April 28, 2016

Who Is the Holy Spirit and What Does He Have To Do With Fruit? (Part 9)

As Christians, we're supposed to be filled with the Spirit of God. But what, exactly, does that look like? Well, for one thing, it looks like self-control.

What in the Word: Galatians 5:22-25

Hang-Onto-It Verse: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a)

Sweet friends, I'm so honored to introduce to you the authors of the final post in our fruit of the Spirit series. Kyrsten Newlon (my honorary niece) and her friend Rebekah True are from Richland, Michigan, and have only recently begun writing Christian articles online. They love writing books together, performing in musicals, and blogging. Jesus Christ has transformed their lives and given them a beautiful friendship that shines into all they do together. Drink in Kyrsten and Rebekah's words, written straight from their sweet young hearts...

The last characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. I think a lot of Christians kind of skip past this virtue when reading through the list. How often do we assume that we can easily control ourselves? But as I think more deeply on this subject, the more I realize that God doesn’t want us to control us. He wants Him to control us. Let’s dive in…

What is it? So what is self-control? According to the dictionary, it is defined as “the ability to control oneself, in particular one's emotions and desires or the expression of them in one's behavior, especially in difficult situations”. Okay. Easy enough. But what does the Bible say about self-control?

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-13).

God has prepared our hearts for Him. As God’s living temples (2 Corinthians 6:16), we are called to be pure and godly, not lacking self-control. I believe that it is very important to have self-control as God’s temple. Jesus dwells in me, and so I need to make my heart a suitable temple for Him and by Him.

Self-control is important to have as Christians, because we need to be able to control our spirits--to protect our hearts from bad influences and keep our bodies from harmful habits. Self-control will refine your life and, as you apply it to your behavior, you will notice a change of heart. The Holy Spirit will be able to take better control of your life to guide you in the direction that God has for you.

Who has it? 2 Timothy 1:7 says that God has granted us a spirit of power, not of fear. This beautiful, sacred spirit offered to us by God directs our heart and guides us if we have accepted him. God will give the spirit of power and self-control to anyone who asks. “Each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable” (1 Thessalonians 4:4).

Each of us should have self-control. Not just the ones who struggle with anger issues or anxiety levels. Let’s be honest, don’t we all have our struggles? Every one of us struggles with temptations and every one of us need the Holy Spirit’s control.

Good news! God loves to give his self-control to us all. He loves giving us the Holy Spirit. We just need to step out and take it.

What next? “Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (1 Corinthians 7:5b).

Once we have the Holy Spirit, Satan and our human wills will fight against it. It's hard to discern when it is the Spirit speaking to us or Satan trying to deceive us in disguise. But you can be sure that if you ask God for clarity in his voice, He will give you answers in his perfect timing. Do not forget about God’s spirit of control. His will for you is best, so don’t try to fight it. He will help you control everything from your food habits to your temper, and much more. So then, go forth and conquer in the name of Jesus! His spirit will produce fruit in you…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The control of the Spirit of God!

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness.” (2 Peter 1:5-6).

"When your words came, I ate them; 
they were my joy and my heart's delight." (Jeremiah 15:16)

(Looking for Part 8 of this series? Find it here.)

April 11, 2016

7 Lessons From a Reluctant Women's Bible Study Leader

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, Who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. – Isaiah 64:4 NIV
Ten years ago, I was talking on the phone with my sister, and we got on the subject of Bible study. “I need to be in a group of women,” she told me. “I need the accountability. I won’t do it on my own.”

A few days later, I was talking with my cousin Karen, and we got on the subject of Bible study. “I need to be in a group of women,” she told me. “I need the accountability. I won’t do it on my own.”

A few days later, I was talking with my church friend Pam, and we got on the subject of Bible study. “I need to be in a group of women,” Pam told me. “I need the accountability. I won’t do it on my own.”

At which point, God had my attention.

A few weeks later, Pam and I headed up a planning meeting at church, and a few weeks after that, we held the first session of Proverbs 32 women’s Bible study. (No, we’re not trying to add to Scripture; we just wanted to convey that while we were striving to reach the Proverbs 31 standard, we weren’t there yet. We should have called ourselves Proverbs 30, but the “Sayings of Agur” didn’t seem to convey our mission. So we went with Proverbs 32…P32 for short.)

Just last week, my Bible study sisters and I wrapped up our 10th (!) season. I can hardly believe we've been at it this long. I can hardly believe it got started in the first place. Because I was possibly the least-qualified woman in the world to lead a women's Bible study.

But God has a way of working with the least.

I'm so grateful to Kelsey at The Unabashed Life for originally featuring this post in her Unabashed Woman Series. Now, just barely on the other side of another season of study, Kelsey has graciously given her blessing for me to share these lessons from the least here…treasured souvenirs from a very special journey.
1. With God’s help, you can do what you can’t. I was not qualified to facilitate a women’s Bible study. I am neither theologian nor Bible scholar. I am an introvert. I’d never even done a full-on Bible study before, much less headed one up.

Now I’ve learned that if God calls you to it, He will equip you for it. I brought plenty of weakness to the Bible study table—and there God showed His perfect power (2 Corinthians 12:9). Many weeks, after I’ve told God, “I can’t do this. I need You to do it through me and for me,” I’ve driven home from church praising God for the honor and thrill and wonder of seeing Him work.
2. You can love what you don’t even know you like. On a list of spiritual blessings from my entire life, P32 is very near the top. But before I wandered blindly in, doing or leading women’s Bible study wouldn’t have been on the list at all. Our God of surprises sprung this passion on me when wasn’t even looking for it.

3. Silence does not equal disinterest, boredom, or anger. In P32’s early days, I agonized that ladies who never spoke up didn’t like the material or didn’t like me—or both. But after more than one of them told me privately, “I love this study and this group. I’m getting so much out of it,” I quit worrying about my non-talkers. Someone can be engaged and enthusiastic without saying a word.
4. Pray. (Wisely.) From the beginning, we knew we needed to pray with and for each other. But in order to dedicate most of our time to studying and discussing the Word, we started using prayer cards. Every week, our members wrote their names on index card and, if they wanted to, a praise or a request. I shuffled the cards and handed them back out, and each woman committed to praying for the sister whose name was on the card. We also formed a closed Facebook group, open to all members of P32 but not to anyone else—a safe, private place for us to all share in one another’s joys and sorrows.
5. Do your best to choose a study that’s right for your group, but don’t get hung up trying to find THE right study. Every year, God has graciously guided me toward and then confirmed a study I felt was a good fit for us. But I always come back to this truth: as long as we are digging into His Word and using careful, humble teaching to do it, Jehovah will bless and inform us. He is not so stingy as to leave us just because we don’t choose one “right” study. He is bigger and more generous than that.
6. Growing pains are normal, but they probably won’t last long. We had seven ladies our first season of P32, and it was so special we couldn’t keep it to ourselves. We started showing and sharing it, and others began saying, “I want that.” Twenty women showed up at our first meeting that second year. We revamped our format to accommodate the growth, but it was unsettling. “I just feel like crying,” one our founding members told me, and I shared her grief. We went back to our original structure and quickly settled into a new normal with a larger group. It wasn’t the same, but it was still good.
7. You will scarcely know a sweeter privilege on this earth than that of watching—before your very eyes– another woman grow in her knowledge of God and her love for Him. The gift of having a fellow sister in Christ tell you that because of what she’s learned in a study, she chose differently or reacted differently or thought differently or felt differently than she “normally” would have is immeasurable. It is worth every worry, every difficult morning, every beyond- ourself moment. To borrow from 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my [study sisters] are walking intruth.” My heart breaks with happiness just thinking about it. 
In a few months, if God wills it, I might once again take the seat at the front of the table in our Bible study meeting room. From there, I’ll look for new lessons that I AM—The One and Only…the God of Daniel, Esther, James…the Spirit Who produces fruit—has ready for me and for the women seated around me. I can’t wait.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. – 1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV

How about you, sweet friend? Have you led Bible study and learned some lessons along the way? Or have you sensed God calling you to lead (er, "facilitate") but are holding back? I'd be honored to have you share your story in a comment.