Fruity Fridays: Don’t Give Up

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

post by Eric Vorhies

After Adam and Eve ate the fruit, becoming aware of good and evil, God made a promise to bless the world through her seed. That blessing was Jesus. Now, let’s think about the events that took place between those two points in time. The newly freed Jews desired to be enslaved in Egypt rather than to depend on their miraculous God. From prophets to judges to kings, God’s chosen leader often rejected guidance and wisdom from their Creator. The world became so detestable at one point that God wiped it clean except for Noah and his family. And so on and so on.

If I was God, I would have been out by book two. So, in terms of what it means to be faithful, God is our model.

Faithfulness is an unswerving adherence to a person, thing, promise, etc. This is the characteristic that allows parents to have hope that their estranged child will come home. It gives permission to a devastated spouse to forgive the unfaithfulness (of any kind) of their partner. Faithfulness is at the heart of the story of the adult child who prays for 17 years that their mother would accept Christ as their Savior. Supernatural faithfulness isn’t a characteristic of the resilience of humanity. Rather, it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that is imparted on us by God.

Here’s the take away — You don’t have to give up or give in. Everyone has some hope or desire that has been worn down and beat up by disappointments as time drags along. And, let’s be honest, it’s hard. It’s exhausting. It even seems pointless to continue pressing on. But the endurance that faithfulness demands of us isn’t our own. We have access to a Father that understands. And it is His strength that carries us. We don’t have to give up because God is our source.

Or maybe you are on the other side of the equation. Maybe you are the one who keeps failing. The one who keeps rejecting God when the pressure of the world seems to be upon you. You also don’t need to give up or give in. God’s faithfulness is greater than our unfaithfulness. And though we may stumble and fall, if we keep trying again and again, as many times as it takes, we will be able to tap into that power that God is offering us and become faithful.

So, don’t be like me…don’t say, ‘I’m out,’ before the end of book two…because the story that God is writing is much bigger than we can imagine…and masterpieces take time to complete.

3 Checks to Controlling Yourself 

In the last 12 hours, I’ve had three conversations around the subject of control. One was with myself; it happens when you wake up an hour before the alarm.

The interesting core of these conversations had to do with being frustrated or anxious. And every one of them found the same end that the cause of the frustration and anxiety was trying to control something that was out of their control.

We’ve all been there. “Why can’t they do it this way?” “What if they get mad?” “How come she gets better reviews they I get?” Before we drive ourselves to losing control, maybe we can check ourselves and, in a sense, own our control issues rather than trying to control things that we really can’t.

Check #1-Check your Expectations. Ask these questions:

  • Whose expectations are these?
  • Who agreed to these expectations?
  • What should my expectations be and what am I basing them on?
  • What happens if my expectations don’t get met? Who is going to care besides me?
  • What happens if my expectations do get met? Who is going to care besides me?

Check #2-Check your Opportunities. Ask these questions:

  • How might this relationship grow?
  • What might I learn today?
  • What other perspectives have I not considered?
  • How could I cultivate gratitude?
  • How can I show respect?

Check #3-Check your Fears. Ask these questions:

  • What if love drove me more than fear?
  • What can I find to affirm rather than judge?
  • How can I connect with them rather than hide from them?
  • What fears need to hear me say, “Yes”?
  • What fears need to hear me say, “No”?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2Timothy 1:7

That’s Just What I Needed

Yesterday, we had a memorial service for a longstanding, faithful member of First Baptist. The service, which included selections of their favorite worship songs, was planned by him and his wife. After the service, his wife said, in thanking me for my part in the service, “That’s just what I needed. I hope those songs were okay, but they meant something to us.”

To be frank, who cares if people attending a memorial service have any offense to service choices. They mean something to you; that’s why you plan them ahead of time so they reveal what’s important, your values, your life.

I’ve blogged about this before, but it begs repeating. If you haven’t done this already, it’s time to think about helping your family out by planning your memorial service. That might mean not having one. It might mean a small gathering at a graveside. It might be a traditional church service. Whatever it might look like it in your head, that’s a problem. It’s only in your head. Speak it. Write it. Plan it.

My father died in 1980. I was 12. I can tell you off the top of my head two of the song selections, vocalists who sang, and who the two preachers were. Why? Because they were amazing? Because they are in a recording I’ve listened to? Nope. It’s because I knew that my dad planned it. Those songs, those singers, those speakers were his choosing. 

Do everyone a favor. Get this done. Help them be able to say after your service, “That’s just what I needed.”

But I Don’t Want To

One reality to living alone-if you don’t do the chores, ain’t nobody else going to either. As a task-oriented guy, not usually a big deal.

But then there’s these two things: mopping and dusting. What is it with these two? Does anyone else dislike them as much as I do? I won’t tell you my lack of getting them done in order to protect my reputation of being neat and tidy.

I’ve noticed something else. There are also some spiritual disciplines that I have the same problem with. Just like house chores, some spiritual disciplines are just more enjoyable, easier, or natural. Yet, when I make myself do the less enjoyable ones, just like when I dust or mop, I’m glad I did. Like the reflection of mopped tile, my soul feels cleaner and more reflective of God.

So how do we tackle these “but I don’t want to” chores and disciplines? It doesn’t seem to work to wait until the mood strikes or to just suck it up and grudgingly put them on the to do list, on which they seem to easily get bumped down. I’m not sure what would work for you, but I can tell you what happened today to cause me to dust. I decided I wanted to see clean, to see a reflection more than anything else. It comes down to choice, to wanting better, to having the end in mind, to not settling for easy. My want has to change.

The example I can draw from in a different area of my life is running. Right now, I’m back to running 20+ miles a week-haven’t been there in almost 4 years. I’m doing that to build a foundation that will prepare me to train for the longest race in my life next year. I want to run this race. I don’t always want to get up in the dark and run. I don’t always want to endure the summer humidity. But when I remember the end in mind, I get up and hit the road. And I’m glad I did when I finish.

What’s your end game? What do you need to decide you want in order to do what you don’t want to do? Nail it down. You’ll be glad you did.

Leaving the Circus Well

Maybe you’ve heard this saying, “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.” If not, you probably get the meaning. Basically, I know what and where my circus is, and that, right there, isn’t part of it.

The circus reference could apply to many areas of life: business, family, neighborhood, church, relationships. Some of these we choose to join, and some we don’t get that choice. But we all get the same choice about how long we stay in the circus.

What is interesting to watch is how people react after they’ve chosen to leave a certain circus of life. Some leave quite well; others seem to not really understand what they actually chose when they decided to leave the circus. Reality takes time to set in, and unfortunately, for some, it never does. These thoughts are for those who haven’t left well, who are struggling with their new circus.

When you choose to leave a circus…

  • …accept that the next circus is going to have monkeys also.
  • …you no longer get the popcorn and cotton candy from that circus.
  • …the acts of your new circus aren’t interested in how things ran in your last circus.
  • …over time, the acts of the old circus won’t call to see how you’re doing…and they don’t owe you that unless you actually mutually committed to it.
  • …you have to own your choice. Odds are, you made it, so own it.
  • …respect your old ringmaster’s commitment to the acts still with him. You’re not his monkey any more.
  • …embrace your new ringmaster and the other acts, monkeys and all.

Choose wisely. When it’s time to leave, leave. And leave well.

Fruity Fridays: External Bridge to Internal Goodness

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

post by Eric Vorhies

You ever hear the phrase, “Fake it till you make it”? I became aware of the power of this in high school. Everyone in class had to do a speech of some sort multiple times throughout the year. I was a high schooler. I didn’t know what I was doing. Like most, I was nervous to talk in front of people. I was consumed with what they must be thinking while I was speaking. I was consumed with fear.

But after a couple of speeches, I realized that those people listening were probably thinking similar things as I was when they were giving speeches. For instance, “Did I finish that Spanish homework?” or “I wonder what’s for lunch today?” That’s when I decided I could just fake my confidence in public speaking until I actually figured it out.

Let’s be clear, I haven’t figured it out, but I can talk to a large group of people with way more confidence then I should. The reason why I say this is because of how I perceive Kindness and Goodness relating to each other. To me, kindness is this external interaction that bridges people together. Goodness, in my opinion, is an internal feeling that motivates kindness.

I hope you see where this is going.

I don’t always have goodness inside of me toward people or situations. I can look at a situation and think, “Well, I could have done better.” Or if i am trying to figure out what other people are thinking about me…I internalize all the excuses of why things played out the way it did or why they shouldn’t be commenting on it. It is far too easy to train ourselves to react selfishly or out of fear. That’s why we think bad things about people or assume the worst. But it’s more empowering to learn to feel goodness instead.

Let’s be honest though, feelings are complex, and we can’t just change our feelings. I mean, we don’t have total control over them…They CAN BE conditioned though. So, this is where we fake it till we make it, and we do that through acts of kindness.

  • Do you want to have goodness in your heart toward someone? Stop talking badly about them.
  • Find yourself always judging people for the way they do things? Take time to tell them something you think they are doing really well (do not follow it up with what they could do better…no compliment sandwiches)
  • Have anger toward someone for what they said? Buy them a cup of coffee and have a conversation. 

We can’t just change the way we feel about something or someone, but we can choose to lead with kindness in those instances. And it is amazing how doing so will soften our hearts. Then, over time, the external bridge of kindness will lead to internal goodness. You won’t have it all figured out, but you will be able to judge a situation more honestly and with more understanding and forgiveness than most.

We are not good, but God leads us to goodness. Share some of it today.

6 Months to Live

Recently I was part of a short discussion around this question: “What if a doctor told you that you have only six months to live? What would you do?” The discussion involved answers that could mostly fall under two headings, tactical and relational. Tactical meaning get everything (insurance, memorial service, will, finances) in order. Relational meaning make the most of every day, do things you haven’t done, say things that need to be said, enjoy the rest of your days.

Let’s reframe the question a tad. What if God told you that you only have six months to live? What would you say? Not what would you do; what would you say? In other words, how would you respond in prayer.

This very message came to a king in the Bible. His name was Hezekiah. His story is told in two passages, 2 Kings 20 and Isaiah 38. Here are the first three verses of Isaiah 38:

“In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Set your house in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.’ ” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord. He said, “Please, Lord, remember how I have walked before you faithfully and wholeheartedly, and have done what pleases you.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭38:1-3‬ ‭CSB‬‬‬‬

Hezekiah’s simple and confident response prayer is remarkable. Hezekiah didn’t offer a response of lament, of begging for his life, or of questioning God. He responded by asking just one thing-remember our relationship.

Hezekiah didn’t point out his position, his accomplishments, his family, or even his desire to live. His focused response was about his relationship with God. 

In a “near death” state, you wouldn’t ask God to remember something that is either weak or anemic in order to trade or barter for life. You would offer something strong, vibrant, and full of life. What would you ask God to remember?

From Hezekiah’s response, we can adapt some truths to our prayer life (our responses to God) that apply, near death or not. 

  • You can pray with confidence when you know your relationship with God is active and alive.
  • The status of your relationship with God determines the strength of your prayers.
  • You can pray in simplicity when your relationship with God is deep, trusting, and honest.
  • A strong relationship doesn’t require overdone conversation.

While we can ask God to remember, we have things to remember about him, also.

  • Remember, God sees all, including your heart.  
  • Remember, God knows all, including your needs and wants.
  • Remember, God controls all, including your situations and your future.

Your turn. You get this message, “You have six months to live.” What do you ask God to remember?

The Myth of Equality (Book Review)

I just finished reading a book that I didn’t know I needed to read.

I wasn’t looking for it. Had it not been given to me, I most likely wouldn’t even know about it.

Why did I need to read it? 

  • Because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. The first part informed me about the story of race.

Racism in the United States is worse than we thought, its lasting consequences are more significant than we think, and our responsibility is greater than we’ve been taught…There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.

  • Because I needed to see this subject through the lens of God’s kingdom. The second part took me deeper into the truth of equality.

If every person is made in the image of God, then stereotypes lead us down a dangerous path…Racial equality and fairness is not just a good thing but an ideal that we must work toward if we are to fully realize Christian obedience, national justice, and individual flourishing.

  • Because I needed to know about my privilege. The final part challenged me to listen and learn, lament, confess, and lay down.

White privilege doesn’t mean your life isn’t hard. It means if you are a person of color, simply by virtue of that, your life might be harder…If any part of justice matters then all of justice should matter.

Most likely, you didn’t know about this book before reading this post. You need to look for it. You need to read this book.

Whether You Want That Hat or Not

Hats. We all have them. Some of them we like and chose, and some we wish we didn’t have and didn’t choose. Of the latter, we may even go so far as to try to not let anyone know we have them or try to walk away from them.

To be clear, I’m not talking about hats you wear; I’m talking about skills and abilities you were born with or have learned; you could also look at the various positions you have in life (parent, child, worker, volunteer) in this light.

Whatever these skills or positions are, there is one truth that should keep us on the right path of what to do with them: these were directly given or allowed by God. 

  • That talent with numbers. Given by God.
  • That choice to marry. Allowed by God.
  • That ability to teach. Given by God.
  • That choice to join the military. Allowed by God.

Sometimes we get off the right path with these skills and positions. We may get off the right path because we don’t know what to do with them, decide to run from them, or choose to ignore or hide them. We may get to the place where we just wish we didn’t have them.

The reality is we should stand in them whether we want them or not. We should find God’s purpose in them, whether we want that hat or not. Over the last few decades, there’s one thing I’ve learned about hats: the best thing to do with a hat you don’t want is to share it. Let God show you the purpose of that hat. You might be surprised, maybe even decide you want it after all.

Fruity Fridays: Running to Do Good

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

Of the nine fruits of the Spirit, I’d guess this one to be the one most wrestled. 

Doing good is different from being good. You can be good on the inside. But to show the fruit of goodness it has to be seen, you have to do. That isn’t always easy. It’s downright challenging in many cases, on a regular basis.

  • It’s hard to do good to someone who views your decision as wrong.
  • It’s mind bending to do good to someone who intentionally undermines you.
  • It’s gut wrenching to do good for someone who knowingly lies about you.

These are examples that are difficult because they reveal where your power originates. If your power to handle wrong, undermining, and lying lies only in you, you will be less likely to do good.
No, we have to rely on a better source of power than ourselves. That power comes from the model of goodness. That model and power is described in Acts 10:38.

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Instead of looking at yourself to muster the power of goodness, we must look to the Holy Spirit. No matter how hard the situation, he has the power to do good through you. So how do we look to the Holy Spirit?

  1. Work through your anger, jealousy, selfishness, etc., before responding. (HINT: This may take more than five minutes.) Start doing good by not doing wrong by allowing destructive emotions to control you.
  2. Pray to the Holy Spirit. Ask Him what goodness will look like in your situation, for that person. Only move when you have peace and commitment to the action.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice. You only get better at something by doing it. Start with a simple good thing that you know the Holy Spirit wants you to do. Example: Pray that God would bless your offender rather than praying God would convict them. (HINT: Conviction isn’t our job.) A staggering baby step like this will lead to steady walking which will lead to strong running.

Running isn’t easy. Certainly not to do goodness. Surrender to the Holy Spirit to help you run to do good.