Daily Devotion

Have You Seen a Great Light

To fully learn about expectation, we must find ourselves going back to the garden. Down under the tree, that surely bordered the river, and there we find quite a group.

First we see Adam and Eve disgusted with themselves. Disgusted with the tempter. Ultimately disgusted with God, for if we’ve learned anything on this earth it is that surely someone else must be to blame for our experiences and our suffering.

In that vile and terrible moment Adam and Eve were at a complete loss. Angry with each other. Angry with the tempter and angry with God. Adam and Eve were no help to anyone, especially themselves.

The tempter was angry and disgusted as well. Things had not worked out as he planned. Yes, he had seen the birth of pain and suffering in the lives of these disgusting humans but it had not elevated his position one bit. He too was on the outside looking in, with only fear and pain as his currency.

The only one present in that moment with any hope at all was God. He is hope. He is love. In that moment where it may have seemed all was lost he gave a promise. There would come One who would make all things right. One who would bear the load and pain of all who suffered.

The rest of the story of Scripture up to Jesus’ birth is one long story of hope and expectation. The story of Abram being called away from Ur; expectation for the coming One. The story of Joseph delivering his family; expectation for the coming One. The manna, the giant, the speaking donkey, and every story that you have ever learned is about the coming One who would make all things right.

From the very beginning we have been a people of hope. A people who believe in a King who will make all things right. As you approach this holiday season may we live as people of hope. May we believe in the light which has come.

The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

a light has dawned.

Isaiah


Expectation > Perfection

Perfection! Ah the glorious thought.

The Perfect Tree.

The Perfect Gift.

The Perfect Movie.

The Perfect Store.

The above are just a few of the things that we say and think around Christmas. Less often said, but certainly in the forefront of many of our minds is whether or not we will be The Perfect (you fill in the blank) for someone else.

Will our picture be perfect – or at least as good as our friends that we just saw on Instagram?

Will our cookies turn out perfect – or at least good enough get a compliment at our work event?

Will our kids be perfect at Aunt Sally’s – or at least not ruin another doily?

The question that is found in these times when we are striving for perfection is will we be enough? Good enough, strong enough, funny enough, engaging enough, or whatever enough that you might can imagine.

Christmas is not about perfection. Christmas is about expectation. Hope has arrived. The king has come. The world has forever been altered. Our lives are being daily altered by the presence of Jesus. Not our abilities or even our efforts but in his faithfulness.

The following are some prayers, crafts, or suggestions for you and your family during this Christmas season. Remember, it is about expectation, the King has come!

Idea 1: Create some space.

Utilize a shelf, a sitting area, or even wall space to serve as a reminder to your family of your expectation of the arrival of God in earth. Have copies of Christmas prayers written and place in a basket/on a shelf/stapled to a bulletin board to allow adults and kids alike to pause and remind themselves of what they are anticipating.

A Sample prayer from Faithful Families: For Advent and Christmas by Traci Smith

During Advent, we wait:

            We wait for Christmas Day.

             We wait to give and to receive.

              We wait for family.

               God, please help us to be patient as we wait and to enjoy the journey together.

Idea 2: Count up.

There are a multitude of ways that the following activity can be completed. The idea is to create a paperchain counting Up (or down if you prefer) to Christmas. Each day someone in the family could write something they are grateful for or something that they have seen that is good in the world or something that is a fond memory, or some way that they have been encouraged by others. Staple the strips of paper together that will create a chain of gratitude leading to Christmas. These could be written down daily or you could get several folks to work together to write it down at one time and then as they are attached daily they will serve as a reminder of God’s faithfulness and goodness.

Daniel Harding

For a list of the resources I am using please click here



Hope Has Arrived

As December begins we will be posting a series of devotions as we head towards Christmas. Yesterday marked the beginning of Advent, a time of expectant waiting and preparing for the celebration of Christmas. If, like myself, you were raised in a Baptist church, you may have never participated directly in the celebration of Advent.

If you are so inclined I would challenge you to check out the meaning and purpose behind this celebration that the church at large has participated in for hundreds of years. Many of the things that we refer to as traditions are derivatives of Advent celebrations. As we go through the next few weeks we will be looking at devotions, traditions, symbols, and functions that you can do or reflect on to help us anticipate the reality of God’s presence.

In his song, So, This Is Christmas, John Lennon pens these words:

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun

Following a year that has been full of insecurity, suffering, and general discontent for many, these lyrics bring the emphasis to us; our ability, our effort, and our worth. This is where I often find myself. But Christmas is about the arrival of God coming to dwell with man.

Thousands of years before, Adam and Eve in an attempt to elevate themselves, had sought to become equal with God and succumbed to temptation. In that time God had promised that one day the roles would be reversed. The Tempter would be crushed and the woman would bear a great role in that victory.

So this is where our story begins. With news that would rattle even the most composed of people. God was coming.

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.”
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

In your circumstances, God is present.

In your confusion, God is present.

Christmas is not a marker for what we have not done, but a reminder that God is present. Don’t get lost in the melancholy of John Lennon’s words but speak as Mary did, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”



Fruit of the Spirit | Conclusion

Galatians [5:22] “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

We did not talk about the list of the “deeds of the flesh” which are found in Galatians [5:19]-21.  “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

These are in contrast to the Fruit of the Spirit which has been our topic found in Galatians [5:22]-23. Verse 19 says the deeds of the flesh are evident or obvious. The meaning is that they will manifest themselves or show up in the life of a person who is not being led by God’s Spirit. It further says in verse 21 that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

So looking at the list of deeds of the flesh, that could feel like an ominous statement. Who among us has not ever been jealous or had an outburst of anger? The key to understanding this is the word “practice”. To practice means to me that your life is characterized by this thing. You habitually do it. Your daily life being controlled by jealousy or outbursts of anger. Not one of us is perfect and has a fruit-filled life being always led by the Spirit and always making the right choices. But that is the goal. If we don’t have a goal, we really don’t know what direction to head for.

I have thought for a while about balance in all this.  Balance is very important.  Let’s say for example that a person is extremely patient. That part comes easy. But if they are not equally filled with love then the result may be that they are judgmental. Or maybe a person has a lot of self-control, but not much patience. They may become pious. Looking down at others who are struggling with self-control. I’ve heard people say… “I’m good at loving others, but bad at self-control.”

We can’t pick and choose. We are supposed to be working on all these areas. We can’t excuse our bad behavior in one area because we are doing pretty good in others. If you have ever tasted a fruit that is not ripe, you know that it is bitter or sour. In the same way our fruit must be mature so that our lives are not bitter or sour and that the Lord that we follow seems like a sweet thing to those people in the world who are looking.   God help us all to be the very best version of ourselves as Christians!

As we head into the Thanksgiving Holiday it is a privilege to bring to you this opportunity for self-reflection. This series of devotions are written by Harriet Bowman and allow for us to consider the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.



Self-Control

Galatians [5:22] “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

How is it that Self-Control is a part of the Fruit of the Spirit? Self-Control comes from yourself, Right? This seems to be a contradiction in some way. The Fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians [5:22]-23 is one fruit, as we have mentioned earlier, with various parts. Since Self-Control is included, let’s figure it out.

Self-Control may be defined by its extreme opposite – Self-Destruction. The Bible tells us that as we have God’s Spirit within us as Christians and as we allow the Spirit to work in our lives we will begin to have self-control. We will have the ability to control ourselves. Restraining from what is bad and also choosing to do what is good.

As we move further from that what things may begin to be seen in our lives? First it might be small things like acting inconsistently or lowering your expectations. Then being easily taken advantage of, a pushover, unable to say no, or lowering your guard. Follow this with being obsessive or indiscrete. Being addicted to _______. Fill in the blank with drugs, porn, etc.

The spiral continues downward until you reach self-destruction. If we can understand this as a Spiritual problem, it helps. The devil is alive in the world and he seeks to destroy people. We must have God’s Power through the Spirit to be able to stand against him. As you see a person making a series of destructive choices in their life, it will help to know that what they need is not your advice on dieting or exercise. They may need a new set of friends or help getting off drugs. But what they really need is to have a closer relationship with God. Or if they have no relationship with God, then they need to be introduced to Him.

Since none of us is God, then none of us is going to have perfect self-control. We are going to lack in some areas. How can you today get closer to God and closer to being the very best version of yourself? How can you help other people around you to do the same?

As we head into the Thanksgiving Holiday it is a privilege to bring to you this opportunity for self-reflection. This series of devotions are written by Harriet Bowman and allow for us to consider the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.



Gentleness

Galatians [5:22] “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Gentleness, also known as Meekness or Humility   The idea of being meek or humble holds different meanings to different people. Some people view being meek, gentle, or humble as a sign of weakness.

The root definition of this word is also found in Galatians 6:1 where it talks about restoring a person with a spirit of gentleness while also looking at yourself to be sure you do not fall into temptation.  What would be the extreme opposite of Gentleness? I think humiliating others and enjoying doing it.

In our society today, the people who get noticed are those with the loudest voice. Lately it seems that all of society is screaming at each other. In this verse in Galatians [5:23], we are told that gentleness is a part of the fruit of the Spirit. As the Spirit lives within us, we produce the fruit of Gentleness. What lies in the middle of these two opposite ends of the spectrum? What about snobbery, or an air of superiority? Being bossy or a know it all? Enjoying being a big man or thinking that you’re perfect? Harshness and bullying. Being strong at the expense of others.

To live out our lives with humility does not mean to lie down and just let people trod on us. To cut ourselves down to other people or to allow ourselves to be humiliated by bullies is not what is expected. But we must have this inner strength which causes us to leave something unsaid when we wish we could have said it. Humility allows us to consider the opinions of others with respect. Gentleness causes us to share about our faith with others without shoving it down their throat.  

In the book of the Revelation chapter 5, Jesus is referred to as the Lamb that was slain. In the Old Testament, a lamb was sacrificed to take away sins. But when Jesus died on the cross, He was sacrificed to take away our sins once and for all. He had other choices than to die. He could have saved Himself, but He humbled Himself in order to save us. He demonstrated that “self-control against” what He could have done. What things in our lives today do we need to sacrifice to be humbler and gentle? Do we need to sacrifice giving our strong opinion and just pray for the other person? Do we need to sacrifice the way we do our job so that we do not take advantage of others to enrich ourselves? Maybe we will drive an ugly car to use the money to help someone else. Perhaps we will take a moment to speak a friendly word to someone who doesn’t seem friendly. God help us to get this right!

As we head into the Thanksgiving Holiday it is a privilege to bring to you this opportunity for self-reflection. This series of devotions are written by Harriet Bowman and allow for us to consider the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.



Faithfulness

Galatians [5:22] “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

These days it seems that for every occupation or activity of life you must be licensed. People begin to raise eyebrows when I tell them that I cut my husband’s hair because I’m not a licensed hair dresser. Maybe that’s why his hair is getting thinner! So now that I am digging deep into this verse and beginning to use Greek words, there may be eyebrows raised because I’m not a licensed minister either. Nevertheless, that has not stopped me yet. 🙂

To define what is meant in this verse by Faithfulness I did go to the Greek to be very sure of the real meaning of the word. The Greek word is Pistis which means Persuade or Persuasion, Belief or Confidence. Remembering that we are talking about the Fruit of the Spirit, I am concluding that to be full of Faithfulness would be to be 100% confident in our Faith in God. To be Full of Faith. Not one shred of doubt or questioning. The extreme opposite of this would be No Belief or No Commitment or maybe even further than that to work to cause others not to believe, to Disbelieve so strongly that you actively work against Belief.

When we accept Christ and become a Christian, the Holy Spirit is deposited into us. As we grow stronger, this fruit of the Spirit begins to show. We don’t start out as Christians having a strong Faith. This grows as we walk more closely with God. What evidence can we look for in our lives that our Faith is not all that it should be? What about constantly worrying about the future? Not having confidence that God has a plan for us. Not sharing what we believe with other people because it doesn’t feel very real to us. This part of the fruit is sometimes preached very differently. Used as a proof text for why we should be at church more or give more. Or it is used by some to say that we are not responsible for our faith. That God just chooses who He wants and then puts faith into those select ones. The same word, Pistis, is used in the verse which says “Faith comes by hearing.” (Romans [10:17]) and Jesus used it in Luke 17:6 when He talked about having Faith the size of a grain of mustard seed. I like to think of Faith as a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. If you don’t use it, it atrophies and becomes weak, but the muscle is still there. Let’s exercise our Faith today and watch it grow!

As we head into the Thanksgiving Holiday it is a privilege to bring to you this opportunity for self-reflection. This series of devotions are written by Harriet Bowman and allow for us to consider the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.



Goodness

Galatians [5:22] “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

To begin we should try to better define what is meant by the word Goodness. The Fruit of the Spirit is all about who we are as Christians. If the Spirit lives in us, we will show evidence of these things. Goodness may also be called Benevolence. Not necessarily the act of benevolence, but we being benevolent persons. What would be the extreme opposite of Benevolence? Extreme Greed to the point of not caring at all for its effect on others. Wanting all for ourselves.

Benevolence is wanting something for someone else.  Being able to wholeheartedly want another person’s life to improve.  What lies in that murky middle ground where we all live? We say we are benevolent and some people have a real gift for wanting to give to others. But this is a bit different in my mind. Goodness is giving or desiring for others without any sort of a benefit for ourselves.

I am not a psychologist but I know that there are all sorts of hidden agendas for why we give to others or wish them well. Sometimes it is a form of control. People give in order to gain loyalty from others, to gain recognition for having given, or to get a warm fuzzy feeling for themselves. We may give, but not the best we have. Give but resent doing so. Or justify reasons not to help. We would certainly wonder about a person’s Spiritual life if we saw that they had an extreme case of greed. God desires good for the people He created. God’s Spirit living within us will desire the same. Let’s look at our fruit called Goodness today and be sure that we move one step closer toward giving in the way God desires.

As we head into the Thanksgiving Holiday it is a privilege to bring to you this opportunity for self-reflection. This series of devotions are written by Harriet Bowman and allow for us to consider the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.



Kindness

Galatians [5:22] “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

True human kindness in its purest form comes from the Spirit of God. Within ourselves our attempts would be feeble. We were brought up to be kind to others, but do we always display that to others?

What are the various shades of Kindness or the opposite of kindness? I have labeled the opposite of Kindness to be Meanness. I think we would all agree that Meanness exists in many forms. Hitler killing the Jews would be one of the examples. Ethnic cleansing between Hutus and Tutsis another. Being kind to your friends and family is pretty easy. Being kind to those who agree with you is also easy. But if we have God’s Spirit living in us then our lives should be characterized by Kindness. We should be considered to be a kind person.

This fruit should be evident in our lives. We are not perfect and therefore we find ourselves in the middle ground on a lot of these things. What is in that middle ground between Kindness and Meanness? Cruel jokes, bullying, relentless teasing. Not hard to agree with those. What about idle gossip and speculation? What about constantly pointing out the flaws in others? Don’t get me wrong, I know there are times that we speak out on an issue of importance. We may do this vigorously and with passion. But somehow kindness must also be there. Disagreeing with the issue rather than shredding the person.

Kindness can cause us to still wish for an Islamic terrorist to be saved despite what he has done. Kindness can cause us to give money to a beggar and treat him with respect even though we may dislike many things about him. And closer to home, Kindness can cause us to edit what we say on Facebook. We show Kindness because we don’t just represent ourselves, but we represent Jesus if we are Christians. Let’s get out the magnifying glass today and make sure we are getting it right on the issue of Kindness.

As we head into the Thanksgiving Holiday it is a privilege to bring to you this opportunity for self-reflection. This series of devotions are written by Harriet Bowman and allow for us to consider the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.



Patience

Galatians [5:22] “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Patience, as part of the Fruit of the Spirit may be one of the most difficult areas of our lives. We are not patient by our own human nature. We become easily frustrated if things don’t go in the way we envisioned them to go.

To define patience, we will again look at the opposite extreme. Impatience. I think that is too mild a term though. Think about extreme impatience, temper tantrum, stomping of feet and slobbering. Maybe screaming. You get the picture and most of us are not going to go to that extreme (at least not in public) J. But what lies between those two.

Evidence of Impatience is things like frustration, fault finding, spending money that you do not have. Trying to fix things under our own power. I once told a very wise friend that I was praying that God would give me more patience in the new year. She replied that God does not give us patience, but He gives us the opportunity to learn patience. That was a profound statement in my life and helped me to ultimately become a much more patient person.

We are not puppets. God is not going to just put patience in you. But as you allow the Spirit to have control over more areas of your life, patience should begin to be there. If you are feeling impatient or frustrated today, try to dissect and describe exactly what is making you feel that way. Maybe at the root of it is something that you are trying to control when really it is not yours to control. Patience should control our inward feelings as well as our outward actions toward other people.  None of us will ever be perfectly patient, but we will come much closer with that goal in mind.

As we head into the Thanksgiving Holiday it is a privilege to bring to you this opportunity for self-reflection. This series of devotions are written by Harriet Bowman and allow for us to consider the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.