Faithfulness

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In my Wednesday evening Bible Study, we are looking at the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Last night’s topic was faithfulness. And in the context of that topic, I asked the class how they had seen God’s faithfulness in their lives. People shared some stories about how God had been faithful to them.

I them asked for examples of how God has been faithful to our church. People then shared some powerful stories. One person shared that they felt God had brought them to this church intentionally…to help them through a tough time.

As I listened to the story, it really touched my heart. Not only because of the conviction that was evident as they shared with us, but also because it brought back some pretty powerful emotions and remembrances for me.

I am absolutely convinced that God orchestrated our move to the church we currently serve…knowing that there was a tumor growing quietly in my head that was going to become a HUGE problem. There are SO many things about that story that simply wouldn’t have happened…or at least not happened like they did…were it not for this church.

Before (and after) the surgery, they set up rotating groups of people to come 4 times a day and check on my wife’s parents (who live with us), bring them food and take their dog out every time we made a trip to St. Louis. (And we made a LOT of trips to St. Louis!) They had an offer of an interim pastor while I was out. Their response? “We’ve got this!” And they ran the church for 6 weeks! (My District Superintendent told me, after the fact, “That is QUITE a congregation. I have churches that HAVE a pastor who call me all the time. Your church went 6 weeks with NO pastor…and they never called me one time!”)

During surgery, they had a several-hour prayer vigil for our family. After surgery, they let me be off work for 6 weeks- paid- and didn’t even bat an eye when that decision was up for consideration. They also brought lunch and dinner every day for over 3 weeks. And when I came back (The doctor had said 6-8 weeks- you will probably find it NO surprise that I was back in 6!), they seemed genuinely glad to see me!

Words will never be enough to express my gratitude and love for this congregation. I am incredibly thankful for their faithfulness in tending to me and my family when we needed it the most. They model God’s faithfulness to us. Today, say a prayer that covers two things: 1. all the people for who you are thankful and 2. how much you appreciate God’s faithfulness.

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- 38 Years (And 2 Days) Ago

From the Vault

Beginnings     Wednesdays are normally reserved for the past Sunday EVENING sermon.  (Sunday is reserved for the Sunday MORNING sermon!) Well, this past Sunday I din’t WRITE a Sunday evening sermon because I didn’t preach Sunday evening. So I went back a few years and pulled a sermon “out of the vault”!

Today we begin a new Wednesday devotional series called Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Bible. Each Wednesday we will look at a section of books from the Bible- this will literally be an overview of the Bible as a whole. Today’s devotional is called Beginnings, and it deals with the 1st 5 books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These books, the writing of which is attributed to Moses, are the foundation upon which the rest of the Bible rests- they are very important books.

The Bible is 66 books that tell the story of God and His people. But here is the Bible…in only 50 words! God made, Adam bit, Noah arked, Abraham split, Joseph ruled, Jacob fooled, Bush talked, Moses balked, Pharaoh plagued, people walked, sea divided, tablets guided, Promise landed, Saul freaked, David peeked, Prophets warned, Jesus born, God walked, Love talked, anger crucified, hope died, Love rose, Spirit flamed, Word spread, God remained.
Author Douglas Adams was on a trip to Europe. And as he lay and looked up at the galaxy, he dreamed up Englishman Arthur Dent and his friend Ford Prefect, an alien writer researching a “wholly remarkable book” called Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In the book, a bureaucratic alien race is building a galactic interstate highway and the earth is in the way…so they destroy it! But Arthur and Ford are saved by the part-time Galactic President who travels around space in a ship called The Heart of Gold searching for The Question to the Ultimate Answer. There are 5 (yes, that’s right…5!) books in the TRILOGY: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe and Everything, So Long and Thanks For All the Fish and Mostly Harmless. As I read these books, it struck me that someone needed to write the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Bible!
The Bible is an ancient writing- the last author, John, died about 2,000 years ago. There are 2 divisions- The Old Testament and The New Testament. The Old Testament has 39 books, 929 chapters and 23,214 verses and the New Testament has 27 books, 260 chapters and 7,956 verses. There are a total of 66 books; 1,189 chapters and 31,170 verses. It is the monumental best-seller of all time. And it starts at the very beginning (a very good place to start!). There are 3 types of books in the Old Testament: historic, poetic and prophetic.
The rock group Chicago (one of my all-time favorites!) did a sing called Beginnings. In that song, it says, “When I’m with you, it doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing. I’m with you, that’s all that matters. Only the beginning of what I want to feel forever. Only just the start, I’ve got to get you into my life.” Today, we start with life…before the Promised Land. In Hebrew, this section of the Bible is called The Torah- meaning “instruction or law”. It’s also know as The Pentateuch- which in Greek means: pente- “5”, teuxos- “case”. The 1st 5 books of the Old Testament is a continuous story…a story that starts with Genesis-
Genesis 1- 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
Genesis- in the beginning, is the primeval history of Creation, of Adam and Eve, of the Garden of Eden, of their descendants. It also talks about Noah, the flood and HIS descendants. We learn about the Tower of Babel, about Abraham and God’s covenant, about Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. We read about how Jacob’s sons leave Canaan for Egypt because of a famine. The book sets the rest of the story in motion.
Next comes Exodus- a story of redemption. We see Moses as a baby in the bulrushes. We meet /Pharaoh. Moses accidentally murders someone and flees, only to return. The plagues come, and then Moses leads his people out of Egypt. They end up at Mt. Sinai, where Moses receives the 10 Commandments. But the people violate God’s law by building a golden calf. They also build the Ark of the Covenant.
Leviticus- worship, how to use tabernacle/cleanliness rules/back on track
Then we get the book of Numbers- the people wander in the wilderness. Through 2 census, the Hebrews are counted. because of their disobedience, the people have to spend 40 more years wandering through the wilderness, and Moses is told that he will not see the Promised Land. There are battles in the land near Canaan, and finally the people are ready to enter the Promised Land.
The next book is Deuteronomy- it is a book full of teaching, including a series of Moses’ speeches about obeying God and His laws. These 5 books, collectively, are the backbone of both the Old and New Testaments. Remember when you 1st learned how to ride a bike? 1remember your st pet? Your 1st day of school? When you lost your 1st tooth? When you went to Senior prom? Your High School grad? Your 1st love? Your wedding? Your children? How about when you 1st met Jesus Christ? These 1st 5 books ARE the story of Moses and the Hebrews…but they are more than that- much more. They are OUR story- about beginning, and redemption, and worship, about wilderness and teaching…about remembering.
Deuteronomy 34:1-12 says- “Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—as far as the western sea, 4 Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” 5 And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. 6 He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. 7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses. 10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do.“
Moses sees the Promised Land from the top of a mountain…then he dies. He is buried by God, and the stage is set. These books are a tale of beginnings, redemption, worship, wilderness, teaching. And if Jesus is the heart of the Bible, then these 5 books are its feet, its foundation. They are “only the beginning of what I want to feel forever.Only just the start. I’ve got to get you into my life.” Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Crucified

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The miniseries “A.D. The Bible Continues” is currently running on Sundays nights on NBC. It is covering the events of the early church as found in the New Testament Book of Acts. The Crucifixion is certainly an often-referenced event in this miniseries, even though the event itself doesn’t happen in this sequel. And it’s understandable- it’s a pivotal point in the story.

This past Sunday evening, the story centered around (in part) the Romans responding to the murder of one of theirs by having several Jewish people crucified. They seemed to have been picked somewhat at random. And there was a scene where a man enters and laments the fact that a young man close to him was, as they spoke, on the cross…paying a debt he did not owe.

Three things about that scene stuck me.

  1. I can’t imagine the heartache of seeing someone being tortured and killed…period. Let alone it being done for something they had nothing to do with. It is beyond my ability to comprehend.
  2. The fact that the young man in the movie was “paying a debt he did not owe” points directly…DIRECTLY…the event of Good Friday. Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, was beaten, tortured and murdered for sins He did not commit. The fact that those sins are ones that WE committed makes it even harder to wrap your head around.
  3. At the end of all things, we not only are we blessed by the Crucifixion- we are asked to repeat it, at some level, every day.

Think about it- by accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are making a huge commitment. And part of that commitment is to be crucified daily. Oh, maybe not being nailed to a cross. OK…NOT being nailed to a cross. But we ARE asked to die to the things that keep us from a more complete relationship with Him.

So, my question for the day- what ARE the things that keep you from a more complete relationship with Him? Yours are bound to be different from mine. But if we’re honest…we all have them. And we are asked to die to that part of ourselves, so that we may be reborn as new beings in Him. Sounds GREAT. REALLY hard to do. BUT…the BEST thing I EVER did! What about you?

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- From the Vault

The Drumsticks

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I’m a drummer. (“No- DUH! We KNOW that, Pastor! Your website tells us that EVERY day!”) I have been a drummer since I was 10 years old- 44 years! (You do the math- it’s REALLY easy!) And I can still remember, like it was yesterday, the day I became a drummer.

There were 4 Junior Highs in the school district of which I was a part. When I was in 5th Grade, the Band Director at the Junior High where I would be attending came to our Grade School. With him, he brought some Junior High band students and some instruments. He then, using the Junior High students as the musicians, gave us demonstrations of many of the main instruments found in the band.

After the demonstrations, he went instrument by instrument, asking who in the crowd wanted to play that instrument. My older sister had been in Chorus for years and my older brother had been in Orchestra as well, so I as very familiar with live music. One by one, he went through the instruments: trumpet? No. Trombone? No. Flute? No. Clarinet? No. On and on the list went. Until, that is, he got to percussion! He asked if anybody wanted to be a drummer and my hand shot up SO fast it would make your head spin!

I went home that night and did something I honestly think I had never done before- told my mom that I signed up for something without first asking her about it. I knew that was somewhat dangerous territory, but doggone it…I wanted to play those drums! Fortunately, she was supportive…even though it was the DRUMS..and let me start.

I remember a pair of drumsticks I had in Junior High. At that time, aluminum drumsticks with a solid plastic top/head on one end and a plastic knob at the other end were very popular. They came in a variety of colors and where all that AND a bag of chips! I saved my money and bought them. I thought I had died and gone to Heaven! Those sticks went everywhere with me.

I was reminded of those sticks yesterday. After our 10:15AM worship service, one of our Junior High youth was standing next to me, talking to someone. I looked over and saw a pair of drumsticks sticking out of his pocket. I commented on them. We talked about being a drummer and how excited he was to BE a drummer. And then…I thought about those sticks I had. The sticks are LONG gone, but the joy of having them lingers.

I asked him if he had a couple of minutes. He said he did, so I led him up onto the altar area, where my drumset sits. Next to my set is my gig bag- where I keep all of my sticks. And I have a LOT of sticks! Mallets. Wire brushes. Nylon brushes. Bamboo brushes. And about 8 different sizes and styles of drumsticks. I easily have 10 pair of just drumsticks. He looked at them and then said what any self-respecting 6th Grade drummer would say under such circumstances- “Could I have a pair?!”

I again thought of my joy over those “cool” sticks. And so I reached in, picked out a pair…and gave them to him. I explained how they were made. (They are a special stick called a dip stick…insert your joke here!…that are DIPPED  in a black rubber to make them easier to grip!) I explained why I like the nylon tip better than the wooden tip. I told him about their size and what type of playing they were best suited for. And he was ecstatic! “These are SO cool!” He then ran across the street to a friend’s house (who are also church members) to show them the sticks!

We are called to encourage others to grow as people. Grow in their faith, to be sure. But also to just grow as a person. And my prayer for that kid is that he will continue to have a great love for music. I pray that, regardless of what he does with his life, music will always be a part of it. There is a transformative power i musi that simply isn’t found in many other places!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Crucified

Sunday, April 26- The Greatest Story Never Told: The Song of Wind

Greatest Story Never Told Song of Wind

Tom arrived at a hotel in a Scottish village on a cold, grey, windy day. And for the next two weeks, the wind blew non-stop. Finally, on his 15th day there, as Tom fought to make his way up the street, imitating the famous mime “walking against the wind” routine, he happened upon a little boy. Over the roar of the wind, he yelled, “Does the wind EVER stop blowing here?” The little boy looked the tourist in the eye, put his hands on his hips and yelled back, “I don’t know….I’m only six years old!”
Zechariah 4:6 So he said to me, “A message came to Zerubbabel from the LORD. He said, ‘Your strength will not get my temple rebuilt. Your power will not do it either. Only the power of my Spirit will do it,’ says the LORD who rules over all.
Today, we continue our current, 4-week sermon series- The Greatest Story Never Told. Based on the book by author and United Methodist minister Leonard Sweet, this series asks the question, “What makes a United Methodist?” Sweet claims that the essence of United Methodism’s genius is found in two famous phrases by United Methodist founder John Wesley: “heart strangely warmed”, which points to inward experiences with the Holy Spirit and “the world is our parish”, which points to outward experiences of taking Jesus Christ to the people. For Wesley, internal combustion led to external combustion.
Week 1, we started with The Song of Water and we talked about both baptism and the power of sound and the power of music in the United Methodist Church. Last week, we looked at The Song of Fire as we looked at a rather unlikely conversion story that would literally change history. Today, we consider the work of the Holy Spirit as we look at The Song of Wind.
There is a fancy seminary word. Well, there is about a metric TON of fancy seminary words! But the one we’re going to look at today is pneumatology. In the Greek, “ology” means “the study of” and “pneuma” means “wind” or “spirit”. So pneumatology is the study of God’s Holy Spirit- the fresh wind that blows from God through Jesus Christ to us.
The person and work of the Holy Spirit played a significant role in the theological thought of United Methodist founder John Wesley. Wesley saw that the primary role of God’s Holy Spirit was redemptive- saving us from sin. And he tied that to what he knew as prevenient grace- God’s changing and saving grace that’s specifically working on us before we are even aware of it. That prevenient grace leads to preliminary grace- the work of the Holy Spirit in the midst of life. And that leads to purifying grace- the fresh “Spirit” wind that blows through us, changing who we are and how we live our lives .
John Wesley insisted that God’s grace couldn’t be simply considered- we HAVE to do more than simply think about it. We have to actually experience it. He called that the “witness of the Spirit.” But when he talked about how to experience that “witness of the Spirit,” he talked about relationships and entry points: going to church, joining a Bible Study, participating in an outreach ministry, etc. In other words, the “witness of the Spirit” is a relational witness, in the middle of “where two or more are gathered together”. The witness of the Spirit is often found in the ordinary, but it ALWAYS allows for the possibility of the EXTRAORDINARY.
For Wesley, it wasn’t enough to be passionate about your faith. Early Methodists sought out those who NEEDED the Gospel the most- not those that simply wanted it the most or could most afford to pay for it. To be United Methodist is to be passionate about the way your faith connects with others, embraces others, includes others and loves others. John Wesley expected all United Methodists to be lifelong learners. Spiritual growth is the very definition of what it means to be United Methodist.
Acts 1:4-8 One day Jesus was eating with them. He gave them a command. “Do not leave Jerusalem,” he said. “Wait for the gift my Father promised. You have heard me talk about it. John baptized with water. But in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” When the apostles met together, they asked Jesus a question. “Lord,” they said, “are you going to give the kingdom back to Israel now?” He said to them, “You should not be concerned about times or dates. The Father has set them by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. Then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem. You will be my witnesses in all Judea and Samaria. And you will be my witnesses from one end of the earth to the other.”
When we first moved to Champaign County, we were given a “tour” of the town and the area around it. After seeing all there was to see (the person giving the “tour” joked that we got the $20 tour which takes 20 minutes, versus the $5 tour, which takes 10 minutes!), the “tour guide” turned to us and said, “Welcome to Champaign County! We hope you like flat and we hope you like wind…’cause we have lots of BOTH of them!” We had literally NEVER seen “wind advisories” that didn’t connect to a large storm system until we moved there. Due to the high water table in that part of the state, ours was one of the only houses in the neighborhood that had a basement. So we were pretty popular when there was a tornado warning! And there were a LOT of them! Once, a tornado warning came while I was at the church and our older son had taken our younger son to Tae Kwan Do class. My wife was at home by herself, worrying about her family, when suddenly a car pulled up. Several Tae Kwan Do students, in their doboks- their uniforms- jumped out and ran for our house! She said it looked like a ninja clown car had pulled up! The “ninjas” ended up riding the storm out in our basement!
Methodism, at its core, is about living together in community. It’s about sharing life together. It’s about facing common daily problems together. It’s about being accountable to each other. A true United Methodist is never a solo act. Instead, we are all part of a web of “withness”- a network of relationships that ripple out into the larger world. At its best, United Methodist worship is built around that same “withness”. Our very understanding of God the Trinity- Father, Son, Holy Spirit- is, by its very nature, relational.
Healthy United Methodist churches are constantly trying to create places of “withness” that help enable conversations where we can hear each other’s stories. In fact, I would argue that two of the most holy places in this church building are the Fellowship Cafe’ and the kitchen!
United Methodists are a “connectional” people, but if we’re not careful, the connection increasingly becomes more about structure, bureaucracies and programs and less about people, mission and places. And I wonder- have too many churches across the country made faith a hand-folding, hand-wringing affair when it was meant to be a hand-holding, hand-raising experience?
We SO easily get SO caught up in rules that we lose track of relationship. Look at it this way: The Pythagorean Theorem can be stated in 24 words. The Lord’s Prayer is only 70 words long. The Ten Commandments cover a relatively small 179 words. But the 1964 Constitutional Practice and Discipline of the Methodist Church required no less than…ready?…a quarter of a MILLION words!
All around the world, “command-and-control” is being replaced with “connect-and-collaborate”. That shift is going full steam in almost every sector of society…with the notable exception of the Church. Out in the world, the consumer is in control. But all too often in the Church, it’s “rules” and “we’ve never done it that way” that are the order of the day. Many churches have managed to reduce their clergy to social workers instead of pastors, motivational speakers instead of preachers, marketers instead of evangelists, cultural architects instead of priests and CEO’s instead of prophets.
But over the years, one of the most revolutionary features of the United Methodist revival has been the equipping of the laity- the folks in the pews- for leadership. When that happens, it intentionally blurs the lines between pastor and parishioner. And that approach helps establish a new standard of excellence- it’s no longer the quality of the performance that matter but the quality of the participation.
Churches that don’t transition from regulation to resource, from “command-and-control” to “connect-and-collaborate” tend to have a less than rosy future. Churches that don’t make that shift want to build everything around rules and regulations. And rules and regulations are the religious equivalent of cement shoes- they weigh you down and hold you in place, eventually causes you to sink completely.
John 14:25-26 I have spoken all these things while I am still with you. But the Father will send the Friend in my name to help you. The Friend is the Holy Spirit. He will teach you all things. He will remind you of everything I have said to you.
A primary task of the Holy Spirit is to reveal, testify, and defend the truth of Jesus Christ. A Christian men’s group from Texas went to St. Louis to ministry. While there, they were preparing a barbecue for the seminarians at Concordia Seminary. The Texans were in the seminary kitchen, trimming the fat off the meat before cooking it. One of the seminarians walked in, watched them for a moment, then asked why they didn’t just cook it with the fat on and let the seminarians trim off their own fat. One of the Texans took the young man by the arm and led him outside the kitchen. He then told the young man to stop for a minute, listen and then tell him what he heard from the men in the kitchen cutting meat. The young seminarian listened for a minute, then pointed out that the men were talking, joking, laughing and swapping stories. The Texan smiled and said, “Son, THAT’S why we cut the fat off the meat.”
There are times in my life when I can’t quite hold on to Jesus…but I can hold on to YOU while you hold on to Him. And when that happens, I can feel His hold on me THROUGH you, since He never lets go of either of us. Jesus can only fully live in MY life if He also lives in OUR lives.

Saturday, April 25- These Kids Today!

These Kids Today

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the youth at the church I currently serve being in charge of the weekly Wednesday evening dinner this past Wednesday. I bragged on them. They did a GREAT job! That event, and the subsequent blog, have made me think more about the children and youth in this church. And all of that thinking brings me to some conclusions, which I would like to share with you.

Growing up, I thought that my generation must be the WORST generation…ever! I always heard, “OH! Your generation is horrible! Lazy! Selfish! Bad manners! And the drugs and alcohol!” In other words, we were HORRIBLE!Or so it seemed.

But as I got older, I began to understand something- EVERY generation thinks that the next generation is the worst ever. EVERY generation! Don’t believe me? Check this out! An Assyrian clay tablet, dating to around 2800 BC, bears the following inscription: “Our Earth is degenerate in these later days; there are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end; bribery and corruption are common; children no longer obey their parents.” “Children no longer obey their parents!”

And Socrates, somewhere around 425 BC. , said this, “Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

So it is clear that this whole “the next generation is scum” thing is simply nothing new! I’m nearly sure that Adam and Eve complained about Cain and Abel. (And quite frankly, from Cain’s perspective, they were probably justified!) For as long as there have been parents and children, parents have been stating that “these kids” are going to bring civilization to a grinding halt in one generation!

Are there crummy kids out there today? Of course there are- there have ALWAYS been crummy kids! But you know what I think? If you are sure that “these kids today” are going to be the ruin of us all, then you must not know the same kids I know! Seriously! The kids at the church I currently serve are awesome! And for that matter, the kids at each of the last two churches I have served are awesome as well! They are fun to be around. They are smart. They are caring. They ask really good questions. They are full of life. And it’s that last one that is often the sticking point, isn’t it?!

Here’s the bottom line- kids are going to be messy sometimes. (Shoot- ADULTS are messy sometimes!) They have a lot of energy- they are going to run in the building sometimes. They make noise- there are going to be times when they say something at a less than appropriate time. If you have kids in your building, they are going to break the occasional thing. But you know what? When I stand before God on Judgement Day, I want to be able to say more than, “I kept the carpets clean!”

There are lots of churches around the country that are just DYING- literally- to hear the sound of kids in their building. Would I rather have kids in the building, making noise and spilling the occasional drink than NOT have them? Every day…and twice on Sunday!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Greatest Story Never Told: The Song of Wind

Friday, April 24′ Goodness

goodness

My Wednesday night Bible Study is currently focused on the fruits of the Spirit. This Wednesday’s topic was goodness. So my question to you is- what IS goodness? Well, your friend and mine, dictionary.com, says this, “noun: 1. the state or quality of being good. (That is a COMPLETE copout! Using a form of the word in the definition of the word! Please! How outre’!) 2. moral excellence; virtue. (OK- getting better!) 3. kindly feeling; kindness; generosity. 4. excellence of quality. 5. the best part of anything; essence; strength. 6. a euphemism for God: thank goodness!

So what out of that definition is the most helpful to us? Well, “moral excellence” is a little tough. It is certainly something to strive for, but it is NOT something that we’re actually going to achieve this side of Heaven. “Excellence of quality” is also a bit of a challenge. Again, a good thing to shoot for but it sets the bar way higher than we are going to be able to actually jump. I like the “a euphemism for God” one a lot! But it probably doesn’t really inform this conversation terribly much.

So after weeding all of those out,  that leaves “kindly feeling; kindness; generosity” and “the best part of anything; essence; strength.” And for my money, it is that portion of the definition that has the most to offer us as we consider “goodness”. Why? Because goodness, at its core, is a feeling of kindness and generosity. It also centers around the best part of something- its essence.

What is the best part…of you? Seriously- what is it that is your essence? If you boil it ALL down, what’s left of you? Is it kindness and generosity? If you’re honest…and like me…then your answer is, “It depends on the day…or time of day.” And that’s it, isn’t it? There are days, or times of day, when we have goodness oozing out of every pore. And then there are days, or times of day, where people couldn’t find goodness in you with a cattle prod! (I don’t really even know what that means..but you GET the idea!”)

So, if we can’t maintain goodness all the time, shouldn’t we just cash it all in and quit trying? Not on your Nellie! We are humans- fearfully and wonderfully made. We are far from perfect…FAR! But God loves us. And He wants the best for us. AND…He has amazing patience. So He doesn’t measure our progress with a stopwatch but with a calendar. He KNOWS that we are going to take two steps forward followed almost immediately by one step back. And He’s willing to wait. He’s willing to encourage. He’s willing to be our number one Cheerleader.

So how are you doing on the whole goodness thing? Are you making progress? Do you want to make MORE progress? Then stick with it. Stay the course. Try to take one step…one step…closer to goodness, closer to God, every day.

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- These Kids Today!