Life in the Spirit
8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ro 8:1–11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Forgiveness
Paul had a personal experience with God that changed his life forever. He spent the remainder of his life trying to share God with others. It seems strange to me though, that he never encouraged anyone to walk along the road to Damascus to meet Jesus - even though that is how it happened with him. Nor did he ever expect others to be struck blind before becoming saved. Perhaps less known, but even more perplexing is that although Paul spent several years in the wilderness, by his own words in his letter to the Galatians, nowhere does he specify that church leaders should go away to a deserted place and grow close to God like he did. In fact, there is very little of Paul’s personal experience that he tries to encourage others to follow in.
Perhaps this is because our personal experiences cannot be repeated or reproduced in the lives of others. God has a way He is going to work in my life that is unique to me. You and I can listen to the same song, read the same scripture, pray the same prayer and be moved in different ways. That’s just how God made us.
But Paul did have something to share. He spent all those years preaching and teaching the story of Jesus… and not just any story of Jesus, for there are many good stories about Jesus. No, Paul preached the story of Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. He shared this story, because it was not his own story, but God’s story. Try as we might, we will never find ourselves in each other’s story, but we will all find ourselves in God’s story.
That story tells us about a forgiveness that is greater than anything we can ever feel or experience. Christ died for sins we do not even know we committed. He rose from the grave with a power that freed Him from every bondage. He offers us that same power through His forgiveness and love. I can know the forgiveness and love that is unique to me just as you can know God’s forgiveness and love that is unique to you.
In our churches and particularly in our families this gives us two important lessons. The first lesson is that we cannot give our children or other family members our experience with God. We can share our witness of Him, but we cannot make them have the same experiences. Secondly, we all experience the same forgiveness and love from God and so we are therefore commanded to find new ways to forgive and love one another, not holding our past mistakes against one another, but treating each other as free from the bondage of sin and death. The same grace that God gives to us, we are expected to share with each other and everyone else around us. Rather than expect others to be like us (including those closest family members) we are commanded to love each other in a way that frees them to become the people God created them to be.
Reflection: Our expectations and attempts to control the lives of others become tombs over time. What tombs have been built around your life that you need God to come and roll the stone away? What tombs are you building around the lives of others that you need to stop building?
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 11:27–32). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family of Christ
An isolated and literal reading of this scripture leads me to wonder if Paul believed sickness came from taking communion in the wrong way or with the wrong kind of understanding. However, this passage precedes 1 Corinthians 12 where he begins his teaching and perhaps reteaching that we (the Church) are the body of Christ, having been redeemed by His blood and transformed by His Spirit. Through the whole letter he wrote to them about being a community together, being a family together in Christ. Yet some of their church traditions they had created did more for singling people out as better or worse than others rather than celebrate their life together as a family.
Jesus taught in John 15 that He was the vine and we are His branches and that we cannot survive unless we remain together in Him. Making a ritual out of the Lord's Supper that only focuses on what we get out of it individually, without observing the way it was meant to draw us together and transform us as Christ's family is like a branch trying to live on it's own without being connected to the rest of the vine. It doesn't work. That vine gets sick and eventually dies. It is not because the vine doesn't love that branch. It is because the vine refuses to stay connected to the source of life.
We face that same disconnect in our families. Families are an incredible source of strength and encouragement when they stay connected to Christ and connected together. When the focus moves away from Christ we fail to be a source of life and strength and begin to take strength away from each other. Just like those disciples at the Last Supper, we get divisive, everyone looks out for themselves, we scatter, and then the family slowly disintegrates. But there is always a way back through Christ. I believe that is why Christ told His disciples to remember Him whenever they celebrated the Lord's Supper. I think the healing of this division and bringing us back to life found in Christ may be precisely the reason we are supposed to celebrate it at all.
Reflection: How does your family celebrate togetherness? How does your family find life and strength together in Christ?
Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Jn 13:36–38). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Betrayal
Nothing hurts as bad as betrayal. I'm sure that as bad as the whip, the crown of thorns, and the nails felt, they were probably not as painful as the broken heart Jesus had when his closest friends abandoned Him in His greatest hour of need. We typically do not believe in a hierarchy of sin, but most people would count betrayal as a level beyond the others. It cuts us to our core.
Betrayal happens in church and it happens in our families too. When it does it can paralyze us with anger, grief, fear, and disappointment that we may never get over. But Jesus shows us there is a way though even that. While we often think of Judas as the one who betrayed Jesus, the one who left the family of Christ altogether and was never restored, all of them were guilty of abandoning Christ. Peter even went so far as to leave all of Jesus's teachings behind and go right back to his fishing boat as if none of it had ever happened. It was there Jesus found him and called him back to serve in His family again.
There is no easy way to tell whether someone will be restored to your family after a betrayal. Regardless of how much grace you show them, they will always have the choice to say yes or no. Jesus does not show us how to make others do what we want. He shows us how to be free ourselves from the devastating impact of betrayal. He teaches us how to love those who would do us harm. Most of all, He reminds us again in His death that God, not our family or friends, is the true source of life and strength in our lives, and no one can take that from us. If we learn to lean on Him, take our hurt and pain to Him instead of trying to figure things out ourselves, God will make a way through the pain to a better future.
Reflection: What betrayals have your family faced? How can Christ's example on the cross and in His resurrection bring you comfort and healing?
23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.
2 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
Forgive the Sinner
5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (2 Co 1:23–2:11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Friction
Sometimes we drive each other crazy, especially in our families. No one knows how to push your but-tons like your parents, your siblings, your spouse, and your kids. There are so many different teachings about how to handle that family conflict, oftentimes contradictory things that all claim to be common sense or Christian practice, when the reality is, it often depends upon the situation.
Sometimes we choose to hash things out and not go to bed angry. Sometimes we choose to let things be because they are just not worth fighting about. Other times we change our relationships, perhaps not spending as much time with them to allow wounds to heal and get perspective. Then there is the real question of how forgiveness and grace works in the midst of conflict and broken relationships.
Sometimes grace says you have to let someone go. We preach that a lot to people who are dating and in relationships that just aren't working out. But sometimes it applies to those blood relationships, even parent-child relationships. I remember the story of the prodigal son, where the father let the boy leave, even though he knew the mess he would make of his life. Real love lets people go when they are not best served by staying in a bad situation. But then, real love welcomes them back in when the people change. The sinner in Corinth who bragged about his sin in church was not being helped by being in church. He needed to be shown the door so he could rediscover, just like the prodigal son, the true val-ue of Christian community and the family of grace. There are no set rules for how to handle every situa-tion. Whatever the conflict, we have to lean on God for guidance and grace to help us move through it.
Reflection: What conflict are you dealing with today? How do you handle conflict? How does your fam-ily handle it? What does Christ's example of love and grace tell you about how you need to move through your conflict?
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
Paul’s Change of Plans
12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— 14 just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.
15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (2 Co 1:8–22). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Plans
The Easter Holiday is drawing near and many families will be traveling and celebrating together. In many other countries, particularly those with more Spanish influence, this is an even bigger holiday. There will be parade equivalents to our Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and family gatherings as big as our Christmas traditions. They don't do the Easter Bunny. The celebrate the Ressurection of Christ from the dead.
We may celebrate Easter differently here, but we are not strangers to the need to make plans and the frustrations that occur when those plans do not work out. Paul wrote to the Corinthians to explain to them that his plan, his desire, his intention was to come visit them... But God had other plans. He had to submit to God rather than try to fix the problem himself. Even though Paul did not understand why at the time, God was keeping him away from those beloved church family members for his own good as well as theirs. God knows better than us.
Do you experience that frustration of turning over your best intentions to God, even after you have worked hard to develop a plan to help everyone? Every time my wife and I get in the car to go some-where, we are reminded that life is always an adventure and it never goes according to plan. It doesn't mean we stop trying or stop organizing altogether. It simply means we remain flexible and seek God's will more - and keep a sense of humor about ourselves as well. If we are willing to follow God, He will get us where we need to be.
Reflection: What areas of your life do you need to get more organized and need to seek God for help in? Which parts of your life do you need to let go of the control over and allow God to move through?
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
God of All Comfort
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (2 Co 1:1–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Bonds
Suffering and Affliction draw out the extremes in us. Some people may be quiet and unseen on a day to day basis but will truly step up and shine in times of suffering. Other people have the worst brought out in them by the afflictions in their life. If you don't know which type you are, ask your family and they can tell you. Some of that personality we cannot change, we can only grow and try to improve with prayer and experience.
We cannot do it alone though. There is a tendency within us to want to pull away from others when we suffer, and while appropriate boundaries are important, isolation is deadly to those in affliction. That is why Paul writes to the Corinthians and tells them that we share our suffering. Not only do we share our suffering with one another, but we share them with God as well. God does not hold himself up above the everyday trials we face, but we find comfort in the fact that He became fully human in order to share in our sufferings and thus to bring us true comfort.
Likewise, if we willingly share in God's sufferings than we will also share in His comfort. I don't think this means that we need to get ourselves crucified. I think this relates more to recognizing what breaks God's heart and allowing it to break yours as well. In your church, in your family, do you share in the suffering of Christ? Does your heart ache for those who estranged from the family of God? Do you share in the suffering of one another?
Reflection: What suffering, what sacrifice is God calling you and your family to embrace? How do you respond to that call of Christ to come and die with Him that you might then be raised up with Him in new life?
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13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (2 Co 4:13–18). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Loss
This world, and our life as we know it is temporary. It had a beginning, and it has an end. We like to blame the devil for that ending and run from it with all fear and anxiety, but the truth is: God is in charge and it is His hand that ordains our beginnings and our ends.
That is a bitter pill to swallow on our good days, let alone in the midst of loss. But it actually carries with it one of our greatest hopes. As good as this life gets, it is always a mixed bag of joys and sorrows, victories and disappointments. We were made for something more than this life.
The only way Jesus showed us to get to eternal life was by embracing the suffering, the loss, the death as part of God’s plan. In the face of significant loss: tragedy, the loss of a child, suicides, cancer, it seems wrong to chalk it up to God’s will. It dishonors our loved ones. But holding on to that pain invites the same death into our hearts and spirits as we hold our hurt against God - the loss of our loved ones who were given to us by Him freely and then taken away without our consent.
We must battle our own selves in our grief, to move through the hurt to the place where we can truly honor the lives of our loved ones. We have to get to the place where we honor them for the gifts of God that they were to us, not simply for what we got from them. This world, our lives as we know it are temporary - and this is a gift of God.
But we were made for more than just this life. This life probably matters more than we even realize, and it shapes us into the people, the children of God that can live with him forever in heaven. I still have a lot of rough edges that need to be ground off in this world of suffering before I can shine and reflect God’s glory for eternity in heaven. How about you?
Reflection: How does your family grieve loss? What loss have you suffered as a family? How is God using that loss and that grief to bring you closer together and closer to Him?
The Light of the Gospel
4 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Treasure in Jars of Clay
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (2 Co 4:1–12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Weakness
When we think about getting jobs done or accomplishing goals, we usually focus on our strengths. As we have read in the letters Paul wrote to the Corinthians, they were fixated on showing off their individual strengths. Paul continues to point out another way though. In this passage he points out that we are not made to be indestructible, invincible people. We are fragile, broken people, and God’s grace actually flows through our brokenness into the lives of those around us. Redeemed brokenness is more powerful than any strength because it comes from God and not from us.
We struggle with that in our churches and in our families because it is not acceptable to be seen as weak. Yet, time and time again, God has shown His glory more through those families that have turned their weakness and brokenness over to God and let His grace redeem them. The family that has never asked for help has no testimony to share of how God has transformed them.
Reflection: What does your family need God’s help with?
7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (2 Co 3:7–18). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Spirit
Here in Kentucky there is plenty of team spirit that goes around during basketball season. I imagine there is as much team spirit in the homes of those watching the games on TV as there is out on the floor actually playing basketball. Kentucky folk understand the connection between game rules and team spirit, and they understand that there is a need for both.
The church in Corinth did not understand that the same applies to communities of faith. Rules help keep us on task and moving forward, but that spirit and excitement give us the strength and courage to actually move. The Law of Moses showed them where they were failing and Paul wrote to them to share that the grace of Jesus, as applied to their lives and in those failures particularly, brings healing and strength and helps us move into new life. The Law points to death and grace points to life. They work together to transform us and remake us into God’s image as His Body here on earth.
I already wrote about family rules this week. Does your family have team spirit for God or is the family spirit more reserved for basketball? Do you cheer each other on in the faith? Do you encourage one another and work as a team to accomplish the work that God created your family to do? If our family only has spiritual rules but no actual spirit in it, it will quickly become lifeless and a thing that takes life from it’s members rather than a source that brings new life to the whole family and anyone with whom God brings you in contact.
Reflection: What kind of spirit do you have in your family? Does your family team spirit favor certain members and ignore others? Who does your family bless with that life-giving spirit?
Trying to hear the music in the din of many voices.
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