“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.
“We sent Timothy…to strengthen and encourage you…so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions.” Paul’s concern for the Thessalonian Christians was that some might abandon the faith Jesus. In our day it is tempting to see “Strengthening and encouragement” as a pep talk or a bolstering of confidence in the midst of some personal discouragement. How would “strengthen and encourage” take on new meaning in the context of a people who are suffering for their faith? How can we strengthen and encourage those who suffer for their faith in our day? Lord, bring comfort to your suffering children.
“O kings, be wise; be warned O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling kiss his feet…” Psalm 2 is advice to kings and rulers of this world. Though many my think they have power and control over things, God laughs at their misunderstandings and applications of power. What temptation of power appeals to you? Whether parent, employer, teacher, preacher, or any other kind of authority, how does this Psalm call us to humility under God? Teach us O Lord, that all power in given by you for your purposes alone. Amen.
“but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin…and sin gives birth to death.” James shares an anatomy of sin, how it works in us. Perhaps God would rather transform our desires than simply work at changing our behavior. Is temptation best dealt with at the point of desire or later in the chain James describes? How is desire transformed? Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
“The Lord established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor.” The king’s great wealth, honor, and power come to him as an extension of God’s kingdom’s control. In ministry leadership there is always a temptation to think we are in charge and run things, even
good things. Is my leadership rooted in and submitted to the Kingdom of God in Christ? Am I aware that any leadership I have flows as an extension “under his control?” Lead me not into a power trip temptation. Amen.
|“in whose spirit is no deceit…” Our temptation after sin, like Adam and Eve, is to hide, to be silent, to cover up, to blame others, to lie. Blessing comes not to the one with a sinless image, but rather to the honest, the humble, the truthful who confess their sins to the Lord and thus receive his forgiveness. Why do I keep going back to hiding? What can I do to help myself and others learn to be honest with God? I have sinned against heaven and earth O Father, but I throw myself upon your gracious love that is beyond all I know.|
|“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” The Psalmist surprises us; are sinners, transgressors, mistaken, rebellious people blessed? Are not the happy, joyous and blessed those who do not sin at all? How are transgressors and sinners blessed? What makes the blessing? How does the sinner; how do I, find this blessedness? Our Father in Heaven, forgive us our sins and open us to your blessings of forgiveness and loving relationship with you. Amen.|
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites…” Before teaching how to pray, Jesus teaches how “not to pray.” Prayer that draws attention to self is not true prayer, it is self-promotion. What motivates my prayer? Does Jesus correction eliminate praying together altogether? How do we direct corporate prayer in ways that foster true prayer? May our prayers be true listening and honest speaking with you, O God. Amen
|“the Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness…” Jesus hears the affirming voice of his Father in baptism and then is ushered by the Spirit to a time of testing reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. The coming Lenten season affords us an opportunity to be tested. Having the affirming love of the Father, where will the Spirit take us for testing? Do I resist times of testing? What is the purpose of these times in my life and ministry? – Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for we are dependent upon you O God.|
“…what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” Wow, would we not love Jesus to say a remembrance of our work and ministry will be told right alongside of the Gospel? It is the temptation of many leaders and ministries to be “known.” But what is the woman known for? Why do we know of her, but not know her name? What might this mean for my leadership in the church and in ministry? – Jesus, forgive my foolish pride and teach me to be satisfied with your love and with loving in return. Amen