Walking with the Spirit
Ten thousand hours. That’s how long author Malcolm Gladwell suggests it takes to become skillful at any craft. Even for the greatest artists and musicians of all time, their tremendous inborn talent wasn’t enough to achieve the level of expertise that they would eventually attain. They needed to immerse themselves in their craft every single day.
As strange as it might seem, we need a similar mentality when it comes to learning to live out the power of the Holy Spirit. In Galatians, Paul encourages the church to be set apart for God. But Paul explained that this couldn’t be achieved through merely obeying a set of rules. Instead we’re called to walk with the Holy Spirit. The Greek word that Paul uses for “walk” in Galatians 5:16 literally means to walk around and around something, or to journey (peripateo). So for Paul, walking with the Spirit meant journeying with the Spirit each day—it’s not just a one-time experience of His power.
May we pray to be filled with the Spirit daily—to yield to the Spirit’s work as He counsels, guides, comforts, and is simply there with us. And as we’re “led by Spirit” in this way (v. 18), we become better and better at hearing His voice and following His leading. Holy Spirit, may I walk with You today, and everyday!
Jesus and the Bigger Story
A generous friend offered to babysit our kids so my wife and I could go on a date. “You should go somewhere fancy!” she gushed. Being pragmatists, we decided to go grocery shopping instead. When we returned, grocery bags in arms, our friend asked why we hadn’t done anything special. We told her that what makes a date special isn’t so much what you do, but who you’re with.
One of the few books of the Bible that doesn’t record God directly saying or doing anything, the book of Ruth could seem to be pretty ordinary. So some read it as a touching but largely human drama of two people coming together in a relationship.
But in truth, something extraordinary is taking place. In the final chapter of Ruth, we read that Ruth and Boaz’s union results in a son named Obed, the grandfather of David (4:17). And as we read in Matthew 1:1, it’s from David’s family that Jesus was born. It’s Jesus who unveils the ordinary story of Ruth and Boaz into the extraordinary story of God’s amazing plans and purposes at work.
So often we see our own lives in the same way: as ordinary and serving no special purpose. But when we view our lives through Christ, He gives eternal significance to even the most ordinary situations and relationships.
Our Blessings, His Love
In 2015, a woman discarded her deceased husband’s computer at a recycling center, a logical decision since the computer had been made in 1976. But more important than when it had been made was who made it. It was one of 200 computers hand built by Apple founder Steve Jobs, and was worth an estimated quarter of a million dollars! Sometimes knowing the true worth of something means knowing who made it.
Knowing that it’s God who made us shows us how valuable we are to Him (Genesis 1:27). Psalm 136 catalogs key moments from His people—ancient Israel: how they had been freed from captivity in Egypt (vv. 11–12), journeyed through the wilderness (v. 16), and were given a new home in Canaan (vv. 21–22). But each time a moment of Israel’s history is mentioned, it’s paired with this repeated refrain: “His love endures forever.” This refrain reminded the people of Israel that their experiences weren’t random historical events. Each moment had been orchestrated by God, and were a reflection of His enduring love for those He had made.
Far too often, I allow moments of God at work and His kind ways to simply pass by, failing to recognize that every perfect gift comes from my heavenly Father (James 1:17) who made me and loves me. May you and I learn to connect every blessing in our lives to God’s enduring love for us
Not Second Rate
After the conclusion of the First World War, US President Woodrow Wilson was recognized as one of the most powerful leaders on earth. But few knew that after a devastating stroke in 1919, it was his wife who managed nearly all of his affairs, determining which issues should be brought to his attention. In fact, modern historians believe that for a short while, it was really Edith Wilson who served as the President of the United States.
If asked to name the leaders of the early church, most of us would list Peter, Paul, and Timothy as a handful possessing well-documented gifts. But in Romans 16, Paul lists nearly forty people of diverse backgrounds—men, women, slaves, Jews, and gentiles—all of whom contributed to the life of the church in diverse ways.
And far from considering them second-rate members of the church, it’s clear that Paul held these people in the highest regard. He describes them as outstanding among the apostles (v. 7)—people to be celebrated for their service for Jesus.
Many of us feel that we’re too ordinary to be leaders in the church. But the truth is that each of us has gifts that can used to serve and help others. In God’s strength, may we use our gifts to His honor!
More than Water
One of my earliest childhood memories of church was a pastor walking down the aisle, exhorting us to “remember the waters of our baptism.” “Remember the waters?” I asked myself quizzically. “How can you remember water?” He then proceeded to splash everyone with water, which as a young child simultaneously delighted and confused me.
Why should we think about baptism? When a person is baptized, there’s so much more to it than the water. Baptism symbolizes how through faith in Christ, we‘ve become “clothed” with Him (Galatians 3:27). Or in other words, it’s celebrating that we belong to Jesus and that He lives in and through us.
As if that weren’t significant enough, the passage tells us that if we’ve been clothed with Christ our identity is found in Him. We’re the very children of God (v. 26). As such, we’ve been made right with God by faith—not by following Old Testament law (vv. 23–25). We’re not divided against one another by gender, culture, and status. We’re set free and brought into unity through Christ and are now His own (v. 29).
So there are very good reasons to remember baptism and all it represents. We aren’t simply focusing on the ordinance itself but that we belong to Jesus and have become children of God. Our identity, future, and spiritual freedom are found in Him.
The Power of Encouragement
When he was a young boy, Benjamin West attempted to draw a picture of his sister, but he succeeded only in making a mess. His mother saw his creation, kissed him on the head, and remarked, “Why, it’s Sally!” He would later say that it was that kiss that made him an artist—and the great American painter he would become. Such is the power of encouragement!
Like a child learning to paint, Paul didn’t have much credibility early on in his ministry, but Barnabas affirmed his calling. It was through Barnabas’ encouragement that the church accepted Saul as a fellow believer (Acts 9:27). Barnabas would also encourage the fledgling church of Antioch, helping it to become one of the most influential in the book of Acts (11:22–23). And it was through Barnabas’s encouragement, as well as Paul’s, that the Jerusalem church embraced the Gentile believers as Christians (15:19). So in many ways, the story of the early church is really a story of encouragement.
The same should apply to our own lives. We might think encouragement is merely saying something nice to someone. But if we think that way, we fail to recognize the lasting power it possesses. It’s one of the means by which God shapes our individual lives as well as the life of the church.
May we thank God for the moments we receive encouragement and strive to share this transformative gift with others.
Who We Are
I’ll never forget the time I took my future wife to meet my family. With a twinkle in their eyes, my two elder siblings asked her, “What exactly do you see in this guy?” She smiled and assured them that by God’s grace I had grown to be the man she loved.
I loved that clever reply because it also reflects how, in Christ, the Lord sees more than our past. In Acts 9, He directed Ananias to heal Saul, a known persecutor of the church whom God had blinded. Ananias was incredulous at receiving this mission, stating that Saul had been rounding up believers in Jesus for persecution and even execution. God’s told Ananias not to focus on who Saul had been but on who he had become: an evangelist who would bring the good news to all the known world, including to the gentiles (those who weren’t Jews) and to kings (v. 15). Ananias saw Saul the Pharisee and persecutor, but God saw Paul the apostle and evangelist.
We can sometimes view ourselves only as we have been—with all of our failures and shortcomings. But God sees us as new creations, not who we were but who we are in Jesus and who we’re becoming through the power of the Holy Spirit. O God, teach us to view ourselves and others in this way!
Never Too Late
During the anxious moments that followed my mother-in-law’s heart attack, she was fortunate to receive immediate medical care. Later, her doctor told me that treatment within fifteen minutes of a heart attack results in a survival rate of 33 percent for critical patients. But just 5 percent survive if treated beyond that time frame.
On the way to heal Jairus’s desperately ill daughter (someone definitely needing immediate medical care), Jesus did the unthinkable: He paused (Mark 5:30). He stopped to identify who touched Him, and then spoke gently with the beggar woman. You can imagine what Jairus was thinking: There’s no time for this, my daughter is dying! And then, his worst fears came true—Jesus appeared to have delayed too long and his daughter passed away (v. 35).
But Jesus turned to Jairus and offered a word of encouragement: “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (v. 36). Then, calmly ignoring the mockery of onlookers, Christ spoke to Jairus’s daughter and she came back to life! He revealed that He can never be too late. Time can’t limit what He’s able to do, and when He chooses to do it.
How often do we feel like Jairus, thinking that God was simply too late to accomplish what we had hoped for. But with God there’s no such thing. He’s never too late in fulfilling His good and merciful work in our lives.
More Than Just Waiting
Police charged a woman with reckless driving after she drove her car on and off of a sidewalk. She steered off the street and onto the sidewalk because she didn’t want to wait for a school bus dropping off students!
While it's true that waiting can make us impatient, there are also good things to do and learn in the waiting. Jesus knew this when He told His disciples to “not leave Jerusalem” (Acts 1:4)? They were waiting to “be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (v. 5).
As they gathered, likely in a state of excitement and anticipation, the disciples seemed to understand that when Jesus told them to wait, He didn’t say for them to do nothing. They spent time praying together (v. 14), and informed by Scripture, they also chose a new disciple to replace Judas (v. 26). Soon, in an upper room, as they were gathered together in worship and prayer, the Holy Spirit descended upon them (2:1–4).
The disciples hadn’t simply been waiting—they had also been preparing. As we wait on God, it doesn’t mean doing nothing or impatiently rushing forward. Instead we can pray, worship, and enjoy fellowship as we anticipate what He’ll do. The waiting prepares our hearts, minds, and bodies for what’s to come.
Yes, when God asks us to wait, we can be excited—knowing that we can trust Him and the plans He has for us!