Tools - Binoculars 4

If we believe that Paul was led by the Spirit of God and not by the spirit of the world, then it would follow that we must have some confidence in what Paul said and did.  If we know that Paul was led to share the gospel message with the Gentiles, to open the love of God to those beyond the traditional faith of which he was a part, then it would follow that we also should be sharing the love of God with people outside of our faith.

Such an approach may be very challenging to us.  It may require a new way of looking at how we do things and how we live as believers.  We may even see this as something we would rather not accept, rather not believe.

But the working of the Holy Spirit in our faith is not there to just upset us or cause disharmony.  The working of the Holy Spirit that enables us to have a new perspective in our faith and of other people is meant to give us strength.

In this letter to the young church leader Timothy what is said of the spirit we receive from God?  What should our approach be?

Although allowing the Holy Spirit to give us a new way of looking at the world and our faith may disturb us in some ways, we must realize that God is working in us for the good of His kingdom.  God does not give us a spirit that makes us worry and fret.  Instead God gives us a spirit – perhaps a new spirit – that is meant to be bold and powerful.  This new spirit in us is intended to help us in loving other people, and we do that through the self-discipline of a trusting faith.

When we allow God to move in us and bring us a new faith, a new perspective, we need to be bold and daring.  We need to be willing to live out God’s love, perhaps in a new way, doing new things and accepting and reaching out to new people.

We must trust in the immeasurable abilities of God.  We must allow God to help us see our faith in a fresh way, perhaps a way that will make us stronger in our beliefs.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you be bold in your faith?

Tools - Binoculars 3

There is an expression often used in the business world in regards to changing the way things are.  When things need to be altered to a new way of doing things people will say, “We need to turn this elephant around.”  Just as an elephant is a large, cumbersome animal that would be difficult to get to change directions, so it is sometimes in our established thinking.  It is difficult to turn around the elephant of our traditional approaches.

Our faith and religious practices may be steeped in years of tradition.  How we look at God and the world may be based on generations of teaching.  We may have established ways of living the faith we are called to have.

But we must be open to the leading of God.  We must be willing to accept the new ideas and new beliefs that the Holy Spirit can bring to us.  This may be a drastic approach to the way we think and act.  It may require a complete turn-around in our beliefs.  Or it may simply bring a new life and new vigor to an already firm faith.

Whatever changes we may be facing in how we believe, we may have our doubts as to whether or not we can change.  But the words that conclude Ephesians 3 should give us confidence in the power of God.  What is God able to do?  What words of praise are offered?

It may be a challenge for us as believers to begin to accept people with whom we are not already familiar.  It may be a challenge for us to welcome strangers or to tolerate people who have not found the faith we have.  It may be daunting to think we may have to accept new ministries and outreaches, or change the ministry we already have.

But the presence of the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to look at our faith in a new way.  The presence and power of God can revitalize us, give us new energy, and open our hearts and minds to new ways of sharing God’s love.

When we doubt or ability to change we must trust in God’s ability.  Ephesians acknowledges that God is able to do more than we can imagine.  His power and love, the grace He gives us to do His work, is beyond what we can measure.  And that power and presence is with us throughout the many generations.  We must trust in the Lord to make us able to have a new way of living out our faith.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How will you show your trust in God’s immeasurable and unimaginable abilities?

Tools - Binoculars 2

Many driver’s education instructors prefer that their students attend classes before they spend any time being taught by their parents.  The reasoning is that these qualified teachers would rather teach about driving properly without the influence of the bad habits an older driver might impart.

In many ways our faith can become distorted and flawed if we follow too closely what we are accustomed to practicing in our religion.  Sometimes our practice of faith is influenced too heavily by human tradition.  Sometimes our faith can be guided more by human thinking than by the leading of God.

In his first letter to the believers in Corinth Paul talks about what has guided him in his teachings.  What has NOT influenced him?  What guides his messages?  What is the result?

It can be challenging to practice discernment, that ability to determine what is correct and what is flawed.  It is easy to have our faith and our beliefs influenced heavily by the traditions our churches practice and by the traditions we have honored over the years.  It is easy to be influenced by popular beliefs in our society.

But like Paul we must be certain that we are being guided by the Spirit of God and not the spirit of the world.  Our faith choices must be led by the Lord and not by the thoughts and desires of ourselves or other people.

As we work through our faith journey, as we make decisions about what we believe and how we will love out the love of God, we must seek direction from God.  We must open ourselves up through prayer and meditation, through Biblical study, through holy examples to receive the guidance that the Holy Spirit can provide.  We must open our hearts, souls and minds to the leading of the Spirit to gain a new way of looking at our faith.

With this new perspective on our relationship with God we can approach how we live out our faith in a new way.  We can become people who are able to truly love others.  We can be the people who share the good news of Christ with those who need to hear it.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How do you know you are being led by the Holy Spirit in your faith?

Tools - Binoculars 1

While church buildings are built to honor God, made to be large so they may hold a good number of people, rising high above many other buildings to remind us of the greatness of the Lord, they are often an intimidating sight to those who are not familiar with religion.  Those who are not acquainted with the ways of doing “church” may feel that they are not welcome in such imposing buildings.  But God’s grace and love is intended for all people.

As we continue our faith journey equipped with the backpack of God’s love and the light that Jesus brings, we can add another tool for our trip.  We can add binoculars to our collection of equipment.

Just as binoculars allow us to see things from a distance, allow us to see better the details of those objects that are far away, the third chapter of Ephesians gives us a new way of looking at our faith.  What is the mystery of faith?  What good news do the Gentiles receive?

Through the working of the Holy Spirit we can take on a new way of looking at faith.  It is no longer a mysterious and incomprehensible idea.  It is no longer an attitude that excludes the outsider.  Instead we must see that the love and grace – the care and forgiveness – that comes from God is open to all who will receive it.

Although at first it seemed that Jesus was born to be the Messiah for God’s chosen people as his ministry grew the message of salvation was offered not just to the Jews but to Gentiles as well.  God’s grace was extended to those who were outside the Jewish faith.

This message continues to be offered to all people through the sacrifice of Christ.  The mystery of faith is that God’s love and mercy is meant for everyone and not just a select group.  Paul and his followers were given direction from God to share the message of salvation to those who were not already part of the predominant faith.  The Gentiles were then welcomed to share in the good news of Jesus.

Like the Gentiles in the time of Paul, the people who are not part of our faith body are still welcome into the grace of Christ.  We must see our faith in a new way.  We must understand that God’s love extends beyond the walls of our church and is open to all who will accept he Lord.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you look at your faith differently?