Fruity Fridays: External Bridge to Internal Goodness

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

post by Eric Vorhies

You ever hear the phrase, “Fake it till you make it”? I became aware of the power of this in high school. Everyone in class had to do a speech of some sort multiple times throughout the year. I was a high schooler. I didn’t know what I was doing. Like most, I was nervous to talk in front of people. I was consumed with what they must be thinking while I was speaking. I was consumed with fear.

But after a couple of speeches, I realized that those people listening were probably thinking similar things as I was when they were giving speeches. For instance, “Did I finish that Spanish homework?” or “I wonder what’s for lunch today?” That’s when I decided I could just fake my confidence in public speaking until I actually figured it out.

Let’s be clear, I haven’t figured it out, but I can talk to a large group of people with way more confidence then I should. The reason why I say this is because of how I perceive Kindness and Goodness relating to each other. To me, kindness is this external interaction that bridges people together. Goodness, in my opinion, is an internal feeling that motivates kindness.

I hope you see where this is going.

I don’t always have goodness inside of me toward people or situations. I can look at a situation and think, “Well, I could have done better.” Or if i am trying to figure out what other people are thinking about me…I internalize all the excuses of why things played out the way it did or why they shouldn’t be commenting on it. It is far too easy to train ourselves to react selfishly or out of fear. That’s why we think bad things about people or assume the worst. But it’s more empowering to learn to feel goodness instead.

Let’s be honest though, feelings are complex, and we can’t just change our feelings. I mean, we don’t have total control over them…They CAN BE conditioned though. So, this is where we fake it till we make it, and we do that through acts of kindness.

  • Do you want to have goodness in your heart toward someone? Stop talking badly about them.
  • Find yourself always judging people for the way they do things? Take time to tell them something you think they are doing really well (do not follow it up with what they could do better…no compliment sandwiches)
  • Have anger toward someone for what they said? Buy them a cup of coffee and have a conversation. 

We can’t just change the way we feel about something or someone, but we can choose to lead with kindness in those instances. And it is amazing how doing so will soften our hearts. Then, over time, the external bridge of kindness will lead to internal goodness. You won’t have it all figured out, but you will be able to judge a situation more honestly and with more understanding and forgiveness than most.

We are not good, but God leads us to goodness. Share some of it today.

6 Months to Live

Recently I was part of a short discussion around this question: “What if a doctor told you that you have only six months to live? What would you do?” The discussion involved answers that could mostly fall under two headings, tactical and relational. Tactical meaning get everything (insurance, memorial service, will, finances) in order. Relational meaning make the most of every day, do things you haven’t done, say things that need to be said, enjoy the rest of your days.

Let’s reframe the question a tad. What if God told you that you only have six months to live? What would you say? Not what would you do; what would you say? In other words, how would you respond in prayer.

This very message came to a king in the Bible. His name was Hezekiah. His story is told in two passages, 2 Kings 20 and Isaiah 38. Here are the first three verses of Isaiah 38:

“In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Set your house in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.’ ” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord. He said, “Please, Lord, remember how I have walked before you faithfully and wholeheartedly, and have done what pleases you.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭38:1-3‬ ‭CSB‬‬‬‬

Hezekiah’s simple and confident response prayer is remarkable. Hezekiah didn’t offer a response of lament, of begging for his life, or of questioning God. He responded by asking just one thing-remember our relationship.

Hezekiah didn’t point out his position, his accomplishments, his family, or even his desire to live. His focused response was about his relationship with God. 

In a “near death” state, you wouldn’t ask God to remember something that is either weak or anemic in order to trade or barter for life. You would offer something strong, vibrant, and full of life. What would you ask God to remember?

From Hezekiah’s response, we can adapt some truths to our prayer life (our responses to God) that apply, near death or not. 

  • You can pray with confidence when you know your relationship with God is active and alive.
  • The status of your relationship with God determines the strength of your prayers.
  • You can pray in simplicity when your relationship with God is deep, trusting, and honest.
  • A strong relationship doesn’t require overdone conversation.

While we can ask God to remember, we have things to remember about him, also.

  • Remember, God sees all, including your heart.  
  • Remember, God knows all, including your needs and wants.
  • Remember, God controls all, including your situations and your future.

Your turn. You get this message, “You have six months to live.” What do you ask God to remember?

The Myth of Equality (Book Review)

I just finished reading a book that I didn’t know I needed to read.

I wasn’t looking for it. Had it not been given to me, I most likely wouldn’t even know about it.

Why did I need to read it? 

  • Because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. The first part informed me about the story of race.

Racism in the United States is worse than we thought, its lasting consequences are more significant than we think, and our responsibility is greater than we’ve been taught…There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.

  • Because I needed to see this subject through the lens of God’s kingdom. The second part took me deeper into the truth of equality.

If every person is made in the image of God, then stereotypes lead us down a dangerous path…Racial equality and fairness is not just a good thing but an ideal that we must work toward if we are to fully realize Christian obedience, national justice, and individual flourishing.

  • Because I needed to know about my privilege. The final part challenged me to listen and learn, lament, confess, and lay down.

White privilege doesn’t mean your life isn’t hard. It means if you are a person of color, simply by virtue of that, your life might be harder…If any part of justice matters then all of justice should matter.

Most likely, you didn’t know about this book before reading this post. You need to look for it. You need to read this book.

Fruity Fridays: Running to Do Good

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

Of the nine fruits of the Spirit, I’d guess this one to be the one most wrestled. 

Doing good is different from being good. You can be good on the inside. But to show the fruit of goodness it has to be seen, you have to do. That isn’t always easy. It’s downright challenging in many cases, on a regular basis.

  • It’s hard to do good to someone who views your decision as wrong.
  • It’s mind bending to do good to someone who intentionally undermines you.
  • It’s gut wrenching to do good for someone who knowingly lies about you.

These are examples that are difficult because they reveal where your power originates. If your power to handle wrong, undermining, and lying lies only in you, you will be less likely to do good.
No, we have to rely on a better source of power than ourselves. That power comes from the model of goodness. That model and power is described in Acts 10:38.

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Instead of looking at yourself to muster the power of goodness, we must look to the Holy Spirit. No matter how hard the situation, he has the power to do good through you. So how do we look to the Holy Spirit?

  1. Work through your anger, jealousy, selfishness, etc., before responding. (HINT: This may take more than five minutes.) Start doing good by not doing wrong by allowing destructive emotions to control you.
  2. Pray to the Holy Spirit. Ask Him what goodness will look like in your situation, for that person. Only move when you have peace and commitment to the action.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice. You only get better at something by doing it. Start with a simple good thing that you know the Holy Spirit wants you to do. Example: Pray that God would bless your offender rather than praying God would convict them. (HINT: Conviction isn’t our job.) A staggering baby step like this will lead to steady walking which will lead to strong running.

Running isn’t easy. Certainly not to do goodness. Surrender to the Holy Spirit to help you run to do good.

5 Rules to Avoid Regrettable Commitments

Who knew a book on business could be so rich? Well, I can tell you that Larry Burkett’s book Business by the Book is.

For example, in chapter 6, Keeping Vows, he gives five simple rules that could not only be applied to good business practice but also good personal living practice. He developed them to avoid making commitments he might later regret:

  1. When in Doubt, Say No
  2. Keep a “Year at a Glance” Calendar
  3. Prioritize the Day
  4. Don’t Book Too Far Ahead
  5. Use a Written Contract

Here are two quotes from the chapter that seem to support the need for these rules:

  • Situational ethics have so shaped our society that even God’s people have lost the concept of absolutes when it comes to keeping our word.
  • The probability of a misunderstanding in a written agreement has been calculated at 20%, more or less. The probability of a misunderstanding in a verbal agreement is nearly 100%!

Faithful Love

This week my Bible reading plan took me through Hosea. This read is always a good one.

One could label the message of Hosea to be “beware of spiritual adultery-drifting little by little into disaster.” 

I highlighted verse 6 from chapter 6, and when I highlighted verse 12 from chapter 10 I noticed they share a term, faithful love. Read these two verses here:

For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings…Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground. It is time to seek the Lord until he comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain. (‭Hosea‬ 6:6; ‭10‬:‭12‬ CSB)

  • Drifting from love belittles faithfulness; adultery betrays love’s commitment.

The beauty of faithful love in our relationship with God is shown by the agricultural images in chapter 10. Yes, we reap what we sow. If we choose to sow unrighteousness, that is what we will reap. But that’s not an everlasting sentence. What we reap can be changed. God’s faithful and loyal love for those who choose rather to sow righteousness never ends; it is everlasting. He longs to pour this love on us so abundantly that it would be like rain.

How’s your love? Is it drifting? How can you correct your sowing choices, keep faithful love, in order to allow God to bring you rain?

Fruity Fridays: The Only Goodness in Us

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

post by Jeremy Nixon

Webster’s Dictionary defines goodness as the state or quality of being good; moral excellence, virtue; generosity, strength or the best part of anything. I particularly like “the best part of anything.” When talking about goodness you have to understand the opposite: evil. I think we all know what evil is, and it’s not the Descendants of Disney! However, my girls love that show, and as a “good” dad I oblige. Evil is everything derived from Satan, badness. The very thing that makes you happy (God) is good, and the thing that makes us imperfect…our flesh.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with my flesh and doing the right things at time because of my fleshly cravings. I know it’s hard to believe that I’m not a good person all the time…just ask John; he’ll tell you the truth. We all know that our struggle with sin is real (Romans 3:23). Paul writes in his letter to the Romans in 7:18-20 “for I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but the sin that dwells within me.”

Paul’s struggle with sin was real, so real that he cried out for rescue! Our lives, if we are honest, are really no different than Paul’s. I know as having been a pastor that everyone looks to leadership in the church and seems to think that they are perfect; that if we could just be like them and have it all together then we’d be happy and good. I’m here to tell you that we don’t have it all together, and we are all not GOOD on our own. We struggle with sin just like you, maybe different or maybe the same. Pastors extort goodness and we see all the good that they do and so we see them as goodness. As a member of the body of Christ, we are urged to walk by the Spirit and one of the fruits of the Spirit is goodness.

Since we belong to Christ we are to strive to be good, not for salvation but because of Christ’s love in laying down his life for us and saving us. Because of God’s great sacrifice our response is the fruits. As a Christian that doesn’t work in the church, I find it harder to display the fruits, but it’s more rewarding when we are able to. To God be the glory because we can NOT do it without him. He is the only GOOD in me. This week our fruit is goodness, and I encourage you to demonstrate goodness to others. It’s encouraging knowing that Paul and others in the Bible struggled with their sin and being good…but the Lord delivered them. Our hope is in Christ and through him goodness can be displayed through us to reach others.

I get it wrong more than I get it right…but if you love God and love others like you love Him, I can promise goodness will prevail and the Lord will be glorified.

31 Proverbs Highlights: #31-Speaking Up for the Voiceless 

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭31‬:‭8-9‬ HCSB)

Many people groups have no voice today. These verses describe them as dispossessed, oppressed, and needy. What groups come to mind when you read those descriptions?

Dispossessed groups certainly include the unfathomable amount of refugees around the globe. To be even more specific, this description includes the staggering number of children dispossessed around the world for a myriad of reasons. Speaking up for such groups can take on various forms. If you’re wondering how to do it, here are a few suggestions:

  • Follow social media to stay informed. Two suggestions include @WorldVision and @Samaritan’sPurse.
  • Share news to raise awareness and to encourage prayer and support. Go beyond following by sharing and creating dialogue.
  • Support efforts financially. You can sponsor a child through monthly gifts or give to trustworthy organizations giving these groups a voice.
  • Consider a short-term missions trip to put hands to your voice. Who says vacation can’t be about speaking up for the voiceless?
  • Consider getting more involved in the future with a second career or during retirement. A full lifer has much to offer to the growing lifer.

31 Proverbs Highlights: #30-Bloody Noses

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

If you have been foolish by exalting yourself or if you’ve been scheming, put your hand over your mouth. For the churning of milk produces butter, and twisting a nose draws blood, and stirring up anger produces strife. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭30‬:‭32-33‬ HCSB)

A bloody nose doesn’t come because you said, “Good Morning. Have a nice day!

It’s usually the result of something like a crazy sports fan who doesn’t know how to enjoy the game and stirs it up with their comments. Their tongue led to bloodletting.

I’ve never literally had a bloody nose. But I have stirred it up with my tongue. Words may not draw literal blood, but they surely can create strife. Apparently Solomon knew this. That’s why the verse reads, “...put your hand over your mouth.”  Maybe another way of saying it is, “Stop the bleeding. Keep your mouth shut.

31 Proverbs Highlights: #29-Hate is about You

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

Bloodthirsty men hate an honest person, but the upright care about him. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭29‬:‭10‬ HCSB)

Other translations term this hated person as blameless. So why the hate?

It has nothing to do with them. It has to do with the heart condition of the hater.

The heart condition of the upright and moral produces care for the blameless.

Here’s a heart test: 

  • Who am I genuinely tempted to hate? 
  • Have I considered the possibility that my heart condition may be the real issue? 
  • This hate isn’t about them at all. It’s about me.