Walking by the Spirit

•July 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Galatians 2:20

Dead men don’t do anything. That is why God has to transfer us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son. But now that I am alive in Christ, I can do anything, right? Well, maybe not. Paul reminds us that we are crucified with Christ. You mean I am dead again? Yep.

But that is a good thing. For you see, when we realize that our current state is really no different from our former state, i.e., completely dependent upon God, we bring God honor because we admit that we are nothing without him. A few verses after this, Paul calls the Galatians foolish for trying to do something post-conversion according to their own strength.

Everything we do must be done in the Spirit. Anything we do in our own strength is worthless. Christ gets all the glory or none. He does not share with dead men. Today, honor Christ in your life by ceasing to depend upon your own strength or wisdom or knowledge to accomplish something.

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hope from despair

•December 1, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Genesis 39:6-20

 

My daughter was doing a puzzle where she drew in small parts one piece at a time according to some directions. She became frustrated because she wanted to know what the picture was and couldn’t tell yet. In life, I also don’t see the big picture. Often what I do see, I don’t like. So I fret and worry and sometimes even complain a little, or maybe a lot.

Joseph could not see the big picture either. He went from slave to prisoner without a chance to prove his innocence. How could something this awful be God’s will? He must have longed for home. Yet maybe home wasn’t the best place either. He was not at the top of his bothers’ favorite people list. I wonder if he lost hope. Did he wonder about this covenant keeping God? Did he think that maybe somehow he had gotten left out of the promise somewhere on the road to Egypt?

The end of the story, though, is far from hopeless. God used that situation for His people’s preservation. Joseph was not only not left out of the promise, he had a major role in fulfilling it!

Sometimes we can let our limited sight bring us to a place of hopelessness. Yet we have been given much more than Joseph. We have been given the greatest gift on earth—the Messiah. We can hope for the future because of the promise fulfilled in the past. We have the witness of Christ’s birth as an anchor for our hope.

This advent season, let hope rest in your soul as you remember that God does keep His promises. God hears our prayers, and while they may not be answered in the way that we would like, we can know that God sees the big picture and is leading us safely through.  

Why this waste?

•November 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Matthew 26:6-13 

 

Does it seem strange to you to begin an Advent devotion at the end of Jesus’ life and ministry? Shouldn’t we start with the angels or Mary or at least the birth?

In Bethany, Jesus was anointed for His burial. The method of anointing shocked several around him. We are told by Matthew that the disciples were indignant and thought it was wasteful.

We tell our children not to be wasteful with the water when brushing their teeth or with the glue when making a craft. The extra water might add up to a few dollars, but we are told in Mark’s account that this perfume was worth almost a year’s wages. Would you take several thousand dollars and go pour it down the drain?

Jesus responds to her quite differently. He says that wherever the gospel is preached, this woman’s deed will be reported as a memorial to her. So why is this event not wasteful? Simply and profoundly this: what she poured out, she poured out for God. It was an act of love and devotion to her Savior, and no waste exists in devotion to God.

Was it wasteful for God to send His Son to earth? Do we need all those blessings and promises? Wasn’t it wasteful to spend 33 years and only get to minister for 3?

The anointing at Bethany is not wasteful for at least this reason. It reminds us of God’s extravagance toward us, and no waste exists in God’s gifts.

When you think about the approach of Christmas, let this story of the anointing of Jesus remind you of God’s graciousness toward you. And respond in kind. Be superfluous in your devotion to God and others in Christ’s name. It won’t be a waste.

 

praying for others

•September 5, 2008 • Leave a Comment

…and he has declared to us your love in the Spirit. For this reason also, from the day we heard, we have not ceased praying Colossians 1:8

I must confess I have a hard time praying for people I don’t know. Each week our church’s bulletin spotlights a missionary in some part of the world. I see the picture and read what they are doing and see their prayer needs. Since I have no contact with them, they usually don’t stay on my mind.
Our Sunday school class, however, has adopted a handful of these missionaries. I see many more photos and read correspondence about ministry opportunities, challenges, joys, heartaches, and prayer requests. We also have the opportunity to meet them as they come to our class when they are in the States.
Epaphras helped bridge the gap for Paul that he might be drawn to pray for the Colossians. His firsthand testimony gave Paul the insight and motivation to pray effectively for them.
If you do not know what God is doing beyond the city limits of your town, I want to encourage you to expand your horizons. It is hard to pray for someone you don’t know, but much joy can come in seeing God work in places beyond your own sphere. Numerous missionaries would love for you to join them in prayer and would be thrilled to begin corresponding with you.
Will you spend the time necessary to build relationships with someone you don’t know for the sake of participating in the gospel. Ask your pastor or your denomination how you can begin corresponding with a missionary. If that doesn’t work, ask me. Praying for others benefits them and can motivate us to participate in God’s work where we live.

what amazed me today

•September 4, 2008 • 7 Comments

…the gospel, which has come to you… Colossians 1:5-6

 

Why would God care to send the gospel to those people? What made them special? Then I think of me. Why did the gospel come to me? And I am blown away by those seven words. You see, I would prefer that God decided to send the gospel to me because He saw that I had something to offer. He noticed how useful I would be. He imagined the great strides I would make for His Church. 

No, it came to me because the Spirit is like the wind, it blows where it wishes. I had nothing to offer. I was of no use. I could make no inroads towards the gates of hell to enlarge God’s kingdom. Without Christ, I was and still am a nobody. And still the gospel came to me. Still, the gospel—the wonderful grace of God that transforms me from nobody to child of God—comes to me. 

Day by day, I have the opportunity to walk with the one who transforms hearts. I don’t have to settle for today’s me. For I know what the gospel can do. It transforms. It grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and transferred me from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son. It can do more. It does do more. God does not sit content with populating heaven. He desires to transform us into the image of His Son. And the gospel does that. As we spend time in His word, allowing our minds to bathe in the truth, the power of the gospel continues to transform us. 

 The gospel comes to us that we might be what God intended. Do not be content with who you are.

love from hope

•September 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment

hearing…the love which you have toward all the saints through the hope being laid up for you in the heavens. Colossians 1:4-5

What motivates your love? Do you love your neighbor for what you hope you get in return? Do you love your family from a strong emotional attachment? Do you love your co-workers for the sake of peace in the office? Or does your love for others flow from a relationship with God which allows you to love others in a 1 Corinthians 13 way?

Paul highlights the Colossians’ love for others, and he says that it comes from a hope they have. How can hope motivate love? When your eyes are firmly fixed on the glories to come and not the struggles of this world, you can love others selfishly. When we see the reward of eternity with Christ, we no longer need to get something out of our relationships here on earth. When we realize the joy of standing in the presence of the Prince of Peace, we no longer have to manipulate our circumstances for the sake of peace now. 

The reality of eternity does affect today. Hoping in today will not move us closer to God. Hoping a certain candidate wins this fall will not allow us to love our neighbor any better nor will it move this country closer to God. That will only occur when the Church sets its mind on the need to make disciples, not public policy. And this will only happen when our hope is set on eternity, on the glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior, and our eternal fellowship with Him.

Free yourself up to love others by recognizing that your hope rests in heaven.

Thankful for friends

•September 2, 2008 • Leave a Comment

We give thanks to God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, always concerning you by praying. Colossians 1:3

I am blessed. I could fill up numerous pages with how I am blessed, but my friends come to mind this morning. When I was in high school, I remember hearing that I would be fortunate if  the day came when I could count the number of true friends on one hand. I dismissed that comment, having many friends at the time. My definition of friend has changed over the years.

I don’t remember who told me that, but they knew what they were talking about. While I have many acquaintances, I have few good friends. Getting a good friend requires being a good friend. Being a good friend requires praying and being mindful of the blessings that friendship brings to one’s life. 

Reading this verse reminds me that I, too, have friends for which I am thankful. Reading this verse reminds me that God has placed people in my life who have strengthened my faith, challenged me in my walk, cared about my hurts, and shared the joy of life with me. For that I am thankful and convicted that I don’t pray enough for them or tell God often enough how thankful I am that He has provided people to walk with me through this life today. 

I need to spend time today thanking God for those people. I also need to sit down and write a letter or two. What about you? Who do you need to thank God for? Who do you need communicate with that you are praying for? But don’t just answer that question. Spend some time today, thanking God for your friends. Spend some more time letting someone know you prayed for them today.