Examine the Fruit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22 NASB

I love peaches. They are in season right now, so every week I buy some. When I make my choice, I don’t just blindly pick up any of them; I inspect them for blemishes, bruises, stage of ripeness and color. I don’t condemn the fruit I did not choose; I merely pass them up after examining their qualities.

You will know them by their fruits

Jesus said a lot about fruit in His teachings, using an analogy the people understood—good trees bear good fruit and bad trees produce blighted fruit. He was speaking of how we can discern if someone is bad or good using an agricultural metaphor. We must look at the fruit people produce by their actions.

Deceit cloaked in a façade

Today’s world is full of conflicting ideologies, proclamations, and pronouncements, some of which sound reasonable and good on the surface. Wrapped up in a veneer of mantras with which everyone would agree, we are often deceived into believing what we see is what we get. However, If one takes the time to scrutinize the fruit of these ideological trees, the pretense of desirability disappears. The Treasury Department trains its people to recognize counterfeit bills by studying the real. The truth does not need a facade, for it is genuine, much like a piece of furniture that is solid wood rather than pressed wood covered with a veneer.

Destruction and Chaos

Nightly videos of violence, destruction, looting, mayhem, and murder have convinced me that under the eroding pretense of caring, there is nothing but violence and hatred. Interestingly, in addition, these riots always start in the dark of night, in the shadows, for light exposes their evil deeds. The people they profess to care for are the ones suffering the most loss. Add to that the fact the English language has degenerated into one foul word used for every part of speech.

The Law

The laws are there to protect us, to render justice, yet the ones who are called to enforce the law are ridiculed, injured, and derided. The fruit of that is anarchy, an absolute rejection of authority. This fruit is the exact opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. If these people loved, violence would not be their fruit. They would work to solve problems by using the unique system of government we enjoy in the U.S., not acting like some third world country.

Our response

We cannot consume this bad fruit. We must be selective about ideas presented as truth. We need to research, examine every philosophy, and compare it to the plumb line of righteousness. If we do not, anarchy will produce its own fruit—tyranny.

LIGHT AND DARKNESS

“You are the world’s light—a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all…” Matthew 5:14-15a LB

Light is a common metaphor in the Bible. It is the natural contrast to darkness. Light illuminates, reveals and gives us understanding of murky concepts. At creation, the earth was formless and void, without light. There was no one to see or understand.  God commanded light to illuminate the earth before He created the sun, moon, and stars on the 4th day and man on the 6th day. If there had been life before then, it would have been a meaningless existence in the shadows. God called the light good; it separated light from darkness, so His creation could flourish and appreciate the difference.

Darkness

Even though we experience night and day through the cycles of the sun and moon, darkness has an added connotation—historically and biblically, it is associated with evil. Children instinctively feel uneasy in the darkness. They intuitively know that not being able to see clearly is threatening. As a child, I resisted going into my grandparent’s basement because the pull-down light was halfway into the room. After carefully descending the stairs I had to feel my way, while imagining all sorts of creepy crawlies on that dirt floor. Monsters lurked in that shadowy void. Turning on the light brought relief and yes, a little embarrassment at being afraid of nothing. When the light came on, I saw the truth of things.

World System

We live in a world system that thrives on the fear and panic of uncertainty. Additionally, those who plot nefarious deeds usually shroud them in the shadows, away from the light-revealing truth. When I was a child in Georgia, we would sneak out at night with a flashlight and uncover stones and rocks to reveal the hidden creatures. We would shriek and run away after getting some nasty surprises. We saw the truth.

Love and light

Light and love have a relationship with truth. Truth reveals the hidden things—the nefarious deeds the unrighteous like to hide. Those who practice evil hate the light for it exposes them. Love demands truth even when it is unpopular or brings criticism from others. God’s love is unselfish, undemanding, and seeks the other’s well-being even if rejected. Human nature resists disapproval. We dislike correction of an attitude or an act. We do not want our unrighteous deeds exposed, lest we must do something about them. Deny, reject, or repent—those are the choices when daylight shows up the dust bunnies in our lives.

Do not hide your light

Truth does exist. It is absolute, inviolable, and eternal. As Christians, we accepted that truth—Jesus affirmed to us He was the way, the truth, and the life. He fulfilled perfect righteousness on earth. He was the Light of men and those who accept Him are His lampstands in a shadowy world that relies on speculations and assumptions. We have the Light living in us, but often we fear ridicule, rejection, and persecution for shining it. We were all formerly darkness, but now we must shine a beacon to those who continue to stumble in the darkness. We are bound to expose those things shrouded in shadows and in so doing, help others find their way. It has nothing to do with condemnation but is about helping others discover the light.

Check out the stories of men and women of the bible who gravitated to God’s light and in so doing, advanced the scarlet thread of salvation for the world.  www.thescarletthreadseries.com

FEAR OR FAITH

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9 NASB

Fear is the opposite of faith

Joshua stood on the banks of the Jordan River viewing the fortified city of Jericho. He had just lost his mentor, Moses. Forty years before he witnessed the other ten spies who refused to enter the Promised Land because they were afraid. He and Caleb were the only ones to urge the people to take the land promised to them. I imagine he stared at the multitude of people waiting for his signal to move forward and wondered, Will they lose courage too? Yet the God who led them out of Egypt and through the forty-year consequence of their lack of faith now assures him: “I will be with you. Do not fear or be dismayed, believe Me.”

God is unchangeable

One of God’s attributes is His immutability. He never changes. He is the same yesterday, tomorrow and in the future. So, should His words to Joshua mean anything to us? The giants of Covid-19, riots, loneliness, loss of income, isolation, and anarchy challenge us. Can God deliver us? One thing God warned Joshua was His promises were conditional upon obedience. Do you think some of the Goliaths of our culture are too strong for Him? Or, do you believe He is omnipotent, sovereign, and powerful enough to raise Jesus from the dead if we honor Him with our obedience? Or, has our refusal to honor Him and obey Him rendered us defenseless?

Courage in the face of the unknown

God urged Joshua to be strong and courageous. The Hebrew words mean to bind, to hold fast in the face of a challenge. We face challenges in our nation, but nothing like the early settlers who left homes, families, fortune, and fear behind and forged ahead across this magnificent land. What about those of the greatest generation that answered their country’s call and fought against the giants of their time—despots, tyrants, genocidal zealots, and philosophies that ripped nations apart and took away freedom? We have never been a nation of fear, but I see fear’s insidious march upon our nation, particularly upon our youth, trampling faith and producing national impotence.

The Antidote

The antidote to dismay and the fear that beats us down, demoralizes us, and incites terror is faith. Odds against Joshua and the Israelites seemed insurmountable—strong fortified cities, better weaponry, and larger numbers, but because Joshua believed God and led the people, God performed miracles.

Fear Crushes our Spirit

Instead of feeling panic whenever we hear the latest statistics on COVID, or the destruction and disregard for lives and property we witness daily, we must take a stand and retake the land. Jericho, the first city Joshua met after crossing the Jordan, fell because all the people obeyed God. Think what could happen if we turned to Him rather than allow the latest expert dispenser of scary news crush us.

As for me and my house

Whenever I feel fear creeping into my heart, I pledge to extinguish its flames with faith. Joshua told his people, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” I will continue to take precautions against this unknown virus, but I refuse to let it destroy my confidence or my Constitutional freedoms. When I hear those who speak against our nation or tell lies to further their ideology, I will speak up. The God I serve is bigger than all my fears. He has overcome the world system. Christian, believe it!

Check out my books on www.thescarletthreadseries.com  

I Am Proud to be an American

Lee Greenwood’s anthem, “I’m Proud to be an American” recently made the rounds of Facebook and YouTube in commemoration of July 4th. Every time I hear it my heart swells with pride and gratitude for the blessings God has given to this country. Past 4th of July celebrations swirl in my mind—picnics, fireworks, patriotic songs, chasing fireflies, and flags everywhere. Happy memories of a time past.

A new normal?

This 4th was more subdued—no family, no fireworks, and the threat of a disease no one seems to fathom. The televised onslaught of mobs defacing and tearing down statues, rioting, blocking roads, and screaming epithets at anyone who disagreed with them brought tears to my eyes. Such a contrast to carefree outings with families, children with sparklers signing their names, and the tasty food. Many Americans, like my husband and I, felt appalled at the unchecked violence and hatred. We love this country, not because it is perfect, but because our system of government is flexible enough to remedy societal ills without violence. Americans used to be able to disagree with each other without retaliation.

Remember

Christ gave His assessment of the churches in Asia to John, one of His disciples. The first church, Ephesus, had started out well, but had forgotten her first love, the things she did at first. Christ told this church to remember her past and repent.  America too needs to remember who she was. She was a light shining on a hill, a beacon to the downtrodden, and a place where freedom was not just a longing, but a fact. Blood, sweat, and tears of all races secured America. She became a great nation because her people understood sacrifice and hard work. Americans took risks, showed courage in expanding her borders to the west coast, and did not expect instant reward.

Repent

Some Americans seem to have forgotten their past and the grit that made this country great. They demand respect but do nothing to earn it. Many are moving toward a hybrid socialism/Marxism that supplies everything but opportunity unless you are one of the elite hierarchy or race du jour. America has always been diverse, having welcomed people from all nations and cultures. However, America cannot stand if her diversity becomes an obstacle to the freedom of every individual.

History

History is the story of people whose desires, emotions, and aspirations are no different than ages past. To ignore our history is to wipe out the accomplishments, and yes, sometimes mistakes, to our own detriment. A people who do not know who they are turn out to be a people despoiled. Eventually, a benevolent despot or a tyrant must bring about order. History records events without commentary. It is up to us to learn from history, not destroy it.

Hope

If we genuinely believe that God loves all nations, nationalities, races, and creeds enough to provide a way of salvation, then we must work together with Him to return our nation to a place God can bless again. Unity is essential for a free and productive society—loving our neighbor is the first step to making America great again.

Being Woke is not for Me

I have lived enough years to see numerous cultural trends launched upon young malleable minds—Woodstock, the sexual revolution with its free love and the ultimate consequence of sexually transmitted diseases, Viet Nam protests, and the civil rights movement just to mention a few. Social change does not come easily, nor is it always right. Spontaneous movements often flare up and burn out quickly, but outside forces fuel and exploit the idealistic and inexperienced youth.

Take the “woke generation” as the latest example. On the surface it sounds good, like “pro-choice” or “Black Lives Matter.” Of course, all humans want choice to live however they wish, and black lives do matter, but not to the exclusion of innocent children or other races. In both cases, emotions direct the action, not logic.

Inherent in the term “woke” is a feeling of superiority, like only privileged people are aware of social injustice. The movement is intrinsically fraught with generalization, exactly the thing they say they are against. Even the term is exclusionary, giving its adherents a sense of well-being and self-importance. Conformity and groupthink overcome reason. Being “woke” appeals to the pride lurking in all of us.

As a Christian, I find “wokeness” disturbing on a spiritual level. The new “woke” culture appears to me to be a neo-Gnosticism—salvation can only come through special knowledge, only imparted to a few. The rigidity of the “woke culture” reminds me of dogma often found in cults. “If you disagree with me, you are inferior and destined to the dust-heap of history.” And they say generalization is bad? The hypocrisy is palpable.  By looking at the world through a microscope searching for “micro-aggressions” from those they wish to marginalize, they become what they say they hate.

Am I condoning social injustice? Absolutely not! We are all equal in God’s eyes, no matter what color, nationality, or creed. We as Christians should be about doing what we can to change inequities, not as a group, but as individuals. Jesus, when asked about the greatest commandments answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…the second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the prophets.” (Matthew 37, 39-40 NASB)

America is not perfect, but at least we still have the freedom to choose how we treat people—our neighbors. We have come a long way because Christian principles founded our nation and has energized change. Our founders were themselves not perfect, but we inherited their wisdom through our Constitution. Inequities will always exist. It is up to us to exercise our faith through works of kindness and charity, not aligning ourselves with a movement that may or may not be as pure as it sounds.

Exchanging Truth for a Lie

“The past was erased; the erasure was forgotten; the lie became the truth.” George Orwell

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus at His trial, “What is truth?” The irony of that scene shows the truth stood right before him, but he did not recognize it. Later, the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans about the world system exchanging the truth for a lie, and refusing, like Pilate to see the truth. As a consequence, they worshiped the creation rather than the Creator.

Despising the truth leads to passion ruling our lives–hatred, murder, stealing, envy, strife and malice–the trailblazers to the inability to reason and enslavement to improper things. The past two-thousand-plus years have not taught humankind much, so we seem doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Watching the defacing and removal of statues, the burning, looting and lawlessness we view on the news leads us to understand truth is terminally ill. Erasing our history will not make things better, for history simply records human nature. America is not perfect, nor will she ever be, because its citizens’ hearts are prone to wickedness, the problem for all humankind no matter what color. The ancients considered the heart to be the seat of emotions and will. Until hearts change, erasing the facts will do nothing. Laws simply define evil, place protections around the most vulnerable, and bring order to the chaos of everyone doing what is right in their own eyes.

When Pilate rejected the truth of Jesus, he allowed a mob to crucify Him. Washing his hands did nothing to absolve him from the guilt of his action/inaction. Today, each of us has a choice. Accept the reality of eternal truth or wash our hands in indifference. Statues erected to commemorate people and events are the reality of history. Right or wrong, they stand as sentinels of events.

Giving hearty approval to these acts of destruction not only put our nation precariously close to ruin, it also fuels the fires of insatiable passion. America can be better, there is no doubt of that, but a reasonable person looks to the Constitution to make meaningful changes peaceably and in an orderly fashion without violence. Lawlessness rejects truth and brings anarchy, the opposite of truth and righteousness. America, wake up before truth is replaced by something we will all regret.