Live It 5

Galatians 3:26-28

It was always a joke when I was younger that my mother and her friends could not understand the rock bands so popular when I was a teen-ager. “Why can’t they wear uniforms?” was the frequent lament.

One purpose of a uniform is to do precisely what the word means – make everyone look the same. This, of course, went completely against the grain of the bands in the 70s.

In his letter to the Galatians Paul is encouraging a sameness. What will make all the believers the same? What is the result of baptism in Christ? What is removed through belief in Jesus?

If you consider the Christians you know, whether a part of your church or not, you could probably rank them as to which seems more devout. While it is good that you probably know someone who is a very dedicated Christian, it is unfortunate that you can’t claim all Christians are the same.

There are those who are indeed able to live their faith. They are compassionate, faithful and giving in every instance and every occasion. Others are more judicious in their decision to be kind or merciful.

When all Christians are able to live their faith, to act in an automatic way in being generous and caring, then our individualism will go away – spiritual individualism that is. If all Christians could live their faith then no one would be able to say this one is less giving than the other.

Those who believe in Jesus, those who can live their faith, are all children of God who are clothed in the Spirit of Christ.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you put on the Spirit of Christ?

Live It 4

Philemon 4-7

When I was in junior high and high school we would buy yearbooks and have as many people as we knew sign them. Most people wrote something nice. Many wrote silly things. A few wrote some honest encouragement. One of the most common expressions written was “Stay the way you are.”

Overall the messages offered a feeling of warmth and happiness years after graduation. But with some I am aware that the message of encouragement was not really sincere, even if they meant well. How could they suggest I stay the way I was when they barely knew me?

By contrast we have a letter from Paul and Timothy to a friend. While most of the letter addresses Paul’s advice on how to receive an escaped slave, this passage addresses Philemon and talks about who he is.

What is Paul thankful for? What does Paul want Philemon to do? What will be Philemon’s benefit? What final compliment and encouragement does Paul offer?

Paul is writing, not to a stranger, but to someone he obviously knows well. In some ways Paul might be suggesting that Philemon stay the way he is. What Philemon has been doing is good.

Philemon has obviously been serving fellow Christians in some way, perhaps through teaching and encouragement, because he has “refreshed the hearts of the saints.” Could it be that Philemon has simply been a living example of what a Christian is? Paul wants him to be active in sharing. By so doing he will receive a deeper understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

These words can serve as a guide to each of us. If we are not living our faith, we ought to. We ought to, as Paul suggests, “be active in sharing your faith.” And if we are already living our faith, then we should continue. Stay the way you are, because in so doing you are refreshing the hearts of the saints.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Is there a saint who needs his or her heart refreshed? What can you do to refresh their heart?

Live It 3

Jeremiah 31:33-34

Starting at a new job is always an uncomfortable time for me. I hate the feeling of being the new kid on the block, of not knowing exactly what is going on. Whenever I have taken a new job I gave myself six months to become part of the position. My goal was to reach that point where someone would ask me how to do a particular task, any task. Then I knew that the job was not new. I was becoming a veteran.

We can take the same attitude with our faith. Having others ask about our faith or having our faith tested may be difficult. We may not have the confidence, the assurance we need to have with our faith. In time, with dedication, we can reach that point where our faith is a deep and natural part of us.

Jeremiah was a prophet of God. Donald Wiseman, writing in the New International Bible Commentary, says of him “he stressed that faith in God expressed in life was more essential than mere ritual observance.”

Like other prophets, he warned of coming destruction to a people who are disobedient to God. But with the warning comes a promise. For those who are faithful God will be kind and generous, abundant in blessings.

This passage talks of how things will be when the troubled times are over. After the Israelites have endured the pain of straying from God, those faithful to God will find Him quite near.

We can be very much like the Hebrew people of the time of Jeremiah. We may have struggles with our faith. We may have to work to be strong in our beliefs, in following God. But there will come a time when our faith will no longer be a matter of instructions and learning. It will be an automatic thing, a second nature to us, part of who we are and what we are.

By remaining faithful to our involvement in regular worship, by being dedicated to our study of God’s word, by taking part in occasions of Christian fellowship, we provide God with the opportunity to write His word and His law in our minds and on our hearts.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to demonstrate to yourself and others that God’s law is written on your heart?

Live It 2

Philippians 2:12-13 (Amplified Bible)

It is easy to see that these strong expressions of the Apostle clearly imply two things: First, that everything be done with the utmost earnestness of spirit, and with all care and caution: (Perhaps more directly referring to the former word, meta phobou, with fear) Secondly, that it be done with the utmost diligence, speed, punctuality, and exactness; not improbably referring to the latter word, meta tromou, with trembling.

John Wesley, On Working Out Our Own Salvation, 1872

(For more about the two Greek words, you can look here!)

I used the Amplified Bible for our link today for two reasons. First, so that you can experience that version and know it's there on Bible Gateway if you ever want to look at a verse in depth and secondly, because I believe it gives an additional richness to today's reading.

If you drive past my house right now, you'll quickly notice that I'm not much of a gardener. I try. I always have the best of intentions in the spring. But by the end of the summer, my flowerbeds are full of weeds and I just can't seem to get a handle on them. I forget to water things and they die. Basically, I'm a lousy cultivator.

So how does my weedy flowerbed relate to today's passage? One thing that struck me in this passage was that we are to cultivate our salvation. That's one way to translate the words we usually hear as "work out." We need to dig up the soil, root out the weeds, water the plants and get rid of the bugs.

The quote from Wesley is also important to understand today's passage. The reason my garden gets out of control is I don't fear the weeds enough! I don't phobou the weeds. I'm not cautious about them. I don't care about every little thing that crops up. In addition, I don't tromou either. I'm not diligent and I'm not speedy. And by the time I get around to it, the job has become absolutely overwhelming.

But luckily, when it comes to working out my salvation, unlike weeding my garden, it's not in MY strength but God's strength. I'd never be able to pull all the weeds in my heart on my own. It's impossible. Even if I worked at it night and day, I'd still fail. But I thank God that He gives me motivation and energy to carry on in my walk with Him. He gives me the strength I need to serve him and live for him.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Each and every day, we are required to get the fertile ground of our heart ready to grow something wonderful for God's kingdom. What weed can you pull today with God's help?

Live It 1

Acts 16:13-15

In the words of Groucho Marx, "You can learn alot from Lydia!"

We can learn an awful lot about this woman from Thyatira, who is the first recorded European Christian, from these few verses. And amazingly, she is exhibiting almost all of the qualities of the Acts 2 church! (Just a side note, her name may or may not have actually been Lydia, since the town she is from is in the Turkish region of Lydia. It's possible that she was a woman FROM Lydia, not named Lydia. It's possible that Euodia or Syntyche - or even Clement - mentioned in Philippians 4 could refer to this woman, but I digress.)

So how does her short story mirror the Acts 2 church?

  • She believed Paul's message and was baptized.
  • She was obviously hungry to know more about Jesus and Christianity because she was meeting to pray together.
  • She shared the good news with her family (who were also baptized).
  • She gave generously, here inviting Paul and his friends to stay in her house.
  • Later on, in verse 40, she is also Paul and Silas' host when they leave prison.

She was instrumental in founding the church in Philippi. At the beginning of Philippians, Paul says to that body:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

And at the end of the book, Paul mentions that the church should "help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel," reaffirming how important this group of women were in the beginning of the church.

She was a maker of cloth. A working woman who opened her home to a man declaring the gospel. She was living her faith each and every day, even after Paul had left and wrote a letter back some time later. And by doing these things, she made a huge impact on the Christian church both in her immediate community and for all time.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How are you living your faith every day? Is your home and heart open to God's service? Are you a leader in your community? Do you work to make your church one that would cause someone to "Thank God every day" for it?