Tag  |  wisdom

Bearing Good Fruit

The view from my airplane window was striking: a narrow ribbon of ripening wheat fields and orchards wending between two barren mountains.  Running through the valley was a river.  Life-giving water, without which there would be no fruit.

Just as a bountiful harvest depends on a source of clean water, the quality of the “fruit” in my life—my words, actions, and attitude—depends on my spiritual nourishment.  The psalmist describes this in Psalm 1: the person “whose delight is in the law of the Lord…is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season” (v. 1-3).  And Paul writes in Galatians 5 that those who walk in step with the Spirit are marked by “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (v. 22-23).

 Sometimes my perspective on my circumstances turns sour, or my actions and words become persistently unkind.  There is no good fruit, and I realize I haven’t spent time being quiet before the words of my God. But when the rhythm of my days is rooted in reliance on Him, I bear good fruit.  Patience and gentleness characterize my interactions with others; it’s easier to choose gratitude over complaint.  

The God who has revealed Himself to us is our source of strength, wisdom, joy, understanding, and peace (Ps. 119: 28, 98, 111, 144, 165).  As we steep our souls in the words that point us to Him, the work of God’s Spirit will be evident in our lives.

Signet Ring

When I first made the acquaintance of a new friend from abroad, I noticed his posh English accent and that he wore a ring on his little finger. Later I learned that this wasn’t just jewelry; it revealed his family’s history through the family crest engraved on it.

It was a bit like a signet ring—perhaps like the one in Haggai. In this short Old Testament book, the prophet Haggai calls for the people of God to restart the rebuilding of the temple. They had been exiled and had now returned to their homeland and begun rebuilding, but enemy opposition to their project had stalled them. Haggai’s message includes God’s promise to Zerubbabel, Judah’s leader, that he had been chosen and set apart as their leader, like a signet ring.

In ancient times, a signet ring was used as a means of identification. Instead of signing their name, people would press their ring into hot wax or soft clay to make their mark. As God’s children, we too make a mark on the world as we spread the gospel, share His grace through loving our neighbors, and work to end oppression.

Each of us has our own unique stamp that reveals how we’re created in God’s image and expresses our particular mix of gifts, passions, and wisdom. It’s our call and privilege to act as this signet ring in God’s world.

The Treasure in Tomb 7

In 1932, Mexican archaeologist Antonio Caso discovered Tomb 7 at Monte Alban, Oaxaca. He found more than four hundred artifacts, including hundreds of pieces of Pre-Hispanic jewelry he called “The Treasure of Monte Alban.” It is one of the major finds of Mexican archaeology. One can only imagine Caso’s excitement as he held a jade cup in its purest form.

Centuries earlier, the psalmist wrote of a treasure more valuable than gold or rock crystal. He said, “I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great spoil” (Ps. 19:162). In Psalm 119, the writer knew how valuable God’s instructions and promises are to our lives, so he compared them to the great spoil that comes in hand with the victory of a conqueror.

Caso’s name is remembered today because of his discovery in Tomb 7. We can enjoy it if we visit a museum in Oaxaca. However, the psalmist’s treasure is at our fingertips. Day by day we can dig into the Scriptures and find diamonds of promises, rubies of hope, and emeralds of wisdom. But by far the greatest thing we find is the person whom the book points to: Jesus Himself. After all, He is the Author of the book.

Let us seek diligently with the confidence that this is the treasure that will enrich us. As the psalmist said, “Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart’s delight” (v. 111 nlt).

Signs and Feelings

A young man I know has a habit of asking God for signs. That’s not necessarily bad, but his prayers tend to seek confirmation of his feelings. For instance, he’ll pray, “God, if You want me to do X, then You please do Y, and I’ll know it’s okay.”

This has created a dilemma. Because of the way he prays and the way he thinks God is answering, he feels that he should get back with his ex-girlfriend. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she feels strongly that God doesn’t want that.

The religious leaders of Jesus’s day demanded a sign from Him to prove the validity of His claims (Matt. 16:1). They weren’t seeking God’s guidance; they were challenging His divine authority. Jesus replied, “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign” (v. 4). The Lord’s strong response wasn’t a blanket statement to prevent anyone from seeking God’s guidance. Rather, Jesus was accusing them of ignoring the clear prophecies in Scripture that indicated He was the Messiah.

God wants us to seek His guidance in prayer (James 1:5). He also gives us the guidance of the Spirit (John 14:26) and His Word (Ps. 119:105). He provides us with mentors and wise leaders. And He’s given us the example of Jesus Himself.

It’s wise to ask God for clear direction, but He may not always give it in ways that we expect or want. Perhaps the larger point of prayer is that we learn more about God’s nature and develop a relationship with our Father.

Watchful and Alert

My desk sits close to a window that opens into our neighborhood. From that vantage point I’m privileged to watch birds perch on the trees nearby. Some come to the windows to eat insects trapped in the screen. 

The birds check their immediate surroundings for any danger, listening attentively as they look about them. Only when they are satisfied that there is no danger do they settle down to feed. Even then, they pause every few seconds to scan the area.

The vigilance these birds demonstrate reminds me that the Bible teaches us to practice vigilance as Christians. Our world is full of temptations, and we need to remain constantly alert and not forget about the dangers. Like Adam and Eve, we easily get entangled in attractions that make the things of this world seem “good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom” (Gen. 3:6).

“Be on your guard,” Paul admonished, “stand firm in the faith” (1 Cor. 16:13). And Peter cautioned, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). 

As we work for our own daily bread, are we alert to what could start consuming us? Are we watching for any hint of self-confidence or willfulness that could leave us wishing we had trusted our God?

Worth the Calories?

I love egg roti prata, a popular pancake in my country of Singapore. So I was intrigued to read that a 125-pound (57 kg) person must run 5 miles (8 km) per hour for 30 minutes to burn 240 calories. That’s equivalent to only one egg roti prata.

Ever since I started working out in the gym, those numbers have taken on a new significance for me. I find myself asking: Is this food worth the calories?

While it is wise to watch our food consumption, it is even more important to watch our media consumption. Research shows that what we see can stay in our minds for a long time and influence our behavior. It has a “clingy effect,” sticking to us like that stubborn fat we find so hard to lose.

With the wide variety of media content surrounding us today, we need to be discerning consumers. That doesn’t mean we read only Christian literature or watch only faith-related movies, but we are careful about what we allow our eyes to see. We might ask ourselves: Is this worth my time?

In Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul tells us in essence, “Feed your eyes and minds on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy.” This is a “diet” worthy of what Christ has done and is doing in us. 

Best Friend—Forever

One of the pieces of wisdom I have come to appreciate is my dad’s often-repeated statement, “Joe, good friends are one of life’s greatest treasures.” How true! With good friends, you are never alone. They’re attentive to your needs and gladly share life’s joys and burdens.

Before Jesus came to earth, only two individuals were called friends of God. The Lord spoke to Moses “as one speaks to a friend” (Ex. 33:11), and Abraham “was called God’s friend” (James 2:23; see 2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8).

I am amazed that Jesus calls those of us who belong to Him friends: “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). And His friendship is so deep that He laid down His life for us. John says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (v. 13).

Rejoice in the privilege and blessing of having Jesus as your friend. He is a friend who will never leave us or forsake us. He makes intercession for us before the Father and supplies all our needs. He forgives all our sins, understands all our sorrows, and gives us sufficient grace in times of trouble. He is indeed our best friend!

Everything We Need and More

In a field on the English countryside, G. K. Chesterton stood up from where he had been sitting and exploded with laughter. His outburst was so sudden and so loud that the cows could not take their eyes off him.

Just minutes before, the Christian writer and apologist had been miserable. That afternoon he had been wandering the hills, sketching pictures on brown paper using colored chalks. But he was dismayed to discover he had no white chalk, which he considered to be essential to his artwork. Soon, though, he began to laugh when he realized that the ground beneath him was porous limestone—the earth’s equivalent of white chalk. He broke off a piece and resumed drawing.

Like Chesterton, who realized he “was sitting on an immense warehouse of white chalk,” believers have God’s unlimited spiritual resources within reach at all times. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him” (v. 3).

Maybe you feel you are lacking some important element necessary for godliness such as faith, grace, or wisdom. If you know Christ, you have everything you need and more. Through Jesus, you have access to the Father—the one who graciously provides believers with all things.

His Loving Presence

Our hearts sank when we learned that our good friend Cindy had been diagnosed with cancer. Cindy was a vibrant person whose life blessed all who crossed her path. My wife and I rejoiced when she went into remission, but a few months later her cancer returned with a vengeance. In our minds she was too young to die. Her husband told me about her last hours. When she was weak and hardly able to talk, Cindy whispered to him, “Just be with me.” What she wanted more than anything in those dark moments was his loving presence.

The writer to the Hebrews comforted his readers by quoting Deuteronomy 31:6, where God told His people: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). In the darkest moments of life, the assurance of His loving presence gives us confidence that we are not alone. He gives us the grace to endure, the wisdom to know He is working, and the assurance that Christ can “empathize with our weaknesses” (4:15).

Together let’s embrace the blessing of His loving presence so we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid” (13:6).

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