What Jesus is asking from us is to live our lives in submission to him. My life is now his life. That’s what Jesus means when he says for us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. To be Jesus’ disciple we have to let him into the driver’s seat of our lives.
Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” What Paul is saying is that the Holy Spirit is not just the source of our new life he is also means for living that new life. What does it mean to, “keep in step with the Spirit?”
I think we see an illustration of what it means in a book written by Kenneth Boa, Life In The Presence of God. In it he compares a soaring eagle to Christians learning to soar through the power of the Holy Spirit:
God seems to like eagles. Thirty-three Bible verses mention them! Eagles are true flying birds, meaning they get off the ground by flapping, but they soar by thermals. Eagles begin flight training around four months old. But even before that, at about two months, they stand up in the nest and spread their wings when they feel gusts of wind. They're training to know the thermals! Thermals are the columns of air formed as heat rises from the ground. Because heat rises, these air columns push up and up, displacing the cold air around them. By staying in the warmth of the thermal, the birds continue to soar. Eagles become experts in this.
In this magnificent aerodynamic action, gravity isn't deactivated—it's still at work—but the higher principle overcomes gravity. Eagles drop down when they step off a branch. Then, they start flapping like crazy. Once they're in the air, though, their wings don't have to work very hard, and while soaring, they use a small fraction of the effort required to rise. They're almost at rest and can just enjoy the pleasure of flight.
When we first begin following Christ (or practicing a spiritual discipline) we're like eagles spreading our wings. Once we start flapping, though, we lift up. Maybe after a few tries we're back down on the ground. But through repeated practice, we finally soar. Also, in Greek, the Holy Spirit is called pnuema, which means "current of air." Think about what this means for us! We flap and flap, but eventually we catch the current of air, and we soar. This is how the Holy Spirit works with our training. He's not only our coach; he's the power behind everything we do. [Kenneth Boa, Life in the Presence of God (InterVarsity Press 2017), pages 129-130]
Today you could not just fly but soar. It is not accomplished by your power but sensing the Holy Spirit within and walking according to his promptings. When you live like this your life is elevated to something higher. Isn’t it time to soar? Keep in step with the Spirit.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your helper, the Holy Spirit. Help us to live according to his promptings and leadings. Help us to learn how to soar by being tuned to your Spirit. Thank you for your power which enables us to soar. Let us soar today. In Jesus name, amen.
Devotion: Wont you be my neighbor?
Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.””
Although he died February 2003, some fifteen years later, the passion and love for Fred Rogers among those who watched his television show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” has not waned at all. In January (2018) the news that Tom Hanks will be portraying Fred Rogers in a coming biopic was met with frenzied glee. Americans also seem to love sharing myths about Fred Rogers, the friendly neighbor known the world over as Mister Rogers. Consider the one about how he wore cardigans to cover up his tattoos (false). Or the one that he was an ordained Presbyterian minister. That one is true—he graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1963—and it's far more foundational to Rogers's legacy than you might think. Rogers was a man defined by his Christian faith, and the message that he taught every day on his beloved children's show was shaped by it.
Rogers said over and over again: "You've made this day a special day by just your being you. There is no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are."
"I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to know that he or she is lovable," he said in the 2003 documentary "America's Favorite Neighbor." Rogers echoed the sentiment of the biblical passage 1 John 4:10, "This is love: Not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." The focus is not just how important it is that you're loved, but also how vital it is to be loving.
That legacy, of loving your neighbor, is exactly why Fred Roger’s impact is so huge even to this day. It may seem so simple and yet it is so radical that it left an indelible mark upon those who watched his show. We sensed the generosity and love when Mr Rogers asked, “Wont you be my neighbor?”
Rogers said in a 2001 commencement address at Middlebury College: "When we look for what's best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we're doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we're participating in something truly sacred."
It may sound old-fashioned, but Mister Rogers's theology was radical in 1962 when his show debuted, and it remains radical today. That's why it resonated. That's why it's still necessary.
Let Mr Rogers legacy live on through us who love God enough to love our neighbor as ourselves. Wont you be my neighbor?
Prayer: Father God, we thank You for the love You first gave us through Jesus Your Son. Help us to share that love with those You have put in our lives. May our neighbors know we belong to You because of the love we give them. In Jesus name, amen.
Devotion: How to be a successful failure…
As anyone who has ever tried to learn something difficult knows, failure is unavoidable. Failure is part of everyone’s life. What is true for our physical life is also true for our spiritual life. We needn’t be troubled by this. There is a way to be a successful failure.
Former figure skater Scott Hamilton won the National and World Championships in 1981 before winning a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics. Hamilton and his wife Tracie have four children, including two children adopted form Haiti. He's also a committed follower of Christ. While he was pursuing his success as a skater, he once said he dropped out of church involvement and started what he jokingly called "The Church of Scott." But through the love of his wife and other Christians, he came to a sincere faith in Christ.
Rooted in his faith, Hamilton had an interesting take on dealing with personal sin and failure. In a 2018 New York Times interview Hamilton said: "I calculated once how many times I fell during my skating career—41,600 times. But here's the funny thing: I got up 41,600 times. That's the muscle you have to build in your psyche—the one that reminds you to just get up.” [Juliet Macur, "Scott Hamilton Was Demoted as an Olympic Broadcaster. Don't Feel Sorry for Him." The New York Times (2-18-18)]
The key to being a successful failure is simple—get back up again. Proverbs 24:16 says, “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” The difference between the righteous and the wicked is that when the righteous fall they get back up again.
We all will fail God. Paul tells us in Romans, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and don’t we know it’s true. God knows too, and so He gives us His grace. It’s not a license to sin, but the freedom to learn how to do a difficult thing—to walk like Jesus. And when we fall and when we fail, God promises us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.“ (1 John 1:9)
So, what do we do when we fail? We confess our failure to God who will forgive and who will cleanse us. Then we get back up again. That is how to be a successful failure.
Prayer: Holy Father, we confess to You that we are sinners and have failed you. We thank you for grace which allows us the space to learn how to walk like Jesus. Help us back up again today so that we may continue to follow You. May You receive the glory and praise in Jesus name, amen.
Today's Devotional Thought: Safe Under His Wings
"He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." (Psalm 91:4)
An article in National Geographic several years ago provided a penetrating picture of God's wings. After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up the mountain to assess the inferno's damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of the tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of the pending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, knowing instinctively that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had singed her small body, the mother had remained steadfast. Because she had been willing to die, those under the cover of her wings would live.
Now listen as Jesus laments over the city of Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37. He says, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing."
As Jesus makes this statement he has resolutely fixed his path toward the cross of Calvary (Luke 13:32-35). As he considered his purpose he aches to bring in the whole house of Israel under the protection of his blood; he desires to bring them under the safety of his wings. As Jesus makes this heart-felt cry over Jerusalem he stands upon the Mount of Olives which is a hill facing the old city of Jerusalem, on the eastern side of the Kidron valley.
From that location Jesus would be able to look over the temple wall. Inside the temple animal sacrifices were being done, the blood being spilt upon the alter. This is because, as the Hebrew writer tells us, "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22). But the Hebrew writer goes on to say in 10:4, "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." So, Peter will tell us that the One whose blood could take away sins was standing upon that mount. He says, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Yet it was probably not His blood Jesus was thinking of when he makes his lament over Jerusalem. In the very next chapter, chapter 24, Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple (Matthew 24:2, "Do you see all these things?" he asked."Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.").
In AD 70 that prophecy would be fulfilled. From the same spot that Jesus stood upon and cried over the city the future Roman Emperor Titus would stand as the Roman army lay siege to the city of Jerusalem. When they took the city it is said that the streets ran red with the blood of the people. The temple was destroyed. The stones themselves being thrown down to get the gold embossed in them and not one stone stood upon another. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70 was to be a foreshadowing of Jesus future return and the final judgement to come.
Just as Jerusalem could have been saved if they had run under the protection of Jesus wings so we too have the same opportunity to take refuge under those wings and be saved and protected from the coming judgement. Now is the time for the chicks to scurry under His wings. Now is the time to find safety in Jesus. Have you sought his protection? The fire approaches. The danger is real. Let us hide ourselves under His wings. "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." (Psalm 91:4)
Prayer: Father, You alone can cover us and protect us from the coming judgement. We seek refuge under the protective wings of Jesus washed white in His blood. Thank you for His safety, grace and blood spilt for us. He died and took our penalty upon Himself that we may be saved. In His great and powerful name we pray our gratitude. In Jesus, amen.