Saturday, September 28, 2013

Walk in the Spirit

I read Galatians 5 today--the one that talks about the fruit of the Spirit--and I felt that God spoke to me and pointed some things out that I'd never seen before.  I wanted to share them, but it was too long for a Facebook post.  And then I remembered that I do have a very infrequently used blog for such thoughts.  So here it is!

Galatians 5:16-17 starts out:
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 
Ok, I get that.  Spirit good, flesh bad.  The flesh is why we do bad things even though we love Christ and want to serve Him.  All right.

Then verse 18 comes in and drops some knowledge:
18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Here is one of those tricky concepts I have trouble grasping.  The law makes sin known.  If we break the law, we are sinning.  Now the Spirit guides us to do good and follow Christ, which fulfills the law.  Yet, though we FULFILL the law, we are not UNDER the law.  What's the distinction?

And here's the part where I learned something new:
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery,[c] fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders,[d] drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

The key is that these are the WORKS of the flesh and the FRUIT of the Spirit.   These aren't things to strive for or against.  These are the products of our walk: a walk in the Spirit or a walk in the flesh.  No one tries to create the perfect apple directly.  They tend the tree as best as they can, and the result reflects it.

So, instead of striving to create these fruits--instead of trying to uphold the law--I must tend my relationship with God.  I must strive to be with Him, or more appropriately, I must strive to be open and receptive to His efforts to be with me.  Those verses about how God is the Vine and we are the branches make a lot more sense in this light.

This is probably an obvious point to a lot of people, but for someone like me who is a big fan of rules and regulations and knowing which side of the fence he's on, it's difficult to admit that I can't follow the law and that I can't be good.  Not on my own.  It's a fruit of a healthy relationship with God.  And that is something with which I have trouble.  But I can keep trying!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Word in Season

For no reason at all, I decided to look at this blog again, and oh hey, it's almost been exactly a year since I last posted.  It's interesting because I'm still struggling with the same things (giving up my life completely to God), but it looks totally different now.  I have grown, and that's encouraging.  But it's funny: the more we grow, the more we realize how short we really fall.

I was glad to read this.  Maybe I should start writing here again.  Enough has happened lately to warrant it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Life is awesome!

Well, it's been awhile since I've written in here (as is usually the case).  I probably wouldn't be writing in here even now, except I keep seeing my blog linked on friends' blogs, and the last post title was such a downer that I felt like I needed to do something about that.

Life is actually awesome right now, although I seem hell-bent on screwing it up at times (more details on that later).  But since failing my oral exam, I've gone through an oral presentation, an econometrics paper, and the oral exam retake.  All three of them went reasonably well, by the grace of God, and now I'm one thesis proposal away from my Master of Philosophy degree, which is one thesis away from the Holy Grail known as the Ph.D.

God has been so merciful.  I've learned so much over this year--or rather, I am still learning so much--about fully surrendering to His will.  For me, the biggest struggle is studying when I feel like doing something else (even things that aren't inherently bad).  Learning to do so is still in progress, and there are days where I literally ignore God's urging and do whatever the heck I feel like.  (Yesterday was one such day, and I feel ill just thinking about it.)

For much of my life, I've had this philosophy of getting my work done, or doing what needs to be done, and then relaxing or doing what I feel like once that's out of the way.  Now, I realize that's the wrong mindset.  I should aspire to do God's will at all times.  God knows my limits.  He will urge me to take rest when it's appropriate; I don't need to monitor myself in case He works me too hard.

And that's really terrifying to me.  Surrender my ENTIRE life to God?  Not just my working hours, but my leisure hours as well?  That's insane.  When do I get a break?  When do I get to pursue my desires?  And yet, during the few times that I've truly surrendered, it's been wonderful.  No more anxiety about the work I should be doing.  Greater peace and enjoyment from the times when I'm not working (and God gives them liberally).

But I don't trust Him.  I know it's wrong, and that He gives me every reason and more to put total faith in His ability to work my life into something great.  But I'm afraid of losing myself, or losing those parts of life that I like most.  But that's rubbish.  I'm never more myself than when I'm allowing God to operate through me.

So, even though yesterday was totally self-centered, selfish, and unproductive, I turn to God, ask for His forgiveness and yet another helping of mercy, then proceed to do my work as best as I can.  I still struggle.  I still find myself losing focus on my work or shirking tasks that look really difficult.  But I will keep trying to master this action of surrendering every day, or better yet, every hour (because sometimes sacrificing the whole day even seems like a real push).  And I hope that it gives God glory and makes Him happy to see it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Who has two thumbs and failed his exam?

So this post was originally going to be super whiny and "woe is me" and all that junk, but I got convicted just reading it.  Life is hard.  God is good.  Get up.  Try again.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Before I forget this...

The speaker at my Monday night Bible study shared this quote with us (I believe it was Jonathan Edwards):

"Religious people find God useful.  Christians find God beautiful."

This made me think long and hard: do I find God beautiful?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Intentional Break

This morning, I was thinking I should post something here, but then I also thought, "I have an insanely important exam next Monday and should spend most of my free time studying for that!"  So, posting will definitely resume on Monday night.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hoo boy...

This weekend, starting last night, my church (Elm City Vineyard, or ECV) is holding a conference called "Life with a Living God," and it's been pretty incredible.  So far, we've been taught on setting proper expectations for living with Jesus, and they were challenging: expect to be dependent, expect both reception and rejection, and expect obedience, to name a few.

The crazy part was when we had prayer.  We all bowed our heads, and the prayer leader prayed for the Holy Spirit to enter.  After that, he asked if there was anyone who was feeling tingling or warmth in their ears, hands, or chest, and if they were, he wanted them to stand up.

Before I go any further, I realize that a lot of people have trouble with these kinds of things, chalking it all up to the power of suggestion and so forth, and honestly, I agree with those people to a certain degree.  But at the same time, I know that God DOES move and speak to us in this way at times, and I don't want to close myself off to this avenue of guidance.  So my approach is three-step: 1) see if what the person is asking is true (ignoring the possibility of the power of suggestion). If it is, 2) say a brief prayer and ask the Holy Spirit if it's Him.  If I feel He says yes (again ignoring if it's just my own head playing tricks), 3) go for it.  Even if it wasn't originally from God and I totally misread Him, I trust He'll bless my attempting to do His will and turn my mistake into something He can use.

Anyway, this is what I did.  I did feel a little bit of warmth in my hands, so I prayed and asked, and I felt the impression that it was not Him, but that I should check out my feet.  And I was like, "My feet? Well, ok, they feel a little warm, but he didn't mention anything about--" "If you're feeling a warmth in your feet, I also want you to stand."  And I froze.  And I was like, "Lord, seriously?  'Cause I don't really think I want to stand..."  And I really felt like I was supposed to stand.

So after a moment of hesitation, I resignedly muttered under my breath, ", crap..." and stood to my feet.  (Fun fact: the pastor's wife was sitting in front of me, heard me, and started laughing.)  The leader went on to explain that the warmth in the feet signifies that the Lord had a calling for those people to do missions, whether that be abroad or in our backyard.  As soon as he said that, I knew God had spoken, because I do not like to do missions.  I am shy and introverted by nature (until I get comfortable around you, and then I won't shut up!), and I am very uncomfortable sharing the gospel with others and serving them.  So knowing that this was the last thing I wanted to do confirmed that God was trying to stretch my faith.

A bunch of people gathered around me and prayed for me (which was awesome), and I felt that I needed to start volunteering at Agape Church, a subsidiary church of ECV for the homeless.  Again, something I really don't want to do because I'm uncomfortable, but know that I'm being called to do it.  So that starts tomorrow.

I go back to the conference at 1:00 this afternoon, and I'm looking forward to more challenges from God.  I'm gonna do something a little different and ask you, if you're reading this, to share ways in which you feel God is challenging you to step out in faith.  If so, are you taking steps to accept those challenges?  Because if you are, you are most certainly not alone.  :-)