June 26: Fruit of the Spirit – Love

Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

The Holy Spirit lives inside of every true believer. He desires to make the “fruit” of His presence evident through 9 core virtues. Today we look at one of those.

LOVE – I am sacrificially and unconditionally loving.

“For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:3)

Hardly impressive…far from the kind of godly interaction that you would hope to witness or experience between believers. Nevertheless, the Corinthian church was punctuated by envy and arguments. Some of them related to each other the way those outside the church relate. They were like people who had never been impacted by the unconditional, sacrificial love of Christ. It wasn’t pretty.

They fought over spiritual leaders. But spiritual leaders are like farmers with different roles. Ultimately, it is God who causes the harvest (1 Cor. 3:1-9). There was no reason for division based on leadership loyalty!

There were feelings of inferiority/superiority based on spiritual gifts. But Paul reminded them it was the Spirit of God who distributed them as He saw fit and, ultimately, for the good of the whole body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:1-30). There was no reason for arrogance or inferiority!

Still, even with the rational, cognitive understanding about these important issues in place, there was still something missing. That something was love—the kind of sacrificial and unconditional love modeled by and experienced in Christ. That is the kind of love that believers are to have for one another. It is to characterize the relationships between sisters and brothers within the family of God.

Without love, spiritual gifts, biblical insights, miraculous abilities, incredible sacrifice, and even acts of martyrdom are of no value! (vv. 1-3)

Here is the way that Eugene Peterson summarizes part of this passage in the Message Bible:

  • Love never gives up.
  • Love cares more for others than for self.
  • Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
  • Love doesn’t strut,
  • Doesn’t have a swelled head,
  • Doesn’t force itself on others,
  • Isn’t always “me first,”
  • Doesn’t fly off the handle,
  • Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
  • Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
  • Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
  • Always looks for the best,
  • Never looks back,
  • But keeps going to the end.

Are you sacrificially and unconditionally loving?

sbk

March 8: Who is in charge?

Read Haggai 2:20-23

Who’s in control?  Where is all of this headed?  Questions like those have plagued people in different nations under different circumstances throughout history.  Certainly, they are valid questions today in light of the loss of life on foreign soil, economic downturn, experience, unemployment, major healthcare concerns, and global issues like unrest and poverty.

In the days of Haggai, the issues and concerns were different, but the questions were likely similar.  Who is ultimately in control?  Where will all of this lead us?  As God spoke to Haggai one final time… around December 18th of 520 BC…He addressed these questions.

This particular journal entry was one directed towards Zerubbabel.  He was an important and influential Jewish governor over the southern tribes of Judah.  Zerubbabel had played an instrumental role in moving the Jews out of their paneled homes to begin temple reconstruction.  In this final message, the Lord essentially points to His own sovereign control and to the authority He has delegated to Zerubbabel.

When we speak of God’s sovereign control, we mean that God is ultimately in charge and that He is leading humanity, history, current events, and future experiences towards His end.  At times, that control may seem less obvious because we cannot see all of the details and how they fit together.  It may seem less present because we did not witness some kind of miraculous intervention whereby tragedy was averted.  In spite of our inability to always pinpoint it and explain it, it is nonetheless true.  There have been and there will be times when that sovereign control is more dramatically obvious as depicted in this passage:  “I will shake the heavens and the earth.  I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.”  (vv. 21, 22)  God will exercise control over environment, government, and armies!  He is in charge!

But this passage also points to divine authority that was delegated to Zerubbabel.  Zerubbabel was a foreshadowing and a forefather of Jesus, who will one day return and reign in a divine kingdom here on the earth.  That’s where things are headed!

sbk

March 7: Contamination or Consecration

Read Haggai 2:10-19

I was attending graduate school at night and working during the day at a company that made rubber products for the medical industry.  We were having a particular problem with a specific blood tube stopper.  Something about the rubber compound was causing a small percentage of the stoppers to pop off of blood tubes.  This came in a day when our world was just beginning to understand the dangers of HIV.  The possibility that even the most careful and most healthy of medical professionals might innocently come in contact with and contract the virus as a result of a popped stopper was unacceptable.  When healthy people come in contact with a virus, the virus isn’t eliminated because the person is healthy, but the healthy person may contract the virus.

Haggai makes a similar point in today’s reading.  Spiritual “cleanness” is not transmitted through physical contact, but spiritual “uncleanness” is passed along.  Let’s translate that into their specific situation of the day.  The fact that Jews were working on the holy temple of God did not make them holy.  Meanwhile, their impurity could impact the sanctity of the temple itself.  Verse 14 indicates that this had characterized the history and practice of the nation:  “’So is this people. And so is this nation before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.’”  There had been a need for cleansing.  As a result, not only had the impact of their ministry been tainted, but God had also withheld His blessing from their harvest and from their supply (vv. 15-19)

Today, it is still true that God wants to use people who are walking in purity.  Thankfully Paul reminded Timothy and us, “…if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”  (2 Tim. 2:21)  Personal cleansing makes us truly useful to the Lord.  Are there impurities and unconfessed sin that are part of your life?  Those things can hinder your ministry efforts from having the kind of God-glorifying impact that He desires.  Cleanse yourself of those things today!

sbk

March 6: Comparison Can Paralyze

Read Haggai 2:1-9

Are you able to picture the final appearance of a remodeling or painting project?  I’m not!  My wife is able to get the little paint thingy  (What do they call those things?  A swatch?) from Lowe’s and somehow picture what it will look like all over the living room wall.  That doesn’t work for me.

Apparently there were some people like my wife involved in the temple reconstruction project back in 520 BC.  With four weeks of building under their belt, some were now beginning to have a feel for what the final project would look like.  Here’s the way it reads in verse 3: “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?”  Some of the senior saints could remember, others had heard stories of the previous, huge, ornate temple with its stunning cedar wood, detailed engravings, bronze columns, and gold and silver objects.  Even though they were far from being finished, it seemed clear that the temple they were building would pale in comparison to the original!  That was discouraging!

Comparison can be dangerous!  Ever felt like your contribution to what God is doing is comparatively insignificant?  When the offering plate is passed you are embarrassed by your two mites in comparison with what you are sure must be much larger gifts!  With 5000 to feed, you feel like you show up with 5 loaves and 2 fish that won’t make much of a dent in the need!  Those experiences can be discouraging until we remember that Jesus is pleased with those, who, in spite of limited resources, give the mites.  He can take a lunch suited for a couple of people and multiply it to feed a multitude.

Rather than keeping the focus on their perception of the insignificance of their project, the Spirit of God told the builders to “be strong” and “work” (v. 4).  Keep at it!  In fact, He motivated them with the assurance that He was with them (v. 5) and that they could not yet fully see the glory of the project they were working on (v. 9).  Those are great reasons to keep at it!

sbk

March 5: Today, A Spiritual Milestone

Read Haggai 1:1-15

My life has been punctuated by some very specific dates and times when God challenged me to significant steps of obedience.  I suppose I could record some of those dates in a personal spiritual journal.

In many ways, our study for the next four days will expose us to four entries in a spiritual journal reflected in the book of Haggai.  At the beginning of each entry, we find a date on which God spoke words of challenge, encouragement, and hope to the people of Judah.  We read the first of these journal entries today.  “In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month…”  (1:1)  Using our present calendars, this would have been about August 29 of 520 BC.  Some eighteen years earlier, the people of God had been released after seventy years of exile in Babylon.  Upon their release, they had a passion to reconstruct the temple that “Nebuchadnezzar and Company” had destroyed.  But in the face of opposition, they had given up.  On this date in August of 520 BC, the temple was still in ruins.

the events recorded in Haggai give us further insight into what was happening in Ezra 5 and 6.  In this journal entry, then, God directed Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest to resume construction once again.  After 18 years of inactivity, you would think that the Jews would at least be saying, “Yeah, we really ought to get back on the job sometime soon.”  But instead, they were saying “The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.”  (1:2)

You know, sometimes our excuse of “wrong timing” in spiritual endeavors is really an issue of priority.  Verse 4 says, “Is it time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”  You see, the first of these journal entries addressed Judah’s priorities.  They were so concerned about themselves that they lost sight of the things that were important to God!

Is today a day when you need to say, “God, I am going to make your priorities of growth, outreach, ministry, fellowship, and worship my priorities!”  The people of Judah recognized their need to change priorities and construction began 3 ½ weeks after this message from the Lord!  Your reprioritization can begin today!

sbk