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If anything, the last 7.5 months have been frustrating for everyone, no matter how you feel about COVID-19.  For most of us, the 7.5 months this has lasted has been 7 months too long as we started off with what seemed like an easy…let’s flatten the curve for 2 weeks.  We’re all worn out with it, we’re all worn out with how it’s altered our lives.  I’ve grown to jokingly refer to the time “Before Covid” as BC.  While it’s been a short time in the scheme of things, in other ways it seems like it’s been forever.  I’m not sure I’ve lived through a period in my lifetime where there has been more of a longing and conversations about going back to normal.  I’m right there with many of you often wishing to get back to normal.

Of course, as with many things in life, that’s where God steps in and for weeks He’s been moving me away from wanting to go back to normal.  I’m not saying I’ve arrived but I’m getting closer to being able to say “I don’t want to go back to normal.”  That’s tough to say because there is a lot I liked about life before all of this started.  Not to mention, normal is what’s comfortable to me.  Over the past 7.5 months, just like for many of you, everything has been harder, more inconvenient, required more thought, made us develop new habits, and learn new things.  It’s so easy to long for the good ol’ days pre-COVID. 

That’s where God has begun to lay on my heart how much of an idol I make in my desire to return to normal.  Don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not getting to the point where I’m wanting to wear masks and socially distance the rest of my life, but I do want to look forward, step forward.  Think about Lot’s wife, when God had them leave their city as He was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, He told her not to look back…essentially saying don’t go back to sin, trust the Lord and look towards Him.  What did she do?  She looked back and paid the price.  She wanted what was normal to her.  Think about the Israelites who time after time after time complained about their current situation and longed to go back to Egypt.  It’s amazing how quickly we lose sight of the realities of our past.  Egypt was where they were enslaved.  In much the same way, there isn’t one of us that can look back on our pre-covid life and see perfection.  If you can’t look back and see the struggles and challenges of your past then you’re no different than the Egyptians who forgot that going back to Egypt would mean slavery. 

God doesn’t waste time.  God doesn’t accidently let a pandemic happen.  God doesn’t want us to go back to normal.  If at the end of COVID-19 we look back and all we accomplished was going back to normal, then we missed God’s work in our lives, in our church, in our nation in a big way.  If we’re going to take the next step in our walk with Christ, it means looking forward, away from the idol of normal and the past.  Scripture constantly reminds us of where our focus should be:

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” – Colossians 3:2

“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” – Proverbs 4:25

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:18-19

Our mind should be on God, on eternal things.  Our eyes should be looking forward, undistracted by what’s around us.  We should seek the kingdom of God.  We do not look at the past but look for the new thing that God is doing.  Satan has a lot of good tricks up his sleeve.  One of them is getting us to focus on going back to normal.  I’m hopeful for what God will do, as He does something new.  I’m hopeful my focus will be on the things that matter, not the first world petty inconveniences I bemoan so often.  I’m hopeful that Christians as individuals will see through the selfishness of our desire to go back to normal.  I’m hopeful that Christians will begin to look forward and learn to be more like Christ, more focused on the Great Commandment to Love God first and then to Love People, more focused on the Great Commission than ever before…because those are the things that matter to the kingdom of God.  In many ways, COVID has exposed my own selfishness and likely if you’re honest with yourself, your own selfishness as well.  Let’s embrace the new thing that God is doing, let’s move forward, let’s work towards being able to say “I don’t want to go back to normal!”.

 

Posted by Jeremy Shirley with
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Ok….I know….strange title for a blog, but I think a periodical check on how our Spiritual Fruit is maturing is a necessity for all Christians.  Let’s take a moment and read Galatians 5:22-23 and just remind ourselves what fruit God has commanded us to cultivate in our lives.   

 Galatians 5:22 -23:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

 When we review this list, we are reminded of who Jesus is—for He displays all of them.  It is not a “laundry list” of things to work on when we become a Christian—these will become our characteristics the closer we grow to Christ.  We will begin to reflect Him and His characteristics (fruit) in our everyday lives. 

 Galatians 2:20:

“For we have been crucified with Christ and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us”

 If this fruit is to be evident in our lives, I believe it is important that we understand the nature of each one and how it is displayed in our lives. I am going to quote from a commentary out of my Bible, by David Jeremiah, because I think he presents it so clearly.  My words will be those written in italics.

 Love: This is the greatest of all virtues (I Corinthians 13:13), love is the power that moves us to respond to someone’s needs with no expectation of reward.  This type of love is unconditional, given because Christ first loved us, not because it is earned or deserved. It is not an emotion, but a decision overflowing from the love Christ has for us. When we have Christ in us and we are daily walking with Him, His love will be evident in everything we do – how we think, speak and act.

 Joy:  An inward hope and enthusiasm, despite outward circumstances.  Joy differs from happiness, which relies on favorable circumstances.  Is it any wonder that Christians are so often all over the place with our emotions?  Our level of joy is a barometer that reveals what we are truly placing our hope in...God or in the world around us.  The world continually watches us to see how we handle the trials and tribulations that come our way—to see if the God we talk about really does makes a difference in our lives when the going gets rough. Do they see us grumbling, complaining, down in the dumps or full of joy that is rooted in God?  We will have that constant hope and joy as we faithfully put our trust in our God….and our God alone.

 Peace: Both a supernatural calm amid chaos and the ability to bring harmony to divided factions. I’m going to out on a limb here and say that right now, I believe the world is in great need of Christian folks who will bring calm amid chaos and harmony to divided factions.  Sadly, I am so often seeing quite the opposite being displayed on social media.  I have read comments made by Christians that have truly hurt my heart. Please do not misunderstand, I believe we need to stand firmly rooted in God’s Word on issues that are being presented, but we need to make sure we are always reflecting Christ in our choice of words when we do so. Pray before speaking.  God has taken me to two scriptures of late when I have been tempted to respond to posts on Facebook.

 I John 4: 4-6: “You dear children are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.  They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world and the world listens to them.  We are from God and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.  This is how we recognize the spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”

 2 Timothy 2: 24-25 “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome – but kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Opponents must be gently instructed.”

 In both instances, God clearly told me my attitude was not right before Him and not to respond. I know when my attitude is not reflecting Christ – no good thing will come out of my mouth and will cause more harm than good.

 Patience:  The quiet willingness to accept irritating or painful situations.   Remember in every situation  our God is in control and unless, after spending time in prayer, He clearly tells you to respond, be willing to let things go and patiently wait for God to work through it.

 Kindness: Generosity and consideration toward others.  This is not just referring to money or things but in our behavior towards others—whether we think they deserve our kindness or not. A kind word spoken at just the right moment can have long-lasting effects in someone’s life, a card sent letting someone know you have been thinking about them and praying for them can lift someone out of a dark hole they may be in at that point of their life, or just a smile and a how are you doing when you pass someone in the store. We never know by looking at someone what they may be going through, sometimes all they need is a kind word or a listening ear.

 Goodness:  Moral excellence. Another definition of goodness is righteousness in action—doing what is right, an uprightness of heart and life. In the life of a Christian, that means doing what is right in God’s eyes, turning your attention from yourself to others, placing the needs of others before your own, being honest in all that you say and do, letting Jesus’ character shine through you.  Pray to always let others not just see you—but to see Jesus in you.  Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and GLORIFY YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN.”  Everything we do should be motivated by loving people to Christ.

 Faithfulness: An enduring loyalty and trustworthiness.  I like the definition that Wikipedia has: “faithfulness is the concept of unfailingly remaining loyal to someone or something, and putting that loyalty into consistent practice—regardless of extenuating circumstances.”  If we are truly living for Christ, this is a characteristic that should be so evident in our lives. God is constantly faithful to us—without wavering. I know beyond any doubt, I can trust my God and that does not change depending on the circumstances I’m in or the trial that I’m going through….or whether I understand what God is doing or allowing to happen in my life. I trust Him because He is faithful to His promises and He is God….I am not.  If He says it, I trust it.  Can that be said of us?  Are we as Christians known for our word?  Can people say of you—if he/she said that, you can count on it?  Are we unshakable in our faithfulness to telling this lost world about our Jesus….even when it looks like it is not making a difference?

 Gentleness: The power to control your reactions to difficult people and situations…never to be confused with weakness (gentleness is a strong hand with a soft touch).  Philippians 4:5: “Let your gentleness be evident to all.”  In short….be reasonable, do not be so concerned about unimportant matters that cause you to get into arguments and take the risk of hurting your testimony.  A great guideline to use is to always ask yourself—in the realm of eternity, is this really going to matter?  If the answer is no, step back!  When we do find ourselves in a discussion with someone, are our words kind, considerate, filled with compassion and mercy and never displaying a superior attitude.  Someone who is gentle wants to help others…even if the person they are helping has hurt them in some way.

 Self-control: The ability to restrain inappropriate passions and appetites.  While I agree with that definition, it is so much more.  The big area I see that we as Christ followers need to have self-control is our words.  God has given me the opportunity to do and teach Bible Studies on our words and how they can impact those around us.  Words are such a powerful tool—they are how we express what is in our heart.  When my words are pleasing to God, they will build up, encourage, and point people to Christ.  When my words are being spoken out of my flesh, they tear down, discourage, belittle, complain, and do not glorify God.  Which do your words do? If you’re like me, I have to be honest and say both.  It is an area where God is continuing to grow me into the person He wants me to be.  I really want to be the person that when I walk away, people feel like they have been encouraged and lifted up.  I want them to see my Jesus in my words—how much He loves them and that He cares about them. But, so many times in my own pridefulness and my lack of self-control, I say words that hurt those around me and definitely hurt my testimony of Jesus in my life.  I’m so grateful God is patient with me.

 So how do we get to the point in our spiritual journeys where this fruit is consistently evident in our lives?  We continue to grow one day at a time.  Just as a plant that remains connected to the vine will continue to be healthy and grow…so do we as we remain connected to Jesus.  Just as you have to water and take care of a plant to keep it healthy, this growth takes place when we are consistently studying God’s Word, and then choosing to live it out in our lives.  On this side heaven we will always be faced with a choice—to do what our flesh wants or what God wants.  Our fruit grows and matures when we chose God first in everything we think, say and do.

 The world so desperately needs Jesus and Christians who display His characteristics everywhere we go.  I believe our time to reach the lost with the Good News of Jesus Christ is growing shorter and shorter.  We do not have any time to waste on foolish arguments that will not matter in eternity. 

 Let’s walk through our world displaying our Lord and Savior Jesus in our lives—that’s what will make a difference for eternity!

Posted by Beth Sweeney with

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