The Faith and Courage of Hobbits

Our Need

Among the characteristics we could cite, our forbearers in the faith had at least two qualities about them that enabled them to stand against great odds. These saints of the covenant had faith and courage.

There’s a lack in our day of both. More often than I care to think about, doubt and fear have won the day and left God’s saints in puddles of impotence and despair. I know this has been true of my own life. But this should never be the case for God’s people. Scripture offers us some encouraging examples of those who trusted God and were able to face seemingly insurmountable odds.

Example 1: Caleb

When Moses sent an expedition to Canaan to explore what awaited God’s children in the land of promise, the report confirmed all God had promised – it was lush and flowed with milk and honey, as advertised. But there was a catch. There was also a huge obstacle before them. In the land there were “giants” who made the Israelites seem like hobbits in a land of orcs. The report from the expedition team was, “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13:33).

But this pessimistic report was not shared by all. For in Numbers 13:30 we read,

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

Caleb had faith in God and his covenant promises, and therefore, could be as courageous as Frodo and Sam in the land of Mordor.

Example 2: David

David faced similar circumstances later in redemptive history, with a similar response. As the Israelites shook in their sandals before the great Goliath and the Philistine horde, the young shepherd boy looked on in bewilderment. In what seemed like arrogance at worst and naiveté at best, this “king-to-be” couldn’t understand why his people had not already taken the uncircumcised behemoth apart – especially in light of Goliath’s jeering and insolence before the living God. David queried,

Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26)

And so, like Caleb before him, David volunteered to take Goliath on. So what if he seemed like a grasshopper before this giant of a man, all nine feet of him. David drew courage from his faith in the One who had never failed him before.

Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:36-37)

The Foundation for Faith and Courage

With faith and courage David faced the giant, and the rest, as they say, is history. What was the foundation for such faith and courage in the lives of Caleb and David? We are told in Jeremiah 1:8 and 19.

Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Caleb and David knew in their day what God told Jeremiah in his. That is, God’s people will be opposed. That’s a given. We will seem like grasshoppers in comparison to our enemies. The “apparent” odds will be overwhelmingly against us. But God calls the weak, poor, small, seemingly insignificant hobbits of this world to serve as his subjects, his heralds, to advance his Kingdom, even in the face of the enemy (perhaps especially so).

Who Are Your Giants?

Philistines and other barbarians continue to surround God’s people today in a variety of ways. Yet we are called to stand firm in the face of such opposition because Caleb and David’s God is also our God. Is anything greater than the covenant-making, covenant-keeping Lord of Glory? It is this very God who promised never to forsake us. That alone is grounds for faith and courage in the midst of insurmountable odds.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58)

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. (1 Cor. 16:13)

Walking Points

  • Who or what are some of the Philistines that face Christians in our culture today? How can you equip yourself and your church to stand firm and remain faithful against such opposition?
  • On a more personal level, who (or what) are the giants in your life, opposing your walk with Christ? What is it about them that causes you to fear and turn the other way?
  • What is a strategy you could start using today to help you face your giants with faith and courage?
  • Of course, you should never travel alone. Who are two or three fellow Christians you could ask to pray for you, offer you wisdom, encourage you, and help hold you accountable? Ask them to join you today.


Sovereign God, the battle is yours. You call me to trust you and participate in the battle, but you have already declared victory. Why then do I, all too often, tuck tail and run? Give me, I humbly pray, the faith and courage of Caleb and David. Help me to fear others so little because I fear you so much. Fill me with your Spirit and enable me to know you are with me. Then, enable me to face the kingdom of darkness and wickedness with the confidence of being your child. Because, if you are for me, who can possibly be against me? In Christ I pray. Amen.

The Way of Love

The Way of Love

What the World Needs Now

In 1965, Jackie DeShannon sang a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. If you know it, it will now be stuck in your head the rest of the day. It was called, “What the World Needs Now is Love.” It was true in 1965… and it’s perhaps even more true today, especially in our politically polarized country.

Love has been a topic of stories, poems, songs for centuries. Again, going back to the 1960s, an obscure band from Liverpool, England sang quite a few songs about love. Here are a few of their titles,

  • All My Loving
  • And I Love Her
  • Can’t Buy Me Love
  • I’m In Love
  • Love Me Do
  • Love of the Loved
  • Love You Too
  • PS I Love You
  • Real Love
  • She Loves You
  • Step Inside Love
  • Words of Love

And, in the same spirit as Jackie DeShannon’s song…

  • All You Need is Love

Well, what the world does need today… is love. But I wonder if we know what we’re saying when we say that. I wonder if we have a firm grasp on the subject when we use popular slogans such as, “love is love” or “love everyone, always.”

Not An Abstraction

You see, Christian love, biblically understood, is anything but abstract. It’s a way of life. It not a mere feeling or emotion, it’s an act of the will. I almost called this devotion, “The Shape of Love,” because love, biblically understood, looks like something. There’s a shape to it.

It can’t be reduced to an abstraction or slogan. And this kind of love is hard. It takes practice because it is a way of life. It is a mindset.

The Great Commandment

Jesus emphasized the priority of love for his followers, indeed for every person, when he gave us the Great Commandment. In Matthew 22:36, Jesus was asked by an expert in the law, which of the commandments was the greatest. He was trying to test Jesus. But Jesus, being the smartest human to ever live, didn’t take the bait.

Jesus summarized all ten of the commandments by saying these words in Matthew 22:37-40,

37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ i 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ j 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

You see, love is the greatest commandment. Love is the purpose of all the commandments – love of God and love of neighbor. And that love looks like something.

What does it look like? It looks like…

  1. Having no other gods before the Lord our God.
  2. Not making idols
  3. Not taking the name of our God in vain
  4. Remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy
  5. Honoring your father and mother
  6. Not murdering
  7. Not committing adultery
  8. Not stealing
  9. Not bearing false witness against our neighbor
  10. Not coveting.

Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments by saying we’re commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength – with all that we are. And we’re to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

The Real Meaning of the Commandments

But what do we often do? Well, a lot of times, instead of trying to dig into those commandments to better understand them so we can more faithfully live them out, we oversimplify them and say, “Well, I haven’t murdered anyone today or robbed a bank, so I must be ok.”

But then Jesus comes along in the Sermon on the Mount and tells us that not murdering anyone is a good start. However, he says if we have unrighteous anger toward someone, we’ve murdered them in our hearts.

Jesus says, you may not have committed adultery, but if you have lusted after someone, you’ve committed adultery in your heart.

Jesus gives us eyes to see what the commandments really mean. And they mean a whole lot more than we usually give them credit for. Jesus also teaches us that the commandments aren’t merely negative prohibitions against things (“Thou shalt not”).

They also imply positive actions. To not murder means more than not taking someone’s life or hating them in your heart. It also means desiring the best good of others and helping them flourish. It’s to act with reverence toward all living things and to honor the sanctity of life.

That’s just one example of what it means to love God completely and love our neighbor. It’s a way of life and requires a sanctified mindset.

Where the Rubber Hits the Road

And it’s immensely practical, not just theoretical. It’s the heart and soul of all who follow Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:1-2,

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The ESV Bible version says we’re to “imitate God.” As God’s children who are dearly loved and forgiven by him, we’re called to imitate God. How? By walking in the way of love.

And Jesus, who is our ultimate model shows us what that love looks like. And the short answer is: it’s a sacrificial love. Paul says, “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” That’s sacrificial love. That’s real love. That’s Christian love.

But even there it would be fair to say, “that still sort of vague. What does it mean to love sacrificially?” And here the Apostle Paul is very helpful.

Paul’s Lists

Paul loved writing lists. And right before Ephesians 5:1-2, he gave us a list of what sacrificial love looks like when it’s practiced faithfully. And again, Paul is doing the same thing as Jesus by summarizing the Ten Commandments with practical examples. Here’s his list in Ephesians 4:25-32.

What does it mean to walk in the way of love? It means,

  • We must put off falsehood
  • We must speak truthfully to our neighbor
  • We must not sin in our anger
  • We must not steal but work so we can help those in need
  • We must not say unwholesome things (obscenity, slander, gossip, abusive language) (And I would say that includes writing it on social media.)
  • We must use our words to build up others according to their needs and for their benefit
  • We must get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, and slander – and every form of malice
  • We must be kind, compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you

That’s what walking in the way of love looks like. Want another list? Paul has one for you in the love chapter – 1 Corinthians 13. He said love,

  • Must be patient
  • Must be kind
  • Must not envy
  • Must not boast
  • Must not be proud
  • Must not dishonor others
  • Must not be self-seeking
  • Must not be easily angered
  • Must not keep a record of wrongs
  • Must not delight in evil
  • Must rejoice with the truth

That’s the way of love we’re called to walk in.

So, How Are You Doing?

So, how are y’all doing with all that? Are you faithfully walking in the way of love? Love, as the world understands it, is so much easier when it fits into the title of a song… or a bumper sticker… or a slogan.

But true Christian love is hard in real life.

The Gospel

But here is some good news for you. The good news is that we don’t have to love perfectly to be perfectly and completely loved by God. God has redeemed and reconciled us because he loves us, and when we put our trust in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection we become new creatures.

God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence within us and we become people who are able to walk in the way of love as Jesus and Paul and the rest of Scripture describe it. To be sure, we cannot walk in love without the continual power and guidance of the Holy Spirit living in us and through us.

But this way of love is what we are each called to. We do participate. God doesn’t do it for us. Furthermore, we won’t live this way by accident. Walking in the way of love takes practice. It’s takes conscious intentionality.

Conscious Intentionality

It’s why God has given his people what we call the means of grace. For example, God has given us his church, the fellowship of the saints, prayer, Scripture, worship, fasting, the sacraments, just to name a few. These are means by which we’re able to learn and grow so that we can walk in this way of love.

And the more we experience the true love of God the more we’ll want to love God and others the way we’ve been loved.

But we need a plan. Like a vine needs a trellis to guide it in the right, life-giving direction so it will bear fruit, we need an intentional way of life to help us bear fruit, to help us walk in the way of love.

Make A Plan

This Fall our church we’ll have lots of groups meeting to help you do just that. One of the experiences I’ll be leading is called, “Crafting a Rule of Life,” based on the book by Stephen Macchia. In it, we’ll spend time considering our own unique callings, gifts, temperaments, and seasons of life and how we can cultivate those aspects of who we are to help us become consciously intentional in walking in the way of love.

If you’re interested, I hope you’ll reach out and ask me more about it or look at our website and see all the different offerings we have coming up in the Fall. Each of them will help you learn and grow as a follower of Christ so you can walk in the way of love.

What the world needs now… is love. That’s absolutely true. But the world needs the love of God. And the world needs followers of Jesus Christ who not only love God, but who love others as they have been loved by God.

Thanks be to God.

What Is Truth? This Week’s Podcast

In today’s podcast we take a look at the nature of truth and what it means in relationship to Jesus Christ and his claims about himself. Pilate asked Jesus, “what is truth,” as the very incarnation of truth was standing right before him. Check out today’s podcast and learn more about why this is such an important topic.

You can check it out by clicking the image below and listening to it on the podcast platform of your choice.


The Bread of Life

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In All The Wrong Places

In North Africa, around 354 A.D., a baby boy was born to a Christian mother and a pagan father. As the boy grew into a young man he found trouble and mischief at every turn. When he turned 16 years old, he traveled to Carthage, which was a Roman territory. There he studied rhetoric and debate. While studying in Carthage, this young man sought fulfillment in his life. We might say he was looking for love in all the wrong places.

The young man met a young woman and moved in with her and they had a child together. His mother, who never ceased to pray for her son, was not happy about his new living arrangements and continued to pray for him.

As he got older he became quite accomplished in the area of rhetoric and was a much sought-after teacher. Students from all over the Empire came to study under him. He was enjoying all the privileges and things the world had to offer. However, every time he went home to visit his family, his mother asked him when he was going to become a Christian.

A Restless Heart

And though he would never admit it to his mother, his soul was restless. He still desired meaning and purpose for his life; something deeper and more meaningful than he was experiencing. Everything he had sought after and trusted in up to this point in his life was fleeting. The things of the world just didn’t last. So he began studying the different philosophies and religions of his day, everything except Christianity.

He had nothing but contempt for Christianity. He believed Christianity had nothing to offer, because becoming a Christian, he thought, meant having to stop thinking altogether. Not only that, he believed becoming a Christian meant he would have to change the way he lived. He didn’t want any part of that.

A Mother’s Love

However, his mother continued to pray for him. In fact she would occasionally pester the local priests, asking them to “save her son.” Well, because she loved her son, she decided to find him in Carthage and beg him to become a Christian. However, after several weeks of his mother’s “persistence,” he decided to sneak out of Carthage and head to Rome, without telling her. So he left, and wouldn’t you know it, his mother followed him there as well.

While in Rome, the young man began to have doubts about his beliefs. Nothing seemed to satisfy the restlessness of his soul. In an effort to ease his restless conscience, he visited a church and listened to a preacher there. He never went all the way in the church, but stood at the back, just to listen. And, as time went on, his perspectives about life began to change. He began to learn more about Christianity.

Intellectually, he was fighting becoming a Christian, but his heart (via the Holy Spirit) was convicting him about the way he was living his life. This led to a spiritual crisis for him.


One day, he and a friend were sitting in a garden, when all of a sudden, he cried out to his friend, “What is wrong with us?”

He then said,

“as I was saying this and weeping in the bitter agony of my heart, suddenly I heard a voice from the nearby house. The voice repeated over and over again, ‘pick up and read, pick up and read.’ At once my countenance changed, and I began to think intently whether there might be some sort of children’s game in which such a chant is used, But I could not remember having heard of one. I checked the flood of tears and stood up. I interpreted it solely as a divine command to me – to open the book and read the first chapter I might find. I picked up the book of the apostle, opened it and in silence read the first passage on which my eyes lit: It said, ‘Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.’”

After he read these verses from Romans he testified,

“I neither wished nor needed to read further. At once, with the last words of the sentence, it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart. All the shadows of doubt were dispelled.”

After this experience, the young man searched for his mother to tell her all that happened. After sharing his joy with her, they moved back to Carthage together. Two days later his mother died. It was as though she didn’t need to live anymore, for her son was now a Christian – he had tasted the Bread of Life.

Taste and See

This man who had lived a sinful and idolatrous life, whose daily life was filled with sexual immorality and drunkenness, who bowed before the altars of false gods and philosophies; this very man who tried everything the world had to offer, finally found the one thing the world couldn’t offer. He found the bread of life – Jesus Christ.

You may know this man of whom I am speaking. And those of you who don’t have probably heard of the city and beach that bears his name. His name is St. Augustine, and he became one of the greatest saints in the 2000-year history of the Christian church. Protestants and Catholics alike claim Augustine as a patron saint. God used this man with such a wretched past, to bring honor and glory to Christ’s name.

Augustine found the very bread Jesus was speaking about in John 6. The crowds were following Jesus because of the miracles he did. They wanted him to provide more bread for them to eat. But Jesus told them not to put all their hope in bread that would spoil, but instead, seek that bread which would give them eternal life. The crowd, however, didn’t understand Jesus’ words. They said to him, “then give us this bread that you are speaking of.”

Jesus responded to them in John 6:35,

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Then in verse 40, Jesus described what God’s will for them is on this matter. He said,

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

A Treasure Found

This is the treasure that St. Augustine found. This is the bread he tasted. This is the single most important truth he knew he would ever find in his life. Augustine responded to Jesus, the bread of life, the way Jesus told the disciples they should.

In Jesus’ parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price, two men found treasures beyond their wildest dreams. Both men sold all they had to secure their discoveries. They recognized the value of what they had found, and they determined to have it. They sold all they had so they could buy it, and that’s exactly what they did.

Jesus told his disciples that that was the reasonable thing for them to do. It would have been foolish of them to find the great treasure and do nothing about it. Augustine saw the great treasure. His mother had been telling him about it for many years, and yet he did not have eyes to see it. And then suddenly, the veil was lifted and he saw it – and he sold all he had to purchase it. He sold the pleasures of all his sin. He sold the prestige he had as a famous teacher. He sold his friendships he had with those who would no longer be his friends. This was no light decision, free of consequence.

A New Life

And yet, what Augustine got in return was infinitely more valuable than what he gave up. What he received in exchange for those earthly things filled him with eternal satisfaction and joy. Augustine gave up much, but got even more in return. He knew the value of the bread of life – Jesus Christ his Lord. Jesus’ words, “I am the bread of life,” are words that express the glorious truth that he alone can give the gift of eternal life.

The crowd Jesus was addressing in John 6 did not realize he was teaching them about a spiritual experience. What is this spiritual life like? Jesus said the person who has this life will never be hungry or thirsty. Perhaps you, like Augustine, know what it is like to thirst and hunger for significance, dignity and love. Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to have peace or stability in your life. Augustine knew what it was like to go day after day without stability. He knew what it was like have a restless heart, knowing there was more in life than what he had, but not knowing how to get it.

Jesus says the one who comes to him will never hunger because the bread he offers is completely satisfying. Blaise Pascal, the 17th century philosopher, said we all have a God-shaped vacuum in our heart – and it can only be filled by God. Putting your family, friends, careers, money, school, drugs and alcohol, prestige, power or anything else before God, will leave you hungry and unsatisfied.

The Fate of Sisyphus

If those things are your life’s pursuits, you will find that you are much like the character of Greek mythology, Sisyphus. He was the poor guy who was condemned by the gods for betraying them. So, for his punishment, he was sentenced to roll a giant boulder to the top of a huge hill. That would be hard enough. However, each time he worked and worked to get the boulder to the top of the hill, it would always roll down the other side. He was condemned to eternally repeat this meaningless task of rolling the stone to the top of the hill – over and over again, never finding rest or satisfaction.

Jesus taught that pursuing anything else but him, the bread of life, is like pushing a rock up a hill, over and over again. It will be futile and will have no end. Instead, when you turn to Jesus and trust in him, you will discover the abundant, meaningful, and eternal life that God has promised you.

Jesus preaches the same message today through his Word and Spirit,

“I am the bread of life. If you come to me you will never go hungry, and if you believe in me you will never be thirsty.”

The men in Jesus’ parables found out this was true. St. Augustine found out this was true. In fact, people for 2,000 years have discovered this same truth. An evangelist once said that evangelism is merely one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread. It’s my privilege to tell you that we are all beggars and Jesus is the only bread we will ever need.

Have You Tasted the Bread of Life?

Have you tasted the bread of life? Have you come to Jesus? Or are you trying to cram other things in your life, instead of the only thing that will give you meaning, satisfaction, and rest?

What do you have to do to receive this great treasure – this pearl of great price – this living bread? Jesus taught you must sell all you have – your agenda, your desires to go your own way instead of God’s way, your desire to have power or fame. You must put everything and everyone else behind God and seek God and his righteousness first and foremost, and all else will be given to you. This is never easy, and it will cost you a great deal. But what you get in return will be more than worth the price. So, seize this opportunity. Taste the bread that Jesus offers. St. Augustine did and he never regretted it. In fact, he wrote a prayer to express his gratitude to God, and I would like to share it with you.

You are great, Lord, and highly to be praised; great is your power and your wisdom is immeasurable. Man, a little piece of your creation, desires to praise you, a human being bearing mortality with him, carrying with him the witness of his sin and the witness that you resist the proud. Nevertheless, to praise you is the desire of man, a little piece of your creation. You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you. Amen.

Walking Points

  • What are the things in your life that compete for your loyalty?
  • Do you ever find yourself putting them before God? Explain. Why is this such a constant temptation in our lives?
  • What are three things you can begin doing today that will help you keep God first in your life?
  • Do you know anyone in your life who is running from God the way Augustine did?
  • What are two or three ideas from this devotional you could share with that person to help them see that only in Christ will their hunger be satisfied?

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Got Any Fresh Bread?

The Question

A hundred years ago, when I was in seminary, a mentor of mine provided me with powerful spiritual encouragement and direction. His words were usually overflowing with wisdom and insight, but those words were fastened into my heart and mind and have stayed with me all of these years because they were supported by a life that exhibited the truth of them.

In particular, this man loved God’s Word. I believe his love for Scripture was one of the key influences of my life.

He would often tell me about a tradition he had with a dear friend of his. When one of them would see the other he would ask him: “Got any fresh bread for me?” Their purpose was one of accountability, to see if each had been spending time in God’s Word. And not just within the last day or two, but that day. Not stale, week-old or even day-old bread, but fresh bread.

The Bread of Life

Our Lord referred to himself as the Bread of Life. One of the chief ways we encounter and experience him is when we read, study, and meditate upon his Word day and night. His Spirit, which first inspired the authors of Holy Scripture, continues to illuminate our hearts and minds as we engage that same Word. As we dig into God’s Word on a daily basis we are renewed, strengthened, directed, comforted, convicted, corrected, and more.

Or, to put it another way, we are shaped… shaped into the likeness of Christ.

Our Daily Bread

Interestingly, Jesus teaches us to prayerfully ask God to give us each day our daily bread. The implication is we need to depend on God daily for his gracious provision. To make such a request each day reminds us we are in constant need of him and what he supplies – whether it’s spiritual, physical, or emotional nourishment.

The children of Israel were taught the same lesson. After they escaped from Egypt they wandered around, not quite sure where they were heading. And they were hungry, which didn’t help their attitudes much.

Therefore, God in his great mercy, promised them food – manna from heaven. But there was a stipulation about this divine sustenance: One could gather only enough manna for each day (except on the day before the Sabbath, when one could gather enough for two days). No storing was allowed. In fact, if they tried to store the manna it would begin to rot immediately. Why? I suspect for two reasons, at least. The first reason is the same as why Jesus told us to pray daily for our bread; it shows our continual dependence upon God.

The second reason, I imagine, has a great deal to do with our fallen human nature. If God had set no limits on how often the manna could be gathered and stored away (and that it wouldn’t spoil if it was stored for more than a day), I believe the children of Israel would have started to believe that they, and not God, were responsible for meeting their needs. They would have robbed God of his glory. They may have begun to actually believe that they were smart enough, righteous enough, industrious enough to diligently collect, store, and even sell the bread.

God’s message was clear: “You must depend on me each and every day. My grace will have to be sufficient for you. Trust me… I’m all you need.”

So it is in our spiritual lives. We must turn to God each and every day. We can’t store up enough grace on Sunday morning and coast on it the rest of the week. We need fresh bread to sustain us. This is how we abide in Christ and how he abides in us (John 15:1-8).

So next time you see me, ask me if I have any fresh bread for you. Hold me accountable. I need it. And by the way, be ready, because I just may ask you first.

Until then, let us join with the psalmist who knew the joy and delight of feeding on God’s fresh bread…

Psalm 119:9-16

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.

Thanks be to God

Why Return to Worldly Ways?

Galatians 4:9 – But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?

A Change of Address

When we lived in darkness – when we were of the world – it made perfect sense that we lived as the world lived. We were a part of its system. You might say it was the very air we breathed.

But when we were delivered from that bondage, ignorance, and darkness, we were made into something new. Paul described us as new creations. To paraphrase the Apostle elsewhere,

“When I was a worldling, I talked like a worldling, I thought like a worldling, I reasoned like a worldling. When I became a new creature in Christ, I put worldish ways behind me.”

It is therefore sad to observe how the Apostle had to address the Galatian believers and ask them why they were turning back to their old, dead ways.

It’s difficult to admit how shortsighted we can be on a daily basis. If we don’t keep Christ daily before us, pursuing him with all God’s grace and our might, we inevitably find ourselves drifting back to the world and its ways of thinking. And such worldish thinking will soon lead to worldish living. What’s so frightening about this process is that even as it happens, we don’t seem aware that we are becoming enslaved to those “weak and miserable principles” all over again.

Why Do We Do This?

The question is indicting: Why would we ever want to go back to such thinking and living once we have been freed from it? Why do we seem to prefer bondage to freedom at times? It’s almost comical how we, like the Israelites, begin romanticizing how great the leeks and onions were in Egypt and forget about the fact that we were slaves there. Why do we do this?

There are probably many good answers. No believer, I hope, truly thinks the world is preferable to the things of God. I don’t think being out of shape is preferable to being healthy. But one skipped workout at a time – over a period of undisciplined living – and a person will find himself or herself struggling to walk up a flight of stairs. That was never the intention, but it was the consequence.

Similarly, a little disobedience and sloth here and there and one day a person will wake up terribly out of shape for the Kingdom. In truth, they will be downright unfit for it.

I’ve discovered in my own life that I tend to do the things I want to do. It’s no more complicated than that. I may dress it up in elaborate excuses and rationalizations, but at the end of the day that’s all they are. Can you relate to that?

Don’t Ignore God’s Means of Grace

Thankfully, those who are genuinely in Christ will not be able to return to their old ways without feeling the disciplinary rod of the Holy Spirit. God is not content to watch his children become remolded in the world’s image.

By God’s magnificent grace, the smoke detector goes off long before the fire blazes out of control. God awakens and disciplines those who are his own and gets them/us back on track again. But even here he does not “do” all the work for us. We can still choose to sleep in instead of pray and study. We can play instead of worship on Sunday mornings. Fill in the blank with those temptations that continue to call you back to your old life. We will have those choices ever before us.

But if you cry out to your loving Father for help, his grace will abound once more to rescue you from your chains. And if you rely on him daily and practice those things he promised will make you spiritually healthy, you may find you have to be rescued less often.

Walking Points

  • Do you ever find yourself moving back to the world’s ways of thinking and living?
  • What do you think are the primary reasons you do so?
  • Have you ever wandered back so deeply into slavery to sin that you thought you were beyond rescue? How did you escape?
  • What are two or three ways you can protect yourself from becoming enslaved to the “weak and miserable principles” of the world in the future?
  • Talk about your answers with a trusted Christian brother and pray for one another.

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Loving Father, you have redeemed me and adopted me into your family. You desire that I imitate you in my daily life. But all too often I feel the pull of my old life, the lure of sinful desire. Those weak and miserable principles seemingly cast a spell on me. Show me how awful, ugly, and untrue they really are and how they will only entrap and enslave me to a horrible bondage. Please let me see how wicked they really are before I give myself to them. Enable me by your grace to grow in grace. Control me with your Spirit so that I will both desire to, and be able to, live fully for you. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.

Prayer for This Lord’s Day

Today’s prayer is based on Ephesians 3:14-21, which our pastor will be preaching on this morning in worship.

Gracious and Almighty Father in Heaven, like the Apostle Paul we kneel before you in awe, in worship, and in praise. Each of us was created by you, in your image, to live for your glory. We pray this morning, that you would, out of your glorious riches, strengthen us with your power for the journey of life we travel each day. We pray that through your Holy Spirit who lives deep within our inner beings, you would remind us that your Son, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, dwells in our hearts through faith.

We pray that each of us would be rooted and established in your love, that we would have the power and ability to see and understand, with the rest of your people, how wide and long and deep the love of Christ truly is. We pray that you would give us the depth of insight to genuinely know this love that surpasses knowledge, so that we would be filled to the measure of your fullness in our very lives.

We ask all of this in the name of him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or even imagine, according to his sovereign power that is at work within us. To him be glory in his church and in Christ Jesus our Lord, throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen. (Based on Ephesians 3:14-21)

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.