Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fruit of the Spirit - Week 7 - FAITHFULNESS

"But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law."
Galatians 5: 22-23

First, I want to say a belated Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!  I hope it was wonderfully full of good company, beautiful memories, and delicious food! 

It was a crazy week for me last week and blogging was not something that I was able to do.  Besides our regular packing and getting ready for Thanksgiving and visiting family in Pennsylvania, we added a Wednesday afternoon Powder Puff football game and another family member.  Last Monday night we welcomed a foreign exchange student from France into our home!  We are so blessed with the opportunity to have her, and a special treat to introduce her to Thanksgiving (and 100 more family members) and American Christmas.  Please keep her in your prayers, as it is very difficult to be away from family & friends, especially at the holidays.

Faith - Faithful - Faithfulness

How often do I use these words?  How do I use them?  What does "faithfulness" mean to me?  These are some of the questions I ask myself before I even begin the study.

This week's reading, 2 Chronicles 20:1-30, gives us one example of how God is faithful to his people.  There are many examples in the Bible of his faithfulness to his followers.  Do you have a favorite story of God's faithfulness?  How has God been faithful to you?  You can share your example / story in the Comment section (if you are reading this in your e-mail, you'll have to click on the title above to go to the website to leave your Comment).

As we read 2 Chronicles 20, we realize this is not the full story of King Jehoshaphat.  I strongly encourage you to read 2 Chronicles 17-19 to find out what led up to this.  It's a great story and a quick read! It fills in some of the blanks and gives even more hope to those of us who make mistakes or wrong decisions in our lives.  

In the study, questions 1-6 are leading us through the reading and pointing out some things which we should pay special attention to.  On Friday morning, please be prepared to talk mostly about the Group Discussion, Personal Reflection, questions 7, 8, 10, 11 and the question in the "Now and Later" section.  

I know we are all very busy and may not have time to sit and do the whole study at once.  One method I use, is to do the reading when I have a few minutes, then when I find another few minutes I work on the questions.  "Chuncking" is the term some people like to use for this method!  I like it because it reminds me of the candy bar and anything associated with chocolate is good ;)  This method may take me all week, but that's okay.  One of my personal goals, and something God calls us to do, is to spend time in His word everyday: this is one way to spend 5 or 10 minutes everyday, reading and reflecting on what God has done and is doing for us.  And while I am still working on my personal goal of a daily time with God, I always come back to the idea that He does so very much for me, I should be able to take a few minutes everyday and listen to His advice and thank and praise Him.  How do you spend time with God? 

For those of us meeting in person on Friday morning - and remember you are always welcome, even if it's your first time - please bring your favorite scissors!  We are going to multi-task by talking and cutting and helping prepare for Christmas.  Don't worry, I'll bring the band-aids - hee, hee!

I love you all and can't wait to see you on Friday morning!

Your Partner in Ministry,

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fruit of the Spirit - week 6 - GOODNESS

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!  His faithful love endures forever."  Psalm 107:1

How do you define "goodness"?  Psalm 107 tells us "God is good" and then goes on to give us several examples of his goodness. 

This Psalm offers us two views of God's goodness.  We can read the Psalm from the point of view of those in need.  The need can be real or a metaphor for something like depression, addiction, or spiritual wandering.  Can you relate to those in need?

In each scenario, the people in need did the same thing.  Think about a time when you were in need.  What did you do?  How do you respond to difficulties or trouble in your life?

We can also read the Psalm from the point of view of what God did.  In each situation, God responded the same way.  What does this mean for you in your life?  This is not only a promise of what God will do when we cry out to him in our trouble, it is also an example of how we should respond to those in need.  Matthew 5:16 speaks more of this example, "In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."

So, is being good all that difficult?  Most of us are moved to action when we see friends, family, even strangers or animals who are in need.  We make meals, we offer shelter, we pray, we donate, we volunteer: something to ease the burdens or suffering of those we love and the innocent.  But is that the Goodness that the Spirit gives us?  Luke 6:27-36 offers up a more challenging form of Goodness!  It is this scripture where Jesus tells us to "... love your enemies.  Do good to those who hate you." (Luke 6: 27b).   I can't help but think that this is the "goodness" that God displayed in Psalm 107:11, "They rebelled against the words of God, scorning the counsel of the Most High", yet he still saved them.  Now that's the kind of goodness that comes from the Holy Spirit!  I can only speak for myself, but if Jesus wants me to do good to those who hate me, I will definitely need His help!

Your Partner in Ministry,

Sunday, November 11, 2012


A huge 'Thank You' to Rhonda, for opening her home to our group on Friday!  Your generous hospitality was a blessing to all of us!

Sometimes a Bible study is more than just reading and discussing scripture.   A Bible study group can offer real help, emotional support, and spiritual togetherness in times of need.

That's what we needed this past Friday, as we gathered in the home of our friend Rhonda, because the power was still out at our church.  We had a shortened session due to other obligations, delayed school openings, school closings, and some still without power.  But an hour together was just what we needed!

We talked of the patience that Jesus says we should have and agreed that sometimes, Patience is difficult!  It's something we have to pray for and practice.  It is a fruit of the spirit that can manifest itself differently in each of us and even change throughout our lives.  The example shared was that of patience with small children - not all of us are blessed with patience with small children, until we have our own children.  That was certainly a familiar one for me!  And now that I have teens, I see my patience changing again. 

In Matthew 18:21-35, patience is closely linked to forgiveness.  Although forgiveness is not a fruit of the spirit, it is something we are called to do as Christians.  And how can we forgive "seventy times seven!" (Matt 18:22) if we have not received the fruit of patience?  It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to practice that kind of forgiveness without the fruit of patience from the Holy Spirit. 

A good question was asked during our discussion: since the forgiven servant, who withheld forgiveness from the servant who owed him money, was then thrown into jail until his original debt to the king was paid, does that mean that the forgiveness is conditional (on his forgiveness of others)?   What do you think?  Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.  I will share what we discussed, later in the week in the comment section.

We briefly talked of Kindness, as it was related in 2 Samuel 9, the story of King David's kindness to Mephibosheth, one of Jonathan's sons.  We shared how these past few weeks of suffering through a natural disaster can bring out both the worse and best in people.  And while some people can be especially difficult, cruel, and unkind many more display heroic acts of kindness to friends & strangers alike. 

And while I still struggle with 'kindness' as a fruit of the spirit, I think being kind when it is difficult to be kind can come only from "when the Holy Spirit controls our lives..." (Galatians 5:22a).  I look to Galatians 6: 8b-10, to remind me to practice patience & kindness in order that I will "harvest everlasting life from the Spirit" (Gal 6:8b). 

I don't believe it's important to have 'all the answers' in order to practice our faith.  I do think it's okay to search for clarity and answers through Scripture, prayers, discussions, meditation on the Word, and being the hands & feet of God by serving others.  Keep this in mind as we continue to learn about the Fruit of the Spirit.  It was once explained to me that all Christians receive the Fruit of the Spirit, but in the proportions we need, when we need it. 

I pray that as we continue to learn about the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control - you will start to recognize their abundance in your life.

Your Partner in Ministry,

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fruit of the Spirit - weeks 4 & 5 - PATIENCE & KINDNESS

"But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law."
- Galatians 5: 22-23

What a crazy few weeks!  And how appropriate that we would find ourselves facing a Bible study about Patience during a hurricane and Kindness during the aftermath.

Hazel Offner directs us to Matthew 18: 21 - 35 to learn about Patience.  Overall, the passage seems to be about forgiveness.  But can one practice the kind of forgiveness that Jesus says we should, without patience?  In verse 22 Jesus replies to Peter's question of 'how often to forgive?', with "seventy times seven!"  That's a lot of forgiving and probably gave Peter and the Disciples pause, so Jesus explains his response with a parable. 

How does this parable of having patience and forgiving AND not having patience and not forgiving relate to our lives?  If God is represented by the king in this parable, who are we?  Are we the unforgiving servant?  In what ways? 
On a personal level, can you think of a specific time when you were like the king and when you were like the unforgiving servant? 

For me, this is a reminder of how patient God is with me and how impatient I am with my own children.  Knowing that God is so very patient with my forgetfulness, doubt, and stubbornness makes me stop and take a moment before I lose my patience my children.  If God can forgive me all those times, than surely I can forgive my own children the times that they display the same behaviors?!  And if my impatience and unforgiving prevail, I can expect that, like the king in the parable, God will decide to remove his patience and mercy from me.  How devastating that would be!  And then I realize that must be how my children feel when I remove my patience and forgiveness from them and am heartbroken.  Praise be that God is far more patient and forgiving!  And gives such a perfect example for my behavior!

An extraordinary example of Kindness is found in 2 Samuel 9!  If you are not familiar with the story of David, he's the young shepherd boy who killed Goliath, which made him a hero!  But the story of Saul's jealousy and David's friendship with Johathan, Saul's son, begins in 1 Samuel 18.  It is a great story and a quick read!  A further testament to David's kindness can be found in 1 Samuel 24:18-21.

Although we are not faced with exactly the same circumstances as David was: I can't remember the last time I had to worry about my predecessors' family rising up to overthrow my Queen-ship; showing kindness is still not something that is easily or often done during the ordinary day.  There is still jealousy, deceit, and selfishness - all things that prevent kindness.  An impatient customer is not kind to the sales clerk and others waiting in line; the impatient driver cuts off cars and flies down the highway; the frustrated parent yells at her children.  Why is it that being unkind comes so easy?

Yet, in times of difficulty, like the hurricane many of us suffered through and many are still recovering from, we see an outpouring of kindness for those in need.  Often, when kindness is extended to a person, that person extends kindness in return.  It is a lovely circle, if we can keep it going :)

How does it feel to receive kindness (Mephibosheth)?  How does it feel to be kind (David)?  What are some practical ways we can practice Kindness in our everyday lives?  How can we be an example of kindness to others?  How can we be intentional in teaching kindness to younger generations?

I pray that during these natural disasters (Sandy and the snow storm) that you are healthy and warm.  I pray that you have received and practiced Patience and Kindness, for it is these mercies that can make even the most difficult and trying times a little easier to bear.

Your Partner in Ministry,