Live by the Spirit

I have been blessed to work with the same group of people for more than 10 years during these military exercises that I do. I have learned much more about myself and how to work across multiple levels of an organization than perhaps I’ve been able to share. This is the first year that we haven’t worked together so I’m a little nostalgic. I vividly recall a “lively” exchange with one of these old friends as we shared our passions when he said, “We are in violent agreement with each other”. Take a moment and re-read what I wrote – yes we were in agreement. Our discussion brought out our passion for doing a good job. It makes me wonder how many other times I get into violent agreements with people since I am such a passionate personate person.

As human beings, we need to remain in control of our emotions and maintain awareness of how we react to things. I’m not one who usually “flies off the handle” but when I get to that point, I turn into a freight train. Passion is a good thing to have in life – in love, in commitment or to help others, etc. We must guard that passion when we get emotionally involved in issues; there is a difference between a passionate and an emotional response. Self-control starts with peace, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness as a result of faithfulness. Peace and patience allow you to remain calm in the face of the issue. Kindness and goodness remind us that someone will be on the receiving end of our self-control (or lack of it) and those interactions should be gentle. People will respect you, you’ll respect yourself and you’ll glorify God with the gifts He has given you.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-23, 25

There is nothing like starting a week with a little self-reflection. Have you been reacting with passion or emotion? It is good to be reminded that the fruit of the Spirit or the essence of what the Holy Spirit has given us; lives within us. We don’t have to seek these things or learn them; God has given them to us. Jesus lived His life demonstrating them, God inspired the words written in the bible; all we need to do is study and practice them. 

It’s okay to be happy (joy) and to get along with others (peace). Be patient and kind with everyone, even those who require a little extra effort. Your demonstration of goodness and gentleness are God pleasing and witness to your faith in the Word of God, above all. These fruits lead to more self-control and less frustration that will circle back to finding love, joy and peace in your life. God is amazing in how He ordered all of these “fruits” to work in support of one another in our lives. “Since we live in the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” is great advice to us for how to live our lives, especially these days! 

Watch What You Say

Words matter. I make this statement all too often and using the exact verbiage is critical during the military exercises that I participate in. While words matter, so does listening to those words. As I get older (and crabbier) I’m finding that I need to listen more carefully and speak less frequently but more specifically. I don’t ever want to find myself excusing something I said because of a grammatical technicality. Words matter especially when you are dealing with people. Each one of us has a different interpretation of various words and each word can elicit a different emotion for different people. Knowing your audience or the receiver is important before you start to speak. 

Understanding the subject matter and the person that you are speaking to, are critical to helping you make good word choices. If you are speaking with someone as their supervisor and you need to give direction or take corrective action, your word choice is critical to express the seriousness of your intent. The tone and inflection of your voice are also important to the delivery of your intended message. “You sounded mad when you said that” was a common complaint of our teenage kids. Take the time necessary to gather your thoughts and choose the words that convey your message before you speak. If you find that you are frequently having misunderstandings with people or that you are explaining yourself in greater detail more often, re-think your word choice and how you deliver your message. The people receiving your message don’t know what you are “trying” to say, they only know what you’ve said.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45

People that you see on a regular basis always seem to know when you are having a bad day or when you’re not at the top of your game. They also know when you are playing to the crowd, which is not a completely honest way of dealing with people. The good stored in your heart is a gift from God. Truthfulness, compassion and caring are things that we learned from the actions and teachings of Jesus. 

Some people can “play to the crowd” very well and say one thing in public but say another behind closed doors. God is always watching and knows what is on your heart. Sooner or later the truth or the “real person” is revealed. Keep your heart stored up with good by being surrounded with the good of this world. Maintain fellowship with other Christians; regularly attend worship so you are reminded of the forgiveness won by Jesus; devote time to regular bible reading and most importantly, pray. God wants to hear from you and by building your relationship with Him, you will know all of the good that you have to offer.  

No “I” in Team

I worked on an assignment for the Army recently, and I witnessed a variety of teamwork examples; both positive and negative. According to Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary, a group is defined as “a number of individuals assembled together or having some unifying relationship” and a team is defined as “a number of persons associated together in work or activity”. I’ve always been fascinated by the study of teamwork and leadership and I once found an interesting quote by teamwork author, Sharon Feltham: “Calling a collection of people a team and rallying them to the cause does not make them a team. A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to: a common purpose, a set of performance goals and a common approach, for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”. 

A group however, contains people with complementary skills and abilities who are committed to a leader’s goal. She goes on to state, “A group supports the leader’s goals and the leader-dominated approach to goal attainment. Leadership is predominantly held by one person rather than the shared, fluid leadership of a team.” What this tells us is that in a group, the dominant viewpoint is represented; in a team, multiple, diverse viewpoints are represented. Decisions in a group are made by voting or implied agreement; decisions on a team are typically made by consensus. I believe this illustrates that people tend to use these terms interchangeably. Next time you join a work “team” make sure you understand who’s goals you are working to achieve.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4 

Remain in Jesus as He remains in you. Our faith in Jesus Christ gives us the strength to move through our lives here on earth. God loves us and has charted a course in our lives but we cannot do it alone! As the branch, we cannot bear fruit on our own; we must remain in the vine that is Jesus. 

It sounds simple enough but the fact is that we need help to remain in the Word of God and strengthen our faith and understanding of the salvation given to us through God’s grace. The vine – Jesus, instructed us to worship with each other and to grow in our faith. He suggested that we form groups focused on a dominant viewpoint and not a team and its multiple viewpoints. We gather in a group to worship God, hear His word and receive the forgiveness of our sins through Christ our Lord and Savior. At times, we will support another branch when they need it and that branch will support us when we need it. No matter the situation, we must remain in the vine.

Mother’s Day

I debated about doing a piece on Mother’s Day; the day that Hallmark made. Before anyone takes offense, I feel the same about Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day. While my wife and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, we do recognize the other two days for each other. It always seems that the spouses take these days more seriously than the children do, until at least the time they are old enough to really know better and shop for themselves. Lisa and I were blessed with two awesome mothers of our own. They not only liked each other but they also liked their “in-law kids” too. Lisa’s mom likes to joke that she’s my favorite mother-in-law; she is. While my mother passed a few years ago, I know that she felt like she gained another daughter while Lisa’s mom gained another son. I don’t know that I could have dreamed of a better relationship. 

The quote from James reminded me of what a mother is, not only to her kids but to her spouse as well. As you read this, compare the actions of a good parent to those of a good leader and you will see, they are one in the same. A mother’s wisdom is pure and genuine, honest and full of love. No matter what happens, a child (regardless of age) will always seek a mother’s advice. A mother is peace-loving and considerate. She’s the one who always broke up the fights between brothers and sisters while seeking a solution that worked for everyone. Mothers taught us to share and taught us how to take care of someone who was hurt. A mother is submissive to the needs of the family, full of mercy and kind words (good fruit). 

Mothers showed us how to sacrifice and put others needs before our own. They deflected blame when we messed up and led the cheering crowd when we did well. Mothers never picked favorites (even though I know I was my mom’s favorite) and when they held your hand and looked into your eyes, you knew they meant everything they said. Great leaders, like all mothers, know how to do these things too. Mothers have earned a day just for themselves but they deserve it throughout the year, not just in May. 

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

The irony of this message is that its about Mother’s Day but it is based on the gifts that we have received from our Father in Heaven. This verse is a great reminder of how we are to act toward everyone. The wisdom from heaven was given to us through the writings of the bible. As you read/study the bible, you will see in the New Testament that each lesson shows us God’s pure way in the life of His Son, Jesus. 

Jesus then showed us His peace-making ability, how he was considerate to others; even those that opposed Him, submissive to the law of the land, demonstrated His mercy, goodness, impartiality and above all, His sincerity. Use these principles to live your life in all situations, which will please God. And your mom too.

The Whole Story

I watched a TV documentary a couple of weeks ago about Thomas Jefferson’s bible, entitled – The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. He took the bible and physically cut it apart to assemble the New Testament in chronical order leaving out parts that show Jesus was true man and true God – the miracles and the resurrection for example. It was another glimpse into Jefferson’s world view which is not my point. For me, the idea of cutting up the bible into a shorter version is just one way that people are trying to make sense of, “what does it mean?”

Many non-denominational churches don’t want to talk about our sinful nature and our need for redemption. They’d rather focus on the help we can get from God if we are faithful in prayer and performing good works. We miss a big part of the teachings of God, through Jesus and His disciples, if we selectively pick and choose parts of the bible – we miss the whole story! My attention is drawn to the verses below since they speak to the bigger “story” of the meaning of our faith. Please read these slowly and listen to what they are saying to you. The majesty of the bible is that you can read it over and over and come away with something new each time. If you cut away pieces and parts, you will miss God speaking directly to you.

Romans 8:22-30

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

JOHN 14:23-29

 23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.