The Fruit of the Spirit



The Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) is not a list of things to try harder to attain or maintain. This is a list of exemplary ways the Spirit will manifest His influence in our lives. The text says, “The fruit of the Spirit is…” not “the results of trying harder are…”

Paul uses the word “fruit,” which is something that is produced when trees are rightly connected to the flow of nourishment. It is not the result of striving or straining, but abiding and yielding.

The emphasis of the passage is on the effective role the Spirit has on the ethical life (5:16, 22), as He is the source of life (3:3, 5:25). When He is yielded to and trusted in, He produces these effects.

By supplying a list of virtues, Paul has informed our expectations with regard to the result of the Spirit’s rule. We are to believe that the Spirit is present, that He is powerful, and that He is producing (see what I did there – “produce” and “fruit”?).

Furthermore, the fun thing about fruit is that there is always more. To hold one apple in my hand is to know that I also hold the potential for an orchard. Likewise, there is no limit to the abundance of fruit the Spirit can produce in and through my life.

All of my expectation, all of my confidence, is in and upon the Holy Spirit. But my expectation is informed, and my confidence is focused. I know what qualities His influence should produce, and I choose to walk in those qualities, believing the Holy Spirit is fully present and powerfully working, and that His work is working.

So, I respond to Galatians 5:22 in prayer this way:

“Holy Spirit, I believe you are Love and produce your love in me.”

“Holy Spirit, I believe you are Joy and produce your joy in me.”

“Holy Spirit, I believe you are Peace and produce your peace in me.”

“Holy Spirit, I believe you are Forbearing, and produce your forbearance in me.”

“Holy Spirit, you are kind, and you make me kind.”

“Holy Spirit, you are good, and make me good.”

“Holy Spirit, you are faithful, and make me faithful and full-of-faith.”

“Holy Spirit, you are gentle, and make me gentle.”

“Holy Spirit, you are perfectly controlled, no one and nothing enslaves you – and your presence in me fully empowers me to control myself.”

Let us deeply, gratefully, and confidently depend upon the Holy Spirit to increasingly re-produce in us His own life.

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Come, Holy Spirit


“Come, Holy Spirit!”

What does this mean?

When I pray, “Come, Holy Spirit” I offer no erroneous assertion. I recognize He is already present – I could never go somewhere where He isn’t. Nor am I capable of summoning the Sovereign of the Cosmos.

For me to pray, “Come, Holy Spirit” is to ask that He manifest His presence and influence in my life – in my person and circumstances. There is little question that there is a difference between the acquiescent (omnipresent) presence of the Spirit and the dynamic, manifest presence. Even if that difference is often (or mostly) only realized by faith (and not necessarily the senses), it is in fact faith that I exercise with the words, “come, Holy Spirit.” By faith I embrace and make myself aware of His presence. Often this results in some form of sensory awareness, ranging from a mild, personal, subjective sensation to a shared, powerful experience with others.

For me to say, “Come, Holy Spirit” is an expression of my own submission to Him. I consciously yield my cognitions, my affections and my actions to His immediate influence and infilling. With gratitude I patiently reflect on my circumstances, surroundings, and concerns and visualize all things surrendered to Him.

For me to say, “Come, Holy Spirit” is to honor Him, to reverence Him, and to welcome Him. I am expressing a sacred awareness of the Presence of the Holy One in my heart and life. I am deeply humbled and pristinely happy to host His Presence.

For me to say, “Come, Holy Spirit” is to value Him above the pressing matters and urgent concerns of the moment. It is to give my attention to Him first and most. It is to magnify Him in my perspective so that He eclipses all other things. Only in this light do I see clearly.

So I quite often, throughout the day, quiet myself and focus with joy uttering the phrase, “Come, Holy Spirit.” And to my immense awe and wonder, He always does; He always “is.”

Blessed Holy Spirit, Come!

*Come, O Creator Spirit, blest, and in our souls take up Thy rest;

Come, with Thy grace and heavenly aid, to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

Great Paraclete, to Thee we cry: O highest gift of God Most High; O Fount of life! O Fire of love!  The sweet Anointing from above!

The sacred sevenfold grace is Thine, Dread Finger of the hand Divine: The promise of the Father Thou, Who dost the tongue with power endow.

Our senses touch with light and fire; our hearts with charity inspire; And with endurance from on high the weakness of our flesh supply.

Far back our enemy repel, and let Thy peace within us dwell; so may we, having Thee for Guide, Turn from each hurtful thing aside.

O may Thy grace on us bestow The Father and the Son to know, and ever more to hold confessed Thyself of each the Spirit blest.

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*The Hymnal: Published by the authority of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1895

Fresh Focus for “More.” A Journey for the Season of Pentecost

man in praise

The next few weeks (from now until we observe Pentecost) invite a fresh focus upon the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps I could better phrase this as a season of strengthening or deepening what should be a consistent focus.

My goal is more. I know that doctrinally we do not necessarily receive more or less of the Holy Spirit – the only measure scripture uses with regard to the Spirit is “poured out” and “full of.” But I can grow in my experience, awareness, and expression of the Spirit. I can grow more yielded, more sensitive, more quickly obedient, more consistently and more deeply loving, joyful, and peaceful. I can be more moved with compassion, more quickened with boldness, and more thankful. “More” is more about how I change. More is more about how much more intensely and sweetly and easily His presence and power fills me and flows through my words and actions. I can be full, and yet be-being filled. My goal is more.

My goal is change. Change in me. I want to be different than I am now. I know that faith is the catalyst for real change, meaning that I change when (arguably – only when) how I believe changes. Not necessarily what I believe, but how. As in: how deeply I believe, or how I express and practice what I believe. It is not enough to enjoy an encounter or feel a sensation or appreciate a revelation. Those things must affect how I believe in order for real change to happen.

Revelation and experience must transfer to believing differently. If I have a revelation (or illumination, if that sits better with you, as I don’t mean brand-new information from heaven; I mean fresh color, light, and brilliance on timeless truth, or even perceiving truth formerly obfuscated by my own ignorance) or experience to which I yield not and therefore preclude from becoming a change in my believing, I change not. Instead, I will seek only to return to sentiment. Sentiment will not change me. Faith will. However, faith is very much informed and affected by fresh revelation and enlarged experience.

And so, with a fresh commitment to focus on the Holy Spirit, I also commit to meditation (for revelation), to submission (for experience), to exercise (for expression), and to overflowing gratitude for “more.”

Thanks for reading; I hope to reflect often in writing during these days of focus.



Arrogant Spirituality and Other Oxymorons


In the New Living Version, Proverbs 21:4 reads, “Haughty eyes, a proud heart, and evil actions are all sin.”  Of note is that the scribe equates haughty eyes and a proud heart with evil. While this warning seems fairly clear from scripture, I am often struck by how easily people veil their arrogance with a cloak of spirituality.

It is not uncommon to hear someone imply, via criticism, that they are more spiritually aware, mature, sensitive, or otherwise superior. They know what the Holy Spirit would prefer to occur in a given meeting (although they’ve not spent the last week laboring in prayer and preparation for the gathering). They are acutely aware of how displeased God is with an event, song, statement or idea – and uniquely so, because they are the only individuals so enlightened – until, of course, they inform several others how displeased God is. They boldly defy the reasonable expectations and requests of leadership because they must obey God and not man (this means they must interrupt a service, must speak their mind, must act out of order, must be heard or seen… because God insists on it).

I observe this type of arrogant spirituality across the board – it is not the exclusive practice of one sub-culture. There exists the church leadership culture that is too sophisticated for tongues or prophecy, and too enlightened for such barbaric practices as healing or deliverance. In contrast are the groups that view themselves as a form of the spiritually elite, carrying the deepest and most profound and quite recent revelation from heaven – or the third heaven or fourth or seventh or whatever. It pains me in ways that mix nausea with embarrassment when I hear speech or see social media that asserts superiority, self-righteousness and outright arrogance. No such boasting is the voice of the Holy Spirit, but a different spirit altogether. The voice of the accuser isn’t just shame; he’s just as happy to flood our souls with feelings of superiority.

It is grieving to witness some who seem to believe they possess the parameters of knowledge to such a degree that they can (and do) answer every question, confront every heresy, and settle any argument. It is embarrassing to behold when one’s arrogance is only surpassed by their ignorance – when they distort and proof-text their opinion with a flawed premise and consequent flawed conclusion.

It’s not enough for the arrogant to disagree with you (that is their right), they also must inform you of their disagreement and where, how, and why you are wrong. This might be the thing I least understand. I don’t agree with everyone. There are some with whom I agree very little. But rarely, if ever, am I compelled to tell someone why I think they are wrong and I (clearly) am right. I can get along with you for a long way even if we don’t agree. I don’t need you to agree with me for me to love you and be kind to you and encourage you and enjoy your company. Unless it falls under my responsibility to protect those under my care, I really don’t need to discuss why you are (clearly) wrong. And no matter what, I am going to treat you with honor.

Personally, the most significant wounds I have incurred in ministry have been from those who have presented themselves not as enemies, but as benevolent “better-thans:” those who have come into my life, weighed and measured me, and found me lacking. Their complaint is usually opaque; it’s more a general feeling without specific infraction. I just don’t measure up to their degree of spirituality (interestingly enough I am usually too crazy or too conservative).

The problem with arrogant spirituality is just that: it is arrogant; it is condescending. It has no kinship with honor or humility. Condescension is not wisdom. Arrogance is not insight.  They are ugly and odoriferous both.

Further, arrogant spirituality is like the skunk which the bear must carefully consider swatting. He could swat it, but the resulting stink may not be worth the effort. When the impression is given that one is more spiritual, more aware, more discerning, more enlightened, or more sophisticated, it allows only a handful of responses: I can believe you and therefore submit to your superiority, or I can ignore you and thereby likely empower your arrogance by my acquiescence, or I can confront you (in the best way I know how) and risk the wrath of an offended spiritual giant who may act more like a toddler refused his toy. At the very minimum, the arrogant will be “hurt” by correction and refuse to accept any form thereof.

Basically, I am “done” with such arrogance. My being done with it will have no real impact on its ongoing activity.Nor will my assertion of “done” prevent further hurt inflicted by the arrogant. But I will do my best to keep my eyes on real spirituality. Spirituality should bear the character and nature of the very Spirit we claim to represent. One of the critical ways we do this is by doing “nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility [we should] value others above yourselves” (Phil 2:3). Did you see that? Real spirituality values, treats, considers others as if they were above us, not below us. Just as arrogant spirituality is an oxymoron, humble spirituality is redundant. To be spiritual is to be humble, honorable, and to treat people, even those with you whom deeply disagree, with profound respect.

Our genuine encounter with, revelation and illumination from, and ongoing influence of the Holy Spirit must absolutely produce in us a humility and kindness that is only surpassed by unfailing love and unyielding joy.

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17-18).

Thanks for reading,