Taking Up The Cross

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-26; ESV).

After watching “Letters“, a movie about Mother Teresa and her devotion to serving the poor in Calcutta, India, and “Hillsong: Let Hope Rise“, a documentary about the rise of the Australian megachurch and its amazing worship band, I was once again reminded of the heavy cost associated with following Jesus.

Though Scripture teaches me about how much the disciples sacrificed in following Christ, often to the point of a horrific death, seeing modern day examples of Christians “taking up their cross” speaks powerfully. Mother Teresa gave up a comfortable sheltered life in a convent to spend her days in the filth and disease of an Indian slum. The Hillsong worship band members sacrifice comfort, sleep, financial gain, and irretrievable time with their spouses and children to connect people around the world to God through worship.

Even though I have not been called to the extreme service and sacrifice of someone like Mother Teresa or the Hillsong band, I find myself complaining regularly about where God has me at this season in my life – doing laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and chauffeuring my nine-year-old son to doctor’s appointments for his various health issues. Yet what is evident in the examples of Mother Teresa and Hillsong is the power that is released when God’s people willingly offer themselves as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1) fully submitted to the will of God.

Oh, that the minuscule sacrifices I make would bring such a testimony and give glory to God! I pray that God would forgive my arrogance. Who am I to tell the Creator of the Universe what his purpose for my life should be?

Beloved Warrior, on this Good Friday may the Holy Spirit’s power come upon you to take up your cross and fulfill the Lord’s calling on your life, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13; NIV).

Enjoy this song by Hillsong!

Tell Your Heart to Beat Again

Danny Gokey’s song “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” has recently been the song playing in my head when I wake up. Hearing praise music in your mind is a wonderful way to start the day! But why is this particular song the one I’ve been waking up to almost every day lately?

Perhaps the Holy Spirit is trying to tell me that it’s time to stop nursing my wounds over the lack of response for my recently published book Valiant Warrior and for this blog. In addition, earlier this year I started a graduate program in ministry – something I had been praying about and wanting to do for years. However, when a series of unanticipated events demanded my time and attention, school proved to be too much for me and I had to drop my classes. I was ready to close the door on my dream of studying theology and writing Bible studies, but my dream just doesn’t want to die.

Warriors, we all go through periods when our hopes are dashed, our dreams destroyed, and our spirits broken. After mourning these losses, God encourages us to “tell our hearts to beat again”. If we trust in Jesus, there is always hope. No matter how far we’ve been knocked down, God can and will minister to us and give us the courage to get back up again. However, there must be willingness on our part to do so.

When Jesus visited the pool in Jerusalem, he saw a lame man who had come to the pool seeking healing. It was believed that “an angel would go down into the pool from time to time and stir up the water. Then the first one who got in after the water was stirred up recovered from whatever ailment he had” (John 5:4 HCSB). After learning that the man had been an invalid for 38 years, Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well (John 5:6). I particularly like the way Jesus poses this question in the ASV: “Wouldest thou be made whole?”

The man explained that because he had no one to help him into the pool when the water is stirred up, someone else always gets there ahead of him (John 5:6-7). Accepting no excuses, Jesus told the man to “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8 NIV). The Bible tells us that the man was cured at once; “he picked up his mat and walked” (John 5:9).

Warriors, it is never too late for us to take up our mats and walk. Our God is a God of restoration.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

I pray that whatever disappointment and discouragement we face we would be valiant and find the courage to once again get up and walk.

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)

 

 

Sound Theology from a Second Grader

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.

Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” (John 9:1-11)

This morning I shared with my eight-year-old son, Noah, what I read in John 9 during my devotional time. It was the account of Jesus healing the blind man by spitting on the ground, making mud with his saliva, and putting it on the blind man’s eyes. I wondered aloud why Jesus would have to make a mud concoction out of his spit and put it on the eyes of the blind man in order for the man to regain his sight. Why didn’t Jesus just touch the man’s eyes and enable him to see? Noah’s wise response to my question blew me away! He explained, “Jesus always did something weird so that people would have to trust him”.

After considering Noah’s insightful comment, I realized he was spot on. The blind man demonstrated faith first by allowing Jesus to rub mud made with spit on his eyes, and then by obeying Jesus’s command to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. How ridiculous the blind man must have felt going to the pool with mud covering his eyes! Yet he was rewarded for his faith by the restoration of his vision.

My son’s observation brought to mind other instances in the Bible when Jesus required a demonstration of faith for healing. In Luke 17, Jesus encountered ten lepers as he was going into a village on his way to Jerusalem. The lepers “stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’” (Luke 17:12b-13). Before they were even healed, Jesus instructed them to show themselves to the priests. The lepers were cleansed as they went. Imagine the tremendous faith the lepers must have had to make their way to the priests to be declared clean before Jesus healed them! When one of the healed lepers came back to thank and praise Jesus, Jesus told the man, “…your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19; emphasis mine).

In another Bible account, when the Roman centurion’s highly valued servant was at death’s door, Jesus went to the centurion’s house. Before Jesus reached the house, the centurion’s friends met Jesus and passed along the centurion’s message to him:

“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (Luke 7:6b-8).

The Bible says that Jesus marveled at the things the centurion said because not even in Israel had Jesus found such faith. The centurion’s friends returned to the house to find the servant well.

So why does Jesus do “weird” things (no irreverence intended) that require us to demonstrate our faith? It’s simple: Faith pleases Jesus.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29; emphasis mine)

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy (1 Peter 1:8).

The Lord speaks to me in so many ways. Today I was reminded of an important spiritual truth from one of my favorite people – my amazing second grade son.

 

A Meaningful Sacrifice

Our church recently launched a financial campaign called “Freedom” with the goal of eradicating its debt. The church staff made frequent mention of the term “sacrificial giving”, and my sense was that many in the congregation were unclear as to how this concept applied to them individually. Sacrificial giving was certainly a confusing subject for me personally as well. What exactly does sacrificial giving mean? Is it something you do until it hurts? Does it always involve pain? Is God only satisfied if we’ve given more than we can do cheerfully? Does sacrificial giving only pertain to finances, i.e. can people also give through other means (e.g. performing service, giving their time, sharing their non-monetary resources, etc.)?

For answers to these questions, I turned to Scripture. And I discovered that the Bible has a lot to say about sacrifice and what makes it meaningful. The message throughout the Bible is that what God desires more than sacrifice is our worship, obedience, sincerity, and an attitude of humility and of devotion to him. Religious acts, though well-intentioned, mean nothing if our hearts are not right before the Lord. As Proverbs 15:8 explains:

The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked,
    but the prayer of the upright pleases him. (NIV)

When God commanded King Saul to “attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them”, Saul disobeyed by sparing the Amalekite King Agag and keeping the best Amalekite livestock. Saul tried to justify his disobedience by claiming that his soldiers took the sheep and cattle as sacrificial offerings for God, but the prophet Samuel rebuked him:

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22; emphasis mine)

Before I gave my heart to Jesus, I tried to earn God’s love and absolve the guilt I felt from living a sin-riddled life by singing in my church choir. There were many Sunday mornings when I was singing in the choir with a hangover. In fact, during one church service I was so hungover that I had to sit down in the middle of singing a song because I thought I was going to faint and/or throw up. This was quite embarrassing as I stood in the front row of the choir! Would I consider my service an acceptable sacrifice, an aroma “pleasing to the Lord” (Leviticus 1:9b)? Of course not!

In addition to my obedience, the Lord also wants me to offer true repentance and humility as my sacrifice rather than outward actions:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17; emphasis mine)

It’s not my offerings and religious rituals that necessarily need examining, but rather my motive in doing them. Am I loyal to the Lord? Am I worshiping him out of a heart of love? Furthermore, do my dealings with other people adequately reflect a heart submitted to him? The Bible teaches us that above any offerings or sacrifices we could bring him, the Lord wants us to demonstrate mercy and justice:

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
    and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)

With what shall I come before the Lord
    and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:6-8; emphasis mine)

Christ provided the ultimate example of sacrifice. He gave himself as a perfect offering for our sin, and his attitude in doing so was one of supreme mercy, humility, obedience, loyalty and devotion to the Father. The Apostle Paul explains that when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.’” (Hebrews 10:5-7; emphasis mine)

Since Christ was the only perfect and acceptable sacrifice for sin, what kind of offering can we now possibly bring to God? The best answer is everything. 100%. All that we have, all that we are. In response to God’s mercy, love, grace, power, wisdom, provision, and glory, we offer ourselves as living sacrifices “holy and pleasing to God – this is [our] true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1b).

So does sacrifice involve pain? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. Offering ourselves as living sacrifices means denying ourselves, laying down our own desires, and putting others first. Jesus warned his followers about the self-denial required to follow him when he said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

On the other hand, dearly beloved warriors, the joys of following Jesus far outweigh any pain or discomfort. Some of the many benefits we enjoy by living God’s will include fellowship with the Creator of the Universe, salvation, eternal life, forgiveness, a moral compass, purpose, guidance, meaning, fellow believers to walk through life with, peace that transcends all understanding, adoption as God’s children, our name in the book of life, and freedom from earthly pursuits. Is sacrifice difficult? Most definitely. But is it worth it? Absolutely!

Father in Heaven, I pray that my life would be a pleasing and acceptable offering to you. Please help me in the areas of my life where I’m weak and selfish, where I’m not taking up my cross. I need your help, Lord! But I am willing that you should have all of me, to your glory always.

Enjoy Casting Crown’s Life Song

 

 

 

 

 

A Bold Prayer

Lord, I have heard of your fame;bold prayer little girl and mom
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
   in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2; NIV)

The church we recently started attending adopted the above verse as its mission statement. My husband and I participated in an introductory class offered by the church that explains its history and values, and our small table group was asked to discuss our reactions to the Habakkuk verse. The boldness of the prophet prayer, which, in my opinion, borders on audacity, impresses me tremendously. Habakkuk had the nerve to ask God to perform the same types of miracles he performed during the Jews’ captivity in Egypt — bringing pestilence and plagues upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians, freeing the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, parting the sea, and destroying Pharaoh and his army.

I love Habakkuk’s heart! He prayed boldly and confidently to the Lord. The prophet knew what God was capable of, and he wasn’t afraid to ask the Lord to repeat his awesome deeds in the prophet’s day. Habakkuk also knew that all of the glory would be God’s as no human power could possibly take credit for these wonders. And now my church prays for God to again renew his deeds in our time. Sure, maybe thousands of years ago God performed miracles on a monumental scale quite regularly, but in today’s day and age?

The Bible gives us another example of a bold prayer. This popular prayer is often referred to as the Prayer of Jabez:

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. (1 Chronicles 4:10)

“Bless me and enlarge my territory!” Who among us would dare to make such a grand request in the modern day? Jabez could make this bold prayer because he recognized that God wanted to bless him. In addition, Jabez wanted to increase his sphere of influence not only for himself but for God, and he wanted God to be on his side. What about us? Do we recognize that God wants to bless us? Do we pray because we want God to be on our side, and because we want to grow his kingdom?

Scripture clearly demonstrates that God is ready and waiting to hear our prayers and grant our bold requests. As Jesus explained:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:12-14; emphasis mine)

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:21-22: emphasis mine)

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:7-8; emphasis mine)

The Lord encourages us to pray boldly. God wants to be glorified, and it honors God and bears witness to him when our lives produce fruit. Why, then, “since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19) shouldn’t we “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16; KJV)? We need only to pray in faith, according to God’s will, and in Jesus’s name.

Warrior, if you’re like me, perhaps you haven’t given God the credit he deserves. Maybe you’ve underestimated him, or you haven’t felt worthy of asking for a demonstration of his power. No more! Let’s begin right now to pray boldly and fearlessly! For example, I am going to change my wimpy prayer of “Lord, I’m so tired. Please give me strength to get through this day” to “Lord, I pray for a complete and total healing from Fibromyalgia”. And instead of saying “God, if you see any use for me, please let me help just one person”, I might pray “Lord, use me in a powerful way to serve others and to draw them closer to you”. And rather than simply asking God to protect my family, I will pray that the Lord “rebuke Satan and his minions, and allow nothing but the Spirit of God and the love of God upon them”. See the difference?

My bold prayer for you is that the Lord’s power will be evident in your life, that his answers to your prayers would richly bless you but also give him glory and further his kingdom.

The Lord is proving to me daily that he is more than I could ever dream or understand. Enjoy More Than You Think I Am by Danny Gokey!

Stay Tuned…

Evil is definitely not one of my favorite subjects to talk about. Nevertheless, the topic has been weighing very heavily on me of late. I feel inundated and surrounded by its effects! In my almost forty-seven years of life, I’ve observed the darkness within man’s heart on a variety of levels. Global scale evil results in wars, genocides and atrocities. Terrorism produces the death of innocent civilians by suicide bombers, the downing of passenger planes, and the murder of people in shopping malls, movie theaters, schools and restaurants. The entire world witnesses these events, but the evil that pervades countries and groups also exists in individual hearts. Many wicked deeds are performed on a much smaller scale or privately – children are molested and abused in the secret places of their own homes or even in their churches, married people solicit prostitutes, individuals devastate the lives of others by stealing their identity, etc.

Most folks would much rather talk about God’s love and mercy than about sin and God’s wrath. Nevertheless, discussion about evil and its consequences is necessary and serious – deadly serious, in fact, to God.

Several months ago, I began reading J.I. Packer’s book Knowing God, but I put my reading on hold until I could catch up on some other projects. I finally picked up the book again this week, and, lo and behold, the chapter I had left my bookmark in was entitled, “The Wrath of God”. I find that God leads me to read or hear something exactly when my heart is open to receive it, and this was definitely one of those times. As I watched the news for the latest updates on the terrorist attacks in Paris, I was talking with God and expressing my concern to him about the evil that is so prevalent in our world. I was reminded in Packer’s book about God’s wrath toward his enemies and how, once his wrath is unleashed, his foes will not escape unpunished.

In the Bible, the prophet Nahum warns of the LORD’s coming anger against the wicked city of Nineveh:

The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and dries it up; he makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade. The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it. Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him. The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of [Nineveh]; he will pursue his foes into darkness. Whatever they plot against the LORD he will bring to an end; trouble will not come a second time. (Nahum 1:2-9; NIV; emphasis mine)

In these verses, God both comforts the good people and strikes terror into the hearts of the evil. Make no mistake about it: Our God is a just and righteous God! We may not always see justice served in our lifetime, but rest assured everyone will one day stand in judgement. Paul emphasized this truth in his second letter to the Thessalonians:

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.  (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; emphasis mine)

It may sound like I’m taking comfort in the knowledge that the wicked will be punished. On the contrary, I do not revel in the punishment and destruction of others. Instead, I feel deep, deep sadness for those who never come to know God in this life. The reality that the only way some will ever know and experience God will be through his wrath grieves me. For this reason, I pray for God to soften the hearts of men, and replace the evil that lies therein with a true repentance and a desire for his love and mercy.

Though I know God and try to obey him, I recognize that evil and wickedness also reside in my own heart. It may not always manifest itself in blatant outward actions such as murder or theft. But as the Lord who searches me and knows my heart can attest, the ugliness within me manages to creep up regularly. For this reason, I must focus not so much on the evil in others but on what needs to be changed in me.

If you are as appalled and disgusted by the wickedness in the world as I am, take comfort in knowing that the Lord will have the final say. Stay tuned, beloved Warriors! God is mercifully slow to anger, but “the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished”. When you feel distraught and frightened by the wickedness of man, remember that “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him”.

There is Power in the Name of Jesus, Friends!

Reference:
Packer, J.I. Knowing God. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1973.

The Power of Margin

Within days after making our recent cross-country move from California to Tennessee, a friend from back in California persisted in calling me. When her number popped up on my caller ID yet again, I thought to myself, “Why does she keep bothering me? Doesn’t she know I don’t have time to chit chat right now?” My negative and ungrateful thoughts immediately convicted me. After all, having a friend who cares about me and wants to know how I’m doing is a blessing! Could I really not take a moment to honor someone by sharing a few minutes of my time with her? What would please the Lord more: taking time to nurture relationship with one of His children, or filling up every waking moment of my time with organizing, unpacking and running errands? It occurred to me that I was making myself so busy with my to-do list that I wasn’t allowing any “margin” in my time.

Margin. It’s a word I’ve been hearing a lot lately, and it’s become my mantra in this unnecessarily busy season of my life. Most of us are familiar with the definition of margin as “the space around the printed or written matter on a page”. However, another definition of margin perhaps better explains the term as I’m referring to it. Margin may also be defined as “an amount allowed or available beyond what is actually necessary”, or “a limit in condition, capacity, etc., beyond or below which something ceases to exist, be desirable, or be possible”.

Though I’d heard the term margin in this context before, I never thought of it as a concept I needed to apply in my own life until I learned about it in Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study, Breathe: Making Room for Sabbath. Then my pastor mentioned margin in one of his messages. I know that when God is trying to tell me something, He continues to bring it up in a variety of settings until I take note.

I admit that there is very little margin in my life at the present time. The lack of margin is apparent in the way my stress level goes through the roof when someone asks me to go out for lunch or coffee or to take on a minor service commitment. I freak out because I just don’t know where I’m going to find the time! Another example of my need for margin presented itself during last week’s church service. Our pastor informed the congregation that the church’s weekly offerings are falling far short of what’s needed to cover weekly costs. I wanted to help, but unfortunately I have nothing to give. Guess why? No margin in my finances. From month to month I strap myself by spending my paycheck before I even receive it. I have left no margin for giving gifts, tithing, or contributing to important and worthy causes. Every month my paycheck is already spent to pay the credit card bill I racked up the month before.

The idea of leaving “blank space” in my life for God to speak to me, guide me, and direct me greatly appeals to me and is a necessary practice in my Christian walk. In order to honor the Lord when He calls me to do something and to love my neighbor as myself, I must leave margin in my time, energy, and finances.

So how can I create more margin in my life? A solution came to me through a woman in my Bible study group. She shared how a friend had reminded her of our need to ask the Lord to order our steps. When we do so, He will help us identify what’s really important and say no to the unnecessary:

The LORD directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the LORD holds them by the hand. (Psalm 37:23-24; NLT)

A fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Boy do I need it! At all times it’s important to pray for the Holy Spirit to work in me to produce all of the fruit of the Spirit, but at this juncture in my walk with God, my need for self-control is paramount. The Holy Spirit began helping me develop restraint the moment I started praying for it! I recognized the Spirit’s work in me during a recent trip to Target. In weeks previous, I had spent hundreds of dollars at the store for things I “needed” for our new house. However, on my most recent Target visit I passed up the $100 area rug I wanted, and with the exception of a $1 Yoda cup for my son, I only purchased what I intended to purchase (a spiral notebook and a sympathy card). Yeah, God!

Notice that there is only one fruit of the Spirit. Though nine spiritual qualities are listed (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), they are not Spiritual “fruits” plural. This is because the characteristics are intertwined, complementing and supplementing each other. For example, as the Holy Spirit grants me greater self-control, the other fruit of the Spirit becomes evident in my life at the same time. If I have greater self-control, I am able to say no to activities that are not a good use of my time. In doing so, I develop peace. When I feel peaceful, I am more loving, kind, and joyful. When I am joyful, I am more patient and gentle. When I exercise self-control with money, I am able to give and demonstrate faithfulness to God. So the fruit is one, and in order to obtain it I must walk by the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, and keep in step with the Spirit:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:16-26; ESV; emphasis mine)

Lord, may I glorify you in every area of my life – with my time, money, and possessions, and with my body and in my relationships. Help me preserve margin for friends, family, financial giving, and for just being still with you.

Enjoy Switchfoot’s This is Your Life

References:
Dictionary.com, s.v. “margin,” accessed October 31, 2015, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/margin?s=t.

Priscilla Shirer, Breathe: Making Room for Sabbath (Nashville: LifeWay Press, 2014).