Fruity Fridays: We All Struggle with Something

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

post by Jeremy Nixon

The last fruit of the Spirit is self-control. You know the old saying…”we saved the best for last?” Well this one is a doozy. To me, it’s the hardest fruit to attain. I say that only because I’m lacking the most in self-control. I’m a bit on the unhealthy side when it comes to weight, and the hardest thing for me to do is stop eating. Especially if it’s good, and believe me, in Arkansas, it’s all good! 

Many people may think the same way, but the deal is…I think we all struggle with something. Everybody has a vice…it may be ice cream, buying stuff, spending too much money or insert yours here, etc. Whatever it may be, there is good news: Paul tells us in Galatians that we can be free!!! Matter of fact, Paul urges us to choose this freedom that’s found in Christ instead of being enslaved. (I think he knows a thing or two about that.)

The very definition of self-control is this: the ability to control oneself. But for Christians it is much more than that. For us it means to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions. Basically, behavior that doesn’t please God and allowing things to be so important to you that they make you sinful or participate in sinful behavior is the very thing we have to stay away from. That’s self-control, and we don’t have to do it alone. Paul says that when the Holy Spirit is living in us God will help to maintain self-control.  

Self-Control is throughout the whole Bible. God is pretty serious when it comes to self-control. In Paul’s letter, Titus 2, the word self-control comes up several times and speaks to everyone young and old to have self-control in order for others to experience the love and salvation of the Lord. Another story: Jesus painted the picture of self-control when he rejected Satan’s temptations for 40 days. Jesus chose to honor God instead of giving in to Satan. We too have the same power through the Holy Spirit to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions.   

So what is self-control to you? What is your struggle? When are you most tempted to lose self-control? These are great questions to ask yourself so that when you are tempted, you can seek God for help…because God WILL help you maintain self-control.

The fruit of the Spirit study has been good for me. It has caused me to stop and think more about these fruits and see how God can use me. It has brought light to areas of my life that need improvement, and I hope it’s done the same for you. The truth is this: all Christians, we, should grow the fruit of the Spirit; the more we are nurtured and empowered by the Holy Spirit…our fruit grows. The first blog was about getting dirty, and sometimes we have to get dirty to produce fruit; but when it comes to self-control we have to ask for help. Christ wants us to be free! Stand firm. Produce fruit. Love God. Love people. When you are doing these, your fruits are blooming and God is being honored.


Condemnation vs. Salvation

Finger pointing. Hardly anything new. Remember Adam?

Whether the finger pointing is for something that happened today or yesterday, the question is does is really work. What does it accomplish? Is the end result what was the desired goal?

If anybody had the right to point his finger for something that happened today or yesterday, that would be God. But look at what he said in John 3:17 was his choice.

  • For God did not send his Son into the world that he might condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. (CSB)
  • God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. (MSG)

This verse states simply and clearly why the Father sent the Son into the world. Since this was the Son’s purpose, it seems to reason that followers of Jesus would strive to pursue the same purpose. Rather than finger pointing through conversation in person or online, we should be helping put the world right again through salvation.

  • Condemnation pushes away; salvation welcomes.
  • Condemnation builds walls and encloses potential; salvation builds relationships and opens possibilities.
  • Condemnation separates and rejects; salvation welcomes and accepts.
  • Condemnation fosters hate; salvation proclaims love.
  • Condemnation says, “I’m right; you’re wrong.” Salvation says, “We’re all messed up. Let’s seek healing together.”

Fruity Fridays: Gentle like Jesus

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

My Bible reading plan has me in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Knowing it was my turn to write about gentleness and having already thought through some things, it was a natural connection to make between my thoughts and the actions of Jesus as told by these four authors. So first, think along with me about steps we can take toward being gentle, and then consider along with me how Jesus took these steps in three different scenes from the book of John.

Some things I know that produce the fruit of gentleness in me when I do them are listening, checking my emotions, and putting myself in other’s shoes.


Very few things put us in a better state of humility than keeping our mouths shut and listening. Avoiding the temptations of interrupting or talking over others leans us into gentleness. Silence welcomes calmness and averts hotheadedness, in both parties.

Checking Emotions:

We all have triggers, which means, like it or not, we all have emotions. Knowing our triggers that might lead to harshness is vital to checking our emotions. Having a plan when the trigger goes off will enhance our chances of responding gently. With these triggers, maintaining a gentle spirit through all emotions can seem impossible. But let’s be honest, sometimes a situation calls for bold, powerful reactions. These are rare situations for most people. Our reactions don’t have to be mean-spirited or destructive. If you find yourself feeling like every situation ends in bold reactions, it’s definitely a sign that gentleness is missing.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes:

Over the years, this discipline has produced gentleness in me when I’ve most needed it. But it doesn’t come naturally to me. Does it you? So how do you nurture putting yourself in someone’s shoes if it isn’t how you’re bent? A few things come to mind:

  • You can’t be the focus of every moment or thought.
  • While listening, refrain from thinking how you’re going to respond or how you feel about the person or the situation.
  • Force yourself to do things that are out of your norm or that are uncomfortable but represent other’s reality, such as volunteer at a shelter, pause and talk with a homeless person, walk somewhere when you could have taken transportation, go without eating, or live on a fixed income.
  • Meditate on the specific dynamics of a person’s life that impact their perspectives, such as family of origin, education, employment, or religious background.

Jesus did these things very well. Take for example his interactions with three people as told by John.

John 3, Nicodemus

He listened to Nicodemus questioning and trying to understand. He checked his emotions by not dismissing him as another Pharisee who might be after him. He put himself in his shoes as a Jewish leader working out his beliefs about who Jesus was.

John 4, Samaritan woman

He actually started this conversation. His gentleness is seen in that move alone. He listened to her question his motives, his common sense, his culture understanding, and her attempts to distract him from her story. He checked his emotions when she tried to challenge him as a Jew, more than once. He put himself in her shoes by recognizing her situation and her desire for something different.

John 11, the village of Bethany

This village was hurting. They were mourning the death of their neighbor and family member, Lazarus. Even in his delay, which no one understood, he ultimately showed gentleness. He showed all gentleness is found in the purpose of glorifying the Father. Through his listening to the mourners, checking his own emotions, and putting himself in their shoes, he turned hearts of sadness and unbelief into joy and conviction.

There is power in gentleness. May we be gentle like Jesus.

Deep Water

Luke 5:4 (MSG)

When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.”

If you’ve read the Gospels, you are familiar with this story.  Simon and his coworkers had been fishing all night and caught nothing.  Then Jesus tells them to do this.

Using that deep water thought, what area of life might God be telling you to push out?  What if He knows something you don’t and all you have to do is respond like Simon, “If you say so”?

  • It’s possible you’ve done all you can in the water where you are; it’s time to trust God by going into deeper water.
  • It’s possible you’ve exhausted all your resources in doing the same routine, doing what you know; it’s time to follow God in doing something new in deeper water.
  • It’s possible you’ve matured beyond the needs of your current location; it’s time to believe God has more for you by stretching you in deeper water.

Why be content in your “all night’s” work?

Why not consider the possibilities where God is offering to guide you?

When Has God Spoken to You (Journal Exercise Suggestion)

The back was too tight to do a morning run this morning (that’s what stretching and treadmill runs later in the day are for); so instead, God and I had a longer than usual conversation.

During the conversation I got a pretty clear message of something I am to do this week. Receiving that message made me ask this question, “If I made a list of the ‘big, writing-on-the-wall’ messages I’ve gotten from God in my life, what would that include?” 

Seemed like a good exercise, so I did it before I left for the office. As it turns out, in 30 years of adult living, I’d say I’ve received nine such messages. To be clear, “Be nice to idiots is not a ‘big’ message.” The daily messages we receive from the Holy Spirit are nothing more than atuning ourselves to communicating with Him regularly. A big message is something like, “Change your career path,” “I promise you if you’ll stop saying ‘no’ to me about this direction you’ll be 100% satisfied,” or “You’ve been waiting for the green light. Here it is.”

You might call these markers. Markers are specific times or places in our lives where significant things happen. Sure, your wedding day, your child’s birthday, and other physical events are markers. This intentional, spiritual exercise makes you think about your conversations-with-God markers. They can remind you who has been for you, where he has been with you, and what he has done through you.

So what are you waiting for? Get a blank page in front of you. Answer the question. You never know; another “big” message might be ready to get marked.

Dude, You’re At…the Gym

(An “Own It” series for Dudes)

Last Saturday, I watched something I’ve never seen. You rarely know a stranger’s story, but this dude had a story. 

We walked into the Manatee Avenue Planet Fitness at the same time. I always have a plan for my time in the gym. It most likely is get on the treadmill, run my preplanned distance or time, wipe down the machine, leave. Recently I’ve also joined the masses who plug in to their phone or the TVs to let music, news, or sports pass the time. This is what most “gymmers” do. They have a plan. They get it done. They own it.

This dude wasn’t an owner. I’m not sure what you’d call him. Maybe a wannabe. A poser. Bored. A leaner. Lost. From my observation, I’d definitely say he was confused about what to do when you go to the gym.

I never saw this dude pick up, get on, or much less turn on any piece of equipment. He touched a couple of pieces, but that was just to lean on them. No joke. For 25 minutes I watched him move from one elliptical to another, one bike to another just to lean on them and “change channels.” He’d stare at the TV above the machine for a minute or two, never plugging in mind you, and move over a machine or two to watch a different TV. Apparently he likes closed-caption viewing. This is all he did for 25 minutes. And the last time I saw him, he was walking away from every piece of equipment heading toward the exit. He’d leaned enough. Gym time was over.

Call me crazy, but what in the world? Hard to give, much less get credit for going to the gym when you might as well have stayed in the living room moving back and forth from the couch to the love seat. The recliner might have required some energy.

All kidding and judgment aside, when you are committing to a fitness plan, you really need to do just that-COMMIT. Playing at it makes a mockery of it. And the only one losing is you. The gym doesn’t lose. It doesn’t care if you commit or not. It’ll gladly take your monthly automatic deduction and roll on. If you actually hire a trainer, they don’t necessarily lose either when you don’t commit. You won’t be their favorite or star client, but they’ll also take your payment and work out any frustrations they may have because of you when they go to the gym.

Going to the gym, committing to a fitness plan is rather simple. At least from the logistic view. 

  • Schedule it. 
  • Develop your goals. 
  • Determine your action steps. 
  • Do the work. 
  • Enjoy the benefits.

If this isn’t working for you, then it’s time to ask yourself a different question. It could be worded something like, “What am I really doing at the gym? Why am I not owning this commitment?”

For the, I’ll say, 89% of dudes in the gym who are owning it, good job. Keep at it. Keep owning it. Like the two of you I was happy to share the gym with this morning.

One dude had an artificial leg. He got on the treadmill and owned it. The other dude had a significant limp and walked with a cane. He owned his gym time with free weights. They weren’t leaners or posers, lost or confused. They had a plan. They were getting it done. They owned it.

(I must give about 8.9% credit for this series to my dude Mark. He’s an owner.)

Closing the Gap

Nehemiah is a rich book. One great example of the story is how Nehemiah and his community managed themselves and others as they completed a massive project. As with any project, there is a starting point and a vision of what the finished work looks like. This gap between the start and the finish is where life happens.

Some of us have a tendency to expect the completion of our vision sooner than is logical. Sometimes this tendency leads us to go beyond ignoring logic and simply not having the patience to wait through the logical. It’s as if we are always asking God for miracles.

Does God still perform miracles? Sure. But many of the situations we want to experience change, where we envision the completion of a “project,” aren’t “lion’s den” moments. For example, changing the culture of an organization doesn’t happen in 24 hours, overcoming a cocaine addiction most likely takes months or years, and reshaping a dysfunctional family can be the work of an entire generation.

That’s reality. Some questions we should ask ourselves are, “Am I committed to closing the gap? Am I willing to see this through rather than expecting God to do what He intends me to do?” We know where we are and can probably envision where we want to be, but are we committed to the work and time to close the gap.

That’s doable. It actually may be even more life transforming than an instantaneous miracle.

So here are some questions to challenge ourselves when beginning a project, committing to closing a gap of any nature:

  • Where am I and where do I want to be?
  • What’s the real challenge I want to overcome?
  • What does God desire for this situation?
  • What steps are needed to start overcoming?
  • How long am I willing to work on closing the gap?
  • Who should I recruit to walk with me through this gap-closing season?
  • How will I celebrate when the gap is closed?

Fruity Fridays: Slow, Soft, Seeing Gentleness

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

post by Eric Vorhies 

When I think of gentleness, the first image that comes to mind is a new parent holding their child. Or maybe, gentleness is the appropriate amount of pressure to a car’s gas pedal when a teen is behind the wheel. It’s the spy in the movie handling the bomb, it’s a team of nurses in the hospital transferring a patient from a stretcher to a bed, and it’s the way one picks up the pieces of broken glass. Gentleness is slow in the way it moves. It understands the importance of a situation and is aware of the consequences of hurriedness. Gentleness is soft in the way it touches. It is reserved for handling the most delicate and fragile of all items. Gentleness sees in the way eyes cannot. Gentleness is guided, not by the present situation, but by the possibilities of many situations that are yet to come. 

Everyone understands the consequences of not being gentle when holding a baby. You could drop them… which apparently isn’t funny to even joke about. But what about the consequences of handling a relationship? Like luggage at an airport — most of the damage is on the inside and goes unseen by the person who handled it poorly. How messed up will someone be on the inside if they are not handled with gentleness? 

I need you to understand something — I haven’t been able to write this post because I have been distracted with life. Work has been unpleasantly slow, and I have been primarily a stay-at-home parent (which I am not good at) of three boys under 5yo (who I love dearly) that are, by default, very dependent on me. Then today, I learned that some very expensive equipment of mine can’t be fixed, I ordered the wrong rental to use this weekend in place of my broken equipment, and everything was frustratingly avoidable. I haven’t wanted to write this because gentleness has been absent from my life. 

And it makes me think…

The level of gentleness that God must possess…It seems unfathomable. Think about it — I am broken with sin, you are broken with sin…everyone is broken. We are metaphorically like fractured and cracked pieces of glass or jars of clay, and God is carrying us to our destination, slowly, softly, and seeing everything that could go wrong. My eyes well up thinking about how differently He has Fathered me than I would have fathered myself. 

The thing that has been weighing heavily on me is the thought that I might somehow be contributing to the brokenness of those around me because I am not being gentle. Is my sin damaging the fragile parts of the people I care most about? I have been short when I should have been patient. I have projected frustration when I should have projected insightfulness. I have been rash when I should have been calming. I have shaken the relational foundations with others to cope with my own feelings.

Maybe you are like me in some way…not applying gentleness to situations that resemble a bomb that is about to explode or to relationships that so are damaged they need to be treated like an ER patient.

Well, that’s why James writes, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

Be Slow when you react to people. It will give you time to find the right words to say, if anything needs to be said at all.

Be Soft in the way you deal with them. It is not about the amount of pressure that is applied, but how and where and when that pressure is applied that can break something…or someone.

And See the potential consequences of how not being gentle will play out. Because deep down, we are vulnerable and susceptible to being damaged because of the baggage we carry.

“No, You Don’t Have a Syndrome”

Twice. Not once. Two times today the same thing happened. Once in my office and now at home.

Both times I was looking for something and couldn’t find it. It wasn’t long until I found it, but when I did I had literally walked by it several times. What is going on?

Well, I know the answer, and no, it’s not OPS (old people syndrome-not a real thing, but something someone made up).

Both times I had overlooked the obvious because I assumed what I was looking for wasn’t in that spot. I subconsciously eliminated choices based on assumptions. My mind was temporarily shut off from considering those options. 

Huh? Interesting. Chew on that for a second.


When I paused to chew on this thought, it seemed apparent to me that we humans do this often. We overlook the obvious. Why?

  • Sometimes out of ignorance, meaning we need someone to point it out to us. Like asking the grocery clerk, “Where is the lettuce,” while standing beside it in the produce section.
  • Sometimes out of arrogance, meaning we know we’re right, regardless. Like saying, “Yes, honey, I checked my wallet and that $50 is not there,” only to find it behind the $10 when you look again 10 minutes later.
  • Sometimes out of hurriedness, meaning we don’t stop and think. Like saying to yourself, “But I always put my keys right here,” knowing full well that always is such a broad word that almost always should make you stop and think.

Should I go on?

I’ll stop there and encourage all of us to consider our ignorance, arrogance, and hurriedness. How blessed we’d be to eliminate these from our lives. Not just once. Not even just twice. Daily. And certainly when we want to give ourselves an out, like making up our own syndrome.