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Showing posts from May, 2018

Accountability

Scripture:
Gal. 6:1   My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5 For all must carry their own loads.

Observation:
Spiritual growth and development is necessary in the life of a believer. Paul gives practical advice for those who are following Christ and this includes accountability within a community of faith. This means that we must be willing to be held accountable before others for our behaviors, and that we must be willing to provide gentle, spirit-led correction in the lives of others. One person’s pain and burden, become another’s. No one is to think that they are …

Freedom in the Spirit

Scripture:
Gal. 5:16   Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Gal. 5:22   By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us …

When God Uses Bad for Good

Scripture:
Gal. 4:12   Friends, I beg you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong. 13 You know that it was because of a physical infirmity that I first announced the gospel to you; 14 though my condition put you to the test, you did not scorn or despise me, but welcomed me as an angel of God, as Christ.

Observation:
This is a portion of scripture that is rather obscure and for which we know very little detail. It can be interpreted in any number of different ways, but some would suppose that when Paul arrived in Galatia, he was either ill, or was suffering badly from persecution, which could have included beatings. Whichever the case, he was not in good physical condition and evidently needed the help and assistance of the people in Galatia. At the same time, because he needed care, it appears that he ended up staying among these people and they welcomed and cared for him. As a result, he had ample opportunity to share with them the gospel.
Applicati…

The Promise of the Spirit

Scripture:
Galatians 3:14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Observation:
God promised Abraham a covenant relationship that would reach to all of Abraham’s heirs. These were originally thought of as those who were Abraham’s flesh and blood; those who carried his DNA. Because of Christ there was a new promise and this a mystery. Through faith Gentiles could receive the Spirit, and this would then bring them into the promise of Abraham. Almost as if the presence of the Spirit was now the witness to familial inclusion, rather than by flesh and blood. The Spirit provided a way in which fleshly boundaries could be transcended, and this is a beautiful promise.
Application:
Often as I travel I observe the ways in which we have divided out humanity. We have used different methods of creating classes, whether by birth, race, gender, or wealth. Somehow it seems that we have this uncann…

Inauguration of Dr. Stanley Bhebhe, Africa Nazarene University

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***This is not my usual devotional blog post, but some had asked if I would post my Keynote address from the Inauguration.


Today we are gathered to inaugurate Dr. Stanley Bhebhe as the new Vice Chancellor of Africa Nazarene University. We are grateful for this man who has committed himself and his life to ministry within the academy. All that he has done throughout his life has brought him to this day. He has worked, studied and sacrificed to have the skills and abilities necessary to do this work, but beyond the technical skill, he has gone through life journeys that have shaped him to be a reflection of Christ himself.

The challenges facing higher education here in Kenya, and around the globe, are great. We are living in a time of seismic change and this can lead us in two directions; either we become engulfed in worry and concern about the future, or we embrace the opportunities that change  affords and we press on. Often people speak about the unprecedented challenges that we face…

Faith Brings Freedom

Scripture:
Galatians 2:19-21 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
Observation:
The law created a punitive structure. If you couldn’t live up to the list of rules, then you were condemned. There is the realization that living up to these kinds of expectations is futile, therefore we have to die to the law. This, Paul did and realized that he was given the freedom to live for God. 
Next comes the famous statement of Paul’s that he has been crucified with Christ. He wasn’t physically crucified, but he did give himself up entirely to follow Christ. Part of that was his identity in his Jewishness and in following the law to the very letter. He had be…

The Promise of the Father

Scripture:
Acts 1:6-9
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
Observation:
The disciples were with Jesus, discussing the future and curious about what was to happen next. They still seemed to be hoping for some kind of a political kingdom, but Jesus gave them a different promise. First of all, he told them that God’s timing is just that, God’s timing, but then he went on to tell them that he had a promised gift for them. They had no understanding what this might be but Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit. The kingdom was to become a realit…

When’s the Last Time You Got Emotional about the Gospel?

Scripture:
Gal. 3:1   You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! 2 The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? 4 Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. 5 Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
Observation:
Throughout this letter we experience the passion of Paul. These were his spiritual children and someone has led them astray. Just as loving parents may become emotional when their children wander off and end up engaging in destructive behavior, so Paul cries out to the Galatians. His heart is broken because he knows what is at stake. The good news of the resurrected Lord had brought thes…

Are You Trying to Measure Up?

Scripture:
Gal. 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
Observation:
The Judaizers were trying to convince the Galatians that they would be righteous if they obeyed the law. Paul’s response is very personal and here I personalize it as well: 
The law condemned me for through the law I knew that I was a sinner. The law could never set me free from my sinfulness, it could only show me where I was wrong. I was condemned through the law and any attempt to satisfy the law through my own behavior was simply futile. Therefore, if we continue to live trying to satisfy the law we will be condemned.
The law extends no grace. Grace unfolds throu…

In Fear of What Others Think

Scripture:
Gal. 2:11   But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; 12 for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction.
Observation:
Peter (also known as Cephas) had been doing the right thing, fellowshipping with the Gentile believers in Antioch. They had been sitting at the table and eating together, without concern as to whether the food was ceremonially clean or not, for he knew that the Gospel opened up all kinds of freedoms. However, when certain people came, who may have now been associated with the leadership of James, Peter backed off. We can only imagine that the ones whom he had befriended, became suddenly confused. Why was it okay for him to be with them before? Now, because he feared what others thought, he may have acted as if he did not know them.
Paul, never seeming to be one to mince words, confronts…

The Poor, Grace, and Leadership

Scripture:
Gal. 2:9 and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.
Observation:
Paul makes his trip to Jerusalem after many years of ministry. He never tries to claim that he is in any type of position of leadership, but humbles himself before the Apostles. He went with Barnabas and they took Titus with them. Titus was a Greek who had not been circumcised. This was a pretty radical consideration for those in leadership who had been ministering among the Jews. The problem was that Paul was called to minister to Gentiles and recounting this story, he is making a point.
The leadership of the church saw that God’s grace had been extended to Paul. This must have been overwhelming because his reputa…

It's All About Grace

Scripture:
Gal. 1:6   I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Observation:
These were people who had learned the true gospel from Paul but now were willing to turn away. Others had come and enticed them away from the grace offered through Christ, and were telling them that they had to become Jews. Both physically and emotionally they were expected to convert before they could live in Christ. This was a perversion of the gospel of Christ, and Paul was righteously indignant at those who would distort the gracious good news of Jesus!
While Paul may be disappointed at the way in which the people had quickly turned from their faith, he still responded as a gentle parent, encouraging them back into the way of Christ. At the same time, he was indignant with those who had damaged the f…