Monthly Archives: December 2012

Fruit of the Spirit: Honesty

Tea ~ Decadent

Right now you are thinking 1 of 2 things:  1) “What in the world is a Fruit of the Spirit?” or 2) You are trying to recall the song that you learned as a kid that helped you remember the 9 Fruits of the Spirit that include:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in Galatians 5:22-23.

“Wait, honesty isn’t one of them!” You’re absolutely right. It’s not. I should really just quit there and call it a day, but have you ever thought about why honesty is not a Fruit of the Spirit?

I used to take pride & joy in being honest and have often been described as an honest person. But what does that really mean? The definition of honest is “Free of deceit and untruthfulness; sincere.” A synonym of honesty is “integrity.” Integrity sounds lovely, I’ll take a scoop of that (*adds feather to cap*)! Oddly enough, Scripture mostly uses the word honest in terms of weights & measures. Being measured fairly and accurately. And then a couple of places referring to spies or honest men, or honest men posing as spies. But there are a couple of versions that praise honesty:

“Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth.” – Proverbs 16:13

“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” – Proverbs 24:26

And that’s about all there is to say about honesty in the Word. Was I surprised that honesty was not more elevated? Yes, but then again, God has been doing some major surgery on my heart and motivations in 2012, and I’m so thankful He is revealing this one to me. The way I have seen honesty manifest itself apart from God in our culture has been based in judgement (see confession #1), pride (see confession #2) or both.

*Confession #1*:  When I was in Middle/High School, I decided I was going to be honest with a friend of mine and tell her that a part of her body looked chubby…and then try and save myself by saying that it was cute. Was I honest? Yes. Was it hurtful to her? Absolutely. She was rightfully mad at me and I’m pretty sure our friendship was never the same again. (If you’re that girl and you are reading this, again, I am SO sorry!)

*Confession #2*:  I played volleyball in college and was a stupid freshman once just like all freshmen are, but don’t think they are. As a freshman athlete, we were required to do a certain number of hours in a room in the Academic Services building each week. Volleyball players were required to do more hours per week than any other sport at our university:  15! That’s as many hours as I spent in a classroom! I think the next number of hours for another sport was 10 and the average was probably 8 or so. Then again, our volleyball program had and I believe still has the longest streak of the American Volleyball Coaches Association GamePlan/Team Academic Award of any Division 1 program of any sport in the country, 14 years. Being a self-motivated, 4.0 student, I HATED “study tables.” They were mostly distracting because no one else wanted to be there to actually study and it easily turned into social hour with the other athletes.

One particular week, I happened to be 15 minutes short on my study table hours because I didn’t realize that the Academic Services building closed early on Fridays my first semester. PANIC!!! If you were short on your hours, there were serious repercussions in our program, including getting benched. 2 of my teammates were also short and we were going to get our last 15, 30 and 45 minutes of study hours done Friday afternoon, until we got there and the doors were locked. I called my advisor, apologized and asked what we could do to finish our hours. Could we go to the library and have the librarian sign off that we were there studying? My advisor was not nearly as frantic about the situation as I was, it was an honest mistake. She ok’d my plan and we all breathed a sigh of relief…or at least we thought so. Until Sunday came around and our coach examined the study hour logs and did the math. He called us into his office after a long road trip and sat us down to discuss the situation. I wasn’t nervous as I had received permission from my academic advisor to correct our mistake and still finish our hours.

Unfortunately, our coach did not see it the same way. I don’t think I had ever seen him so angry. At the time, he felt that we had not only made a mistake, but that we tried to cover it up. It was my idea, so I received most of the heat. And then… he called me a liar. I’m not sure what came over me at that point. I looked him square in the eyes, raised an index finger of disagreement and said: “Do NOT call me a liar!” He may or may not have had steam coming out of his ears, again, rightfully so. Any grace or mercy that might have been extended our way for our mistake was gone in that moment because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and the pride in my integrity and honesty got the better of me. All 3 of us were suspended for 2 matches, were not even allowed to be on the bus with our teammates for that road trip, had additional study table hours on top of our 15 the following week and we had to run 1 full court suicide for each minute we were short:  15 for me, 30 and 45 for my teammates. It was a rough week. One of my fellow suspendees and I still talk about that day in coach’s office and relive the moment in laughter. I’m glad it’s funny now because it surely wasn’t then, though I certainly appreciated the weekend off to go home and recalibrate my attitude.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:15-20

Scripture is so clear that if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, there will be good fruit in our lives. A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. Do people around you recognize you by your fruit? Some of those bad and good fruits are outlined in Galatians 5:

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (*law of the Old Testament; you are free in Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit).

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” Galatians 5: 13-26

The Fruits of the Spirit are listed below and in how many verses they are mentioned in the Bible (NIV):

Love or Loving — 517 verses
Joy or Joyful — 225 verses
Peace or Peaceful — 239 verses
Patience or Patient — 34 verses
Kindness or Kind — 163 verses
Goodness or Good — 582 verses
Faithfulness or Faithful — 137 verses
Gentleness or Gentle — 23 verses
Self-Control – – 6 verses

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If we were to rank these in order from most important to least (though they are all important!) based on repetition, they would be:  Goodness, Love, Peace, Joy, Kindness, Faithfulness, Patience, Gentleness and Self-Control. In many of the verses that include the word honest or honesty, goodness is right alongside it. Goodness and Love dominate them all as we are first and foremost called to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. If we are doing that, we are experiencing peace and joy:  “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

If we have these Fruits of the Spirit in our lives, honesty will follow. We cannot put the cart before the horse. As I have learned the hard way (and can almost guarantee we have all wanted to put our foot in our mouth multiple times!), honesty is without merit if it is not accompanied by goodness, love, patience, kindness, gentleness and even self-control. Just because something is true or honest does not mean we are supposed to say it or share it with someone, revealing their flaws, faults or sin in their lives. If we are truly seeking the Holy Spirit, He will be faithful in using us and giving us discernment in what comes out of our mouths. We need to seek God in prayer before getting into a touchy subject or your honesty may not be received well, even if what you are saying is true. Scriptural TRUTH trumps honesty and worldly truth, every time. Honesty can easily be self-seeking and come from a place of pride or envy to poke or prod others into submission. And what you are really doing is elevating yourself and putting yourself on a throne that is only worthy of our GOOD and LOVING GOD.

So why does our culture hold honesty in such high esteem? I don’t really know anymore. For me, I’ll be looking for Fruit of the Spirit in my life as honest weights and measures of my heart and relationship with God instead of our world’s judgemental measure of honesty. I refuse to trade what the world and people want and expect me to be for who God has made me to be and who He is molding me to be. It’s not worth the expense. Honest.

What Does Christmas Mean to You?

Tea ~ Lonestar Chai

I’ve really been thinking about what Christmas means to me the last couple of weeks. I turned the Pandora Christmas music station on about a week before Thanksgiving while cleaning my house to host my family for the big meal. There’s something about Christmas music that gets people in a good mood. It stirs a desire to make hot tea or cocoa & curl up by the fire or to decorate your Christmas tree with ornaments from your childhood. We just got our first Christmas tree ever, and this is our 6th Christmas together as a married couple. We weren’t boycotting it, we were either out of town, remodeling or living with friends who had one. It never was a big deal to us, but I was super excited to go get a tree together last Friday!

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Have you ever thought about the lyrics to some of your favorite tunes? You may find yourself humming them all through the holiday season — White Christmas, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), Silent Night, Joy to the World, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town (which sometimes gets played back to back by different artists on Pandora, DAH! Make it stop!), and no matter what time of year it is, it’s always too early to hear Paul McCartney’s “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time.”

What do these songs say or proclaim? Some of them reminisce on Christmases gone by and reflect on those here or to come. Others CELEBRATE time with family, food or gifts with wonderful melodies and jingle bells. But what nearly all of them have in common is SEEING. Songs & stories of the Christmas season center around “visions of sugar plums,” spying on “Mommy kissing Santa Claus,” and “dreaming of a White Christmas,” “a beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight, walking in (that) Winter Wonderland.”

But why is seeing so important at Christmas? What does this 1 of our 5 senses represent in the month of December? For me and a lot of other people, seeing is believing. It is the fulfillment of promises. Our hope and waiting has not be in vain. There is no separation from you and that person, place or thing you have been longing for (sometimes the other 11 months out of the year).

My thoughts go to a chapter/scene in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott in which (the March family) mother, Marmee, and her 4 daughters are preparing Christmas dinner with extended family and friends. Her husband has been away at war for many months and was injured and hospitalized recently. The girls miss their father dreadfully and fear for his health and safety during these tough times of the American Civil War. But their prayers have been answered! Father surprises his family on Christmas and comes home to them, safe & sound. To say that Marmee and the girls were overjoyed would be an understatement. The youngest, Amy, leaps and grasps his leg, sliding all the way down to his boot, squeezing it tightly. That is more than enough for her.

Of course receiving letters from Father to reassure his family of safety is lovely. But seeing is believing. It is knowing. It is to BEHOLD with your own eyes! There is no need to trust someone else’s account or experience. Gosh, that fills me with awe! This Christmas feels different to me. And I think it’s because I am different. I am craving and aching to behold Jesus more than I ever have. I am itching to focus on God’s promise to us this Advent Season, a baby. I want to bow in worship and glorify him, who is worthy of all praise. Another amazing musical work comes to mind, Handel’s Messiah, which I was fortunate enough to perform in college. This is pulled directly from Isaiah 9:6:

“For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

This is God’s promise to us. A promise of a Savior, the Messiah!

baby jesus crop

“6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:6-12

A baby born to a 13-year-old virgin girl. God’s promises fulfilled! Until Jesus was born, we had to trust that God would provide a way to end our separation from Him. We were waiting…and longing. This is still so amazing to me, the miracles that have happened to free me. I still struggle with comprehending God’s love for us. How could He love me that much??? For this Christmas season, Santa doesn’t compare to Jesus. I don’t care if I see snow or, kiss under mistletoe, or open a single gift. There is only 1 Christmas past that means anything to me and I intend to spend the next 20 days reflecting and reminiscing on the birth of Christ. He is more real and alive than any tradition or song. My words do not do Him justice. But if you seek Him, you will see Him. And seeing is believing. “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” John 14:6-7

God wants us to see and behold, that’s why He sent us His Son. He doesn’t give us false hope, He keeps His promises. Always.

Oh come let us adore Him!

If you’d also like to focus on Jesus this Advent Season, follow along with me & the rest of my church each day at Beautiful Advent.