Saturday, May 13, 2006

LBY - Week Seven - Kindness & Goodness

This week we learned about two qualities of the fruit of the Spirit – kindness and goodness. Honestly, I approached the week's homework thinking, “Yeah yeah yeah – love everybody and don’t be mean – I get it.” And on top of that, I thought that kindness and goodness were essentially the same thing: you know, being nice.

I've never pretended to be a theologian. :-)

Beth explains that kindness is our disposition, and kindness that comes from God creates a tender heart, which enables us to be compassionate, to have humility, to live sacrificially, to DO GOOD. It makes sense that God would ask us to live this way, because 1) God is always tender toward us – even when He disciplines, even when He allows circumstances that we don't understand, and 2) His works are ALWAYS good.

Beth also says that the devil loves to prevent us from doing good works, and he will do everything he can to discourage us, to embitter us, to harden our hearts so that we quit, give up, and never "fully come out of the shell of our old humanity." I can relate to that.

When David and I joined our church, I was bound and determined that I was NOT going to be involved. I've mentioned before that I came away from my hometown church with a lot of baggage, because, frankly, I knew too much. So NO, THANK YOU, Church at Brook Hills, I'll just be doing the Sunday morning thing and signing a check - and that will be the extent of my involvement. I'm sure you understand.

But there was a catch. The more God taught me, the more tender my heart became.

Stupid tender heart - it totally toppled my selfish plan. :-) I'm beyond grateful that it did. A similar thing happened with a friend of mine.

My next door neighbor, E., has a tremendous heart for children. Not just her children - ALL children. I'm always blown away by her love for kids, because I'm one of those people who pretty much breaks into a sweat at the sight of other people's kids rifling through craft supplies on the Sundays when I have to work in the nursery. It's SO not my calling.

For several years E. didn't really explore all of our church's avenues for children's ministry because she felt like she wasn't qualified, because she was a little intimidated by telling someone her ideas, because, I think, on some level she couldn't comprehend that God could use her in this area. Personally, I think that the devil didn't want her good works to happen because he knew what an impact she could have. All that doubt and confusion kept E. pretty discouraged for awhile.

About a year and a half ago, though, when we had a small Bible study group in our neighborhood, E. and her hubby offered to keep everyone's children while the grown-ups met. And I don't mean that they sat on the couch and watched the kids run around. They had praise and worship time, they made crafts, they learned Scripture, they did service projects - they had a whole curriculum for kids aged 2-7.

I mean, y'all. If it had been me? Everybody would've gotten two Popsicles and repeated showings of "Finding Nemo." And then more Popsicles.

What E. did, however, through the power of the Holy Spirit, was to take a baby step from kindness (tenderheartedness) into goodness (action), and you wouldn't believe how God has used her since. Well, yeah you would. But I'll give you examples. She had an idea for a kids' service ministry in our church, and even though she was a little scared, she met with our leadership (who LOVED the idea) and started a new ministry. She works part-time in our pre-school department. She's a leader in our children's choir. She's a VBS honcho. Y'all KNOW how powerful those VBS honchos are. :-)

Once she surrendered to the tenderness of her heart, she found her ministry. And she pours goodness - God's goodness - into the children at our church every single week. It's been so encouraging to see what God is doing through her.

Beth makes it very clear that goodness is not about us: "Self cannot be involved because self must be crucified for the Spirit to be freed; therefore, goodness is never a personal issue, nor a personal platform, nor for personal gain.... And we cannot be trusted to do good works until the Word of God does its good work in us."

I think it's important to remember that good works are not necessarily what we WANT to do...instead, they're what we HAVE to do, because our hearts will not rest until that kindness finds an outlet, until that tenderness finds a target.

Beth summarizes Isaiah 58:8-11 to remind us what God does when we step out into good works in response to a tender heart:
"If you spend yourself,...
your light will rise in the darkness,
the LORD will guide you always;
your needs will be satisfied
your frame will be strengthened
you will be like well-watered gardens."
He is good.

JannaFlipflop Robin
This is a list of the women participating in the study and the links to their blogs. New postings on the study will be published for the next ten weeks, between Friday 8pm - Saturday 8am. Please feel free to visit each of us and comment. Everyone is welcome to participate in this discussion as we seek to live beyond ourselves. May God bless you richly from the hearing of His word.


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