Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:22-26

The Bible commands us to show kindness to others in Zechariah 7:9-10 "Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart."

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary tells us what kindness is with wonderful clarity.

1. Good will; benevolence; that temper or disposition which delights in contributing to the happiness of others, which is exercised cheerfully in gratifying their wishes, supplying their wants or alleviating their distresses; benignity of nature. Kindness ever accompanies love.
2. Act of good will; beneficence; any act of benevolence which promotes the happiness or welfare of others. Charity, hospitality, attentions to the wants of others, &c., are deemed acts of kindness, or kindnesses. Acts.28.

Some people seem to have mastered the art of kindness. My Grandma is a perfect example of this. We stayed at her home all last week, and we were showered with kindnesses the entire time. She delights in “contributing to the happiness of others,” and she gave us all her time. Grandma made fabulous meals for us and we were sent home with lunch and goodies that could have lasted us on a drive twice as long. It is not only to her family that she shows this kindness. We were able to meet many of her friends, and she is acknowledged everywhere as a wonderful hostess and woman of God.

“Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.” Proverbs 21:21

In what ways can we be kind? It could be writing a letter, taking tea to someone, voluntarily doing your sibling’s chore, or just being available to talk and help. How often do we do these and other similar kindnesses to our families, friends and acquaintances? The answer is, most likely, not enough.

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

People are born selfish. In our earliest days we beg to be served and provided for. We love kindness when it is bestowed upon us. It is all about me, me, me! The question might arise in our minds: Why would I do her chore or be patient and listen to him? They won’t return the kindness! It won’t do me any good!

Does it need to benefit us before we commit a kindness? It is a requirement of God to love kindness and exercise it humbly and cheerfully (Micah 6:8).

Although kindness should never be done out of selfish reasons with the intent of making them do something nice back, Luke 6:38 makes it clear that when you give it will be given to you, pressed down, and running over. Has anyone ever done anything for you? What did you feel like doing to them? It is natural to want to do something kind back. Friendships are built, and torn relationships can be healed.

Kindness of any kind is impossible without the Lord. Pray right now for His help and guidance. What can we do today for our parents, brothers, and sisters?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Books and More Books

I am presently reading...

Biblical Womanhood
So Much MoreBy Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin

This is a fabulous book focusing on the role Christian daughters are to have in their families and society. Special focus is placed upon the relationships between fathers and daughters. This has been a thought provoking and convicting read.

With DavidThe Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the RingBy J.R.R. Tolkien

I love reading with my brother. He is a captive audience, and it allows us to spend some fun time together. We just finished the Council of Elrond which is one of my favorite parts. There is so much character development, and I believe I enjoy an in-depth conversation more than the travel and battle sequences.

With SusannaA Little Princess
By Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is one of my favorite books, but Susanna has never read it. I love sharing a good book with someone who has never had the experience before. We have a great time. She can give each character a defining voice and accent!

A.W. PinkThe Beatitudes and the Lord’s PrayerBy A.W. Pink

This is the first book I have read by this author, but I will definitely be reading more of his work. I love the way he explains the Beatitudes with clarity and scriptural backing. I highly recommend it.

I have recently finished reading...

Woman of Independence: The Life of Abigail Adams
By Susan Provost Beller

My respect for Abigail Adams grew immensely while reading this book. It illustrates different aspects of her life through excerpts from her own letters. She was a wonderful wife, mother, teacher, sister, correspondent, and historian.

The Confession of Saint Patrick
Edited and translated by D.R. Howlett

This is one out of the only two documents written by the missionary to Ireland, and it is an inspiring read. I found it refreshing to read his story in his own words. There was no need to sift through speculation and myth.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Saint Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!!! This is not Elizabeth but her older sister Susanna. She thought it would be a good idea for me to write her blog post today, but what she doesn’t realize is that she has put me in a place of power to reveal all of her most embarrassing secrets… but since I’m so nice, I won’t.

Instead, I thought I would discuss St. Patrick’s Day. It seems to me that most people have lost sight of the holiday’s origins, and, like other holidays in this fallen world, it has become commercialized. For many, the day is merely a day to celebrate being Irish, and I can say that because I have fallen into that trap myself. For Christians, though, St. Patrick’s Day is about so much more than that. This holiday isn’t even really about St. Patrick. It is about the grace of God to send His truth to a remote island deep in sin and about His great love and mercy for mankind, not just the Irish.

St. Patrick answered the call of God to minister to the Irish, who were involved in pagan practices, and many were saved. When choosing books about St. Patrick, I recommend reading biographies written from the Biblical perspective. If one avoids the common myths surrounding his legacy, such as the banishing of the snakes, I believe that God did work through this man in amazing and often miraculous ways.

Following is a quote from The Confession of Saint Patrick:

“I am, then, first of all, countrified, an exile, evidently unlearned, one who is not able to see into the future, but I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favors in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Patience Exemplified

Abraham was a man of faith and patience. Several times God promised him a son. He said that his offspring would be as many as the dust on the ground or the stars in the heaven. Abram and his wife were already old when this promise was made, but nothing is impossible with God. When He makes a promise, it is Truth!

This is one of my favorite stories, since I was named after this faithful woman of God in the Bible. Luke 1:6 says that Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous and walked blameless in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. Children are a blessing from the Lord, and they probably wondered why they had not been blessed. Through the years they remained faithful to God. Elizabeth showed patience in this circumstance and was rewarded with her son John.

Saint Patrick was an unbelieving 15 year old when he was captured by the pagan Irish and taken to be a slave. It was this experience that led to his conversion and a personal relationship with God as his Father. His problems did not evaporate with repentance. He remained a slave for six long years. Patience was learned during this time, and this helped him when he returned to Ireland as a missionary.

Joshua and Caleb
These men were two of the spies sent in to Canaan to scout out the land. Despite the giants of the land and the other spies' doubt, they came back full of faith that God would give them the land as He had promised. When God punished the Israelites with 4o years in the desert, Joshua and Caleb might have felt unfairly judged. They had done nothing wrong to deserve this punishment. If they did not already possess patience, I am sure they learned it by the time they finally entered the Promised Land.

My Parents
Dad and Mom have been given thousands of opportunities to be upset or irritated at the silly things I and my siblings have done or by the situations or people they have had to deal with. I am truly blessed to have a patient father and mother. They have seen me in my worst moments and have corrected and instructed in continuing patience. It is a type of Christ in my life. God is the only complete and perfect example of perfect patience, and our parents have been chosen to demonstrate that patience to us.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26

Patience is not defined as waiting for something because we have no choice and all complaints have proven fruitless. Here are two of the seven definitions given by Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.

1. The suffering of afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation or other evil, with a calm, unruffled temper; endurance without murmuring or fretfulness. Patience may spring from constitutional fortitude, from a kind of heroic pride, or from Christian submission to the divine will.

5. The quality of bearing offenses and injuries without anger or revenge.

There are several ways that we are to be patient. First, we must be patient for the Lord’s judgment. There is a human tendency to desire revenge. Everything is in God’s hands, and we are not to get ahead of His plan, causing ourselves to sin as well. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Romans 12:19

Psalms 37:7-9 tells us to, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.”

Second, we must be patient for Jesus’ second coming. Just as the Jews of the Old Testament had to wait patiently for the coming of their Messiah, we must have the same anticipation for His arrival as King. “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:7-8

Thirdly, we are to be patient to those around us. This takes the most active work of the three as we are constantly with people who can irritate, annoy, and exasperate us. God's Word includes many direct exhortations to be patient and slow to anger. “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13) Thessalonians 5:14 tells us to be patient to the idle, fainthearted, and weak.

Proverbs 15:18 shows us the consequences of being impatient. “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, "Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.” I am sure that we do not want to be taken as fools.

I've selected images of fruit to add to these blog entries. In this case, oranges perfectly illustrate patience. I always need to show great patience when peeling my orange, but the results are delicious!

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Peace and the Great Commission

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

As believers in Jesus Christ, we have lasting peace. Peace comes from God, and we rest in the love of our Heavenly Father and the knowledge that, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

Unbelievers do not have this peace. Their hope is placed in dissatisfying temporary things that have no eternal weight. A life without Christ is devoid of true meaning.

How are we to be the peacemakers mentioned in Matthew 5?

A. W. Pink in The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer states:

“The believer in Christ knows that there is no peace for the wicked. Therefore, he earnestly desires that they should acquaint themselves with God and be at peace (Job 22:21). Believers know that peace with God is only through our Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 1:19, 20). For this reason we speak of Him to our fellow men as the Holy Spirit leads us to do so. Our feet are "shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:15); thus we are equipped to testify to others concerning the grace of God. Of us it is said, "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Rom. 10:15). All such are pronounced blessed by our Lord. They cannot but be blessed. Next to the enjoyment of peace in our own souls must be our delight in bringing others also (by God's grace) to enter into this peace. In its wider application, this word of Christ may also refer to that spirit in His followers that delights to pour oil upon the troubled waters, that aims to right wrongs, that seeks to restore kindly relations by dealing with and removing difficulties and by neutraliz­ing and silencing acrimonies.”

To be peacemakers we should look for opportunities to share God’s peace and saving grace with those He puts in our path.

"And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." Mark 16:15-16

I encourage everyone to read The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer by A. W. Pink. It holds wonderful insight into the Sermon on the Mount. I have added it to the large selection of books I am presently reading.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:22-26

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines peace in a general sense as being “a state of quiet or tranquility; freedom from disturbance or agitation; applicable to society, to individuals, or to the temper of the mind.” It goes on to give several definitions relating to freedom from war or quarrels and having heavenly rest and harmony.

True peace is found only in God. Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

The key to peace is found in knowing that we are right with God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Isaiah 32:17 states this very clearly. “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” Trust, righteousness, and peace are tied together in a tight inseparable package.

If you trust your Heavenly Father, you will be able to rest in his peace. In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul tells us to “…not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

This God given peace is often difficult to experience in our everyday lives. Tension, strife, and busy schedules can contribute to a feeling of anxiety unlike the peace that Christians should enjoy. It is at these times that we should pray, read His Word, and trust Him for that peace. Expect Peace in your lives!

As Disciples of Christ it should be our mission to bring peace into our relationships, families, and jobs. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9) As always, it is in situations that resist effortless displays of the fruit of the Spirit that peace becomes all the more necessary.