SIMPLE GIFTS by The Reverend Jay Dean
A while back I was washing dishes. I was thinking about the Lord, a kind of half meditation and half random thoughts, when I said, “Lord, I haven’t heard from you in a while.” Quick as in a split second I heard in my mind the Lord say, “I am right here.” Wow! The Lord is faithful. He is faithful to the point of always being right here with us. His faithfulness is everlasting to everlasting. It is infinite. Faithfulness is the next component of the Fruit of the Spirit we shall look at. In fact every quality of the Fruit of the Spirit is from everlasting to everlasting and infinite in definition. There is no beginning nor end. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. We are just here in the middle and hopefully, if we know Jesus, if we have an intimate relationship with him, if we are walking and talking with Jesus, we will live out eternity with Him.
The Apostle Paul knew the faithfulness of the Lord, well. As the Rabbi from Tarsus, the Pharisee of Pharisees, He was struck down on the Road to Damascus by the Holy Spirit and brought into the presences of Jesus. For three days he was blinded and Jesus gave Saul, as he was then known, a crash course of preparation for a ministry to both the Jew and Gentile. Jesus gave Saul a new name Paul. Whenever Jesus had to wrestle with a sinner who wanted his own way and then submitted to the Lord, He changed their name - Jacob became Israel, Simon became Peter, Saul became Paul. When we finally give up in the wrestling match and say as Jacob did, “Give me a blessing.” Then the Lord will give us a new name and put a new Spirit in our hearts. He writes a new name on our hip - saint. We become a saint- a son or daughter of God.
As a new born believer, a babe in Christ, we become a learner, a student. We need to learn how to walk and talk with the Lord. We go to His school to learn. We go to the Bible. It is His Word. The Bible tells the story of how the Lord took the ordinary of this life, this world and made it extra ordinary. We go to church. Church is a place of fellowship where we meet and talk with other Christians, especially those who are a little further along the road than we are. We gain new revelations - insights. It is like a jigsaw puzzle, when we start there are a pieces scatted all over the table, each one an individual piece. Slowly we pick up the pieces and start to put them together. As we work on the puzzle it starts to go together faster, and finally we see a beautiful picture in front of us, with no pieces missing. During the process, others have helped us, looked over our shoulders and pointed out this or that piece. As we begin our walk with the Lord, the Holy Spirit points out a piece, here or there and we place it in the picture. He is faithful. The Holy Spirit is faithful to show us the piece we become stumped over. He never pushes us. He simply says did look at that piece. He simply says to us, in a small inner voice, which sounds a lot like our own inner voice, “here’s the next piece - a new revelation.” And, we lean back, and silently exhale, “Yes, Lord, that’s it. Thank you for your faithfulness.”
As a new- born Christian, we need to read the Bible, we need to go to church, and we need the Holy Spirit’s wisdom to guide us. As we walk and talk with Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will start to lay aside the works of the flesh. In Galatians, 5:19-21, Paul lists them. In the next breath, the next scrawl of his pen, Paul gives us the list the Fruit of the Spirit. At the last supper, Jesus told the disciples, “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 bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2). The Lord prunes us. He takes away everything which gets in the way of our walk with Him, simply because it gets in the way. Paul called them, the works of the flesh and provides us with a list, which of course, we can add to. For example, I was brought up in a family of news junkies. I followed in my parents footsteps. As an adult, I had to watch the news, read the newspapers from cover to cover. I had to turn CNN on to see what happened today. It was an obsession. It took time away from Him. He pruned me - cut the unfruitful twigs. The Lord took me from the obsession of being a news junkie - and I imagine He tossed it into the fire. I still follow the news, I scan the headlines, often read a paragraph or two then go on to the next page. Now, I never spend more than fifteen or twenty minutes a day scanning the paper and I don’t watch the news on TV, except the weather channel on stormy days or CNN on election nights. The pruning of being a news’ junkie was just one of several prunings the Lord has performed on my branch.
The Lord, in His faithfulness, has given us many gifts, two of which are prayer and the Sabbath. I believe once we have come to know the Lord, prayer is the most important gift He has given us. Jesus died for us, He took our sins. We no longer live in a state of sin, but in a state of grace. He rose for us, He gave us eternal life with Him, in Heaven and the New Jerusalem, not in hell. Then He ascended into Heaven to sit on the right hand of the Father, where He gave us a direct prayer line to the Father. The Bible says, Jesus will intercede for us with the Father. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told us to ask, to seek, to knock (Matthew 7:7). The Lord is very patient with us. He waits for us to ask If we don’t ask, we don’t receive. For a variety of reasons we don’t ask, but He waits for us to ask Him and out of the infinite love of His heart He will answer us. In Jeremiah 1:4 the Lord says He knew us before we were in our mother’s womb and had a plan for us - His Plan of Redemption. If our pray lines up with His Plan, His answer is yes. If we ask out of our self-interests the answer is no. Sometimes, we hear no answer, it is delayed - He wants us to work on it more. Prayer is a simple gift - an eternal gift. We need to use it wisely. Prayer will bear more fruit for us, than we ever imagined.
“Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all the work which God had created and made.” (Genesis 2:3). “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…The seventh day of the week is Shabbat the Sabbath in it you will do no work…” (Exodus 20:8,10). At Creation it is the first commandment God gave. He gave it to Himself and to humankind. At Sinai, it is the fourth of the ten commandments. For the Jews, the evening and day of the seventh day is Friday evening and Saturday to sundown. In the wanderings of the Jews, the weekly observance of the Sabbath is the glue which held their identity together. As Christian we need not celebrate a specific time for a Sabbath rest. Anthropologists in their studies have found the various groupings of humans to have some form of Sabbath about every seventh day. We know seven is God’s favorite number and He chose it for His day of rest. We live in a world dominated by corporate greed, which lives by a 24/7/365 nonstop frenzy. We need to stop. We need a Sabbath break to take some time to focus on the Lord and His work, His Plan of Redemption. We need to stop and just rest - be silent, take a deep breath. We need Sabbath breaks and Sabbath bursts, even if we cannot celebrate a Sabbath day.
The Fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of vine, prayer and Sabbath focus on the Lord’s faithfulness to us - Simple Gifts for those who walk and talk with Jesus.
The Rev. Jay Dean, Simple Gifts