Monthly Archives: January 2023

The Spoiled Fruits of the Wrong Spirit

Here is my list of the opposite of the Fruit of the Spirit that is evident in too many Christians and too many churches:

Fearful Indifference
The opposite of love isn’t hate but indifference, so wrote Nobel laureate, and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel. John seemed to indicate fear would be the opposite, since “perfect love casts our fear” (1 John 4:18). In combining Wiesel and John, we get the picture of love’s opposite. It’s an indifference fueled by fear. Instead of loving our neighbor, it’s fearing anyone different from ourselves. Instead of helping the outlier, it’s fearing they may harm us in some way. Jesus said to “love our neighbor,” we all know this. We would never “hate” them, but our fearful indifference has the same outcome.

Too often in the church, the criticism is not “constructive.” It might be called “constructive criticism” by the criticizer, but generally it is the garden variety, old fashion criticism. Often followed by the words, “so what are you going to do about it, pastor…” Cue: Hands on hips and rapid foot tapping. One can’t be critical and have Joy too. It’s Impossible.

Same with pride and peace. There is no peace when pride is present.

Since patience reveals the Fruit of the Spirit, impatience is its spoiled opposite.

Can a person be kind and complain too? You know the answer to that.

As opposed to goodness. Goodness flows into generosity. Greed keeps anything good to themselves.

I’ve yet to meet the person who is being faithful to God and grumbling too. Three words: Can. Not. Happen.

Cowardly Anonymous letter writing
 Cowardly anonymous letter writers are anything but gentle. They are BOOM! Here’s-what’s-wrong-you-or-wrong-with-the-church kind of letters. I’ve yet to read a cowardly anonymous letter that displays “gentleness.” (FYI: It’s one of my life rules– whenever I write the words, “Anonymous Letter,” I automatically must add the adverb “cowardly” before it. I once had a cowardly anonymous letter writer upset at my use of “cowardly” when referring to the cowardly anonymous letters. Suffice it to say, the coward was mad and not very gentle about it. True story).

No control 
The tell-tale sign of the spirit filled life: Is self-control present? Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed church leaders show a lack of self-control all the while claiming to be entirely sanctified. The outburst wasn’t like a Jesus-chasing-the-money-changers anger. It was more in the category of a toddler saying “I’m-throwing-a-temper-tantrum-and-there-is-not-a-single-thing-you-can-do-to-stop-me.” In other words, no control. The lack of self-control is why churches split, pastors walk away from assignments, and why little is accomplished in the Kingdom of God. 

As you know, spoiled fruit stinks. It attracts fruit flies and other pests. It’s no good. Same with these Spoiled Fruits of the Wrong Spirit. Don’t let them be a part of your day.

These Fruits are Not of the Spirit

Bad Apples. Every barrel (read: Church) may have one or two, don’t be that one.

Sour Grapes. Don’t let the rainy days of life ruin your outlook.

Thick melons. Think: Stubborness. Be open to fresh ideas.

Boo Berries. Be a cheerleader not a grump, grouch or grinch.

Bitter Herbs.  Are herbs fruit? I don’t know. It’s my list. Don’t be bitter.

Rotten Tomatoes. Tomato is a fruit and people with rotten attitudes are no fun.

Top Bananas. You need not be first, best or champ. Be faithful.

Cherry Picked. We are all special – not one over the other. All have been extended the invitation to follow Jesus.

Lemonhead. Don’t look and act like you are sucking the life out of room. Be a joy. 

Instead of those fruits, be a peach. Cool as a cucumber. OK, technically a cucumber is not a fruit. You probably are not a botanist so does it matter? You are the apple of God’s eye. Life might not always be a bowl of cherries, but give a fig and go bananas. You’ve got a plum assignment: Love God. Love people. 

P.S. Can you tell Fruit of the Spirit sermon series is coming? It is. Starting on January 29.

Is someone you love de-constructing or leaving/losing their faith? Try this

What do you do when someone you care for is going through a dark place spiritually? When they use words like “de-constructing” or “leaving/losing” their faith, what’s the answer?

Love them. Don’t stop loving. Whatever you do, keep on loving them.
Remind them of the Joy in the Lord they once knew. There was joy. They know it.
Pray that the Peace of God would flow in them.
Be Patient. Don’t rush things along.
Keep showing Kindness. Don’t give up on them.
And Goodness. Just flow with good news, good things. Be positive.
Keep being Faithful yourself. Don’t get down. Keep the faith. Hold on to Jesus.
No rushing, bullying (duh) or cajoling. Think Gentleness. 
And finally use self-control. When you want to speak. Think. When you want to argue. Think. When you are starting to get defensive. Stop. Breathe. Think. Pray. Then, respond.

What’s the answer to friends de-constructing their faith? Let the Fruit of the Spirit be evident in your life. It’s the “in-it-for-the-long-haul answer, it’s not a quick fix. The fruitfulness of the Spirit of God is compelling and true.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25).

Wrong Church. Right Decision.

Last Sunday a lady came to Central Church for the first time. Some friends had invited her. Only two problems: she couldn’t find her friends and no one knows her friends. No one. She described them to me. The guy was tall with a long ponytail. Nope, doesn’t ring a bell. I know most folks here. Not everybody, but most everybody. We’ve got a few fellas with ponytails. But none of our ponytailed gentlemen would be described as particularly tall and none have a wife by the name she gave me. I think she came to the wrong church.

Or did she?

The lady stayed for the service. The music was great. The sermon spoke to her. At the end of the service, Pastor Tyler in his benediction asked for folks to come forward and talk to a pastor if they needed Jesus. The lady moved out of her pew and walked down the aisle. She talked and prayed with Pastor Tyler and invited Christ into her life. She was planning on coming to our lady’s Bible study last night to continue these first steps with Jesus. Praise the Lord!

So, the big question: Did she really end up in the wrong church? Or did she have a divine appointment with God Almighty at Central Church? Here’s what we know for sure: God loves this dear lady. God knows all about her hurts and hang-ups. Knows her past. Knows her present. Knows her future. God loves her and she ended up at Central Church on Sunday.  Subsequently, she made a life changing choice, because Jesus changes everything (See what I did there? It’s Central’s Core Commitment #1: Jesus Changes everything). She came to the wrong church, but made the right decision. She is now a brand-new follower of Jesus. It was no accident. 

I sure hope that this week another someone will come to Central Church on “accident.” Or better yet, you don’t have to grow a ponytail to invite a friend to Central Church. Ask and they shall come. Your friends will be glad you asked and if your spouse is like Karla, you will be glad you didn’t need to grow a ponytail (she’d not be a fan of a me ponytailed). 

The “I-never-Attend-Church” List is growing and what are we doing about it (or NOT doing about it).

Never. Not in a million years. Have you said those words? Sure, we all have.  My list of “I nevers” include the following:

I never eat liver. (Actually, there is a lot on my “I-will-never-eat” list. Karla says, “I’m finicky.” I say, “I’m choosy”).
I never run out of gas again (I learned my lesson over Christmas).
I never cheer for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Never. Never. Never.
(I used to say, I would never see the Lions win a Super Bowl, but the feisty Motor City Kitties have left me hopeful for 2023). 

There are a few politicians on my never-vote-for list. There are other “nevers” too. But one thing NOT on my list is “church.” Sadly, those that say they “Never” attend church is growing (see chart). 

The numbers show a rather dramatic increase caused by the pandemic. Will historians write the death of the American Church as we know it was caused by Covid? (Listen I do not believe anything can kill the Church. Not Jesus’ Church. Even the “gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” That being said, it could very well be that the church as we had known it prior to 2020 will not survive). 

The numbers are startling.  One in three people you see say they never go to church. 43% of people under 30 never go. That is a particularly scary number in that historically the great number of those accepting Christ were under 30. Now 43% say they never go to church. When/where will they find Jesus if they never go to church?

The numbers on the chart should cause us to re-think our approach, re-imagine our message and take a good long look at what we are saying and how we are saying it. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” clearly does not apply. Something is broken. The way we have done things in the past, will not work today. 

I wish I had the deepest answer to this dilemma, I don’t. But I do think, we need to get back to the message of Jesus. Not backbiting. Not moral failures among leaders. Not politics. Not all the things that distract us. Keep on the message of Loving God (always). Loving People (without exception).

It’s getting back to the basics: 
1) Jesus changes everything. 
2) We Grow Better when we are together. 
3) We must be the best neighbors. 

That’s it. It’s praying that God’s will would be done and His Kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven. It’s working like everything depends on us, and praying (knowing) that everything depends on God. 

Lord, teach us to pray like Dan Orlovsky

Have you seen the pictures of the football players on their knees on Monday night, heads bowed and praying for their teammate, Damar Hamlin, after he suffered a cardiac arrest on the football field? Maybe you saw a video clip of Dan Orlovsky, former NFL player and current commentator on ESPN, praying for Damar on national TV.  

Have you ever seen or heard a TV personality breaking into prayer on a live TV show? This wasn’t the 700 Club. It was ESPN.

I never have. 
Not on a sports show. 
Not from one of the regular commentators. 

What if we did what the Buffalo Bills team and Dan Orlovsky did?  
What if we prayed like Dan Orlovsky? 

His prayer wasn’t long. It was less than a minute. He prayed for strength, healing and comfort for Damar, and peace for his family. In his prayer, he admitted to being sad and angry, but also admitted that he believed in prayer. He said, “Amen,” and his co-hosts, Laura Rutledge and Marcus Spears, both also said “Amen,” and “Respect.” Wow! National TV. Double Wow!

Did his producers know he was going to bust out in prayer? I don’t know. Did the “higher-ups” at ESPN (or even “higher-ups” at Disney Corporation, the owner of ESPN) know he was going to take time to pray? I don’t know. All I know is that Dan Orlovsky was talking about how everyone was saying they were issuing “thoughts and prayers” for Damar, and he wanted to actually pray. And he did. Right on the set of ESPN’s “NFL Live” TV program. 

What if in our workplace or school, when a co-worker, fellow employee, customer or student express distress over a problem or situation—our go-to response is not “Hey, I’m praying for you,” but instead like Dan Orlovsky said, “Could we pray about that right now?” Maybe some folks would say, “Thanks but no thanks,” but I have a gut feeling that most people who are experiencing troubles would respond the way the players on the field responded on Monday. A quick “Yeah, let’s pray!”

Listen, I don’t pretend to know how prayer works. I don’t know why God answers affirmatively to some prayers and not to others. I tell folks, “I’m in sales, not management.” But what I do know about prayer is this: God calls us to pray. In fact, the Apostle Paul says to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I also know the Bible tells us, Jesus prayed. A lot. (But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16. Underlining mine). Jesus OFTEN…prayed. It makes sense that we should too.

Listen, I pray that the Bills, Dan Orlovsky’s and all of our prayers are answered. I sure hope Damar Hamlin gets better and walks out of that Cincinnati hospital. But I also hope, that you and I would boldly pray for those needs around us. 

Lord, teach us to pray like Dan Orlovsky.