Growing in Goodness

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In her book, “A Woman’s Walk with God,” Elizabeth George teaches that Kindness notices people’s needs and makes plans to meet those needs.  Goodness, then, actually follows through on those plans.

I am reminded of Mordechai’s admonition to Esther, in Esther 4:14, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

God has placed you here and now with a purpose.  As children of God, we are to be walking in Goodness.  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Part of God’s purpose for each of us is for us to be doing good works, which He planned in advance.  He has equipped each of us, individually, so that we are prepared, and he has placed us here and now.

Those who are within your sphere of influence have been entrusted to you,

yours to point to Christ,

yours to love,

 yours to disciple,

yours– to recognize needs and do your best, with God’s empowerment,

to care for them the way He cares for you.

We are not all equipped the same way.  The needs you notice, and the way you go about meeting those needs, will look different than Goodness in my life.

My teenage girls will notice a young mom with a crying baby, and know that mother will need a respite.  They would think of that because we’ve had so many Littles in our house. They know the joy of babies, and they also know sometimes mom gets tired.  A teenager who has not grown up with a house full of Littles may not notice a mother’s need for a break–not because they are unobservant, but because their experience has not trained them to recognize that need.  They will notice something different, in an arena they have talent or experience.

Your walk and your gifts may be different than mine, but where our journeys intersect we can learn from one another, partner with each other, and compliment each other.

So who and what has God entrusted to you for such a time as this?

Who is within your sphere of influence?

How have you been equipped to do good to those God has placed in your path?  We will talk about that next time…

 

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit  by Elizabeth George.  The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.

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Growing in Kindness

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Our ladies’ group has read the chapter on Kindness in Elizabeth George’s book, “A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.”  We learned that Kindness:

  •  genuinely cares about others and pays attention to the circumstances of their lives.
  •  thinks–consider other peoples’circumstances, wonder what we can do to help them… what do they need?
  •  notices–sometimes we don’t need to wonder about people’s circumstances; if we’re observant we will notice people’s needs and know what we can do to help them.  She gives examples of the Shunammite woman’s kindness to Elisha (and then he showed kindness toward her when he asked God to give her a son), Dorcas in the New Testament, and of course, Jesus.
  • touches–she says it helps to cultivate kindness when we think of it as a touch of concern and kindness.  We instinctively touch those we care about.  She gives examples of how Jesus touched people all the time.

What else can we learn about Kindness?

Kindness Defined:

If we look in the Greek Lexicon at the meaning of the word Kindness (chrēstotēs), we see that it means:

  1. Moral goodness, integrity
  2.  Benignity (tolerance), kindness

There are times that the word is also translated as gentleness and goodness, which is interesting since these are also fruit of the Spirit; one fruit with characteristics that are interdependent.

Have you ever done a word study?  A word study takes a particular word or subject and looks up all the scriptures that reference that word.  Read everything you can find in the Bible about that word, and make observations to grow your understanding of it’s meaning.

In this case I was looking up all the verses I could find that used the word Kind or Kindness.  Don’t forget to ask God what He wants to teach you on the subject!  You will be amazed by the verses you will trip over, and how the relevance will stand out for you.

How We Learn Kindness

In Titus 2:3-5 we learn that while kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, it is also something that we learn by example.  The older women are to be:

“teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible (self controlled), pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” Emphasis is mine.

And in Proverbs 31:26, in the famous passage about the “Worthy Woman,” we learn that, “She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

As Christian women, we have a responsibility to not only model kindness in our daily lives, but also to intentionally teach kindness with our words, and to grasp opportunities to give those we influence the opportunity to participate in kindness.  We see Jesus teaching in these ways when he lived among his disciples.  Many learning styles are engaged!

When my family was younger, I remember taking our little troop of 4 or 5 to and from town.  One occasion in particular I remember standing in the doorway of our home, with all these little girls trying to shuffle inside.  The youngest toddler was struggling to get up the step and inside, and my hands were full.  I watched one of the older girls standing behind her and she was just watching.  It was a trend I had been noticing a lot, and I told her, “Honey, don’t just stand there and watch your sister struggle.  Help her!”  It didn’t come naturally to her at that time, and she needed the suggestion to reach out and help.

Teach kindness.

Titus says that one of the reasons for us to walk in kindness is to protect the honor and integrity of the Word of God. The world will not believe in the kindness of God that the Bible teaches if they do not see us living what we proclaim.  Our lives are to be the proof of God’s love.

What Kindness Does

In order to live this out, we have to invite God to empty our hearts of what is not Godly in order to make room for the characteristics God wants us to have.  Paul, in Ephesians 4:32, tells us to Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave you.”  Amplified Version

Kindness is forgiving.  Laying aside personal hurts and instead desiring what is most beneficial for another person.

Kindness is compassionate, not selfish.  Philippians 2:4 says, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

John Piper says, “The idea behind “tenderhearted” is that our insides are easily touched. When your skin is tender, it doesn’t take a very hard touch to make it feel pain. When your heart is tender, it is easily affected. It feels easily and quickly.

When you stop and think about it, it is remarkable that this is commanded by the apostle. You can’t just decide to be tenderhearted and turn it on like a faucet. It is a deep character quality.”

Kindness isn’t just something you do. It’s who you are: a woman after God’s own heart.

When I began teaching my daughter to help her younger siblings instead of watching them struggle, I also began to pray for her that God would give her a tender and compassionate heart, and that he would help her notice the opportunities to help others.

Today this is the child who teaches her younger siblings to ride bike.  She dresses them to brave the winter weather and takes them sledding, patiently helping them even when it slows her down.  She brushes their teeth when mom is helping someone else, reads them books, and she is enjoyed by her younger siblings.  By faith the Holy Spirit has softened her heart toward others, and she has learned to be gracious and kind.

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Helping Sister with Math

Kindness to Who?

We are to show kindness to other believers.  “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galations 6:9, 10

The world is watching us, Beloved.  God is raising up a standard!

We are to care for those who cannot care for themselves.  In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel’s mother taught him to, “Open your mouth for the mute, For the rights of all the unfortunate.  Open your mouth, judge righteously, And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” And the worthy woman “extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy.” (verse 20)

Isn’t this the crux of the gospel?  We were afflicted with sin, and helpless, unable to save ourselves!  God, in His mercy, took action in His loving kindness and did for us what we could not do for ourselves.  Jesus took our burden of sin upon himself, suffering the consequences for us, and imparted his righteousness upon us so that we can stand blameless before a Holy Father.  We were the helpless and the needy.  Now we are the redeemed and reconciled.

We are to extend kindness to our enemies.  In Luke 6:35-36, Jesus said, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Do our enemies deserve our kindness?  No, but God is gracious toward me despite my undeservedness, and He expects me to love others as He loves me.  Sometimes all we can do for our enemies is to pray for them, and that is a lot.  We have assurance that the heartfelt and persistent prayer of the righteous accomplishes much. (James 5:16)

Kindness is Merciful.  However, it isn’t always nice.  Really.

Kindness isn’t always pleasant and agreeable.  Kindness proactively looks out for the best interests of others.  It meets needs, which isn’t necessarily always what a body wants.

Romans 2:4 tells us that God’s kindness leads us to repentance.  This change of heart involves humility and conviction, and all too often the road to recognizing our wrong and what our soul is hungering for involves discipline.  In this case kindness has to be tough.  It has to be tenacious.  Oh, yes, it must be self sacrificing.

When my nephew, Joshua,  was little he was infatuated with trains.  Our house was situated just off the highway.  The road laid between us and the train tracks.  On one occasion Joshua heard the train whistle, and captivated, he darted away from his father-my brother–and ran across our yard and straight into the highway.  I’ve never seen my brother run so fast in his life.  Hot in pursuit, he caught his son up into his arms in time to pull him out from in front of an oncoming car. He later told me that they were so close to the car that he had made eye contact with the driver.  It scared him to death, but his son was still blissfully pointing and straining for the train.  In kindness, his parents saw to it that he knew better than to ever leave the safety of the yard again, train or no train.

Isaiah 54:7,8 God said, “For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you.  In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you, says the Lord your Redeemer.”

In this passage, Israel’s disobedience had resulted in her captivity and dispersion.  God allowed her to experience pain to bring her back into relationship with Himself.  Better a “brief” time of suffering to lead them repentance so that they could enjoy an eternity of lovingkindess in paradise with God.

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As Christ followers we are commissioned to share the truth of the gospel with boldness, even if it causes others or ourselves discomfort.  We all know John 3:16   “For God so loved the world” that he gave his only Son to die in our place.  What Jesus endured for our sakes was severe, so that we would not have to experience the severity of God ourselves (Romans 11:22), but can continue in God’s kindness.

Scripture lays out guidelines for discipline in the church, to bring us to repentance and fruitfulness if we abide in Christ.  Parents are instructed in Proverbs 23 not to withhold correction from their children. God himself says that He disciplines those whom He loves.

Kindness isn’t always “nice,” but it is always loving, and It is God’s will for you.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone;  just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Colossians 3:12-14

 

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit  by Elizabeth George.  The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.

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Abiding in Christ, the Secret to a Fruitful Life

To Use the Index of the Other Posts in this series, please scroll to the bottom of the page.

 

The theme that our Women’s Ministry adopted for this year is “Abide.”  We’re  learning what scripture has to say about the Fruit of the Spirit, reading Elizabeth George’s book, “A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.”

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Why We Need to Abide

Jesus explains the importance of Abiding in John chapter 15:4,5.  “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Jesus has just washed his disciples’ feet.  They have observed Passover together in the upper room, and Judas has gone on his errand of betrayal.  Jesus has been telling them that He is going to be leaving to go to His Father. Can you imagine that they may have felt frightened and confused?   Jesus comforts them, telling them that He will not leave them as orphans.  He is sending them a Helper, the Holy Spirit, and they can continue to have fellowship with Him, and so can we, if we abide in Him.

When we are saved into a relationship with Jesus, the secret to living a fruitful life is Abiding.

Abiding: What is it?

I am assuming that if you are still reading, that you have some idea about the choices we can make to continue growing in that relationship: spending time reading God’s Word in order to learn more about His heart and what He wants for us, talking to Him in prayer, taking time to listen for His voice in our lives, and obeying Him.

The Greek word for abide, in its various forms, means to remain; it’s where you put down roots and make your home; it’s to be held, continually; it endures; remains as one and doesn’t leave; abide tarries for… it waits.  Does your heart wait upon the Lord?

There’s a difference between going through the motions of reading, praying and obeying because it’s the right thing to do and getting up in the morning with anticipation, looking forward to spending time with Him and seeing what the Lord has for you today.

I can’t tell you what truly abiding should look like for you because everyone has to come to that place of audacious love in their own way.  I think the secret lies in recognizing the magnitude of what Christ has done for you.  The cry of my heart this past year has been, “Jesus, help me love you more!”  I want to be like the woman in Luke 7 who annointed Jesus with sweet smelling oil and washed His feet with her tears.  When the Pharisee who owned the house where they were meeting criticized her, Jesus told him that it was obvious that her many sins were forgiven because of the great love she showed him. “He who is forgiven little, loves little.” (verse 47)

Don’t let the joy of your salvation diminish as time passes.  Keep your awe over what Christ has done for you.  Pour your time and effort into this relationship you have with God, and watch how He pours more into you than what you have given.  The more you give to Him, the more fruit you will see in your life.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control… these will be rich hallmarks of your character and will saturate your interactions with others.

A Misnomer explained

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away;” (verses 1,2a)

Several years ago I watched a video series by Focus on the Family which featured Ray Vander Laan.  It was a tour of the Holy Lands, and in one tour he elaborated on these verses in John 15.  He explained that grape vines were planted where they flourished best: in harsh soil.  He also explained that the translations we read are not the best explanation of what the original language meant to imply.

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The vine is established and the branches are cultivated by the vine dresser, the gardener, for one purpose only–to bear fruit.  “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, he takes away;” (vs 2)  It’s a common teaching that this is referring to “dead wood” or those who are not living Christ-like lives because they were never really saved.  We often read this and think it means that they will be removed and carried away.  Only this verse says, “Every branch in Me,”  If we are saved we are in Christ, and if we are in Christ as this verse says, we know that the will of God is that Jesus will never lose those who the Father has given Him (John 6:39).  They are not removed.

The more accurate translation would say that He will lift them up.  If the plants are allowed to lay on the ground they can become too moist and dirty and can mildew.  If they become sick, they do not produce.  The vine dressers in the old country lifted the vines up by placing large stones at the base of the plant.  The branches have to be washed and tied up–lifted up– so that they can begin bearing.  Notice what the next verse says,

“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”

When we put our trust in Jesus as our Savior, our sin is forgiven. We are in Christ and belong to Him, but we are human and we still sin, even when we don’t want to.  Paul put it like this:  “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15

The sin that persists in our lives is like the dirt and mildew on the branches… God must lift us up and clean us so that “we may share in His holiness.” Hebrews 12:10  This looks like discipline.   “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”( verse 11)  It is in our best interest to cooperate with his discipline.  The results are worth it!

And what about the branches that are already producing fruit?

“He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”  (verse 2b)

When we bought our house it had an old apple tree in the front yard.  A very large aspen tree had grown up behind it, shading it, and so the branches of the fruit tree had grown up and over, all to one side.  My husband took out the aspen tree last spring to allow light to get to the tree, but, unfortunately a good pruning wasn’t on the docket until fall.  I have never seen a tree with so many blossoms, and the bees did their job!  Oh, the apples that grew!  Many dropped off when they were still tiny because the tree simply could not sustain so much, but what continued to grow had us so excited.  Fall could not come soon enough!

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Then a wind storm came.  Need I say more?  Those big branches that were growing the wrong direction?  Snap.  They were still hanging, but not by much.  We propped them up and prayed for them a lot.  The apples on those branches never reached their full potential.  They were smaller than the fruit on the other branches, and did not ripen completely, so they were more sour and not sweet.  They were good for sauce, but not much else.

Sisters, we don’t want to be like those broken branches.  We want to be pruned so that we grow straight and strong.  We want light to get where it needs to go and put our energy into the things that are worthy of our calling.

Grape vines are heavily pruned, much more than apple trees.  My understanding is that the vine dresser cuts them back so far that they can look quite pitiful, but the more that is cut away, the bigger, sweeter, and more plentiful the harvest.  This is what we want. This is what identifies us as belonging to Him.

I have gone through seasons of pruning.  It’s not pleasant.  God cut away relationships. He cut away pride.  He hacked away at my sin of worry–one by one, as the circumstances I had always feared came to pass and as I was forced to let go of self, I learned I would live and, I learned to lean into Him more. After awhile, like Job, sometimes God will restore what He has removed from our hands, but He reminds us to remain in His love. When the season of pruning has ended, don’t go back.  Don’t forget.

Jesus said that he shared these things so that “My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (verse 11)

Our piano teacher is going to be 95 this month.  She is the most wonderful lady.  She saw me reading one day and asked me what I was learning.  I told her I was studying John 15 and pruning and she sat down across from me, smiling, and said, “Well now, that’s the thing,” her eyes twinkled, “I’m not the person I used to be.”

Isn’t that the glorious thing?  I’m not the person I used to be, and I am so very thankful!

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”   1 Corinthians 15:10

 

 

You can find the other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit on  THIS PAGE.

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit by Elizabeth George.

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Thanks to Pixabay for the photos of the grape vines.

Growing in Patience

 

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Patience.  I chose this picture because the cup in the cold window reminds me so much of me and my own need for more patience.  I love a big cup of herbal tea, but I leave some good head space when I pour my cup so that when it has brewed I can add some cold water to cool it down and get to enjoying it.

I’ve been asking God what He wants to teach me, and here it is: Four. Little. Words.

“It’s not about you.”  

When I was young my mom used to do this thing when I wanted something and she was stressed.  She would say, “Linda, the world doesn’t revolve around you.”  I hated that.  So much so that it was on my list of “Things I will never say to my children.” (And I haven’t.) It made me feel selfish and despicable inside, even when there wasn’t anything wrong with what I was asking.

When I sensed the Lord whispering this to me, “It’s not about you,” in response to my searching, it really brought up that dreadful feeling I used to get as a child.

“Lord, I know that.”  I responded.  “I know it’s not about me.”

Right?  I waited.

I felt as though I was being held under a microscope, and the discomfort of being wrung out so that my mess was on display.

And then a new understanding overtook me while my mind was suddenly flooded with thoughts of the times I tend to be impatient. (Psalm 139:23,24) I know it’s not all about me, but my reaction to my circumstances prove that my heart and my head are not always in sync.

Beloved, you and I are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

We were made by God, not for ourselves, but for Him.

Luke 1:74-75that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

We are here for His Purpose.

Put another way, 2 Corinthians 5:15  “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

We are His agents, on His Mission, with His Perspective.

The gospel is meant for you and for me, but it does not stop with us.  We are to be about His business of reconciliation.  Our mission is to serve people by loving them and leading them to Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

This reconciliation is possible because of the cross.

Jesus loved us, served us, reconciled us, indwells us, and works through us!

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The King James version, when listing the Fruit of the Spirit, does not say “patience.”  It says “longsuffering.”  That sounds pleasant, doesn’t it?  The Greek word means patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, slowness in avenging wrongs . . . .

I am reminded that I, like Paul, am running a race that I want to finish well,  (2 Timothy 4:7). God is so gracious to give us gifts to help us in this race.  The fruit of the Spirit go hand in hand.  They are dependent upon one another and work together.

Love helps me extend patience toward other people who I find challenging along the way. Seeing people the way Jesus does, and remembering that “it’s not about me” lets me love them the way He loves me.  This is forbearance.  This is steadfastness.  Sometimes, as Elizabeth George put it, it is “waiting for the judge.”

I feel the need to point out that sometimes the one we need to love and forgive is ourselves.  When we get stuck, we surely are making “it” about us and we aren’t able to move on to the good works God has planned for us to do.  Also,

“To the extent that we resist reconciliation and forgiveness, we (the church) lessen the visibility of God’s grace to the community.” ~Jake Anderson

We need to see ourselves the way Jesus sees us if we want others to be able to embrace God’s grace for them.  If you’re holding a grudge against yourself, repent.  Forgive yourself because God does, and move on.  Go forth!

Joy helps me have patience to keep running when I am experiencing less than ideal circumstances.  On days when it feels like I’m being rained out of the race, it’s not about me.  Giving thanks brings me back to God’s perspective.  This is endurance.  This is also forbearance.  This is longsuffering.

Peace helps me experience patience during seasons when I wonder, “How can what’s happening to me right now really be part of God’s plan for me to carry out His purpose?” When life doesn’t make sense. When my heart breaks. It’s not about me.  I can trust God.  I am reminded of the lyrics to the song, “Trust in You,” by Lauren Daigle:

“When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!”

This is constancy; This is steadfastness!  This is abiding.

Patience isn’t always what you feel.  Sometimes it’s what you do.  It can be obedience. Obedience is not always what you want to do. It’s just that–obedience . . . you choose it, and God changes your heart along the way.

So, when you take time to consider, when is it that you are not patient?

  • When I am under physical stress: hungry (low blood sugar), sick, tired, or in pain.
  • When I am in emotional distress: some kind of emotional pain, when I am offended (can you say PRIDE?) or when someone/something has pushed my buttons.
  • When I am experiencing spiritual or mental stress.  I feel that these two are closely intertwined: experiencing a need for spiritual renewal (not spending enough time with God), experiencing worry (a sin), and when I am caught off guard (sidelined by something difficult without having time to prepare myself).

I realize that these are situations which tend to initiate a turning inward to focus on myself.  What are some practical ways I can help myself to walk in patience?

  • Prayer.  This is the most important place to start.   Daily, I need to ask God to change my heart, give me a “longer fuse,” and give me the attitudes He wants me to have.  And then I need to ask him to give me wisdom and open my eyes to the practical ways I can be more patient.
  •  Taking care of myself!  Intentionally getting enough sleep, planning ahead for meals, eating right, and drinking water through the day will help me avoid the physical stress that can make patience more challenging for me, and help me be more present for my family.
  •  On the emotional front, spending time with God every day keeps me healthier. Giving Him my hurts instead of dwelling on them, obeying scripture that tells me to pray for my enemies, and remembering to dwell on all things lovely (Phil. 4:8) are all part of my heart care.
  • Removing opportunities to sin.  Ah.  This is challenging!  I need to constantly evaluate myself. One example is that if I notice that I suffer with impatience when the whole family is going out, people are running late, gloves are missing, etc… I can help myself avoid this scenario by having everyone pack “to-go bags” the evening before.  I can lay out gloves in pairs and put the “little people’s” shoes in order.  I need to develop more systems to help myself avoid stress and chaos.  It will be better for the whole family.  I sometimes get sidetracked by the urgent, feeling discouraged when it feels like my children are slow to learn the practical skills I am responsible to teach them (like cleaning up after themselves!)  When I stop to remember that the greater responsibility is for my attitudes and actions to point them to Jesus, the every day messes fall into their proper places.
  • Following  Jesus’ example.  Jesus kept the main thing the main thing.  He came to do the will of His Father.  He was God, yet he had a flourishing prayer life.  He said he did only what he saw his Father doing (John 5:19).  He didn’t veer from the plan.  He wasn’t side tracked by his enemies who abused him or by his disciples who sometimes loved ignorantly.  For the joy set before him, he was steadfast.  Our joy is in Him.  If we remember this we can keep the main thing the main thing.  We can remember that our purpose is to bring Him glory by carrying the gospel beyond ourselves “because of the tender mercy of our God . . . to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,” (Luke 1:78, 79),  and we can do it with patience.

 

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit  by Elizabeth George.  The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.

 

Loving and Leading, Part 3, What’s in Your Hand?

hands-and-leaf-image

“What’s in your Hand?”

It’s the question God asked of Moses in Exodus chapter 4. Moses wanted to know what he should do if he followed God’s directions to take Israel’s deliverance to them, and they didn’t believe that the Lord had sent him?

The Lord asked him, “What is that in your Hand?”

“A staff.” Moses answered.  Then he (God) said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.  But the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail”–so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand–“that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” (verses 2-5)

Moses had every excuse in the book.  God listened to them, growing impatient when Moses finally admitted the reason for all his “beating around the bush”.  He just wanted God to send someone else.

Stephen gives us insight into Moses’s response in the book of Acts when he states that,

“when he (Moses) was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel.  And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian.  And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand.”  Acts 7:23-25

His Israelite brothers certainly didn’t see him as their redeemer at that time, and he had run for his life, living as a shepherd among the people of Midian for some 40 years.

Now God wanted to send Moses back to Egypt and to his people, but his pride had been wounded, he had a family in Midian, and he was content with his life. He hadn’t been able to lead the Israelites to their salvation 40 years earlier, so why would they listen to him now?  Send someone else!

Have you ever felt that God has given you a passion for something, but you doubted you could really do the thing your heart dreamt?  Perhaps it made no sense to you. Perhaps the timing was all wrong, and falling on your face, you were afraid to try again?  I think that is what happened to Moses.  He knew his calling, but he didn’t wait for God. He needed some humility.  This was God’s show, and God was going to get the credit for what happened next.

God had a plan, and made sure Moses was prepared.  Growing up in the home of the Pharaoh, he knew what the royal family was about, was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and Stephen goes on to tell us in the book of Acts that he was a man of power in words and deeds. (Verse 22)  Extrabiblical records tell that he was a brilliant strategist, leading the Egyptian army to victory against the Ethiopians army before the age of 30.   And Moses said he couldn’t speak very well!  😀

In addition to all of that, he was born a Hebrew and had a brother willing to be his helper, he was a shepherd who was used to leading a flock, and while I’m sure he had many other attributes we know nothing about, he had learned his lesson about humility.  Numbers 12:3 tells us that Moses was a humble man, “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”  How would you like to put that on your resume`?  This is likely why God was willing to speak through Moses.

God didn’t need Moses, but He chose to allow him to participate in the grand plan, an honor you and I also have today.  Jesus commanded us to take the gospel into all the world.  It starts right here in our homes, our neighborhoods, the workplace–everywhere you step the light of God goes with you.

God told Moses that He would go with him (Exodus 4:12), and you and I have an even better arrangement.  If you are a redeemed child of God, you have His Holy Spirit dwelling in you, and he has promised to teach  you the words that you should speak! (Luke 12:12)

God has provided you with the Fruit of the Spirit (Galations 5:22-23).  He has given you spiritual gifts which the Holy Spirit gives as He wills (1 Cor. 12).  He knows the plans He has for you, and even if you are unaware of what your gifts are, they will be available for you just when you need each one. He has allowed you to have experiences that have prepared you for the next step, and will have other people in place to partner with you as you have need.  He has given you preferences and talents that will come in handy along the way, resources and tools which you will appreciate when they are needed.  He hasn’t left out a single detail.  All that is left is your willing spirit.  God will lead you to the right place at the right time, and you can watch Him work.

Is God calling you to teach release time at a school near you?  Or teach piano lessons to children who He will one day use to touch the hearts of audiences far and wide?

Is He calling you to volunteer at a Christian camp?  Or spend time with a child who is growing up in a single parent home?

Is He calling you into a relationship where you can mentor someone younger than you?  Or tugging on your heart to give extra to missions?

To teach a ladies Bible class?  Or give your car away?

Are you, like Katie Davis, being drawn to care for a people far away?

We won’t all have to travel far, and most of us will not have to wander the desert with the ones we touch, but there is a whole wide world of captives who need to be brought out.

SO, what’s in your hand?

 

 

 

Loving and Leading, Part 1

Loving and Leading, Part 2, What’s Your Story?

Suggested Resources:

Explore your spiritual gifts @ www.spiritualgiftstest.com

A Man of Selfless Dedication, Moses by Charles R. Swindoll

Just Do Something, A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung and Joshua Harris