Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, religion, Uncategorized

The Result of Goodness

A few years ago, tragedy struck popular Christian singer Toby Mac’s life.  When his 21 year old son died of a drug overdose he found himself in deep despair.  And wouldn’t we all?  The next few songs he wrote reflected that state of incredible sadness.  One day, he asked God if this was where he would sit the remainder of his life.  God, in his infinite goodness, began a new work in the singer.  Through the Holy Spirit, the beauty and glory of God were revealed to him in what Mr. Mac calls, “glimpses.”

I wrote on a napkin one day, ‘you’re still the goodness in my life,’ and I started to believe that, and to see how God is good to me. That’s when I wrote “The Goodness,” and it felt like a celebration, because I began to think about how gracious God is, and how He gives us little glimpses of His goodness, even in the valley.  

Toby Mac, on You’re the Goodness in My Life

The result of understanding and experiencing God’s goodness was an action by the singer.  An act I would call of kindness.  He wrote the world a song to help so many others see those glimpses during their difficult trials.

Too often we take the gifts of God and create a narrow narrative on what they should look like.  Hospitality “should” be a beautiful home, sumptuous meal and perfectly made up host.  Joy means always being “happy.” Love means not only accepting everyone’s choices but willingly going along with them.  You see what I mean?  We all know, in our hearts and minds those are false narratives.  And yet we still succumb to them.  Kindness falls into the same trap.

When the Holy Spirit does his work in us He does it in concert with our gifts and talents, I believe.  For Toby Mac, an accomplished musician, that meant creating something beautiful musically for all the world to enjoy.  He didn’t have to write that song and record it.  He could’ve kept it to himself.  But I’m sure the Holy Spirit whispered to him, “This is what I want you to do.”

While I have written before the importance of prayer when it comes to so many decisions in our life, when we seek to merge our life to reflect God, we will know what kindness done with our talents can look like on a daily basis.  We don’t have to ask, we will know.  We may need that whisper or nudge but if I were sitting having lunch with you right now and asked how you could be kind to your neighbors you would have a few ideas that would differ from mine.  And all of them God would say, “It is good.” 

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

Our daily walk in soaking in God’s unfailing goodness and the Holy Spirit’s transforming power of helping us shine that goodness will lead us to the fruit of kindness.  Fruit that is so juicy and good.  We won’t feel as though we “have to” help that neighbor or stranger.  We will feel impelled to.  Just like God doesn’t feel He has to be nice to us – He loves us so much it’s just His essence!

Kindness to me may look like asking my neighbors to overwhelm our new neighbor with a newborn with boxes of diapers.  To you, it might be a hot lasagna tray or trimming their bushes.  Kindness to a homeless person can be just a moment of talking to them or an invite for a meal or shower.  

I once called the police to come and check on a homeless person laying across the sidewalk and onto the street.  I feared the was dead.  Many, many people had walked and driven by the man.  When the police came, they took him (alive) to a shelter.  Yes, that was kindness too.  Not leaving someone in a distressed or dangerous state.  Isn’t that the type of kindness God does for us most often?  At least that’s what the Holy Spirit did for Toby Mac.  Through His love, goodness and kindness He lifted him out of despair and put him back on his fruit-filled journey.

Friend, if you aren’t sure or feel uncomfortable about selfless acts of kindness look to our Father.  He doesn’t hesitate with us.  He gives generously and freely.  And if we want to be imitators of “good,” bountiful fruit bearers, He shows us the way each and every day in our own lives.  

You may find it almost impossible to keep your minds always tending upwards, but at any rate, while you are here, “look up” with eyes uplifted to the hills where comes your help. Happy will it be for you, if by the good Spirit of God you can but get the eye so fixed upon the goodness of God now, that you shall become so fascinated, that your attention cannot be taken off that glorious object; it will be a blessing to you, a great blessing which will bear you through all your trials, and make you suck honey from the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.

Charles Spurgeon

Next week: Faithfulness

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Uncategorized

Selfishness vs Selflessness

I recently heard a riff off of Martin Luther’s theology of baptism: “I was drowned in the water of baptism but that sucker can float.”  Picture your selfish flesh coming up like a zombie out of the water each morning.  The battle of being fully sinful and fully cleansed commences.  A battle that will not be won until the day Jesus returns and raises us from the dead.  Sounds a bit disheartening doesn’t it? 

Each day we face the prospect of allowing the world to take control of our thoughts and actions.  Our desire to be vengeful, a worry-wort, greedy, immoral, and selfish sits at the end of the bed beckoning us like a zombie siren song.  

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

When I was a child, our cartoons frequently portrayed this great battle.  The everyday man, when faced with even everyday choices found a little devil and little angel sitting upon his shoulder.  So often the devil would seemingly win.  Why? Because he brings the shiny things.  The opportunities for immediate gratification, fame and glory.  What the cartoons also portrayed is the angel’s way always wins in the end.  The gratification of self always led to some sort of personal destruction.

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3:16

The problem with the cartoons was it showed “obeying” the angel as less fun and satisfying.  Isn’t that what so many of us really think when we talk about obeying God?  Removing the fun out of life.  Becoming monk-like in our ways.  James describes disorder, lack of peace, lack of love.  Those don’t actually sound like fun while the opposite does.  So I harken back to the previous post’s question, “Who do you love and admire?”

When we honestly answer that question we can then get to the root of our desires.  As a professing Christian our desire for “the good life” should come from a desire to selflessly love and worship God, not ourselves. 

How great is your (God) goodness that you would choose us, and predestinate us to be conformed into the image of your Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren, and we the happy brethren who should be transformed into his likeness!

Charles Spurgeon

We are God’s chosen.  He brings you out of the water cleansed every morning, ready to put on your full armor of God (Eph 6).  Ready to please and love God, not the water zombie at the foot of the bed.  We stay close to Him by soaking ourselves in His Word.  Watering our roots deeply so our branches grow strong.  We talk to Him throughout the day in prayer so the Holy Spirit can guide us in our fruit production.  We thank Him at every possible turn so our good fruit can bless others.

We humans know, it’s implanted in our hearts and souls, that our selfish ways are destructive.  But the pull is so great.  It can only be counteracted by turning our face toward our Creator.  Relying on Him as the broken, sinful people we know we are.  To become selfless we need to be less of ourselves and instead more as people yearning to grab ahold of God’s saving mercy and grace pulling us up from the waters into His arms.

Coming up: The result of goodness

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Uncategorized

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness & Kindness

When my eldest daughter was little, she loved and admired her grandfather greatly.  She loved him to such an extent that if she were caught doing something she shouldn’t, he could just look at her and she’d cry.  She wanted so much to please him that she would do anything to be in his good graces.  My question for you is, who do you love and admire so much that you would do just about anything in order to please them?  You take their advice.  You model your behavior and even thoughts after them.  You may not even realize you have a relationship like this with someone but you probably do.  

The danger is that, as infallible humans, we will invariably get something wrong.  It’s how our idols fall into disfavor.  Relationships get fractured when the one we’ve placed on the pedestal fails us.  There has only been one person that walked this planet who truly deserves that level of devotion – Jesus.  So, my other question is, have you placed God at the top of the list of ones you most love and desire to reflect?

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. 3 John 11

What exactly is this “good” that is a reflection or imitation of God?  The word “good” is written 725 times in our Bible.  From Genesis 1:4 all the way to 3 John we read of good and goodness.  I’ll take a leap here and say that of all the fruits of the spirit, love, peace and goodness may be the most misunderstood by Christians and especially non-Christians.  

When we say something is “good” its use can be as widespread as “loving” something thing.  “I love good sourdough bread” is not the same as “loving our neighbors reflects the goodness of God.”  The first is a fleshly desire of something made well.  The second describes a self-less act imitating the character of God.

God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God.

C.S. Lewis

Each one of the fruit of the spirit listed by Paul in Galatians deals with either the state of our soul and/or an action thereof.  All of the fruit are a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in us in creating us more like Jesus.  Therefore, the “goodness” in this list requires us first to investigate what is the goodness of God?

Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
    which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
    in the sight of the children of mankind! Psalm 31:19

When you look up the word “goodness” in Strong’s Concordance it has you refer to the index.  In the index it equates what goodness refers to in various parts of scripture.  All the references are attached to God’s character:

  • Abundant (Exodus 34:6)
  • Great   (Psalm 31:19)
  • Enduring (Psalm 52:1)
  • Satisfying (Psalm 65:4)

I would add to this list that God’s loving character also brings these other good things to our world: light, faithfulness, joy, mercy, and grace.  The words “it was good” are used over and over coming from God’s mouth to describe His glorious creation —  His great love in action.

When I said that the word “goodness” or “good” is listed among some of the most misunderstood I meant this – that apart from God no one’s soul imitates this goodness.  Yes, even that person that seems really, really good.  

If you ask a Humanist or atheist to define their morals or values, they’ll probably list things that actually are God-given commands.  The difference is, commands such as “do not steal” become wishy washy depending upon the non-believer’s circumstances.  You see, we ALL choose someone or something to imitate and hold up as the pinnacle of moral authority.  But non-Christians (and unfortunately some Christians) hold up humans as that authority.  And we are and do what we love, made worse when it is ourself.

Goodness is virtue and holiness in action. It results in a life characterized by deeds motivated by righteousness and a desire to be a blessing. It’s a moral characteristic of a Spirit-filled person. The Greek word translated “goodness,” agathosune, is defined as “uprightness of heart and life.” 

Got Questions, A Christian Podcast

Righteousness, “uprightness,” can only come from one source: the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He not only cleansed us of the guilt and sin we carry but made it so we can be called to goodness.  To reflect the goodness of God.  

God wants to be united with us in full.  He loves us, brings us joy and peace.  He’s asking us to be so in love with Him, so admiring of Him that we too want to fill our souls and the world with light, abundance, mercy and grace.  To set aside all other idols and place Him front and center.  For when we do, our goodness will naturally lead us to action.  Those actions are called love, patience and kindness.

Coming up: Selfishness or Selflessness

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Uncategorized

Endurance Brings Hope

Quite possibly the greatest lesson in the Bible about patience and endurance (both makrothymia) or lack thereof, is the one of Abraham and Sarah.  The Lord comes to Abraham and promises that he will be the father of literally millions (Gen 15:5) and yet for years and years Abraham remained childless.  He began to doubt God’s faithfulness in His promises.  So, he and Sarah decided impatiently to take matters into their own hands and create a child of Abraham through a slave girl.  That child, Ishmael, became the thorn in the Israelites’ side until this very day.  And even though they tried to circumvent God, God still came through on His promise with the birth of their own son even after Sarah was determined to be post-child birthing age.

They had hoped.  They had endured.  Until they didn’t.  Abraham and Sarah created their own timeline based on their inaccurate belief in the limited power of God.

When was the last time you said, “It’s too late. It’ll never happen.”? Although what you have prayed for might not come to fruition as you have asked, God is still working with you in the situation. Sometimes it seems you’ve been listening and waiting patiently yet at every turn you feel thwarted, abused, attacked, broken. It’s time like these that our faith is tested. You are not alone. Each one of the apostles, men who had spent hours, days, years in the very presence of God would have to then learn to keep trusting, keep enduring.

He is lining up your circumstances in a way that is better than you could ever imagine.  When you wait for the Lord, you should look forward to what He will do with joyful expectation and confident hope, because He is providing the very best for you.”  

Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principles

He wants the very best fruit to come out of you.  Not just a red apple, but the juiciest red apple you’ve ever tasted.  He wants trees rooted deeply in Him, watered richly by Him and grown in His beautiful light.  It means in those times of trials, long suffering (also makrothymia) we don’t let go.  We don’t try and go it alone.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:1-2

Our hope can endure because we know He is a God who gives generously (James 1:5).  He will provide in our darkest times; we need only look for Him in the circumstance.  We patiently wait for our hope to bloom into something bigger and more beautiful which may be when we finally are home in heaven.  

Notice that we take action while waiting?  Patiently is an adverb.  It describes an activity.  While we endure through our trial we pray, we seek His love, we experience His joy and peace.  We watch for ways He is using us to help others.

The key to patience is faith in the all-embracing, all-guiding, all-wise, all-gracious providence of God to transform all the interruptions of his children into rewards. Can we not, then, write in big letters, as a heading over our lives and over every frustration, “Satan, you meant that for evil; God meant it for good” (Gen 5:2)? 

John Piper

Friends, we are all waiting.  Waiting for small things and very large things.  We are waiting for the disappearance of pain and the appearance of our hopes come alive.  At times, we say we wait to feel complete or more alive.  And God is saying be patiently waiting, watching, learning, trusting.  He is doing great things in you.

Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:10-11


Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Uncategorized

Impatiently Waiting

There must not be many other words in human language that can evoke as much negative response as the word “wait.”  For what?  How long?  Why? No one likes to wait it seems.  We don’t want to wait in line, wait for the doctor, wait for the test results, wait for the phone call and so much more.  We’ve created online shopping so we don’t have to wait to go searching around town for what we need.  We have fast food so we don’t have to wait to cook a homemade meal.  And although modern conveniences can help us to accomplish other, more important tasks, there are plenty of things worth waiting for.  The birth of child, a harvest, the right spouse, freshly baked bread are but a few!

There are, however, clear times that, if we want to blossom as Christians, we need to not only wait but wait patiently, not allowing our fleshly desires to supersede God’s omniscience.  To marry or not, to have children, take that job, move to another home, how to deal with difficult people or situations, medical decisions – all these potentially life-altering choices should be sought patiently in wisdom with the Lord.  I have heard from too many Christians about failed marriages because they were too impatient to wait for the right person.

“Do not run ahead of God!  The delays may be very challenging for you, but they are growing your faith in Him.  Look to Him, strengthen yourself in His Word and love, remain confident that He is working on your behalf.”  

Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principles

So ok, we get it.  We need to wait on God’s wisdom.  But the waiting isn’t the fruit.  The waiting is the fertilizer, the opportunity for the fruit, which is patience in that waiting.

My friends and family know I have not typically been a patient person.  I’m a doer.  I make decisions and get things done.  I hate waiting around for other people.  Until one day it hit me.  What does my impatientness (another word I made up) look like to the world?  If I were to ask you the characteristics of an impatient person, you’d probably say someone who looks angry, frustrated, annoyed, maybe even beligerent.  To the world it looks like someone lacking in the other fruits  — love, joy and peace.  

My getting frustrated in waiting was fruit killing.  The killer spray I was using on my fruit was my pride.  I knew better how to make things happen faster, more efficient, more productive.  I knew better than almost anyone I encountered, especially God.  And the world says, “Why should I be a Christian if I still look like that?”

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.  Titus 1:16

Yikes!  Talk about a conviction.  True patience isn’t really just a lack of doing something.  It’s also about what’s going on inside our hearts and heads.  Are we thinking loving, joyful thoughts during a “waiting” moment?  Do we have peace from God knowing He has a plan for us in this time?  Because I’ll tell you my friend, if we stand in line tapping our foot and being annoyed we might just miss the opportunity to help an elderly person who is struggling with her groceries.  

The line, the wait, is just as long for Christians and non-Christians.  Are we to be the same in how we deal with it?   Or are we to remember “the eye of life’s tornados is the calm hope of our final destination”  as Christian author Dane Ortlund observes?   At all times. 

These short term opportunities for patiently waiting help build up our long-term waiting muscles.  When the pregnancy hasn’t happened, yet.  When the right job hasn’t come along, yet.  When the pain hasn’t gone away, yet.  When our sons and daughters haven’t accepted the Lord, yet.  These aren’t times to get impatient.  They are times to show the world what we believe is true.

Each of those “yets” is a hope we place in God’s faithful, loving hands.  He’s asking us to trust Him, just like He asked Abraham, the Israelites, and the apostles.  He’s saying, “Wait.”  More importantly He’s saying, “Wait patiently without fretting, without worry, without fear.  Trust me.”

Is there something you are hoping for today?  Ask Him in prayer.  Then wait patiently.  It may not be answered today or tomorrow or even in 10 years.  But during that time of patience He will do great things in and through you.

Coming up: From Endurance to Hope 

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Uncategorized

The State of Peacefulness

Throughout the last three years with my Bible study girls (BSGs) I noticed what we all struggle with the most — control.  Or on the flipside, lack of trust.  The results of that need to control typically lead to lack of peace.  We humans like to manage situations and people without first consulting the “man upstairs.” The inevitable results create frustration, hurt feelings, anger and more.  

Instead, we turn to the desires of the flesh listed just above the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy.  

We must picture hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives with the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

You may look around your own Bible study groups, church friends or even just the “good” people you know and think, “Nah, we never do any of that horrible stuff!”  You might recall, however, at the beginning of this study on love that Jesus considers gossiping or defaming someone “murder.”  Yikes!

We take our newly signed peace treaty with God and consider it a license to do what our flesh desires.  Maybe thinking He won’t notice.  We turn from the peace table, walk out the door and get angry at the first person who doesn’t do what we think they should.  We fantasize of a spouse who would love us so much better, we drink away our anxieties, hold onto our bank accounts for fear of the poorhouse, speak of “Karma” when hurt by others, become jealous of our non-Christian neighbors with the fancy new car, or just turn away from others who need a bit of kindness.

Friend, God has implanted in each and every one of us the knowledge of His existence.  Somehow, we all know what His desires are for our behavior, for our hearts.  

"Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." James 1:21

We know, through the Holy Spirit what is right and wrong in God’s view.  When we actively or even passively work against this you know what the inevitable result is?  Lack of peacefulness.  That niggling in your heart and mind is God’s way of reminding you of the path toward peace.  And yet we so often ignore it. We’ve been rejecting the Prince of Peace and His path since He walked on this Earth.

“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they (the Pharisees) were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” Luke 13: 44-46 

How incredibly sad is this point in scripture?  The Pharisees and Sadducees were spoon-fed by Jesus, Himself, the truth.  The glory of the heavens was opened to them.  The bountiful, beautiful life was placed on a platter before them and they rejected it out of jealousy.  Out of fleshly desires.  Do we want to be listed among them?  I pray your answer is no.  

I heard a podcast recently by John Ortberg on taking a hold of the beautiful life God wants for us.  He spoke of not just cutting out actions and thoughts from our lives but more importantly replacing them with a positive action and thought.  The Bible speaks of cleaning house but not leaving it empty for the thief to come and take up residence.  Therefore, if we want not just the glorious peace with God but God’s gift of peacefulness, we need to replace our desires of the flesh with His goodness.  With the blossoms of love and joy.  With trust that our God does in fact know what He is doing.  He is greater than us in every aspect and will provide.  

Through prayer, obedience and knowledge of His Word we can, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, rest in His peace.  Ask Him today to shine a light on the areas that are creating deadly weeds in our hearts.  The Great Gardner will create a beautiful peacefulness in you that you never could’ve imagined!

Coming Up: Resting In Peace

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Uncategorized

Joy In Our Obedience

I told a friend recently that maybe I should apologize to the world for the COVID pandemic.  You see I had for years been praying to God for patience and joy to be cornerstones of my life.  I thought if I just tried really hard at not doing certain behaviors I would succeed at this task.  While I had found some success in listening to God and obeying when He asked me to take certain actions, I bucked and kicked at fully surrendering myself to Him.  And then the pandemic came upon us.

As most of us experienced, our lives were thrown into chaos.  Some people almost completely shut down.  Loved ones lost not only their jobs and communion with family and friends, but their very lives themselves.  We were placed in a state of intense fear and uncertainty.  Where I live the government restrictions became egregious, almost to the state of Marshall Law.  People were afraid to leave their homes.  In some areas you could be fined over $1,000 just for sitting in your parked car on the street next to the beach.  In another, the city “outlawed” people from driving up to senior care facilities and waving at them from their windows.  Despair, anger, fear, was thick in the air whenever you made the allowed trip to the grocery store.  And boy was I angry.  

I became angry with the media for putting out confusing messages.  At government officials who chastised us for wearing masks then not wearing masks.  At neighbors who jumped to the other side of the street as though we each were walking around with deadly leprosy.  I despaired over my church closing indefinitely and not seeming to care of the state of their members. I wanted to rage on social media, to my friends and my husband.  Discord, not joy, was my refuge.  While each day I spent hours doing my various Bible studies no less!  I told my Bible study ladies, “I’m a great Christian when I’m at my house, until I walk out the front door.”

Then one day my husband, the chief operations person for a group of Alzheimer’s care facilities, came home looking completely undone.  The exhaustion on his face confirmed his first words to me, “That’s it.  I can’t do this anymore.”  The long days and nights keeping his residents and staff safe while managing the ever-changing governmental rules had taken its toll.  I realized he needed joy not discord from me.  He didn’t need to hear me complaining at dinner about the latest news announcement.  He didn’t need to feel my anger over something that happened at  the grocery store.  No, he needed me to be a mirror of the Holy Spirit.

“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”   James 3:5-6

So, my true journey of seeking joy began thanks to the pandemic.  It was a test for many of us Christians.   I knew my past failures meant a new approach was needed.  One that was Holy Spirit directed.  We can no better wish for, pressure ourselves, think into action, joy than a tree can try really hard to make cherries. But what does a cherry tree do in order to create that beautiful fruit?  It allows its very essence, it’s holy purpose to do its work inside the roots, trunk, branches, leaves and blossoms.  Effortlessly in full submission to its Creator. 

“A Christian new birth brings a change made in the views of his mind and relish of the heart so that the regenerate person seeks his interest and happiness in God.”

Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections

You see, when we seek real change from the ugliness this world grows in us it means we seek to become who God intended us to be.  People close to Him, loving Him and being immensely loved by Him.  It’s no wonder “love” is listed first as a fruit of the Spirit.  Without it, the rest would be impossible.   In researching Christian joy, I discovered these three characteristics of a joy-filled life in full bloom.

1. Submission:  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

This submission is not slave to master as some non-Christians like to portray.  No, it’s a loving mentor, teacher, parent who sincerely knows and wants the best for us.  But unlike those relationships we never grow out of needing the Lord to guide us.  He just guides us through more difficult and more beautiful experiences.  His loving omniscience is where we must put our trust.

2. Seek to Glorify God’s Will: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2

With each word we speak, each action we take, even every thought it should be with turning ourselves over to God in worship.  When we wake in the morning,  prayer sets us on the right path in seeking ways to glorify Him to our family, friends, co-workers and strangers.  In other words, the old saying, “What would Jesus do?” should be on our minds in conversations with the Spirit throughout our day.

3. Seek God’s Glorious Beauty: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15. 

 Jonathan Edwards’ theological focus through the entirety of his life was God is the foundation of beauty.  Nature doesn’t exist for itself but for the glorification of God.  I took up a challenge to think on God every 30 minutes earlier this year.  Whether in my car, cooking dinner, shopping, I stop for a minute, look around and thank God for the amazing creation around me.  The beautiful sky or quenching rain.  The child’s laughter nearby or even the opportunity to sit in traffic so I could listen to the rest of a podcast.  He is all around us in full color and glory, especially during our trials.  Praise Him!

Friend, our joy comes from the love God has shown us with the work His son has already done for us.  It comes from the work the Holy Spirit is doing in us.  The blossom?  The fruit?  That’s the work He is doing through us for all the world to see. 

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Uncategorized

Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

The search for joy and happiness has been called one of the great universal mankind desires by pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards.  It’s this craving for joy that leads some to dangerous, adrenaline junky activities.  For others it sets a bar so high in relationships that they burn through marriages to find the “perfect one.”  Some seek this seemingly elusive state of being through drugs, alcohol, or the accumulation of stuff.  “If I only I had that car or house, I’d be happy,” the poor man speaks.  “If I had a husband or children then I’d be happy,” says the single woman.  As God so often does, however, He turns the world’s understanding of this simple three-letter word, joy, inside out.  

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

When I first read these verses a few years ago I had to laugh.  It reminded me of a scene from an old movie, National Lampoon’s Animal House.  In it, young men are pledging to be members of a college fraternity.  In one scene they are being given the paddle and are required to yell out, “Thank you, Sir!  May I have another?!”  In other words, they are to act like they are enjoying the painful beating.   

The disciple James admonishes the scattered Jewish Christians to rejoice in the persecution and difficulties they face.  And so many of us read that, scrunch up our face and say, “What?”  Prior to studying the Bible and taking my faith seriously I thought joy or happiness meant smooth sailing.  When I wasn’t in that state of joy, I surmised I just wasn’t trying hard enough.  When trials came, as they always do, I despaired over my lack of joy.

I spent an entire year announcing to anyone that I was seeking “sparkliness.”  Yes, that’s a word I made up.  But you probably know what I mean.  I wanted to exude joy whenever I walked into a  room.  To be shiny and happy and light in my demeanor.  To be free of sadness and negativity.   Sounds beautiful, right?  So, I put on a happy face wherever I went.  I worked hard at not saying anything negative.  I told myself to shake off being mad or sad.  Friends, I’ve got to tell you, I failed miserably.  Because if we are “faking it,” it will show up in our fruit.

“It is evident, both by Scripture and reason, that God is infinitely, eternally, unchangeably, and independently glorious and happy.”

Jonathan Edwards

So, why couldn’t I be gloriously happy as well?  Which brought me running headfirst in to the book of James. My worldly version of joy was completely upended.  I learned what makes God truly, gloriously happy – when we place our trust, our love, our worship in Him and Him alone.

You see, while I was striving so hard to find joy, I hadn’t realized what can truly give me a life of joy.  A life where I allowed the Holy Spirit to burn away my joy-killers – discord, gossip, neediness, conceit, and envy.  A life that worships and gives glory to the giver of all beautiful gifts, Jesus.  The difference between those young men trying to get into a fraternity and receiving their “dues” is as a Christian we can find joy in knowing any persecution or affliction we face can be experienced in Jesus’ name.  Can be turned over to our loving God for help and comfort.  

The Holy Spirit and I, we started off with little tests along the way.  Helping me to see the bits of goodness when things didn’t go as planned.   The process of rebirth led me to one of the most difficult experiences I’ve had to date.  Through terrible sadness and mountains of tears I found joy.  I found it by leaning heavily on the Lord.

John Calvin was right when he said, “We can experience joy in adverse circumstances by holding God’s benefits in such esteem that the recognition of them and the meditation upon them shall overcome all sorrow.”

This week our look at the Fruit of the Spirit, joy, may feel like one of the hardest to understand to some.  If, however, we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior,  we must also look to Him for the truth of what lies beyond this world.  An eternity with our gloriously happy God who loves us so much He longs to be with us in the New Eden.

Coming Up: Obedience vs. Joy or Obedience=Joy?

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Transformation Prayer

The Fruit of Love: The Royal Command

In March of this year a young woman walked in to a Tennessee church’s school and shot and killed three 9-year old children and three adults.  She was described as  “transgender” and a person with emotional problems.  If you weren’t already aware of this terrible tragedy you are now.  And my question is, as a Christian, how will you do in loving her?  In showing her mercy and forgiveness?  I can be honest in saying it wasn’t my first or even second reaction.  As I was working on this new series about the fruit of the spirit I was challenged, however, to do just that – to love someone who seems unworthy of that love. 

You may be familiar with the stories of Jesus and the disciples coming face-to-face with what were called “demon-possessed” people.  Here’s one such story from Matthew 8:

“28 When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way.29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” 30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding.31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”32 He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. “

You notice the line: “They were so violent that no one could pass that way.”  I imagine the townspeople hated and feared these men.  Yet, Jesus healed them.  He loved them, just as He loved the townspeople who didn’t know Him and were so frightened of His abilities they sought to drive Him out of town.  He loved these two men just like He loved the disciples standing next to Him.  These vile, dangerous, murderous men.  He loved them enough to not leave them sick and imprisoned with whatever demons had infested their brains.  He freed them to live the life God intended.  And although I cannot have hope for the Tennessee shooter’s soul – because the actions led to her death – I can grieve out of love that her heart, mind and soul had been twisted by this world.

As the vitriol around the world has increasedI can’t help but see the fertile ground we have tilled for Satan to blossom.  For modern demons to take root in people’s minds and hearts.  The angry faces on the news, the destruction of property, the glee people express when someone they don’t like is “brought down” – it’s all symptoms of a world turning toward fleshly pursuits rather than the eternal.  And love?  Even love has become distorted. 

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Luke 6:35

Loving our enemies has become, instead, love whatever people do and whatever they desire.  On the contrary, Jesus’ reaction to every single person He met, whether murderous or not, was that living sinfully led to eternal death.  The wordly version of “love”—do whatever feels good — was never His message.  When we hand out needles to drug addicts we aren’t loving them, we are helping them destroy themselves.  When we turn a blind eye to fellow Christians living sexually immoral lives, we aren’t loving them, we are giving them a fast track pass to slavery.  

This challenge to love one another as Jesus did faces us Christian almost daily.  What does this love look like?  How can we love a person who kills innocent children and adults, at a church, no less?  It seems too impossible.  And it is.  

I recently heard Pastor Wayne Barber say, “True faith, real faith results in an obedient person of God.  The obedience is the bloom, the fruit.” That fruit cannot be created by us just as I cannot make the lettuce grow in my garden.  God creates the seed, the soil, the water, the sun and the mystery of how it all comes to together.  All He asks of me is to plant what He provides.  To water it and then enjoy it.  As with all the fruits of the Spirit in us it’s a melding of the work the Spirit does in me and the actions I choose to take in order to fully enjoy those fruits.  Or put it this way: to do the one thing I have available to honor God’s provisions in my life – to glorify Him with my daily actions and worship.  So how does the impossible become possible?  This week we will look at three ways to live fully in bloom with the fruit of love.

Firstly, as a Christian seeking to do God’s will and live a life in full bloom, we need to accept this concept of love is not a choice.  It is a command.  It is the Royal Command from Jesus.  

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

Jesus loved Judas.  Need we say more?  He loved the pharisees who hated Him.  He loves you.  Yes, you, who sins on a daily basis.  You grieve the Holy Spirit probably every day in some way or another.  Either by ignoring that person in need, holding on too tightly to your treasure, having an inner hatred for someone, not forgiving that relative, taking the Lord’s name in vain, being selfish, and more.  Yet He loves you.  You’ve stepped on His foot more times than He would want to count.  You’ve disregarded Him.  Ignored Him.  Falsely testified about Him or maybe even pretended you didn’t know Him.  And He loved you.  He loves you and me enough not to want us wallowing in our sinful chains but rather seeking Him to blossom and live in freedom.

I tell you my friend, the opposite of love is hatred.  And hatred kills.  It imprisons us.  It creates an ugliness that permeates into every pore of our being.  It is that hatred or anger I came to realize, along with my  pride, being the root of a very bad habit — my cursing.  I’ve tried for many, many years to stop.  It wasn’t until I realized the Spirit was already in me and I was fighting against it that the seedling of love for others began to sprout.  The Holy Spirit, sent to guide us until Jesus’ return, is living in every one of us who has accepted Jesus as our Savior.  It is there, showing us, guiding us, admonishing us.  It’s the tap on our shoulder saying, “Be kind.  Forgive her.”  It’s the great battle of whether we let the outer world rule our hearts or the inner world of the Holy Spirit take control.

When considering this command to love, especially those who have harmed us or others, take a moment to consider Saul. He hated the Jews and especially Jewish Christians.  He was murderous, feared and downright despicable.  He terrorized and destroyed communities.  And on his way to Damascus to do more damage, oblivious to God’s love for him, Jesus sought him out.  He brought light into the darkness of Saul’s heart.  The conversion of Saul to the ever-faithful disciple of Christ, Paul, might be the greatest love and rescue story in all history.  He was loved even in his blackest days.  Loved enough to be sought after by Jesus.  He didn’t have to accept this change – because the life path set before him would be the most difficult he would ever face.  But he did.  In doing so the Christians around him were also faced with a difficult decision – to love him as Jesus did.  To love him even though.  Imagine Paul coming into a community he had torn asunder.  They stood at the edge with a decision to make.  To show the world what real faith looks like or to turn their backs on God.

I once read that God is love.  He made us from His love to enjoy this world along with Him.  When He sent His Son for our final cleansing He was telling us, “I know you’ve messed up beyond belief.  I want you to be made righteous to stand next to me in all eternity.”  An eternal bond of love, never to be broken again.  He’s asking us to mirror that for all the world to see.  To live in the hope that Jesus can cleanse a blackened heart.  And in doing so the owner of that heart may take his or her place next to us as children of the One Most High.  So today, think of who you seem unable to love.  Ask God, ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse your heart and bring about a tender sprout of love.  Have faith, real faith, without doubting.  I know hard it sounds.  I’ve done it.  I love a few people who don’t seem to deserve it based on the world’s rules.  When I did as Jesus commanded it changed my life completely.

Coming up: Hatred breeds the weeds in our heart.

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, politics, prayer, proverbs, religion, Transformation Prayer, Uncategorized, wisdom

Taking Offense

Fools show their annoyance at once,
    but the prudent overlook an insult. Proverbs 12:16

This is the second rendition of today’s post.  When I started this blog over two years ago, I asked the Holy Spirit to speak through me.  If writing a particular post felt like I was pulling teeth I knew it wasn’t coming from the right source.  As a result, the post I wrote earlier went into the “delete” pile.  Each sentence I wrote was interrupted either by texts, my husband, timers going off, etc.  I now realize every time my mind wandered to one of those interruptions it was a tap on my shoulder to re-focus and re-write.

You see what was happening in the background of my original text was this very proverb.  I was getting annoyed and offended by problems surrounding an event I am hosting.  It only took me about a half a day to finally figure it out.  The Holy Spirit giving me a real life example of practicing what I preach!  

Being offended has risen to an artform these days. We are offended by other drivers, cashiers, politicians, neighbors, strangers, businesses, faceless people in our social media threads, our friends, our family, our spouses and on and on.  If “they” don’t conform to our wants and needs, it might ruin our day.  If “they” don’t act how we think they should we are hurt and insulted.  No grace and definitely no mercy.  

We take for granted that God won’t do the same to us.  Thank goodness because we all probably offend Him multiple times a day.  While He may allow our sinful actions to suffer the corresponding consequences, He isn’t sending down bolts of lightning to smote us each time we mess up.  He hasn’t washed His hands of us because He’s had it for the last time.

Friends, it’s time to step back and control our emotions.  We have in Jesus the perfect example for us today.  He was whipped, beaten, stabbed, spit on, forsaken by friends, and hung on a cross yet He still loved.  He still asked God to grant mercy.  Today, can’t we do the same with the brothers and sisters around us who are probably doing their best to make it through this day just like you?  I, for one, got this message loud and clear today.

Gracious God, thank you for your mercy.  Help me to deliver that same mercy and grace to those around me who might insult me or cause offense.  I thank you for teaching me how to seek peace throughout my days.  Amen