FREE THEME WEEK
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
I find that this verse above is often misinterpreted in a way that says that every step that we take has been planned out by God, but this interpretation does not recognize the free will that God has gifted us.
God has this beautiful plan for our lives. He wants to see us succeed and no harm to come upon us and He wants to give us hope and a future. Part of that future and the hope that we can cling to is entering His perfect Kingdom and living with Him forever. However, God gives us the free will to choose how we are going to live our lives.
I think sometimes we can get so caught up in what exactly God wants for us to do with our lives, but ultimately He wants to see us making wise choices towards His coming Kingdom. Outside of accepting Christ, there is no one right path for your life. We all need to be living our lives for Him and making those choices that are going to help us grow closer to Him.
Within our everyday lives between school, our families, and our jobs that we are not taking the time that we need to search for God’s wisdom to make our decisions so that we can prosper the way that he wants us to prosper. We can become so focused on our fears, anxieties, and stress that we are not giving God the time or energy that he deserves. Instead we are putting it into these things that we should not be wasting our energy on. When you really let go and let God lead your life there is so much comfort and peace that can be felt.
(This week we have a free theme week and we look forward to hearing from various writers during the week. If you would like to write for one day we still happen to have some days available, please contact the editors at Grow16BR@gmail.com for more information.)
Earlier this year I was asked to be a part of the LHI Peru trip, which I gladly accepted after much prayer and consideration. I was not sure what to expect while on the trip, but I was so excited to see how God was going to use me and in what ways I was going to be able to touch the lives of the Peruvians, little did I know just how much God was going to work in my heart and all the things he would teach me throughout the week.
The Peruvian people do not take God’s word for granted. They sit and listen to Bible studies and sermons for hours on end, and until late into the night. When one of the ladies within the church heard that her translation of the Bible was not the original version that the early Church read, she wanted to learn Greek so that she would be able to read the Bible in the original language. This was also the same woman who was excited when she received new reading glasses, and the first thing she chose to read was her Bible. The excitement in her eyes and smile hit me hard, why do I not see this kind of attitude within my own community? What is it that could make us lack this same kind of excitement within our Christian lives?
What I noticed while in Peru was how dependent on God the whole community was. This was due to the amount of poverty they lived in and the fact that they have all of their trust in God to provide for them and protect them. I find that the reason we lack this is because we rely on ourselves more than we rely on God. We each need to examine our hearts and find this same excitement within. Even amongst the days where we think we need God the least, those are generally the days that we need him the most. We cannot forget about God during the good times because we need him just as much as we did in the bad times. He is the reason for those good times because he always provides for us and takes care of our many needs. When we forget to let God in, that is when the enemy comes in and distracts us away from our Father.
So I want to challenge you to search for that excitement within yourself. Remember that God wants us to follow him every day of the year, not just on the days that are convenient for us. Allow him to be a part of your everyday and continue to grow stronger in your faith.
We sometimes get the wrong thing in our mind when we think about gentleness or meekness. We associate meekness with timidity or with shyness. Today, we use the word as a negative character quality, but that’s not what Christ or Paul had in mind when calling on us to be meek. Instead, they are calling on us to have a quiet strength that we are capable of holding under control, even under provocation.
James calls on us to receive God’s word with meekness. It’s a central component to our ability to be faithful. Peter also writes that we should be able to convey our hope to others in meekness, and James tells us we should be living in meekness and wisdom. Our examples should be gentle. Teaching others should be approached with gentleness. Galatians says we can take a soft approach when standing firm in the truth, and this requires self-control. If we are going to stand firm in the truth under pressure while remaining gentle and meek, we have to develop self-control.
The last item listed in the qualities of spiritual fruit is self-control. These qualities begin with love and end with self-control. Love cascades through all of these qualities, and they all require a foundation of self-control. This is a capacity to restrain our own impulses so we might serve God and others. Whether we’re talking about faithfulness, patience, forgiveness, or any other quality of Spirit living, we require self-control. By contrast, the items Paul lists in Galatians as defining worldly living demonstrate a lack of control.
Romans tells us we should be transformed from this world through God’s renewal. Self-control allows us to overcome the sinful and self-destructive behaviors that can consume a life without control. When Paul says, in Galatians, that we are called to freedom, we are freed from the bonds created by worldly living, but we can’t grow this self-control by ourselves. We have to accept help from others. As we rejoice together and we sorrow together, we should also be helping each other grow. Ephesians tells us we are to work together to grow in maturity and be more like Christ. Self-control has to be self-contained, but it does not have to grow alone.
-Katie Beth Fletcher
Do you ever find yourself thinking “I’ll believe it when I see it?” It’s easy to slip into the mindset of doubt. We live in a broken world, and we may have gone through painful experiences that cause us to lose our trust in others. For this reason, faithfulness, a fruit of the Spirit, can be a challenging trait to possess. Faithfulness comes from a place of trust and loyalty. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is a confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” As a Christian, it is important to be faithful to God. It is one thing to simply believe in Him, but another to be faithful to Him. When we are truly faithful to God, this shapes the way we live. Faithfulness requires us to submit our ways to God.
Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” We are to be faithful to God, because He is faithful to us. In the Bible, the story of Abraham demonstrates the importance of faithfulness. Abraham and his wife Sarah struggled to trust God, but learned the value of faithfulness when they submitted to Him. For example, Abraham and Sarah waited many years for God to fulfill His promise of giving them a son. Because of her lack of faith, Sarah insisted upon Hagar, her maid, giving birth to her son. This resulted in pain and conflict. However, when Abraham and Sarah put their faith in God, Sarah was able to give birth to Isaac despite being past childbearing age. Ultimately, the story of Abraham shows how God blesses those who are faithful and trust in His plans.
So, how do we grow in our faithfulness? We can grow in our faithfulness by having a personal relationship with God. If we are truly faithful to Him and obey His commands, this will be evident in our lives. My challenge to you is this: Think about the ways you show your faithfulness to God. Are there things that are getting in the way of your faithfulness? What areas of your life have you not given over to Him? Through spending time in prayer, ask God to make these things clear to you, so that He can grow you in your faithfulness.
Some have referred to kindness and goodness as the twin fruits. Kindness and goodness are so closely related that sometimes it is not easy to distinguish between them. A kind person is also a good person; a good person is by nature a kind person. Both of these characteristics stem from love. Some have said that patience is suffering love; kindness is compassionate love; and goodness is ministering love.
Kindness is more about our attitude and goodness is more about the things we do for others. Some people are born with a kind, gentle personality. This may come natural to them. But others have to lean on the power of the Holy Spirit to help them be nice.
These characteristics which are produced in us by the Holy Spirit have to do with our relationships to others. We usually think of kindness as an expression of love from one person to another, and of goodness as a quality of being pure. It is striking that parents are forever telling their children to “be good,” but they never need to suggest the opposite to them. Being “bad” seems to come naturally.
Without the Holy Spirit within us, our nature is inclined toward that which is evil and bad. But the Holy Spirit produces in us kindness and goodness, helping us to minister to the world with the love of Jesus. What the world needs is Jesus—that means more love, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and caring generosity.
Patience is translated as forbearance in some translations of the Bible. Forbearance has a deeper meaning. It includes self-control, restraint, and tolerance, implying that we have a choice about how we response to God in our times of waiting. We can, for example, receive patience as a gift that helps us develop restraint or we can become resentful and anxious, bucking against the reality that we have very little control over our circumstances.
While giving in to our impatience can feel good in the moment, it often sends us spiraling downward into frustration—because even if we do send that email to check on the status of a job we applied for or to find out about the grades we’re waiting to be posted, the fact remains that we can’t do much to change the circumstances. We have a choice in moments of impatience: let Jesus cultivate our inner world or escape into destructive behaviors or attitudes.
So what can we do while we’re waiting to embrace the fruits of patience (self-control, restraint, and tolerance)? We can pray while we work. The world doesn’t stop while you’re waiting for something. There are things and people that still need your attention. Your own soul needs your attention too, as does your body. So, while you’re waiting, pray while you wait by focusing your attention on something you actually do have influence over. Make a date to go bowling with friends, clean your bathroom fastidiously, read a novel, or cook a new food from a different country. Patience is a virtue and a virtue can’t hurt you. So keep waiting. Work on what you can.
What is peace? We often define it in terms of what it isn’t—as in, it’s the absence of conflict or distraction or anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or disturbed. A nation is at peace when they’re not involved in any wars; a person is at peace when they feel relaxed and comfortable. But what if I told you that the biblical idea of peace sometimes means diving into conflict, choosing discomfort, and being disturbed?
“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14-16)
According to Ephesians, Jesus is our peace, and Jesus came to reconcile us both to God and to each other. And the biblical idea of peace is much broader than our modern understanding; it is not simply the absence of conflict but also the presence of harmony. It’s not ceasefire; it’s community. Sometimes, we get so caught up in seeking peace for ourselves that we create discord for others. Or we isolate ourselves from the problem, so that we can pretend like it doesn’t exist or isn’t relevant to us. But conflict avoidance is not peace.
We can trust Jesus to provide miracles, because Jesus is our peace. And while pursuing perfect harmony and reconciliation may be hard, it is far from hopeless. In fact the truth is just the opposite: peace is promised to us from God.
Joy is the foundation for a positive life. Our world lacks joy and has way too much fear, worry, discouragement, and depression these days. We need to fully trust God and have joy even in the hard moments and seasons of life. It we are not fully trusting our Father, then we will never be able to experience pure joy.
Biblical joy, the true joy, comes from filling the spiritual void with good relationships, mostly the intimate relationship with the One who is pure joy. Jesus put it this way: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5). That fruit includes much joy!
The Bible speaks much more often of joy than of being happy. “Hap” means chance and is the root of several words— happen, happening, haphazard (dependent on mere chance), hapless, happenstance (a chance circumstance) and happy.
Happiness is a glad feeling that depends on something good happening. God wants you to experience happy times (as long as God approves of what is happening). But His greater desire is that you have unconditional joy. Jesus said His joy would “remain in you” and “your joy no one will take from you” (John 15:11; John 16:22).
Think of joy as a strong foundation that supports a variety of healthy emotions, including happiness. The long-range evidence of joy is general gratitude, contentment, optimism, a sense of freedom and other positive attitudes.
The Holy Spirit produces these things in our life. It is important that we know and understand them well, so that we can apply them to our lives. When the fruit of the spirit is at work in our lives, amazing things happen. Your whole life blossoms and bears fruit. One of the most wonderful fruits of all is the giving and receiving of love.
The word love can mean many different things, as you can see from the many different dictionary definitions. We also find different kinds of love throughout the Bible, four of them specifically. Eros is the Greek word for sensual or romantic love. Even though the term is not found in the Old Testament, Song of Solomon vividly portrays the passion of erotic love. Storge is a term for love in the Bible that you may not be familiar with. This Greek word describes family love, the affectionate bond that develops naturally between parents and children, and brothers and sisters. Philia is the type of intimate love in the Bible that most Christians practice toward each other. This Greek term describes the powerful emotional bond seen in deep friendships, this is the most common type of love. Agape is the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. This term defines God’s immeasurable, incomparable love for humankind. It is the divine love that comes from God. Agape love is perfect, unconditional, sacrificial, and pure.
There are so many people who go through life without feeling human love. However, God’s plan is for every person to eventually experience His love flowing through them, so that each person can say “my cup runneth over with love.” The funny thing is that when people are trying to feel love they often forget to read the greatest book ever written about relationships, the Bible. The Bible reveals how we can experience love for God and people that exceeds human capability. The highest and purest form of God’s love is God’s divine and sublime love that He offers to share with us! The perfect example of the ultimate nature of God is, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). God wants to transform us so that our character is also defined by love.