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Is Your Life Producing Spiritual Fruit?

Fruit of the SpiritFinally! It’s Fall! Time for cooler weather, football games, and the annual harvest. So it’s a good time to evaluate the harvest of our lives. Are our lives producing the spiritual fruit God desires?

God intends for us, His children, to bear fruit. According to Jesus, when we follow Him closely our lives will produce “much” fruit (John 15:5). Many of us can quote the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians chapter 5 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – but is the Spirit’s fruit evident in our lives? Are our lives producing an abundant harvest or are we in serious need of some spiritual fertilizer?

Whether we need some major pruning or just a little shaping up, all of us could benefit from studying and applying what God’s Word says about the fruit of the Spirit. For the next six Thursdays, you are invited to join me on an easy stroll through Galatians 5:16-25.

Fruit of the Spirit: Plant, Cultivate, and Grow is a 6-week blog-based Bible study that will help foster spiritual fruit in your life. Join me each Thursday through November 10!

I first ran this Bible study series on the Fruit of the Spirit about four years ago, but I know I need a refresher. Maybe you do too! The blog posts will be in a Bible study format. You can learn simply by reading the posts. But if you’d like to get more out of it, print the PDF version that will be supplies each week study and use it for your Bible study time. This series will take us into mid-November, so if you are not in a Bible study this fall, then this might be just what you need!

Each week as we study together we will Plant God’s truth in our hearts, Cultivate our own lives to receive that truth, and take action to help it Grow! Here are a few things we’ll learn in Fruit of the Spirit: Plant, Cultivate, Grow

  • What are the characteristics of a “fruitless” life?
  • What does it mean to “live by the Spirit?”
  • Just what is “fruit” anyway?
  • Am I “fruity?”
  • What should the fruit of the Spirit look like in my life?
  • How can I improve my harvest?

Even if you’ve studied the fruit of the Spirit before, this study will be different. Will you join me in this study? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know you’ll be joining me and where you’re from!

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A Legacy Prayer from My Great Great Grandmother

Legacy PrayerThe letter was dated March 26, 1914. I carefully unfolded the fragile, yellowed paper and struggled to read the faded ink. I found this letter and several others in an old metal box at my parents’ house. Addressed to Howell Adam Shouse, my great grandfather on my mother’s side, they were written by his mother, Mary Dozier Shouse, more than a century ago.

Much of the news was what you’d expect – who had been sick, who had gotten married, and how she longed to see her “dear son.” But one particular paragraph brought tears to my eyes:

“Oh how much I do pray for you every single morning and night. I pray mightily to the Lord that you Howell and your children may be convicted and converted and sanctified. Never a day do I miss. May God hear and answer my prayers and save us all in heaven.”

I was blown away. The letter preserved a family legacy prayer. Mary Dozier, my great, great grandmother prayed daily for the spiritual well being of her son and his children. She faithfully petitioned God to make her son and his children aware of their need for a Savior (convict); to draw them into a saving relationship with Jesus (convert); and to grow them up into the likeness of Christ (sanctify).

legacy prayerAs I read those words, I knew her prayers also covered me. Long before I was born, my great, great grandmother prayed for me and my eternal, spiritual good.

I do not know the spiritual condition of Howell Adam Shouse, but I do know his daughter – my maternal grandmother – loved Jesus. She consistently pointed me toward the Lord. And my mother has done the same.

This discovery this week both blessed and challenged me. I am blessed to know that my grandmother’s grandmother prayed for the spiritual condition of her descendants. I am also challenged to be just as faithful to lift prayers for my children and their children that matter for eternity.

Yes, I will continue to pray for their physical health and temporal struggles. But I will also recommit to pray for their spiritual health and eternal struggles. If you’d like to do the same, God’s Word is the best place to start. Check out this resource of 21 Scriptures as a guide to pray for your loved ones spiritual well being.

I would love to hear some of the ways you pray for the spiritual well being of your friends and family!

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Grace with No Reservations

imageI’ve experienced it several times – the miracle in the Starbucks’ drive-thru line. That thrilling experience when you order your drink, pull around to the window, and the barista announces that the person in front of you paid for your coffee.

My first reaction is always “Wow! That’s awesome!” Then almost as quickly I think, “Man, I should have ordered a venti!” (That means “extra large” in Starbuckese!)

My gratitude initially fosters a desire to buy the coffee for the person behind me. But before I pull out my wallet, I check out the vehicle behind me to make sure it’s not a 12-passenger van carrying a high school basketball team. I mean, I want to pass along the blessing, but there are limits.

Sometimes we feel that way about sharing God’s grace. We want to actively love others and submit to them out of reverence for Christ. But some people don’t deserve it. And others can’t do anything for me. Oh, wait… that’s the point of grace.

By definition, “grace” means being kind to those who don’t deserve it. To give and do without any expectation that the other person will reciprocate. To show kindness to those who have hurt us and meet the needs of those who will never be able to help us in return.

Yet sometimes we are stingy or choosy with the kindness God has freely given us. As believers, we have an abundant supply of His grace. God has given us more than we need; yet sometimes we hoard it. Sometimes we are stingy or choosy with God’s lavish grace, withholding it from those who desperately need it.

We may withhold kind words or actions from someone who has hurt us. Or we may take a meal to a sick friend hoping they will do the same for us in our time of need. While that expectation of reciprocation may not be our primary motivation, it is often still there, lurking in the back of our minds. Our sinful nature qualifies our grace.

Jesus constantly extended grace to those who could give Him nothing in return – the orphan, the prisoner, the widow, the homeless, the invalid, the dying, the sinner. He healed, He touched, He gave. The One “who came from the Father full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) extended grace with no expectations. And Jesus calls us, His followers, to do the same.

Who are the “needy” people right around you – neighbors, friends, family members, church members? In what ways are you extending grace with no expectation of return?

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Today’s My Birthday. Am I “Old” Now?

BirthdayToday is my birthday. I am 55 years old. Some days I feel old. Some days I feel like I’m just getting started good.

But this specific number –  “55” – comes with an “old age” stigma. I keep thinking about this group they had at church when I was growing up. They called it the “Double Nickle” club. It was for the “old people” at church and they met once a week for lunch and games. Probably Bridge. That strikes me as a game for old people because my grandmother played Bridge every week with a group of friends. But I digress…

So, one day not long ago, I was thinking about turning 55 and it hit me – the “Double Nickle” club was for people 55 and over. I am now old enough for the “Double Nickle” club.  And for the senior menu at iHop.

I must look it too. A few weeks ago my husband and I went to see the new Star Trek movie. He dropped me off to buy the tickets while he parked. The young man at the ticket booth quoted me a price less than I expected for two tickets. When I questioned him, he told me that included the “senior discount.” Turns out the “senior discount” is for those 62 and above. The young theater employee just assumed I qualified.

But I really don’t feel “old” – most days anyway. But, ask me again some morning after I worked in the yard for hours the day before. Funny, my Bridge-playing granny told me something about aging when I was little that I still remember. She said, “Your body ages, but your soul never does.” I didn’t really understand her statement then, but now I think I do.

God created us for eternity. Oh, yes, we have a temporal, physical “tent” that breaks down and falls apart. But God’s purposes for His children are eternal. And He wants to keep using us here on earth as long as He allows us to remain.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.
For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.
They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”
Psalm 92:12-15

Here’s my conclusion. I am not necessarily “old,” but I am “older.” And until God is finished with me here on earth, I am certainly not “done.”

So no “retirement” for me. Nope. As long as I’m able, I want to serve the Lord and His people. On that day when God calls me home, I want to be able to declare with the Apostle Paul:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

And discounted movie tickets and cheap pancakes are just an added bonus!

 

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8 Sites for Online Bible Study Helps

Oline bible study helpsAre you a devoted student of the Bible? If your answer is “yes,” then you are always looking for ways to enrich and deepen your time in God’s Word. In addition to the printed resources I shared on Monday, these online Bible study helps will help you dig even deeper!

You can access many resources, tools, and writings that will enrich your Bible study on the internet. A few to investigate are below. Just keep in mind that everything you find on the internet will not be truly biblical. Check everything you find against the truth of God’s Word.

8 Sites for Online Bible Study Helps

  1. www.biblegateway.com
    •             20 English versions of the Bible with keywords and topical index
    •             Several commentaries, dictionaries, lexicon, and more
  2. www.biblestudytools.com
    •             Harmony of the Gospels
    •             Easton’s Bible Dictionary
    •             Nave’s Topical Bible
    •             Several commentaries and dictionaries
  3. www.blueletterbible.org-   Outlines, charts, maps, Strong’s, Commentaries, Lots of misc.
  4. www.biblehub.com – Search and study tools including parallel texts, cross references, Treasury of Scripture, and commentaries, plus access to topical studies, interlinears, sermons, Strong’s and many more resources
  5. www.studylight.org –  Bible commentaries, encyclopedias, dictionaries, lexicons and original language tools
  6. www.bible-history.com – Drawings, photos, timelines, archeology, calendars
  7. www.e-sword.net – This must be downloaded, but it is free
  8. http://www.ccel.org/  –  Christian Classics Ethereal Library; Writings of the old Church Fathers such as Tertullian, Athanasius, and Augustine.

Do you have a favorite site for online Bible study helps? Please share!

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9 Recommended Bible Study Resources

Bible Study ResourcesDo you plan to participate in a Bible study group this fall? Or maybe you are already digging in on your own? However and whenever you study, the following list of Bible study resources will help you get the most of your time in God’s Word. Remember that resources are secondary to discovering what God has for us in His Word. There is no substitute for the Holy Spirit’s teaching!

The list below includes trusted Bible study resources from 9 different categories. Even one or two from each category will be a great start to your Bible study library. Of course some resources, like Bible translations, can be accessed online. (Watch for Thursday’s post about online resources!) Here is the list in a printable PDF for your convenience!

9 Recommended Bible Study Resources

1.Several recent translations of the Bible – Read your passage of study in more than one translation and compare them for greater understanding. Some good ones to try:

  • New International Version
  • New American Standard Bible
  • Amplified Bible
  • English Standard Version
  • New Living Translation

2. Exhaustive Concordance – If you don’t have any other tool, you need to have this index of every word in the Bible. Get one that corresponds to your primary translation. Recommended:

  • The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance

3. Bible Dictionary – Explains many of the words, topics, customs and traditions in the Bible. It also includes historical, geographical, cultural, and archeological information. A few to try:

  • Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary
  • Illustrated Bible Dictionary
  • Tyndale Bible Dictionary
  • Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary
  • New International Bible Dictionary

4. Holman Bible Atlas by Thomas Brisco

5. Topical Bible – Similar to a concordance but organizes by topic rather than words:

  • Nave’s Topical Bible
  • Zondervan NIV Nave’s Topical Bible

6. Bible Handbook – Combination of an encyclopedia and commentary in a concise form. It is arranged by Bible book and includes background notes, brief commentary, maps, charts, and more. Look for one of these:

  • Halley’s Bible Handbook
  • Holman Bible Handbook
  • The New Unger’s Bible Handbook

7. Word Studies – Look up the original words and their meanings without knowing Greek or Hebrew. Here are a few resources to try:

  • Mounce’s Compete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words
  • The Complete Word Study New Testament, by Spiros Zodhiates, AMG Publishers
  • The Complete Word Study Old Testament, by Spiros Zodhiates, AMG Publishers

8.  How To Read Your Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart

9. Commentaries – biblical scholars interpret and explain a particular text of the Bible based on their study of the background, language, etc. Keep in mind these are written by humans and are not infallible. But here are some good ones to try:

  • Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, Robert B. Hughes and J. Carl Laney, Tyndale. Provides biblical scholarship and commentary on every passage of the Bible in a user-friendly format (One volume)
  • The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Craig S. Keener, Intervarsity Press
  • The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, Walton, Matthews & Chavalas, Intervarsity Press
  • The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan, Set of 12 volumes covers the whole Bible

Do you have a favorite resource you use to supplement your Bible study? I would love for you to share it with us in the comments!

 

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Online Bible Study and a Giveaway!

I might be just a little – or a lot – excited! Here’s the big news: The Mom Initiative will be using my newly released book, “Lavish Grace” , as their fall online Bible study!

online bible study

A few Details about this Online Bible Study

All the details are posted today at TheMomInitiative.com, but here are the basics. The TMI online Bible study, which begins Monday, September 19 and continues through October 31, is designed with you in mind. We have built in four levels of involvement, so you can participate as much or as little as you are able.

  1. Brief weekly video and short blog lesson by one of the TMI team here on TMI each Monday, beginning September 19
  2. Deeper printable PDF lesson available in the Monday post
  3. Go deeper still by purchasing and using the Lavish Grace Bible study book (Available now in print and ebook formats at Amazon, CBD, New Hope Publishers)
  4. Join us throughout the week for ongoing discussion and practical application in the closed Facebook study group.

WorldCraft apronPLUS… each Saturday we will share a “Let’s Say Grace” recipe created just for the TMI study. And to celebrate the fall study, TMI is giving away a pair of Mother/Daughter aprons donated by WorldCrafts! Check out the TMI post to find out how to enter.

 

 

Find out more about Lavish Grace

Not sure this particular study is for you? Find out more about it now:

Visit The Mom Initiative now to find out more about the online study and enter the giveaway for a chance to win the Mother/Daughter aprons!

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Growing and Sowing the Fruit of the Spirit

Welcome Karen Whiting to my blog today! This post is based on her new book “Raising a Young Modern Day Princess: Growing the Fruit of the Spirit in Your Little Girl.”

Fruit of the SpiritAs a mother I worked at nurturing the Fruit of the Spirit in my children. That meant I needed to exhibit it in my own life. But too often my children brought out my lack of patience, kindness, and even goodness. Producing the desired Fruit of the Spirit meant planting the right seeds.

I grew up in a dairy and farming community, so I know the value of choosing good seeds and planting them in good soil. I can’t produce peace by planting anger in my heart or the hearts of others.

Plant the Right Seeds to Grow the Desired Fruit of the Spirit

I studied the Scriptures and the fruit of the Spirit to find what seeds I needed to plant for the Spirit to produce the fruit I needed. Here’s some of what I found:

  • Seeds of service – Jesus revealed that service develops love (Mark 10:45, John 15:12-17). As we serve others (Galatians 5:13) our love grows.
  • Seeds of gratitude –  The Israelites rejoiced with gratitude when God provided creative solutions to escape Pharaoh (Exodus 15). Praising God for His help, grace, and blessings always brings joy.
  • Seeds of righteousness and understanding – When we seek to make things right with others and reconcile differences, God brings peace (Psalm 85:10, Proverbs 3:13,17).
  • Seeds of submission and waiting – Accepting God’s will and learning to wait brings forth patience. Just as a farmer depends on God’s weather and time to grow his crop, our dependence and waiting develops patience (James 5:7-8).
  • Seeds of attitude – The attitude of our hearts produces the quality of our behavior, whether cruel or kind (Matthew 12:34-35). If we want to exhibit kindness and goodness in everything we do, we must allow God to renew our hearts to reflect His character (Psalm 51).
  • Seeds of prayer – Want to be faithful to God and others (2 Corinthians 5:7)? The best way to learn to depend totally of God is by being a woman of constant prayer.
  • Seeds of compassion and forgiveness – Intentionally seeking ways to love and help others will develop gentleness (Ephesians 4:2). As you purposefully practice putting others first and caring for their needs, your gentleness will blossom (Philippians 2:4).
  • Seeds of discipline – Identifying and avoiding temptation fosters self-control. Establishing personal safe guards and boundaries in advance will prepare us to meet situations head on with self-control (Proverbs 25:28, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Planting the seeds is just the beginning. If we want an abundant crop, we must continually work to keep out weeds of greed, selfishness, and other negative emotions. I’m thankful the Holy Spirit is a patient gardener. As the Fruit of the Spirit grew in me, I found it easier to plant and nurture the seeds in my children. Now I watch my grown children doing the same for their children.

In what ways do you plant and nurture the fruit of the Spirit in your own life and the lives of your children?

Fruit of the SpiritKaren Whiting shares these and other thoughts on the Fruit of The Spirit, especially moms of young girls, in a book she co-authored with Doreen Hanna. Raising a Young Modern Day Princess: Growing the Fruit of the Spirit in Your Little Girl is filled with practical tips, activities, and heart-warming stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Lavish Grace” Resources, Freebies, Printables

Lavish Grace freebiesThank you for helping me celebrate the release of my new Bible study, “Lavish Grace.” I want to wrap up the celebration today with a collection of all the resources, freebies, printables and more I shared with you throughout the month of August. So in case you missed anything along the way, you will find it right here!

Free 3-Week Bible Reading Plan

Do you need a fresh awareness of God’s lavish grace? This plan will help you recognize, rest in, and share the glorious grace of God. (This plan is also a supplemental resource for Kathy’s 9-week Bible study, “Lavish Grace.” Each week of the reading plan corresponds to the 3 sections of the study. Use it with the study or on its own.) Here’s the printable PDF!

Free “Lavish Grace” Coloring Sheets

Lavish Grace coloring sheet

Lavish Grace Coloring Sheet

Lavish Grace coloring sheet

 

 

 

 

 

These beautiful coloring sheets were the focus of three great giveaways during August. It’s too late to enter the contest, but you can still enjoy the relaxing, creative fun of coloring and reflecting on the colorful, lavish grace of God! Print, color, and share!

Printable “Let’s Say Grace” Recipes

recipe

Creamy Chicken & Spinach Cups

My sister-in-law, Cindy Head, is an amazing cook, so I asked her to help us spice up last week’s Facebook launch party with a few party food recipes. (If you missed the party, you can still catch all the videos, conversations, and fun here.) I added to the recipes to create 4 printables that include the recipe, Scripture verse, and a “grace” to pray. Enjoy!

“Lavish Grace” Necklace

Lavish Grace necklaceThis is the only thing in this post that isn’t free. But it’s well worth the $19! When I saw Sheila Dresbach’s jewelry designs at Dandelions in December, I knew she should be the one to create this tangible reminder of God’s constant, lavish grace. I’ve been wearing mine almost every day! Please check out this necklace and the rest of Sheila’s beautiful jewelry on her Etsy store!

“Lavish Grace” Blog Posts

Encouragement, practical advice, and spiritual challenges filled August’s blog posts. Here’s a list in case you missed one or would like to review:

Find Out More about “Lavish Grace”

Are you embracing the abundant, grace-filled life God offers? Or have you underestimated His lavish grace? God’s lavish grace is more than sufficient for any day and every day of your life. Find out more in this 9-week Bible study journey with the apostle Paul.

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Less than a Gracious Witness

Gracious witnessI struggle with being the gracious witness God desires. One Tuesday morning years ago, I had a “traffic incident” on my way to lead ladies’ Bible study. I started the drive frustrated with myself because I left the house late. Then two stoplights from my destination, the driver of the only car in front of me sat through the green light without moving. While busily chatting with her passenger, she missed the opportunity to turn left. I “patiently” waited behind her for the next green light.

When the light changed to green again, she continued to chat, but failed to drive. So I hit my horn. And no, not a friendly, quick toot. It was a long, irritated blast. She slowly began to move and we both barely made it through the intersection before the light changed again.

As soon as I had the chance, I darted around her, tossing back one of those icy glares as I sped by. I approached the last light and got in the right lane to make my turn. I glanced in the rear view mirror. “Distracted Driver” was also in the turn lane. One block from church, a horrible possibility hit me. What if Distracted Driver was also headed to my church?

A community group also met in our church building on Tuesday mornings. She would see me go in and know I was one of those “Christian” women. I slowed to make the turn into the church parking lot. Another furtive glance in the rearview confirmed my fear. Distract Driver was turning too. I quickly scooted into the one remaining parking spot close to the doors and she made her way further down the lot. I ducked inside the building and into my classroom before she had time to get her seat belt unfastened.

The Holy Spirit swiftly convicted me. Instead of extending grace, I acted with impatience and anger. My behavior negatively impacted the name of Jesus. Instead of sharing the grace of Christ that day, I was just another example of a graceless Christian.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16, NIV

Grace lays downGod woos people to Himself with grace. Yet far too often our witness is anything but gracious. Sometimes our ungracious behavior reflects poorly on Jesus. Sometimes, our verbal witness lacks grace. And still other times our spiritual conversations simply fail to connect with the hearer.

Christians have experienced God’s grace in abundance yet sometimes we fail to share the Gospel of grace in a gracious way. God’s Word encourages us to be graceful witnesses, to behave and speak in ways that connect with others and honor Jesus.

What specific changes can you make in your behavior or speech to be a more gracious witness?

Other posts about being a person of grace in a lost world:

Want to learn more about being a person of grace? Particularly being a gracious witness? This post is adapted from Kathy’s new Bible study Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing. Lavish Grace a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships – explores what the Bible says about being a channel of God’s grace to others. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

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