Thursday, March 10, 2011

Plastic Fruit

Sometimes I feel like a plastic apple. The bible says that if we are in Jesus and He is in us, God gives us all kinds of good fruit in our life- nine to be exact: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) That’s a pretty sweet bag of apples. But sometimes I know I’m just faking it. Sometimes my joy is just fake plastic joy, a sad imitation of the real thing. If you bit me, you’d see that I’m not really full of fruit at all. I probably wouldn’t have patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness or self-control. Sometimes I have those things, sometimes I live full of the spirit, but lots of times I’m just a bag of plastic apples.
Why do people buy fake fruit anyway? Literally, people spend money on plastic shaped into the form of apples and pears and grapes… Isn’t that a little strange? But maybe more importantly why do people figuratively buy fake fruit. It’s not that hard to spot it literally or figuratively. Plenty of us are walking around putting up the facade of being loving and joyful, they are actually somewhat easy to fake. We can even get by with peace sometimes, outwardly at least. But if we’re honest with each other (which as Christians we often are not because we have some false idea that we need to have it all together) it’s not hard to tell when we’re not living by the spirit, because the other six are pretty much impossible to fake for any period of time. Patience, kindness and gentleness are usually the easiest to spot because they immediately affect everyone around you.
I’m sure you heard your dad at some point say something like, “do you think money grows on trees?” Well fruit does grow on trees so this bag is free.
I think we get stuck on the idea that we have to have it all together all the time because a lot of people get the bible in little tidbits out of context which turns them into list and rules and expectations that we can’t possibly live up to. If you just take that scripture, you probably are feeling like you don’t measure up as a Christian, you might even doubt if you’re saved. If you’ve met someone who is all these fruits all the time, you’ve either met Jesus, or you’ve met a fruitcake. I’m betting fruitcake. (Did your grandma make that delicious Christmas fruitcake with all the sugary fake fruit in it, fruit that hadn’t been real fruit for about 5 years? Why is that called fruitcake?) By fruitcake I mean someone who’s unmistakably a cake (i.e. a Christian) but the fruit is obviously fake sugary dehydrated fruit long past its best before date.
You see, that verse in Galatians 5 has is surrounded by a couple other very important verses like this one.
Galatians 6: 1-5 says this,
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.
We’re not always good at restoring people gently, or carrying each other’s burdens or not comparing ourselves with others. I think it’s because we’re human. What we are good at is trying to carry someone else’s load instead of our own (which I guess usually it turns out we’re good at the “trying” but we’re not good at actually doing it). What I mean by that is we try to imitate or live up to what someone else is doing, even if we’re not at a point where we’re able to carry that same load. It’s like we see someone who is living full of the spirit, carrying a whole bushel of apples so we run and try to pick up a bushel that looks the same. When our back is only strong enough to carry a 2 lb. bag but we try to carry a 20 lb. bushel we’re not going to get far before we drop our bushel and have a big pile of bruised apples. Carry what the Lord has given you at this point. Let him build up strength in you at his rate. We’re not aiming at trying to be equal to the Christians around us. We’re aiming at letting Jesus make us more like him, one apple at a time. So if the only apple you’ve got right now is love, let God work on growing that more. If he gives you a little kindness let him fill you with some more kindness.
Don’t put fake plastic apples in your bushel to make it look better; fake apples don’t look like real apples. If you’re not living life fully in the spirit – and let’s face it most of are not – don’t try to fake it. God will give you the real thing if you ask him and let him. He promised. He doesn’t break his promises. The fruit doesn’t come from striving, or works, or imitating others. It comes direct from Him. He is the tree and we are the branches. You can’t expect someone to eat a plastic apple and not get sick. You can’t give away what you don’t have.
Part 2, if you are living in the spirit with any of this fruit, give it away. That’s what it’s for. It’s not for making apple jelly to store in your pantry. Someone you know needs to be gently restored by what the Lord has restored you with (if you don’t know anyone who needs to be restored you need to get out more). Be patient and kind to people who are broken, don’t give them a load they can’t carry right now. Love them. Show them the same faithfulness that God shows you by sticking with you even when you were a rotten bruised apple. We all were at some point. An apple a day… whatever the Lord has given you, give it away, He’ll send more fruit; His orchard never runs out.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Question: if we're supposed to die to "self" and have our self replaced by Jesus' "self", then why do many of us teach the opposite and for the most part live the opposite as Christians?

Doesn't the idea of building self-esteem, self-value, self-worth (all those self-things that are promoted by our culture) into our kids slap Jesus in the face. Do you think any of our teens are confused by the mixed message they get. I think I am. I never had good self-esteem growing up. I was kind of chubby, kind of poor, my family was kind of messed up and I thought very little of myself. I had nothing to be confident about except that I could drink a lot and make people laugh by acting like an idiot. I didn't know anything about God, so had very little purpose or direction in life. All the messages I got from the world were that I had to improve myself in order to measure up to someone else.

That's not the message Jesus had though. He actually says we have to let everything of ourselves go and let Him replace that with Him. That is the only place we have esteem, value and worth. I used to try to find worth in my basketball ability, then when I realized I was a 5’8” white kid from the back woods of Nova Scotia and never going to make it to the NBA (or to the D division provincial tournament for that matter). I started to look for worth in my musical ability. No gold records yet. Not looking there anymore. I love playing music, especially worshiping Jesus, but the value is not in the playing, it’s in the person I’m playing for. A while ago, I shared with my friend Peggy that sometimes I get really nervous when I lead worship because I have bad self confindence. She said that's good becasue it's about being confident in Him. That small tidbit of truth changed the way I approached leading worship. I realized it was about him, not me. Such a simple word set me free.

Don't you think it's time to stop giving our kids the false hope that if they finish top of their class, or score the winning goal or get into the right school, whatever other expectation we may put on them, that they'll somehow gain worth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against kids working hard and doing well, I’m just against the idea that that is the most important goal. That’s a worldly goal, right?

The first 5 disciple weren’t top of their class, but Jesus picked them anyway. He saw worth in them, great worth apparently, enough that he gave them the task of taking the gospel out and changing the world. He saw the worth and purpose with which He created them. I think I want to help kids see the worth and purpose Jesus created them with. To know that He’s just as likely to call them if they become fishermen as if they become doctors. Do you think it would be good to teach them that His purpose for them is so much more important than the world’s purpose for them?

I think we actually hinder kids when we teach them to go after a goal that’s not God’s plan for their life but our plan for their life. Then they have to fit God and being like Jesus into a mold that isn’t designed for them. Usually God will get squeezed out the sides. If you believe that God created everyone for a purpose, he designed them for something specific in this world, why not help kids see what that is rather that helping them see how important finishing first is in the world. Jesus actually said the first will be last. He became a servant to his followers and actually washed their feet. Is it good enough for us as parents that our kids become foot washers instead of physicists? Is it good enough for us as church leaders to advise kids to follow God’s plans to reach the world rather than our own ideas of how you reach the world? God’s ways are always higher than our ways. Why not let our kids aim at that rather than aiming at being on top of the world?

If people know they have esteem, value and worth in God’s eyes, they won’t be so concerned with having to rely on their own accomplishments or being derailed by their own failures. His love never fails. The worth he places on us never changes. He nailed it to a cross for the world to see. That’s how much value he places on us. Look at Jesus and know you have great value and worth in the eyes of the one who made you and loves you.

I see lots of teenager who have the weight of the world on their shoulders. I think that’s because we’re putting the yoke of the world on them instead of helping them pick up Jesus’ yoke. His is easy, his is light. We do it in the church too. We put the weight of changing the world on young people. “Our children are the future”, of course they are, but I think it’s going to be children of God who change the world because they’ll know that they aren’t doing it, He’s doing it through them. It’s time we (followers of Jesus) start teaching kids that following Jesus is the most important thing we can do, not paying lip service to following Jesus and then placing so much importance on the things of the world. Let’s help our kids find the purpose God has created them for and run all out after that, even if it looks crazy to the rest of the world. So what if they gain the whole world but lose their soul. Do we want our kids to have a good life or real life in Jesus?

I love these lyrics from the Starfield song "Unashamed"
I have not much
To offer You
Not near what You deserve
But still I come
Because Your cross
Has placed in me my worth

I hope we can start teaching people that the cross is where their real worth is found not in our own accomplishments, not in what we have to offer. None of us measure up without Jesus.

Be Blessed.