“Leaders use scripture”

September 30, 2021

2 Timothy 3: 10-4:8 reminds Paul’s protégé that good leaders will for sure face trials and suffering.  During those times of hardship, leaders lean on scripture.

         “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,    correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God         may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)”

         Yesterday Paul compared leaders to loyal soldiers.  Soldiers follow the commands of their leader.  How do Christian workers learn the desires of their leader – Scripture that is God-breathed.  These Scriptures are useful for teaching.

         Athletes are disciplined.  I hear the coach of the athlete instructing and rebuking.  In Chariots of Fire, Abrams hires a coach who shows him his mistakes and creates a discipline routine.  Leaders need Scripture to show them their mistakes and grow them in righteousness.

         Farmers are patient.  Scripture is not a quick answer so the leader is thoroughly equipped.  It takes time.  It takes patience.  It takes discipline and it takes loyalty of perseverance to understand and apply Scripture that God has given.

         Paul tells Timothy that he is about to die but Paul knows it is not the end. 

         “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the     Lord, the righteous Judge will award me on that day – and not only to     me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

         How would you describe the benefits of Scripture in your life?   Comfort, inspiration, touching stories of real humans or source of wisdom?  Perhaps today would be a good time to review your favorite verse or your favorite Bible story.  Dwell in it for a few minutes silently after you read it and see how it speaks to you today.  Blessings.

“Leadership pictures”

September 29, 2021

In 2 Timothy 2 Paul now writes to Timothy in Ephesus, a major city in Asia Minor.  Paul probably realizes he is facing a death sentence.  He gives Timothy some pictures to ground his mentoring work.  1) Be loyal like a soldier to his leader.  Never forget that Jesus is the leader and he is the one to please, not the fans. 2) Endure like an athlete who observes strict discipline so that he can compete well.  Endure suffering, for God knows and is using you.  3) And then, be patient like a farmer.  Seeds are planted but perhaps others will water, weeds will be dealt with at the end by the farmer, and eventually there will be a harvest.  It takes time for a crop to grow and it takes time for a convert to develop spiritual muscl

         Two of the problems that church workers face are quarreling about words and godless chatter.  How often have evil rumors hurt others?  Likewise quarreling only divides.  And the second problem is being distracted from the goal.  The goal is pleasing God and building his kingdom, not a fancy church or a famous congregation and not a dazzling sermon.  It is not about the leader’s fame but about God’s kingdom.

         Paul encourages ‘You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2:1-1)”  Another way of saying this is, “We have been blessed to be a blessing.”  Good leaders are loyal to Christ, disciplined and patient with their disciples.  So which image appeals to you: soldier, athlete or farmer?  Can you think of an adjective you would choose to describe each picture?  Fill in the blanks:

  • A soldier is ________________
  • An athlete is _______________
  • A farmer is ________________

What picture might you give to another to talk about leadership?  Perhaps a pilot or a doctor or a teacher or a plumber.  Blessings as you work these images.

“Leadership, part 2”

September 28, 2021

1 Timothy 6:3-21 closes Paul’s letter to his protégé, Timothy.  People aspire to leadership for many reasons: affirmation and popularity, power, influence and probably many more.  Pastors are often greatly appreciated people for they handle those spiritual transition times in our lives – birth, death, marriage, and baptism – so often receive gifts of appreciation.  In Kenya I would receive gifts of beans at harvest time or three eggs wrapped in a piece of newspaper when the ladies visited after the death of my father.  Probably at Paul’s time hospitality for the visiting evangelist and financial gifts for their travels were not uncommon.  Paul warns about leaders being blinded by money.

         Financial misunderstandings are common in church arguments.  We would hear from the person entrusted with taking the money to the bank, “I ate it!”  On the way to the bank the carrier discovered a relative had died and had to give away the funds he had to help with the funeral.  Who gets scholarship for retreats unsettles those who did not ask but struggled to raise the money to cover costs.  Should the council spend money to paint?  So many little arguments arise and divide people. (6:9-10)

         Greed leads to strife.  We all know the modern day stories of evangelists who raise money only we find out that there are jets, mansions, and a luxurious lifestyle from donations.  There is always the temptation to not offend the rich and not preach passages that might offend.  I’m sure back in early Christianity when faith could mean your life, we might be tempted to say, “money speaks.” (6:4-5)

         Paul reminds Timothy that the goal is “godliness with contentment. (6:6) The millionaire Rockefeller when asked how much more money he needed, famously replied, “One more dollar.”  Money can shift our focus from God to ourselves and our needs and wants.  Matthew 6:33 reminds us, “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.”

         Yesterday we looked at the qualifications for leadership and today seems to be more the motives of leadership.  Money is so important in our lives that we must guard our hearts to not allow it to influence the truth we seek to live.  As we receive, may we be generous to others.  May money not draw us into quarrels, into greed for “more”, and tint our perspectives.  May we be generous and grateful for all God has given us, the blessings, and never forget that he walks with us during the hard times when finances are challenging.  Blessings on your challenges today.

“Leaders are…”

September 27, 2021

1 Timothy 3 is our text for today.  We looked at Paul’s writings to young churches last week and the foundation it provided for forming some basic Christian understandings of the life of Christ and what faith in him meant.  We have a saying, though, “God has no grandchildren.”  That means that for any system to continue, leadership is fundamental to developing the next generation.  So it can be seen from titles of New Testament books that some were written to young churches but some were written to upcoming leaders like Paul’s protégé Timothy.

         Chapter 3 gives very practical qualifications and advise for selecting leaders.  Before reading the text, we might first sit and think of someone we feel is a good model of leadership.  Certainly our news majors on this nightly as we critique world leaders, organizational leaders and interview people they respect.  Perhaps you might ponder these questions?

  • Who do I really respect?
  • What would I list as the person’s five outstanding characteristics?
  • Who was this person’s number two person in training?

         Now you might consider whom you are influencing with your life.  What kind of model are you and what characteristics would you like others to see in you?  Leadership happens all the time.  It is not just reserved for Presidents and CEOs.  My son who was about eight years old wanted his hair cut like his “big brother” at boarding school.  He spent an hour sprawled on the floor with year books looking for pictures to show me.

         Ultimately church leaders need humility for the church belongs to God and people need to be brought back to his leadership because he is the only one who is perfect.  In our world today so many children come from broken homes and abusive situations and so good models are really needed.  Lord, may others see your influence in our lives and may we draw them to you.  Blessings.

18th Sunday after Pentecost: Offenses

September 26, 2021

First Reading: Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29

4The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
  10Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased. 11So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child, to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors’? 13Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. 15If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once—if I have found favor in your sight—and do not let me see my misery.”
  16So the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you.”
  24So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 25Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.
  26Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 29But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord‘s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”

Psalm: Psalm 19:7-14

7The teaching of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul;
  the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to |the simple.
8The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart;
  the commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light to the eyes.
9The fear of the Lord is clean and endures forever;
  the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,
  sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb. 
11By them also is your servant enlightened,
  and in keeping them there is great reward.
12Who can detect one’s own offenses?
  Cleanse me from my secret faults.
13Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not get          dominion over me; then shall I be whole and sound, and innocent of          a great offense.
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be     acceptable in your sight,
  O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. 

Second Reading: James 5:13-20

13Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.
  19My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Gospel: Mark 9:38-50

38John said to [Jesus,] “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
  42“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
  49“For everyone will be salted with fire. 50Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  I often go to Aesop’s tale, The Lion and the Mouse.  I love it.  A little mouse runs across a lion’s nose, disturbing his sleep.  The lion is going to eat it but the mouse pleads for mercy and promises to return the favor some day.  The lion frummmps, impossible.  Yet one day when the lion is caught in a net and roaring, the mouse comes with friends and chews through the ropes to free the lion.

         I’d like to ponder today the question, what offended that lion most?  Was it being disturbed from his nap?  Was it loosing his snack?  Was it the audacity of a small creature thinking it might help the king of the jungle? Or was it the humiliation of being rescued by the mouse?  What do you think?  What is hardest for you – a disturbance of schedule, a poor meal, an atrocious request, or humiliation?  Share with your neighbor.

Let us pray:  Lord may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.


Pentecost season is a time when we look, not so much at who our savior is but how the reality of our faith in Him impacts our lives.  Jesus is now approaching Jerusalem and the cross.  We know that, but the disciples do not.  Last week’s text shared how Jesus was trying to prepare them for what was coming but they were busy arguing like little children about who would be great in the new kingdom. They and we get distracted.  Did I hear an “Amen”?  Our text today seems to deal with several more lessons to the disciples – and us – this time about being distracted by offenses.  Offenses come from

  • social differences – the ones not in the disciples’ group that were doing miracles,
  • from interpersonal relationships – the children, and
  • from internal limitations – our human bodies and desires. 

Let’s reflect together.

         John, the beloved apostle, the one we think of as kind and gentle, comes to Jesus sharing his concern that “others” who are not part of the disciples’ group are casting out demons.  The disciples are offended and try and stop these “wantabees.” Somehow John – and we – think we have a corner on truth and how things should be done.  For sure those other denominations need to be taught about grace, about infant baptism, about proper worship.  For sure we have standards about proper dress, proper language, proper lifestyle and how Christians are to behave.  Likewise we might discover that we have ideas about how God works. Singing praise songs in another language is a challenge to our comfort zone.

         When God works outside our boxes, we struggle to understand.  John does the right thing.  He goes to Jesus.  Before we launch our critique, it is often important to pray and search Scripture, to seek the Lord’s mind on the matter.  We tell each other, “Count to ten!”  We might ask ourselves, “Where is God’s hand in this scenario?”  God might not be leading the person on my path but he may be leading the other on a path that works for that person.  First step, ask Jesus.

         Surprisingly Jesus defends the “wantabees.”  We are not to stop those who are working in Jesus’ name that are not necessarily part of our group.  Jesus affirms that the mere act of drawing near to Jesus and understanding that power comes through Jesus, means the person is on the faith journey.  I have said it many times but it needs to be said again, faith is not just a magic moment of confession and a spiritual high but it is a lifelong journey of drawing near to Christ and growing in relationship.  A five year old child does not express faith like an 85 year who has gone through the trials of life.  Those “others” may not be doing faith like the disciples but they are on the right track and will grow in relationship to Christ.  Experiences of grace grow our faith.  This gives me hope for my children and grandchildren as they handle faith other than I would hope they would.  As Bethany ponders partnering with another church, one temptation we might well face is the temptation to critique each other’s style of worship or…. and to focus on the differences rather than focus on the things we have in common.  It’s a pothole we need to be aware of.

         Jesus assures John that God sees everyone’s heart and rewards us so we need not be afraid if that other church is bigger, has a better choir, or seems more popular.  God sees us and works with us as we are.  The temptation for competition in ministry is always there and Jesus urges us not to be offended by social differences but to keep our relationship with him functioning and continue doing the task he has laid before us.  I can hear Jesus saying – “Don’t worry, come to me, I care and I am working with you on what is best for you.“  Did I hear us say, “Thank you, Lord!”

         Secondly, I think we stumble and have problems not only because we compare our ministry to another’s outside our group but because we compare ourselves to another within our group.  Jesus puts a little child on his lap again.  Remember he did this last week also so it must be important.  

         Perhaps we might first ask, why did Jesus choose a child?  On this journey of faith that we are on, some of us have been traveling for decades and been knocked around by life enough that our faith has developed some muscles.  We are not baby Christians anymore.  Others of us are more like little children.  Perhaps we have had to work so hard we have never been to a Bible study so we live on a spiritual starvation diet.  Our chronological age is not the same as our spiritual age or maturity.  Some of us are traveling through dark valleys while others of us are on a spiritual high and are in good spiritual shape.

         When we critique each other and are offended by another in our group and treat them like children, and cause them to stumble in their faith, Jesus says it would be better for us to be drown.  Ouch, ouch, ouch.  If that doesn’t drive us to our knees, I don’t know what will.  Our news media majors on who is not wearing the mask, who is not correct politically, who does not appreciate the horribleness of the sins of our ethnicity or environment and on and on.  Seeing the splinter in the other’s eye is a major pass time. Jesus does not advise ignoring the insult, not forgiveness or prayer or compassion.  When we find ourselves being critical of another, hurting another, and being a stumbling block to another, we need to kill those thoughts and actions right on the spot and tell Satan to get behind us.  Being a stumbling block for another’s faith is a problem worthy of death.  Lord! Guard us from a critical spirit!!! And the people of God said, Amen!

         Thirdly Jesus lists offenses that originate within ourselves and are acted out by our bodies.  Jesus names our hands, our feet, and our eyes.  Do we like Judas, say, “surely not me Lord” and dismiss this.  Let’s think.  How can our hands offend?  One of our family stories that my second son loves to tell is how when he was young and we were living in a former famine relief camp  with starving people, one day his mother served fish.  The people considered fish a form of snake and did not eat fish even if they had them.  My son had suddenly decided he was not eating fish either and refused his lunch.  He tells of his black and blue marks hand-mark on his rump .  I learned a lesson.  Pitting my will against a four year old was a battle not worth fighting AND I had to confront my temper and my issues around eating.  Now that I am older and overweight, I cannot blame my hand for reaching for that dessert.  Our hands are instrumental in acting out the desires of our hearts.

         Our feet take us to places we know we would be best to avoid.  If I know I need to work on a sermon but somehow end up at a party…err, it is not the foot’s fault but the foot obeying the heart – procrastination, avoidance, or otherwise.  We don’t want to go home to face the argument that started in the morning that may well involve needing to apologize.  We go to the mall … just to look of course but there was a sale and we just had to … finish the sentence.  Our feet can be offending because they act out the desires of the heart.

         Eyes are a more obvious stumbling block.  They are the windows that allow lust to control our passions.  Pornography is a real problem with technology.  The eye is the portal that opens our hearts to problems.

         Can you not just hear Jesus saying, “STOP it, Just STOP IT!”  Prayer may help but I suspect spiritual discipline and spiritual muscles need to be grown.  Offenses spiral us downward and away from God.  Whether the offense is from looking at others working their faith in ways we would not, or the offense comes from looks at others in our community, or even if the offense comes from the desires that war within us, the end result is moving away from God and not towards him.

         Jesus closes our text today saying that we will all be offended and salted by fire.  We are all tempted.  This sermon is not about someone else but a challenge to look at our own hearts and our own walk with Christ.  Are we on automatic pilot, speed control working, so we cruise in our faith or are we keeping our eyes on Christ and not on others?  It is possible for us to become numb to those offenses as we dabble with sin. Jesus says that it is then possible for salt to loose its saltiness.  The temptation looses its flavor and so we go deeper and deeper.  Jesus’ goal for us is peace.  Peace with other Christian groups, peace with others in our congregation, and peace within ourselves.

         Our lion from the children’s sermon could have been offended that his sleep was disturbed and the tasty morsel begged for mercy.  His natural tendency was to eat the dude. 

         The lion’s pride could have been offended that a mere mouse could one day help him, the king of the jungle.  It hurts our pride to be compared to a child.  We can be offended that a spiritual giant like ourselves might need help.

         The lion’s humiliation at being caught, caught in sin, and needing help was hard for him.  It is hard for us to admit we need help.

         The mice gnawed through the ropes and freed the lion.  The Holy Spirit and fellow Christians are there to help us.  He wants us to be free, to be at peace with him in his kingdom. 

         Do I hear the people of God saying AMEN!11

“Be Thou My Vision”

September 25, 2021

This week we looked at highlights of letters Paul wrote from jail to early Christians.  These young believers had no Bible to study, were a persecuted minority, and were under the influence of roving preachers who themselves were uneducated.  Paul wrote letters that were preserved and foundational to Christian theology and understanding of the events of Christ’s life.  Those early believers must have relied much on prayer, the power of their conversion, and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Basic creeds came out of these early writings that we say today.  This hymn that may date as far back as 400 AD reflects the faith statements that were forming.

         The internet shares about this favorite Irish hymn, “The original Old Irish text, “Rop tú mo Baile”, is often attributed to Saint Dallán Forgaill in the 6th century. … The text of “Rop tú mo Baile”/”Be Thou My Vision” reflects aspects of life in Early Christian Ireland (c. 400-800 AD). The prayer belongs to a type known as a lorica, a prayer for protection.”

May Byrne (1880-1931), an Irish scholar translated the song.  The song uses heroic imagery appropriate for protection prayers, seeing the Lord as chieftain or king of our lives. Whether our days are dark and foreboding, confusing and don’t make sense, Paul would always point us to Christ, our vision.  May you have a blessed weekend.


September 24, 2021

Colossians 1:1-23 addresses our tendency to drift.  We start a diet or a project and we are all gung-ho but if it is harder than we think, takes longer than we think, costs more than expected then our enthusiasm wanes.  Remember the commercial, “Bet you can’t eat just one!”  A little cheat, a little rest, a break from the project and then we promise ourselves we will return revived.  Somehow it is not that easy as dieters know.  How does Paul advise this young group of Christians that has no written Bible, is surrounded by other faiths, and influenced by false teaching?

         Paul opens with complements that remind them of their good start and their good influence on others.  He has heard of their faith and their love for all.  They have touched the world.  They are important.

         Next Paul assures them they are prayed for continually and specifically.  He prays that they will be filled with the knowledge of God’s will through the Holy Spirit that is there to guide them.  They are not abandoned and are not isolated but God is present working in them, with them, and through them.  We need to be reminded periodically of this truth and if specific examples can be given then hope grows stronger.

         But lastly Paul points them to Jesus, reminding them of his presence at creation, his power from the Father, and his resurrection and power over death.  Paul focuses on them, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds, because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you…”

         We all get the blahs and have times when we coast in our faith.  We don’t feel important or we feel confused or perhaps guilty for some wrong.  As Lion King would say, “Remember who you are!”  Remember who has your back – your community and your God.  And always never forget who Jesus is and how far he has brought you.  Which of these three words of advice do you need today?  Perhaps draw a timeline and mark when faith first became a reality to you and then mark some of the high points along the way, answered prayer, experiences of God’s grace, special events that touched you.  Then pray a brief prayer of thanksgiving over each one.  Blessings as you enter your future.  You are important!


September 23, 2021

Philippians 4:2-9 comes near the end of Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi.  Paul is in jail in Rome and the people in Philippi are facing tough times.  Like James, Paul gives some sage advice for facing dark days.

         His first word of advice is to rejoice!  Now how is that possible?  Joy is the outcome of our focus.  If I focus on my problems, they somehow grow in size and I am overwhelmed by the woe-is-me-s.  If I get caught in comparison-itis, the “other” for sure will have a better life than I.  We ask ourselves if the glass is half full or half empty.  Paul tells us to focus on God. “The Lord is near.”  How does that help.  God has our back.  We may be down but we are not out.  Our epic hero, God, is stronger than our epic villain and God will win.  Our struggles are not random but meaningful.  God promises justice.  If we focus on him our perspective changes.  I find playing music helps.  Sometimes a good cry is helpful rather than screaming at the children.  In the Psalms there are the psalms of lament or sorrow.  Even greats like David had bad days, angry thoughts, guilt to deal with and the psalms give words for dark days.

         Secondly v. 6 tells us to pray.  Troubles have a way of making us feel isolated and uncared for.  Covid has indeed made many sick but many more suffer from the isolation of being homebound and not allowed visitors or family presence.  We are deprived of human touch.  Prayer unites us with heavenly comfort and as we pour our heart out we often feel the unseen arms engulf us.  Perhaps we don’t know how to pray but the Bible says the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with words greater than sighs.  Prayer pulls us into community.  Praying with a friend, a prayer partner, if only by phone is helpful.

         Thirdly we need to focus on the positive, “Whatever is true, whatever is  noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy = think about such things.”  I don’t think that is denying reality but to focus on the good in the situation opens our minds and our hearts to hope and potential.  God often works outside our box but we become so tunnel vision that we cannot see.  Focusing on the positive opens our vision.

         Rejoicing, praying and focusing on the positive are good strategies for dark days.  The early Christians had persecution, poverty, and political injustice even as we do today.  Rather than focusing on our problems today, let’s pick one of the problems facing our country and spend a few minutes praying about it: covid, immigration, climate challenges, economic struggles are good places to spend a few minutes praying.  Can you find a silver lining in your cloud today?  Blessings.

A Protection Plan

September 22, 2021

In Ephesians 6:10-20 Paul shares about the clash between our epic hero, God, and our epic villain, Satan, over the souls of people and shares how to win the battle.  Our enemy is not our neighbor or our husband or the “other” stranger but it is the forces of evil that would defeat us.  Some evil we recognize like murder, abuse, or stealing but other forms are subtler like jealousy, envy, and covetousness.  All these steal our happiness, erode our souls and impact the lives of othe

         Our epic hero, though, has provided “a protection plan” to help us.  First let me share a truth I learned in Africa, “How to kill a lion.”  Rule #1, don’t run away.  The lion will catch you from behind and he may not be hungry.  Rule #2, don’t throw away your spear.  If you miss, you have no protection.  Rule #3, plant your spear in the ground, kneel and allow the lion to jump on the spear while aiming for its heart.  You may get hurt a little but your friends will come and kill the lion impaled on the spear.  I find great truth in this wisdom shared with me by my workman.

         The armor of God is:

  • Belt of truth
  • Breastplate of righteousness covering your heart – with Christ’s righteousness
  • Feet fitted with peace of the Gospel
  • Shield of faith that extinguishes the flaming darts of the evil one
  • Helmet of salvation that protects your mind and thoughts
  • Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

         You notice there is nothing on the back even as the workman shared.  Our workman also traveled with friends as a group of warriors when lion hunting and the support of community is important. 1 Peter 5:8 shares, “Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

         So as you look at the list above and the pieces of armor, you might realize that some of your armor is rusty or in the closet.  Others will try to sell you protection plans of wealth, health, education but those plans fail in the face of death.  Consider how each piece of God’s protection plan helps you to cope with evil and maintain your balance in our topsy-turvy world.  You have armor; use it!  Blessings.

We reap what we sow.

September 21, 2021

Galatians 5:16-6:10 was written by Paul to the church at Galatia, perhaps central Asia Minor.  In this section of his letter Paul focuses on the struggle between “the flesh” or our human nature and “the spirit” or our Christian nature.  Our epic villain would like us to think life is what we see with all the greed, evil, and selfishness.  Our epic hero opens our eyes to an alternate reality. Paul claims that when we become Christians we see life through a new lens, through the eyes of our epic hero, God or the Holy Spirit.  As we are faced with decisions or as we seek to understand the events unfolding around us, Paul lists characteristic that might be detected.

         “Acts of the flesh” may be obviously seen in immorality, abuse of the other, idolatry, witchcraft but also in more subtle things like hatred, discord, rage, jealousy, selfish ambition and envy.  The list goes on.  Acts of the flesh hurt others and lead to death, death of love, death of hope, death of mercy.  “Fruits of the Spirit” are seen in actions that produce love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  “Against such things there is no law.”  There is no such law as “thou shalt only love on Monday.”  We all want love, joy and peace and none of us seek abuse or pain.  We grow in our ability to hear and obey the Spirit that guides us into these traits.  We need each other to give encouragement because it is not always easy to forgive, to love someone who offends you, or to turn the other cheek.  If “doing the right thing” came naturally, our world would not have the problems it has.  We need to help each other and we need the help of the Holy Spirit to guide us.

         So as you look at the list of the fruits of the Spirit, perhaps meditate on one of them and how you might be able to cultivate that quality in your life.  Perhaps you could ask a good friend to hold you accountable. Sit quietly and ask the Lord for ideas!  Blessings!