Upset your fruit basket

Did you ever play that old crazy game Fruit Basket Upset? We played it in youth group when I was young. I remember it vividly because it was back when skirts were the order of the day at church, and you haven’t lived until you had to run around the room in an ankle-length denim skirt.

Always Peachy Fruit BasketIt was a pretty awesome game, sort of a cross between musical chairs and Duck Duck Goose. The rules were easy. Each player was assigned a category of fruit (apple, orange, banana, etc.). The leader would announce the category of fruit, and everyone with that category had to get up and find another seat. While they were up, a chair (or chairs) would be pulled out, and whoever was left standing was disqualified. But sometimes the leader could yell, “Fruit basket upset!” and everyone had to find another seat. It was always wild and fun, and you could play with 30+ people.

What’s in your basket?

Every Christ-follower has a fruit basket of sorts. Did you realize that? At the moment you chose to trust Jesus for your salvation, God filled you with His Holy Spirit. That means within you is all the power of the Holy Spirit, free for you to access at any time.

No, not like superpowers. You can’t fly or see through walls or shoot laser beams out of your eyes. But you can love people who don’t deserve it. You can forgive people who hurt you. You can walk away from addictions that have enslaved you. Maybe those aren’t comic-book superpowers, but those are real-life superpowers.

Galatians 5:22-23 Always PeachyA Christ-follower’s superpowers are the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—these are the nine specific character qualities that every Christian has. Just not every Christian chooses to use them.

Which fruit do you need?

Well, sometimes I need more of one than another. Do you know the feeling? Like when I wake up in the morning and all the extroverts I know are talking my ear off, I need patience. Or when I’m having a horribly stressful day and chocolate bars are on sale at the store, I need self-control.

So when I’m facing these difficult situations, I pray and ask for more patience or more self-control or more meekness. I ask God to help me with those individual qualities, but is that the right way to handle it? I mean, I’m not sure it hurts anything, but I’m not convinced that’s the right perspective to take with the Fruit of the Spirit.

Because they aren’t Fruits of the Spirit. They are Fruit. Singular. They act as a unit. One whole instead of nine pieces. You don’t get one without the others, and I’m not sure you can display one without displaying the others too.

And in the end, is it better to ask for just patience or just self-control? Shouldn’t we ask for the Holy Spirit to fill us up instead? Shouldn’t we be focused on becoming more like Jesus? After all, I’m dead (Galatians 2:20). When I chose to follow Jesus, I chose to die to myself, my own selfish desires, my own flawed perspective. (Colossians 3:3)

So the next time life throws you a curve ball and you’re tempted to lose your cool, don’t just ask for one of the Fruits to help you get through it. Instead, upset your fruit basket. You don’t have to ask for them. You already have them. So use them.

You don’t need more patience or more self-control. You need more Jesus.

Trees along the road to the Microsoft Campus, Redmond, WA

Dying to live


The trees up here are all changing colors, which is a nice difference from home. And I couldn’t help grinning from ear to ear as I walked yesterday looking at the trees and all their brilliant shades of yellow and gold and red and orange. Natives probably thought I was bonkers.

But the one thought that kept circling my mind is the irony of autumn, because we ooo and ahh over the changing colors of the leaves even though that means the trees are pretty much shutting down for the winter. They’re going to sleep so they can wake up again in spring.

I think autumn is one of my favorite symbols of the new life we have in Jesus as Christ followers.

Trees along the road to the Microsoft Campus, Bellevue, WA

Trees along the road to the Microsoft Campus, Bellevue, WA

Today’s verse is Galatians 2:20.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Death isn’t something we really like to think about. It’s usually surrounded by sorrow and tragedy, but death is a part of life. And as a Christ follower, death is something to look forward to. Jesus said time and time again during His stint on Earth that if people wanted to follow Him, they had to die to self.

What does that even mean? Die to self? Be crucified with Christ? They’re very beautiful pictures, but from a practical standpoint, what do they mean?

Practically speaking, at least the way I understand it, it means to say no to what your old self would have done and say yes to what Christ is telling you to do, what the Bible says to do. It means to live the way the Bible says. It means to conduct your business and your life as though you were Christ’s representative on Earth–which, actually, you are.

I think it’s interesting that we have to die before we can really live for something. Like the trees, if we want to live again in spring, we need to die in autumn.

If you have chosen to believe in Christ, you are a new creation. The person who you used to be is gone, and God has given you a new life now. So you don’t have to make the same old choices you made before. You can start over, just like springtime.

So the next time you see a tree blazing in the brilliant colors of autumn, remember that if you follow Christ, you’re dead to yourself and alive to live for Him. And with Him, you’ll never die again. 

Talking to ghosts

There’s a show on SciFy that captures my attention every time I have the chance to see it. It’s called Ghost Hunters. And it’s these two plumbers who decided to found a paranormal activity society in New England. It’s actually gotten huge. They have an international branch too. And what they do is travel around the world, testing to see whether or not specific locations are haunted.

Let me first express the fact that I don’t believe in ghosts. At least, not the kind of ghosts that these people are chasing. I believe in demons. So it’s with something of a morbid curiosity that I watch this show. If the show is real and no part of it is fake, let’s just say that there are some demons out there having a lot of fun with these people, moving chairs, shutting doors, etc.

 These Ghost Hunters usually end up going to old houses or hotels or castles, and what they try to do is to determine whether or not the place is full of ghosts. Many times, this group is able to “prove” that a place isn’t actually haunted and what people who live there are hearing is a result of the house settling or other architectural issues (which is honestly why I enjoy the show since they truly take a very logical, rational approach to this unusual topic). However, if they decide the location is full of ghosts, sometimes they have to advise the owners how to proceed. Most of the time, their conversations “with the ghosts” center on what the ghosts want.

This isn’t a very good segue, but in a way, every Christian is something of a Ghost Hunter in that sense. Let me explain my thought process on this one.

Today’s verse is out of Galatians, one of my favorite books of the Bible.

Galatians 2:20

20 My old self has been crucified with Christ.[a] It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Before I decided to believe in Jesus, I only had one side — the dark side. But the moment I chose to follow Christ, God renewed the dead spirit inside me, giving me full access to Him by filling me with His Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, though, that dark side is still there, haunting me. The person I used to be is still hanging around inside, urging me to do things I know are contrary to God’s Word. 

I’m ashamed to admit that many times I let my dark nature win. Somedays it’s just easier to give in and be selfish or feel pride or entitlement. Somedays a white lie will fix everything — or so it seems. Somedays it’s easy to lose patience with people who irritate me. It doesn’t matter how wrong it is, that dark side of my heart doesn’t care. And only after I let it happen do I remember that I could have stopped it.

According to this verse out of Galatians, my old self — that dark part of my nature — was crucified with Christ. The person who I used to be is dead. The person who I was has no more power over me than death itself does — except on the days when I give that person power over me by not trusting in Christ.

The fact is, I have to choose every morning who I’m going to believe, who I’m going to trust. I can either trust my dark, dead ghost of a sinful nature that has already been crucified but is still loud enough that I keep listening to it. Or I can trust Jesus who was crucified but still lives.

Personally, I think it’s a good idea to figure out what your old sin nature wants. Once you figure out what it’s telling you to do, you’ll know better how to say no to it. And I need to say no to it. Because nothing that old sin nature wants is good, but no is a term you shouldn’t use in a generic sense. You need to know why you’re saying no.

My old nature is dead. It’s not gone yet, but it’s dead. And it hangs around me like a ghost, screaming in my ears, slamming doors and moving chairs and making racket loud enough that somedays I think it’s easier just to do what it wants me to do. But I don’t have to listen to a ghost. I don’t have to live my life that way. God has given me the strength to choose to do the right thing, to follow His plan.

Living the Christian life is a process, a series of choices. Do I listen? Do I ignore? Do I outright refuse? Why or why not? This morning I have decided that I’m going to trust Christ today and deafen my ears to what my dark nature is telling me to do. In an hour, I will probably make that same decision again. And then, I will probably revisit the decision an hour after that.

In the end, though, I can’t ever be perfect. As long as I’ve got that dark nature hanging around my neck, I won’t ever make it on my own. I’m so thankful, though, that our dark sides won’t last forever. And I am eagerly anticipating the day that Christ comes back for us when the dark side of who I am will fall away and leave me with nothing but my renewed self and the Holy Spirit. Then I won’t have to listen to the ghost of my past self anymore.