Tag Archives: healing

REVISITED: WORKS OF THE FLESH: Envy

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“[Jesus] instructed [the twelve disciples] to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts.” (Mark 6:8 CEB)

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.”

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WORKS OF THE FLESH: Envy. If there was a universal vice, if there was a weakness that all people could claim in some fashion or the other, I think envy would have to be it. I don’t like to generalize, and perhaps there is someone out there who could claim never being envious of someone else, most of us have been envious of someone or of something at some point in our lives. I can remember growing up in a house that had no air conditioning and had no shower. All of my other friends had air conditioning and showers, but NOT MY HOUSE! I remember asking my parents why we couldn’t have a shower or an air conditioner and I remember them responding, “Be happy for what you do have.” Yes, I have experienced envy in the past and usually over things that were small and trivial. My mom was always keen on saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

While I didn’t like those sayings, the reason I didn’t like them was because they were true. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, the grass is always greener in someone else’s pasture, until you have what they have and then that grass seems to dry up and wilt. There is no end to this cycle. I want something until I have it and then I am not happy with what I have and I want something else. Every parent knows this cycle as their children have no doubt told them ALL of the things their friends have that they don’t have.

While that sort of behavior is expected in children, however, it is also found in the church. In fact, it is a work of the flesh that is prevalent in the church. Oh how we wish we were that church over their with the 10,000 person membership, raking in the millions upon millions of dollars per year! Oh, my, what we could do with all of those resources. Just think of the ministry that could be done if we had that big church campus, or that basketball court, or that hip pastor in the tight jeans, or if we had a jumbotron screen and a rocking praise band! These sentiments and more come from tons of congregations. What it implies is that, God blesses those people but has been rather cheap and stingy with us!

So let’s look at Jesus’ ministry. He started alone, picked up twelve disciples, then picked up hundreds…then thousands…of followers, then lost those followers, got arrested, was back to twelve disciples (two of whom either betrayed or denied him), and only one male disciple and a couple female disciples showed up at the foot of the cross. Jesus’ ministry was nothing to be envious of, there was no jumbotron, no cool and hip praise band, no steady cash flow, no mega church campus or anything else. His ministry was poor monetarily…but it was profoundly rich in many other ways. Remember, we are to model ourselves off of Christ, to not envy others as if we have nothing, and to be thankful for what we do have. And what is that? The Good News of God’s love for us through Jesus Christ our Lord. And that is all we, as the church, truly need! Now go and preach it!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.” – Paul of Tarsus in his letter to the church in Philippi (Philippians 4:12-13, CEB)

PRAYER
Lord, help to be content in all things so that I may glorify you through what I have. Amen.

REVISITED: WORKS OF THE FLESH: Factions

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:4-6 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.”

FieryF

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Factions. In the last devotion, I wrote about dissension in the church. Also, I have in the past written about cliques as well. So, why write about factions? Doesn’t cliques cover it? The answer is no, not quite. While cliques are certainly not healthy within the church, and they can end up growing to be a faction if push came to shove, but on their own cliques are no more than pockets of people who gravitate together, often times gossiping about others and putting others down. A faction, on the other hand is a much more organized and intentional group of people who are gravitating together in order to achieve a common goal. Factions are often the result of subversive dissensions.

Think back to Julius Caesar. It was a subversive dissension that ended up causing factions to rise up and splinter the Roman Republic. The end result of that was that whatever freedoms were under the Republic, and I am sure the dissenters had good reasons to question Caesar, were completely obliterated by the rising up of an empire under the absolute power of a tyrannical emperor. And that tyranny eventually led to even more tyrannical emperors who caused more subversion, which led to more factions seeking to stab the life and the power out of the emperors.

Clearly, factions are detrimental to any government or organization; however, factions are even more detrimental to the life of the Church and they go against Christ who is the very head of the Church. Paul is clear that factions should be a “no go”. For Paul, the Church was an ORGANISM not an organization. It is the resurrected and living BODY OF CHRIST, not a religious institution. In terms of your body, what good would it be if the heart took sides with the lungs and brain and stood in opposition to the lower extremities? All of the blood would go to the top half of the body and the lower half of the body would become necrotic and die. That may not sound like a big deal to the heart, lungs and brain; however, necrosis slowly spreads and eventually even the heart, lungs and head would die.

This may seem like a silly illustration, but only because IT IS A SILLY ILLUSTRATION. Body parts DON’T form factions against other body parts because it is not good for the whole of the body. A body is designed for self-preservation, growth and life. If the Church is the BODY of CHRIST, and if we are the individual parts that make up that body, then we are not designed to form factions against other parts; rather, we are to find harmony and work in cooperation with other parts for the good of the whole. Factions are like cancer and are not good for the body. Don’t take me wrong, I am not saying that healthy, constructive dissent is a cancer…it is not, and it does not lead to factions; however, subversive, undermining dissension does lead to factions and will destroy the body. The Good News is that the Holy Spirit is our immune system and if we choose to live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will not take part in factions even if we are being led to be an honest voice of dissent.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 3:24-25 NRSV)
PRAYER
Lord, steer me in the opposite direction of factions. Help me to be a healthy and vibrant part of the body of Christ. Amen.

August 7, 2022 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Worship Service in Holland Hall: 9:00 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 9:00 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Worship Service in Main Sancutary: 10:30 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Welcome to our Sunday Online Worship Services for August 7. Today we learn that the world we know is not what it seems and how God offers true reality and life through Jesus Christ.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Dissensions

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For the choir director: A psalm of David. O LORD, rescue me from evil people. Protect me from those who are violent, those who plot evil in their hearts and stir up trouble all day long.” (Psalms 140:1-2 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.”

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WORKS OF THE FLESH: Dissensions. Whether one is familiar with the story, has seen the play, is into history, or none of the above, chances are everyone would have heard the name Julius Caesar. Born in 100 BCE, Caesar was a war hero, an extremely brilliant and successful General, and a statesman who, through political and tactical cunning rose up the ranks in the Roman Senate. Once at the top, his ambition and his popularity never ceased. This, of course, also created for him some political enemies. Caesar’s rise to power, and his push to reform the Republic, caused a number of Senators to fear losing their powers and to fear that Caesar was a would-be monarch.

Thus, a number of subversive dissenters rose up against Caesar, and on the Ides of March (aka March 15th) in 44 BCE, Caesar was literally stabbed in the back, and a total twenty-three time all over his body for that matter, leaving his body a bloodied corpse on the Senate floor. While the conspirators thought that their dissention-driven assassination would be viewed by the masses as a heroic act; however, they were severely mistaken. Instead, their actions were viewed as treachery and what ensued was a bloody civil war, first between the conspirators and Marc Antony, along with Octavian (Julius Caesar’s great-nephew and adopted son). That campaign was followed by an even bloodier war between Antony and Octavian (both of whom were laying claim to Caesar’s legacy and possession. Eventually, Octavian won out, Antony committed suicide, and Octavian claimed the title of Emperor (taking on the name Augustus Caesar, divi filius or son of the divine one). This single handedly eliminated the Republic of Rome and made it an Empire, with Augustus as its divine emperor for life. The subversive dissenters worst fear was now fully realized.

There is a moral to be learned in all of this. Paul, who had people in his churches subversively dissenting against his authority and apostleship, knew that such dissensions never wind up being a good or healthy thing. The story of Caesar is a great illustration for us to see the nature of subversive dissension. Rather than constructively working for what one believes, those involved in such dissension work behind the scenes and conspire with others to undermine the people and the plans they don’t like. What usually happens is that the organization as whole suffers the consequences, which are far worse than what the fears driving the dissension.

Such fear is not of God. Subversive dissension is not of God. There is a place for healthy and constructive opposition. There is a place for honest dissent; however, subversive dissension is pernicious and destructive. It seeks to have power over a situation, to control an outcome in manipulative and harmful ways. Christ wants us to be filled with grace and love for one another. Christ wants us to find harmony and to let go of nonconstructive and sinful discord. Let us knock off the subversive dissension and extend the grace it takes to honestly dissent and, if possible, work with one another through difficult times and decisions.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower

PRAYER
Lord, give me the grace to only dissent in constructive ways, and only for constructive reasons. Steer me away from subversive dissent, but toward peace and unity. Amen.

subversive dissent, but toward peace and unity. 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.

July 31, 2022 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Worship Service in Holland Hall: 9:00 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 9:00 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Worship Service in Main Sancutary: 10:30 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Welcome to our Sunday Online Worship Services for July 31. Today we sing our praises to the Lord.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

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)

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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.

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Jealousy

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17 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 works of the flesh.”

FieryJ

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Jealousy. I serve as the pastor of a small country church in a part of New Jersey the rest of the world doesn’t know exists. One of the greatest things about the church that I serve has nothing to do with the size of it’s physical space, or the amount of the material resources our church community has, or the amount of people that come filing into worship on any given Sunday. What makes the church I serve so awesome is the gigantic heart and spirit of the community itself.

Unfortunately, church communities often don’t measure themselves by the things that God has provided for them but, rather, they often measure themselves by the things that other church communities have that they don’t. I have been in meetings in various church communities where I have heard people articulate, “If we only had a bigger worship space…if we only had a gymnasium…if we only had a huge screen…if we only had an amazing praise band and a dynamic music leader…if we only had a more hip pastor…if we only had a team of pastors…if we only had these things we could do REAL ministry in our community.”

What is unfortunate about such statements is that they are covetous in nature. When we focus on all of the things we don’t have we overlook all of the things we do have. By focusing on what we lack we end up finding ourselves wishing we had those things, rather than being grateful for all that God has given to us. We also fail to realize that we have things that those other communities lack. What’s more, rather than working to use the resources we DO have for the glory of God and the coming of God’s Kingdom, rather than using those resources to bring God’s hope, healing and wholeness into this world, we find ourselves using our limited resources to compete against other churches. Why? All because we have been consumed by jealousy.

As I said above, I serve as the pastor of a small country church in a part of New Jersey the rest of the world doesn’t know exists. We are a church of limited resources, a church relatively small in number, a church without a screen or a projector or a praise band. As for a super hip pastor…well, I will let others be the judge of that. But one thing we do have is the presence of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit and the power of Jesus Christ working within us to bring about change in our community. We have big hearts, a passion for serving others, a deep desire to worship God through servant leadership, and a desire to be agents of God’s hope, healing and wholeness. We may not have a ton of money, but we have all that we need to do the work that God is calling us to do. Rather than being someone else’s church, start being the church God has created you to be. Be authentic to who you, as a church community, are. If you do that, if you are good stewards of all that God has given you, and if you are faithful to Christ and his mission in this world, then you will be the community that blesses many as well as the community that is truly blessed.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“You can be the moon and still be jealous of the stars.” – Gary Allan

PRAYER
Lord, help me to see all that you have given me rather than being focused on the things I think I lack. Amen.

July 24, 2022 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Worship Service in Holland Hall: 9:00 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 9:00 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Worship Service in Main Sancutary: 10:30 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Welcome to our Sunday Online Worship Services for July 24. Today we learn what it means to be rooted in our faith..

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

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.