Galatians 5:16-23 (The Message)
Position changes condition.
There are essentially two ways to live our lives: either toward God or away from God. They don’t coexist. They can’t.
Of course, the natural human condition is oriented away from God. It’s more than just bad deeds. It’s a condition. It’s a “posture problem.” The distance between God and ourselves represents the “if only” of the human experience. As the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we share their posture problem, which Michelangelo represented so masterfully in the Sistine Chapel (see the image above.)
The chasm between us and God won’t stay empty for long, of course. Through history, we fill our needs with substitutes — idols. And the result is a mess. Because as Paul writes, we cannot sustain opposing ways of living.
- In what ways have you discovered yourself in a natural posture away from God?
- Have you ever tried to find substitutes (idols) for God? What were they? What has been the result?
- In what ways could you change your posture so that unlike Adam in this painting, you were actually leaning toward God?
- Changing your position can change your condition — but only when we’re willing to get real with our messes. What kinds of messes do you need to put out into Gods’s light?
I want to invite you to give yourself permission to “do nothing” for 5-10 minutes today to read this passage, consider these questions, and listen for what God may be saying to you today.
It’s always easy to compare ourselves to others, isn’t it?
Sometimes we put ourselves up on a pedestal, seeing ourselves as better than others. Honestly–who hasn’t at least once blamed other drivers for being “the problem,” when the reality is we’re also right there contributing to the heavy traffic!
Other times, we may see others as up on that pedestal, which can lead us to try to “keep up with the Joneses.”
Both of these comparisons lead us away from the truth — everyone suffers from “soul sickness.”
From Pastor Aaron: “Sin is an illness that affects every human being. It is the sickness of our souls that results in individual moral failures and behavior but can also extend to social scales where collective sin results in systems of oppression and abuse. By looking at the story of the Pharisee and Tax Collector today, we saw evidence of both in two very different responses to God.
In essence, we revolt against the way of God and choose our way. But through the grace of God and the work of Jesus in our lives we can be healed of the brokenness that sin has created. This is what Paul calls full restoration, that our souls can be made well. However, we have to participate in our own healing.”
- Have you ever compared yourself to others, either as superior to them, or inferior?
- We like to “look good” to other people, but why are we often tempted to put only our “best selves” before God, as this Pharisee did?
- Have you ever felt similarly to the tax collector? What led you to that place?
- If you’ve heard the gospel before, you might not be surprised that the tax collector was the one justified by God. But think of someone today whom you would be shocked to hear was given God’s mercy.
- If Jesus were telling this story today, who might he use as his two characters?
Give yourself permission to do nothing for a few moments today. In the open space, what might the Holy Spirit be bringing to your heart through this parable?
Romans 7:4-25 (The Message)
While we are each created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) there is an undeniable chasm between God’s image within humanity and our experience of ourselves and the world. It is the distance between the life we want and the life we have. The distance between the life God wants for us and the life we resort to.
And ironically, though we each bear God’s image, we often don’t see it, because we have made a mess of the beauty in ourselves and others. We might even try to hide it…but we’re not doing a very good job.
- Try to make a list of things in people’s lives that make them “messy” (like, say, an addiction, or a divorce, etc.)
- What are some of the “messy” things in your own life?
- Most of us end up trying to hide our messiness (sins) from God. Why?
- If God is represented by the Father in the story of the Lost Son (see “The Father’s Heart“) then what do you think God would do if you were honest about your own messiness with him?
- How would churches be different if people were more comfortable bringing their messy lives in?
Give yourselves permission to sit still with this week’s scriptures, and with these questions, to see how the Holy Spirit speaks to you.
(Pastor Harlan Shoop guided us through the Parable of the Bridesmaids on Sunday, Sept. 3. Here are some of his reflections! –MM)
Wow, there is a lot going on in this passage! Matthew 24 and 25 are all Jesus words about the future of the Kingdom of God.
Matthew places this story in the middle of Jesus “parables”or “stories” on what the Kingdom of God will be like. The groom is expected by the bridesmaids to come sometime soon. Jesus teaches that at some point there will be a culmination of history. This could be for us individually at our death or some apocalyptic event like nuclear war with North Korea or a major earthquake. History is moving us to some place. It is clear that the time and place of these events are a mystery but that he is the Lord of history. In the meantime- believers are to be prepared. It seems according to this story that there comes a time when it will no longer be possible to make a choice about entering the Kingdom.
- What stands out to you as you read the text?
- What questions do you have as you read this section?
- What does the oil represent?
- Why don’t the five wise bridesmaids share their oil?
- Notice that the Groom comes at midnight, is there any significance to his coming at night and the importance of light in darkness?
- If Jesus were telling this today, like in a coffee shop or park, and you happened to be there…what do you think Jesus would be saying to you?
- In what ways can we prepare for His coming?