f.o.t.s. // gentleness

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against these things there is no law.  (Galatians 5:22-23)

How are you feeling with just two days left of this adventure?

I know yesterday’s email was kind of long and a perhaps bit deep for some of you, and I really want all of you to read these, so I’m going to keep this one short. I am only going to write a little bit, but then I’m going to give you some Bible verses to read.

Monday is Day 8 – GENTLENESS

Some of you are already thinking, gentleness? Does that mean I’m supposed to be a wimp all day?

Not at all!

I think it’s very fitting that Monday is also Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Whether you have the day off from work or school on Monday, I hope you take some time to remember and give thanks for the contributions of a man who fought for justice and equality without using weapons or any other form of violence. Martin Luther King was a great example of the spiritual gentleness we are going to try living out on Monday.

Gentleness does not mean you have to be delicate. It simply means that you have a gentle heart. That you care about people and try your best to understand how they are feeling, doing what is right for all people. It’s about being sensitive to other people as well as yourself. Guys, you can be gentle AND be a tough guy, you just have to be smart about it (be a “gentle”-man).

Basically, be a good person. Think about other people…not just yourself. Before making a comment, think about how it will affect other people. Don’t tease people. Stand up for what you know is right. Live the way you think God would want you to live. I realize that all sounds incredibly cliché, but these Bible verses might help. Even if you think you have this “gentleness” thing figured out, please read them.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.   (Philippians 4:4-5)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  (Ephesians 4:2-3)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  (Colossians 3:12)

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  (1 Peter 3:3-5)

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  (1 Peter 3:14-16)

Dear God, we admit that oftentimes we are not very gentle. Allow us the perspective to see how others perceive our actions and lead us to live in ways that are authentic and sensitive. Amen.

Day 9 – Self-Control

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f.o.t.s. // faithfulness

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against these things there is no law.  (Galatians 5:22-23)

I hope you all found ways to live out the fruit of “goodness” yesterday.

Sunday is Day 7 – FAITHFULNESS

You know, being faithful is kind of like being on a team. If your team loses a game, you don’t quit and go join the other team, do you? I sure hope not. A good team is made up of members who are loyal to the team. Teammates who trust and believe in each other. It’s the same in a family, in friendships, and at work.

But greater than the relationship you have with your teammates, family, friends, or someday even your wife or husband; the greatest relationship in your life is your relationship with God, a relationship we have no way of understanding except through Jesus.

Being faithful to God means that you will stay on his team, no matter what happens. Actually, this is where the analogy breaks down, because God’s team is not necessarily one we can “quit,” since God chose us and continues choosing us, because God is faithful even when we are not.

This may seem either really easy or really hard to you, depending on what you’ve gone through in life so far. Some of you may have experienced great loss (someone close to you dying, friends moving away, parent’s getting divorced, or something else), and if you’ve gone through something like this I think it’s natural to question God, be mad at God, and maybe even stop believing that God exists for a little while.

I wish I had a great response to those of you who have had your faith and belief in God put into question because of terrible things that have happened to you or your family, but I don’t…no one does.

A few years ago, doctors found a large tumor inside my dad’s heart and he had to be rushed into surgery to have it removed. I spent a lot of time with my family at the hospital and I can remember sitting in the waiting room as my dad was on an operating table with his chest and heart cut open and I asked God, “Why is this happening? Why my dad? Why our family?”

Luckily, everything with surgery went well and my dad has now fully recovered, but just because things went good does not mean I didn’t have to ask some serious questions of God and of my own personal faith.

I realize that it’s easier to say things like “God is faithful” when things work out the way we hoped (because my dad is okay). But would I still be saying “God is faithful” if I had prayed for my dad to be okay and he didn’t make it through surgery, if I didn’t have a father anymore? I sure hope so, but I don’t know.

What I do know is that God’s faithfulness does not depend on whether my dad lives through surgery or whether terrorists crash airplanes into buildings, or even if my team wins and your team loses. God has been faithful, loving, and fair since the world was created (and in case you forgot, that was a long time before any of us were living).

God’s faithfulness is constant. It’s always there, kind of like the wind is always blowing even if you don’t see it or feel it, or the sun is shining even if there are clouds covering it from view. God is faithful to us and as much as we are capable, we should remain faithful to God and each other.

I realize this is all kind of deep and like I said earlier, it may seem either really simple or really difficult, depending on what you’ve been through in life, but regardless of what you’ve been through, here is my prayer for all of us.

Dear God, Help us to be faithful to you. Give us an understanding that you created all good things and all praise and glory for those good things belongs to you, not us. Some of us have been through some really difficult stuff, and we feel like we have reason to question if you’re even there. Help us remember that you do not allow bad things to happen, but that we live in a world where evil exists and because of that, bad things can happen. We ask for your wisdom and strength to remain faithful to you, to our friends and families, and to the hope that we will one day live with you in heaven where there will be no crying, no hurting, and no worrying. Until that day, we ask for your protection and guidance. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

f.o.t.s. // goodness

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against these things there is no law.  (Galatians 5:22-23)

I hope you had a good week. I’m sure you’re ready for the weekend.

Saturday is Day 6 – GOODNESS

The first thing I thought of when I wrote the word “goodness” was something that many of your parents or teachers might have told you when you were growing up.

“Bad is bad and good is good.”

Regardless of whether anyone has told you this before, I’m sure it makes sense. And following this cliché affords us the blessing of experiencing closeness with God instead of feeling as if we are separated or at a distance from our Creator (remember though, this distance is only our perception, since God is always with us, we just don’t always experience things that way).

Day 6 probably seems like a confusing fruit for some of you to live out. We know God is good (all the time), and that all the time (God is good)…but what does it mean to live out goodness? And why should we do it?

Here’s a short exercise for you using Scripture to help answer the questions “What does it mean to live out goodness?” and “Why should we live out the fruit of goodness?”

Let’s start by using God as our example and ask the question, is God good?

In Psalm 31 we read this about God,

Your goodness is so great! You have stored up great blessings for those who honor you. You have done so much for those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.  (Psalm 31:19)

So apparently God is full of goodness, but what does that have to do with us?

In the first book of the Bible, we read about how God created each of us,

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  (Genesis 1:27)

So we know God’s goodness is great (Psalm 31), and we just learned that God created us in his own image (Genesis 1), so then how should we answer this question in Psalm 116?

How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me?  (Psalm 116:12)

I think you all know the answer to that question. God is not only good, but God is a constant source of goodness, and since we were created by God – in the image of God – we should be filled with goodness for all people.

But you don’t have to take my word for it; Psalm 23 says it for me,

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.   (Psalm 23:6)

I’m really glad that so many of you are taking this so seriously and doing your best to live out the Fruit of the Spirit. Please continue to pray for each other because this is not easy, and remember that your struggles are normal. I’m hopeful that you’re experiencing a greater closeness with God because you’re living the way we have always been called to live, but until now we always thought of excuses not to try.

Dear God, help us live beyond our excuses by giving us the courage to faithfully continue becoming the men and women you created us to be. Amen.

Day 7 – Faithfulness

f.o.t.s. // kindness

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against these things there is no law.  (Galatians 5: 22-23)

How did it go being patient all day? I know the weather and traffic are out of our control, but I’m guessing the cold commute has been trying many people’s patience lately, but perhaps for a day you were able to handle it a bit better? Even if “patient day” didn’t go so well, have you noticed a difference in yourself since you’ve been living out the fruit of the spirit all week? I hope so.

Friday is Day 5 – KINDNESS

The idea of being kind (showing kindness to others) is hopefully not a new concept to anyone. But have you ever stopped to think about how much it means to other people when you show them kindness? What does it mean to you when someone is kind to you? It feels good, right?

Paul, from the New Testament, went through all sorts of crazy times during his life. He was often treated unfairly because of his faith (he was beaten and put in prison, among other terrible things), and as a result he greatly appreciated it when people showed him kindness. There’s a story in the book of Acts about when he was on a boat as a prisoner and they were shipwrecked. When they washed up on shore they were treated with unexpected kindness.

Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.  (Acts 28: 1-3)

How can you be an example of unexpected kindness to people around you today? Be thinking of ways you can be kind to someone else in ways that are simple, subtle or perhaps even unexpected.

Here’s a verse of encouragement for you.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  (Colossians 3: 12-13)

Dear God, thank you for your eternal and everlasting kindness. Help us show kindness to others in not only expected ways, but also through unexpected and surprising expressions of your loving kindness. Amen.

Day 6 – Goodness

f.o.t.s. // patience

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against these things there is no law.  (Galatians 5:22-23)

Hello everyone. I hope you had a good day filled with peace.

Thursday is Day 4 – PATIENCE

This is probably going to be a tough one for many of you. Being patient with people is very difficult. It takes a lot of effort and practice to be/become a patient person. But just think of how great it feels when someone is patient with you instead of being on your case, whether it’s about getting things done or how you do things.

King Solomon from the Bible — a guy who is often considered the wisest man ever — talked about patience by saying, “a man’s wisdom gives him patience” (Proverbs 19:11).

We need wisdom to be patient. Wisdom is different than being smart. Many people say you need to be older (an “adult”) to have wisdom, but I’m not sure that’s entirely true. But it will definitely take some practice and requires not just thinking, but also being aware of what is going on around you.

So what is going on around you? How can you help others by being patient?

We need to be aware of people’s expectations of us as well as the expectations we have on other people. Although we can’t change what other people expect from us, we can work to be fair about what we think other people should be doing for us. We need to give others the benefit of the doubt, rather than assuming unfair things about them. We need to relax and quit worrying so much about what other people should be doing for us, think instead about what we can do for them, and then be patient when waiting for help from others.

God wants us to have a wonderful life that is full of joy. Learning to be patient will help us develop wisdom that will lead to a more joyful life. It will help us become a person we can feel better about being. Come to think of it, it will also make life a lot better for the people who are forced to spend time with us as well…so I guess everyone wins!

O God and Heavenly Father, Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; the courage to change that which can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. (Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr)

Day 5 – Kindness

f.o.t.s. // peace

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against these things there is no law.  (Galatians 5:22-23)

How did it feel to be joyful all day? I hope you are responding well to the challenge of living out the Fruit of the Spirit. Remember, it’s not a competition, and no one is perfect. This should not be easy for anyone, but it should definitely be rewarding (“fruitful”). Hang in there and know that there are a lot of people praying for you.

Wednesday is Day 3 – PEACE

This doesn’t mean you should walk around all day acting like a hippy; wearing tie-died shirts and waving peace signs to everyone, and no one expects you to set up an anti-war booth, but think of realistic ways that you can be an example of the peace that only God can give, and then try to help someone else feel that same peace. There’s an inner peace that some people feel as a result of knowing that they have a Savior in Jesus Christ who died on a cross for you, so that no matter how hard things get for you on earth, you will one day leave this earth and go to a place more perfect than you can even imagine – heaven. A place where peace is a reality…not just a dream.

May the peace of Christ, which passes all understanding, be with you today and always. Amen.

Day 4 – Patience

f.o.t.s. // joy

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against these things there is no law.  (Galatians 5:22-23)

How did the first day go? I have a feeling you were a great example of God’s love at school, home, work, and everywhere else you spent time on Monday. As you were thinking of ways to show love to others, perhaps you already thought of this, but something obvious that I should have suggested is to tell the people who are most important to you how much you love them. Even if you’re reading this on Tuesday, perhaps you still want to make a point to do that?

Tuesday is Day 2 – JOY

In case you forgot, that means from the time you wake up on Tuesday morning until you go to bed Tuesday night, you are going to be an example of joy.

To be filled with joy or be “joyful” means to be happy, excited, and filled with a positive spirit. A joyful person is fun to hang out with and it’s hard not to stop their happiness from rubbing off on you.

Joy is also something that often fills us up when we worship God.

Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!  (Psalm 66:1-2)

Jesus talked about the joy he felt in his life because of his closeness with God, and he wanted to share that joy with us.

Jesus said, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”  (John 15:10-11)

The apostle Paul wrote a lot about joy in his letters to Christians in cities where he helped start churches. The book of Romans is an example of one of these letters. Here’s are a few verses from Romans about joy…

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.  (Romans 12:12-13)

Here’s a verse from Romans that works well as a blessing blessing as we begin Day 2:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13)

Have a joyful and joy-filled day. Here’s a quick prayer to go with you…

Dear God, fill us with the joy that comes from you, and help us share some of it with others. Amen.

Day 3 – Peace