Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

Goodness may be defined as “the deliberate preference of right to wrong, the firm and persistent resistance of all moral evil, and the choosing and following of all moral good.” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary) However, goodness is also difficult to define it without using the word ‘good.’

As I continue to learn about how the Holy Spirit works in me to produce fruit, I’m glad that Easton’s dictionary uses verbs like choosing and following because the words imply I need to be aware of what’s going on around me.

When a rich young ruler approached Jesus hoping for a place in the kingdom, Jesus asked him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19)

The Greek word translated “goodness” is agathosune and means “uprightness of heart and life.” While God sees me as righteous because of my right standing with him, I might want to let others make the judgement call about how upright I am in life. After all, Jesus, who is God, gave all goodness to God alone. He could have claimed it, but in his humility, he glorified his Father.

So can I refer to myself that way, or is it up to others to call me good? Jesus told the man that inheriting the kingdom was more than obeying commandments; he was expected to show his heart, then follow.

I also appreciate that, to be considered good, I must be deliberate, firm, and persistent. Indeed, according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, being good is not a passive quality. The Spirit leads, I listen, I obey.

Ultimately, the fruit of the Spirit called “goodness,” is defined by, as are the others, the Holy Spirit himself as he works in us to make us good. With the Spirit working in us, we’re able to live a fruitful life. We love, we exhibit joy and peace. We act with kindness, and we have the potential to be good.

So far, so good.

Gracious Father who is all that’s good, continue to lead me in the way. Help me to see the life of Jesus as my model, growing in goodness and giving you all the glory. Amen.

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

When someone says the word ‘kindness,’ what we think of can be a mixture of other words as we consider how to define it. We think about how people are nice; that they act in a loving way; or that people who are kind must be generous.

All these simple descriptions are a part of what it means to be kind. I suppose we can also consider how another person perceives what we think is a kindness on our part. However, it’s a pretty sure thing that when we act out of love and humility and when we are kind in an obviously selfless way, people are more open to us and will name ‘kindness’ for what it is. Sometimes kindness can be shown by just using good manners.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

In relationships, we can show kindness by treating friends graciously even during challenging times. We are kind to someone we call ‘friend’ when we accept them for who they are, not expecting them to fulfill our definition of what they should be. In healthy relationships, we’re honest, firm, and gentle when the friendship is challenged by discord. What’s sometimes difficult for me is being honest and firm in a kind way.

“Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” Job 6:14

Sometimes we fail to be kind because we just don’t think of it. We create busy lives and we don’t make acts of kindness a habit. We’re rushing right past people who need it.

But there’s comfort in knowing that it’s only through God’s Spirit that kindness can be a consistent part of a believer’s experience. Quite simply, we surrender to the Holy Spirit and listen for the prompts to act kindly. That’s how we live the fruit of the Spirit; by surrendering to him.

Most people are familiar with the term Random Acts of Kindness. And people are familiar with a variety of popular ways to show kindness in an ordinary day. Like holding a door open for someone, or paying for the order of the stranger behind us in line at the drive-through.

Here are some other ideas: Offer someone your pen and let them keep it. Give your umbrella to a stranger. Write someone an encouraging note. Tape a microwave popcorn packet to a movie rental kiosk and leave a short note telling them you hope they enjoy the movie. Pick up litter on the beach. Donate your cut hair to a charity that makes and distributes wigs made from the donated hair. Send care packages to military personnel overseas.

On the website The Kind Blog, stories about how folks are being kind are the norm. Truly, kindness shows people that you believe they have value.

Regardless of how you define ‘kindness,’ God rewards you when you choose to selflessly help others. Make it a point to perform random acts of kindness today and to top it off, don’t let anyone else find out.

Father, you are the example of kindness I will emulate today. With my eyes on you and your character, I’ll learn more and more how to show kindness the same ways you’ve shown it to me. Thank you for giving us opportunities to be kind. Guide us to kindness so we’ll act on them. For your sake and for your glory, amen.

Be a blessing to someone today.

 

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

The word is Patience, but in some Bibles, it’s translated as ‘longsuffering.’

That’s interesting. “Suffer long” isn’t something I would say I’m good at. Compared to even a couple years ago, I’m more patient, but I still experience times when I want immediate relief.

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. And when the Spirit fills us, we will develop patience. The Holy Spirit begins to grow us in virtue and character when we decide to fully devote ourselves to Jesus. Patience isn’t dropped from Heaven in one fell swoop. We listen to what God’s Spirit is saying, then it’s up to us to behave in a patient manner. We bloom, then reap a harvest of fruit.

It isn’t necessarily a bad idea to pray for patience. But we want to remember that saying “Be careful what you pray for.” A friend of mine shared her experience praying that way. She said, “I prayed for patience, but God didn’t send me patience all wrapped up in a box with a bow on top. I got pregnant.” She was happy about the gift God did send and she certainly learned patience raising that boy.

We learn to love by exercising love. We have joy and peace when we exercise faith. God says, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18).

Listening to the Holy Spirit, whose native language is love, joy, peace, and patience, means we’re hearing the logic of exercising those things. Surely God has emotions and he gives us emotions to help us in our times of need. But he also wants us to think. Things just go better for everyone when we are patient, not wanting our way or being unable to accept whatever is going on in the moment.

“Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way” (Psalm 37:7).

The wisdom from Heaven is mature, for it is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (James 3:17).

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like what patience must be like. I confess though, sometimes it doesn’t sound like me at all.

Patience is associated with maturity. We put away childish things. How I exercise patience and what the lack of it looks like became more clear when I could make this distinction: there’s a big difference between being childlike and being childish.

Simply put, our lives can be so much better when we see how patience smooths the way.

How has God spoken to you about patience? How has he given you opportunities to exercise patience?

Lord, you are patient with us; teach us to be the same. We ask for the humility we need to exercise patience and to give up control. Lead us through every circumstance and show us what’s getting in the way of trusting you and keeping our heads in things great and small. Amen

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

In the list of fruit which will be evident in our lives as we submit to the Holy Spirit, peace is mentioned third in line. But that doesn’t mean we should master love and joy before we can have peace. The Spirit begins working all fruit in us as soon as we give our lives to Christ and decide to follow him.

If you’ve read my thoughts on Love and Joy, you might begin to understand that we don’t ‘tackle’ them as if striving to exhibit the fruit. Jesus says these are for the taking when we’re surrendered to his will. After a while, peace is our natural state of being. In my experience, agreeing with God about his purposes and the way he does things has proven to be a pretty good idea.

“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” Psalm 119:165

When Jesus healed a woman who had suffered bleeding for twelve years he told her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:48) Likewise, a local woman known for her sins crashed a party and poured expensive perfume on Jesus, washing his feet with her hair. While others criticized her, Jesus affirmed her. “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:48, 50)

When a Jew talks about peace, the word means ‘shalom.’ Shalom encompasses more to a Jew than a state of mind and body. To wish someone this kind of peace is to also wish them prosperity and wholeness. I think it’s significant that Jesus also recognized the faith they had in him. Trusting God completely will bring that kind of peace.

“And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

From the moment Christ’s birth was foretold, peace defined him. His character and attributes never suggest chaos or unrest. His wholeness, peace, love, and joy become ours. The peace the world offers is fleeting and often based on emotions, but God’s peace is based on the faith we have in him. It’s based on his gifts of unconditional acceptance and unconditional love. With the peace of God, our condition can be calm and not anxious, regardless of what’s happening around us.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Do you know someone who seems to always be at peace? What can you learn from them about living a life of peace? How do you respond when your circumstances challenge your inner life?

Jesus, we offer ourselves to you and trust you. Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to grow us and mature us in the grace you give, a never-ending grace. Your peace is what we need. We ask you to not remove us from the world, but protect our hearts from the anxieties we see there. We come to you for rest and worship you as our Prince of Peace. Amen

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.”Nehemiah 8:10

Joy is a gift. Like the other fruit of the Spirit, it’s not something we conjure up. It’s present in our lives because it’s the joy of our Lord. For instance, when Jesus sent 72 of his disciples to spread the gospel, on their return, he got super excited about the results of their efforts.

“At that time, Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” Luke 10:21

If Jesus could be filled with joy ‘through the Holy Spirit,’ why would anyone turn down a gift that creates spontaneous worship?

Joy is a permanent possession, but happiness is fickle and fleeting. While it may be hard to distinguish between joy and happiness, I like to think of joy as something I simply can’t explain. My happiness is usually expressed as something I have or don’t have. For instance, if I say “I’m not very happy today” or “I’m so happy right now!” you might ask me what’s causing my happiness or lack of it. I’d probably be able to tell you why. If I can’t tell you exactly why, it’s most likely joy.

If you look up the word joy in a dictionary, you’ll see descriptive words like exhilaration, delight, sheer gladness. When defined like this it can result from a great success or a very beautiful or wonderful experience like a wedding or graduation. But this definition of joy, one that most people understand, is from a whole different perspective. I’m here to tell you, it’s not nearly as amazing as the joy I experience from knowing God.

The joy we experience as we follow Jesus can feel a little overwhelming. It can be confusing because we’re joyful and, like I said, we can’t explain it. Sometimes I will try to figure it  out. And when I do that, what I usually find is oodles of gratitude for the grace God gives. But my little brain can’t figure out that kind of grace so anymore, I don’t even try.

Because I’m experiencing the joy of the Lord I don’t fret over things much. I’m certainly concerned about important things; I just don’t lose sleep over stuff like I used to. Experiencing joy lets me lead a simpler life. My life is more full because God has emptied me of most of the extraneous stuff I used to think was important. That sort of change in my life has brought me peace and I more easily trust God that things will eventually be okay.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Joy comes from contact with God and availing ourselves of His love. When we know our identity in Christ, joy naturally follows. That’s a joy we want everyone to experience, so we take the story of Jesus to everyone as often as possible.

On the night he was arrested, Jesus took his closest disciples to a private place and prayed for them. It gives me great joy and brings me to tears when I learn that he also prayed for the people they would reach with the gospel. People like you and me. He prayed that we would know God as he knows God and to be filled with his glory. He prayed for our protection. He prayed that we would know the unity he and his Father know. He prayed that we’d have his joy in all things.

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” John 17:13

When Jesus says “full measure,” he means it. “Full measure” will be another thing–like joy–we’ll probably never be able to explain. Because if God is eternal, how much is “full?”

I don’t know, but it sure does make me happy!

Dear Father in Heaven, remember your promise that your joy will be in us and that our joy will be complete. We praise you in our joy for your faithfulness to complete the work you’ve begun. Help us to walk in the Spirit and show evidence of you that others will see, then come to know your joy as we do. Amen

 

Living the Fruit of the Spirit: “Love”

 

Isn’t it wonderful that we don’t have to work hard at creating the fruit of the Holy Spirit? God gave us his Spirit so that we’ll be filled with fruit and exhibit that fruit by his grace. For that matter, isn’t it wonderful how often we see that God ‘gives’? As we follow Jesus and are obedient to Him, we naturally bear fruit just as a tree blossoms, then produces fruit. The tree doesn’t strive to create fruit; it does what it was created to do. When we become the new creation, likewise, the Spirit works in us.

“His divine grace has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

If by God’s grace we’re given these things, it’s a comfort to know he’s growing us up in Love. The fruit of the Spirit means just that: fruit produced in us that we don’t create ourselves. We can consider it a comfort and a relief that we aren’t required to work so hard at being loving, joyful, at peace, patient (and the rest). The Message translation for Galatians also uses this analogy.

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” Galatians 5:22-25, The Message

That said, we have a responsibility to keep our eyes on Jesus and our hearts tuned to the Spirit. Even as God is creating fruit in us, we’re better equipped to live out and preach the Gospel when we remain ‘in him.’ A branch that’s come loose from the tree stops creating fruit.

“For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself.” Galatians 5:14

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. John 15: 11-15

“Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it” 1 Peter 1:22

We love because he first loved us and they will know we are his disciples if we love one another.

Be a blessing to someone today.

(Unless otherwise noted, scripture references are from The Message)

 

Is God Angry?

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Psalm 103:8

One of the things that I really love about what King David is saying in this particular verse here is that it’s a when God is angry. He’s slow to anger, but he does indeed get angry. Personally, I’m reminded of times when the Holy Spirit’s conviction on my heart is exactly what I needed to recognize God’s righteous anger toward my sin.

But I think more often God is sad about what we’ve done or said. That was certainly the case when he saw man’s wickedness and decided to flood the earth, then start over with Noah’s family. “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth and his heart was filled with pain.” He was also grieved about King Saul turning away from him and by Saul’s disobedience.

God’s anger isn’t reserved solely for the Old Testament. He demonstrates righteous anger in several cases with Jesus. The money lenders in the temple, for example. They not only turned the court into a marketplace, their intrusion there made it impossible for the Gentiles to participate in worship. He also showed anger with the Pharisees in the temple one day. They wanted to find a reason to accuse Jesus because he intended to heal a man with a shriveled hand. “He looked around at them in anger.”

I think it takes something pretty important to make God angry and I think that’s why David says he’s slow to anger. But the Lord has every right to be angry when he sees some of the sinful ways we act out like we do. Old Testament or New, God is immutable in his character and if he could get angry millenniums ago, he can get angry now.

But his mercy! His grace! We’re comforted in knowing that even though the Lord can be angered, we’re never rejected. He welcomes us to rest in his inconceivable and constant grace.

Father, we trust in you. Show us your power and love in the ways you patiently handle our sins. Make us more aware of the things that grieve your heart and lead us in the way everlasting. Amen

 

Praying for Yourself With Humility

She prays this earnest prayer when she realizes she is prone to behaving like, as we used to call it, a ‘fuddy-duddy.’ I believe the prayer fits no matter what our age is.

Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am growing older and one day will be old.

Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs.

Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy.

With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all; but you know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.

Seal my lips on my aches and pains, they are increasing and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.

I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of other’s pains but help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.

Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint, some of them are so hard to live with, but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talent in unexpected people, and give me O Lord the grace to tell them so. Amen

Anonymous Nun, Seventeenth century

Be a blessing to someone today

Staying With a Hard Teaching

God speaks into our condition with the aid of scripture, teaching, circumstances, and other people. If we’re tuned into the Spirit who lives in us, we understand what God is saying to us. The Holy Spirit is who Christ said “will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”


The passage about a group of disciples leaving Jesus in John, chapter 6 came to mind and gave me necessary insight as I was having a conversation with friends in recovery.

Someone described how his life had been before recovery and this is the passage his story made me think of.

“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ … From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.'”

The epiphany for me was discovering that I had seen Jesus the same way Peter did. Unlike the disciples who left because they didn’t think they could follow such a “hard teaching,” I was willing to stay with Jesus and let him teach me how to obey and live by that hard teaching.

Then to paraphrase Peter, using my personal experience, I asked “To whom and to what would I go? Why would I want to leave you and go back? That lifestyle almost killed me and without the benefit of eternal life through you.”
I thank God for the Holy Spirit living inside me. I don’t deserve it, but because I decided to trust Him, God entrusts me with His presence in me.

Wow.

What Do We Have To Sing About?

Praise and worship in the form of hymns and contemporary music are a long-honored tradition in Christian churches. Whatever style of singing a church offers, the purpose is always the same: to glorify God.

We worship him for who he is and praise him for what he does.

Ever notice there are specific themes in the songs? Here are just a few.

Salvation The greatest gift of God is his Son, Jesus and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. God gave his Son to die for us and we praise him for giving with immeasurable love. Without salvation, we cannot approach God. Through our faith in Jesus, we have him as our go-between.

Dependence We wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything of value or eternal purpose without God. We are weak and tend to wander, but with God’s power and our willingness to surrender to him, all things are possible.

Evangelism Christ has given us a mission to make disciples. With so many who haven’t heard the gospel, it’s a big responsibility. It’s an individual responsibility. “I love to tell the story of Jesus and his love” is a great attitude to have. Even better to put it into a loving action.

Suffering We all go through trials, but God provides strength to get through them even if he doesn’t remove them. We don’t praise God for the trials. However, lifting up his name as our source of strength is good for us. It helps us to remember his faithfulness.

Holiness In John’s revelation, he describes a scene in which creatures sing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” God is holy; we recognize this and worship as they did. Our own holiness is another topic of many songs. God said because he is holy, we must be as well. Again, we can do it only with his power working in us.

The Holy Spirit When we sing “open the eyes of my heart,” we’re asking the Holy Spirit to help us see spiritual truth. We humbly ask for his aid because we can block God’s word through various means. Even standing in church with the body of believers all around us, it can be difficult not to let our attention go elsewhere. The Holy Spirit desires our hearts be open to receiving God’s truth and bearing fruit.

Peace and Joy Two things Jesus said he gives to us which are not of this world. His peace. His joy. When we’re worshiping God for who he is, we can’t help feeling the peace and joy he gives. Acknowledging all of his attributes–from his holiness, justice and sovereignty to his mercy, love and forgiveness–we know we have a God and Savior who can bring peace and joy no matter what’s happening in our lives.

Love We sing about God’s love for us and we sing about our love for him. The former is praise, the latter is worship.

Gratitude Being always thankful to God is another excellent way to worship him. Gratitude doesn’t have to be sung, but when voices are lifted up to praise God with our mouth saying, “Hallelujah!” God hears and is exalted.

We have many things to sing about when it comes to our Father in heaven. Don’t have a great singing voice in your own opinion? Be assured that God doesn’t see it that way. He gave you that voice.

So lift it up in worship. Bless His holy name.