Tag Archives: Church

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.

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Drunkenness

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.” (Romans 6:12 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 works of the flesh.”

FieryD

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Drunkenness. Oh come on Paul! Didn’t you go to college and let loose?!?! Okay, all jokes aside, there is plenty that could be said about drunkenness. There is, of course, the traditional understanding of drunkenness that plagues our country and our world. An entire book, and then some, could be written about Alcohol and Substance abuse in the United States alone. In 2013, 86.8% of people ages 18 or older said they drank alcohol at some point in their life, 70.7% drank within that year, and 56.4% drank within the month the study was being conducted, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The same study found that 24.6% of people the same age range said that they engaged in binge drinking within the past month, and 6.8% admitted to heavy drinking within the past month. What’s more, nearly 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.

I could go on about alcohol and substance abuse, and it would be a worthy endeavor. Many of us, myself included, have been drunk at some point in our lives and, no doubt, have stories to tell (thankfully we lived to tell them). With that said, there is another kind of drunkenness that affects many people that often get overlooked when reading about the dangers of drunkenness in the Bible or elsewhere. This kind of drunkenness stems from the selfish desire to have more and more of something to the point where the person is literally intoxicated by the mere thought, let alone the actual acquiring of what that person desires. Some are intoxicated with success, others with money, others still with status. The list is endless; we can virtually become addicted to, and “get drunk” on, anything.

Like an alcoholic for whom one drink is not enough, yet one is too many, we can easily get caught up in the things this world tells us to crave. We in the church can become intoxicated on success, on attendance, on position, on status, and a whole host of other things. I think power is at the root of most of the things we can “get drunk” on. For if we are successful, or if we are that big congregation other churches look to, or if we hold a high position, or if we have a good standing in the church and the community, we then have power over people who ARE NOT as high up as we see ourselves as being. Yes, power is the true intoxicant behind the drunkenness we find plaguing our church and our souls.

Paul’s warning is clear, those lost in drunkenness will not find themselves a part of the Kingdom of God. This is not because God has shut them out but because their own drunkenness has shut them out. Christ calls us away from the narcissistic need to have power. Remember, it was Christ who gave up his power. It was Christ who, on the cross, gave up his power and succumbed to his vulnerability; however, it was also Christ who, three days later, resurrected to life and to true power, that is the power of God. You, too, can resurrect. Give up your false power and be free to live!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Power is always dangerous. Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best.” – Edward Abbey

PRAYER
Lord, steer me clear from the drunkenness that comes from seeking power. I trust in your power, which is enough for me. Amen.

REVISITED: WORKS OF THE FLESH: Quarrels

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“A hot-tempered person starts fights; a cool-tempered person stops them.” (Proverbs 15:18 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 works of the flesh.”

FieryQ

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Quarrels. I remember when growing up as a boy who had a younger sister. My sister and I were only two years apart and, for the most part, we were really close in our relationship. We did a ton of things together. We would play in the yard, we would ride our bikes, and when push came to shove we defended one another. With that said, like most siblings, when we got into a quarrel with one another, we really got into it! We knew each other so well, that we knew how to push each other’s buttons. Our love, in those moments, grew into bitter animosity. You know the old adage, “the best of friends make the worst of enemies.”

Well, my sister and I were never enemies…thanks be to God. With that said, there were moments where we really quarreled with each other. We would go back and forth, delivering insult for insult, and we would drive our parents crazy with it. All my parents wanted was for us to get along and to be peacemakers…and by that I don’t mean becoming a Colt .45. Yet our words would go back and forth and the bullets shot from our mouths would often cause more hurt than either of us realized. What’s more, often these quarrels would be over the most trivial and mundane things (e.g., whose turn it was to watch TV or what music we would listen to on the radio).

What’s sad is that, while it is natural for children to quarrel with one another, the quarreling doesn’t end when children grow into adults. Many families are split down the middle over quarreling, and that holds true for church families. In the church, more time is spent on quarreling than on worship and mission combined. We find ourselves so ready to quarrel with the people “we’ve always disagreed with” that we’ll disagree on just about anything in order to keep that quarrel going. We may not think of ourselves as being that way, and we may not consciously realize we are behaving that way, but in all honesty that is the reality of it.

Like an exasperated parent, God is wanting us to stop quarreling, but we are often too busy quarreling to stop and listen to God, let alone to stop and listen to one another. Pride is at the root of quarreling, for neither side wants to give in or give up for fear of showing weakness in such humility. Often we are too blinded by our own opinions on things that we cannot even entertain anyone else’s opinion; thus, we shut the other out and quarrel with them. Again, God is calling us to stop quarreling. God is calling us to be peacemakers. It is certainly okay to put forward our opinion on things; however, it is not okay to do so at the expense of everyone else. It is okay to have a voice, but it is not okay to shut the voices of others out. Often times, our quarrelsome tendency will intimidate people to the point that they remain silent to avoid conflict. Let us stop with the quarreling and join Paul in his quest to serve God by being peacemakers and seeking harmony.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.” – Winston Churchill

PRAYER
Lord, quell the pride within us and transform us into your peacemakers. Amen.

REVISITED: WORKS OF THE FLESH: Anger

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT)

FieryA-1

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 works of the flesh.”

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Anger. There is a misconception among many Christians, and certainly the world, that Christians are supposed to be happy 100% of the time. Christians are supposed to smile, to laugh, to be filled with joy, to never be depressed, and to float around from place to place with their feet barely touching the ground. We are supposed to be reverent, saintly, quiet, and we (so far as I can tell from all of the paintings) evidently all wear golden rings around our heads that reflect sun-like rays outward for all to see.

The one thing that is for sure, so the myth goes, is that a Christian is NEVER, EVER angry. Christians who show any sort of emotion outside of that the beaming joy that is supposed to emanate from our faces, are evidently not good Christians. After all who has ever heard of an angry Christian? What kind of witness would an angry Christian be to the world? Isn’t it true that Christians aren’t supposed to display any sort of anger? The answer is, of course, no. Of course Christians can, do, and sometimes should get angry! When a Christian witnesses or experiences injustice, for instance, is a time when that Christian is and/or should be filled with righteous anger.

What Paul is talking about here is not righteous anger. Paul is not talking about seeing someone abused, or hurt, or disenfranchised, or rejected, or alone, or starving, or being killed in gang violence or in war, and being filled with anger at a world that continually oppresses and hurts people; rather, Paul is talking about anger that rises up out of selfishness, jealousy, bitterness, dissention, division, and hatred. When a Christian is angry at another person, another one of God’s Creation, because he or she did not get what they wanted, or they don’t like the way the other person carries themselves, or because the other person has something that they wish they had, or for any other frivolous and selfish reason, that sort of anger is not a fruit of the Spirit, but is most definitely a work of the flesh.

Christ is calling us to lay our unfettered, selfish anger aside. What good can anger do for you or for the church? How can your being angry with someone, to the point where you cannot even forgive them, ever bring glory to God? How can you be a whole person if your anger is constantly driving a wedge between your neighbor and you. When that happens, what is really happening is that your anger is driving a wedge between you and God. Remember that the commandment that fulfills  all the law, according to Jesus and to Paul, is that you shall love your neighbor as yourself. If you are too angry to LOVE, how can you ever accept the LOVE God has for you? If you are too angry to LOVE, how can you ever find room LIVE into the fullness of life that God has to offer you? Be rid yourself of such unnecessary, unjustifiable anger. Let it go and let God begin to transform you from someone consumed by anger to someone who knows what it means to LOVE and BE LOVED.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” – the Buddha

PRAYER
Lord, quell the anger within me and allow me to be filled with your eternal love and joy. Amen.

REVISITED: WORKS OF THE FLESH: Strife

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong.” (Galatians 2:11 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 works of the flesh.”

FieryS

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Strife. If there was anybody who knew what strife was out of the authors who wrote the Bible, Paul was certainly on the top of the list. We love to look back at early Christianity, as if it was a singular, cohesive, monolithic religion gelled together by peace, single-mindedness, harmony and accord. We sing songs like “Give me that old-time religion” as if the discord and strife we have today never used to exist, but that could not be further from the truth. All one has to do is read Galatians, the very letter that this devotion series is pulling from, to see that Paul certainly was well acquainted with strife in the church.

Paul believed that the risen Christ had been revealed to him by God and that in that revelation he found his true calling: to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Following a few years in training in Saudi Arabia, and following a meeting with Peter and James, the brother of Jesus, Paul set out to preach the Good News to the Gentiles. What was that Good News, you ask? It was that salvation had come to the rest of the world through Jesus the Christ and, through faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they were now included in the covenant made by God to Abraham.

This is truly good news, right? Wrong! Or so thought James and the Jewish church in Jerusalem. For them, only Jews were saved by virtue of the covenant that God made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Yes, following Jesus was the ultimate expression of their Judaism; however, faith in Jesus was not enough. One still had to obey the laws, including restricting his or her diet to kosher foods and through circumcision (for males). Those things set one apart from the Gentile world and marked the Jews as God’s people. James and the Jerusalem Church were very much opposed to Paul’s version of the Gospel; even Peter had his reservations because of James’ position, leading Paul to publicly call Peter a hypocrite.

Yes Paul knew much about strife. Paul also did everything he could to eliminate it. Though he disagreed with James and the Jerusalem church, he still tried to partner with them and find common ground. He still called his Gentile churches to support the Church in Jerusalem, which had taken a vow of poverty. Our challenge is, even in the midst of controversial and heated debates, to work harder to maintain a sense of harmony with other Christians who see things differently than us. The church today is divided on a host of different issues. Human sexuality, marriage equality, abortion, social justice, church and state, as well as theology and other things have all been issues that have proven to bring much strife in Christianity. While these are important issues, and Christians need to take a stand for what they believe in, God is calling us to do so in a way that does not demonize Christians who disagree with us. Remember, there are Christians on either side of any given debate. Let us, while holding fast to what we believe, approach each other with that kind humble understanding. Let us join Paul in his quest to eliminate strife.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“When you are full of pride on the inside, it makes you stiff, stubborn, and creates strife with others.” – John C. Maxwell

PRAYER
Lord, inspire me to be a person who balances the need to fight for what is right and the call to see you in my Christian brothers and sisters who are opposed to the dictates of where, in my heart and conscience, I believe the Holy Spirit is leading the Church. Amen.