Thursday, August 30, 2007

Galatians, Chapter 5

Circumcision is certainly not a fun topic to talk about, especially if you're a guy, but in the fifth chapter of Galatians Paul illustrates a fantastic point pertaining to the practice. As we saw in chapter four, Abraham's life was one of promise built on faith. Part of that promise was the handing down of the covenant of circumcision, which became a major tenet of the Jewish faith. By the time Paul wrote this letter to the Galatians Christ had obviously come and changed the rules a bit, but they were still hung up on maintaining the law. Part of that law was circumcision.

In the beginning of chapter five we see Paul turn this on its ear. He pretty much confronts the Galatians by saying, "Okay, you're all about practicing the law and maintaining its traditions. If you're going to do that you had better follow all of the law." That's we're life gets tricky, doesn't it. We want to follow the laws we like, but when we are called on the carpet against the laws we don't like, yet we're expected to obey all of the law, suddenly it's not so important. This is what we see in the beginning of chapter 5.

"3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. – Galatians 5:3-6

How beautiful is that last sentence: "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." The love he is talking about here is Christ's love, and that is a love that is more pure than anything we can possibly imagine. Christ has absolutely no value in earthly customs, and He asks only that we believe in Him and love Him. The gift for this is of course a very nice perk, that being life eternal with Him. His love then manifests itself in the form of His Holy Spirit.

"16So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." Galatians 5:16-18

What does the Spirit do in our lives? Sometimes it is easy to forget that the Trinity itself is in action today. Personally I find it hard to wrap my mind around what exactly the Trinity is. It's the same thing, yet it is three different, distinct parts. What is alive and working in the world is the Holy Spirit, and that is what we turn to when we are living in the spirit. In the above verses we see what it means to live in the Spirit, because if we are not living in the Spirit then we are ripe to succumb to our own sinful desires.

A friend of mine recently posed an interesting theory about living in the Spirit. At a recent Bible study session he proposed the idea that if we were always able to keep our eyes on Christ, never faltering in our devotion or wandering away from Him even for a second, we would be unable to sin. When you think about that isn't that what living in the Spirit means? Unfortunately it is not our nature to always do what the Spirit desires. We instead trip ourselves up and follow our sinful nature. As we see, that is a conflict with what the Spirit leads us to do.

Paul closes the chapter with an interesting dichotomy. When he lists the sinful desires you will notice that as you go through the list almost everything on it has some kind of regulation placed against it today. Hatred can lead to fights, which is against the law. Too much drunkenness can get you arrested. Things such as these are often heavily regulated and it is highly unadvisable to practice them in public. Taken strictly as a list most people would view these things as bad traits and practices.

In the second list, the one that lists the fruits of the Spirit, there is no law against them. You can love as much as you want without hurting. You can have as much joy as you can stand. All these are good, simple virtues any right-minded person would agree upon. Even taking the Spirit out of the equation on both lists, which list would be viewed as good and which would be viewed as bad? The Spirit wants what is best for us, and we can do little wrong to allow it into our hearts.


  1. How is Christ's love professed by His faith in us?
  2. Why do some people see the cross as offensive, like Paul states in verse 11?
  3. How do you see your own sinful nature trying to take over, even when you are seeking the Spirit?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Galatians, Chapter 4

First of all I'd like to give a big welcome to all my friends from the Crux in Indianapolis. This is the church on the northeast side of Indianapolis that Liz and I go to. Feel free to comment and discuss things in the comments section.

The fourth chapter of Galatians continues to deal with both how the Galatians continued adherence to Jewish traditions and the way that the faith Abraham showed carried over to the gospel of Christ as it was at the time. This seems on the surface to be more of the same from the first three chapters, but in reality it is a continuation of Paul's argument and a way to draw parallels to the promise made to Abraham and the promise of Christ. Both are based solely on faith, as Abraham had only faith to rely on when it came to Isaac, and we only have faith to rely on when it comes to Christ.

"3So also, when we were children we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 4But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons." – Galatians 4:3-5

As we see here Paul takes time to once again the basic principle of Christ's life. That principle is one of redemption. In doing so he shows His connection to the law, since he was born under the law. Some may wonder why Christ didn't come earlier. Once again though we can see how secular events coincided with Christ's coming to make his message carry even more weight.

Christ came right when the Roman Empire was reaching its height. Not only did it span far and wide, but technology and planning had advanced to the point that the Empire was networked with roads connecting cities. It's also important that for the first time in human history there was generalized law and order because of Rome. This all paved the way for not only Paul's missionary journeys, but the journeys of the other apostles as they spread the gospel to the far corners of the globe during the first century.

Since then Christ's message has traveled even further. It has gone across the oceans and was brought to this continent (though its original methods in being brought here weren't the greatest). Now, through technology, it can be accessed virtually anywhere mankind can reach. None of this was attainable even on a small scale until Christ came, and it is no coincidence that technology and civilization has advanced exponentially greater after His life on earth than it did before. It may not be a direct result of His life, but His message has surely benefitted from it.

"21Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise." – Galatians 4:21-23

I am absolutely fascinated by the life of Abraham because of the role that faith played in his life. Because of this faith we see early on that God does indeed keep His promises. Because we believe in Christ we are then sons of Abraham as it says in Scripture. We have the promise of Christ in our hearts, therefore we are sons of that promise. In both cases: Abraham's and Christ's, God had made a promise and worked a miracle to show that it was only God that could deliver on that promise. God left little doubt that He had a role in the birth of Isaac, because there is no other way Isaac would have been born. Though Abraham tried to take matters into his own hands, God still fulfilled His promise. The same is true with Christ, as He was born of a virgin. There is no other way He could have come to earth without God because of that. Jesus was born of the law and made that law obsolete.

Christ is more than a promise though, as part of His promise is being alive in our hearts if we accept Him. Once He is in our hearts He shows that he is more than a promise by changing into what he has in mind for us.


  1. How do you see God and Christ's promise in your life?
  2. as the result of a promise."eatEven if we have Christ in our hearts, how do we still live in slavery?
  3. From the middle verses, how does life rob us of the joy of Christ?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Galatians, Chapter 3

I really like the third chapter of Galatians, as it gives us a good guide to connecting the Old Testament with the New Testament. I was once told that the Old Testament was Man's attempt to reach God, while the New Testament is God's attempt to reach man in Christ. What we can see in the third chapter of Galatians is that the two are separated, but each plays a vital role in the other. I mentioned in my last writing that the law meant nothing, and I admit that I was wrong in that. We can see here in the third chapter the law serves a purpose, and while the strict interpretation of that law may mean little, the purpose and message behind that law is different and very much is important.

How would we know Christ's role if we didn't have the law? This is what the law does. It sets such a high standard if strictly followed that we have no choice but to choose Christ as a mediator between us. What it shows us is that we cannot live up to God's standards and that we need faith in Christ in order to earn salvation. It also shows us what sin is and that Christ is the only answer to that sin.

"11Clearly no one is justified before God by the law because, "The Righteous will live by faith." 12The law is not based on faith: on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them."" – Galatians 3:11-12

When we see this it is important to think of Abraham, whom the first promise of faith was given to. When reading about Abraham's life in the book of Genesis it is amazing to see just how much faith he had in the face of God and His challenges, yet he still faltered several times. He faithfully moved his entire family and God provided for him, yet he tried to take matters in his own hands concerning his heir by sleeping with Hagar to have Ishmael before Isaac was born. Still, because he was faithful God made his covenant with him 430 years before the law was handed down to Moses. Jewish tradition taught that contact with Gentiles makes one ceremonially unclean, but the faith promise through Abraham laid out a plan where even the Gentiles, through Abraham, would find salvation. This is a critical difference as it shows that the promise of Christ is meant for everyone, not just the Jews as the people of the day tended to believe. If Abraham was declared righteous by God based on faith alone, then we can find righteousness through faith alone, as long as that faith is based in Christ.

"19What, then was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. 20A mediator, however, does not represent one party, but God is one." – Galatians 3:19-20

We see in earlier verses that the seed referred to here is Christ, as Christ came from the line of Abraham. The mediator refers to Moses, whom it is believed was given the law by angels. The law itself does not do away with the promise of Christ, but instead paves the way for Him. Christ was a promise, based then on faith and even now still based on faith. The law does not takeaway this faith.

"24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. – Galatians 3:24-25

These are two verses that sum things up, and show us that the law served its purpose by pointing us in the right direction. Regardless of what we do though, the end of the message is still Christ. Christ does not care if we are a Gentile, Jew, or whatever. Once we accept Him His promise in our lives is fulfilled and we are washed anew in His blood. Accepting Christ in our hearts begins a transformation from what we were to what we can truly be. As the end of the chapter says, we become heirs to Abraham's promise. The law shows that there is sin, and the promise of Christ shows that there is hope and salvation from that sin. He is the ultimate end to the law!


  1. If you have read about Abraham's life in Genesis, how does his life have context in the New Testament?
  2. Is there more to the law than just showing that there is sin?
  3. How does faith play a role in your current life even if you already know Christ?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Galatians, Chapter 2

We fast forward 14 years with the beginning of Chapter 2. What we see here is Paul defending his message to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, and how simple his message really was. We saw in Chapter 1 that Paul reiterated the simplicity of his message, that being that we are saved not by works, but by grace through faith alone. In Chapter 2, we see how that message was different from what the apostles were teaching at the time, and he goes to gain their acceptance by explaining his position.

Critical from this meeting is the agreement that comes about between Paul and the rest of the apostles, as Paul goes to teach the Gentiles, while the Apostles go to teach the Jews. Was Paul's approval really necessary, however? There was indeed some consternation at the time as there was a strong movement to adhere to Jewish traditions as we discussed in chapter 1, but Paul once again demonstrated that the most important thing was the message, not the details.

        "We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you." -- Galatians 2:5

I have always been a results-oriented guy, and people that obsess over the details and the processes of things drive me crazy. As long as the job gets done I don't care how it is done. Much like Paul here, to me it is not how you get the message, but the fact that you did get the message. Whether you come to Christ through a revival meeting, in church, through opening a random Bible in a hotel room, or from a verse of Scripture written on a cocktail napkin, the important thing is the end result - you came to Christ. Christ made all things obsolete before Him, including all the rituals of the Old Testament. This conflict between results and details is further played out beginning in Verse 11 as we see Paul confront Peter, who was then the head of the church.

Peter had already participated in taking the gospel to the Gentiles, but he had gone too far in forcing the Jewish traditions of the day on the Gentiles. Again, Peter was hung up with the details of the message. Paul corrects him here.

"15We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' 16know that man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." – Galatians 2:15-16

Simply put: the law means nothing, and Christ means everything. I think it is important here to distinguish a little bit about what 'the law' means here in context. As far as the Ten Commandments and other restrictions laid down by God we should still observe them and follow them as best we can. What Paul is referring to here is the law in terms of finding salvation through it. When Christ came and died on the cross this is what He made obsolete. As the verse above says we are justified only by faith in Christ. It doesn't get any simpler than that.

"20I have been crucified in Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" – Galatians 2:20-21

Once again, we see Paul taking Christ's message and putting it very simply for anyone to understand. If the law still worked, then there would be no need for Christ. Peter is an interesting character because of how strong he was in his faith, yet he still struggled at times because he would get carried away with that faith. We see that during Christ's time on Earth, he often had to calmly rebuke and redirect Peter's efforts, and that continues here as Paul corrects him once again and sets him on the right path. What could have been a major divergence in church history was averted because Paul's transformation was so dramatic. He once would have insisted on following Jewish tradition, but instead he now saw that the results were much more important than the journey.


  1. How important was it that Paul corrected Peter here and made sure he concentrated more on delivering the message?
  2. Where do you see the details in your own life getting in the way of your mission?
  3. How is the law still important in some instances, but still rendered obsolete by Christ dying and rising again?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Galatians, Chapter 1

It's been a long couple of weeks, but I feel I finally have a direction to go in for the next step of this blog. I have heard that books 7 through 10 of the New Testament can be remembered with the mnemonic device, "God Eats Potato Chips." That stuck in my head all day yesterday, so I decided to give it a shot and jump into the giant bag of chips that is Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. Who better to guide us on a journey through the New Testament than Paul, who was only the guy who wrote most of it?

Galatians is an example of what it means to be saved by faith. At the time some false teachings had begun to seep into the structure of the church, so Paul wrote this letter in order to clear up exactly what the gospel was, how it can be applied, and it was written as a defense of Paul's character.

"11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." – Galatians 1:11-12

Just before these verses Paul began his letter with a strong rebuke against false doctrines. He condemned any gospel being preached except that which he had preached. The churches in Galatia were preaching a doctrine that insisted on keeping the Jewish laws and traditions, and this is not what Paul had taught. As we see in the verses above, Paul quickly defends himself by saying that it is not his message they are altering, but God's. As we continue in the chapter we see that Paul would be a person who had every reason to continue with the Jewish traditions because he was strongly Jewish before his conversion. He adhered to tradition so much he persecuted the early church because they weren't practicing these traditions. This is how strong his conviction was.

His message was simple: that faith alone in Christ was enough for salvation. Those in Galatia didn't think it could be this easy, but that is what Christ accomplished when he came to earth. He wanted to make it easy for us to come to him, and that is still a point of contention today. Some people simply can't believe that it is that easy, but it is.

Beliefs are the strongest things we hold on to. In the movie Dogma (one of my favorite movies) there is an interesting and truthful line given by the character Rufus. In the context of the movie Rufus was the 13th apostle. Though it is a work of fiction there is a bit of truth to some of the dialogue. The line I am referring to talks about changing beliefs. It's easy to change an idea, but changing a belief structure is different because people die and kill for their beliefs. This shows just how shattering Paul's conversion was. It was like if your best friends suddenly did a complete 180 in everything they did.

"15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I was immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus." Galatians 1:15-17

If anyone can change a person that suddenly, it's Jesus. Paul was changed so suddenly, so drastically, that he had no doubt about what he was supposed to do, just that he was supposed to do it. He was given a mission to take the message to the Gentiles, and he took that mission to heart. As a result he may have gotten a little ahead of himself, and that is the impetus behind this letter. People were blown away by his conversation, but as the chapter ends we see they were praising God because of it.

  1. What is god asking you to change in your life for His benefit?
  2. How did the gospel come to you when you first heard it?
  3. How does Paul's life before knowing Christ reflect your own?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thoughts on Negativity

What follows are some thought I had written down a few months ago regarding negativity. In the small group that my wife and I participate in we spent the summer discussing different spiritual issues. One week was negativity and how it adversely affects us. Each week we discussed the topic and shared our thoughts guided by seven questions provided by our group leader. We also had an opening verse each week, which was the following:

"8Finally, brothers, 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. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." – Philippians 4:8-9

What a beautiful verse to be used when fighting negativity! It is a promise from Paul, the great evangelist that there is always hope, because if we have Christ in our heart then we have something true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy in us!

When I wrote the answers to the following two questions for the exercise I was dealing with a huge decision on whether I should take a temporary job offer that had quite a few negative aspects, but some positive aspects as well. I ended up not taking the job, but here is how the Word of God showed me through the negativity of the moment.

  1. Do you believe negativity/positivity is a choice? If so, why do we choose to be negative?


I am not so sure it is a choice because of the influences we have in this world. For example, this week I have had a great opportunity handed to me by God Himself, and all I have gotten done is drive myself nuts thinking about the potential negative factors about it. It is all speculation at this point, but my brain has done nothing but run rampant at how bad things will be for me if I take this opportunity. Also, another opportunity has come up and with the longer silence that I get from it the more I feel like it was a waste of my time. Since it is a better opportunity than the previous, I want it more but I feel like I won't get it because it is what I want.

Have I chosen to be this negative? No, I have not, but I will admit I have let Satan's influence and doubt run rampant simply because I haven't gotten he answers that I needed exactly when I wanted them. Each minute that then passed where I didn't have an answer was agony, even though there was a very good possibility of nothing negative happening when all is said and done.

In the book of Lamentations Jeremiah wrote about the devastation hat Jerusalem suffered at the hands of Babylon.

    "19I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20I well remember them, and my soul is downcast with me. 21Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. 22Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness. 24I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.'" -- Lamentations 3:19-24

This paints a wonderful picture, as if anyone had a reason to feel hopeless, it would the Isrealites after they had been devastated by the Babylonians and shipped off into exile. Still though, Jeremiah has hope in God. He has chosen in this moment to praise Him when he very easily could be cursing Him. He instead sees the Lord as a source of strength and chooses to follow him still.

So, in looking at this I see where indeed it is a choice we make, but it comes from having enough strength to see God's glory in everything. If we don't see the Glory of God in everything then it is very easy to fall into a negative attitude. Remember, Abraham's wife Sarah was barren and old, but she was still able to produce a child in a situation that was hopeless because they had faith. They very easily could have taken a negative attitude, and Abraham even could be argued that he did by taking matters into his own hands. Still, they were positive and God provided for him. It is a hard choice to make at times, but it is a choice we must make.

  1. Is it easier to be positive or negative?


I think it is easier to be negative because the ways of the world are negative. Satan's influence runs rampant in this world, and there are days where it is all we can do to try and overcome it. From my own personal experience I have found that negativity comes in a vicious cycle. When one thing goes wrong, such as a potentially bad piece of news that isn't even a guarantee as I mentioned above, something that is very good can quickly become something that is very bad. I am bad about this, but I can go from hopeful to hopeless in the span of minutes simply because of the way that my mind can wonder off on tangents that are only speculation, but still drive me to the point of terror with negativity.

    "38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is Christ Jesus our Lord." -- Romans 8:38-39.

Personally I find it very hard to be positive when there are so few things to be positive in the world. I see the news at night and I see little more than death and destruction being wrought around the world. What little "good" news they report is usually some vapid fluff piece about who was wearing what in Hollywood and how some useless celebrity was caught on tape eating a sandwich. Most days it seems like there is no hope for the world, and it is very easy to become bitter because of this.

So how do we overcome it? How do we get past our own human frailties when the world seems so crushingly bad that there is little reason to come out of our protective shell. It is something that I struggle with every day and I wonder, as part of that continued negativity, if I will ever find a way to conquer my own fear, doubt, and bitterness. The only way to fight the negativity is with the love, power, and promises of Christ. We must remember that He is with us always, and no matter what we must keep out eyes on him at all type. It is our only hope at making it through this world without being overwhelmed.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I know it has been a few days since I have posted here, but life has been crazy of late. I have started a new job, I have been involved with a softball tournament that has taken up most of my nights this week, and I have been suffering with a crisis of conscience on where to go next with this job. It has been quite overwhelming, but in the brief moment of peace that I was able to grab today, and through what I have been praying about lately I feel led in a direction to write, at least for tonight. That direction is a treatise on patience.

I say patience because lately that has been an issue for me, especially with this new job. When I started it I knew it was only going to be a temporary position, but there was a chance for it to grow into something more. At the very least it was a 3-4 month guaranteed assignment, and with a great company. Since I have started I have been ambushed with a shift change that I was not told about and the actual responsibilities are quite repetitive and dull. It is still an organization I have wanted to work for since moving to Indianapolis, and I view it as a chance to get my foot in the door.

Because of the sudden changes though I quickly became disgruntled with the job and began to wonder what it could accomplish aside from being the next in a long line of pointless jobs that took me nowhere. I was worried about how I was going to accomplish what I wanted accomplish not only professionally, but personally. Such mundane things as finding time to write or simply relax bothered me because this job was not working with my schedule. I would have to work with its schedule. Obviously, this is a lack of patience on my part, and is merely a continuation of a sad trend in my life when I expect instant results and change.

    "A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly." – Proverbs 14:29

In today's society we are inundated with distractions that do not allow for patience. We have grown to not want to wait for anything and we expect results instantly. If we don't get our way, and right this second, we quickly become angry. This is a relatively new phenomenon, as never before in history has life been made so easy as it is now for modern amenities. We have forgotten the value the above verse in Proverbs, and I have long been guilty of it myself.

What happens when we don't practice patience? Well, for starters we don't appreciate what we have, and that is what I found myself doing this afternoon as I was driving home. I had gone a few months without a secure job, taking what little writing work I could find just to make ends meet. Now I was upset because this new job, which is the best paying job I have had in some time, wasn't perfect? I admit, I feel like a heel for thinking this way, but all of it came from a lack of patience. I had forgotten the key verse I had written about from the book of James.

    "Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." – James 1:4

How was I exercising perseverance in this situation? The simple answer is that I was not. Instead of sitting by and learning the lesson that God wants me to learn in this situation I was forcing the issue and this is one of several areas where I have not been listening. I have been trying to find what God wants for me and what he wants me to do next without completing the current step in front of me. There is a lesson to be learned in everything, and when we don't stop to listen to what God is saying then we won't learn it. As I talked about in the entry on Silence as a spiritual discipline, sometimes God wants to simply be with Him, while other times we have to quiet our minds from our own desires in order to hear what He wants for us.

    "We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." – Hebrews 6:12

Patience is a lot like walking a tightrope of doing what God wants for you while waiting for him to deliver. What makes matters even more interesting is that fact that patience can only be gained through hardship. Have you ever prayed for patience and immediately found yourself in a situation where it is tested? That is God trying to teach you patience. It takes work to be a patient man, and it also takes faith. Patience and faith go hand in hand, because faith means trusting God and being patient for Him to deliver.

"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes." -- Psalm 37:7

Patience has so many positive virtues. Patience shows growth. Patience shows faith. Patience shows wisdom and understanding. Patience shows the ability to show calm when we don't understand what is going on or why God is putting us through a trial. Patience shows a willingness to be submissive before the Lord and learn. Patience shows strength of character. Unfortunately it is not something can easily be taught. We all have to learn patience in our own ways, and right now my way involves seeing the positive of what I have been given and learning to appreciate the journey instead of remaining solely focused on the destination. I am not where I want to be, but I am on the way there.

Fortunately for us God is infinitely patient, and infinitely loving.


  1. What trials have you endured that have taught you the value of patience?
  2. How do you think faith plays a role in growing patience?
  3. From our recent discussion of spiritual disciplines, how do they play a role in being patient?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines Beat #4: Worship

    Worship is our final stop on this journey of exploring the beats that make up the rhythm of the spirit. So far we have seen how the other beats, when done with an attitude of discipline, can be accomplished pretty much any time, anywhere. Worship, at least the conventional notion of it, is a little bit different, because the way many people think of worship is accomplished at a regular time and place. This is convenient to us because it means we always know where it is and where we need to be, and one of our major spiritual disciplines is done.

    When you think of worship, what is it you think of? Is it the conventional notion of being in a church with a band playing or choir singing? Do you picture a preacher at the front extolling a message while parishioners sit listening, enthralled? Perhaps you picture something more off the wall with snake handling and people speaking in tongues. These are all various expressions of worship, some obviously more common than others.

    The interesting thing about worship is that it, too, can be performed anywhere. It can be done with a song in the car on the way to work, an act of praise after a success in your professional life, or even just a silent prayer of thanks and praise. Worship cannot be confined to a certain time and a certain place anymore than God Himself can be clearly defined. If God is everywhere, and we know that He is, then our worship can be anywhere.

    In the Old Testament places of worship were often clearly defined and separated away from every day life. In the time of Moses, during the wandering in the desert, there was a clear separation of what was considered a place to worship and what was not. The book of Leviticus goes into great detail about the sacrifices needed for a specific act of worship and many other aspects of worship.

    As we know, Christ came and now we don't have to worry about finding a pair of doves or something like that every time we want to worship. I find that one of the greatest things in the Bible, how Christ came and completely changed the rules, yet made everything in the Old Testament still serve some purpose.

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." -- Romans 12:1


    How does this tie in to our other principles of the rhythm of the spirit? To me, present a body as a living and holy sacrifice means taking care of out other three beats of Prayer, silence, and the Word. This verse tells me that those three beats themselves AND together can be a spiritual act of worship. Aren't we communing with the Creator when we pray? Aren't we worshiping when we come before him in the Word, seeking guidance? Isn't the Word itself, along with prayer and even silence part of the traditional Sunday morning service?

    That is not to say that you can take care of all your worship needs on your own, away from a community of believers. Otherwise, why would we have the fourth commandment?

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." – Exodus 20:8-11

    Sunday is set aside for purposes other than football. The physical act of worship connects us to a community of believers that we can rely on for support. As human beings we are naturally social creatures, and it is nearly impossible for us to do anything completely alone. Even if you go off in the wilderness and try to live away from any human being it is very difficult to last for very long. That is what avoiding worship in a church service is like spiritually. It is hardwired in our souls that we need to spend time with our Creator, and when we have a support system in Worship it is even better. Worship is both a celebration and a physical act that we must take part in.

    As Daron has said the four beats of the spirit come together to drive the entire song. As we have seen along this brief journey no one beat can stand on its own. Like a song, each one is repeated around in order to form the whole song that our spirits dance in harmony to. It is my prayer this day that you are walking and dancing in time with all four beats, and that you are seeking strength if one particular beat is off at the moment.


  1. How can you bring worship into your everyday life?
  2. What does worship mean to you?
  3. How important is community when it comes to worship?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines Beat #3: Prayer and Fasting

    We're halfway through this measure of 4/4 time in relating it to the rhythm of our spirits, and so far we have talked about the role that the Word and the role that silence and solitude play in the process. As I wrote yesterday and as Daron originally pointed out, the basis, what makes everything go, is the Word. Silence and solitude are the follow-up. It is a place where we can contemplate on the Word, or we can use the Word to send us into a state of silent contemplation and closeness that God wants with our hearts. It is in these moments where it is just us and God, and even thinking about that can be overwhelming, even scary for some.

    The third part of the measure, prayer and fasting, presents its own interesting explanation. Personally, I think prayer is the greatest gift, short of our own salvation, that God has given us. I may be somewhat hokey in my thinking of this, but I really view it as a direct line to God. It is a line that we can exercise at any time, anywhere, and it will always be heard. Unlike customer service, you are never put on hold, nor do you get trapped in the maze of voice prompts.

    Once again, it goes in conjunction with the previous two beats, and does not stand up well when it is used on its own. I am reminded of my favorite band, LIVE, and their song Operation Spirit:

    "Heard a lot of talk about this Jesus, a man and a man of strength. But when a man walks 2,000 years ago, that means nothing at all to me today. He could have been telling me about my higher self, but he only lives inside my prayer. So what he was may have been beautiful, but the pain is right now and right here."


    What an illustration of one's view when they don't have the Word to back up prayer. As we know from the Word, Jesus is alive and well in this world. When the Word works in conjunction with prayer, suddenly it doesn't become such an empty property.

This also ties in with silence and solitude because we need a time to listen for a response in our hearts. If we spend all of our time talking and talking in prayer, we never get a chance to listen. Have you ever had a time when you have prayed and prayed and prayed without ceasing for something, yet have seen no results? There eventually comes a time where you get frustrated and just want to say, "You know what needs to be done, You do it!"

"Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer." – Romans 12:12

    I am the first to look at that verse and say that it is easier said than done. Sometime prayer itself can feel like suffering. I have often wondered if something is not getting done because I am not praying right. Then I feel like my prayers become forced as I try to work in the right flowery language and explain something in too much detail to someone who is omnipotent. To me, that is the thing we must remember here. In prayer, it's not about language, what you say, or even how you say it. The person you're talking to already knows. It's okay to be frustrated, even angry with Him. He can take it all and still love you. I don't know how many times I have felt like a prayer has been a private venting session, where I am more lashing out than anything.

    And that is okay, because God already knows. He already knows, and He just wants the time with us to set this right. It is when we add the silence to the prayer that we give Him that time.

    Prayer is a gift that can effect the greatest change in this world, and I feel it is ample proof that our Creator knows us and loves us. What is man's instinctual reaction in times of crisis? Prayer. It is something that links Christian and non-Christian alike, and can be found anywhere. Of the four beats that Daron mentioned, it is probably the easiest and most widely exercised.

    Fasting, however is much more difficult, because it asks us to sacrifice something in return. Prayer costs us nothing. Prayer can be done freely. Fasting requires us to give up something that is essential and ingrained in our daily lives. If you happen to skip a meal, what is it that occupies your thoughts once you realized you skipped that meal? Food, that's what. If you skip two meals becomes an obsession, even if we aren't taking the time to use it as a sacrifice. Our instinctual nature of self-preservation takes over and the animal inside us wants to eat in order to survive. Even our bodies begin to change their chemistry in order to make up for the missing nutrients. This sacrifice is evident in Acts 14:22-23:

"We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. 23Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust." – Acts 14:22-23

    Here Paul and Barnabas are asked for a small sacrifice, and as we know, they accomplished great things through their commission.


  1. What are some times in your life when you have had heartfelt prayer? By that I mean real communication with God.
  2. What were your feelings in those moments? I challenge you to write these thoughts down and think about how they have affected your life, and what came out of them.
  3. How do the other disciplines lift you up when prayer feels empty?

Monday, August 6, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines Beat #2: Silence

Yesterday I wrote about how the Word is the first beat of Pastor Daron's four beats of spiritual discipline. It is what drives the tempo of our personal spiritual rhythm, because without the Word of God as the downbeat the other three aspects can come off as soulless and empty. It's probably not a coincidence that at times finding the discipline to get into the Word can be the hardest part, because it is something that we must make a conscious effort to do every day. Silence and Solitude can be found in a peaceful moment of just getting away to clear one's head. Prayer can be done anywhere, even in waiting in an elevator. Worship is more formalized, as a portion of each week is already set away and taylor-made for worship.

But it is the Word that we must be active about pursuing. We must either carry our Bibles with us at all times, or make time to listen to the word in the car. With the modern distractions of iPods, CD's, talk radio, and road rage it can be difficult for us to surrender that time spent in the car each day, since we soften use it either as a time to decompress from the workday or simply shutting out the world and concentrating on getting from point A to point B.

The second beat, silence and solitude, is still difficult to get, but it is just as necessary and requires no reading, only a moment or two away from the hustle of the world. When I get home, I admit that I savor being the first one at home. Even though I can't wait for my wife to come home I enjoy the quiet, just for a moment. For 15-30 minutes there is no one around but me. It is my choice if I want to enjoy the silence and relax, or immediately turn on the TV to get some noise going. Often after dealing with my co-workers each day I relish the chance to enjoy some peace and quiet before the evening comes, kind of like halftime of a game. If your household is anything like mine, the television is blathering on for most of the evening simply as background noise even if you're not watching it.

Even when I work out, I have some music going, usually as loud as I can safely hear it so I can use it to get through the workout easily. In the car it is more music, or a conversation with my wife as we go somewhere. At work it is a constant crescendo of phones ringing, conversation, and mission statements that overstate the importance of whatever your business is.

I find that when I do take the time to close my eyes in a place of silence, it can be a centering experience. Lately I feel I haven't even needed to pray. Instead, I close my eyes and try to listen, or just be in the presence of my Creator. Surprisingly, doing a 4 count intake of breath through the nose, 6 count hold, and 8 count exhale through the mouth helps me re-establish my rhythm on beat #2 here.

"But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me." – Psalm 131:2

What a beautiful picture that paints! The way our souls feel when stilled at peace, taking the time to simply quiet our minds down, is like a child that has been placated. I don't know about you, but this is exactly the way I feel when I get even two minutes away and alone from the world.

"The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever." – Isaiah 32:17

What can be more righteous than the Word? As we get more and more into the Word, it allows us to have a focus for these quiet times. You can use it as a jumping off point for a private meditation, or simply as a way to establish a connection with the Creator. The Word encourages us to quiet our minds, and silent contemplation of it can bring peace.

In what ways have quiet moments, even without the Word, helped you lately? How do you feel that the connection of the word and quiet contemplation can be enhanced in your daily life? It is my challenge to you to find a moment each day to simply get away, close your eyes, breathe, and simply be with your Creator, and it is my prayer that in this time you are opened to a deep, profound peace you have never felt before.


1. How do you value the silent moments you get each day?

2. Is silence and simply listening for God's voice the most important thing you can do?

3. What feelings do you get when you make the effort to push the world away for a few moments?

Friday, August 3, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines Beat #1: The Word.

Discipline has long been a watchword of mine. It has even been a source of pride for me. I am proud I have the discipline to work out each week in order to keep my body strong. I am proud I have the discipline to finish what I start. An area that I struggle in discipline is probably the area where I most need it.

My pastor, Daron Earlewine gave a sermon series a few months ago relating the four major spiritual disciplines to the four beats in a common measure of music. As Daron suggested, the Word of God is the first beat in the rhythm of our spirit. When it is missing, everything is messed up and the other three beats can't even get off the ground. The remaining three beats of prayer, silence/solitude, and worship all fall into line when we spend time in the Word.

Discipline makes the body ready to obey. The parallel I draw to this is basketball. I have played basketball since the time I could first grasp a ball. I rebounded the balls for years for my Kats growing up, learning basic passing skills just getting them the ball back after missed shots. I trained for numerous summers at coach Mawbey's camps to work on my dribbling and my shot. I recognize that I am still not very good at it, but I have trained my body to the point where I am comfortable and natural in most of my movements on the basketball floor. The same is true for baseball. If I watch someone who has never played the game before their mimicking movements are obviously not as smooth as someone who has played the game for years.

    This carries over to spiritual disciplines. Our movements will naturally be awkward at first as we try out new things. The intention alone to move is not enough though. Intention is good for a start, but no one will be satisfied with simply starting something and never improving. This is where I believe the Holy Spirit comes in. he gives us the drive at first to get going and get on the right path. We must still pull our own weight, even when it comes to motivation, but the Spirit is the initial push. The Spirit gives us an idea of what the rhythm we need is, and it starts with the Word.

    The parable of the seeds in Luke Chapter 8 is a fantastic allegory of our study of the Word. When it stands on its own, like the seed on the road, in the thorns, or on the rocky soil, it cannot flourish. When we study the word in conjunction with the other three beats of our spiritual discipline it grows like the seed in the good soil. In turn, the Word makes everything else around us better and it makes the other three disciplines have more meaning.

    It takes discipline for the Word to have effectiveness though, and it is a discipline that is difficult to master. In this world it is easy to sacrifice time spent with the Word in order to pursue other desires, and it takes a strong will to stay on the path. As Daron said, good intentions are a great start, but you have to follow them up with action. While the Word is the downbeat that drives everything, It is not the entire song that makes our heart dance. It is also supplemented by the other three disciplines, which complement the Word instead of going against it.

    The parable of the seeds is continued in verse 15 with,

"But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance." Luke 8:15


    I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as bad study of the Word. If you're simply spending time with the Word just to spend time in there, driven by some internal discipline, something good has to come out of it. Christ teaches that the Word itself bears no ill fruit, so something good has to come out of time spent in faithful study.

    It is a challenge, I know. Some days I admit I just open up my bible for the sake of opening it. I also admit I am not blown away by whatever passage I land on 100% of the time. Still, I have found myself reading sections that have made no sense before, but are suddenly clear in the light of a new day.

    As we spend more and more time in the Word though, it becomes more alive.


  1. How are ways that the Word has come alive for you, even on the most ordinary of days?
  2. How has prayer and fasting supplemented your study of the Word, such as combining the two?
  3. What role does perseverance, as we learned in the book of James, play when it comes to discipline?


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

James, Chapter 5

Today brings a dose of closure to the first segment in this blog by finishing the book of James. In the final chapter we see an abrupt shift from a warning against oppression from the rich to a continuation of preaching patience in the face of suffering. AS we will see in the final verses, patience and faith go hand in hand when it comes to living a strong Christian life.

The opening of chapter five is a strong rebuke against those who have wealth, but do not share it. I personally see nothing wrong with wanting to gain wealth, as the author Russell Conwell in his work Acres of Diamonds spoke of how Christians should use their resources to gain wealth by good, honest means. It is what we do with that wealth that matters most. Wealth is a blessing, and we must be vigilant in what we do with that blessing. The parable of the lost son in the 15th chapter of Luke serves as another warning to wasted wealth. In the hands of the righteous, however, wealth can accomplish great things. The Word is very specific about tithing and giving back part of the blessing that we are appropriated. I don't want to turn this into a lesson on tithing, but we must be mindful that everything we are given, regardless of amount, ultimately belongs to God. It is an act of worship to give back to Him just the small portion that He asks for in return of that blessing.

"As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." – James 5:11

After verse 6 we see the previously mentioned abrupt shift from rebuking to a lesson on patience. This ties in with what we saw in the very beginning of James with the lesson on perseverance. Patience is probably the virtue that comes in the smallest commodities in the universe. In today's society it seems as if everything is made to be delivered 30 seconds ago, and the simply joy of waiting for something and the satisfying feeling of earning something seems to have gone out of the world. With patience and perseverance we see that sometimes the journey itself is much more important than the destination, as that is often when God chooses to teach us the most.

Have you ever been so excited to get somewhere that you simply wish time would fly by so you could just get there already? This was the attitude I had during my freshman year of college. To me, I went to school solely to graduate and get on with my life. It is what was expected of me, and I wanted no part of the traditional "get to know you" exercises that come with the opening weeks of college. To me, school was just a goal, and not something to be enjoyed in pursuit of that goal. It wasn't until my junior year, after I had wasted two years merely working towards a goal without meeting new people or enjoying the atmosphere that I began to enjoy myself. In my last two years, however, I began to open up and see the benefits of the campus around me and the people there. Because of that, I had a much more enjoyable experience in my final two years because I saw there was much more to the experience than the goal of graduating. I also learned a lot more about myself that I needed to learn. If I had not opened myself up in this way, and patiently dealt with things that I thought were pointless, I wouldn't have had such a good time.

    "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise." – James 5:13

The final section in the book of James gives us an excellent reminder of what we should do regardless of what is going on in our life. We should always remember to pray, through the good and the bad. It is easy to pray when things are going bad because we are seeking guidance in how to change our situation. It is still important to remember that when things are good we must give thanks to the one that provides everything. As I mentioned earlier, faith and patience go hand in hand. You can't really have one without the other. As our faith grows we often find that patience grows with it. Part of faith is also knowing when to trust God when the answer is no, and this relates to yesterday's discussion on heavenly wisdom versus earthly wisdom. We must have faith when we pray; even when we don't get the answer we specifically want.

And so concludes our discussion of the book of James. From here I plan to touch on something I mentioned in a previous entry, and that is the area of spiritual discipline. I attend a church called the Crux in Indianapolis and our pastor, Daron Earlewine, did a sermon series earlier this year on the four spiritual disciplines of prayer, silence, worship, and studying the Word. What will be published is a series of devotional writings I wrote at the time on these disciplines. I pray that those of you who read these brief treatises on the book of James found something useful in them, and I welcome you back as we begin discussing spiritual discipline.


  1. How do you view wealth and the responsibility that comes with it?
  2. What are some things in your life that you have persevered through that have made you stronger for it.
  3. In what other ways are faith and patience interconnected.