Goodness, the Nebulous Fruit

“You’re a good person.” I’ve heard those words so many times, and every time I want to scrunch up my eyes and respond with a resounding “Huh???” Goodness has always been so nebulous to me. Even the definition of the word is nebulous. So, what is a concrete person like me to make of the word?

When I think of goodness, I think of God’s goodness:

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17

I think of this verse in Psalm 23:

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6

I experience the goodness of God every single day, but how does that goodness translate to my relationships with others? I don’t see myself as inherently good. I’m just trying to show the world how much Jesus loves me, one moment at a time.  I wrestled with this one for a long time. Writing comes easy for me, and yet I’ve spent weeks thinking and praying about this one with nothing. Crickets.

But then I realized I was taking the wrong approach. I had this idea that the fruit of the Spirit meant I had to be good. That’s not it. I’m just here to show others the goodness of God. The best way I can do that is by letting his Spirit show up in my daily life, bearing the fruit we call goodness.

Ok great, now what does that look like? When I asked God that question, He gave me Psalm 27:13

I remain confident of this:  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. NIV

Our Pastor frequently reminds us that we are the salt of the Earth.  God sent us here to show his love in such a way that others will come to know Him.  Isn’t that all we can do?  So what does goodness look like in practical action? When it’s not nebulous but more concrete, it’s those things we do when no one is watching.

It’s allowing someone to go ahead of me in traffic. It’s holding back criticism. It’s feeding a stray dog, picking trash out of the park, helping someone on the street. It’s saying “thank you” at work, or lending an ear when someone is frustrated. It’s understanding that another person’s frustration isn’t personal and sometimes she needs love. It’s doing the dishes or taking out the trash when it isn’t my turn.  It’s serving at church and in the community. It’s donating to charity. It’s setting aside pride. It’s giving my time.

Goodness is no one thing, but it’s a pervasive attitude that allows God to shine through us so He may be glorified.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

 

About the Writer:
Wendy is a wife and mother who works full time in Risk Management.  Here at First Dallas she serves in Sunday school, helps coordinate Angel tree, and teaches at Discipleship University.  Her greatest joy comes from discovering how following Jesus can greatly impact her daily life and the lives of those she cares about in innumerable, practical ways.

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Good Enough

Many times when we say the word “good”,  we associate it with term “adequate”, as in the saying, “That’s good enough.” In the English language we even use the word “good” as a comparative adjective in the series: good, better, best. In that series the word “good” is the term used for the lowest rank. But did you know that, in the Bible, the word “good” or “goodness” is actually referring to perfection? Our Father in Heaven is a good Father. He is the absolute standard of perfection and is blameless. The term “goodness” is part of His very nature.

Consider this:  He desires that not one of us should perish but spend eternity with Him.  For that reason He chases us, He gave His life for us, and, with His endless mercies He has shown us His love.  Even though we are imperfect and deserve nothing but to be punished and to drown in our constant sin, He comes after us, calling us back home to Him where we find safety and endless pleasures in His love.

Why then do we tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough for Him? On the contrary, He never once asks that of us. Actually, He only asks for us to accept His goodness and let that be enough.  He knows that we will never be good enough (perfect) for Him, and that is why He, through His son Jesus Christ, paid the ultimate sacrifice and gave His life for us. Jesus Christ took our place on the cross and experienced the punishment for our sin. And, when we say “We’re not good enough to have a relationship with God” we are actually saying, “Jesus sacrifice was not enough for my sin.”

 . . .  As for our transgressions, You forgive them. How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You to dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple. Psalm 65:3b-4

Stop telling Jesus Christ that what He did on the cross wasn’t good enough. Instead, run to Him where you will find that Jesus Christ is good enough.

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to a 2 year old and has another one on the way. She occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

 

A Lesson in Foot Washing

My husband was having a rough day, a really rough day.  And he wasn’t pleasant to be around.  I was considering whether I should tell him how difficult he was, go away, or tough it out when I clearly heard God’s voice say “wash his feet”.  As is customary, I proceeded to argue with the voice in my head.  After all, his feet aren’t my favorite thing about him, and they really weren’t dirty.  But the voice persisted.  “Wash his feet.”

I was standing in the kitchen looking for an answer, and I couldn’t just stand there without saying something I would regret, so I started washing the dishes,  It was his turn to do them, and both of us really dislike the chore.  I didn’t say a word, I just washed the dishes.

Something magical happened in that moment.  The corners of his eyes softened.  His shoulders relaxed a little bit.  He started to breathe more deeply.  When I was finished, he hugged me and thanked me.  Just like that, we were back to being “us”.  He felt better.  What he needed most in his grumpiness was kindness.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

Don’t we all need kindness when we are at our worst?  I know when I’m having a rough day, the thing I need most is a hug.  It’s not easy to hug me when I’m grumpy, but my husband does that for me.  He hugs me even when I don’t want to be hugged because he knows I need it.

The Bible is full of examples of kindness, and many words about it.  One of my favorite stories recently is in the book of Micah, and chapter 6 verse 8 jumped out at me:

Do justice.  Love kindness.  Walk humbly with God.

It really is that simple, and yet it takes discipline to stop and ask how I can show kindness in this moment.  I don’t always manage to do that, but, when I do, it’s beautiful to see how God can use my kindness to show His presence to those around me.

About the Writer:
Wendy is a wife and mother who works full time in Risk Management.  Here at First Dallas she serves in Sunday school, helps coordinate Angel tree, and teaches at Discipleship University.  Her greatest joy comes from discovering how following Jesus can greatly impact her daily life and the lives of those she cares about in innumerable, practical ways.

How to Tame a Tiger: Parenting Tips and Tidbits from my Grandmother

She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26

Because my family and I lived with my grandparents for the first six years of my life, I have very many precious memories of living in a multigenerational home.  My grandfather owned and milked cows on a dairy.  My grandmother was a homemaker, and lived in a time when there were no dishwashers, no microwave ovens, no fancy kitchen gadgets, and with only a wringer type clothes washing machine.  Most of her wonderful home cooked meals came from the garden she had planted and vegetables that were either fresh or canned.  Out of her home came the best pies, made-from-scratch cakes, homemade candies, fried chicken and steaks, and lots of joy and fun.  During my first few years of school, all of my clothes were made by hand by her and my mom. I can remember being so excited about having five new dresses – one for every day of the week at the beginning of each school year.

Grandmother demonstrated to us all the lovingkindness which God shows to us. There were no extracurricular activities, except an occasional baseball game in a nearby field with my cousins. Some of my best memories are just being with my grandmother learning to sew, crochet, and cook; working by her side, or just spending quality time with her fishing off a dock. She led by example and worked tirelessly to see that all our needs were met.  All of us grandkids knew where she stood when it came to doing what we were supposed to do and respected her high behavioral expectations. I never remember her even having to raise her voice with any of us.  Even though she died when I was only eighteen, I am so thankful to have had her example of how to parent and lead a family with respect, love, and kindness. She was truly the Proverbs 31 woman.

As a grandmother now, I hope to pass along some of those parenting tips and tidbits I learned from her, as well as a few of my own.  Here are some of the things those include.

  • Read scripture daily – schedule a quiet time for yourself to reap the benefits of God’s wisdom. (Colossians 3:16) And pray, pray, pray. (I Thessalonians 5:17)
  • Read scripture aloud daily with your children, talking about it in daily activities, and memorizing with them. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
  • Keep high expectations for behavior, teaching (Proverbs 31:26) and explaining to them your expectations, and train them as you go. (Proverbs 22:6)
  • Don’t be afraid to discipline (train) age- appropriately with consequences related to the action. (Proverbs 13:24)
  • Set clear rules and boundaries always with their own safety in mind.
  • Be clear to the children when disciplining that you love them, but are not happy with their choice of wrong behavior, or actions. (Proverbs 3:12) And never let your own emotions get out of control.
  • Spend quality time with your children, stay connected, and know what is going on in their lives, always!
  • Finally, do all things with love and kindness, demonstrating the love of Christ, as He has done for us. (Ephesians 2:7) Don’t give up! It takes time to tame a tiger!

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

 

About the Writer:
Beverly has been a long time teacher and administrator who alongside with her husband have taught numerous Sunday school classes. As a grandparent today, she loves to share with others God’s Word and make it applicable to daily living.

 

He Ain’t Heavy

The road is long 
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
So on we go
His welfare is my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there

For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Isn’t filled with the gladness
Of love for one another
It’s a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there
Why not share

And the load
Doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

Those are the lyrics to Clay Crosse’s rendition of He Ain’t Heavy. This song was released in 1997 — the year and even the month of my very first short-term missions trip. I must have listened to that song a thousand times as I remembered the faces of my Russian fellow believers, the abandoned children and youth from the orphanages, and the countless people with whom we had shared the Gospel with doing door-to-door evangelism — the people who are etched into my memory with a recollection fiercer than any before or since. It was listening to that song, no doubt, that led me (also a thousand times) to beg God for a way to live amongst and serve those same people. Everything about the impressions of that song was my ideal — to live for the good of others, to carry their burdens no matter what the cost and, in doing so to be a reflection of Christ, Who loved us to the point of dying on the cross for our sins. This was, to me, the definition of kindness, benevolence, and graciousness — everything I begged God for the opportunity to be.

God granted me my request and paved the way for me to do just what I had asked of Him; and my joy truly was complete. However, in the process I came to understand that there are some burdens too great for my shoulders. Oppression, darkness, sadness, evil, deception, selfishness, hate — all are among the burdens far too heavy for me to carry for myself, not to mention for another. Perhaps this is the struggle of every follower of Christ, to desire desperately to reflect the One we love so much, while daily experiencing the truth that we are not strong enough to fight even our own struggle with sin lodged deep in our own hearts (Romans 7).

And then enters Kindness:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

The word easy in “For My yoke is easy…” is the same word in Greek as the word used for kindness in Galatians 5 when referring to the fruit of the Spirit. How appropriate that Christ would define kindness as carrying the burden of sin on His shoulders so that we could be free to follow His example. Rest assured, He WILL call us to tasks too cumbersome for our own feeble selves, but it is His kindness that allows us to take the role of watching Him shine strong and victorious in the lead.

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.

His Grace is Sufficient

Do the “what ifs” sometimes overwhelm you? When you let your mind drift to any of the endless list of potential crises that could be a phone call away, do you feel unequipped to handle the grief? Do you look at someone else’s struggle and think, “I can’t even imagine” or “there is no way I can handle that”? That particular feeling struck me recently: I have two young mom friends, sisters in Christ, who have cancer. Both have two children under five. I can’t even imagine.

The possibilities of these scenarios seem crippling. And then, in steps the power of God.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.                         2 Corinthians 12:9

The picture below is of my first baby girl, Elizabeth Alane. I never got to hold her. Eric and I saw her heartbeat at seven weeks, and by nine weeks her heartbeat was no more.

His Grace is Sufficient

After my miscarriage God held me up in so many ways. One way was through the Scripture that comforted and assured me. One of the verses that brought me so much comfort was 2 Corinthians 12:9.  His grace is sufficient. 

A week and a day before we found out that the baby no longer had a heartbeat, I broke down sobbing, and I told my husband, Eric, I was scared of losing the baby. I was mess. Eric held me and comforted me, and he prayed that we would put the baby in God’s hands. If you looked at what a mess I was then, you would have thought actually losing the baby would have rendered me a useless waste. But God gave me the grace I needed in the moment I need it. After my miscarriage, I had an undeniable hope despite my loss. I didn’t know how this would work together for good (Romans 8:28). I didn’t understand God’s thoughts and plans in this (Isaiah 55:8-9). But I believed that God’s word was true.  Even though I didn’t understand how He would fulfill the promise of Scripture, I knew that he would. God was extending me the grace I needed.

His grace is sufficient. It is sufficient to meet our every need, day by day as they happen. It is also sufficient to meet our greatest need – for salvation. Let the power of God be your refuge: no matter what lies ahead, He is able to see you through it.

About the Writer:
Caroline M. is a wife and mom who loves Jesus. She also has a career in commercial real estate investing. God has given her a heart for encouraging other women. She and her husband, Eric, are the directors of the Fellowship Class, a young married Sunday School class, at First Baptist Dallas.

Forbearance: Weathering the Sudden Storms of Our Souls

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,   patience . . . ”, ah, yes, patience. (Galatians 5:22-23)  But what is meant by patience?  The Apostle Paul used the Greek word makrothumia, which means “long-tempered” or “slow to express explosive anger.”  Let’s replace patience with forbearance, the word that the NIV uses.  Websters’ Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines it as holding oneself back from something,” like lashing out in anger, “especially with an effort of self restraint.”  See why I prefer forbearance?

What is important is that we learn how to put it into practice.  Galatians 5:16 says, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”  Jesus said “Abide in Me  .  .  .  He who abides in Me bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)  We walk in the Spirit and abide in Christ, by spending time with Him daily in prayer and in His Word.  There is no other way to bear fruit!  If we want to be like Him, we must spend real time with Him, sharing our real problems with Him.

What are some of the things that make you angry?  May I encourage you to tell them to Jesus?  He knows and understands you better than anyone because He made you.  If coffee with a friend can sooth our souls, imagine what some quality time with the Lover of our souls could do!

Is exhaustion a source of your anger?  Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.“  He is our Wonderful Counselor, and He can handle our anger, and whatever else we throw at Him.  We don’t scare Him.  He’s crazy about us and nothing we do could ever change that!

I encourage you to memorize Colossians 3:12-17, and to pray through it whenever the firestorms of anger begin to rise in you.

  • Put on tender mercies: kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering/forbearance (makrothumia).  Clothe yourself with these daily in prayer.
  • Bear with each other and forgive each other because Christ forgave us!  Unforgiveness is the source of much bitterness and anger. Forgive as an act of your will.  Tell the Lord in prayer that you forgive the one who wronged you.  You don’t have to agree with them!  You just have to forgive them!
  • Most importantly, put on LOVE!  Love bonds us together in unity.  Love is a VERB!  Our desire should be to speak the truth in love, without anger, and  to serve others through love.
  • Let the Peace of God RULE in your hearts. The idea is to let God’s peace be the referee in our hearts, the seat of our emotions. We can choose to be at peace even in the midst of turmoil!
  • Dwell on God’s Word and sing praises to Him! Praise is powerful because it invites God in, and it is a balm to our hurting hearts.
  • And WHATEVER you do, do ALL in the Name of the Lord Jesus.  Ask yourself?  Can I do this in Jesus Name?  Can I yell at a family member or colleague in Jesus Name?  How can I deal with my anger in a way that pleases Him?

2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way.  The Lord be with you all!

About the Writer:
Tiffany is a cross-cultural missionary, Bible teacher, speaker, writer, and worship leader.  More than anything, she desires to be one ‘who like a tree planted by the rivers of water, brings forth its fruit in due season, whose leaves do not wither, and have whatever she does prosper’(Psalm 1:3). She is committed to abiding continually in Christ, the vine, so that she may bear much fruit in, and for Him (John 15:5).

 

Are We There Yet?

We’ve all experienced it:  some kid, maybe our own, continually asking the same question over and over again hoping to get an answer different than the one he received two seconds before.  Having to exercise patience is no fun and can be quite frustrating at times, especially if you’ve been waiting for a LONG time. But there are some things we can be focusing on during the waiting periods.

The first thing we need to realize is that just because God does not answer on our timetable, we do not have permission to assume an answer and then act according to our emotions, desires, or even logic. Waiting on God to answer is an act of obedience; obedience is simultaneous with trust; and trust is an expression of love.

The book of Habakkuk shows us some great tips when we are having to wait on an answer from God.  In chapter 2, Habakkuk shows us that we must have a determination to wait to hear from God as well as an expectation for Him to speak. Habakkuk says in verse 1,

I will stand on my guard post . . .And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me. . . Habakkuk 2:1

God will speak to us. We have to be determined to wait on His answer.

During our waiting period, we must also isolate ourselves from distractions. If you read the book of Habakkuk, you’ll notice that Habakkuk sets up camp away from distractions so as not to be influenced by anything other than God. Again, the prophet is demonstrating his expectation and determination that God will answer him. Be warned that the waiting period is the perfect opportunity for Satan to attack us with feelings of doubt and grand ideas of logic on what we think God wants us to do.  So, be strong, sister!

Finally, Habakkuk also expects to be corrected while he is waiting on God. In the last part of Habakkuk 2:1 he says, “ . . . And how I may reply when I am reproved.”  God has something for us to learn. The lesson may be anything ranging from a correction of an action, or the actual waiting period itself. Even if His answer is a “yes” to something we desire, we must make sure we do not miss whatever it was He has been teaching us. He is the Teacher and we are the students; we must humble ourselves in view of that fact.

I like this picture because it is the perfect representation of how we all feel when we are asked to do the hardest thing: WAIT.

 About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to a 2 year old and has another one on the way. She occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

 

The Only Self Help Book You Need

I can recall clearly my prayers as a new bride. I prayed for God to change me, mature me, and to make me sufficient in my new role. With the new responsibilities that I believed came with marriage, I had many personal qualities that I wanted to refine and new skills that I wanted to learn. My weaknesses would now weigh both of us down, I convinced myself. I would anxiously read how-to articles and frustrate myself, growing impatient with the slow progression of change.

I was so focused on seeing change from day-to-day, that I missed the bigger transformation that God was already producing in me. A familiar verse to many is found in Philippians.

Philippians 1:6: For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 

I had heard this verse many times and used it when encouraging friends of mine in their time of despair. But I didn’t believe it for myself.

What I see now is that my impatience and dissatisfaction with myself was a result of doubt and unbelief in God. In my continuing study of scripture, I’m learning that patience requires a surrender of earthly understanding, and above all else, a complete trust in God’s faithfulness and goodness.

Scripture teaches that “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8) So, instead of trying to comprehend God’s timing, we must place our trust in HIS faithfulness instead of OUR understanding. That passage continues, saying that “the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

When I forgo my acute time lens and open my heart to God’s perfect timing, I see a story of His grace and patience as he writes the testimony of my life. It’s a story that didn’t just start when I prayed as a fresh-faced wife, but had started long ago with an insecure young woman helplessly surrendering to the Lord. Upon the realization that no person, status, or thing could make me feel at peace, I’ve learned that the Bible is the only self-help book that I could ever need.

The Holy Spirit produces patience in us that is made deeper by faith.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

I can see a direct relationship between the amount of time that I spend in God’s Word and my patience. I am continually learning that God is fully faithful, fully trustworthy, and fully sovereign in my life. He proves Himself over and over again in my moments of doubt. The Lord is my strength and my salvation, and He is working on a masterpiece in my life.

About the Writer:
Audra has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important transitions on her blog called The Homegrown Project.

 

Hands on the Hips, Heart in His Word

Being a parent isn’t easy, nor is living with any other human being. Other people, and especially children, will try our patience every day. Patience is a daily struggle for me. How many times a day do I find socks on the floor, or toys where they don’t belong? How many times do I have to ask for something simple to be done, like throwing trash in the trash can?

I can’t count how many times I’ve stood in my kitchen, hands on my hips, looking just like my mother, mustering up all the volume I could in my voice, and then the still, small voice reminds me:

A hot tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.  Proverbs 15:18

Sometimes I yell anyway, and when I do it doesn’t turn out so well. You see, nothing I say is as powerful as the example I set.  When I show patience with my son, my husband, even with my dogs, someone is always watching, and that someone is usually my son. My hope for him is that he will grow up to be a man who loves the Lord and lives through Christ. I can hope all I want, and I know God will get him there, but the best way to get him there is to show him.

When my hands go to my hips, perhaps it is best to remember this:

The end of something is better than its beginning. Patience is better than pride.  Ecclesiastes 7:8 NIV

Ouch.  You mean it’s pride that makes me want to lash out? Surely that wasn’t meant for me. But yes, my pride gets in the way more than just about anything. What I have learned is that patience will always win, as long as I listen to God’s voice. It will win when I choose to slowly remove my hands from my hips and the volume from my voice. It will win when I return to the center of my heart where He sits, waiting to guide my words and actions – as long as I allow him to.

About the Writer:
Wendy is a wife and mother who works full time in Risk Management.  Here at First Dallas she serves in Sunday school, helps coordinate Angel tree, and teaches at Discipleship University.  Her greatest joy comes from discovering how following Jesus can greatly impact her daily life and the lives of those she cares about in innumerable, practical ways.