It’s working well for me in conjunction with my digital Google calendar. (not an affiliate link, not a sponsored review)
I’d love to hear from you!
What journals do you keep?
What topics do you writing about?
Do you have a favorite planner or journal? What do you like about it?
May the Lord bless you and reveal many things to you through your journaling.
– Lisa <><
Here’s what I noticed
As you walk through the questions, you decompress and let go, you also rest in knowing where you’re headed the next day, both of which foster better sleep.
More importantly, questions like these keep us self-aware and awake to the Holy Spirit. As we answer the questions we hear from God and move forward in the journey of faith. Never forget faith is a movement. We are followers of Christ, moving forward with intentionality, constant discovery, and growth. Our growing bears fruit in our words, actions, and service to others.
I also noticed the longer I keep to the practice, the richer it becomes. It started off simple, even superficial. But as the days passed, I began to be more honest with myself. I also began to trust I could be more and more honest with God.
Here are the questions I’m using. They came from several different sources. I answer them by writing in a journal.
1. What happened today? Make a quick bullet list or write a narrative
2. Glory Sighting: Where did you see God at work in others? In and through you? Each day can bring a new testimony to God’s grace, provision, and power.
3. What did you read/hear/learn? Christians are lifelong learners
4. What are you thankful for?
“A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.” ― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
5. How are you feeling emotionally? Be honest and seek Christ’s perspective
6. How did you fall short of loving God, others, and yourself? Ask for and receive Christ’s forgiveness and freedom
7. What are you asking the Holy Spirit to do in you and through you? This could be about a relationship, your work, a situation, your ministry, etc.
8. What will you do tomorrow to move forward with Christ? Answer this in relation to question 7
What questions would you add to this list? I look forward to hearing about your time with God and to seeing the great and good changes this practice will bring in your life.
– Lisa <><
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NRSV Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.