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All Other Gods (20210719)

black cross statue
 
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,

    but the Lord made the heavens.
Psalm 96:4-5
 
All people have a god. No matter who you are or where you are, it is certain that you have something which you fear, love, and trust above other things. That is how Martin Luther sought to help us define “other gods” in the 1st Commandment- anything that we trust more than anything else. 
 
It can be career, reputation, money, sex, substances. Your god can even be yourself. Other faith systems, other social programs: they can all be that thing in which we put our ultimate trust.
 
Where is your trust these days? What are you fearing? What are you loving? There is only one worthy of our praise- the One who stands outside of the world. The God who sits enthroned above all things, Lord over all things.
 
Let your fear, love, and trust be placed in the God who loved you and gave His Son for you. Worship the Lord!
 
Prayer: Dear Father, give us a Spirit of true worship and empower us to find our glory in You. You alone are worthy of our praise, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This we ask in the powerful name of Jesus, Amen! 

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It’s Time for Faith to Grow (20210716)

green plants on black metal train rail during daytime
 
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.” Galatians 5:16-17
           
Maybe it’s not what is growing but it’s what’s missing that matters. This week we’ve been speaking of what’s growing in the garden of our lives. We’ve focused on the fruit of the Spirit, both that which is being planted now and that which we have seen growing for years. That’s natural. Everyone sees first the plants that are tall, flowering and healthy.
           
But perhaps we can also think today about what is missing. Did your garden always look this good?  Maybe you started with a clear, empty window box or a raised bed. No weeds?  There was no soil in that box to start, so of course it was clean. You take that for granted with a start like that.
           
But maybe you inherited a garden that was more weeds than actual flowers. Long before you planted, you spent hours uprooting Canadian thistles and dandelions. They might be blooming, but they’re not staying!  Now you’ve got the real plants in and the geraniums and marigolds are taking hold.  That bed of thistles and dandelions is a dim memory.
           
The garden of our lives has this combination of growing fruit and the memory of what used to be there. Paul makes that point when he notes the things that are of our past. Those are the weeds that have been plucked up, though they certainly try to come back. But remember that they don’t have the free reign that they once had. If their rebellious seeds linger, thankfully they are not the two-foot-high thistles that they once were. So, while we sometimes impatiently want the fruits of love, joy, peace, and patience to grow faster and taller, remember that they have crowded out so much of the hated, despair, fear and selfish impatience that could be flourishing. While we give thanks for what God is growing, let’s also give thanks for those empty spaces where weeds once reigned but now they are driven under the spreading branches of the Spirit’s fruit.

Our Heavenly Father, thank you for clearing out so many spaces in our lives, uprooting the weeds that flourished. Continue to grow the fruit of the Spirit to fill all the space in our lives, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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It’s Time for Faith to Grow (20210714)

 
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:24-25
           
It’s that middle time of the summer when you hope to see results. You probably did something new to the yard, the garden or the house this spring or early summer. You put in the new grass seed over that bare spot, tried new flowers in the window box, and repainted the shutters even though you weren’t sure you got exactly the right shade of brown paint. But all in all, we try.  You put in the effort and now it’s time to step back and see the results.
           
So, how’s that new grass seed doing? How’s the window box look? And no one has complained or even commented on the shutters, have they?  They must be looking good.  And what’s more, there’s nothing more to do.  It won’t pay to pour more seed on that bare spot, or try to cram in more flowers in the window box.  It’s time to be patient with some of these things we’ve planted and see what comes.
           
On Monday we spoke of the fruits of the Spirit and the fruit that we can still plant and cultivate. Today, let’s focus on the patience that goes with the planting of these fruits. We all want more of the fruits of love, joy, peace, and patience. And it’s right that we ask for those as we did with Monday’s devotion. Today, we can focus on the patience of the one who has planted the seed and puts it all in God’s hands.
           
When I was in 5th grade, our teacher had us plant a seed in a Styrofoam cup and put it by the window. Of course, I wanted my seed to be up and growing the next day. It wasn’t. No one’s was. But I wondered if there was something wrong with mine, so I dug around in the soil, found the seed, and put it back in.  As you can guess, I did this day after day and, yes, the seed never grew. My classmates who did nothing but water their plants grew great plants. Me, not so much.
           
Patience would have been better than worrying that little seed to death. Trust along with not comparing my seed to others would have been good too. So also, perhaps with the fruits of the Spirit. The planting has been done by the Spirit and we can pray for the fruit to have good growth. But we can also pray for the trust that leaves growth in God’s hands and takes away the comparing with others.  The seeds are sown and now is the mid-summer time to trust his growth.

Our Heavenly Father, thank you that you have sown all the seeds of the fruits of the Spirit and they are growing. Give us patience and trust in you as we see that fruit grow. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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It’s Time for Faith to Grow (20210712)

 
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
 
Is it too late to plant something? It’s the middle of July and the small local nurseries are either closed by now or they are down to only a few geraniums. If we were to walk into a nursery and say, “Well, I guess it’s time to get the planting starting” imagine the surprised looks we would get. The time to start was two months ago at least. This seems way past planting time.

I imagine that we can see our present stage in life that way. No matter what age you are, is it planting time?  Often, we see planting time as those seasons in life when we’re young and all of life’s choices are before us. It’s time to plant when you’re taking college entrance exams, choosing what to do after high school, and picking what major to study or what job to begin. It’s time to plant when you are just starting a new relationship. All these are wonderful times to see life full of promise and ready to grow.
           
But I wonder if it’s not planting time in every season. Who’s to say that now isn’t a good time to plant something new in our lives? No matter what age we are, no matter what the calendar says, no matter whether we’ve tried planting this or that ten years ago, who’s to say this middle of July isn’t the time to plant?  God’s nursery is not closed for the season. God’s stock has not been picked over, down to one sad orange geranium. God’s soil for growth hasn’t lost its potential for true miracle growth.
           
For example, think of the fruits of the Spirit that are our text. Who’s to say that this isn’t the perfect season and week for a re-seeding of at least one of those fruits? Perhaps this is the time to read that list and to say, “Lord, I have quite a few bare spots in the lawn of my life.  More self-control would certainly fill up that corner and wouldn’t a fresh covering of patience look good right by the front door?”  You and God can have that conversation and choose the fruits that could best be re-seeded today. Lots of good things are already growing in your garden and maybe it’s time to plant a few more.

Our Heavenly Father, help us see the fruits of the Spirit that you wish to replant in our lives and give them good growth even in these summer weeks. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.


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The Truth Will Set You Free (20210709)

 
silhouette of man and woman standing beside cross during sunset
 
If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  John 8:31

This week began with Independence Day and the appreciation of freedom.  To be sure, freedom in our nation is real and meaningful.  We are free to worship God in the way that we want to.  We are free to work, free to move about the nation, free to get married and raise a family.  There’s so much freedom here that I am certain all of us take it for granted from time to time. 

But Jesus says something interesting in John 8.  He says that the truth will set us free.  How does truth set us free?  I suppose that one might think of a person who has been wrongly convicted of a crime.  He has served for years in prison until…until some new evidence emerges which demonstrates he was not the one who committed the crime.  In this scenario, the truth set him free.

Well, you and I haven’t been wrongly convicted of a crime. We are legitimately guilty!  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  That’s truth.  But this truth doesn’t set us free.  In this way and in the earlier illustration, truth is understood as a concept, a factual statement or factual circumstance.  When Jesus speaks of truth, we should hear it as less of a “what” and more of a “who.”  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  Truth, as Jesus defines it, is Jesus.  And that is how truth sets us free.  He, the Truth, covered Himself with our sins and died on a cross to take those sins away.  He, the Truth, rose from the dead, destroying the power of death and the grave.  Thus, we are free from the condemnation of sin and free from an eternity without God.  That’s freedom indeed; freedom that comes from the Truth Himself!
 
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we praise you that you are the Truth who has set us free.  Amen.

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