“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…” Often the church focuses on the “gifts of the Spirit” and the abilities to get tasks accomplished with giftedness and excellence over the “fruit of the Spirit” and the character and heart of God’s people. Are the gifts effective outside of the fruit? Why are we tempted in the church to favor gifts? How might this be connected to the original temptation of Adam/Eve? Let the image of Christ himself be formed in me. Amen.
“You are concerned about…should I not be concerned…” At the end of the book of Jonah it is clear that there is a difference between what Jonah is concerned about and what God is concerned about. Jonah cares about temporal things that bring him pleasure; God’s heart is for a world that is lost and short of his intent for his creation. What are you concerned about these days? Are your concerns aligned with the concerns of God? “Let us see this world, O Lord, as through we were looking through your eyes. Amen.”
“Then Joseph died…but the Israelites were fruitful and prolific, they multiplied and grew exceedingly…” Exodus begins, not with a problem, but with a blessed people who are in fact following God’s plan “to be fruitful and multiply.” The problems of the bondage of Israel arise out of Egypt’s fears over their growth. How do fears in our lives or in our churches prompt negative responses to other peoples? What kind of other motivations and approaches could lead to loving communities despite the differences of people? Heavenly Father, as your children, let love characterize our leadership, our communities, and our lives.
“for a short time…being separated from you–in person, not in heart…” The Apostle Paul spent time among the Thessalonian Christians; his ministry there was fruitful and he grew to love these believers like they were his own children (1 Thessalonians 2:7ff). Isn’t it a wonderful gift that God created us with the capacity to love in such a way that though there is distance in geography, there is no separation in the heart? Who are the people you love who are distant right now? Who are the people who love you from afar? Give thanks for these people!
“your work of faith, your labor of love, and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” These are the things that Paul is thankful for in the life of Christians; faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13). Is our gratitude for the people around us based upon them living fully for Christ or am I tempted to see people just for what they do for me or for my visions and goals in life/ministry – Forgive me Lord when I see people only as resources to further my ends, help me to value and appreciate them as your children.
“Help Lord, for no one is faithful anymore…” Many have experienced it, others have heard about it on the news or in social media; no one is faithful or so it seems. Broken marriages, difficult neighbors, police, and politicians; seems like it impacts almost everyone. Yet the Psalmist reminds us, when humans are faithless, God “arises and protects” the needy, the poor, and the powerless. Am I faithful in all my relationships? Lead us O Christ our Savior to be faithful even as you were faithful. Amen.
“We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! We go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless…When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world…” How does Paul’s view of Christian leadership line up with current perspectives? What about my leadership? Help us to follow in your way Lord Jesus.
“Though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love.” Duty or love? Perhaps there are things we should just do, whether we feel like it or not; yet, when does our faith wane when a heart of love is not the engine that drives our actions? What area of your life might need more love than duty these days? Help me Holy Spirit, to gain the heart of Jesus Christ in all things that I might act on the basis of love. Amen.
“I have much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink, instead I hope to see you soon, and we will talk together face to face.” John knew, even without Facebook, twitter, and Snapchat, that there was something different about face to face communication that was better than pen and ink. What makes face to face conversations meaningful and essential? Who do you need to see face to face to really communicate that you would like to? God, real communication is work, messy, and time consuming; help us to love others face to face.
“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Love is foundational to the keeping of God’s commandments in the Old Testament and in Jesus’ summarizing the law and purposes of God in the New Testament. Why is love the best? How does it bind all the other virtues together? There is much talk of love in the culture all around us, how is this love we are called to here similar or different than how the term is used elsewhere? Help us to love, Lord Jesus!