Tag Archives: Church

REVISITED: The Inner Skeptic

Read Psalm 14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering.” (Jude 1:22)

chirrut-imwe-and-jyn-erso

Everyone knows that I am a HUGE fan of Star Wars. Recently, the latest film in the Star Wars Universe was released, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”. The film follows a series of mostly new characters who are on a mission to get the blueprint plans of “The Death Star” from the evil Galactic Empire. If they succeed, it is possible that they can find a weakness that will help them destroy a weapon so powerful that it can eliminate entire planets in a matter of seconds.

Without spoiling the story for you (as I run a strict, no spoiler, ship), the characters of Jyn and Cassian are the unlikely leaders of a slim-to-none chance to infiltrate the enemy base and steal the plans of the dreaded battle station, “The Death Star.” All throughout the film, the characters are constantly being tested in their abilities, in their trust of one another, and in their faith.

In fact, wrestling with faith is a MAJOR theme in this film. Each of the characters, in their own way, find themselves wrestling with their faith in the existence of the force. One of the characters, Chirrut Îmwe, is a member of the Guardian of the Whills, which is a religious order that at one time were protectors of the Temple. Following the Temple being raided by the Galactic Empire, the Guardians remained true to their beliefs and sat out in the streets preaching about the Force.

What’s important to note is that thought the age of the Jedi and their use of the force, are not far removed from the time period that this takes place, many question the existence of such a “Force”. The Jedi themselves are quickly fading into mythological obscurity. How quickly hope fades, how quickly people fall from faith into the hopless state of despair. This is, honestly, the human condition.

When Jyn runs into Chirrut, he asked her if she knew what she was wearing around her neck. The crystals she was wearing were what the Empire had come to the Temple to raid, they were what powered the lightsabers. Chirrut sees it as a sign that the Force was alive and well. In fact, throughout the film, this monk kept reciting a powerful mantra, “I am one with the Force,  the Force is with me.”

Throughout the film, there are many skeptics who question this monk’s devotion to what they see as nothing more than a fairytale. Yet, his unwavering faith to the Force witnesses to these people and causes them to see beyond the inner skeptic within them. One by one, each of them is confronted with the choice between placing their faith in the Force or in continuing to deny the Force that is within them and all around them.

What I want to make clear is this, today’s Scripture is NOT calling the one who wrestles with his/her faith a fool. Everyone should be wrestling with their faith in God. It is was makes that faith real and it is how one grows in faith; however, the Scripture is stating that the one who concludes, absolutely and definitively that THERE IS NO GOD is foolish. Such an absolute proclamation leads nowhere but placing oneself in the place of God.

To make that proclamation is to shut oneself off from the discovery of the divine. There is not a single human being that can definitively know Ultimate Reality and, therefore, it is ultimately foolish for them to shut themselves off to the possibility of God based off of whatever limited “evidence” they may think they have. Not one of us can possibly have ALL of the evidence to make any conclusive and definitive proclamation.

We all operate on faith. We operate on the faith that there is a God or we operate on the faith that there is no God. Skepticism is good and healthy; however, it only gets us so far. The question for us is this, can we silence the  inner skeptic? Can we get to the place where we move beyond skepticism and acknowledge the faith that we are already operating on? If so, we can continue to wrestle with our faith and grow in it. I pray that, if you are struggling with your faith, this devotion may be your inner Chirrut Îmwe, reminding you that you are one with the Force (aka God) and that the Force/God is with you. I pray that you choose to move beyond faith in “no God” to faith in the God who is wanting to work miracles in you and through you.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER
Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief. Amen.

REVISITED: The Categorical Imperative

Read Genesis 1:26-31; Psalm 23; Matthew 25:31-46

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” (1 Corinthians 4:2 NRSV)

In the church and in the corporate world, the word “stewardship” often floats around congregations in the form of campaigns to raise “funds” for the mission and ministries of the church. As such, many people hear the word “stewardship” as just a church-speak for, “cough up some dough for us.” This particular perception has risen up as a result of the way stewardship has been discussed and handled in the church and corporate settings.

Yet, the word steward is used in other ways that point to the fact that, deep down, we know stewardship to be more than just monetary support. Back in the day, flight attendants were known as Stewards and/or Stewardesses. The steward, in the airline industry, is the person who cares for the needs of the customers boarded on the plane. They fetch pillows, bring food and drink, listen to and address issues specific travelers may be having, and they instruct people of safety procedures in case of an emergency. What’s more, in the event of an emergency, the steward risks their own safety in order to save lives and get people off of the plane (if it has been grounded). The role of a steward is the same on trains and ships as well.

There are other examples of stewardship as well. Rather, than belabor the reader with a million examples of stewardship, it is more important to point to the definition of what a steward is, in order to better grasp the concept of stewardship. A steward is a person how cares for the needs of other people, organizations, events, and/or places. Thus, stewardship is the ethos that embodies the responsibility of caring for those needs, which absolutely includes the management and planning of resources. With that said, let us not simply limit resources to money. Google defines a resource as, “a stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function effectively.”

In other words, stewardship is the embodiment of managing and planning resources, whether those resources are monetary, material, human, natural, or any other resource. Being a good steward is about managing those resources well; however, this sounds more corporate and less spiritually worded. In terms of being Christian and living out our Christian faith, being a good steward means taking good care of all that God has given us and making proper use of the resources God has given us. If we don’t share our resources with others, we are not being good stewards, and the same is true if we neglect, abuse, misuse, or mismanage the resources shared with us.

Thus, to be a good steward, spiritually speaking, we must recognize that ALL THINGS are FROM GOD. Our money, our natural resources, our real estate and property, our congregation members (in the case of churches), our staff members (in the case of corporations and/or organizations), and all other resources are from God. If we do not recognize the divine value within each of the non-living resources, and the divine presence and/or image in all living resources (especially in humans), then we are not embodying the ethos of good Stewardship. We cannot abuse/neglect the environment, be misers, and/or see our congregation members, our staff, our friends and family as expendable means to an end, and still call ourselves good stewards, let alone stewards in any sense of the word.

This latter part is often overlooked in stewardship talks and campaigns and, yet, is the most important part of stewardship. PEOPLE MATTER and are to be valued. LIVING BEINGS are ends unto themselves and never should be seen as a means to an end (to summarize Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative). So, today I challenge you to start evaluating your stewardship and start working toward being the best stewards you can be. That is what it means to be disciples of Christ, that is what it takes to truly follow Christ and uphold Christian values. STEWARDSHIP IS VITAL. Be good stewards and work to user in God’s Kingdom on Earth.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Live your life as though your every act were to become a universal law.” – Immanuel Kant
PRAYER
Lord, forgive me for when I’ve used people as a means to an end. Help me to treat people as divine persons and not tools. Amen.

REVISTED: I AM

Read Exodus 3:1-14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I assure you,” Jesus replied, “before Abraham was, I Am.” (John 8:58 CEB)

i-am

One of the most powerful stories in all of the Bible, for me, is the story of Moses and the burning bush. While the concept of a bush that is on fire but not consumed is pretty cool in and of itself, but that miracle is not what draws me to the story. It is also pretty awesome that a voice is coming from this burning bush, but that is not what draws me in. I mean sure, that would be pretty powerful to witness, at least in the moment. It might even be powerful and remain cool the next couple of days; however, overtime it would end up getting stored on the back shelves of cool things in my mind, right along with sightings of ghosts, my first kiss, and other such things.

As we know, Moses was tending sheep at the base of Mount Horeb (aka Mount Sinai) when he looked up on the mountain and saw an odd flickering light. It looked to him like a fire and, like most people would, Moses went up on the mountain to check it out. Upon reaching the flickering light, he noticed that it was a bush that was totally caught up in flames, but wasn’t actually burning. In fact, it is kind of ironic that this bush became known as the “burning bush” because it wasn’t burning at all. Naturally, and probably cautiously, Moses began to step closer and closer to the bush. As he approached it, a voice cried out from the flames, “Moses, remove your sandals for you are standing on holy ground.” Now, I don’t know about you, but if I heard that I would have thrown myself off the mountain in fear. Moses was far braver than I and he did as the voice instructed him.

To make a long story short, and so as to not completely repeat the story you already just read in your Bible or e-Bible, Moses ended up having a complete conversation with this disembodied voice emanating from the not-so-burning bush. This voice told Moses that he was the voice of God and that it wanted Moses to carry out a very important task: to go back to Egypt and meet with Pharoah, telling him to let God’s people go. Moses tried to turn down God’s call, but to no avail. Finally, after Moses realized that God had convinced him to go, he asked, “Who should I tell my people sent me when they ask?” God’s answer is what, for me makes this one of the most powerful stories. God replied, “I AM WHO I AM. Tell them I AM sent you.”

Now, on the one hand, that must have thrown Moses for a loop. How could Moses even consider that an acceptable answer? Would people really get what he meant when he said “I AM” has sent me to you, let alone believe him? Yet, Moses carries that message to the Hebrew slaves, “I AM” has sent me to you. What is powerful about that is that it fundamentally shows us who our GOD is. Our God is our I AM. God is always with us, present with us in all of our struggles and trials. Our God is always with us, celebrating with us in our joys and triumphs. Our God is the great I AM. There could never be any greater hope than the hope of God’s presence with us.

From this account of God’s eternal presence comes a powerful message for us. If our God is the great I AM, and if we are the children of God, then it follows that WE ARE. Each and every one of us ARE. We have been created to celebrate the I AM within us. We have been created to live and to live abundantly. We have been created to BE, and celebrate our BEING. Do you do this? Do you celebrate who you are? Do you celebrate the divine I AM that resides in you? Do you see yourself as a child of the great I AM? Today’s challenge, and really everyday’s challenge, is this: look at yourself in the mirror. Stare into your own eyes. Stare deeply, get lost in the iris sea and peer into your soul. When the moment feels right, I want you to say the following words out loud to yourself: “I AM.” Seriously, look yourself in the mirror, get to know yourself and tell yourself, “I AM.” Then, go out into your day, everyday, and see the divine I AM in others. In that I AM will set you and others free.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I am what I am. I love me! And I don’t mean that egotistically – I love that God has allowed me to take whatever it was that I had and to make something out of it.” – Stevie Wonder

PRAYER
Lord, I am because YOU ARE. Thank you for making me who I am and help me to fully realize who I am. Amen.

REVISITED: The Gospel Truth

Read Luke 20:9-19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who listen to God’s word and do it.’” (Matthew Luke 20:9-19 CEB)

copy-of-jesus-face

If I were to walk into any given church, or up to any random person, and ask them what the heart of the Gospel message is, I would more than like receive something like the following: “The Gospel message is that God sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world so that he could be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Because Jesus was perfect and without sin, he became the spotless lamb led to the slaughter in order that he may die the death we deserve in order that those who believe in him might be atoned to God and saved.” This is the, in essence, the modern, popular Christian understanding of the heart of the Christian Gospel. Jesus came to die so that we might live.

Yet,  when you read the Gospels themselves, we find that Jesus dying as a sacrifice for our sins is just a part of the Gospel story. It is not the whole of it. Yes, Jesus’ death and resurrection are vitally important to Christian theology, Christology, and the Gospel message; however, only so when it is told in the context of the other components that we find in the Gospel. When those components are missing, what we end up is with a skewed, inaccurate portrait of the purpose of Jesus of Nazareth, as well as a skewed and inaccurate portrait of God’s purpose for sending Jesus, the Christ.

While it is certainly true that Jesus’ death and resurrection has brought about salvific and transformative atonement from our sins, to only tell that part of the story does an injustice to the life and the teachings of the Christ. In fact, it not only does a disservice, but it completely ignores Jesus’ life and teachings altogether, as if they are simply secondary and/or non-important. Yet, was Jesus’ life and teachings trivial? Was his life and teachings secondary, just a necessary back-story to his ultimate death and resurrection? If that is the case, if Jesus’ teachings are trivial and secondary to the work of salvation in the world, then why go down the route of teaching and preaching at all. The Gospel writers could have simply just had Jesus proclaim that his the messiah and the son of God, have people reject that, have him crucified, died, buried, resurrected and be done with it.

But that is not what the Gospel writers did. Rather, they included the whole of Jesus’ life and they dedicated most of their time on Jesus’ teachings. For them, the person of Jesus of Nazareth and his teachings were both as integral to God’s salvation plan as his death and resurrection were. Jesus came, not to die, but to bring TRUE LIFE into the world. To show them what God means by LOVING GOD and NEIGHBOR. Jesus came to set the example and to personally deliver the beginnings of God’s reign in the world. But, like Jesus’ own parable of the wicked tenants suggests, some of those in the world to whom the father sent the son (e.g. the Romans, the politicians, some of the religious leaders, etc.), rejected his identity, as well as his authority, and tried to eliminate him.

That plot, though, ultimately failed; rather, what happened was that God made the greatest good EVER come out of both the life and the death of Jesus. Instead of remaining dead, Jesus resurrected and now sits in power and authority in a complete union with God. Those who believe in him have found the power of redemption, as well as the transformative presence of the Holy Spirit and the perfecting grace of God in their lives. They are not saved, but are transformed and are living out their FAITH in real and tangible ways.

The challenge for us is this, don’t be misled by a lopsided and misguided Gospel. Jesus wasn’t born merely to die. What kind of God would scheme up that kind of plan? Rather, Jesus was born so the he might LIVE in the world and that through him we might attain TRUE LIFE. Even in the face of evil, and even when finding himself in the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus perservered and triumphed over death because in him was a presence greater than death…the very presence of GOD. Through our belief in Christ, through our following his example as detailed in the Gospel, and through his death and resurrection, we have found REDEMPTION and have been placed on the narrow path that leads to life. Let’s start walking it.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“We cannot have the fruits of the gospel without its roots.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin

PRAYER
Lord, I open my heart to the truth of your Gospel. Perfect me in it and set me a part a witness to its power. Amen.

REVISITED: FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Self-Control

Read Galatians 5:22-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.” (Proverbs 25:28 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “The Fruit of the Spirit.”

FruitOsp_Self-Control

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Self-Control. When we think of the fruit “self-control”, we often relegate it to one’s ability to control his or her behavior. For example, we’ll often hear something such as the following: “Joe Smith was a person who had great self-control. He never got angry at people, he always behaved himself in the classroom, and he never got caught up in the party scene.” Or we might hear this: “Johnny had gotten over-weight, but with his great self-control, he was able to stop overeating and was able to lose all of it.” I, for one, get the latter a lot. People will often chalk my weight loss up to my steel-like will-power and my incredible self-control. God knows, neither my will-power or my self-control is fully functioning. I am human after all.

But self-control really goes beyond just behavioral patterns and/or abilities; rather, as I see it, self-control is at the core of faithfulness. Jesus exhibited great self-controls; however, if we read the Gospels, we do not see in Jesus someone who was always in control of his emotions or someone who ALWAYS said and did “nice” things. If we have read the WHOLE of the Gospels we see Jesus get angry, we see him curse people out (literally…just check out Matthew 23…yikes), we seem him display violent anger in the temple (Matthew 21:18-19,12-13; Mark 11:12-18; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-22), we seem him curse fig trees (see previous references), and proclaim to entire towns and cities that Sodom was better off on the day of judgment than they were (Matthew 10:15; 11:23-24; Luke 10:12; 17:29).

Yet, no one exhibited more self-control than Jesus. He showed an immense amount of self-control throughout his life and his ministry. He never lost focus, he never gave up, and he never changed direction, even though he know the ultimate direction he was going in. Self-control is really likened to what we call “disciplined.” Jesus was well disciplined because he knew who he was, whose he was, and what God was calling to do.

Christians are called to have discipline and/or self-control. This doesn’t mean that we should sit back and just accept the abuse of others, never getting angry, and/or always saying “nice” things to people in order to not “hurt their feelings”. Sometimes, as Jesus well knew, people need their feelings hurt. I think it is important to stress that; however, we should not overreact emotionally to things either. We should always pause and reflect before responding. We should not aimlessly live life, but have the self-control to be disciplined and to follow through with our commitments. We should have the self-control to avoid doing things that are bad for us and the self-control that compels us to take better care of our bodies, take better care of our minds and take better care of our souls. Reading the Bible, going to church, and allowing the Holy Spirit in to shape your life into Jesus’ life. That all takes the fruit of self-control. Therefore, self-control is vital to the life of the Christian.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“God has equipped you to handle difficult things. In fact, [God] has already planted the seeds of discipline and self-control inside you.” – Joyce Meyer

PRAYER
Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I may bear the spiritual fruit of self-control in my life. Amen.

REVISITED: FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Gentleness

Read Galatians 5:22-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves.” (Matthew 21:12 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “The Fruit of the Spirit.”

FruitOsp_Gentleness

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Gentleness. In a recent trip to California, I stopped by what used to be the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove. On the grounds of that beautiful work of architecture is the memorial garden in which stands two statues of Jesus. One is of “The Lost Sheep”, with Jesus holding a lamb on his shoulder and sheep looking eagerly toward him. The other is of “The Smiling Jesus,” with Jesus playing with children. While these were both familiar and beautiful images of our Lord and Savior, does the “Gentle Jesus” image show us who Jesus really was?

I think the honest answer is both yes and no. We like to think of Jesus’ Gentleness in idealistic ways. One of the ways we do this is by picturing Jesus in such ways that match up with the images illustrated above. Then when we get angry, we often guilt ourselves because we view that anger as not being of God. We view it as the antithesis of gentleness. Yet, when we look at the big picture of Jesus’ life, he was not always grinning and gentle either. Just look at the “Cleansing of the Temple” account in Matthew 21 and also to Jesus’ reaction to his opponents in Matthew 23-24. Even Jesus, sometimes, got angry and he certainly was not ALWAYS gentle.

Yet, the moments where he was not gentle also have a context to them. They were moments that called for righteous anger and Jesus used it both to stop what was happening, to hold people accountable, and to teach them a better way. With that said, Jesus had a gentle nature about him overall. He loved all people, he cared for people who needed care, he instructed people who would be his followers, and he saw the image of God in all people.  Even when he was angry and/or displaying anger, he was always doing so with the intent of instructing, as well as with the intent of putting an end to the harm he saw certain people inflicting upon others. So even his anger was driven by his gentle heart.

It would be easy for me to simply say that we are to “strive” to have Jesus’ gentleness; however, that would be inconsistent with Paul’s understanding of the fruit, which by now I am hoping you can see for yourselves. Jesus didn’t strive to be gentle…HE WAS GENTLE by the nature of his relationship with God. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and gentleness (along with the other fruits) were born through that relationship. The same is true for us. If we have a deep and committed relationship with God, if we are receptive of and filled with God’s Holy Spirit, then we will bear the fruit of God’s gentleness. This is nothing we earn or strive to do on our own power…but something that happens as a result of the power of God in our lives. If you are not gentle and do not bear the fruit of the Spirit, then it is time to check where you are in your relationship with God. We all fail to maintain that relationship, and none of us are perfect in it, but those of us who have a relationship with God and are receptive to the Holy Spirit, are being perfected in God’s love and are bearing the fruit that comes from that.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” – St. Francis de Sales

PRAYER
Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I may bear the spiritual fruit of gentleness in my life. Amen.

REVISITED: FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Kindness

Read Galatians 5:22-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.” (Proverbs 3:3 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “The Fruit of the Spirit.”

FruitOsp_Kindness

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Kindness. I once heard a comedian tell a joke that truly resonated with me. While I don’t remember which comedian it was, there was a definite truth behind what he was saying. The joke went something like this. “The other day I needed coffee and so I stopped at the local convenience store to pick up coffee. The cashier was rather rude to me as he clearly didn’t feel like working that day. That really irked me and set me off. I paid for my coffee, got back in my car and drove off. I just could believe that guy, I fumed to myself as I hit the gas pedal. Some lady got in the lane in front of me, so I angrily honked my horn at her and proceeded to pass her. She, clearly upset, gave me the middle finger. And that’s how it happens folks. You see, that woman in her anger wasn’t paying attention and got into an accident with the car in front of her and died. That rippled to her family, and then rippled to the friends of the family, it ended up rippling to through the town, the state, the country and eventually found its way to the Middle East. Right now, another war has broken out as a result of a rude cashier.”

While this is certainly hyperbole and clearly exaggerated for humor’s sake, there is a measure of truth in there. We are often so caught up in our own worlds that we forget that there are others around us that have feelings too. We get irritated, frustrated, angry and we are ready to scream at the whole world to let them know just how bad our days, our lives, and/or our world is! Eventually, our bad attitudes end up affecting other people in negative ways. All that ends up doing is spread negativity around a world that is filled with negativity.

Acting in such ways is not bearing the fruit of the spirit. The spirit is not irritable, it is not mean, it is not nasty. The Spirit is, rather, kind and loving and compassionate. I have heard it said that “nice stinks.” But that is not true. Being nice…being kind…is the fruit that the Holy Spirit nurtures within us. We can be honest with people, we can hold people accountable for things in order to build them up into better disciples; however, we can do all of that with kindness in our hearts and in our words.

I am not naive to think that we can always be kind. I do recognize that there are times when NOT being kind might be called for; however, by and large, kindness rocks and I find that if you are kind to others they will more often than not be kind back. Lead by example and be kind to others. Show them what it means to have the love of God in your heart and win them over with the kindness the Holy Spirit has planted in yours. In that way, you will be not only bearing the fruit of the spirit, but you will be planting new fruit in the lives of others.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu

PRAYER
Lord, pour into me your gentle spirit and fill me up with your loving kindness. Amen.

REVISITED: FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Patience

Read Galatians 5:22-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “The Fruit of the Spirit.”

FruitOsp_Patience

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Patience. Wow, this is the NOT the devotion for me to write. All my life I have been plagued with the desire to have things done now, in all areas of my life. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the process that things naturally progress in; however, I would appreciate it far more if we didn’t have to wait. I have never been a fan of just sitting and waiting for stuff to happen, I would much rather go out and make it happen right now. Even in something as mundane as shopping, I would rather buy something now than wait until later to do it. Patience is certainly something I have had to struggle with over the years and, come to think of it, perhaps that makes me the perfect person to talk about it.

I know I am not alone in this. I know I am not the only one who has a hard time waiting for things to happen “in God’s time.” I know I am not the only one in who feels that sometimes “God’s time” just ain’t quick enough! Why do I need to pray on something, why do I need to wait upon the Lord, why should I just sit idly by when I can seize the day and make the most of the situation? Why should I have to walk through the painfully long process of ordination when I can just be ordained online in 15 minutes and a few dollars later? Why, why, why do I have to wait? Okay, maybe I didn’t question why I needed to actually get ordained as opposed to buying a title; however, I have certainly struggled with patience.

The church struggles with patience to. When will these pews fill up? When will our church go back to the way things were before? When will we become relevant in the community again? When will we see the offering go back up to sustainable numbers? When…when…when? In our impatience, what ends up happening is that we wind up jumping the gun and cutting corners to make those things happen because, in our minds, they aren’t happening quick enough. Yet; the stark reality is that, in cutting the corners and rushing things along, we only blanket fix things at best and we often end up making a bigger mess of things than they already were.

So, you are wondering when God is going to step in and save the day for the church? You are wondering when God will answer the prayers you have been praying? You wonder when your church family will grow, when your attendance will rise, when your coffers will overflow, and when the presence of God will be KNOWN to be in your community? The answer is simple. God will do it when the time is right, if it is ever right. God will do it when the time is right for you, and others, to step up to the plate and take the actions necessary to make it happen. God will do it when you learn to be act and to be patient in your actions, allowing things to unfold in God’s time and in God’s way. As a beloved Presbyterian friend always reminds me, God is sovereign. God is in control. God will act when the time is right and, if you are willing to act and then wait upon the Lord, all shall be good in the neighborhood.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” – Isaiah, son of Amoz (Isaiah 40:31 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, build up in me the wisdom to be patient. I trust in you and know that you are working all things at the right time. Amen.

REVISITED: FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Peace

Read Galatians 5:22-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NRSV)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “The Fruit of the Spirit.”

FruitOsp_Peace

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Peace. I am sure most people have heard of the name, John Wesley. He was the co-founder of the Methodist Movement in England along with his brother Charles. John was a man who took his faith seriously, so much so that he and his brother founded what became known as the “Holy Club” while in Seminary. Now, I know it is hard to not read “rollers” into that and, no doubt, many of his peers viewed his “Holy Club” as a “Holy Rollers Club.” To a majority of his fellow students, John and the rest of the club seemed pretentious at best. In all seriousness though, John wanted nothing more but than to live his life fully and wholly according to Scripture.

Straight out of Seminary, John decided to put his “faith” in action and go to Georgia in order to convert the American Indians. On his way across the Atlantic Ocean, his ship encountered a series of fierce and relentless storms. In the worst of the storms, John became stricken with fear. He was afraid he was going to die. The ship was being tossed around like a paper boat and things were looking pretty bleak. In the midst of the stormy chaos, John heard hymns being sung and he walked to the room that the sound was coming from. Inside he found a group of Moravian Christians looking as peaceful as if there was no storm at all. Shocked, John asked the leader, “Aren’t you afraid to die?”

The man stood up and replied, “No, we are not afraid of dying.” John, exasperated continued to question, “Well, aren’t your women and children afraid of dying?” The man replied, “No, they aren’t afraid of dying either.” This response left John in awe. The storm was so fierce and the situation looked bleak; yet, these Moravians seemed to be at peace. “Clearly,” John thought to himself, “their faith is greater than mine.” It was a peace he wanted, but wasn’t sure how to lay claim on it.

I believe that John Wesley is not alone in seeking such peace. We all want that assurance in the midst of life that everything is okay and will be okay no matter what circumstances come along. We all want to have the peace that passes all understanding to fill us, especially since most of us are filled with stress and fear and worry. We all long to be at peace with ourselves, at peace with our neighbors, and at peace with God.

A mentor of mine once said that “peace is having no regrets of the past and no worries for the future.” That is true, at least in part. But eternal peace goes beyond that because that statement is still stuck on the subject to whom it refers. True peace moves beyond our subjectiveness and relies on the presence and the sovereignty of our Lord God. When we trust that God is with us and within us, when we let go of trying to know and/or manipulate the outcome, when we give up control, and when we move beyond our own desires and align with God’s, then we will truly experience true peace…the kind that does surpass our understanding.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it from without.” – Buddha

PRAYER
Lord, grant me your peace that I may more wholly know you and more faithfully serve you. Amen.

REVISITED: FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Love

Read Galatians 5:22-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “The Fruit of the Spirit.”

FruitOsp_LoveTHE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Love. It was recently that I came to the realize that almost every song on the radio is about love. What’s love got to do with? Well, frankly, it evidently sells pretty well…that’s what. There are songs about falling in love, as well as songs about falling out of love. There are songs about love lifting you up to higher mountains, and songs about surviving the woes and despairs of falling out of love. There are songs about faithful, devoted love, as well as songs about getting revenge against a lover who wasn’t so faithful. There’s songs about a loving relationship defining who one is, and there are songs about a lover giving love a bad name. There isn’t a lot of originality or depth when it comes to love as it is played out on the radio

That’s just in the secular market. In the religious realm, a majority of the songs are related to love as well…especially worship songs. Those songs tend to be about God loving us so much that God came in the form of Jesus, took our sins, and died. There are also worship songs where we express our love of an awesome God, or a mighty Creator, or an irresistible Lord, or the air we breathe, or…well, place your Christian cliché here. These songs, while they go beyond romantic love, are also lacking in originality and depth.

Love is so much more than an emotion that causes us to feel all warm, fuzzy and gooey on the inside. Love is far more than worship the God that fits our image, the God who conveniently looks, feels, thinks, and acts as we do. I am not saying that to knock secular love songs or to knock contemporary worship songs. I am writing this to point out that LOVE GOES MUCH DEEPER THAN THIS. Love is not always pleasant, it is not always warm and fuzzy, and it most certainly is not always welcome. Love pushes to hold ourselves and others accountable. It pushes us to stand up against injustice, even when others wish we would remain silent. It causes us to do what’s right even when that equals making a hard decision regardless of the consequences.

Love is so much more than a God that fits who we think God should be. Love transforms us from who we think we are to WHO GOD WANTS US TO BE. It compels us to forgive, rather than hold grudges. It pushes us to treat others as we would want to be treated. It asks us to be humble and swallow our pride. It calls us to CARE, rather than be complacent. It calls us to be patient, gentle, kind, compassionate, faithful, hopeful instead of cynical, and strengthens us to endure through all circumstances. This is the kind of love that Paul is talking about. This is the kind of love that Jesus Christ is calling us to. This is the kind of love that is evidence of the Holy Spirit. Open your heart to it, be transformed, and bear that fruit.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“If I gave away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever.” – St. Paul, the Apostle (1 Corinthians 13:3 CEB)

PRAYER
Lord, melt me, mold me, fill me and use me as your vessel of love. Transform me in your love so that I may more boldly love others. Amen.