Be The Grape And Not The Raisin

gratitude, complaining, Christian walk, Philippians 2Let me first say that I don’t have anything personal against raisins.  In fact, I think they are delicious and I especially like them decorating the top of a rice cake coated with natural peanut butter.  The raisin, as a food item, serves a yummy purpose and in that respect I am pro-raisin.

However, in the realm of the spiritual, it is a different story.  While grapes are fresh and juicy raisins are shriveled and quite dry in comparison.  (I found one source that stated a grape looses at least 85% of its water content in the process of becoming a raisin.)  Spiritually speaking, would you rather be fresh in your love for God and man and full of the (living) water or would you rather be shriveled and sunken in on yourself and in need of hydration by the Spirit?  I know which one I would choose!

 Do all things without complaining and disputing,  that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world  (Philippians 2: 14-15) NKJV

One of the first signs that we might be drying out, spiritually speaking, is when complaints and disputes begin to emerge from our mouths and in our hearts.  Over and over in God’s word we are told to be thankful in all things and not to complain or worry about anything.  For the natural man, this is 100% impossible but for the one who is staying connected to the Spirit for regeneration and renewal it is an obtainable goal.

Notice the order of verses 14 and 15 above.  If we can first put aside our complaining and disputing (because we have given our wills to God and surrendered ourselves to Him) then and only then can we become blameless and be the type of Christian that shines as a light in the world.  By extension, wouldn’t you say that allowing ourselves to be caught up in an attitude of complaint and dispute would be incredibly damaging to our testimony and to God’s work in our lives?

Regrettably, some of the most notable and vocal “complainers” that I know call themselves Christians.  And before I point the finger, sometimes that vocal complainer is me!  For all that Jesus has done for me and for all that He will do for me in ages to come, do I really have the right to complain about my present circumstances?  And for that matter, can I really afford to waste the time and energy that God has given me on grumbling about this or that?  Greatly humbled by this examination I know that I cannot.

 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) NKJV

The solution to the problem and the difference between a spiritual grape and a spiritual raisin is found in verse 5 of Philippians Chapter 2.  “Let this mind be in you…” indicates a mindset.  The mindset of Christ Jesus was that of a servant who put God’s work on earth and the pursuit of righteousness above all else.  Once we decide to take that mindset then God can begin to use us just like He used Jesus and we will live lives of passion and purpose for the glory of God.

God Changes Us For The Good

thankfulness, gratitude, praiseFresh out of bed and still bleary-eyed I stumbled into the bathroom to start my morning routine.  I would need to leave for work within the hour and I did not want to be late so I was already starting my mental checklist.

I glanced out the window at the early morning light that glowed and defined the tall pines and old oaks of the forest that began at the edge of our yard.  As I did so I was struck by the need to just be still and raise my hands towards heaven.  I began to praise God for His goodness and His love and I thanked Him for His grace and mercy and for including me in His redemption plan.

All of a sudden I was filled with an overwhelming sense of love and peace and I knew that just for a moment, I had touched the heart of God and that He had touched me in return.  I began that day with a smile on my face and a song in my heart that stayed with me and colored every moment and every interaction with joy.

Practicing gratitude and looking for opportunities to be thankful can open our eyes to moments like this.  A year or two ago I am quite sure that I would have missed the Spirit’s tug on my heart so soon after tumbling out of bed.  I would have been too focused on “me” and my needs and my dull spiritual receptors would not have tuned in to the call to praise.

The great news is, things are changing.  Rather, God is changing me and I am encouraged by His work!

I’m still not perfected, this is a process and a work in progress.  I still miss Him, sometimes, when He shows up and I am distracted and the flesh in me is in control.  That makes a moment like my spontaneous praise and worship all the more precious because it shows me that God is not through with me yet.  It is proof that He is changing me from the old man that I was into the new, holy child of the King that I want to be.

But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength;
Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For You have been my stronghold
And a refuge in the day of my distress. (Psalm 59:16) NASB