Friday, February 27, 2009

Freiday Devotional: Galatians 5:22

Galatians 5:22 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control... (NASB)

Doctors and nutritionists constantly tell us that we need to include more fruit in our diets. That's because fruit has many healthy benefits. They are full of vitamins, anti-oxidants, and fiber. Plus, they just taste good. A variety of fruits help the body fight off infections, disease, and clean out the system. Fruits help us maintain healthy bodies which in turn leads to a more fulfilled life. In similar fashion, Paul describes a fruit that will provide nutrition and healing for our souls.

In the verses before v. 22, Paul lists several ailments that are derived from living an ungodly (unhealthy) life: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, and carousing (vv. 19, 20). These ailments cause great havoc in the lives of many people. If not attended to, these ailments will eventually cause the (spiritual) death of the person.

However, Paul gives us the remedy for such ailments in v. 22. That remedy is the "fruit of the Spirit." This fruit is the treatment for such ailments. It is not a quick fix after a weekend of debauchery, but a lifelong remedy that is incorporated into the lifestyle of a believer. The fruit is multifaceted and combats the ailments that Paul discussed in the previous verses. The remedy to these ailments provided by the fruit is as follows:

(6tbs) love - self-sacrificing affection for others;
(4tbs) joy - deep seated gladness regardless of circumstances;
(4tbs) peace - inner quietness and repose regardless of circumstances;
(4.5tbs) patience - forbearance even under provocation;
(4tbs) kindness - benevolence and graciousness;
(5tbs) goodness - constructive action reaching out to others;
(5tbs) faithfulness - reliability, trustworthiness;
(4tbs) gentleness - acquiescence to authority and consideration of others;
(5.5tbs) self-control - ability to master oneself. (from Dr. Constable's notes).

This remedy is provided by the ultimate healer and doctor, Christ Jesus, to those who believe in Him. Partake of the fruit which is provided for you through faith in Jesus. Remedy those ailments that beset you and cause so much turmoil. The fruit is available; just open yourself to the Great Physician. One dose of this fruit is enough for a lifetime of good healthy living.

What ailments have befallen you? How did they come about? Have you accepted the remedy? How have you shown love, joy, peace, etc. recently? Do people recognize the fruit in your life? If not, how could this be changed? If so, continue to pray that God would strengthen you.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Freiday Devotional

The Salt of the Earth

Matthew 5:13

"You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people." (NET)

This passage follows the Beatitudes, which describe the attitude a disciple of Christ is to have. The previous verses (vv. 10-12) are particularly concerned with persecution against the followers of Jesus Christ. This persecution is due to the fact that followers of Jesus are different from everyone around them. That is why Jesus calls us, His followers, the "salt of the earth." Why does He make this analogy? I'm not sure, but I think it has something to do with how salt is easily distinguished from other minerals and seasonings. It has a distinct taste. Therefore, as salt is distinguished by its flavor, followers of Christ should be distinguished by their attitude and actions. As salt enhances the flavor of food, Christians are to enhance the good in the world.

But, if Christians are no longer distinguished from the rest of world, what good are we? That is the point Jesus makes when He says, "if salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again?" This is obviously a contradiction, for salt cannot lose its saltiness. If it were possible, then it would no longer be salt. Thus, it would no longer be useful. This indictment against Jesus' followers is serious. For, if we lose our distinctiveness and usefulness, we are to be discarded. This is a challenge to true discipleship. "Tasteless salt lacks value, and so does a professed disciple who lacks genuine commitment" (Keener, 173). In other words, a disciple of Christ cannot be a nominal Christian.

Salt has many useful purposes. However, it can be hurtful as well if poured into a wound. Let us not be salt in the wound of a hurting person. Instead, let us give flavor to the world. Let us preserve morality and ethics. Let us be useful and flavorful to those around us. Let us share the good flavor of the Gospel with our co-workers, family members, neighbors, and friends.

I leave you with quote from Chrysostom (c. 347-407 A.D.): For by saying, "You are the salt of the earth," Jesus signifies that all human nature itself has "lost its taste," having become rotten through sin. For this reason, you see, he requires from his disciples those character traits that are most necessary and useful for the benefit of all. The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 15.6.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Freiday Devotional

Running a 10k called Life

Hebrews 12:1-2

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

This passage applies well to the Christian life. But more particularly, I find it applies well to the 10k run that Amy and I will be participating in tomorrow morning. In the previous chapter, the author of Hebrews has discussed the many Old Testament figures that ran a good race of faith. Now, these Old Testament witnesses are cheering us along in our Christian life, just like the crowd will be cheering us runners on at the race.

Like any race or athletic event, there is some preparation required. This preparation gets us physically ready for the event so that we may play at our best. The author of Hebrews calls us to do the same in life when he says to "lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us." In other words, exercise your spiritual muscles. How do we do this? We accomplish this by reading the Word of God; attending church; having an accountability partner, etc. This is not easy, nor is any other exercise, but it is necessary to the well being of the Christian life. I admit that I have not exercised enough for the race tomorrow, so I will be sore and tired. But, I hope that my walk/run with Christ is not of the same caliber as my run tomorrow.

The author exhorts us to "run with endurance." This will be difficult tomorrow as I am huffing and puffing, but I will endure to the end. In the race of life, there will be hurdles, struggles, and side-aches, yet we are called to continue. We must not give up, for Christ never gave up. The author of Hebrews makes this apparent when he says "fix your eyes on Jesus."
By keeping our eyes on Jesus, we are less likely to be distracted by what's going on around us. And He will encourage us to the finish line.

Jesus finished His race with excellence. I will not be able to say that of the race tomorrow, nor of my life. But I will be rewarded with prizes tomorrow just for participating in the race. The prizes won't be anything like Jesus received: sitting at the "right hand of the throne of God." Our Christian race ends at the throne of God. It is there that we will meet our maker and worship Him forever. Our prize is eternal life for our faith in Christ.So, lets keep running.

How is your race going? Are you running/walking with endurance? Are you exercising by reading God's word; going to church; praying, etc? Or have you been lazy and sleeping in on Sundays, watching too much TV, etc? Have you taken your eyes off of Jesus and been distracted by other things/people in life? What do you need to do to get back into the race? How can others encourage you in your run/walk with Christ? Let those around you know what you need, otherwise they cannot help.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Freiday Devotional

One Year of Marriage

As many of you know, Amy and I celebrated our one year anniversary last week. It is hard to believe it's been one year already. My fellow friends that have recently been married kept telling me how fast the first year goes by. Guess what, they were not lying. This first year of marriage just flew by like a rocket to the moon.

Another comment made by several of my friends was that they have come to realize just how selfish they were before (and during) being married. I did not think much of these comments, as I considered myself to be pretty selfless. I was always willing to help a friend. And I really did not exert my opinion on too many things and just went with the flow. However, this truth has made itself know through the first year of marriage. I have come to realize just how selfish I am. I do not always want to walk the dog, take out the trash, unload the dishwasher, etc., especially if I'm doing homework, playing video games, or watching a favorite TV show. I want new books, videos, cds, and any other techy-gadget. But I must ask myself during those times, is this an attitude of love? Am I truly loving Amy by having this selfish attitude?

I am reminded of Ephesians 5:25 where Paul states, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her...." We husbands are to love our wives, which seems like a "no-brainer," but as you and I well know that is not always the easiest thing to do. Yet, Paul exhorts us to love our wives. He does not give any conditions when it is alright to not love. In fact, he does just the opposite and calls husbands to follow in the likeness of Christ. Christ loves His church as exemplified by His sacrifice on the cross. He gave His life so that those of us who are part of His church may have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Our love is not based on selfishness, but on selflessness. Christ put the church before Himself. As husbands, we are called to do the same for our wives. Our love should be a sacrificial love. That is my prayer every night, that I would love Amy as Christ loves His church.

This sacrificial love has not been easy to learn. It does not come naturally to me, or to anyone. Yet, that is what Christ has called us to. And for the wives that may be reading this, do not think for a moment that you are exempt from this. For just a few verses later Paul writes, "and the wife must respect her husband" (v. 33). Note again, that Paul does not leave any wiggle room. Wives are to respect their husband to the same extent that husbands are to love their wives. Funny how that all circles 'round. are you treating your wife/husband? What can you do differently to show your love/respect? What should you do differently to show your love/respect? What, if anything, has taken the place of the love/respect for your wife/husband? How can you fix that?

May God's peace and love be upon you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Friday, August 1, 2008

Freiday Devotional

So You've had a Bad Day

Earlier today I was reminded of a song by the O.C. Supertones entitled "Jury Duty." The song describes one bad day in the life of the singer as he has to be up early for jury duty; gets stuck in traffic; his car stalls out; and he forgets his sister's birthday. Definitely not a good day for him. Well, my day was not as bad, but I could have done without some of it. My car did not stall out, but I did leave the garage-opener in the car, which was of course in the garage. So, I got to work late. While at work, I stamped the wrong date on the due-date-cards. So, I had to go through and stamp them all over again. And to top things off, my foot is swelling and itchy from an ant bite that I received yesterday. As I told my manager at work, "This is Friday! Things like this should happen on Mondays."

I'm sure we can all commiserate about certain days that we'd like to forget, or perhaps even call "do-over!" But, that's not possible and we must continue through with the day we have been handed. The great king of Israel, David, had his fair share of bad days, too. Many of which he expressed in a psalm, such as Psalm 13:

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

As one can tell by the words of this Psalm, David was in much distress. He felt that God had forgotten him or was intentionally hiding from him. Because he was not hearing from God, he had to resort to looking inside himself, to his own reason. This, he felt was inadequate. He pleads with God to answer his cries or he will be depressed to the point of death. If that wasn't enough torture, David's enemies were taunting him. If God did not answer, David thought his enemies would be victorious over him. This victory would put David to shame, and in David's mind, God as well.

However bleek it looked for David, he managed to find comfort and solace in remembering God's loyal love. He remembered the past times when God had vindicated him from his enemies. He remembered the saving grace of God's hand. And because of this, he was able to sing praises to the Lord.

How do you handle the tough times in life? Do you moan and gripe to others? Or do you sing praises to the Lord? What troubling issues are you dealing with that you just need to lay before the throne of God? What good things has God done for you recently? What has He done for you in the past? What good things can you focus on during the bad day?

When we have troublesome days, we should focus on the good in life. For God is loving and gracious, and we often quickly forget this when things don't go our way. At those times it may seem like God is far off, but could it be that we are far off from God? Instead of shaking our fists at Him, maybe we should try reaching for Him. For as James 4:8 declares: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."

The refrain in the song "Jury Duty" goes on to say: "You know I haven’t had the best of days, but I want to stop and thank you anyway." And with that in mind, may we give thanks for each day that God blesses us with.

PS: In case you were wondering how I got to work today, my lovely and extremely gracious wife left work for a brief moment to come home and open the garage for me. I thank God for her!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Creative Liberty

How much creative liberty should be granted to Christian authors? Or more particularly to the genre of Christian fiction?

"The Shack" by William P. Young has been making the rounds among Christians for several months now. Depending on who you talk to, people either love it or hate it. Those that love it claim that the book helped strengthen their faith. Or it opened their eyes/mind to see God in a different way. Those that hate it see the heretical theology in the story. But should one hate a book because it is not necessarily theologically correct? After all, it is a fictional book. So, doesn't the author have the right to take liberty with his/her portrayal of God? Of the Church? Of the Atonement?

It is my opinion that Christian authors have creative liberty in so far as they do not meddle with the tenants of the Christian faith as prescribed by the Christian creeds (i.e. Nicene, Chalcedon, etc). Therefore, Young is free to write a murder mystery. However, he is not free to redifine the Trinity. Take liberty in the setting, plot, and characters, but leave the Christian tenants of faith alone. Once, one starts to meddle with the tenants, they leave the reader and themselves open to heresy. And Lord knows, we've got enough of that going around already.