Thursday, April 30, 2015

Heaven Song

Good morning,
In memory of my brother-in-law, whose funeral is later this morning, I want to share with you one of my very favorite songs about Heaven.  It was written by my good friend, Alison Everill; and, you can hear her perform a sample of it on her website.  (See  )

Here are some of her beautiful lyrics from What Heaven is For Me.

It's the most amazing thing
To close your eyes and fall asleep
And wake up in a place that feels like home.
Looking back it's all so clear
Now that I am finally here
This is really where my heart was all along.
And, if I could only speak with you today
I know just exactly what I would say:

I would tell you that the streets are made of gold.
I cried "Holy" when I saw the crystal throne.
I would tell you all the pain and fear is gone.
You should hear the angels sing their song.
But I know there is no way I could describe
The way it felt the first time Jesus looked into my eyes.
He is so much more than you could ever dream.
He is here....and that's what Heaven is for me.

I never understood before the wondrous beauty of the Lord
Until I saw my Savior face to face.
And, you can't imagine what it's like
To wear a robe of spotless white 
And to kiss the scars of Him who took my place.
And if we could talk together one more time
I would tell you something that would change your life:

I would tell you that the streets are made of gold.
I cried "Holy" when I saw the crystal throne.
I would tell you all the pain and fear is gone.
You should hear the angels sing their song.
But I know there is no way I could describe
The way it felt the first time Jesus looked into my eyes.
He is so much more than you could ever dream.
He is here....and that's what Heaven is for me.

So don't waste a single minute of this life you have been given!
Eternity is just a breath away!
I have seen Him in His glory
And I promise you He's worthy
Of your deepest love and never-ending praise!

I am telling you...
The streets .... they're made of gold.
I cried "Holy" when I saw Him on His throne.
I would tell you all the pain and fear is gone.
You should hear the angels sing their song.
But I know there is no way I could describe
The way it felt the first time Jesus looked into my eyes.
He is so much more than you could ever dream.
He is here....and that's what Heaven is for me.

                                   Alison Everill, copyright owner, writer and composer, 2015

1 Corinthians 2:9  - - - 
But just as it is written, "Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him."

Hallelujah and Amen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

They Saw the Real World

Good morning,

When I was around 6 years old, it began to be obvious to me that I could not see as well as my classmates.  I would have to sit in the front of the classroom, for instance, because I could not see the chalkboard.  A trip to the eye doctor gave me the help I needed.  For the next 7 years, I progressed to ever-stronger prescriptions of eyeglasses until the lenses were like "coke-bottles".  At age 13, I received my first pair of contact lenses, a life-changing development.  But, the most amazing of all was the eye surgery I had in my mid-40's, which resulted in 20/20 vision that I possess to this day. As wonderful as the improvements to my physical sight were and are, they do nothing to help me see the real world.

1 Peter 1:8-9 talks about seeing.  Here are the verses from two versions:

You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.
The Message

Christians are reviled and mocked by many because they operate and govern their lives according to things which most cannot see.  For the Christian, spiritual sight is much more important than physical sight.  The real world is not the one we see with our physical eyes, but more importantly, the one we see with our spirits, our eyes of the heart.  You might call those "eyes of faith".  Look at Hebrews 11:13-16.

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.

Have I ever seen Jesus in a physical form?  No.  Have I "seen" Him with the eyes of faith?  Yes. Does that reality cause me to worship Him with laughter and singing?  Yes.  My eternal future is sealed; my soul is being sanctified.  These are the "realest" things in the world to me, and those truths bring me "inexpressible and glorious joy"!

The ability to see in this manner is God's gift.  If you cannot fathom what I'm talking about, if you think it sounds crazy, ask God to open your eyes to see His truth in the Bible.  Read it.  Devour it. Those who have done so prayerfully, with a willing heart have had their eyes opened.  This is because God has promised that those who earnestly seek Him will surely find Him, if they seek Him with all their hearts.

You will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.  
Jeremiah 29:13

Have you read The Chronicles of Narnia?  C.S. Lewis wrote this series of "children's books" in the early 20th century, after he went on a quest to learn the truth about Jesus.  After much study and research, he became a Christian.  He earnestly sought God, and God opened his eyes of faith. However, The Chronicles of Narnia are so much more than children's books.  They contain deep layers of meaning, "code", if you will, to express deep, spiritual truths.  Look at this excerpt from his book, The Last Battle.

“Yes,” said Queen Lucy. “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Last Battle*

Do you see it?

Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord.  We want to see You - - to see you high and lifted up, shining in the light of Your glory.  Pour our your power and love, as we sing, "Holy, Holy, Holy". ** May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.  (Ephesians 1:17)  In Jesus' name, amen.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Golden Faith

Good morning,

In this morning's text, the faith of the believer is compared to pure gold.  Why is gold so valuable? Why was gold selected as the material to be used for currency in ancient times?  Why is saving faith compared to pure gold?

Let's begin by examining the properties of gold.  Of the 118 elements on Chemistry's "periodic table", there are only a few which would qualify as good candidates for currency - - - the 8 "noble" elements. They are called "noble" because they do not react with other elements.  The whole reason we have a study of Chemistry is because when you place different elements in close proximity to each other, they become unstable; you get a chemical reaction.  That does not make for good currency!

Of the 8 "nobles", 6 of them were only recently discovered due to the fact that it is very difficult and costly to extract them from ore.  A very, very high smelting point is needed, which was unavailable in biblical times.  And, some of them are extremely rare.  Rhenium, for example, is one of the most rare elements in the crust of the Earth; it was, therefore, not discovered until 1925.

The other 2 "nobles" are silver and gold.  Both of these were used for currency over the years, although gold "set the standard", because silver is subject to tarnishing when sulphur is detected in the atmosphere.

Gold is prized because of the following:

  • It is relatively uninteresting, chemically.  A stable element, it is not "bothered" or changed by either atmospheric conditions, water or the other elements.
  • It is non-toxic.  It won't physically poison either you or others who come into contact with it.
  • It endures.  You can create something out of gold and discover it in excellent condition 1000 years later.
  • It is versatile.  It can be cast in many different shapes for many different purposes.
  • It is refined (made more pure) by fire - - high temperatures.
  • It is not impossibly rare (like rhenium), although it IS rare.  Look at this quote: "If you were to collect together every earring, every gold sovereign, the tiny traces of gold in every computer chip, every pre-Columbian statuette, every wedding ring and melt it down, it's guesstimated that you'd be left with just one 20-metre cube, or thereabouts. " **  (20 meters is about 65 feet)
  • It is beautiful!  All the other elements are either silver-colored or copper-colored.  Gold is ... golden.
The apostle Peter compares the believer's faith in Jesus Christ to this rare element, gold.  1 Peter 1:5-7 - - (HCSB)

You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 

The two similarities that Peter mentions are value and purity.   But, let's take the comparison as far as it will go, using the bullet points mentioned above.  Here I refer to the personal, saving, life-changing faith possessed by every true follower of Jesus Christ:
  • Our faith should be stable, unpolluted by the changing conditions around us.
  • Our faith should not "poison" those with whom we come into contact.
  • Our faith should endure, even through all eternity.
  • Our faith should be versatile - - - applicable to any life situation.
  • Our faith should become more genuine and more pure when we encounter the trials of life.
  • Our faith should stand out as rare in a dark, lost and dying world.
  • Our faith should shine forth to others in its beauty:  golden faith
Unlike gold, our faith will never "perish".  Gold is not eternal; our faith is.  This is because our faith is a supernatural gift from God, and none of His gifts are imperfect.

Christians, your faith should be your most treasured "possession".  Assuredly, when your spirit leaves this world, your saving faith in your Savior, Jesus Christ, is the only thing you will take with you into eternity, where our faith will bring to God "praise, glory and honor".  The Message version translates verse 7 like this:

When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.

So, Believer, do you know how very, very rich you are?  How can we not share this incredible treasure with those who are lost?

Using her many talents as a hymnwriter, Fanny J. Crosby was inspired by 1 Peter 1:5-7 to write this hymn *** in 1882:

  1. Oh, the unsearchable riches of Christ,
    Wealth that can never be told!
    Riches exhaustless of mercy and grace,
    Precious, more precious than gold!
    • Refrain:
      Precious, more precious,
      Wealth that can never be told!
      Oh, the unsearchable riches of Christ!
      Precious, more precious than gold.
  2. Oh, the unsearchable riches of Christ!
    Who shall their greatness declare?
    Jewels whose luster our lives may adorn,
    Pearls that the poorest may wear!
  3. Oh, the unsearchable riches of Christ!
    Freely, how freely they flow,
    Making the souls of the faithful and true
    Happy wherever they go!
  4. Oh, the unsearchable riches of Christ!
    Who would not gladly endure
    Trials, afflictions, and crosses on earth,
    Riches like these to secure!


Good morning, precious Jesus.  Thank you for welcoming into Your loving arms yesterday afternoon my dear brother, Dean, who possessed this precious treasure, more valuable than earthly gold.  Help all of us left behind for a little while to endure, as our personal faith in Your finished work is refined and tested and proven to be pure.  Dean has passed his final test.  He finished well.  May we do the same, through the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Temporary Residents

Good morning,

We are going to be in the book of 1 Peter for the next little while, and today's focus will be on 1:1-5. Because of the extremely good quality of the Greek in which this letter was written, many believe that Peter used a scribe or amanuensis (a literary assistant who either copies, translates or takes dictation) to pen his first letter.  (In 5:12, Peter refers to Silvanus "through whom" he wrote.)

12 Through Silvanus, whom I know to be a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, in order to encourage you and testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.

The reason for this letter appears to be the death of Paul (in 64 CE), which took place during Nero's reign in Rome. Peter, wanting to support the Asia Minor churches, many of which Paul and/or his converts evangelized, wrote this letter to encourage them. It was written shortly before Peter's own martyrdom, a year or two later.  The theme of 1 Peter is "experiencing God's grace in the face of suffering".

Shortly after Christ's ascension, persecution of Christians intensified, in both Jerusalem and Rome. This caused Christians to flee for their very lives.  While an awful situation, God used Satan's attacks on the early Church to spread the gospel all over that part of the world.
In verse 1, Peter addresses this letter in the broader sense to "the temporary residents" (HCSB) or, as The Message puts it "exiles scattered to the four winds".  Some intended recipients of this letter were, at the time of the writing, living in exile to escape persecution in either Rome or Jerusalem. God knew then, and He knows now, who would/will choose His Son (vs. 2).

No doubt many of these young Christians, regardless of physical age, wondered if they had made a wise decision to follow Christ.  They no doubt felt like "strangers and aliens" in their places of exile. Peter uses this phrase in 2:11.  One of the first times this happens for us as young children is when we are taken to Sunday School or the nursery at church for the first time.  Usually, this is quite a traumatic experience - - - for both the parents and the child.  The child often cries and is confused with being is such an unfamiliar environment.

Recently, I watched, along with 50,000 other people around the world, a simulcast from Birmingham, AL.  The teacher, David Platt, was beaming his message out from a secure, undisclosed location, not the location he had originally planned on using.  Why?  He and his team had received death threats if they went forward with the broadcast.  No doubt he felt like a "temporary resident", a "stranger", an "alien" there.  Are you surprised this is happening in America?

In a larger sense, this world is hostile to us and to our gospel message.  The Bible plainly states that the message of the gospel is offensive to those whose hearts have become hardened by sin.  Even though Christ commands us to share the gospel and to treat our fellow man with love, our message is often rejected; and, the hate for the message often spills over onto us, branding us as "hateful" as well.  This is a lie, as well as an attempt to discredit the message of salvation. ("Shoot the messenger", if you will...)

Even when things are "going well" here in our earthly existence, the taint of sin and the stink of death surround us.  They are inescapable in our earthly existence.  At the moment of this blog post, the death of a loved one is imminent.  I look at him as his body, his earthly "jar of clay" wastes away, and I realize that, because he believed on Jesus Christ as His Savior, this world in a short while will no longer be his home.  Look at the promise in 1 Peter 1:3-5 ...

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 

As I look at my brother in Christ, my loved one, whose body is perishing, I am comforted by this verse.  Our hope of eternal life is not "hope" as the word is commonly used in this world.  By that definition, hope is uncertain.  No, ours in Christ is a LIVING hope, which is an assurance, a certain hope that springs from the perfect mercy of our holy God, whose Word is unchanging.  For the Christ-follower, eternal life is "reserved in heaven" for us.  It is God's power that keeps us "saved", keeps us His.  Our inheritance of eternal life will never perish, is undefiled by sin and will not fade away.  It.Is.Ours.  This is God's promise.

This promise of eternal life comes through the new birth, that same "born again" experience that Jesus shared about with Nicodemus in John 3:1-21.  This new birth is validated by Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead.  Because He was raised from physical death to life in a resurrected, supernatural body, so shall we be.

Whether the suffering of sickness, death, persecution, martyrdom - - - whatever....they are all temporary, temporal, characteristic of this earthly realm.  In eternity, they will have no hold on us whatsoever.  We will dwell forever where the taint of sin cannot reach, in God's realm of "unapproachable light" (1 Timothy 6:16), continuing our existence "healed and whole" (1 Peter 1:5, The Message).

This place, far beyond our wildest dreams, is where Paul is, where Peter is, where my loved one will soon be, and where I will be when it is my time to go.  I pray your destination will be the same.

All blessing, honor and glory be to You, God my Father, and to Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  It is only through Your great mercy, Father, that we have this living hope.  I am so thankful for Your promises, which are from everlasting to everlasting, which will never fail.  Amen.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Uzziel .... which?

Good morning,

I apologize the late posting.  I did not get to sleep until after 3:00 a.m., and really needed more sleep than I got, rising at 8.  Since then, I've catered to the dog, made some whole-grain blueberry muffins, brewed the coffee and lo!  It's after 10:00.

Yesterday we concluded our walk through Galatians - - such a wonderful book.  This morning, I found myself wondering where to go next.  In so doing, I came across the Nave's Topical Bible Index on  Seeing this reminded me of my late paternal step-grandmother, Eloise ... Weezie to those who knew her.  The grandkids called her "Wing Wing".  She was magnificent!

Wing Wing passed away suddenly while I was across the country in school.  I was bereft with grief, as I didn't get to say good-bye.  But, after her death, her hairdresser brought a leather-bound Nave's Topical Bible to my mother.  She said that Wing Wing had told her about the Bible and had given it to her for safe-keeping until she could give it to me at Christmas time.  It was one of the most precious Christmas presents I've ever received.  I still love and miss her, but am comforted that I will see her again.

So, in the electronic version of Nave's, I thought it would be fun to look for an interesting topic to explore.  The Bible is such a treasure!  I've studied it for years, but there is still so much to learn.  In the Nave's index, I saw the name "Uzziel", and thought, "Who dat?"  (Good morning, NOLA Saints fans!)  I hope you'll be as intrigued as I am by what I found.

There are actually 5 Uzziels mentioned in the Bible.  The etymology of the name is "My Strong God".  "El", the last part is short for "Elohim", which is the plural form of "God", and the first part, "Uzz", means "strong".  In the middle is a short character that indicates possessive (where the "my" comes from).  So, there you go.  (These are not listed in truly chronological order.)

The first Uzziel mentioned in the Bible is found in Exodus 6:18; Leviticus 10:4; Numbers 3:19, 27. He is the grandson of Levi - - - yes, THE Levi, the progenitor of the Levitical line, the tribe of Levi, the priests of the Jewish people.   He had 3 brothers, of which Amram was the eldest.

19 The Kohathite clans:  Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel.
27 To Kohath belonged the clans of the Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites and Uzzielites; these were the Kohathite clans.

A second Uzziel was from the tribe of Simeon, and was a mighty warrior.  We read in 1 Chronicles 4:41-43 that he led 500 men to battle at Mount Seir, where he and his brothers destroy the last of the Amalekites.

41These, recorded by name, came in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and attacked their tents and the Meunites who were found there, and destroyed them utterly to this day, and lived in their place, because there was pasture there for their flocks. 42From them, from the sons of Simeon, five hundred men went to Mount Seir, with Pelatiah, Neariah, Rephaiah and Uzziel, the sons of Ishi, as their leaders. 43They destroyed the remnant of the Amalekites who escaped, and have lived there to this day.

A third Uzziel is found to be a contemporary of Nehemiah and Ezra.  He was a talented goldsmith who worked on the rebuilding of the ("second") Temple, during and after the return of the Jewish remnant to their land after the Babylonian captivity.  This man was an artist and a restorer.  We find him mentioned in Nehemiah 3:8.

Uzziel son of Harhaiah, a member of the goldsmiths' guild, worked on the section adjacent to him.
NET Bible

A fourth Uzziel was the grandson of Benjamin (the youngest of the 12 sons of Jacob).  Benjamin's son, Uzziel's father, was named Bela.  We find mention of him in 1 Chronicles 7:7 - - -

The sons of Bela: Ezbon, Uzzi, Uzziel, Jerimoth and Iri, heads of families--five in all. Their genealogical record listed 22,034 fighting men.

Like Uzziel the Simeonite, this Uzziel lived up to his name.  He was a mighty man of valor.

The fifth and final Uzziel found in Scripture was a musician in the court of King David.  See
1 Chronicles 25:4-5 - -

As for Heman, from his sons: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shubael and Jerimoth; Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti and Romamti-Ezer; Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir and Mahazioth.  All these were the sons of Heman the king's seer in the words of God, to exalt the horn. And God gave to Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.

One of 17.... I guess he had find some way to distinguish himself from that crowd, and prophecy and music seemed to be "the family business".  This last Uzziel is also mentioned in 2 Chronicles 29:14-15 as one whose descendants were called upon in Hezekiah's day to "cleanse the temple".  Hezekiah ruled about 275 years after David.

14and from the sons of Heman, Jehiel and Shimei; and from the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel.15They assembled their brothers, consecrated themselves, and went in to cleanse the house of the LORD, according to the commandment of the king by the words of the LORD.…

This shows that his family endured in faithfulness to God for several generations.   All of these Uzziels used their God-given talents to honor Him, each in his own way.  What a blessing!

Well, this has been a strange and uncharacteristic post, has it not?  But, it's good to "change it up" every now and then.

Father, thank you for the good gifts you pour out on us, including those particular talents you have equipped us with so that we can glorify You in our time here.  Your infinite creativity and variety are amazing!  Do a mighty work in each of us, Lord, to advance Your kingdom and make famous the matchless name of Your Son, Jesus, our Saviour.  It's in His name I pray, amen.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Misplaced Glory

Good morning,

I want to focus on something in Galatians 6:13 this morning, and that is what some call "sheep-stealing".  Here is the verse from both the NIV and The Message:

Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh.

They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast of their success in recruiting you to their side. That is contemptible!

It appears that the Judaizers were very concerned that, not only the Galatians find Christ, but that they also were labeled or marked as "their converts".  Some commentaries put forward that these zealous Judaizers were hoping to escape prosecution by the great Jewish machine in Jerusalem by saying, "See, they are practically Jews!"  (Barnes commentary) Others have theorized that the Judaizers somehow earned brownie points for each convert they accumulated. In that case, their larger goal was to accrue glory and honor to themselves for having achieved in another person a physical change, when what Christ requires is a change of the heart.

I'm sad to say that Christians too fall into temptation in a similar way.  In our Christian culture, we seem to be mighty impressed by large numbers.  This is something that we need to guard against. And, I, too, have been guilty of this at times.  Instead we need to focus on being obedient to our calling and letting "God give the increase" (1 Corinthians 3:6).  If we follow Christ in obedience and reverence, giving Him the glory for the great things He does, there WILL be growth.  But, it should not be a contest among churches or small groups or ministries, nor is HUGE the goal.  When we focus on that outcome, we are ripe to fall into the temptation of patting ourselves on the back over what WE accomplished.  No.  This is sin, and we need to guard our hearts against it.

Is being a large congregation or ministry in and of itself "bad"?  No.  But, focusing on size is wrong-headed and giving ourselves the glory due to Jesus is misplaced glory.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things!  To Him be the glory, both now and forever!  Amen.  (Romans 11:36)

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Good morning,

You may wonder at the title of today's blog.   One of the meanings of this word, in today's culture, is to cut the skin either repeatedly or ritualistically, because of deep, mental disease and spiritual desperation.  It is often young people who do this, as an outward expression of their internal agony.

Two other, different types of cutting are mentioned in Galatians 6:11-14, today's text.  One is cutting of the flesh; the other is cutting of the carnal human nature.

11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!
12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (NIV)
In verse 11, Paul points out the importance of his last words by writing them in his own handwriting. He had an illness of or an injury to his eyes (perhaps from the Damascus Road encounter?). Therefore, he dictated his letters to the early churches, for the most part, to a servant or scribe.  But, he was so concerned that the Galatians "get" his point about the Judaizers that, at the end, he wrote in his own, large handwriting.

At the end of verse 13, he emphasizes the motivation of the Judaizers - - - they want to be able to boast about bringing the Galatians into line with Jewish laws and traditions. (I want to explore that more in tomorrow's post.) If you are not familiar with God's Old Testament command of circumcision, it is commanded to Abraham for the people of God in Genesis 17:9-14.

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

In The Message version, vs. 13b is stated like this:  "That way my covenant will be cut into your body, a permanent mark of my permanent covenant."

This command was part of what is called the Abrahamic Covenant.  However, when Christ came, He fulfilled all the old covenants and established a new covenant, which did not require the marking of circumcision in the body of male believers.  Rather, the new covenant was "marked" by circumcision of the heart.

What is this New Testament "circumcision of the heart"?  Actually, it is not a strictly New Testament concept.  There are several Old and New Testament verses which speak of "circumcision of the heart".  Here are three:

Don’t you see: It’s not the cut of a knife that makes a Jew. You become a Jew by who you are. It’s the mark of God on your heart, not of a knife on your skin, that makes a Jew. And recognition comes from God, not legalistic critics.
Romans 2:28-29

16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.
Deuteronomy 10:16

The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live!
Deuteronomy 30:6

After Christ's ascension/departure in physical form from the earth, the Holy Spirit came to believers on the Day of Pentecost.  When a person receives Jesus as his or her personal Lord and Savior, he or she figuratively "cuts the heart" to allow the Holy Spirit to enter.  And, the Holy Spirit is a mark, a "cut" if you will, on each person's heart to indicate both His everlasting presence as well as the believer's eternal belonging to Jesus Christ.  This was not the case in the Old Testament.  The Holy Spirit did not dwell with each Jewish person, whether circumcised in the flesh or not.  The Spirit of God descended on those He chose for His specific purposes.  The ever-present Holy Spirit in the heart of every follower of Jesus Christ is His mark of ownership.

And, what does the Holy Spirit's mark and presence produce in the heart and life of each believer? Well, if that believer will allow the Spirit to do His transformative work, what is produced is stated in Deuteronomy 30:6.  This yielding by each person produces an all-consuming love for the Savior, down deep in the soul.  The Spirit produces, as Paul said in Gal. 6:14, a willing, daily crucifixion of one's will to the Cross of Jesus Christ, a daily dying to Self.  Further, this love for Christ produces the "fruits of the Spirit", listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

I think about those dear ones who, in agony of spirit, cut their flesh.  I long to say to them that the only answer to their extreme pain of the soul is found in Jesus Christ.  Only He can touch the human heart and radically change a life.  When His Spirit cuts you, marks you - - - you are never the same.

Heavenly Father, I am so grateful that you marked my heart all those years ago.  I am utterly unworthy of such grace!  All of us are.  Regardless of that fact, You made a way through Jesus for us to be at peace with You and with ourselves.  The only cutting needed is the cutting of the heart. Please enable and empower us who know You to share the good news of your gospel with those who are hurting, wandering far from You, lost and unable to see Your glorious Light, available to them through Jesus. In His name I pray, amen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Good morning,

I am an aspiring gardener.  A few years ago, I had some family members help me plant a small garden on my mother-in-law's historic garden plot.  The results were distinctly mixed, mainly because that property is nearly 30 minutes from my home; and, I could not (well, did not) tend it faithfully. As a result, it became overrun by weeds and pests and so forth.  The yield was meager.

Today's text is Galatians 6:6-10.  Paul warns us that, if as Christians we live only to please ourselves, we will harvest a life of weeds.  What we plant we will harvest.   It is a spiritual principle, as well as a principle of successful farming.

Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.
7-8 Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.
9-10 So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.
What is this generous, common life that Paul references?  In other versions, it is called "eternal life", and it is!  However, people, we have got to grab hold of the notion that "eternal life" doesn't start when we die.  For the Christian, eternal life is NOW.  Every person, Christian or not, has a body, soul and spirit.  The two latter will live somewhere forever, in the next realm.  Those who are depending on Jesus Christ's redeeming and finished work to cancel their sin debt will continue to live on for eternity with Him, in Heaven.  Those who choose to reject Him and live a weed-infested life will go on to the place of torment upon leaving this earthly dimension, this mortal plane.  Such is Hell (both in this life and the next).  In other versions the translation calls it "destruction" (NIV).

I love this passage of Scripture because it provides the appropriate context to a life of "good works". These are NOT the good works done in an attempt to gain salvation.  That type of effort is useless because we cannot do enough to earn salvation on our own.  These works are done out of joyful obedience, out of overflowing gratitude for the magnificent grace of our Savior!

At the time of this writing, spring has come to the South.  The gardeners I know eagerly await the spring season.  They literally "count the days" until they can get out in the vegetable beds or flower beds and plant their seeds or seedlings.  It is this kind of longing, of excitement, of anticipation which should accompany our "good works".  Are we as eager to "sow seeds" for the kingdom of Christ?  We certainly should be!

All gardeners know that gardening is hard work - - work that gets your hands dirty.  Adam discovered that when he was expelled from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:23), and gardening is still hard work! That is why Paul tells us to expect to get fatigued in our "doin' good".  He knows that we will, at times, get tired, discouraged, overwhelmed ... weary of it all.  He exhorts us though not to give up, not to quit!

One frustrating, but critical, difference - - - where this analogy breaks down - - - is that gardeners can see the fruits of their labor.  In a few weeks, they can reap a physical harvest and go enjoy those delicious half-runner pole beans, or squash or tomatoes.  In the spiritual realm, not so much! In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul points out that there in Corinth he planted the seed, which Apollos watered. Paul only saw some of the "harvest" and that was from afar.  Often times, we plant seeds but do not see the actual harvest.  This is one reason for discouragement.

Here is what we have to remember:  in both earthly gardening and spiritual gardening, it is GOD who brings the yield.  We must let God's Holy Spirit "do the growth work", as The Message puts it.  We are not to focus on the output.  Our task is to tend the garden.  Our ultimate, spiritual harvest will only be seen in Heaven, at the "awards ceremony of Jesus Christ".

Are you not sure where to start?  Pray and ask God for opportunities.  Paul says that we should start with caring for our brothers and sisters in "the household of faith", your own local family of believers.  But, if we stop there, we are missing the opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission! That love for our Christian brothers and sisters should overflow to the rest of the world - - - the lost, mired-down-in-sin world.  I promise you this:  if you ask God, He will give you opportunities.  Each one of us has a unique set of gifts from Him, which we can use to bless others.

Presently, my family is working through the extreme grief of letting a loved one go on into Jesus' arms.  As we ride the roller coaster of "ups and downs" involved with such a painful, though temporary, separation, many godly friends are "planting in us".  Friends are praying, calling, emailing, visiting, hugging, providing food at the home, etc.  It means so much to experience such precious love and care.  It eases our pain of loss to some degree.

I cannot name all the godly people who have "planted" into me over the past decades; but, I am grateful for every, single one.  I would not be a disciple of Jesus Christ, a "resplendent daughter", had it not been for them.  Spiritual reproduction!  That's what I'm talking about!  Spiritual gardening is not hindered by any earthly climate or season. It is always the right time to "go tend the garden". Let's get back out there, Christians, and get to it!

Lord Jesus, I love You, Your Word and Your people.  Thank you for giving us each other, to cheer and encourage at all times, but particularly in times of grief and loss.  "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.  They will know we are Christians by our love."  Hallelujah! And, amen.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Beautiful, Healing Arms of Jesus

Good morning,

The dictionary defines "burden" as "a heavy load."  Burdens - - - we all have them.  Sometimes, it feels like our particular burden will stay with us for the rest of our earthly days.  And, sometimes, it does.  Other burdens are more temporary.  Regardless, we are instructed in Galatians 6 to help our fellow man (and our brothers/sisters in Christ in particular) with their burdens, to share them, to help carry them.

1-3 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.

When the Body of Christ behaves in this way, we are living out the "life law" that Jesus gave us - - - stated another way as "love one another" (John 13:34).

Some of us in the "household of faith" are better at this than others because we have the gift of "seeing".  Do you know people like that?  They can see or ascertain when someone has a need.  Many of us are too busy to take a good look at others and see their needs.

The other day I was in the grocery store, when I saw that this little, old lady had dropped a plastic container of cut fruit.  It was all over the floor, and it was obvious (key word being "obvious") that she was incapable of getting down there to pick it up.  So I picked it up, took it to the trash, gave her a smile and went on my way.  This is an example of an obvious burden that this lady had, a flagrant need.

There have also been times when my world has collided with that of another needy person, and I have not been able to see his or her need and respond appropriately.  It was not until after the moment had passed that I realized what had occurred.  At those times, I have been very frustrated with my lack of discernment.  I don't have a heaping helping of the gift of "seeing", as do some of my more compassionate, tender-hearted friends.

The point is that we need to pray for "eyes that see" and "ears that hear".  And then, we need to respond accordingly.

Paul points out that some burdens are caused by the choice to sin, rather than choosing God's better way.  People make such choices because of the belief that sin will ease the pain that living often brings.  It is our responsibility to share lovingly and meekly with others about the all-sufficient love of Jesus - - - sufficient to bandage every wound, heal every hurt.  It is all about Him and His amazing grace, the bottomless well of His love.

Paul speaks of meekness here.  What is meekness, anyway?  Some believe that it means to let people run all over you or trample you like a doormat.  Not so!  True meekness (1) begins with humility, not thinking ourselves better than others, combined with (2) a quiet confidence in the Truth.  Meekness is so critical to helping others bear their burdens because if we do that good work in an attitude of spiritual pride, arrogance and/or condescension, we run the risk of being blind to our own sins...not to mention greatly offending the recipient of our self-centered efforts to "help".

You may think that it is impossible to help others with their burdens because of your own.  But, that is a lie and a deception of Satan.  Jesus calls all of us to lay our burdens on Him.  His corresponding promise is that He will uphold and sustain us through times of trial.  Here is the explicit promise, in two verses:
Throw your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you.
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
Psalm 55:22

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

Heave ho!  is a nautical expression used by sailors when they were throwing overboard unnecessary items.  Christ invites us to give our burdens to Him, to give them the old "heave ho!"  And, likewise, as the Lord brings into our lives those who will help us to bear our burdens, we must let them!  Some of us, in a misguided attempt to be "spiritual" will not allow those God sends to help.  Often, this makes the burden heavier and causes more pain.

I'm thinking of a situation in the past where I was upset over a situation over which I had no control. My fleshly answer to this was to "control the things I could".  In so doing, I lifted something too heavy, or lifted it incorrectly, and injured my back, making the former situation even worse.  

Christ longs to carry us through times of pain and suffering.  He stands with outreached arms, pleading to embrace us.  He commands us to imitate Him by embracing others and helping them bear their burdens as well.  And, to give Jesus all the glory in so doing.

Come ye sinners, poor and needy
Weak and wounded, sick and sore,
Jesus ready stands to save you
Full of pity, love and power
I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me in His arms
In the arms of my dear Savior
Oh!  There are ten thousand charms!
                               from, "I Will Arise and Go to Jesus", by Joseph Hart, 1759

Good morning, Lord!  Thank you for this beautiful day which You have made.  Thank you for the right to heave all of our burdens on You and for the opportunity to "live You!" by bearing the burdens of others. In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Lilly Pulitizer Originals

Good morning,

I heard an interesting tale yesterday about a designer named Lilly Pulitzer.  Apparently, her beautiful creations were quite pricey.  Somehow, though, in the settling of her estate a deal was brokered to offer some of her designs through the Target stores, for a limited time.  Two friends of mine, in two separate locations, were sharing with me about their experiences at their local Targets yesterday morning, particularly about how other people acted in their quest to obtain "a Lilly Pulitzer".

Originality - - - humans have a "love-hate" relationship with it.  In some cases, we love it, crave it, want it.  In other cases, we ostracize it, criticize it, penalize it.

The Triune God is endlessly creative.  He created man in His image. Yet, the apostle Paul calls each of us "an original".  Wow.

We are now at the end of chapter 5 of Galatians and will be, this morning, focusing on the last 2 verses, 5:25-26.  (The Message)

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

"the kind of life we have chosen..."
Last night I was talking with a friend about how, in the end times, the antichrist will force all people to take "the mark of the beast" in their bodies.  There has always been a lot of speculation as to what that mark would look like or be; but, one thing we do know from Scripture is that people will be forced by the tyrannical world ruler to take it.  God does not work that way in our lives.  He forces no one to choose Life, to choose Jesus Christ.  The decision is meaningless to Him unless it is truly ours. (While I am grateful for that, it frustrates me.  Aren't there some people in your life that you wish God would just "bop them" over the head and force them to accept Him?)

" original"
There are a couple of pitfalls with celebrating originality and individuality.  Paul details one of them in Galatians 5:27.  This is the tendency to compare ourselves with each other and to either stifle our own God-given gifts or to conform needlessly in order to look like/be like someone else.  (We women are especially susceptible to this particular trap.)
The second pitfall is to use our uniqueness as an excuse to sin.  In this case we do what Paul described in Galatians 5:25 - - - having "head knowledge" of Christ, but refusing to allow Him to change us, to transform us into His image, to renew our minds, to sanctify us.  "Oh, well, that's just the way I am...." is often overheard, in an attempt to excuse sin, to keep Christ's transformative Spirit out of our secret sin strongholds.  I call this the Gollum Way - - - "My Precious!  My Precious!"  The J.R.R. Tolkein fans out there will understand...
Neither of these life-practices is what Christ Jesus died for; neither is what He intended for His Beloved.

Since each of us was created to be unique among all other people on the earth, all who were ever created or who will ever be created, and since each of us Christ-followers has chosen this life of the Spirit, how should we then live?

Paul says the key is to let the Spirit permeate our entire existence.

In the book of Colossians (2:6-7), Paul admonishes those Christ-followers similarly:

Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

So, to recap and get on with the business of walking resplendently today:
1.  Choose Jesus Christ as Savior (if you have not already made that decision) because if you have not, none of the rest matters.
2.  Celebrate the fact that you were created in the image of God (Imago Dei) and that He created you an "original"!
3.  Don't try to be some other human being.
4.  Imitate Jesus Christ!  Yield to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in Your life through allowing His presence to soak into even your smallest decisions and acts.  (This is what it means to "pray without ceasing"! 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
5.  Be thankful for the outrageous gifts God has given you through Jesus Christ.

Ahhhh, Lord God!  There is no life comparable to the life You have given me in Jesus Christ - - life abundantly free on this earth and life everlasting with You in Heaven!  Nothing else comes close. Thank you for the incomparable, abundant gifts You give Your Beloved, those "originals" You have redeemed, those You are transforming into the image of Your Son, my Savior.  In Jesus' matchless name, amen.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Orchard

Good morning,

So many people reject Christ because they say, "I could not possibly live that way. I would be unable to live that way!"  Well, they got that right.  Wrong "power source"!  But, stay with me here, Skeptic. Don't stomp off in a huff, Seeker.

There are many metaphors given in the New Testament concerning the Church.  I've referred to several of these in my blog posts.  Some of these are: the Bride of Christ, the Flock, the Body of Christ, the Family of God, etc.  Each of these metaphors is beautiful in its own way, as each reveals to us some precious aspect of our relationship with the Savior.  Today, though, we examine the metaphor Paul uses in Galatians 5:19-24, with particular emphasis on 22-23, where Paul compares the Body to an orchard.

I'm using The Message version again.

22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

I've pasted in the key verses of this passage, but notice in the larger passage that Paul "bookends" these two verses with additional warnings about living loosely, according to one's own me-centered desires (vs. 19-21) and then on the other end, living legalistically (vs. 23-24).  These two competing, inferior (yet prevalent) ways of living were given a thorough treatment in yesterday's post, and I'm not going to re-plow that ground.

Like a beautiful jewel positioned "just so", Paul paints a picture of a bountiful orchard, where each believer is a flourishing tree, bearing wonderful fruit.  He points out that we grow and produce spiritual fruit because of the work of God's Holy Spirit in our lives.  Beautiful fruit is not something that we can produce on our own efforts.  (That's legalism, which only gets in the way of this process.)

Also, note here that Jesus loved this metaphor of the Christ-follower.  He is recorded using it in Matthew 7, Mark 11 and Luke 13.

Have you ever tried to cultivate a fruit tree?  I have 4 fruit trees in my side yard.  Basically, those trees don't do anything except "be" an apple tree or a pear tree.  (Those are the two varieties I have.) They don't work.  They don't strive with each other.  They just "stand there", firmly planted, and allow God's sun, rain, the nutrients of the soil - - - God's gifts - - - to bring forth fruit onto their branches.

We make the choice whether or not to become a "fruit tree", when we make our personal decision to accept and follow Jesus Christ.  And, then, we choose to yield to the "sun", "wind", "rain" and yes, even the "storms" that God allows to touch us.  We also allow Him to "prune" us, as needed. (OUCH! Yeah...)  We also allow Him to cause the fruit to grow in our lives.

So, what kind of fruit is found in God's Orchard?  I'm going to list The Message's descriptors on the left and the Holman Christian Standard Version's descriptive language on the right.

affection for others                                                                         love
exuberance about life                                                                     joy
serenity                                                                                            peace
a willingness to stick with things                                                   patience
a sense of compassion in the heart                                                kindness
a conviction that basic holiness permeates things & people       goodness
involved in loyal commitments                                                      faith
not needing to force our way in life                                               gentleness (meekness)
able to marshal and direct our energies wisely                            self-control

I really need to memorize this list.  As I look at it, I realize how often I resist the Holy Spirit's work in my own life.  I also realize how these fruits could not possibly be produced by my own efforts.

My dear unbelieving friends - - - none of us, even Christians, are able to produce this type of fruit on his/her own.  It is supernatural, just as much of a mystery as the marvelous, God-ordained, naturalistic process that causes my fruit trees to make apples and pears.  We are not the power source.

"But, to as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the children of God, even to them who believed on His name."
John 1:12

Salvation, itself - - - that first step in coming to know God - - - is His gift.  And, the fruits of the Spirit as His gifts as well.   Do you see?  It is all about Him and His mercy and grace!  It is not about us and our futile, legalistic efforts.  We don't have anything to boast about or to be proud about.  I'm so glad! (Personally, I have enough problems battling the sin of pride as it is!)

The question is:  will we yield?  Unbelievers:  will you yield to Jesus Christ by accepting Him as your Lord and Savior?  Christians, will you yield to your Savior so that He can produce beautiful fruit in your life?

Good morning, Father.  Thank you for planting me, a tender, young sapling, in the fertile ground of Your Word, when I accepted Jesus as my Savior at age 9.  Over the years, You have brought forth some beautiful fruit on my branches.  There have also been seasons when the storms of life have made my branches less fruitful.  There have also been painful times when You have pruned my branches, to enable me to bring forth more and more beautiful fruit.  Thank you for all of this, yes, even for the terrible trials.  I am humbled and grateful for the marvelous work You are doing through me, for the glory of Your Name and the advancement of Your kingdom.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Free Life

Good morning,

Thanks for your patience as I am getting a late start today.  Galatians 5:13-18 is our main text this morning.  You might want to take a moment and read it.  (I've reproduced it later in the post.)

What does "freedom" mean, as Paul defines it, in the context of the Christian life?
It might be helpful to first notice/define what it is not.

1. First of all, it is not being harnessed to a set of rituals, traditions and schemes.
I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered.
Here's a modern-day example: The Bible commands us to gather together as local bodies of Christ-followers, for worship, encouragement, discipleship, service.  That means we should attend our local church faithfully. However, some interpret this to mean that they should never miss church!  Their relative is sick, but they can't go visit him/her in the hometown because .... "can't miss church, not even a couple times a year!".  Their mother is having a birthday - - - can't miss church!  Etc.  This is legalism, and a distortion of Scripture.  Personally, I had to deal with this this week; so, I'm "preaching to the choir".  Christian, if your "church work" keeps you from loving others, you are missing the point.  I could give many more examples of "pious but legalistic" behavior, but will spare you.  I'm sure you get the idea.

2.  Second of all, it is not living exactly as one pleases, serving our own selfish desires as a pattern of living.    
Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. {Don't} feed the compulsions of selfishness.
(5:13, 17)
Even though this is not the Galatians' issue, Paul does touch on this kind of behavior in the verses above. Some of the other "baby churches" in that day had a worse problem with this (See the Corinthians, for instance.)  This is very sad to say, but unfortunately, in the Protestant church, this is happening.  I can talk about Protestants because I am one, a Baptist, to be exact.  There are some whose testimony is this:  "Well, I said the prayer.  I asked Jesus into my heart.  I am 'under grace'. He will forgive me, whatever I do.  So, I can live just as I please now."  This is a perversion of gospel of Jesus; it is the very self-centered life walk Paul warned the Galatians (and others) about.  It is an indication that this person needs to examine him/herself, to see if he/she is really, truly His.   As James says in his book, "Faith without works is useless."  (James 2:20).

3.  Third, freedom is not a license to excuse sin in the name of "love".  This, too, is very prevalent today.  Since the unbelieving world accuses us of being "unloving" because we hold to the teachings of Jesus and the prophets and the disciples, as revealed in the Holy Bible, we react to that accusation by watering down our message and lowering our convictions.  Listen, the most loving thing we can do for people is to present to them the gospel the Bible teaches, which includes repentance from sin. How can you repent from something, if you don't know that it IS sin?  The answer is, "You can't." That does not mean we should picket funerals or sling hate-filled messages at unbelievers, as some who claim the name of Christ (falsely, in my opinion) do.  But, neither should we excuse anything that sets itself up in opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

4.  Fourth, in keeping with #3 above, we are not free to tear one another apart in the name of holiness. We should exhort one another in the most loving way possible, without compromising the truth.  This applies to holding ourselves accountable ourselves first, then our brothers and sisters in the faith and also those unbelievers the Lord brings to our circle of influence in this world.  Look at Paul's warning about how NOT to do this:
If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? 

This brings us to the definition of The Free Life in Jesus Christ.  Paul defines it for us in verses 13-18 (The Message):

13-15 It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?
16-18 My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

I absolutely LOVE how Paul agrees with James here.  Do you see it?  What is a Christian walk that expresses true faith through good works?  Look at the underlined phrases above:
a.  "Freedom to serve one another, in love"
b.  "Love others as you love yourself."
c.  Choose to be "animated and motivated by God's Spirit", "led by the Spirit".
Inherent in these commands of Paul's is ACTION...service, love-in-action.  Paul will go on to more fully describe the characteristics of someone who is led by the Spirit in the next few verses.  We will look at them later this week.

So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!  
John 8:36

Father, thank you for setting us free from the sin curse, through the magnificent, unbelievable sacrifice of Your Son.  Teach us believers, by Your Holy Spirit, to walk soberly, joyfully, in that freedom today, so that our lives may usher in Your Kingdom on earth, so that Your will may be done, so that You may get all the glory!  In Jesus' name, amen.