Fifth-Grade Curt

Fifth Grade Curt
I suspect my identity crisis may have started with the school carnival picture booth. I hate that I looked better in the dress.

I had an identity crisis when I was in 5th grade.

I was a good boy at home.  My parents adored me. I was a joy to my Sunday School teacher, Ms. Lilly Green.  I was a blessing to my grandmother, Freda.  I was a good friend to many.  I was a great older brother (but let’s not bother asking the rest of the family about that, okay?).

But in school, I was a holy terror. I was a pest to my homeroom teacher, Mr. Grimes.  I was obnoxious to my English teacher, Mrs. Cross.  I was untrustworthy to my math teacher, Mrs. Keister.  However, I was scared of my science teacher, Mr. Zeigler and so he had my full attention.

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Luke 1:4 – Our Gospel Might Be Different

Luke 1:4“…that you may know the truth…”

Luke sets out to provide an orderly account of all that happened; all that was accomplished.

His words inform.  His stories retell the amazing engagement of God in the lives of the people.  His account is orderly.  It is true.  It is the Good News.

What about us?  Would our words reflect the stories of salvation, healing and redemption or are they stories of Television shows, movies and foolish acts you’ve witnessed?  When you open your mouth do your words reveal the truth about God’s accomplishments or your lack of knowledge about the Creator of the Universe?  Do they provide order or result in chaos?

We can learn a lot from Luke.  And I think we should try.

Galatians 5:26

“Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

Here’s the reality.  When we are good at something, we like others to recognize it. We like to show off our skill.  We like to have an audience.  It’s human nature.

It is true with sports, with academics, with talent…And even with our Faith Journey.

We take pride in our public prayers.  We gloat in our good deeds.  We boast in our big hearts.

But people who exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit are those who’s kind acts and gentle lives should not be for a show.  There should be no pride in a life that results in the presence of the Spirit.  We didn’t do anything.  God did everything.

And if you are envious of those who are forgiving and patient, joy-filled and peaceful, it should be a reminder that our attention is turned to ourselves (again) rather than toward the God of all good gifts.

A Fruit-filled life is one in which the “root” of the fruit is planted deep into God’s rich abundance and not our own talent and depth of character.

Galatians 5:22-23 – Self-Control

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

What’s the longest you have ever gone without eating?  Seriously.  How many hours has it been since you last took a bite, sipped a drink, threw back a sweet, stopped for a snack?

The other night my son left an event and started home.  The hour was late and they seemed to be taking a long time getting home.  It wasn’t until the next morning that I learned one reason for their delay was the need to stop and get something to drink.  They didn’t need gas, they needed something to drink.  I tried to reason this out in my mind and decided it must be a complex math problem:  Four teens are driving from point A to point B.  The distance is 22 miles.  They average a speed of 39 miles an hour.  Weather conditions are deteriorating quickly and the time is 1:30 in the morning.  Parents grow increasingly concerned about their safety and communicate three times via text and voice.  Given these parameters, how many times will the youth need to stop for something to drink?

This is a problem in our culture, not just for our kids.  There is no time or place when we are challenged to control our self-desire.  Unless we’ve paid hundreds of dollars to a personal trainer, we are unable to master our self, body, mind and soul.  We have a compulsion to have a drink in hand (the bigger the better).  We must pay someone to monitor our food intake (thank you Jenny Craig).  We order a plan to keep our bodies moving (PX-90 to the rescue).

But a person who is living a life of the Spirit should exhibit a life of Self-Control.  We should be masters of our world, control and rule our desires.  A person who reflects the leading of the Spirit will live a life of moderation, without external prodding.

And yet, we eat too much and too often.  There are far too many fat Christians, myself included.

We spend too much money, buy too much junk.  I have friends who must empty closets and garages to make space for more unwanted and unneeded stuff.

We move too little and our bodies fall into a sad state of health.

We watch too much garbage on TV and at movies and our souls whither.

Self-Control is the true sign of a faithful follower of Christ, a person bearing Fruit as a result of their journey in the Spirit.  It speaks volumes about our journey.

This is certainly an area that I need to work on.  How about you?

Galatians 5:17

“For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”

Well, that makes no sense what-so-ever.  Why would God create us to be in constant conflict with the desires of the Spirit?  Why would our entire lives be lived contrary to what the Spirit wants?

Oh, wait.  God DIDN’T create us to be in conflict.  God created us to walk with him in the cool of the evening.  We were meant to converse with him as we strolled along the Garden Path!  No conflict.  No contrary notions.  No separation.

But then Eve ate the apple and Adam took his turn and it all went south from there.  That story alone should be a constant reminder of why we are not to do what we want!  We are so easily temped by the low-hanging fruit that we lose sight of the path, the garden, and our walking companion.

This has been so true for me in the past week.  I want more than anything to walk, hand in hand, with the Spirit.  I’ve prayed, I’ve read my Bible, I’ve meditated and yet, the first words from my mouth are hurtful.  The first thoughts in my head are evil.  My first actions are self-centered.

But the amazing thing?  When I look around, God is still standing there on the path, ready to walk with me on the journey, despite my failures.

Don’t do what is contrary to the Spirit, if possible.  Choose the better way, when you are able.  Walk with the Spirit at all times.  You will fail.  You will fall.  You will make poor choices.  But God is right there to help you get up off the dirt and continue on the journey.

Those are comforting thoughts.

Galatians 5:16

“So I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the flesh.”

And that’s the point, isn’t it?  A person who has control of their fleshly desires is a person who has control of their entire life and Paul is saying that this comes from a walk beside God, a walk WITH God.

Think of it this way:  Let’s say I make arrangements to meet my best friend, Dave for dinner at a great steak restaurant. I know that there will be perfectly prepared meat, possibly a baked potato and salad.  Something good to drink and wonderful dessert and coffee.  I also know that there will be sparkling conversation and meaningful community with my dear friend.

But I would be a fool if I decide to leave the table mid-way through the meal and head over to Long John Silvers for an order of Extra Crunchies.  Please understand, I LOVE the Crunchies.  Everybody loves the Crunchies.  They even have their own Facebook page, with more that 600 likes.  But I would never leave my friend at the table.  Why?  Because I’m fully engaged in the conversation, the meal and the life-changing time I get to spend with my friend every time I’m with him.

I would stay in my seat, make eye contact, and discuss work and family, our dreams and hopes, our celebrations and struggles.  We would eat slowly and savor every moment.

So it is with this passage.  The more “walking time” we have with God, the more steps we take with the Spirit, the less likely we are to walk in a different direction and pursue the “Crunchies” that work so hard to distract us.

When we are in step with the Spirit, we have no desire to walk anywhere else.