Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 37 - Good Fruit

Luke 6:43-45

When I was younger knew someone who always had something bad to say about a mutual friend. They would always start out by saying, “I really like so-and-so, but…” and would then complain about our friend’s weaknesses. After a while, this person began to treat our friend unkindly to the point that other people around me would question whether or not the person really liked our friend. It became a lesson for me; I learned that I need to bring my annoyances to God and not voice them to other people (although that can be very difficult at times). I don’t want to let my attitude in my heart to cause me to bear bad fruit. I also found that if I spoke about an unpleasant annoyance, it became even more annoying; however, if I let it be and gave it to God my heart would soften. I am far from perfect and I find myself failing at this during times when there is a great hurt. It is a very convicting thought and whenever I find dark spots in my heart, I want them cut out so I don’t bear a fruit that is bad. Please turn to Luke 6:43-45.

We have already studied and found that mankind is not good; only God is good, which is what Jesus told us. With that thought, why then would Jesus say in verse 45, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart…” We know we are not good, so how can we produce good fruit? I think the answer can be found in Psalms 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Our hearts can only be pure by work of God, and when we have a pure heart we can produce good fruit. When we allow God to do a work in our heart, we then will see and speak good things. Please turn to Titus 1:15. The condition of our heart affects what we see around us and how we see people. If God is working on our hearts, there will be evidence in our spoken word and actions and we will be bearing fruit that is good.

I had a day to spend with God a few days ago and I went to a scenic park near my home. I spent some of my time with God hiking and praising Him for His beautiful creation. A thought came into my head how at the end of each day that God spent creating the world He looked on it and saw that it was good. I remember praising God because I thought it was wonderful and amazing that God could be pleased with everything He did! As I write my blog post today, I can see that the only reason that God can create a good creation is because He is good. God is pure and His heart is pure. Out of His goodness came a good creation!

Have you asked God to create a pure heart in you so you can bear good fruit?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 36 - A Job Well Done

1 Samuel 21:1-9, 1 Samuel 22:6-23

I have the tendency to be a perfectionist. I have grown quite a bit and it doesn’t rear its ugly head too often; however, every now and then I see it rising up in me. During those times, I can be so hard on myself when I make a mistake that I believe I berate myself more than the people around me. I don’t know why I do that to myself because when others make mistakes, it may be annoying to me but I don’t think less of them. I forgive them much quicker than I forgive myself. On the flip side, I love doing a job well done. It is very satisfying to see all the pieces put in place and see a project run smoothly because of hard work. It feels great to do good work. Today I want to look at someone who felt they had done a job thoroughly and went above and beyond the call of duty. Please turn to 1 Samuel 21:1-9.

In this section of scripture, David is fleeing Saul because he found out through Jonathan that Saul intended to kill him. David turned to the priest at Nob to seek aid but kept his reason for aid a secret. The priest helped him, but please look at verse 7, “Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the LORD; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s head shepherd.” That is an important fact before we read the rest of the story; please turn to 1 Samuel 22:6-23. In verse 9, we see that Doeg betrayed Ahimelech by telling Saul that he provided David aid; however, he failed to tell Saul that Ahimelech did not know that David was fleeing Saul. That was a problem because that was important information, so Saul believed that Ahimelech was siding with David and ordered to have all the priests in Nob killed. No one would do it except Doeg. Doeg did more than kill 85 priests; he killed the whole town of Nob – the men, women, children, and infants. Doeg had done his job and did it thoroughly and completely.

Please turn to Psalm 52:1 to see David’s response; he wrote this Psalm immediately after these events. Apparently, Doeg was boasting of what he had done. David asked the question, “Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man?” I think we need to be careful not to confuse a job well done and goodness. We can be very good at something but it still may not be a good thing to do. In the music industry, there have been many performers that can perform better than anyone else during their time, but they are not necessarily doing good. Accomplishment is not goodness and it is important not to mix the two. Since we have identified who is good and what God says is good, we need to measure against those and not measure against a job well done. I’m not saying not to do your best, I am saying to do your best in what God says is good.

Are you confusing accomplishment for goodness? Are you pouring your energy into what God says is good?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 35 - What Is Good

Micah 6:8

Yesterday, I explored how no one is “good” except God. Even though we fall short of perfection God wants us to do good things. The question that leaves is what does God consider to be goodness? I find it interesting that as I write this, Duchess Sarah Ferguson is plastered all over the news because she was trying to sell connections to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew. She was hailed for having an American comeback after a media-filled divorce from Prince Andrew. She came to the USA and wrote a book and became the spokesperson for Weight Watchers. The American audience enjoyed having her here and she flourished and made a lot of money. She donated a lot of money to charity, but being used to her royal lifestyle, she also spent more than what she made and is now out of money again. It is unknown at this point why she chose to sell her connections to the royal throne, but her need to pay some debts quickly may be what motivated her. Because she is such a prominent figure, even though what she did was not illegal (although it could be considered unethical) her good things are currently overshadowed by this scandal. In fact, the day the story broke out; she was receiving an award for her charitable efforts. This is an extreme example, yet very real, of how we can do good things but we are not “good.”

Please turn to Micah 6:8 and see what is good. There are three main things that God wants to see from us in order to express goodness; they are: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. I don’t think this is an either/or statement. We need to do all three. It is not good to show mercy but not behave appropriately. Likewise, if we become proud in what we are doing, we are no longer walking humbly with God. God gave us a definition of what is good in this verse, and I am challenged by the words in this verse because it is not always easy to act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly.

The New Living Translation translated the phrase, “to act justly” as “to do what is right.” Years ago, the book, In His Steps was written and the characters in the book were challenged to ask the question “What would Jesus do?” before they acted. There was a resurgence of interest in that phrase in the 1990’s (thanks to music groups such as Big Tent Revival) and if you stepped into a Christian book store you would find bookmarks, bracelets and other paraphernalia that asked that very question. It is a good question to ask as long as you live by it. Our hearts need to be ruled with the question, is this the way God would want me to behave?

I have always been interested in the phrase “to love mercy,” because it isn’t saying just to show mercy. What I feel that means is that we are not just to show outward acts of mercy because it is the right thing to do; however, mercy should be something we love to do. Mercy is the result of God changing our hearts to love every person around us and to want them to know Him. Mercy is extending forgiveness to those who have hurt you. Mercy is helping someone when they are helpless. Mercy is living as Christ’s ambassador (2 Cor. 5:20).

I find it interesting that after naming acting justly and loving mercy the next phrase is “to walk humbly with your God.” Sometimes I wonder if it was placed last because it would be easy to get a big head when we are doing the first two. We can feel pretty good about ourselves when we are doing good things. The danger in that is we could find ourselves on a slippery slope when we forget who we are because of Christ.

God has shown us what is good! Are you living a life that demonstrates goodness?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 34 - Goodness

Mark 10:17-18

Goodness is an interesting fruit. In America, we have several phrases that use the word goodness: “For goodness sake,” or, “Goodness gracious,” or, “Goodness knows,” and so on. I wonder when those phrases are being spoken if the person is truly thinking about goodness. Last week, I talked about the idea of a “mean” person, but I think a lot of people feel that they are “good” people. I felt that before studying goodness in and of itself; I would look at what is good and hold up the measure stick and see what I find. It may be interesting to find what the Bible says about who is good. Let’s dive in!

Please turn to Mark 10:17-18. Jesus challenges the idea that a person is “good” when He says, “No one is good – except God alone.” You see, this person looked at Jesus as a teacher and not God, so when he called Jesus a good teacher, Jesus challenged the idea of anyone other than God being considered good. Jesus was pointing out that the only correct measurement for determining what and who is good is to measure it against God. Since we all fall short of God’s perfection, we cannot be called “good.” Please look up and see what scripture says about God in Psalm 34:8 and 1 Peter 2:3. God is good! Now please see another way to experience true goodness in Hebrews 6:5. God’s Word is good!

This is not for our discouragement, rather for our encouragement. We are not good, but God wants us to do good. It is in accepting that we can never be good enough that we find our way to salvation. Our salvation cannot be earned by our works; it is only through Christ that we receive salvation (Romans 3:22-25). Once we have received salvation from God, we are not only empowered to do good, but we are expected to do good as part of the change that happens in our heart. So, it is important to remember that while we are called to be good, goodness is not what saves us. Goodness is what comes from us as an extension of our obedience to God.

Are you willing to accept that even though you are not good enough to get into heaven on your own that God still wants to do good things?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 33 - Controlled By Christ's Love

Mark 2:1-12

A few days ago, I wrote how David showed undeserved kindness to Mephibosheth when he brought him to eat at his table as one of his sons. That was a wonderful example of how God’s love for David and David’s love for Jonathan motivated him to show kindness in a situation when kindness was never expressed. Today, I want to look at a beautiful example how friends showed kindness to another friend who could not help himself. Please look up Mark 2:1-12.

Picture a man who was probably a quadriplegic and dependent upon everyone else for food, clothing, and shelter. He could not do anything himself; even to go to His Savior. His friends saw that Jesus could heal him and took him to where Jesus was teaching. The crowd was large, but they didn’t give up; they knew their friend needed Jesus. Instead they carried him to the roof of the house Jesus was in and lowered him down through the roof right at Jesus’ feet. Think on that for a moment; they cared for this man so much that they were not going to let anything get in the way of him experiencing a moment with Jesus. To me, this is the ultimate act of kindness!

We have all been there, haven’t we? Something in our life had us spiritually paralyzed. I know with all certainty that when I was in that moment, I had a friend that was praying for me. She picked me up and put me at the feet of Jesus because I needed Him. I want to remind you that the ultimate kindness we can show a person is to bring them to the feet of Jesus. There is nothing better in this life than knowing our Savior and experiencing His love! This can either be a friend that doesn’t know Christ, or perhaps a friend that is feeling paralyzed in their walk with Him. The best thing we can do for our friends is to bring them to Jesus. Look what Jesus did for the man; He forgave and healed. Oh that everyone could know His forgiveness and healing!

Please go to 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. We are Christ’s ambassadors! We no longer regard the people around us the way we did before we knew Christ; we now view them with God’s eyes. We can and should bring people to Christ’s feet and show them His love and kindness. We are compelled by Christ’s love to bring people to Him. Look at verse 14, "For Christ's love compels us..." This weekend, my pastor explained in the service that the word translated as “compels” in verse 14 is difficult to translate and that some scholars believe it means “controls.” Wow! We need to let Christ’s love control our vision and actions toward others.

Are you lifting up your friends in prayer? Are controlled by Christ's love and bringing your friends to Jesus?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 32 - Christ's Kindness

Titus 3:3-8

In my last post, I talked of the kindness that God has extended to us and how we should be an extension of that kindness towards others. The kindness He poured out on us to mercifully is life changing, and we should show it! This doesn’t mean that all of a sudden all of our actions towards others magically become kind, it takes work! The loving kindness of God should help us move in that direction so that every day we become more like Him and showing kindness becomes part of our nature. Please look up Titus 3:3-8.

I think sometimes we grasp the kindness of our Savior better when we remember what He has saved us from. I am not saying that we need to dwell on our sin; however, if we find difficulty to show kindness to others it helps to remember the kindness shown to us. “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another,” Titus 3:3. Yikes! By all accounts, we definitely didn’t deserve to experience mercy from God. But His love for us showed us His incredible kindness! “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy,” Titus 3:4-5. Knowledge of this empowers us to show kindness.

Please look up 2 Peter 1:3-11. Kindness is an expectation to living a godly life but it takes work. I think it is important to remember that the world is watching. I think for most people it is because they want to see a difference in those who follow Christ. They want to see why we follow Him and if it really makes a difference. Verses 8-9 shows the importance of kindness in our faith walk, “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” If we do not show kindness our faith is ineffective and unproductive. That is very strong! I don’t want to be ineffective and unproductive. The other phrase that stuck out at me was “in increasing measure.” We are to continue to show more and more kindness every day. We don’t run out, we grow it. Remember that this is a fruit that God expects; just like a fruit tree, as it matures and is pruned it grows more fruit each season.

Are you tapping into God’s “divine power” to show kindness?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 31 - Love Brings Kindness

2 Samuel 9:1-12

As I have said many times before, love seems to be the fruit that ties all the other fruits together. It seems that if we do not have love, it is difficult to have any of the other fruits. Today, I am looking at how love for others is what motivates us into kindness. For example, as a mother, even when my children seem to be pushing my buttons, I still want to be kind because I love them. I do not ever want to hurt them and I have never intentionally hurt them. My love for them motivates my kindness toward them. I am looking at a story today that reflects how love for a person motivated King David into a kindness that was not heard of in his day. Please read 2 Samuel 9:1-12.

David’s first question in verse 1 was amazing! “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” This was unheard of at this time. It was customary in those days that when a new king took over a kingdom, the previous royal family was wiped out. David was doing the exact opposite by wanting to show kindness. This kindness was motivated out of a promise he made to Jonathan (Saul’s son) because they loved each other. Please turn to 1 Samuel 20:14-17. Jonathan and David were best friends; they loved each other dearly and protected each other. David loved Jonathan so much that he promised he would show kindness to his family when he became king. When David found out that Jonathan had a son, he brought him to eat at his table as one of his sons. Mephibosheth was not only the grandson of the previous king, he was also physically impaired. In 2 Samuel 4:4, we see that his feet were wounded when he was dropped and it became a permanent wound. He was wounded as they were fleeing when Saul and Jonathan were killed. That event ushered in the beginning of David’s reign, so in a sense Mephibosheth’s injury represented not only the loss of physical health thus falling short of the world’s standard, but also the loss of a father and the loss of a kingdom. And who showed kindness to him? The very person that took over the kingdom and could have had him killed showed him kindness.

We have injuries that represent loss. We have sin that made us fall short of God’s standards (Romans 3:23). The very One that could condemn us showed us a kindness that has no equal, and is unheard of! Instead of condemning us to death our King sacrificed His dignity and took our punishment and invited us to sit at his table as sons and daughters. Please look up Revelation 19:7-9 and Psalm 23:5. God’s amazing love for us showed us a kindness that is undeserved! How richly He has anointed us with kindness. When we can remember that God loves everyone and that He wants us to love, we can be motivated to show kindness.

Have you allowed God’s loving kindness to motivate you to be kind to others?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 30 - Kindness to the Needy

Proverbs 14:20-21

My church recently found out about a lady in our community whose house is in severe need of repair. Her house is situated in a neat, middle class neighborhood and has been an eye-sore because of the disrepair. This is a lady who speaks very little English and has had some very difficult situations happen beyond her control that has given her very little hope that she would ever be able to fix her home. Several neighbors became upset and wrote letters to the city so something could be done. The result was that the city warned her that if she did not fix her home, she would lose her home. The problem is that she doesn’t have the financial means to fix the costly repairs needed. A staff person in our church found out about the situation and began making progress on getting a team over to her house to fix it. The roof needed to be completely replaced, so the church hired a contractor (who has given a significantly lower price when he heard her story) and the roof is being repaired even as I type this blog. I am not telling this story to glorify my church because God would have used another willing vessel if we would not have stepped in; it is to show the difference kindness can make. Please turn to Proverbs 14:20-21.

This Proverb is very clear that we are to be kind to our neighbors, whether they are poor or wealthy. In fact, it is a sin to despise your neighbor. Wow! That is very strong wording and very convicting. I love the way The Message words this proverb, “It’s criminal to ignore a neighbor in need, but compassion for the poor – what a blessing!” Please look at Proverbs 14:31, “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” I am by no means implying that this lady has evil neighbors; they may have not thought about the fact that they had a woman in need living next to them. We have all put up blinders to the needs around us at some time; in fact, when I heard this story it was a good heart check for me that I do not respond to my neighbors in a way that is not helpful when they are in need.

Here is a perfect example of how showing kindness to this lady has already honored God and the church has just barely gotten started on her home. This lady had been saying to her nephew since the problems started that God would send help. God used our church to see her need and step in. When her nephew saw this, it became a testimony of God’s provision and his aunt’s faith. The neighbors have noticed that the church has been coming over and making plans for repair. Perhaps the church modeling God’s kindness will draw others in the neighborhood to Him. After all, God’s kindness to us is what drew us to Him. Please look up Romans 11:22. When we are grafted into the vine, we have experienced God’s kindness and we are to bear the fruit of kindness to those around us.

Do you see opportunities around you to show God’s kindness?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 29 - Kindness

Colossians 3:12-13

Sometimes it is hard to define kindness, but it can be very easy to define the opposite of kindness which would be mean. We have all experienced people who we would consider “mean.” Their actions appeared to be deliberately hurtful and they showed no remorse for their actions. I guess in a sense that when a person is being mean, they are being selfish because they are only thinking of how they can benefit themselves without thinking of the hurt they are spreading. Sometimes even a kind person can do mean things. Sometimes we react in a way that can hurt the people around us. So, if it is easier to pinpoint mean, I thought that studying kindness may help me become more intentionally kind. According to Dictionary.com kind is defined as “1.of a good or benevolent nature or disposition; 2. having, showing, or proceeding from benevolence; 3. indulgent, considerate, or helpful.” I like how dictionary.com used the phrase “proceeding from benevolence.” It almost implies that benevolence can bring about kindness. Once again, just like the other fruits, kindness is an intentional action that is required from us in our walk with God. Please look up Colossians 3:12-13.

I like how dictionary.com used the phrase “proceeding from benevolence.” It almost implies that benevolence can bring about kindness. Isn’t that what God does for us? He is extravagant and indulgent and benevolent toward us! I find it interesting that verse 13 talks about forgiveness; it seems to be an extension of kindness because we are giving of ourselves. Last week in my small group, we discussed how forgiveness is as though we are sacrificing a part of ourselves. We are taking our pride and rights and putting them on the cross and letting them go. We are extending forgiveness even if we don’t feel it is deserved because that is what Christ did for us. That is kindness. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Once again, we see how forgiveness is paired up with kindness.

Whenever I think of kindness, I think of the “golden rule” found in Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Basically, kindness is treating others the way you would want to be treated. Kindness is seeing a need and meeting it; it is behaving toward someone in a way that shows you respect the person. Remembering that God loves that person helps motivate me toward kindness when the person is being unkind. When we can remember the kindness God extravagantly pours on us, we are empowered to show kindness to others.

Do you meditate on the kindness God has given you to empower you to be kind to those around you?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 28 - Patience With God's Work

Romans 8:18-25

Sometimes things happen here on Earth that makes me so impatient for when I get to spend time with my heavenly Father. There are times when I see the pain that this world produces and it makes me long impatiently for my heavenly home. I am reminded that my home is not here and that I really am just an alien here. It doesn’t always take much; sometimes it is just by watching the news and seeing what we humans do to each other. Other times, it may be when I am feeling pain myself. Either way, I know I am an alien here and I have a permanent home to look forward to. With that thought, please read Romans 8:18-25.

Impatience on this matter will not change God’s timing, so we need to wait patiently. In the mean time, we need to accept that God wants us here now to do His work so we can grow to be more like Him. He has a work that He wants to complete in us and it doesn’t happen overnight. God knows what is best for us, so we wait patiently for His work to be complete and show His love to those around us. Please look at Philippians 1:4-6. Paul wrote how God is continuing to complete His work in us as we do His work throughout our lifetime and will finish it when we get to see Him face to face. What a beautiful thought! God is preparing for our face to face meeting!

I have found in my own life that it is when I let go of my own timeline that God is able to do incredible work in me. When I can let go of my impatience and give it to God and trust His timing, I learn and grow and my heart is changed. The idea that God is continually working on us can also help us to be more patient with fellow Christians. We are all at a different place in our walk with God and God reveals what we need to see at the right time. Knowing that can help us have patience because we can remember that not only is God working in our own lives, but He is working in others as well. Praise God that He does not get stuck in a rut!

Are you patiently allowing God to work in your life?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 27 - God's Timing Requires Patience

John 11:1-44

There are times in our lives when we know that God has the power to eliminate the trial we are facing, but He doesn’t. Often times, it isn’t until we are out of that situation when we can see God’s hand at work in our lives. Sometimes it is a subtle touch on us personally where we have grown in wisdom and understanding and grown closer to God; other times it can be noticeable to everyone watching from the outside. Those are the times when we can see that God wanted to show His miraculous power to everyone. We are going to look at a situation where God’s timing didn’t match up with human timing because He wanted to do something bigger than what we humans could ever imagine. Please read John 11:1-44.

This scene must have been amazing! One of the first things I noticed is that when Jesus didn’t go immediately to Lazarus to heal him and the disciples didn’t think that was odd. There may be a few reasons for that. First, Jesus didn’t heal every person that was sick when He walked on the Earth, second in verse 8 we read that going to Lazarus’ house was dangerous. But, we see the real reason for the timing that Jesus chose in verse 4, “When He heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’” Poor Mary and Martha didn’t have the hindsight we have with this story and couldn’t understand why Jesus didn’t heal Lazarus. We see in verses 21 and 32 they both told Him that He could have healed Lazarus if He had been there. Jesus wanted to be more than just a healer; He wanted to show them that He is life (verse 25-26). Even four days of death couldn’t stop Jesus from bringing life.

We have all been there in our lives when we couldn’t understand why God didn’t answer a prayer the way we wanted or in the timing we wanted. I can remember when my youngest was a baby and my husband was out of town. My youngest had been sick and up all night, so on the first night that my husband was gone, I prayed that God would help my daughter sleep so I could have energy the next day. She had the worst night of all that night and I couldn’t understand why God didn’t answer such a simple prayer. I remember telling God, “You could have done this! You could have let her sleep! Now I have no energy and strength and I have no idea how I am going to make it today!” When I finally calmed down, God spoke to my heart and said, “I wanted you to learn to use My strength not yours.” I was not facing death, but this seemed like such a little request I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t answer until I finally calmed down to listen. What a lesson I learned from such a small problem that changed my life! Everything is to God’s glory not our strength!

God always has a purpose for His timing. He knows what is best for us and for His glory. Do you trust God’s timing?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 26 - Rash Decisions

I Samuel 13:1-15

Yesterday, I wrote about how Abraham showed patience while waiting 25 years before he saw the fulfillment of part of God’s promise to him. One thing that I didn’t mention in yesterday’s blog is the danger of impatience. When we are impatient, we make rash decisions that we later regret, such as Abraham having a son through Sarah’s maidservant. Our impatience is not based on the wisdom that brings patience; it is based on our human perceptions and inexperience. Today, I want to look at I Samuel 13:1-15 and see how Saul’s impatience caused him problems; if you haven’t read it yet, please read it.

In this section of scripture, we see that Saul was in a situation that seemed desperate. Saul had made the Philistines mad and they began to press hard against Israel. When Saul was first anointed as king, Samuel had instructed him to meet him at Gilgal for his instructions and to offer God burnt offerings. Saul was to wait for seven days for Samuel (I Samuel 10:8). When Samuel didn’t show up after seven days, Saul became impatient. His troops were scattering from fear and Saul decided to put matters into his own hands. He offered up a burnt offering and fellowship offerings without Samuel. Look at what Samuel said to Saul when he arrived in verse 13-14, “’You acted foolishly,’ Samuel said. ‘You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed him leader of His people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.’” Not only had Saul disobeyed by not waiting for Samuel, but he was also disobeying the law (Deut. 12:5-14). His impatience cost him the kingdom!

I can look back and see how my impatience cost me to lose something. Out of impatience, foolish decisions are made and we may not only hurt ourselves, but we can hurt others. When we pray for wisdom, we gain understanding that God’s timing is perfect and we can trust and rely on Him rather than what we see with human eyes. Our human understanding is going to lead to impatience because we cannot see the entire picture. Wisdom reminds us that God sees and knows all and He knows what is best. This is not always easy because we often want things fixed immediately. I can see a lot of financial mistakes my husband and I have made in the past because we were not patient enough to see God’s timing. However, mistakes made through impatience may cost us dearly, but we can learn from those mistakes and gain wisdom.

We have so much to gain by exercising patience and so much to lose by making a rash decision. Are you praying for wisdom to have the patience to make a good decision? Are you willing to wait for God’s timing?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 25 - Abraham's Example

Genesis 12:1-4

We have all had our patience tried in our lives. Whether it is exercising patience in expectant anticipation, or exercising patience with that person who seems to know how to push all our buttons. It is never easy to exercise patience when we long for something or when we are being stretched further than we thought we could handle. When I thought of people who had to exercise great patience, Abraham immediately came to mind. He was given a promise that he knew that he would not live to see all of it fulfilled but he knew that part of it would have to come to pass during his lifetime. Abraham was promised that he would become a great nation and part of that promise was a son. Please turn to Genesis 12:1-4.

One thing I would like to point out is Abraham’s age. He and Sarai had probably given up on the thought of having children because Abraham himself was seventy five years old when God first told him that he would become a nation. No one had ever heard of a seventy five year old bearing children! But Abraham believed God and left just as God asked. Now, please turn to Genesis 15:1-6. Once again, God reminded Abraham to be patient because He had a plan and Abraham believed God. Ten years after Abraham had lived in Canaan, Sarah suggested that God must mean for Abraham to bear children through her maidservant. Abraham agreed and had a son named Ishmael, but this was not what God meant with His promise (Genesis 16:1-4). Please look at Genesis 17:15-22. In this conversation, we can see how perhaps Abraham’s patience was being stretched, but God reminded him of the promise He gave him years ago.

Please turn finally to Genesis 21:1-5. We can see that Abraham finally had his son, Isaac when he was one hundred years old! Abraham had to wait 25 years from the first mention of the promise until he finally saw his son born. Sometimes, God puts us in situations where we are forced to wait for Him to fulfill what He wants, and those are the times when our patience is stretched the furthest. When we begin to lose patience, perhaps wisdom is remembering how long Abraham had to wait for one of his deepest desires. We can be encouraged remembering that God always keeps His promises and we don’t need to take matters into our own hands to “help” Him along the way.

Is your trust in God helping your patience?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 24 - Patience

James 1:2-5

I was ready to write this post yesterday to get further ahead, but when I came to write it I felt lost. I just didn’t feel like I was hearing what God wanted to speak to me. I decided to shut down the computer rather than stare at it frustrated and found it a little comical that the week I wanted to start patience I was impatiently trying to get back on schedule and write my posts ahead like I had been. Realizing that perhaps God was trying to exercise my patience I laughed at myself and decided that I could come back to this later. Today, as soon as I started researching patience and looked at the same resources I looked at yesterday, I immediately saw what God was trying to teach me. I am going to look at a section of scripture that I studied when writing about joy. I knew that studying patience would probably lead me back to this spot, but today, God opened my eyes to a beautiful connection. I want to look at how we gain patience!

For the last 15 years or so I have joked that you should never pray for patience because that is when your patience will be tested. Today, looking at scripture, I see that praying for patience perhaps isn’t the prayer that we should be asking of God anyway. Please look at James 1:2-5 and instead of looking at studying the idea of joy through trials, please focus on the part that mentions of perseverance. I am going to zoom in on verses 4 and 5: “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” As I read through that earlier, the wisdom stuck out at me. When writing about joy, I mentioned that it was awesome that we can come to God and ask for wisdom through our trials. Today, I found an absolute nugget in Proverbs that helps the connection with perseverance and wisdom complete!

Please turn to Proverbs 19:11. “A man’s wisdom gives him patience…” Do you see the connection? As we gain heavenly wisdom, we increase our ability to be patient in circumstances and with other people. If we are finding it difficult to exercise patience, we should be praying for wisdom! Please look at Proverbs 2:3-6. We can see that the only true source of wisdom comes from God and we merely need to desire it, seek it, and ask for it. Verse 6 says, “For the LORD gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” When we can understand why someone may be behaving or remember the knowledge that God loves them deeply, we can have more patience with them. We need wisdom to have patience. Sometimes we gain that wisdom by asking for it through trials and sometimes it is just simply by asking. What I can say with confidence is that God has promised to give wisdom for anyone who asks and believes that God will give it.

When you’re in a situation with your patience waning, are you asking God for wisdom?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 23 - Peace Is a Time To Fortify

2 Chronicles 14:1-7

We all have moments of peace when we can breathe a sigh of relief and experience rest. However, rest doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing. We just don’t have the battles we face during times of war or anxiety. If we fortify and build up our defenses during times of peace, we are prepared then to maintain our peace when it is threatened. Please read 2 Chronicles 14:1-7 and see how King Asa of Judah took advantage of a time of peace in the land.

Look at verse 6, “He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace.” Verse 7 says, “’Let us build up these towns,’ he said to Judah, ‘and put walls around them, with towers gates and bars…’” King Asa realized that a time of peace was the best time to build up Judah’s defenses. Building up the country’s defenses during a time of peace would allow them to protect the country when an attack came. Even though they experienced rest, they were not idle. This is such an important lesson for us to remember. It is so easy at times of rest to become idle and our walk with God slows down to almost a halt. This time of rest is actually the time that we should build up and exercise and become prepared for whatever the world may throw at us. When the attack comes (and it will) we will be prepared to depend on God.

I want to look at how we build up and prepare during a time of rest. Please look up Ephesians 6:10-18 and read about the armor of God. We need to be spending our time of rest putting on the armor and getting ready. We need to be firm in God’s truth and be living the life that God has called us to. We are covered in Christ’s blood and have His protection from death. Our faith becomes our shield and we build our faith by spending time with God and believing Him. Our helmet is the salvation that God extends to us and our sword is the Word of God. We can spend time with God and in His Word building up our defenses. What stuck out at me was in verse 15, “and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Please turn to Isaiah 52:7. Isn’t it interesting that God would use feet in both references to peace and uses the word readiness in Ephesians? It gives me the picture that peace is active not stationary! We do peace; we spread peace; we proclaim peace! We need to continue to promote peace at times of peace. We fortify and build peace when we spend time with God, spend time in the Word, and do what it says.

Many people picture the fruit of peace as a static feeling of goodness; perhaps even to the point of denial of the issues at hand. I pray that as we looked at peace that you have had a chance to see that just as the other fruits we have studied, peace is an action word! Peace requires strength in order to demonstrate it during difficulty. Peace with those around us requires work and maintaining peace requires active engagement.

If you are at a time of peace in your life, are you actively building on it? Are you using this time as a time of training and preparation?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Day 22 - National Peace

Psalm 122:6-9

History has shown us the damage that happens when there is not peace among the nations. Just one unpeaceful country can wreak havoc that can affect the entire world. We can look at some of the wars that affected almost the whole world and see that there were just a few dictators that caused the unrest and war that followed. Many lives are lost and countries are changed forever. I think of the terrorist attacks on our country on September 11 and how our security that was lost as a result. Suddenly, as a nation we felt vulnerable and the terrorist actions were no longer something we saw happening to other countries. It happened to us, and it was one of deadliest terrorist attacks ever. Yesterday, I wrote how God calls us to make peace with those around us; war is a large scale version of the need to have peace with our neighbors. Please read Psalm 122:6-9.

In this Psalm, we can see that we are to pray for the peace of our country. Thursday was the National Day of Prayer. This day was started so we could spend time as a nation praying to God for our leaders, lawmakers, and citizens of our country. We also spend time on that day collectively praying for peace with other countries. In this Psalm, I see such a wonderful example of how we can pray for our country. Unfortunately, many people do not participate in the National Day of Prayer. The National Day of Prayer is great because it unites us with a common cause and prayer; however, we are to pray for our country throughout the year. What do we pray over our nation?

Looking at Psalm 122, we pray for the peace of our country both internationally and within our own country. We pray for security both internationally and individually. Verses 8 and 9 go beyond prayer and shows how we can promote peace with our actions. “For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’ For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.” Not only are we to pray for peace, but we promote peace by speaking of it and seeking out the prosperity of those around us. Imagine what would happen if we prayed peace over all the other countries in the world and thought of their well-being as well!

This scripture is very convicting for me because it reminds me of how little I pray for peace of not only our country, but for other countries as well. We need to be on our knees as a country and crying out for peace! The only way true peace can be achieved is through God and we need to ask Him!

Are you praying for peace? Are you praying for the prosperity of not only the USA, but for the nations of the world?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 21 - Peace With Others

I Peter 3:8-11

Today, I would like to look at peace with those around us. When we can live with our interpersonal relationships at peace, we can focus on other matters. When our relationships are disturbed it can consume everything we do. Think of how you feel when you were in a fight with your spouse before heading to work, or how you feel if you and a coworker have an unresolved conflict when you leave to go home. Those feelings often spread to the innocent people in our lives; creating even more conflict. Please read I Peter 3:3-8 and pray that God would speak to your heart.

I love verse 3! It truly is a gem full of wonderful wisdom for how we are to live with others: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” This just seems like the perfect formula to living with others in peace. First, I want to focus on the word harmony. Being a musician, I feel compelled to explain that harmony is not playing the same note at the same time; rather, it is playing different tones that fit with each other. God made us all different, but we need to use those differences to make beautiful music. You have to admit, if music was only melody with no harmony, it would be boring to listen to. Our differences can be wonderful together because we all have different gifts.

I want to look at sympathy. When we can look at a circumstance that someone is going through and understand that we don’t see the entire picture; we can step aside from noticing the inconveniences we may feel and see how we can help the other person. When I was a secretary in a school, I would get yelled at by parents for things that had absolutely nothing to do with me only because I was the first person in the line of fire. When I could step back and consider that maybe there were other things going on in the person’s life than the interaction I was having with them, I was able to be sympathetic and recognize that they were having a bad day and I didn’t need to pile more irritation to their day. Sympathy promotes peace.

I find it interesting that love keeps coming up even as we look at other fruits. Love is a foundation upon which everything is built. When we love others, peace follows. Love will always have us look at the other person’s feelings and not just our own. Compassion allows us to step aside and see how the person may be hurting and move into action. Compassion brings action that promotes healing and peace. Humility is important because it allows us to think of others before our own pride. Humility allows us to recognize when we may have wronged another person and make amends. Humility also allows us to forgive when others have hurt us.

Jesus taught about settling things with others in Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” The importance of harmony with others is so important that it can affect our worship. Let us apologize when we have done wrong and forgive one another. This is critical in our growth with God.

Are you showing love, compassions, sympathy and humility which will allow you to live in harmony with those around you?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 20 - Peace Beyond Understanding

Philippians 4:6-7

Yesterday, I wrote how we can have a peace knowing that God is in control and He has overcome the world. This knowledge gives us a peace of mind. This is the peace we have in replacement of anxiety. I want to look at this peace a little more because we are told that we can have a peace that transcends all our understanding. Please read Philippians 4:6-7 and see the promise of peace we have been given.

We are told not to be anxious about anything; that is so much easier said than done! Coming from a true worrier, this is something God has been working on me all my life. When I was a child, my worries would give me severe cramping in my stomach and it consumed me. I would lie awake at night and worry and when I was sleeping I would have terrible nightmares. The ironic thing was that I was always winning the award for peace at school because I was quiet and shy. No one understood that I was a prisoner to worry. After years of slowly giving some of my worries to God, I completed Beth Moore’s study, Believing God. In that study, I learned how I wasn’t just inhibiting my faith walk by worrying; I also was sinning in my lack of trust that God was in control. I learned that even though I trusted God in some things, I wasn’t giving Him my complete trust. At moments of deep anxiety, I made rash decisions that I would later regret because I was not thinking with a clear mind. I would like to emphasize that point, which I brought up yesterday. When we have anxiety, it is difficult to make a good decision; rather, when we have peace, we are able to think clearly and problem solve at a higher level.

Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We are guarded from poor decisions and the snowball effect that anxiety can have in our lives. When we trust that no matter what happens God is with us, we can let go of the anxiety. I find it interesting that in my personal life, I am studying about peace when I have a few things that I could let anxiety take over. For me, it is a weak area in my life that I am constantly fighting, but as my walk with God grows deeper, I am able to let go of my worries one by one. We are going to face troubles; Jesus told us that in our reading yesterday, but our access to God gives us our peace. We are told in Philippians 4 to give everything to God.

Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” We need to give Christ the reign in our hearts which includes His peace. Our decisions can be made with Christ’s authority in our thoughts not with the authority this world brings. The world gives us anxiety and stress, Christ gives us hope and a purpose. I find it interesting that in the verse that we are told to let peace rule our lives, we are also told to be thankful. Perhaps when we can see all that we have and who we are in Christ, our thankfulness can over-rule the anxiety that comes with this world. We are called to peace – a peace that transcends all understanding. We don’t have to understand the whys and the hows to have peace. In fact, accepting that we will not understand it all can give us peace. God works in ways that are above and beyond our understanding and when we can accept that truth, we can have a peace when the world says “worry.”

Are you giving it to God so that peace can rule your heart and mind?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 19 - Peace

John 16:16-33

This week, I am looking at the fruit of peace. Since today is the first day I am looking at peace, I thought about what peace means. Often times, when Jesus commanded peace, it was when his disciples were gripped with anxiety. I think one way to look at peace is to have a feeling of calm even though everything around you is anything but calm. I want to look at how we can tap into that kind of peace for part of this week. Another type of peace is a relational peace. When we have peace with others, generally we are getting along or at least have a truce. Sometimes, I think people believe the peaceful person is meek and even weak; however, Jesus was strong yet peaceful. In fact, to maintain peace at times when no one else is peaceful can take a lot of strength.

I want to look at how we can have personal peace when there are a lot of reasons to experience anxiety. Having experienced both peace and anxiety, I can say with all certainty that nothing good is accomplished with anxiety but when we are at peace we can think through a problem with a clear mind and problem solve effectively. Several physical ailments are either brought on by anxiety or aggravated by anxiety; some of those ailments can be life threatening. There are studies that have proven the need for calm to experience a reduction of physical pain or a speedy recovery. We have evidence that we need peace to be healthy! How do we get there?

Please look up John 16:16-33. This will seem familiar because we looked at this same section of scripture when studying joy. Jesus is explaining that we can go to the Father through Jesus’ name and bring our petitions to Him. In verse 33, Jesus tells us, “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” What powerful words! Jesus told us that we have an access to the Father that we have never had before and that we can bring Him our requests. Jesus also reminded us that He has overcome the world and nothing here is more powerful than He. No matter how terrible things seem, Jesus is bigger!

David understood this reality when his son Absalom tried to overthrow his reign. Please read Psalm 3; David wrote this Psalm when he was fleeing for his life and escaping the sword of Absalom. David knew that God was his deliverance and he trusted that God would be with him no matter what was happening. Please look at verse 5, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.” When I am full of anxiety, sleep is one of the first things that suffers. Nighttime is a time that I can worry without interruption, yet David had a peace that allowed him to sleep. The fact that he knew he could turn to God and trust God gave him peace. He knew that God was bigger than all his enemies. Our trust in God and remembering that He is in control can give us a peace amongst all the problems this world brings.

Do you trust God? Do you have a peace knowing that He is in control and has overcome this world?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Illness

You have all been very patient with me lately. I ask you to extend just a little more patience as I have been struggling to get my thoughts out on the blog. Now, I have illness in my house, and I have been having a difficult time getting a chance to blog.

Since I am studying peace this week, I will leave you with this thought from Psalm 46:10-11. Be still and know that our God is the One and Only God!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 18 - Joy In Hope

John 16:16-24

Today is the last day that I am studying joy. Since my schedule got messed up last week from moving our things from Michigan, I posted one post on Saturday, and I will do it again to get back on schedule with studying one Fruit of the Spirit each week. Thank you for your patience with me last week!

To set up today’s reading, I want to remind you of the Jewish culture Jesus was living in. Jews had to go through a priest to approach God, and the priest had to enter the Holy of Holies to approach God. With that in mind, please read John 16:16-24. Jesus was telling His disciples that He would be leaving soon and going back to be with His Father. He was explaining that they were going to be sad without Him with them, but the world would rejoice. He likened it to childbirth. As a mother of three children and having gone through two very long and difficult labors, it is true that while in labor it is extremely painful. However, when my children were born whether the labor was long or short everything was forgotten when I got to hold my beautiful babies. Jesus said that when He returns, that is what it will be like for us. Our joy will be so great that all our pain here will be forgotten. In fact, in verse 22 He says, “…and no one will take away your joy.” Jesus gave us hope! I know one of the things that got me through the difficult labors was knowing that when it was done, I would have my precious child. We can live life here knowing that no matter how much pain there is, we will someday be with Jesus and have a joy that cannot be taken away!

Jesus then tells His disciples in verse 23-24, “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” Jesus was explaining the new order. We no longer need a priest here on earth to intercede for us; we can go directly to the Father by asking in Jesus’ name! We have a joy knowing that we have access to the Father and He will give us what we ask in Jesus’ name. The Jews never had this kind of access to God; they always had to go to Jerusalem and go to a priest. We can go into our bedroom and close the door and talk to God. That is an amazing blessing and joy that Jesus opened that door for us! Please read Hebrews 12:18-24. We can ask and receive knowing that we have a God who loves us. That is joy!

Here is one last thought. Please look up Revelation 21:1-5. This is what we have to look forward to! Isn't it a glorious thought? Some day there will be no sorrow or pain!

Do you have joy in the hope of an eternity with Christ? Do you have joy knowing that we have a heavenly Father that loves us so much that He gave us direct access to Him?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Day 17 - Joy In Trials?

James 1:2-12

I have some friends who have gone through several huge trials. Each trial has been more than what most of us go through in a lifetime, and they have gone through many trials. Where is the joy in that? I have had some difficult trials in my past and it is not easy to see the joy in such trials. These verses in James can be easy to read when things are going well, but they can be so difficult when circumstances are overwhelming. If you haven’t read James 1:2-12, please do.

When reading this verse, it is good to remember who the author is. James was Jesus’ brother. He was living during a time when the early church was heavily persecuted. When James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance,” he understood what trials were. He knew what it was like to see brothers and sisters in faith persecuted and killed. He knew what it was like to face intense hatred. That perspective helps because we know that the author wasn’t writing those words in vain; he faced trials.

James shows that the trials develop perseverance and grows our faith. When we can face our trials with the knowledge that when we come out on the other side we will have stretched our faith, we can have joy. Through trials, we may get to experience a miraculous pouring of God’s provision. Through trials, we may experience God’s presence in a way we have never experienced. Through trials, we may learn to love the people around us more and become empathetic. Through trials, we may see how God walked with us the whole time. One thing we know without a doubt is that no matter what happens, we will change as a result of our trials and if we let God do His work in our lives, we will become more like Him! We can have joy in knowing that we are becoming more like Him. James even says in verse 5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” We can ask God for wisdom through our trials!

Please turn to Hebrews 12:2-3. Jesus knew that if He endured the cross, His joy would come in our salvation. Remember what Nehemiah said? “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” We receive joy when we are obedient, but having joy about what is on the other side of our trial can keep us going through the trial with hope. Can we be joyful about bad things? Trials are not joyful events and a trial does not give us joy, but we can have joy through the trial because our hope brings joy.

Have you prayed for wisdom through your trial? Have you had joy in the knowledge that God is growing you?