Monday, October 5, 2009

En Vivo #6 – …Fruit Happens – Tuesday, September 29, 2009

[The main event of our week here at El Pozo is what we call El Pozo “En Vivo” (which means El Pozo “Live!”), our Tuesday night all-community Bible study. It typically comes complete with preaching, music, videos, skits, free food, the whole deal. After each En Vivo, I hope to blog briefly about the night – what we taught, how it went, etc. Enjoy.]

This past Tuesday was part two of our two part series on staying connected to God – “Stay Connected, FRUIT HAPPENS”. We looked at the “fruit of the Spirit” text in Galatians 5 (verses 16-26) and talked briefly about how these are the characteristics of a Christ-follower, the characteristics of one who is connected with God. Then, to mix things up, we did more of a small-groups based teaching style rather than a straight-up sermon. We handed out a sheet that looked like this…

…to everyone and then, for each characteristic, I mentioned a person in my life who has displayed that particular trait in a way that has helped me to understand what the Scripture is talking about. Then, with an appropriate song playing in the background, the students had three or four minutes to discuss someone in their own life who came to mind. Then they wrote the name in the space and drew a little picture in the circle. There are many people I could have mentioned for every one of these characteristics, but here’s who I chose to talk about on Tuesday:

LOVE – My Dad
They say that the #1 factor related to how we view God, our Heavenly Father, is our relationship with our earthly father. I agree. Since a very young age, I have never really doubted that God exists, that God loves me unconditionally, and that God believes in me and has a good plan and purpose for my life. Why? Mainly because my Dad, Jimmy McDade, has always been there, has always loved me lavishly and without condition, and has instilled in me from day one that I can do great things if I follow God and give Him the glory. My Mom, Erin, my grandparents, and others have also loved me in this way – but when I think of God’s crazy, ridiculous, humongous love, the first person who comes to my mind is my Dad.

JOY – Male
Male (pronounced MAH-leh) is a friend of ours from the El Pozo community. She’s a recent graduate of UDLA who works in the construction industry with her father. Ever since we met her through the flag football league on campus, Male has brought joy and laughter to El Pozo and to Erin’s and my life. She’s a girl with a strong and growing faith in Jesus (we baptized her this past summer in the kiddie pool out front of the Casa Verde), and she “lets her light shine before men” whether she’s happy or sad, stressed out or totally goofing off. I told a funny story about Male cracking up the whole room at her thesis presentation (ask me to tell you sometime), and basically just lifted her up as an example of joy. When I picture Male, I picture her with a smile on her face and her arms thrown up in the air in excitement.

PEACE – My cousin K.C.
As I thought about the peacemakers in my life, the first person who came to mind was my cousin, K.C. Timmons. K.C. is, as I like to say, one of the two “big brothers I never had”. Along with my friend Neal Baker, K.C. played the role of big brother in my life. He’s five years older than me and, from an early age, invested in my brother and me more than I will ever be able to understand or thank him for. In my large and interesting extended family, sometimes there are rumors, gossip, misunderstandings, and miscommunications. Sometimes, believe it or not, people don’t get along. But everyone always gets along with K.C. And often – more often than he’d like, I’m sure – he ends up playing the role of mediator, arbiter, translator … peacemaker. I’m thankful for the role he plays in our family. K.C. has also helped to bring peace to my life in other ways. I’ll never forget when I arrived at Georgia Tech as a freshman and started in Calculus 3 (out of 4 required). I was coming off of straight As in high school … and I made a 54 on my first calc test. I was, to put it mildly, freaking out. I called two people – my Dad, and K.C. K.C., who had just graduated from Tech with my same major, helped me to calm down by telling me about the time when he made an 8 … out of 100 … on a test. We had a good laugh. And I knew I would be okay. He helped bring peace to my heart – on that and many other occasions.
[Side Note: For those who’d like to know, by the way, that 54 ended up being my highest grade of all four tests – but I ended up with a B in the class. Ah, that good ol’ GT curve! You know what they say: If you’re being chased by a bear in the woods, you don’t have to outrun the bear – you just have to outrun some of the other people!]

I could have used Erin for all of these, honestly, but the one that really stood out to me this time was her patience. I mean, she’s married to me, for goodness’ sake. The woman has incredible patience. She shows it on a daily basis, and it never fails to move me, never fails to draw me closer to the God from whom it flows. Erin has also showed incredible patience through this pregnancy / childbirth / new parent journey we’re on. It’s inspiring. She’s even more patient in little things, like researching something on the Internet. I am terrible at this, partly because I’m not very tech savvy, but mostly because I’m impatient. Erin, however, will poke and prod and investigate and eventually figure out just about anything because of her great patience. Patience is something that I was pretty much born without, but I’m living proof that it can be developed! By the grace of God, and with an awesome daily example like Erin.

KINDNESS – Juanita Del Angel
For kindness, I thought of “my Mexican Mom”, Juanita Del Angel. I lived with Juanita’s incredible family in the Fall of 2000 during my study abroad in Mexico City. They took me (and another friend of mine) in as their own, and showered us with love, kindness, guidance, and generosity in every way. I really, literally, consider the Del Angels my family. [Side note: My favorite definition of family ever comes from one of my heroes, LeRoy Lawson, who said “Family is people who have made and kept promises to each other.” I agree with another one of my heroes, Atticus Finch, who found the preoccupation with heredity silly. I believe that what truly binds people together is not the blood in their veins but the blood of Christ. No offense to my blood relatives – I love y’all more than you know! But I digress…] In spite of distance and infrequent visits, any time I’m around Juanita I continue to be amazed by her kindness. On Tuesday I shared a funny story about Juanita to help illustrate my point: When I was living with them, I had been there probably two or three months when my Dad and Charlene (stepmom) came down to visit. As we toured around Mexico City, Juanita started to speak to them in English, and I was like “Wait, YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?!?!?!” I had no idea. Juanita just laughed, with that ever-present spark in her eye. She’d conveniently never mentioned it – because of her kindness! She wanted me to learn Spanish.

This past summer, the aforementioned Dr. Lawson talked to all of us Globalscopers about “the company of Barnabas”. He talked about being an encourager. And he contrasted Paul – by all accounts a great man – with Barnabas, who seems to have been something even more impressive: a GOOD man. Paul had greatness thrust upon him, but he had to work hard to be good. Barnabas, on the other hand, was a good man. The “son of encouragement”. Seems to have been the kind of guy who was beloved, cherished, a friend of everyone – because he was good. That sounds to me like a description of Jeremy Lawler. I imagine that there will always be people who don’t like me. Whether I run over them, rub them the wrong way, fail to really listen, or make them fall asleep and topple out of a window with my preaching – whatever. But I don’t know anyone – in fact, I can’t even conceive of anyone – who doesn’t like Jeremy. And I’m not talking about popularity contests here. People like Jeremy because of his goodness, because within about three seconds of being around him, one knows that Jeremy truly cares, he’s truly interested. If the old axiom is true that “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care”, then Jeremy will continue to change the world one person at a time because EVERYONE knows how much he cares – plus he knows a heck of a lot. I need to be around my friend Jeremy on a regular basis, and I will cross oceans to do so, because his goodness rubs off on my soul. [Side Note: The other person like this in my life is my wife, which is interesting, because she and Jeremy are like the male and female versions of each other in terms of their backgrounds, their personalities, their likes/dislikes. The biggest difference is that Erin is much, much better-looking. But all of the similarities are kind of scary. We joke with Jeremy that he needs to be searching for the female version of me – which is infinitely scarier.]

When I think of faithfulness, I think of a man whose first name I can’t even remember right now… Mr. Clayton is the Dad of Andrew Clayton, a friend of mine (and a friend of many) from my GTCCF days who died one night in a car crash. Andrew was a fun, kind, gentle soul whose passing caused some deep sadness at CCF … until his dad drove up from South Georgia and inspired the entire community with his faithfulness. You see, when Andrew died, it was only a few months after his sister had died of cancer! The Claytons went from three children to one in the span of a few months. Yet they showed up at CCF and said things like how thankful they were for the time they had been given with their kids, how thankful they were that their kids had strong relationships with God. It was amazing. I will never, ever forget the celebration service that was held at CCF for Andrew. There were lots of tears, to be sure, but it was – mysteriously, powerfully, beautifully – somehow a JOYOUS occasion. It was truly a celebration of Andrew’s life. And the main reason was his dad’s inspiring faithfulness that is still bearing fruit in my life and dozens of others all these years later.

When I thought of gentleness, which is translated more like “humility” in Spanish, I thought of several people, but I decided that I wanted to use a male example to show that gentleness is not a feminine quality. I reminded our students that God is neither male nor female, that our metaphors can never capture all of who “He” is, and that Jesus is described in Scripture as a mother hen. So I talked about our buddy Betito – little Beto – who was just about the first person to pop into my mind anyway. Betito is a very small guy, the result of a kidney transplant when he was nine years old. He has been a huge part of the history of El Pozo, with his faithful presence and amazing piano playing. He’s been gone from here for about a year, back home in Tabasco awaiting his second transplant (they generally last 10 to 15 years). We all miss him terribly. He’s the kind of guy whose identity is primarily based in his relationship with his Lord Jesus, and who would never hurt a fly. If you are reading this in October 2009 I ask that you please, please keep Betito in your prayers, as his transplant will be taking place any day now. I mentioned that Betito is physically small – but, as I once told him, he’s a GIANT in the kingdom of God. The world needs both more gentlemen and more gentle men. Betito is both.

For self-control, I thought of my man Clay Cooper. I have known Clay for many years now, and I’ve worked with here in Puebla for one year (to the day, actually – they arrived on the field Oct. 6, 2008). I have observed him, up close and personal, in the following roles: husband, father, brother, brother-in-law, son, friend, teammate (co-worker and flag football and basketball and …), leader, follower, head finance dude, support-raiser, campus minister, … and probably some others I’m forgetting. I can honestly say this about Clay, and about few, if any, other people in my life: Not once – NEVER – have I heard him speak a word in anger that he would later come to regret. Clay has two wonderful kids who can be a handful. He has a wife who has emotions . He has financial and family and work and language and cultural pressures. Yet he’s a rock, and an amazing example of the self-control that we read about in Galatians 5. It’s an inspiration to me, and I’m so thankful that he’s here for our students and our staff.

After going through these personal examples and giving the small groups a little time to talk about their own examples and draw their pictures, I held up an apple and had the students describe it. They said things like green, juicy, not heavy, has a stem, grows on a tree, round, etc. I then talked about how the word “fruit” is SINGULAR, often mis-taught as the fruits of the Spirit, it’s actually one fruit with many characteristics. Which means that we can’t pick and choose – we have to seek all nine and allow God to change ALL of us. Oh, how much easier it would be for me to just ignore Patience and Self-Control – the two that are very, very difficult for me! But no, God wants my life to display all of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit – and my life is better when I allow Him to do the necessary heart surgery that allows me to be more like He calls me to be.

My final point was that not even Erin, Jeremy, Juanita, Betito, etc. can ever fully, completely, perfectly display the fruit of the Spirit in their lives – but there is one who has done that. There is one who lived a human life PERFECTLY CONNECTED to God’s Spirit at all times. Jesus. He walked this same messed-up planet yet never sinned! So the middle circle is reserved for him. We lift up and celebrate and thank God for the saints in our lives and in the history of the Church who’ve helped us to understand the second list in Galatians 5, but at the end of the day, when we want to see the fruit of the Spirit, we must look to Jesus.

The talk ended with these Scriptures leading into prayer leading into worship:

Ephesians 5:1-2
1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Philippians 2:5-11
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 4:4-9
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 1:9-11
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Gal.5:22-23 – Let's read it one more time!
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

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