Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Keep in Step

Reading: Galatians 5:22-25

Verse 23b: “Against such things there is no law.”

Photo credit: Caju Gomes

Yesterday in the first half of our Galatians 5 passage we looked at how faithfully living comes down to loving unconditionally. When love truly leads and guides all we do, then we live without even worrying about violating any of the Law, nevermind feeling captive to it. In today’s verses Paul continues this line of thinking.

Today’s passage begins by contrasting the “acts of the sinful nature” with a list of what we’ll call the “acts of the Spirit.” The list we find in verses 22 and 23 are what comes when we live by the Spirit as we practice Christ’s love. Here’s the list: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These are the characteristics that emerge and develop in our life when Christ’s love is our primary guide to our relationships, to our actions, and to our decisions.

Aligning with yesterday’s main point, in verse 23b we read, “Against such things there is no law.” There is no law against loving well. Therefore there is no law against these characteristics that come out of loving others as Jesus loves them. Further, Paul reminds us that we are able to “crucify” the sinful nature within when we live this way. How hard it is to sin when filled with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control!

This day and every day may we seek to “keep in step with the Spirit,” being people of light and love in a dark and hurting world. May it be so for us all!

Prayer: Lord God, as I seek to love others unconditionally today, help me to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit. May my life offer love to those in need, joy to those in need, peace to those in need… Amen.

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Reading: Colossians 3: 12-14

Verses 12 and 14: “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience… And over all these virtues put on love.”

In the first half of our passage from Colossians 3, Paul first reminds them that they are chosen, holy, and dearly loved by God. This too is who we are: chosen, holy, loved. Paul reminds them of these facts so that it influences how they treat one another and how they live in the world.

Paul encourages the believers to

“clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…” These virtues are the virtues that Jesus lived out. Each of these virtues are revealed over and over as one reads the gospels. Many were present in the same story. That’s what Paul means by “clothe yourselves” – don’t just practice a little compassion here and a little gentleness there, but exhibit all of these – or as many as you can – in each situation and encounter. When we do so it makes bearing with and forgiving one another more likely. Lastly, Paul says, “over all these virtues put on love.” Drape love over everything. Let love drive and undergird your compassion, kindness… because if God is nothing else, God is love.

Even though Jesus Christ embodied these virtues and always strived to live them out in all ways, it was not always easy. The political and religious leaders of his day sought to hold onto power and did what was necessary to do so. The economically priveleged followed suit – doing whatever was needed to accumulate more wealth and influence. Jesus went against the norms of these groups. He was about the exact opposite. Those who were fearful of Jesus’ countercultural example ended up putting him on a cross in order to preserve and protect what they had. Even then Jesus practiced compassion, kindness…

Our world is not much different. Power, influence, and wealth still dominate the institutions of our day. Following Jesus’ example, may we too be countercultural, ever practicing compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, covering all of these in love. May it be so.

Prayer: Lord God, your son’s example is not easy. Strengthen me each day to follow in his footsteps, loving and living as he did. Amen.

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Playing Our Part

Reading: Ephesians 4: 1-6

Verses 5 and 6: “There is one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism”.

Photo credit: Wylly Suhendra

Paul writes today about unity within the body of Christ – the church. Unity almost sounds like a foreign concept. Unity almost feels like an impossible dream. We seem to divide and separate over the smallest of things. Paul is seeing the churches he founded in and around Ephasus beginning to have fissures and cracks.

Inviting those in these churches to “live a life worthy of the calling”, Paul reminds them of some virtues to practice: humility, patience, gentleness, peace… To these he adds belief. In verses five and six he writes, “There is one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism”. Paul sees the church universal, not the church divided. Paul envisions the unity brought through Jesus Christ, not any divisions. I believe the same is still possible today. There are core beliefs that all churches have regardless of their denominational flavors: God, the creator of all things, sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to live out his love and to die to defeat the power of sin and death, paving the way for the salvation of our souls. You may word this or parts of it differently, but the ideas are the core of our faith.

The body of Christ can make the choice to live into unity instead of choosing division, to live into the core beliefs instead of accentuating differences and things that divide. Unity begins with each one of us – in our churches, then in our communities, then in our world. May we each commit to playing our part to bring unity to the body of Christ.

Prayer: Lord God, grant me the heart required to build unity. Lead me to elevate and value our core beliefs over our minor differences. May Jesus Christ become more of my focus. May our unity bring Christ the glory. Amen.

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Reading: 1 Timothy 6: 6-11

Paul calls us to what really matters in this life and in the life to come.  He states in verse six, “godliness with contentment is great gain”.  When we live a godly life and are content with God’s blessings, then we do find much joy, peace, and happiness.  But it can be a struggle to live this way all the time.

Even though Paul reminds us in verse seven that we brought nothing into this world and can take nothing out of it, sometimes we sure act differently.  We eye the latest cell phone, tablet, or other gadget.  We see the newest model of our favorite car and think our 2015 version is getting a bit old.  We hear the Jones’s got a new boat and we think it sure would be nice to take the kids out tubing or fishing anytime.  Pretty soon it can be easy to not be so content.

Paul spells it out very clearly when he says, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”.  He does not say money is bad but that the LOVE of money in bad.  This love causes us to pursue much instead of God.  When we love something more than God, soon enough we “wander from the faith” and we find ourselves”pierced with many griefs”.  Money, possessions, status, … do not last.  When we chase after such things all we want is more, more, more.  Enough never comes.

“Flee from all of this!” is Paul’s advice.  Instead, Paul encourages us to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.  When we fill our lives with these things, contentment is not far away.  When we pursue these things we soon realize the depth of God’s care and love for us, each a child of God.  When we realize this, we trust in God that all of our needs will be met and that our lives will be richly blessed no matter how much or how little we have.  When we live pursuing God, we find true contentment.  May God be our all in all.

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Clothe Ourselves Well

We are often concerned with what we wear.  We like to look good or at least be presentable!  If our hair is a little wild or our make-up a little smudged, we neaten it up a bit.  Many will give themselves a quick once over in the mirror to make sure they can be seen in public.

In our reading from Colossians, we are also instructed to put on more than clothes each day.  We are also called to put on compassion and kindness and humility.  These traits help us to see others as God sees them and to treat all as worthy of God’s love and of our love.  They help us to see the person and not their circumstances.

We are also called to put on gentleness and patience.  These two traits help us to treat people as God would treat them.  When we are gentle and patient we understand that some people require more time and attention than others and we are willing to offer this.  They help us to invest both deeply and long term in others so we can build relationships.

And we are called to forgive as God forgives us.  This encompasses two main components: there is no limit to how many times to forgive and it is a gift freely given with no strings attached.  People who are in need often walk a hard path in life.  It is easy to stumble along this path.  Clothing ourselves with forgiveness allows us to give mercy and encouragement over and over and over.  This shows we are in it for the long haul.

Lastly we are called to cover all of these traits in love.  It binds the other traits together in the perfect unity of the love of Jesus Christ.  This love of Christ must be what motivates all the others as well.  We cannot be compassionate, kind, … without the love of Christ being the driving force.  Without love the other traits will falter and fail.  May we clothe ourselves well this day so that all we meet can see Jesus Christ within us and experience His love shining forth from inside of us.

Scripture reference: Colossians 3: 12-14

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When We Pray

Paul calls on us as believers to rejoice always, to allow our love or gentleness to show to everyone, and to not worry about anything.  Always, everyone, anything are pretty complete and all-encompassing.  When I look at my life, I realize I fail in all three.  I can and do rejoice in the Lord often, but not always.  I try to let me love and gentleness show to all people, but not to everyone all the time.  I tend not to worry very often, but I do at times.

For some, one or more of these areas are struggles as well.  For example, a lot of people worry.  We worry about health, terrorism, finances, family, decisions, jobs, and so on.  Worry can be a consuming emotion.  Paul’s answer to those who worry or don’t rejoice always or fail to show God’s love all the time?  Prayer.

Paul suggests that we “take it all to the Lord in prayer.”  Again, one of those absolutes: all.  Not just some of the things we struggle with, but all that is on our hearts and minds, both the good and the bad.  Time in prayer shifts the focus from us to God.  Time in prayer builds our trust and reliance on God and His activity instead of on our own efforts.  Prayer also reminds us of God’s absolute love for us and His constant presence in our lives.  Lastly prayer acknowledges that we must trust God with our lives.

When we pray and focus on all we have to rejoice over in our lives, somehow our worries seem less.  When we come to realize how much God loves and cares for us, His love seems to flow to of us and into others.  May we learn to take it all to God in prayer.  May we learn to trust in His steadfast love for us.  Draw close to Him and He will draw close to you.

Scripture reference: Philippians 4: 4-7

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Unity and Love

To live in unity and peace as the community of faith can be a challenge.  It takes effort.  Paul reminds us of our call as the body of Christ to work together for the common good.  To best accomplish this he offers three key characteristics to strive for: humility, gentleness, and patience.  When this is how we each walk, unity is much easier to accomplish.

Paul also calls for us to bear one another up in love.  What does this look like?  It looks like coming alongside a brother or sister in Christ when they have lost a loved one.  It looks like showing up when a single mom needs a hand around the house.  It means showing up to babysit a young couple’s children so they can have a date night.

At first glance maybe it seems unity may be hard because we appear to be quite diverse.  But diversity is good.  When we are diverse we all have unique gifts, perspectives, and thoughts that we can offer to each other.  Paul reminds us, though, that we do have much in common.  We worship one Lord and are guided by one Holy Spirit.  We share one common faith.  We practice one baptism.  We hold onto one hope.  We come together as one to worship one God and Father over all and through all and in all.

Together in unity we are strong and powerful and able to do much for God.

Scripture reference: Ephesians 4: 1-10