In some Bible translations, the word ‘meekness’ replaces the word ‘gentleness’. Many of us struggle with a clear definition of the word ‘meekness,’ but we know for sure the demonstration of gentleness when we see it. We picture a mother … Continue reading
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.
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 … Continue reading
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
“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
“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
Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life by Henri Nouwen; copyright 2013; Harper One; 256 pp. (audio 7 hr. 14 min.)
Nouwen wastes no time in his story before he defines his conception of discernment. To him, discernment is finding the spiritual answers that help us live our lives from day to day. Even more, he says–and this seems to be his purpose for writing–discernment is listening to the voice of God to find a purpose for our lives.
God speaks to us, he says, directing us as we discover what we’re passionate about. And once we’ve determined what we’re passionate about, God directs us to fulfill our purpose in His Kingdom. Vocation, however, is not the same as passion, according to Nouwen. Work can be anything we do to accomplish tasks. When we’re fulfilling our purpose, the work comes so easily and is so gratifying, we come away not even feeling like it was work. It becomes ministry at its best. Because it’s ministry at its best, it also means it’s service to others. And as we so often say, it’s “not about us.”
In fact, Nouwen makes the case that the attitude of humility helps us discern God’s meaning in things more correctly. Conversely, discerning God’s meaning brings humility.
Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest who spent nearly twenty years as a professor, also lived the Trappist life for a short time and worked with the poor in South America. But he discovered his purpose according to God’s will at L’arche Daybreak community in Ontario. Here, he worked with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
So, according to Nouwen, the idea is to listen. To God, to mentors, to those who’ve gone before us, and to the rhythms of our lives. Nouwen often quotes Thomas Merton, apparently a role model for him. It sounded like Nouwen felt kinship with Merton because their pilgrimages were similar. Both struggled with finding where they belonged if they were to serve God the way they hoped to. For me, hearing some of Merton’s ideas was a bonus because I enjoy his works as well.
Nouwen is considered among the mystics; at least I’d put him in that category. He talks a lot about his experiences in learning discernment, and for the most part, the stories are pertinent to the narrative.
Since I was reading an audio book, which he narrated himself, my mind would wander because he tends to ramble as he drops little gems of wisdom. But I want this to be a go-to book so I’m probably going to buy a copy. Then I’ll be able to mark it up and take notes in the margins. There’s meaty content and wisdom here I want to experience a second time.
Happy reading and be a blessing to someone today.
The Bible teaches us that friendship is almost like lifeblood.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
When we have close friends around us, our burdens are lighter because they have our back. They support us emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Sometimes we find it difficult to make friends because we’ve been hurt. But we can rely on some simple tips to make friends and stay somewhat safe. We start slowly. Even small talk can help. While some of us eschew it, finding out the ways that people relate in those initial conversations helps us to move on to more intimacy.
The graphic here has some fun questions to ask to get acquainted. Naturally, we don’t want to use it as a template as if we’re interviewing someone for the job of friend. But the questions can spark fun conversations with unexpected ventures into your own desires. When you ask questions like these, you find out how you and the other person ticks.
Not every person we come in contact with becomes a close friend. Some will remain simple acquaintances. That’s okay. A friend of mine referred to a few of the people at church as “Hello Friends.” She had the type of relationship with them that, while not intimate, was pleasant to have nonetheless.
A goal of mine this year is to make a new friend with at least three women at my church who have been only “Hello Friends.” They’re people I’d like to get to know better. Kathy and I have talked about trying out a restaurant we’ve never been to so we can get better acquainted. She seems like a fun person, someone who can help me understand more about God. Or at least challenge my thinking.
She may or may not become a close friend, but I have the feeling she’s the type of person, along with her husband, Larry, who would have my back if I needed that. Besides, I’d sort of like to know what kind of dinosaur she’d choose to be.
Maggie and I have become Movie Buddies and we usually like the same type of movie. She also is keen to watch the credits with me. Not many people are that patient to indulge me, but since we watched several of the Marvel superhero movies together, it always paid off.
Friendships within the Body of Christ will be some of the ones we treasure most.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Have a fun time with a new acquaintance or a longtime friend. See what happens. While you’re at it, spur that person on, encouraging them like you would your children. Meet together often and don’t let your relationships drift.
You know what? God also enjoys the conversations with him that we set into our busy day. He’s the best Friend you could ever have. He always has your back.
Father, guide us to people who, like you, can teach us more about ourselves. Help us to understand the value of friendship. Holy Spirit, we welcome you as the link between us and God. We ask you to link us to the people God wants us to connect with in our walk here on Earth. Thank you for being everything you are and for being the best Friend we have. Amen.