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But Wait

by Steve Early

I am sure many of you have heard the prayer, (written in jest); “Lord, please grant me patience and I want it now”.  Doesn’t this parallel current demands for instant gratification”?  The 24 hour news cycle, instant grits, movies on demand, social media, and the list is endless.  

In the early 1970’s, before many of you were born, I had a required reading in school, FUTURE SHOCK, by futurist, Alvin Toffler.  Briefly, this book depicted a society facing rapidly increasing technological improvements that would radically change the way we live our lives.  To put things into perspective, I didn’t own a hand-held calculator until 1972. This was a warning that many would have difficulty adapting to this rapid rate of change.  

The harder, but more predictable life that defined our parents and grandparents, evaporated at amazing speed.

So some are wondering,,,where is Steve going with this?  We have a sneak preview in Daniel 12:4 pointing to an increase in knowledge near the end of time.  The rate at which technology is increasing is outpacing our abilities to cope emotionally and ethically, with no clear vision as to unintended consequences.  So what are we as Christians supposed to do as we encounter a present-day Ephesus, with many of the similarities that young Timothy faced?  In reference to fruit of the Spirit, we should turn to the Master Gardner and see how He exercised Patience.  

God was patient with Adam and Eve after they sinned. What about the Israelites and their many ungodly ways in the desert? He was patient with the pressing multitudes after finding a woman in the act of adultery. But note, there is a limit to his patience.  Consider Noah and the people of his day.  After Abraham’s cries for mercy, Sodom and Gomorrah paid the price.   Patience is a gift of God for believers, as are the other eight qualities of the fruit of the Spirit.

However, we must remember that because God had us on his mind before the foundation of the earth, we received the unearned gift of salvation.  Therefore, these are powerful Spiritual Gifts and not just good character traits.  Now to employ these gifts, we must “Walk in the Spirit” as explained in Gal 5:16 and this will insulate us from the desires of the flesh. Now, as we begin to tend this fruit garden in earnest, realize that we have the power of The Holy Spirit. This will take the rest of our earthly life so………  Be Patient!

Prayer prompt.  Father God, I am in awe of the wisdom in Your Word.  Your word proves true over and over and points us continually to The Savior we all must have.  Thank you for being so patient with me and never giving up on me.  My transgressions are so many and your grace is so perfect that it covers even the ugliest ones.  Help me as I learn more about these spiritual gifts.  I know that I need to walk in the spirit more and produce fruit so that others can see the benefit of creating that personal relationship with Jesus.  Lord, I pray that you will create opportunities or divine encounters where the power of your Holy Spirit overshadows my weakness in _________________ and_________________.  May these efforts result in a Brilliant “Heaven Roars” Board, signifying that you are calling your people unto yourself.


by Ruthanne Lynch

“Peace, peace, wonderful peace- coming down from the Father above.” The old hymn rings in my head. Oh, I would love to have peace! The world is going crazy–wrong is right, up is down. Things seem out of control. Problems in society, challenges at work, struggles in the family, my house is a mess, and I just arrived to work with two different shoes on!

And yet, we are told to have peace. It’s a fruit of the spirit. I’ve memorized the list. I have it written on my wall.  I love God and strive to follow him, so why don’t I feel peace? 

A favorite movie quote from The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” So, what is peace? 

Peace is the opposite of war. Tranquility. Cease from striving. Stop, rest.

But if I stop trying, won’t it all fall apart. NOPE! That would mean it is up to me. The word “peace” in this passage expresses the idea of quietness, harmony, and rest but also wholeness, the state of being complete. 

I can’t control the things around me (although I want to!). Things are a mess that I can’t fix. I’m reminded that, “I am not that powerful!” I can rest in the peace that it is not all up to me. But my Father is in control!

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus, John 16:33, esv

I have peace when I remember he overcame the world (I don’t have to.).

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

philippians 4:6-7

“Making request known to God” by telling Him my concerns and desires through… Prayer– solemnly approaching God; Supplication– humbly, earnestly asking, even begging; Thanksgiving– expressing gratitude

He wants to give us peace. We need to ask, bringing everything to Him. Jesus said, “Peace. Be still.” (Mark 4:37-41 ESV) And the wind and the rain stopped!  So, if I really believe he can calm storms, do I believe he can calm my storms? That I can receive “peace that passes all understanding, that can guard your heart and mind”? 

Here’s our prayer prompt, you continue praying as the Lord leads you.

Dear Father, I thank you that you have promised peace, even in the hard times. I acknowledge that I have been striving in _________ for too long. Forgive me for trying to do it on my own. I commit it into your hands and ask for peace. May I sense your true peace this week related to ________ peace that will guard my heart and mind. Thank you in advance as I rest in you.

You Can Change

by Jerry Lewis

I’ve seldom met someone who didn’t want to change, didn’t want to kick a bad habit, improve in an area of life, or heal a difficult relationship. Change is hard. As someone has said, “if it were easy, everybody would be doing it.” I heard a sermon several years ago from one of my favorite pastors, Tim Keller, on the fruit of the Spirit. I’ll admit that most of this devotion comes from that sermon. His sermon was a paradigm shift for me in understanding how people change, especially as it relates to the fruit of the Spirit.

Because Paul uses the word fruit instead of many other words he could have used, Keller stated that there are four realities implied by the use of the word “fruit.” Christian change is gradual, inevitable, internal and symmetrical.

Gradual and Inevitable

“You can never really see growth happen. Growth is always so small, so gradual, you can’t see it. It can never be seen, only be measured.” (Keller) Even during winter fruit trees are growing, but you can’t see anything at all. Therefore growth in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and goodness happens very gradually. “By definition, growth is something you never feel. It can only be measured.” (Keller)

However, we cannot discount that growth comes from the Spirit. “If you have the Spirit of God in you, there will be change.” (Keller) You will become more patient. You will love better. You will practice more self-control. Real faith will inevitably lead to growth. If you wonder about this, ask the people around you. Do they see the fruit of the Spirit in you? Do the ones who love you most see growth in you from one year to the next, from one season of life to the next?

Internal and Symmetrical

Notice the words that describe the fruit of the Spirit? They are all internal characteristics not external actions. “If you keep throwing bricks on a pile, the pile is growing. That’s not organic growth. That’s the not the way a child grows or the way fruit grows.” (Keller) Our growth as Christians occurs from the inside out. Or as our second value at Grace states: heart change that leads to life change. God sees what no one else can see and works where no one else can work.

Growth is also symmetrical. The word is “fruit” not “fruits.” The implication of this is that everything in the list of fruit will be produced at the same time. As a matter of fact, one of the ways to know if you are growing in the Spirit is not to look at the fruit that comes most naturally to you. For example, if you are naturally disposed to being kind, you will be kind because that’s your disposition. So to know if you’re growing, look at the aspect of the fruit you struggle with most. Are you growing in that area? If so, every aspect of the fruit will grow simultaneously.

This is both comforting and convicting. Comforting because God can grow every internal characteristic at the same time! Praise the Lord. Convicting because I can feign gentleness while exerting a tremendous amount of self-control, yet be far from God. The question of my growth is this: am I exhibiting the fruit, all of it (not them). Love and self-control are interdependent. Joy comes from faithfulness. I won’t be peaceful without patience. You get the point (I hope!)

We’re about to jump into each attribute of the fruit of the Spirit. As you read, ask yourself: is the Spirit producing this in me? If you don’t see it, go back to the starting point and commit to walking by the Spirit. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in our lives. Here’s a prayer:

Father, thank you that you are able to produce fruit. As a matter of fact, unless you do, there won’t be any fruit in my life. Today, I surrender my life to you. You are free to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control in me. And as you do, I’m free to live the life you desire for me. In Jesus’ name, who exhibited each of these characteristics symmetrically and flawlessly. Amen!

But God

But. A tiny word that packs a big punch. On the contrary. A change of direction.

It’s the first word of Galatians 5:22. Against the backdrop of the list of vices is the adversative word. Something’s about to change. How can love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control be produced in people who are prone to adultery, dissension, division, and addiction? Paul answers that question in another of his letters.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (ESV)

ephesians 2:4-6

But God. Two words that forever change the personal history of someone. But God. The only possible way you and I, capable of so much sin can be so kind, so joyful, so loving is because of a “but God” encounter. God came to us when we were dead, meaning we couldn’t do one thing for ourselves. And as dead people, God made us alive. We weren’t sick and in need of a doctor, we were dead and in need of resusciation.

But God.

Thank him today for the “but God” moment in your life, the time when everything changed and he changed everything. The day he saved you from your sin and yourself. Pause now to thank him for interrupting you, for intervening for you, for raising you up and seating you in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

But God.

This is an old song. I heard it this week by the Collingsworth family and I literally wanted to have a Holy Ghost fit! This song is gospel from beginning to end, written by a man who wandered far from God, but through the prayers of his family and the faithfulness of friends in college, the Lord gloriously saved him! Don’t miss these lyrics. You’ll have to click the link to Youtube. (And you’ll know why it’s had 9.5 million views!).


Have you ever lost something only to find it in the most obvious place? You wonder why you didn’t see it all along. On Saturday we talked about the dreadfulness of sin. Paul goes on to list those sins. Sin is obvious to everyone except sometimes the one committing it. Jesus had strong words for people who are able to so readily see others’ sins and somehow miss their own.

Matthew 7:3–5

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.


Notice the comparison. Our own sin is a log, our brother’s (or sister’s) a speck. And we somehow think God has given us surgical tools with which to remove the speck in our brother’s eye without ever addressing the log in our own. I’m convinced the reason we become hypocrites (Jesus’ word not mine!) is that we have created levels of sin. As a result, as long as we’re not doing what someone else is doing, whatever we’re doing can be blinding, but it’s okay. Consider this list from Galatians 5. Does it surprise you that these things are all listed together?

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.

Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV)

It seems that these sins fall largely into four categories: sexual sins, idolatry, relational sins and addictions. They’re all sin. They all separate us from God. When you gossip about the person who committed adultery, you’re entering their playing field, though you would definitely say they have the log in their eye and you only have a speck. When your work becomes your god, you somehow are able to look at someone whose alcohol had become their god and see them as a bigger sinner than you.

God’s word is sure. Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. What things? Lose their temper. Create dissension. Sleep with another man’s wife. Drink excessively. Live in jealousy.

I know these are tough words for a Monday, but they are also gracious words. The more clearly I see my own sin, the less obvious will the sins of others be. Perhaps this prayer of repentance is where you need to begin:

Father, I have sinned by ____________________________. I am so sorry. I have seen the sins of others, even judged them as being worse than me, when in reality I have the same sin nature, struggle as they struggle and fail too. Forgive me for seeing the speck in _______________________’s eye while missing the beam in my own eye. Lord, graciously reveal the beam I can’t see and then I’ll approach my brother or sister seeing their sin as only a speck compared to my own sinfulness. After all, Jesus you were the only perfect one, yet you took my sin on yourself that I might receive your righteousness. The only reason I can live a life that pleases you is because you lived the perfect life that pleased the Father, and now you live in and through me. Thank you Jesus.

Spectators or Worshipers

It’s the Lord’s Day. Sunday. The first day of the week. A day reminding of us of that long distance between Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified, and Resurrection Sunday, when he was resurrected.

Today’s devotion is brief but poignant. Will you be a worshiper or a spectator today? If you’re a spectator, you’re watching and critiquing but not worshiping. If you’re a worshiper, you’re enjoying the presence of the risen Christ, encouraged or maybe convicted by the sermon, uplifted by the music, spurred on by the fellowship.


The Dreadfulness of Sin

Paul has just pointed out that we’re no longer under the law, but being led by the Spirit. He now sets up the stark contrast between the fruit of the Spirit and the “works of the flesh.” Before we jump into the list (that will be next week), we must understand the reality of our how we’re wired and how sin works. Until we do, we will unwittingly stumble into sin and wonder why we did the same thing again.

Fruit is produced, meaning the DNA of an apple tree is the determining factor in that tree producing apples. Now conditions have to be right too. Fertilize, water, sunlight. All are necessary. An early freeze can ruin an apple crop. But the tree produces apples simply because it’s an apple tree.

Paul calls sin “works of the flesh.” When we sin, we can’t blame anyone but ourselves. We did it. we got caught with our hands in the proverbial cookie jar. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. (Romans 3:23). In Romans 6:23, Paul uses the metaphor of a payday to describe sin. The wages of sin is death. Sin is an awful boss with an even worse paycheck. Note how James describes sin.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

James 1:14-15

James describes sin like conception which leads all the way to death. Sin begins with a desire, and once that desire is acted upon, sin is born. And sin grows. Like a cancer, sin mutates until it has destroyed the sinner. My dad used to say…

Sin will take you farther than you intended to go, keep you longer than you intended to stay, and cost you more than you intended to pay.

Before we can fully appreciate the work of the Spirit, we must embrace the reality of our sinful nature. The Spirit has his work cut out for him–he produces fruit in one whose mouth, mind, eyes and hands have been used to commit all kinds of awful sin. On Monday we’ll dive into the list of those sins…but before we do, pause to thank God for his work and ridding you of that sin.

Father, I thank you that you are exceedingly more powerful than the sin that longs to reign in my body to make me obey its desires. I thank you that no cancerous sin is too powerful for the healing Spirit. I thank you that greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world. I thank you that no temptation has seized me except that which is common to man and that you are faithful, not allowing me to be tempted beyond what I can stand but in every temptation making a way of escape so that I can stand up under it. Today I will live in light of your power over my sin.

Would you rather be led or driven?

Jerry Lewis

I can’t remember where I was when this thought occurred to me? I’ve spent so many years of my life being driven when God really wants to lead me. I’ve been driven to achieve academically, work efficiently, perform spiritually, run faster (yes, literally!). You name it and I have signed up for the “driven to ________________” class way too many times. Listen to this tiny verse that packs a big punch:

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5:18, ESV

Don’t miss the contrast in terms: led or under. Paul sets up a dichotomy here. We will either be led by the Spirit or under the law. Let’s take a closer look. To be under the law is to feel the weight of guilt for your sin. Sin feels good in the moment, but feels awful later. The law points out sin (which is good) but is powerless to correct it.

Not the Spirit!

The Holy Spirit leads. How? He lives inside and eagerly takes God’s word and applies it to any situation we find ourselves in. Struggling with anger? The Spirit reminds you, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19). Worried? The Spirit responds, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6) Blown it? The Spirit pulls up Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That’s leadership!

I know what you’re thinking. I don’t know all those verses. And you’re onto something. The Spirit can’t remind you of what you’ve never heard! How can you, over the next 38 days, find 10 minutes a day, just ten minutes, to get into the Word and the Word into you? Write verses on cards, on your mirror, in your planner. Make them as screensavers on your phone. Choose an accountability partner, a spouse, or a friend who’ll help you with this. You’ll see fruit immediately!

If you’ve neglected time in God’s Word, here’s a prayer of repentance. (Mean what you pray here!) Father, you have given me your precious word, and I have treated it as so much less than what it is. What a gift! Forgive me for neglecting so great a gift. Today, with your prompting and the Spirit’s convicting, I’ll dust off my Bible, put it in a prominent place, and begin the work of returning to your Word. I can’t wait to see what you have to say to me through your precious Word. In Jesus’ (the living Word) name. Amen.

Walk, not Run

Scripture is incredibly intentional. Every word matters. When Paul writes to the Galatians about how to live, his instructions are to walk, not run, by the Spirit. That word matters. Living the Christian life is a step-by-step reality. Over the next 40 days (well now 39) we will discover those steps.

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.

Galatians 5:16-17

What Paul begins to set up here is a tug-of-war, one that begins when you give your life to Christ and never ends. Our flesh is our sinful nature, which will never not be sinful. We sin without trying. We are born with the capacity to sin and never lose that capacity. When we come to faith in Christ, the Spirit of Christ comes to live within us. And the war begins.

Maybe you’ve experienced that already today. You got up with great intentions, but lost your cool on the way to work. Maybe your kids were difficult this morning and you were short with them, and felt guilty as soon as you dropped them off. We are too good at sinning. That’s what Paul means by the phrase, “to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Enter the Holy Spirit. His work is to change our desires so that they align with His, and when that happens he produces fruit.

We will eventually focus on the specific fruit of the Spirit, but before we do it’s imperative that we understand that we cannot produce this fruit by ourselves. If we could we wouldn’t need the Spirit. He is at work in you (even now!) to produce fruit. And just as an apple tree jumping up and down, waving its limbs won’t produce apples, you can’t work yourself into spiritual fruit bearing. The Spirit resides in you to do that.

Here’s how you can pray through this: Father, I thank you that you, by your grace, saved me…knowing what a sinner I am and how I desperately need your grace. I thank you that you did not leave me to myself, to live this life alone, but gave me the Holy Spirit who lives in me, to produce fruit that I cannot produce. So Father I surrender to you. Your Spirit is free to work in me to make me loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle, faithful and self-controlled. As I walk (not run) by the Spirit today, help me to keep in step with the One who lives inside me, not to get ahead of you, nor to lag behind. In Jesus’ strong name. Amen.

40 Days of Fruitfulness

It has been often said that we only need to be faithful, that God honors faithfulness. And he does! But what about fruitfulness? It was about three years ago that I came across this idea that became a paradigm shift for me. God wants my faithfulness, but he also is into my fruitfulness. As a matter of fact, “be fruitful and multiply” was among his first commands to the very first couple. And Jesus’ words from John 15 bear this out:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-15, ESV)


Jesus is into fruit-bearing. So for the next 40 days, we’re going to focus on the fruit of the Spirit. What does it look like to produce fruit. How do we produce fruit? What are the fruit? You’ll read a daily devo written by members of the Grace family, with a prayer prompt. We’ll begin on Ash Wednesday and end on Good Friday…and hopefully by then, be able to see the first signs of fruit. I’m so excited for you to join me on this journey!

Here’s our prayer prompt. You continue praying as the Lord leads you.

Lord Jesus, I long to be faithful and I want to be fruitful. I so want you (most importantly), and others to see the fruit of the Spirit and to know by that fruit that I walk with you, Lord Jesus, that I am a child of the King. May love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control characterize my life. And Lord Jesus you know I seem to struggle most with _________________ (which aspect of the fruit of the Spirit do you struggle with?). I can’t wait to see what you’re doing to do in and through me.