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Food for Thought - Manna

Fruit of the Spirit (9 weeks)

Fruit of the Spirit


The focus of this Manna offering is the Fruit of the Spirit, found in Galatians 5:22-23. We have chosen the Fruit of the Spirit because they can serve as an excellent barometer to check the climate of your spiritual well-being. Paul indicates that if one walks by or is lead by the Spirit then the fruit of the Spirit will be visible in their life. It is our hope that after you have spent the next several weeks focusing on the components that comprise the Fruit of the Spirit you will be able to make use of this valuable tool throughout the rest of your Christian life, helping you to cooperate with the working of Godís spirit and facilitate your growth into the image of Christ.


These exercises are designed to help you ponder and internalize the multiple facets that encompass the Fruit of the Spirit and encourage you to examine your day through the individual lens that God, through the Fruit of the Spirit, affords you. These exercises incorporate the spiritual disciplines of meditation, journaling, and the Prayer of Examen. Each week you will be given passages of Scripture that focus on one of the elements of the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) to meditate on for an entire week. There will be 5 - 6 passages for each week. We suggest you spend at least 3 days per week (but we have enough passages for 5 - 6 days) in these exercises, taking about 30 - 45 minutes each morning (which would include time for journaling) and about 15 minutes each night in the examen(which would include some journaling).


Ideally your time each day would include:

  1. Time spent in silence, preparing your heart and asking God to guide and direct your time.
  2. Asking for the indicated grace from God (these are given at the beginning of each week. They indicate what you might want to ask God for during your time of meditation).
  3. Meditating on one of the suggested passages
  4. Asking God to help you to be aware of that aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit throughout the rest of your day.
  5. Journaling
  6. At night, taking a few minutes to reflect back on your day using the Examen questions for the week (these are given under each weekís section) to guide and direct your time of reflection (self-examination through the Prayer of Examen).

Many people find this concluding time of self-examination difficult to make happen but it is a critically important piece of the process and if not done, dilutes the power of the experience. I urge you to seek to make the incorporation of the Prayer of Examen a priority in your daily experience of these exercises. In addition to spending time meditating on the passage and concluding your day with the Examen, I would also strongly encourage you to journal. Keeping a record of what you are learning through your times of meditation on the passages (what you are discovering about yourself, God, and the presence of the fruit of the Spirit in your life through the daily examens) is invaluable. We tend to take notes at seminars but fail to do so when God speaks to us. In these exercises, mediation, the Prayer of Examen, and journaling comprise a three prong fork that God will use to feed your soul. I hope you will seek to use each one.


For those of you seeing a spiritual director: your direction appointment would be an excellent place to process through what God is showing you, challenging you with, and affirming in you.


Preparation

For your time of meditation, choose a quiet place that is free from distractions.

Gather all your materials (Bible, journal, a couple of pens) ahead of time.

Read Galatians 5:22-23 each morning before you begin your meditation time.


Tips on Meditation and Journaling:

As you meditate, don't try to force something to happen. Sit with the words - read them over slowly, prayerfully, effortlessly. Allow a word, words, thoughts, and/or insights to arise from the passage. This may be done through something you feel drawn to or something you feel resistance around.


As the word(s), thoughts, and/or insights invite you to linger, do just that - bring an expectation (but not demand) that God will speak to you through these words. Again, do not try to force something to happen. Sit silently before God, pondering the words, thoughts, insights - waiting for God to speak in the silence in words or even images beyond words.


When you feel it is time to move on, go into a time of prayer.
Thank God for this opportunity and process with God anything that might have arisen.


Finally, sit in silence with God, resting in the truth of His love for you and delight in you
.

When done, take a few minutes to reflect and journal. What happened? How did the time go? What was your sense of God? What word(s) came to your mind? What, if anything, did God communicate to you? What, if anything, is to be your response to God? What was the concluding time of silence like for you? Were you able to sit before God with a sense of His love for you, His delight in you? Why? Why not? Was this hard or easy for you? Why? Were there any areas you felt resistance ( those areas that you did not want to look at, that caused you discomfort internally)? Why do you think you felt this way? What does it tell you about yourself, your view of God, and about this component of the Fruit of the Spirit?

This all may feel somewhat forced at first but that is okay. That is not a hindrance when it comes to your relationship with God. God looks at your heart and applauds your efforts.


As far as the questions at the end: DO NOT feel compelled to answer any or especially all of them. They are prompts for you to explore your experience of God, yourself and your time in the word.


I hope you will find the above helpful. Pick out those things that are helpful and use them and do not worry about the other things.


Additional Tips

  1. As you go to bed at night, briefly look over the passage on which you will be meditating the following day.
  2. When you awake, focus your thoughts on that which you will be meditating that day.
  3. As you enter into your prayer time, remind yourself into whose presence you are entering.
  4. Pay special attention to those things that you struggle with or cause internal resistance within you. These are often doorways that will lead to new discoveries about God and you.
  5. After finishing your time, take a few moments to review what happened during that time: joy, sadness, fear, drowsiness, anxiety, boredom, etc. What drew you to God, drew you away from God, what excited you, what did you feel resistance around, etc.?
  6. Seek to remain in the feelings that surface during the time of meditation.
  7. Spend one day reviewing your week. This can be a very powerful and insightful time as you make use of the questions below under the heading, ďSuggestions and Questions for when you finish a weekÖĒ, and as you review your journal entries for that week.

The above tips are given as possible aids to your daily times of prayer. They are suggestions for you try in order to discover if they might be a helpful aid to your time with God.


Suggestions and Questions for when you finish a week, month, or the entire time:

1. When you have finished one week, do not automatically
go onto the next week
; seek
Godís wisdom and guidance. Maybe it would be better to spend another week focusing
on love, for example, rather than to move onto peace. The
goal is not to get through the material but to grow deeper
in your sense of who God is, who you most truly are, and to
become more and more transformed into the image of
Christ.


2. At the end of each week and month, spend some time
reviewing your journal, asking
yourself:
What did I learn about God?

What did I learn about myself?

What aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit seem to
naturally flow out of me? Why?

What aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit did I struggle
the most with? Why?

Ask God if you should spend additional time
reflecting on a particular aspect of
the Fruit of the
Spirit or if it is time to move on.


Love


Love is the greatest indication of our identity as a Christian. We are to love not only in word but in deed and in truth (1John 3:18). When we do anything without love it is of no value, no matter how great the act may seem (1 Corinthians 13:1-4). This week, as you focus on love, remember your capacity to love is dependent on your ability to internalize and embrace Godís love for you. It is as you know in your heart that God loves you that you are freed to love God and love others as Jesus directs us to do (Matthew 22:37-40).


Grace:
Ask God to help you to grow in your ability to experience Godís love for you, your love for God and to display your love for others.


Passages:
1 John 3:16; 1John 4:19 (Romans 5:8); Romans 8:38-39; John 13:33-34; 1Corinthians 13:1-8a.


Prayer of Examen Questions

Where did I see the love of God displayed today?

How did I experience Godís love today?

How did Godís love sustain me today?

How did I manifest/demonstrate Godís love with myself, with others?

How did Godís love change how I interacted with circumstances, myself and others today?

When did I not experience Godís love today? Why?

What hindered my ability (internal realities/external circumstances) to demonstrate Godís love today? Why?

How might I order my day/mind/heart tomorrow to help be more in touch with Godís love tomorrow?


When you finish your week of meditating on love take some time to think through the material presented above under the heading, ďSuggestions and Questions for when you finish a week, month, or the entire timeĒ.



Joy


Joy means to be glad, rejoice and take pleasure in. It can have a transitory source or it can arise from an eternal reality, such as Godís character, promises, words, our salvation in Christ and all that entails. When joy is tied to that which is temporal, it is fragile and fleeting. But when it is tied to that which is eternal, it then can endure the hardships of life and bring to oneís life an inner strength and fuel that sustains and fortifies oneís spirit, heart and soul.


Grace:
Ask God to help you realize and embrace the joy of your salvation.


Passages:
Nehemiah 8:10; Luke 10:17 -20, Romans 5:11 (Romans 5:1-5); John 15:9-11; James 1:2-4; Philippians 4:4


Prayer of Examen Questions

When did I experience or when was I aware of the joy of my salvation today?

How was Godís joy a source of strength for me today?

How did I manifest Godís joy (my joy) to those around me today?

How did Godís joy/ the joy of my salvation change how I interacted with circumstances, myself and others today?

When did I not experience Godís joy/ the joy of my salvation today?

What hindered my ability (internal realities/external circumstances) to demonstrate Godís joy/ the joy of my salvation today?

How might I order my day/mind/heart tomorrow to help be more in touch with Godís joy tomorrow?


When you finish your week meditating on joy take some time to think through the material presented above under the heading, ďSuggestions and Questions for when you finish a week, month, or the entire timeĒ.



Peace


Peace denotes rest, safety, freedom and security. However, peace for the Christian is not a byproduct of the absence of hardship or external disturbances, but instead springs from God who is the ultimate source and giver of peace. Much like joy, peace can be derived from temporal transitory realities, but lasting peace flows from God and is dependent on oneís ability to maintain oneís focus on the person and promises of God.


Grace:
Ask God to help you realize and embrace the peace of God which surpasses understanding.


Passages:
Isaiah 26:3; John 14:27; John 16:33; Ephesians 2:11-18; Philippians 4:6-7; Matthew 5:9


Prayer of Examen Questions

Where did I see the peace of God displayed today?

How did I experience Godís peace today?

How did Godís peace sustain me today?

How did I manifest/demonstrate Godís peace with myself, with others?

How did Godís peace change how I interacted with circumstances, myself and others today?

When did I not experience Godís peace today? Why?

What hindered my ability (internal realities/external circumstances) to demonstrate Godís peace today? Why?

How might I order my day/mind/heart tomorrow to help be more in touch with Godís peace tomorrow?


When you finish your week meditating on peace take some time to think through the material presented above under the heading, ďSuggestions and Questions for when you finish a week, month, or the entire timeĒ.



Patience


Patience has to do with the ability to endure, to be longsuffering, steadfast and forbearing. It involves a bearing up under the great pressures, demands and obligations of life. It speaks of an inner strength and fortitude of spirit, heart and soul.


Grace:
Ask God to strengthen you in the inner person that you might be able to be steadfast and immovable, always seeking to display the character of Christ to others.


Passages:
Ephesians 4:2; Hebrews 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Colossians 3:12-13;

2 Thessalonians 1:4


Prayer of Examen Questions

Where did I see Godís patience displayed today?

How did I experience Godís patience today?

How did Godís patience sustain me today?

How did I manifest/demonstrate Godís patience with myself, with others?

How did Godís patience change how I interacted with circumstances, myself and others today?

When did I not manifest Godís patience today?

What hindered my ability (internal realities/external circumstances) to demonstrate Godís patience today? Why?

How might I order my day/mind/heart tomorrow to help be more in touch with Godís patience tomorrow?


When you finish your week meditating on patience take some time to think through the material presented above under the heading, ďSuggestions and Questions for when you finish a week, month, or the entire timeĒ.



Kindness


Kindness involves a tender heartedness, concern and sympathy for others. Its emphasis seems to be on oneís inner disposition toward others and has connotations of being morally good and honorable.


Grace:
Ask God to open your eyes to ways you can demonstrate acts of kindness to others in word, deed and truth.


Passages:
Luke 6:35; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12;

1 Corinthians 13:4


Prayer of Examen Questions

Where did I see the kindness of God displayed today?

How did I experience Godís kindness today?

How did I manifest/demonstrate Godís kindness with myself, with others?

How did Godís kindness change how I interacted with circumstances, myself and others today?

When did I not manifest Godís kindness today?

What hindered my ability (internal realities/external circumstances) to demonstrate Godís kindness today? Why?

How might I order my day/mind/heart tomorrow to help be more in touch with Godís kindness tomorrow?


When you finish your week meditating on kindness take some time to think through the material presented above under the heading, ďSuggestions and Questions for when you finish a week, month, or the entire timeĒ.



Goodness


The meaning of goodness is very similar to that of kindness. In fact, the Greek word for goodness can be translated as kind or kindness. This being true, it is very hard to determine the difference between kindness and goodness. What those who study such things suggest is kindness is more of an inner disposition and goodness focuses on the action that is birthed by the inner disposition of kindness. Goodness is the hands and feet of kindness.


Grace:
Ask God to open your eyes to the goodness that surrounds you in the world, in others, and to help you to display that goodness throughout your day.


Passages:
John 10:11-15; Ephesians 2:10; Romans 12:21; 1 Peter 4:19; Galatians 6:9-10


Prayer of Examen Questions

Where did I see the goodness of God displayed today?

How did I experience Godís goodness today?

How did I manifest/demonstrate Godís goodness with myself, with others?

How did Godís goodness change how I interacted with circumstances, myself and others today?

When did I not manifest Godís goodness today?

What hindered my ability (internal realities/external circumstances) to demonstrate Godís goodness today? Why?

How might I order my day/mind/heart tomorrow to help be more in touch with Godís goodness tomorrow?


When you finish your week meditating on goodness take some time to think through the material presented above under the heading, ďSuggestions and Questions for when you finish a week, month, or the entire timeĒ.



Faithfulness


Faithfulness could be better translated trustworthiness. It flows from Godís faithfulness to you and involves your ability to have confidence in God and to live out of that place of trusting in God in all things so that circumstances do not sway you, but instead you are trustworthy, dependable and true no matter what.


Grace:
Ask God to help you to faithfully live out of who you are as a new creation in Christ.


Passages:
Lamentations 3:23; Romans 3:3-4; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; Luke 16:10-12;

Matthew 25:14-30


Prayer of Examen Questions

Where did I see the faithfulness of God displayed today?

How did I experience Godís faithfulness today?

How did Godís faithfulness sustain me today?

How did I manifest/demonstrate Godís faithfulness with myself, with others?

How did Godís faithfulness change how I interacted with circumstances, myself and others today?

When did I not manifest Godís faithfulness today?

What hindered my ability (internal realities/external circumstances) to demonstrate Godís faithfulness today? Why?

How might I order my day/mind/heart tomorrow to help be more in touch with Godís faithfulness tomorrow?


When you finish your week meditating on faithfulness take some time to think through the material presented above under the heading, ďSuggestions and Questions for when you finish a week, month, or the entire timeĒ.



Gentleness


Gentleness conveys the idea of mildness and could also be translated meekness. It does not mean or indicate weakness or spinelessness, but rather it involves an inner strength, resolve and passion to be in submission to the will of God. The idea of a controlled response along with humility is contained in this word as well. Its opposite would be rage.


Grace:
Ask God to help you to understand and display the strength of gentleness.


Passages:
Matthew 11:29; Matthew 5:5; Philippians 4:5-6; 1 Peter 3:15-17


Prayer of Examen Questions

Where did I see the gentleness of God displayed today?

How did I experience Godís gentleness today?

How did I manifest/demonstrate Godís gentleness with myself, with others?

How did Godís gentleness change how I interacted with circumstances, myself and others today?

When did I not manifest Godís gentleness today?

What hindered my ability (internal realities/external circumstances) to demonstrate Godís gentleness today? Why?

How might I order my day/mind/heart tomorrow to help be more in touch with Godís gentleness tomorrow?


When you finish your week meditating on gentleness take some time to think through the material presented above under the heading, ďSuggestions and Questions for when you finish a week, month, or the entire timeĒ.



Self-Control


Self-control means to be in control of oneís passions and appetites; to be free from excesses and not give into the desires and demands of the flesh for riches, food, power, significance, false intimacy, etc. To be at a place were you are able to say yes to God and no to the flesh.


Grace:
Ask God to help you to say yes to God and no to the things of this world that draw you away from God.


Passages:
1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 1 Timothy 4:7-8; I Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9


Prayer of Examen Questions

How did I experience self-control today?

How did self-control sustain me today?

How did I manifest/demonstrate self-control with myself, with others?

How did self-control change how I interacted with circumstances, myself and others today?

When did I not manifest self-control today? In what area/s?

What hindered my ability (internal realities/external circumstances) to demonstrate Godís

self-control today? Why?

How might I order my day/mind/heart tomorrow to help be more in touch with Godís self- control tomorrow?


When you finish your week meditating on self-control take some time to think through the material presented above under the heading, ďSuggestions and Questions for when you finish a week, month, or the entire timeĒ.


Congratulations!
You have finished this set of meditations. Now, before you move on to something else, I would encourage you to go back over your journal and think through what God has taught you, how God has changed you, and what God may be inviting you to go back and explore more deeply.


Finally, conclude with a time of thanksgiving to God for all you have learned and experienced these past few weeks. Celebrate your journey and before God resolve to continue to use the Fruit of the Spirit as a guide and aid on your adventure of faith.


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