Cheryl Skoog | The Voice of Zion September 2023 - Home and Family Article --
From a young age, we learn the golden rule and strive to live by it. This instruction is found in God’s Holy Word, taught by Jesus to His disciples during his Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12). In Luke 6:31, Jesus again teaches, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”
How do these teachings of Jesus pertain to us in our homes? We naturally wish to love one another in our own family. Those closest to us are the easiest to love. But sometimes, they are also the ones that see our own sinfulness the most, as our contact is continual. Can we acknowledge our own sinfulness and forgive one another our faults? Not one of us is perfect and without sin as Jesus was. We can be so thankful that we have been given this gift of forgiveness, where our shortcomings and failings can be washed away in the blood of Jesus and love can be restored.
Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23). Our flesh itself is sinful. Our conscience guides us, and we are aware when we do evil. Then, we desire to take care of this sin or offense. With a clean conscience, we again desire to do good. As believers, we wish to be obedient to God and His teachings. When we do this, our fruits will show. When His Holy Spirit is within us, guiding our actions, the fruit of goodness can be seen. We are kind and treat each other with respect. We love one another and accept the faults of a sinful loved one.
In our home, I see this in how our children treat one another. They love and care for one another. They help each other with homework and chores. The older ones protect the younger, and the younger ones look up to the older ones. It is so special to see how even a young child notices when another is hurting or having a bad day. I especially remember one incident years ago. I had had an especially hard day with the kids and fell into the flesh with grumbling and anger. When I went to bed that night, I found a little note on my nightstand that read, “Mom, I know you had a bad day. I hope tomorrow is better. I love you.” This brought me to tears and I had to seek out the young writer and ask for the gospel. My heart still flows with love for this little touch of kindness!
We would love it if our children would always be obedient and kind. But how can we expect them to be perfect as we are not perfect ourselves? As parents we must acknowledge our own humanness and humble ourselves before our children.
Each child has their own personality and temptations, which could be a trait such as being quick to anger or even slow to confess. We parents need to recognize how to best teach each one. It is important to teach the children to confess their sins and apologize to the offended one for the wrongdoing. Teach them by example to do nice things for one another and to love others despite the faults we all have. Teach them to ask for the gospel even as you ask it of them for yourself.
Let the children see the love between the parents, too. Sometimes in the busyness of life we don’t take time together as a couple. But let the children see that you desire to be together and even if sin comes between you, the gospel flows freely! We desire to serve one another in love. The love of a family is one of life’s greatest blessings! It is a gift from God.
Today there are many broken homes, broken marriages, broken family relationships. Sometimes in believing homes the love is broken. This is because of sin, sin that is not taken care of and washed away in the sea of grace, whether it be an individual’s or conflict between two people. But God gives strength and willingness to take care of these matters. Prayers are often sent up to our heavenly Father, “Please, give me humility, a forgiving heart, and patience!” We can be so thankful that we own the forgiveness of sins and can bless each other with the gospel message that renews bonds broken by sin.
I pray our home would be a refuge, the door always open to our children and grandchildren. May they come home often and bring their friends and families with them. I want to know about their lives as they begin to make their way out on their own. No matter where life takes each of them, I hope they remember their childhood home as one where goodness and love and forgiveness prevailed with God’s help, where they are welcomed with open arms. May God bless our home!
Good Citizens and Neighbors
According to God’s Word, goodness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9). Yet as children of God, we feel our sin-corruption closely. We scarcely even want to look for any good within ourselves. David writes in his psalms that the Lord looks on people and sees there are none that do good, no not one (Ps. 14:2,3, Ps. 53:2,3).
Nonetheless, when we endeavor in faith, the Holy Spirit is the home teacher that overcomes the effects of our sinful flesh and guides us into all truth. We are at the same time righteous and sin-corrupt. Despite corruption, fruits of faith, through the Holy Spirit, are evident in God’s children. The songwriter even writes of this in song of Zion 400.
O Lord of life and mercy, I cannot do the good unless the Spirit guides me to do the things I should; so, use Your rod and staff, and by Your grace direct me and counsel and protect me, Your sinful, wayward child.
Remove self-admiration, conceit, and vanity; let sacrifice, forbearance, and kindness live in me. May I not count it paid: the debt to love my neighbors. May all my daily labors increase their joy and peace.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells His own that they are a light to the world: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
Being a light to the world as children of God is first that we don’t live in sin. It also follows that we want to be good citizens and neighbors in our communities. In our interactions with our neighbors, we want the light of Christ to shine through our sin corruption. In our conversations, we should be kind, friendly, honest and truthful.
In addition, we want to be helpful to our neighbors. Especially when they are in times of distress and trials, such as sickness, unemployment or loneliness. May we find time to be there for them to help with tasks that need to be done. We can provide meals, run errands, do yard work, help with farm work, or to simply visit them when they are lonely.
In a broader sense, we can serve our neighbors in our communities. Believers have served and can serve in local and municipal government offices as mayor, city council members, school board members, and other boards and committees. In this way believers can help make policy in ways that are not contrary to God’s Word.
Other things that believers do in their communities are volunteering in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, or doing yard work for the elderly and disabled. There are many volunteering opportunities. Young people are encouraged to volunteer; it’s good training for life, a fulfilling activity and beneficial to our neighbors.
In our home congregation there are multiple ways to serve. God’s kingdom relies heavily upon “cheerful givers” of both monetary gifts and of time. Those who contribute to the work by volunteering may not always be noticed in the background. But all work forms are necessary. Let us serve willingly when we are asked and take the initiative to offer our service when we see a need.
Let us serve our brothers and sisters in times of trial. It is heartwarming to see how the children of God come to help, whether it be financial, providing meals, or attending to things that need to be done. Most important is praying for the ones in need, visiting them, and assuring them with the gospel. Reminding them that God has promised to never forsake His own, even when He allows times of trials.
When we do good in serving our neighbors in our communities or our brethren in faith, it’s not our merits but it’s the fruit of the Spirit. When we have received so much through grace, the gift of faith, and the forgiveness of all of our sins, it’s a small thing for us to serve our neighbor.
God’s Word instructs us: “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:9,10).
God’s Goodness Shows in Us
Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit. God has created us out of His own goodness: “God saw everything that He had made, and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).
God guides us and protects us. We experience His goodness every day. His goodness is a promise we can rely on. God’s goodness shows in us in the way we live, in our thoughts, and in our actions.
As I write this, my thoughts surround my dear father, Walter Muhonen. June 30 would have been his 96th birthday. God’s blessings in his life were many. God’s goodness led my father’s life. The greatest blessing he received was the grace of repentance as a young man. He was united in marriage with my mother and together they raised their family of 13 children. They were blessed with a long life together. They shared joys and sorrows and were helpmates one to the other on their journey to heaven. Their journey together ended when they were both called home this past March.
People remember my father as a gentle man with a quiet nature. He was one who noticed another sitting alone and stopped to visit. He noticed good qualities in others’ characters and remembered them for those qualities. It was interesting to hear such observations even many years later.
My father often told of his childhood in the small town of Greenville, N.H. We heard of his love of nature, his adventures as he explored the woods between his home and his grandparents’ home. He listened to birds and learned to imitate their calls. He helped his grandparents on their farm and learned about edible plants. My mother often said, “Daddy has always been a nature boy.”
Music was a source of joy for my father. He sang with a clear voice. In the Minneapolis church on Fourth and Newton he sat with two other song leaders in the bench near the organist. He was one of the lukkaris. An early memory is when we were tucked into bed, my father sometimes sat at the organ and played some hymns. It felt good to listen as I drifted into sleep.
My father was a carpenter. His shop in the basement contained many tools, machines and stacks of wood. The aroma of freshly cut wood was wonderful. He went there many evenings. When I peeked in to see what he was working on, it might be a bench, a cupboard or another piece someone had custom-ordered for their home.
Once he was working on an item I didn’t recognize. He explained that it was called a baptismal fount. It would be placed in a church to hold the bowl of water used for a baby’s baptism. He was able to use his gifts in this way to serve in the work of God’s kingdom. Father used his carpenter skills to make a living to provide for us, his family. He also taught these skills to his sons, who kept busy in their youth building houses alongside my father.
These small examples show the presence of goodness in one person’s life, the goodness that reflected the character of the believing heart. Examples of appreciation for the goodness around us, of using God-given gifts to serve others, of showing compassion to others without expecting anything in return.
We are all created differently, with unique gifts. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). May it be our prayer, amid the weakness we feel within us, to endeavor to use the goodness within us to show love and compassion, help and support, understanding and forgiveness to one another on the way to heaven. May we in meekness remember to let the light of the Spirit shine in this dark world. The Holy Spirit can work through us to call others from this darkness into God’s kingdom.
A blessing we can all enjoy are the songs and hymns we can sing to express our thankful praises. One songwriter expresses so beautifully the goodness our heavenly Father blesses us with: “God gave life to ev’ryone. All good things from Him have come, for through grace up to this moment, gifts have come through His bestowment” (SHZ 430:1).
Questions for discussion:
Goodness often shows in our actions and attitudes toward others. Discuss.
What actions showed Jesus’ goodness?
What does goodness look like? Discuss a time when you have experienced and seen goodness in others.
When might it be especially hard (and yet important) to show kindness and goodness to our neighbors?
How is goodness tied to love for God and love for our neighbor?