What We Feed Grows. What We Starve Dies.

What are you growing in your life?

Yesterday I ran into an old story about the two wolves within us. Some people say it is a Native American parable. Others say it came from Billy Graham. I’m not really sure where it came from, but it’s a story that makes me think about how I’m living. It goes like this:

A grandfather told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “The battle is between the two wolves inside us all.

“One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

“The other wolf is good. It is joy peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked “Grandpa, which wolf wins?”

The grandfather replied, “The one you feed, child. The one you feed.”

The battle between the two wolves is a lot like the battle between our sinful nature and the nature of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:17 says, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other…”

The sinful nature results in a harvest of evil—things such as lust, idolatry, quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, envy, drunkenness and other sins. The nature of the Holy Spirit brings a beautiful harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

We all would probably say we want the harvest brought by the nature of the Holy Spirit. But which one are we feeding?

What are we watching or listening to? What sort of thoughts fill our minds? We choose which “wolf” we feed by how we live our lives, how we guard our thoughts, how we spend our money, and how we spend our time.

Matthew 7:13 says, “Come to God through the narrow gate, because the wide gate and broad path is the way the leads to destruction—nearly everyone chooses that crowded road!” Permission to paraphrase? Yes? OK, good, here goes: It takes effort to feed the good wolf but it’s easy to feed the evil wolf. The evil wolf will eat anything, and most people give in to him. But his goal is our destruction.

What we feed grows. What we starve dies. Which wolf are we feeding?

Dear God, examine my life. Am I choosing to give in to my sinful nature? Or am I choosing to yield to the nature of the Holy Spirit? Show me ways how I can feed my spiritual nature and starve my sinful nature. In Jesus’s name, amen.

The Holy Spirit

Led by the Holy Spirit

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirits leading in every part of our lives.” (Galatians 5:25)

The Holy Spirit is like mission control—he influences every area of our lives. He gradually leads us to be more and more like Jesus. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are changed from the inside out.

As we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, our lives produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These changes on the inside result in changed attitudes and actions on the outside. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, we often try to change our behavior on our own but fail because our hearts haven’t changed.

The Holy Spirit changed Peter from the inside out. Remember in Matthew 26, when Jesus was arrested? Peter didn’t handle it well. He warmed himself at the enemy’s fire. He lied and claimed he didn’t know Jesus. He cursed the crowd and swore at them. His heart was full of fear and his actions revealed the fear in his heart. The chapter ends with Peter weeping bitter tears.

Fast forward to Acts 2:1-4. All the believers were gathered together when suddenly they heard what sounded like a strong windstorm in the room. Everyone in the meeting was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” With the Holy Spirit in his life, Peter was transformed.

No longer afraid, Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, stepped in front of a large crowd and shouted out the message of Jesus. Instead of a fearful, “You’re crazy, I never knew him,” he boldly declared, “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” The Holy Spirit moved Peter from fearful to dauntless.

Peter’s words were anointed by the Holy Spirit and, as he spoke, the Holy Spirit began to convict the hearts of those listening. You know, conviction gets a bad rap sometimes. Holy Spirit conviction is not like a criminal conviction. It’s more like when you think it’s time to teach your kids to tie their shoes or quit wearing diapers. It’s a loving push that says, “It’s time to do better. And I’ll help you get there.”

The Holy Spirit convicted and changed the hearts of 3,000 of the people who heard Peter declare Jesus that day. They believed and were baptized. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, Peter had a part in changing the world.

The Holy Spirit longs to work the same way in our lives today. He wants to change us from the inside out. He wants to guide our steps and anoint our words. He wants to lovingly convict us and help us become more like Jesus. He wants to lead us, anoint us, make us brave, and use us to change the world.

Father, I welcome the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Make me more sensitive to his leading. Help me respond gratefully and faithfully to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Fill my life with the fruits of the Spirit. In the name of Jesus, amen.

The Power of Self-Control

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)

Think about these statistics:

    • 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
    • 95% of dieters fail to lose weight or gain it back within five years.
    • 63% of gym memberships go completely unused.

The list goes on and on. We humans are a self-indulgent bunch. We know we should eat healthier, but we still have that chocolate doughnut. We know we should exercise, but we can’t resist a Netflix binge. We lose our tempers. We lose our patience. Our flesh cries out for things we know we don’t need. It pushes us to do what we know we shouldn’t do. And often we give into its demands.

It happens in our spiritual life as well. We know we need to spend time in prayer or reading our Bible. We know we should serve at church and share the message of Jesus with others. We know we should be kind, loving, gentle and faithful. But still, we often fail. In the words of Jesus, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

The problem is our sinful nature. Romans 7:18-19 says, “And I know nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” Because of our sinful nature, we naturally want to do what is wrong and to not do what is right.

Clearly, we need some self-control—some powerful self-control. The kind of self-control that can’t be attained through our own effort. This kind of self-control only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t need more willpower; we need more Holy Spirit power.

Here’s the glorious good news: “But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit…” (Romans 8:9). If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior,  the Holy Spirit lives in us. The Holy Spirit changes how we think. If we give the Holy Spirit freedom in our lives, he enables us to live in a way that pleases God. The Spirit transforms our mind and our thoughts. He leads us to spiritual life, peace, and self-control.

If we’re trying to develop self-control on our own, we’re fighting a losing battle. Self-control is a fruit produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit. As we lean into the leading of the Spirit, our self-control grows, and we see our lives become more and more pleasing to God.

Heavenly Father, apart from you there is no goodness in me. My sinful nature continuously draws me toward that which I know I should not do. On my own, I lack the self-control to live a life pleasing to you. Father, help me yield my thoughts and my actions to the Holy Spirit so I develop the kind of self-control you want me to have. I want to do what is right. Help me do what is right by filling me with self-control that comes from the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Be the Breeze, Not the Hurricane

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

“Which do you choose? Should I come to you with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?” (1 Corinthians 4:21)

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness—these are seven fruits most of us admittedly need and want in our lives. Who doesn’t need a little more patience? Who doesn’t want perfect peace?

But gentleness? Among the list of the fruits of the spirit, gentleness seems…well, a little less important. It may conjure up ideas of a sweet gentle grandmother or someone who is weak and timid. We sometimes overlook gentleness as a second-string fruit.

That’s because our idea of what gentleness looks like in our lives is often skewed.

The word translated as “gentleness” in Galatians 5:23 is from the original Greek word, “prautes.” It is also translated as meekness or humility. It describes a condition of the heart, an internal attitude of tenderness and concern for the feelings and wellbeing of others. For example, a crying child could be picked up with roughness, and caused further distress, and or with gentleness that soothes and calms them. If a co-worker made a mistake, we could speak to them harshly, and hurt their spirit, or gently, with concern for their feelings and wellbeing.

Gentleness is often translated as “meekness.” In modern English, “meekness” carries a connotation of weakness and cowardliness. It is used to describe someone who is too afraid to stick up for themselves. This couldn’t be farther from the real meaning of gentleness or meekness. Christian gentleness comes from a place of power and strength. Jesus is described as gentle, but he carried within him the greatest power in the universe. Gentleness isn’t weakness. It is a strong hand with a soft touch. It is power that is controlled and used with tenderness.

Gentleness is strength that is harnessed, channeled, and controlled to produce the good that God wants in your life” ( God’s strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. Yes, he makes us strong and gives us power, but he expects us to control our strength and treat others with lavish gentleness. Gentleness is essential to accomplishing God’s purpose in our life. It’s a fruit of the spirit worth seeking.

Unquestionably, the wind has great power. It can be a destructive hurricane, or it can be a gentle, cooling breeze. Strive to be the breeze, not the hurricane.

Dear God, thank you for your Holy Spirit at work in my life to produce fruit that reflects your character. Thank you for loving me enough to transform me into your image. I pray today for your help in being gentle, rather than harsh or rough. Help me treat people with tenderness and care. People are fragile, and I want to be gentle in pointing people toward your love. Show me areas of my life that need changed in order for me to produce the gentleness you want in my life. In Jesus’s name, amen.