Tag Archives: hope

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Joy

Read Galatians 5:22-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy. I will praise You with my harp, O God, my God!” (Psalms 43:4 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_JoyFRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Joy. We all want to be happy, right? I cannot think of a single person who would claim that they don’t desire happiness. We all have different ideas of happiness. I have the idea of a world where people lived together in harmony, where no one through judgment around and thought they were better than anyone else. I have the idea of such a world where no one thought that they were right and everyone else was wrong, where religion was taken seriously, where all religions were respected, and where religious fanatics didn’t ostracize, imprison or kill others. I have the same idea of a world where politicians follow suit and don’t try and ostracize, imprison or kill others for their own political gains. I could go on with this ideal world and I am certain that such a world would make me truly happy.

Since that reality is surely never coming, or at least not anytime soon, perhaps I will just settle for a permanent vacation (great Aerosmith album, btw) on an island somewhere in the Caribbean where I am slurping piña coladas in young coconut shells all day long, while sitting on a beach listening to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Sounds great right?!?! Our world loves happiness, it longs for it, it tells us all that we should be pursuing it to the ends of the earth. The problem, as many of us in life have already discovered, is that happiness is fleeting at best and the pursuit of it often leads us toward a giant cliff that over looks an endless abyss of disappointment and despair.

That is absolutely why you will not find happiness being called a Fruit of the Spirit. It just simply is not. I am sure that Paul was NOT happy getting rejected by the church in Jerusalem for wanting to be open-minded and open hearted to the Gentiles. I am sure that he wasn’t happy getting stoned (by rocks…to clarify) and imprisoned. I am sure that he wasn’t happy having his authority and his apostleship questioned, being considered an outsider by both his fellow Jews and his fellow Apostles. I am sure that Paul did not live a life of happiness, and I am equally sure he didn’t spend is life pursuing it. Rather, Paul’s life was one of joy, not happiness!

Joy, in essence is that inner thankfulness that causes one to experience bliss, peace and contentment in all circumstances. It is the calm assurance that God is with you in those circumstances and, even if your life is forfeit as a result of living out your faith, you are thankful for all that God has given to you and for all that God has called you to. One can try to pursue it; however, it is not bought, or earned, or easily attained; rather it is produced by the Holy Spirit, by the divine presence of God dwelling within us. It is in the context of a relationship with God and the transformative reception of the Holy Spirit that one begins to have a joy that cannot be contained or snuffed out. Do you want to experience it? Open your heart to God and allow the Holy Spirit to enter you and transform you into God’s agent of hope, healing, and wholeness.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” – Mother Teresa

PRAYER
Lord, turn my heart into an eternal well-spring of your joy! Amen.

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: Other Sins Like These

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“He has enabled us to be ministers of His new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6 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.”

FieryOWORKS OF THE FLESH: Other Sins Like These. One of the things that I think plagues the church is this notion that the Bible, the Church, and religion in general are nothing more than a set of dos and don’ts in order to strip fun away from people, as well as to hold them in subjugation to those who claim to have the authority to teach and enforce such rules and regulations. There can be no doubt that there is some truth to Karl Marx’s words, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” The Church, and the leaders within the church have, in some cases, abused their authority and, as a result, have done a disservice to Christ, to the Christian community, and to the world. With that said, the same is true with any ideology, religious or not. Take a long hard look at Communism. Any ideology can be used as an opiate to the masses.

So, while there is some truth to Marx’s comment, it is far from THE TRUTH as a whole. Christianity is not merely a list of dos and dont’s. When we come to those places in the Bible that list what should be done and what shouldn’t be done, it would benefit us to at least research the historical context behind those dos and dont’s. What’s more, when have done that kind of deep probe of the Scriptures, we begin to see that those dos and don’ts are, more often than not, a social contract between God and the world, between God and God’s people, and between God’s people and their fellow human beings. We all live in a social contract today whether we practice religion or not. We have all agreed to live and abide by the rules of our local governments for the benefit of the whole community.

At the heart of the Bible is LOVE. It is our guide to learning how to LOVING God by loving others as God loves us. God wants nothing more than that. It isn’t about an egotistical God who, like a big bully in the sky, demands we follow arbitrary laws…just because. The Bible is our guidance to what a right relationship with our neighbors and, by virtue of that, what a right relationship with God looks like. Some of those laws in the Bible make sense for us today, some of them no longer make sense because we have come to understand otherwise, but the heart of the BIBLE…THE HEART OF THE LAW…remains the same: LOVE! That is a constant that will never change.

To conclude on the “Works of the Flesh”, it is important to realize that Paul is not trying to give us an exhaustive list but, rather, he is listing specific sins that are going on within his church. We can see this in his summing the list up with “other sins like these” (Galatians 5:21). It is also important that we do not view Paul’s words as a list of dos and don’t. Instead, it is better to view them as a moral compass to help guide us all into a better relationship with God, into a better relationship with our neighbors, and into a better relationship with ourselves. That is the ultimate goal, it is what God wishes for all of us. Now, let’s go onto Paul’s “Fruit of the Spirit.”

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“A flower cannot blossom without sunshine, and man cannot live without love.” – Max Müller

PRAYER
Lord, fill me with your love so that I may live freely into the spirit of the law. Amen.

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Wild Parties

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Don’t be deceived. Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33 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.”

FieryPWORKS OF THE FLESH: Wild Parties. We have all known of wild parties growing up, especially in high school and in college. Perhaps, many of us have even attended them. We certainly live in a culture that sends mixed messages about them. On the one hand kids are taught in schools to say no to drugs and alcohol, but are also taught that “when going to parties” they should make sure they have designated drivers. This of course assumes that kids will be drinking at parties. What’s sad is that schools have to assume that and what is even sadder is that society as a whole pretty much condones it. Just look at movies such as “Animal House”, “Van Wilder”, and “Old School” to name a few of my favorites.

One of my all-time favorite “wild party films” is a movie called “Dazed and Confused,” by Richard Linklater. The film follows a bunch of kids on the last day of school before Summer Vacation starts. They are all looking to go get tickets to see Aerosmith but, before they do that, they are looking to throw a beginning of summer bash. The film follows these kids as they get high on marijuana and drunk on alcohol. It is a comedy, but it is also a social commentary about the nature of coming of age in America in the 1970’s. With that said, I also think it also paints a devastatingly realistic portrait of coming of age today, and also of a society that idealizes that kind of “coming of age”. Just look at the sensationalism surrounding Spring Break in the media, with them both condemning the teens “debauchery” all the while exploiting the teens in the very act.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those hypocritical adults that forgets that I too engaged in wild parties as a teenager and young adult, nor am I the kind of person that regrets what I have done because I know that my past has shaped me into who I am today. I also know that God never leaves us no matter whether we are on the straight and narrow or have veered way off course. , as I know God never left me. Yet, I also know the kind of excess that happens at parties, I know that such parties not only alter the mind and the body, but they also alter the soul. God did not create us to destroy what has been created. Wild parties, while seemingly fun, do more damage to people and serve no purpose beyond self-gratification and self-indulgence. They are carefree in nature, and being carefree leads to being careless. There is a thin line between the two. We as humans are designed to full of care…not to care less!

Again, don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that ALL PARTIES are bad. That is not the case at all. Letting loose a little and having some fun with family and friends, dancing, celebrating occasions with others, and other forms of parties are not only healthy but fun and enjoyable times. What I am talking about are parties that promote self-indulgence as well as self-destruction. Those types of parties are not healthy and we should not be engaging in them. This isn’t just a Christian thing, but is a human thing. We should love ourselves, our bodies, and our neighbors enough not to put them through, literally, killer parties. Instead, be responsible and be good stewards of the bodies that God has given to you.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“It’s easy to impress me. I don’t need a fancy party to be happy. Just good friends, good food, and good laughs. I’m happy. I’m satisfied. I’m content.” – Maria Sharapova

PRAYER
Lord, help me to enjoy great times, great food, great family and friends, but also steer me away from self-destructive excess. 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.”

FieryDWORKS 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.

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.”

fieryEWORKS 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.

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.”

FieryFWORKS 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.

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.”

FieryDWORKS 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.

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.”

FieryQWORKS 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.

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-1In 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.