Monday, June 15, 2015

June 7, 2015 - "The Trinity-The Holy Spirit"


Scriptures:
Ezekiel 36:24-28
Romans 8:26-30
John 15:26-27

            I probably ought to apologize right up front before I start today’s message.  Modern sermon proponents state that a good sermon should only have one main point (or purpose).  And, todays has two.  The first will be to complete our look at the Trinity (how God has interacted with creation).  The second will be my final thoughts as your pastor.

            The word, Trinity is an attempt to explain something that only happens in God.  The prefix, “Tri,” means three.  The root word is “unity” or one.  And, that is the uniqueness we are trying to name.  As Christians we believe that there is only one God.  And yet, we have experienced God in three different ways; three distinct persons and yet only one God.  We give these persons the names God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

            Today we finish our exploration of these three persons.  What do we mean when we try to differentiate between them?  What makes each person unique?  And, why is any of this important at all?  What’s the point?

            We first dealt with the first person of the Trinity, God the Father.  He is the source of all creation.  He is our Heavenly Parent.  He is the Almighty, Everlasting God, creator of Heaven and Earth.

            Last week, we looked at the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God.  He is the Divine Word who speaks God’s truth throughout time.  He is the Messiah, God’s Anointed, who came to redeem the world from sin.  And, he is calling us to allow him to be our Lord and Master; that we may choose to live our lives for him.

            Today, we are going to focus upon the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.  This is probably the hardest of the three to try and define. We can’t point to an image. We can’t point to a historical figure.  This person of the Trinity floats in and out of the Bible.  His name is Pnuema, which implies “wind,” “air,” and “Spirit.”  And even though the Holy Spirit is the toughest to quantify or qualify, we can get some understanding.  We can figure out some of who he is and why he is so important for our faith journey.

            The Holy Spirit is our Advocate.  He takes up residence in the faithful’s soul and works on our behalf.  When we sing the song, “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart,” we really have it wrong (sort of).  Our love for Jesus may have overwhelmed our lives and our hearts are overwhelmed with joy.  But, it is the Holy Spirit that enters us and takes up residence in our hearts.

            We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, but it is the through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to direct our prayers directly to God.  Jesus opened up the channel.  The Spirit takes the message to God.

            In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul tells us of how the Spirit works:
                        In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not
                       know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes
                      for us through wordless groans.  (Romans 8:26, NIV)

When we don’t know what to pray, when we aren’t sure we even want to, when all we can do is cry out, the Holy Spirit hears us.  The Holy Spirit knows and understands our needs, our pains.  He takes our desires to God (even when we don’t know what they are).

            The Holy Spirit is the one that prods and leads us on to Christian perfection.  He is the one that shows us the imperfections in our lives.  Those places where we need to grow in our faith.  Those sins that we need to outgrow, remove the very fiber of our being.  As it says in the book of Ezekiel:

                         And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my
                      decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  (Ezekiel 36:27, NIV)

It is the Holy Spirit that does this work.  It changes us from the inside out.  It changes our attitudes.  It changes our hearts.  It changes our perceptions.  The Holy Spirit is the conduit through which a spirit-filled life is lived.

            It is the Holy Spirit that gifts us with the fruits of the Spirit (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control).  He is the one through which the gifts of the Spirit emerge.  He is our teacher, our advocate, and our guide.

            In the gospel of John when Jesus tells his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to arrive because he will testify about Jesus.  The Holy Spirit will teach those who are followers of Christ who Jesus is and what it means to follow Christ.  But, he doesn’t stop there.  Jesus goes on to say:

                        “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the
                        Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he
                       will testify about me.  And you also must testify, for you have been
                      with me from the beginning.  (John 15:26-17, NIV)

And, this really sums it all up.  Our lives must testify about our faith in Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit will be with us, giving us the power to speak and act in a way that praises God.  This is not an option.  It’s not a suggestion.  Your life must testify about God’s love, grace, and mercy.  It must share the gospel of Jesus Christ and if necessary use words.

            And, I guess this is as good a place as any to jump from our discussion of the Holy Spirit and begin with my final thoughts (and they sort of go together).  I considered it an honor to have been your pastor for the last five years.  I appreciate what we have done together and I have been privileged to be a part of each of your lives.  The words I will leave you with are:

1)      Stick to the Mission – Stay focused on “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.

2)      Keep reaching out to your neighborhood.  The church has great potential to make a difference in this neighborhood.

3)      Give your new pastor, Debbie Smith, the same love, grace, and cooperation you have shown me and my family.  Give her the opportunity to learn who you are as a church and as individuals.

4)      Let God the Father continue to create within you.  Allow Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior, and let the Holy Spirit empower and guide you.  God Bless you all.

 

Monday, June 1, 2015

May 31, 2015 - "The Trinity - Jesus Christ the Son"


Scriptures:
Ezekiel 37:24-28
1 Corinthians 15:20-28
John 17:1-5

 
            We are trying to figure out what is meant by the word, Trinity.  The word is an attempt to explain the unique relationship and persons that we encounter in the God we worship.  It is so much more than simply the name of our church.

            The word, Trinity, is an attempt to explain something that only happens in God.  The prefix, “Tri,” means three and the root word is “unity” (or one).  When you put it together you get three in one.  And, that is the uniqueness we are trying to name.  As Christians, we believe that there is only one God.  And yet, we have experienced the Divine in three different persons.  God has interacted with his creation in three entirely different personalities, in three different ways.  We give these persons the names: God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

            We are in the middle of looking at each of these three persons of God.  What do we mean when we try to differentiate between them?  What makes each person unique?  How do we experience each one?  And, why is any of this important at all?

            Last week, we dealt with God the Father (the first person of the Trinity).  He is the source of all creation.  He is our Heavenly Parent.  He is the Almighty, Everlasting God, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

            Today we are going to look at the second person of the Trinity.  Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God.  This is the person of the Trinity we probably know the most about (or at least we think we know the most about).  Jesus is the Son of God, begotten not made.  He was born to a young woman in Bethlehem.  He became a teacher and gathered a group of disciples that followed him wherever he went.  And, he died a horrible death at the hands of the Roman government and his religious authorities.

            All of what I’ve said so far is true.  But it is also more about the human side of Jesus than it is about his divinity.  It’s more about what he did when he was on this earth.  And, less than why he did those things.  Why did God send a part of himself to earth?  What does that have to say about the God we worship?  Who is this person of God that came to us as the man, Jesus?

            Jesus is the Divine Word.  He is the personification of the word that God the Father (the Creator) spoke out over the chaos to create the heavens and the earth.  Jesus is the word of God that was spoken to and through the prophets.  And, he is the Divine Word that came to earth in human flesh to speak God’s truths to all humanity.  As it says in the first chapter of the gospel of John:
                        The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We
                         have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who
                        came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John 1:14, NIV)

The same person of God who went out over the chaos in creation is the One who was sent to earth.  He was sent by God to do that which we could not do on our own.  Jesus, the Divine Word, brought God’s love, grace, and mercy to the world.  He came to draw us back to God, to reclaim us from sin.

            This brings us to the next characteristic of Jesus, the Son of God; the reason why the Divine Word came to earth.  Jesus, the Son of God came to earth to be the Christ, the Messiah.  The Christ is a title that the people of Israel knew well; the man who would be the anointed one, chosen by God.

            This Chosen One would come to restore the people of Israel; to call them out of their complacency and into a right relationship with God.  As the Messiah, Jesus came to bring salvation.  He came to show us the way for our sins to be forgiven.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us about being sent by God.
                         “For you granted him authority over all people that he might give
                         eternal life to all those you have given him.”  (John 17:2, NIV)

Jesus came to earth in order to pave the way for the forgiveness.  His death on the cross paid the price for the sins of the world.  God sent a part of himself, the Divine word, the Messiah, to the world that anyone who has faith in Christ can have eternal life.

            As the Messiah, Jesus became for the world the epitome of God’s love.  God so loved the world that the person of Jesus came to earth in order to save those who were lost.  In the Messiah, Jesus became the way  in which every inhabitant of the world could be saved.  He came to bring the love, grace, and mercy of God to the world in human form.  The Anointed One of God came to earth to reset, restore, and reimagine what a life lived in worship of God can be like.  He is the Savior of the world.

            There is one more role that Jesus Christ the Son must play.  This one is personal, it is the relationship that he has with those who choose to follow him.  While the others we’ve talked about so far are global or universal in nature, this one is individual (it is between you and God).  It is also the one that makes those truly important to you (and your salvation).

            Jesus must be your Lord and Master.  In our democracy society, in our culture where we rightly believe slavery is wrong, the concept of Jesus as Lord might be hard to grasp.  In essence, when you claim that Jesus is Lord, you are stating that you are no longer in charge of your life.  You are stating that you will according to Jesus’ will; you will follow his laws; you will obey his commands; you will do that which brings glory to Jesus’ name.  We need to affirm the words the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:
                        I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ
                         lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son
                        of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NIV)

We must be willing to let Christ, God the Son, to live through us.  We must allow Christ to live through our thoughts, to live through our actions and maybe even more important, to allow Christ’s love, grace, and mercy to be the reasons why we do the things we do, love the way we do, be the way we are.

            In the second person of the Trinity, we meet the Divine Word, the part of God that spoke to us in many ways.  We meet the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Savior and Redeemer of the world.  He came to bring life and we meet our potential Lord and Master, the Author of our faith!  The one who leads us to Everlasting Life.

            We are now 2/3 of the way through our Exploration of the Trinity.  Even if god stopped here, it would be enough.  But, there’s more.  There is one more person of the Trinity to come; one more way that God interacts with humanity.

           

 

Friday, May 29, 2015

May 24, 2015 - "Trinity - God the Father"


Scriptures:
Psalm 68:4-10
1 Corinthians 8:1-6
John 12:44-50

            Have you ever wondered what we mean when we use the word Trinity?  I mean, it’s the name of our church, Trinity UMC.  But, do we really know what it means?  You see, the word Trinity is so much more than a name.  It tells us something unique about the God we worship.

            The word Trinity is an attempt to explain a unique characteristic about God.  The prefix “Tri” implies “three” and the root word implies “unity” (or one).  And that is the crux of what we are trying to claim.  As Christians, we believe that there is only one God.  And yet, we have experienced the Divine in three different persons; God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit; one God, yet three.  And so, we call it the Trinity.

            Over the next three weeks, we are going to look at the persons that make up the Trinity.  What do we mean when we try to differentiate between them?  What makes each one of them unique?  How do we experience each one?  And, why is any of this important at all?

            We will begin with God the Father.  When we talk of the Father, we are talking about the first person of the Trinity.  This is the God of the Old Testament.  Yes, the other two-thirds of the Trinity are represented and play a significant role in the New Testament.  But, when you think of God that dominates the pages, it is God the Father.

            The person of God is known by many names.  He is Yahweh, Creator, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, and many more.  As the chosen people walked with God, they used these names to explain much of God’s interaction with them.  They were characteristics; they were actions that the people saw in the God they worshipped.  And, it is in those characteristics that we can more fully see God the Father (and understand him more).

            The person of God the Father is the source of creation.  He is the source of all that is.  It is the Father who spoke out over the chaos and the creation of the world began.  (Now I should probably tell you at this point, that if you read the Genesis creation account, you can find that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were there with the Father in the beginning).  But, that’s a lesson for another day.

            For us today, we want to focus upon the creative force for the universe (God the Father).  As it says in 1 Corinthians:
                        yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things
                         came and for whom we live.” (1 Corinthians 8:6a, NIV)

All things come from God the Father.  He is the One from whom the world began.

            But God’s creative force did not end after the sixth day of creation.  God didn’t just get the world going and then leave it to its inevitable conclusion.  No, God the Father is active in the life and the created order of the world.  His creative flair can be seen in the miracle of each new birth.  God’s ability to create can be seen in the beauty of a painting, in the majesty of a musical score, in the regalness of an architectural marvel.  God’s wonder can be seen in nature (almost every day), from a beautiful sunrise or sunset, to the beautiful flowers growing all around; from the budding of the leaves in the spring, until they turn bright colors in the autumn and fall to the ground, only to return again in the spring.  God’s creative joy, his creative flair, it’s all around; it’s always active and its always amazing to behold.

            When we call God, Father, we are saying something powerful about Him.  We are claiming that in God, we have a Heavenly Parent.  God loves that which he has created.  God cares about all the people who have been created and all those who are yet to be created.  The 68th Psalm has this to say about God:
                        A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
                                                                                                                              (Psalm 68:5, NIV)

Just as a good parent does what they can for their children, so does our Heavenly Parent.  God wants what is best for you.  God places rules out there because He knows the pitfalls of life.  And, God wants to provide for you the best possible tomorrow and a future that shines brightly for all to see.

            If you had a great parent or two who raised you, you have a glimpse of the quality of our Heavenly Parent.  Our Father in heaven loves us more (yes that’s possible), He wants our lives to thrive for His Kingdom and He has the power to assist us beyond your wildest dreams.  When we claim God as our Father, our Heavenly Parent, we are claiming an intimacy, a closeness, a love that only God can give.

            And that leads us to another attribute of God that we can hold on to.  It is one that we can fully rely on.  It is the fact that God is the Almighty.  He brings power and majesty.  He is Master of all.  He is the Almighty God, Everlasting Father and so much more.

            When we try to quantify or qualify this attribute, we begin to talk in large words that all begin with the prefix: Omnipotent – All powerful; Omniscient – All knowing; Omnipresent – All present. We have a God who is more powerful than anything else in the world (God’s creation).  The God we follow is active in our lives.  He knows every waking moment.  He knows every thought and action all over the world.  The God we worship is always there.  No matter how far we travel, no matter where we go on the face of the earth, God is there.  He has gone before us and will always be with us.  I the book of Deuteronomy, we find these words of comfort:
                        The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will
                         never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
                                                                                                                           (Deuteronomy 31:8)

God will never leave you.  God the Father will never turn His back on you.  God will be there to celebrate the good times.  He will be there to comfort you in the tough times.  We do not need to be afraid of the future, the present or the past.

            In the first person of the Trinity, we meet God in powerful ways.  We meet the person who created the world and brought order out of chaos.  We meet the Heavenly Parent who loves, cares, and seek out the best for us.  We meet the Almighty, Ever-present God who walks before us preparing His way in the world.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

May 17, 2015 - "Live through Love: Expressive"


Scriptures:
Psalm 119:105-112
Romans 12:9-16
John 13:31-35

            For those of you who are tired of me beginning my sermons by reciting our Vision Statement, I will give you a guarantee this is the last time you will hear me begin my message with the Vision.  God is calling this church to amazing things.  Trinity UMC is being called:
                          “to assist our neighbors to Explore Faith, Encounter Hope, and
                           Extend Love through Jesus Christ.”

If we are faithful to this vision; if we are committed to God’s mission of “making disciples,” then God will continue to bless the ministries and outreach that we endeavor to undertake.

            In order to fully embrace our Vision, we have been taking the time to fully understand the three main pieces.  It is in our best interest to make sure we know what we mean when we talk about faith, hope, and love.  If we are going to help our neighbors to explore, encounter, and extend, we need to be sure that we understand what we are talking about.  We have already covered faith and hope.  We are now finishing up our look at love. We are figuring out how to Live through Love.

            We are looking to see if there are characteristics of a life lived through Love.  Are there attributes of a life lived through Love.  Are there attributes we should be asking God to grow within us?  As we live through Love, what should our thoughts and our actions convey to the world?  For, because God is love, that our lives must express that love to the world.

            Today, we are going to look at the last characteristic of Living through Love.  And, it may be the most important.  In order to live through Love it must be Expressive.  What good is love if we do not express it?  What good is it to say that we love God and our neighbor if we do not act in a loving manner?  If we don’t show it by all we do, our love, God’s love must be shown to the world.  It must be expressive.

            We live in a world where it is so easy to say one thing and mean another.  Where it is so easy to tell someone how much they mean to you, it is very easy to say the words, “I love you,” to give it lip-service; to say all the right things.

            But, it’s not enough.  It’s not enough to say the words.  It’s not enough to want to love someone with the love of Christ.  In order for you to truly love someone, your thoughts, your words, and your actions have to match.  We have to show them by what we do that we (and Christ) love them.

            Maybe you are wondering, “why?”  Why do I have to express my love?  Why isn’t my thoughts and my words enough?  What is so important about my right actions when it comes to love?

            To begin to answer that question, I am going to give you the reason Jesus gave to his apostles.  As he was eating his last supper with them before his death, Jesus gave them these words:
                         By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you
                         love one another.”  (John 13:35, NIV)

It is not what we know that will show the world we follow Jesus.  It will not be the prayers we say, the songs we sing.  It will not be the size of our church building, the number of Bible Studies or the amount of money in our bank account.  None of those will show the world we are disciples, followers of Jesus Christ.

            It will be our acts of love, as we learn more about God, as we choose to follow Jesus, as we begin to express our faith and hope in the promises of God.  People will experience it all through our acts of love.  When we invite them in, when we share God’s blessings with them, when we make them feel like they are a part of God’s family, it is then that they will see our love and maybe just maybe, begin to see Christ in us.

            Our love will be the witness to our faith in Jesus Christ.  Our actions, the way in which we show our love to the world will speak volumes about the kind of God we worship and the extent of the love we believe he has given us.

            But, how?  How do we express our love for God and neighbor?  How do we live through love?  Are there straight-forward ways that we can show our love to the world?  Well, I’m glad you asked.

            In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul goes to great lengths to help us answer that question.  He begins by saying:
                        Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
                                                                                                                           (Romans 12:9, NIV)

Sincerity, it all begins with being yourself.  People can spot a person who is feigning interest in them.  They can smell a fake a mile away.  If you are going through the motions, if you are faking an interest, if you are putting on a show, please stop.  I would rather you not do anything than do something that you cannot do with true love in your heart.

            We have to care about those we are called to love.  We have to truly show them that we want what is best for them.  They will see on our faces, they will hear in our tone of voice, they will fully read our body language.  And, it almost show the love that God is calling us to share.

            But, I’m not done.  Paul goes on to give suggestions about how to show our love to one another.
                        Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
                            Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing
                       to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
                                                                                                                 (Romans 12:15-16, NIV)

When the people around them are joyful, celebrate their joy.  When someone is in pain, walk with them in their pain.  If they need a shoulder to cry on, we provide the shoulder (and tissues too).  When there is someone who is in need, we walk with them.  If we can help them, then we do.  If not, we find a way to still give them hope.

            And, we are to live in harmony with one another.  We are to treat one and all the same way, with the love of God.  Whether they are rich or poor; whether they are sinners or saints; no matter what race or nationality or language they speak.  We are to treat them with respect, help them as we are able, and love them with the love of Christ.

            And so, we have come to the end of our look at how to live through Love.  We began by seeing how love is the source of life and through love life is lived.  We then explored how when we are obedient, we are showing our love of God.  Then, we learned that a life lived through Love is by living virtuous; growing God’s virtues in our lives as we love our neighbors.  And then, today we finished by noting that love must be expressed.  We must let our actions speak loudly of God’s love for the world. 

 

 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

May 10, 2015 - "Live through Love: Virtuous"


“Live through LOVE: Virtuous”

Scriptures:
Psalm 139:1-7
I Timothy 1:3-7
John 15:18-25

            For the past few weeks, I have been trying to emphasize my belief in the future of this church.  Even though I won’t be along for the journey, God can and will use this church for amazing things.  If we are faithful to the mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ” and to the vision that God is showing you, anything is possible.  God is calling Trinity UMC to:

                       “to assist our neighbors to Explore Faith, Encounter Hope, and
                        Extend Love through Jesus Christ.”

If we allow this vision to guide us to God’s will for our church, the possibilities are endless.

            In an effort to help to fully embrace the Vision, we have been making sure that we understand the 3 basic points of our Vision.  What do we mean by the words faith, hope, and love?  Earlier we covered faith and hope.  We are now looking at the concept of love.  What does it mean that we are called to love God with all of our being?  How are we to love our neighbor as ourselves?  We are looking at how to live through LOVE.

            To do this, we are identifying characteristics that come from a life lived through.  What attributes should we be open to God growing within us?  What actions should we be compelled to do?  What should a life lived through Love look like?

            Today, we are looking at our third characteristic.  In order to live through LOVE, our lives must be virtuous.  If we live in God’s love, if we are agents of that love, then we are called to live a moral and upright life.  To live a life that is in accordance with God’s law, a life that is ethically sound, a life that follows in the example of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Master, and Savior.

            As we live through Love, we need to choose to live our lives with kindness and patience.  We need to strive to live with humility and charity.  We need to be examples of diligence, temperance, and chastity.  These are not options, things that we can pick and choose to do.  We cannot say, “Well, I can be kind, but that humility thing is not for me” or “I can try to be generous and full of charity, but don’t ask me to be patient.”

            If we truly love God with our whole being and love our neighbors as ourselves, then our lives must show the fruit of that love.  Our thoughts and actions must show the virtues, the morale, the values that God (the One we love) holds as important.

            At this point, you may be asking why?  Why do we have to live a virtuous life?  What does that kind of life have to do with love?  How does morality lend itself to a life of Love?

            And, the easy answer is everything.  Living a life of virtue has everything to do with our ability to live through Love for a couple of really simple reasons.

            For one, if we love God with our whole being, we will live a life of virtue.  Our thoughts, our actions, our will, will begin to express the love that God wants us to share.  In our devotion to God, in our attempt to live our lives in praise and worship to God, we will want to follow his Commands.  We will want to shape our lives according to his will, his plans.  In the first letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul gives these words of encouragement to Timothy:
                        The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart
                       and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  (I Timothy 1:5, NIV)

A life of Love is life with a pure heart.  It is lived with a clean conscience.  It professes a sincere Faith in Jesus Christ.  As we live through Love, we live a life that is morally good, ethically sound and virtuous.

            The second reason we are to live a virtuous life as a part of a life of love is because of our love of neighbor.  If we truly love our neighbor we need to be loving.  We need to express God’s love through kindness, patience, and charity.  The expression of these God given virtues plays itself out in our relationship with others.  The way we treat others speaks to our love.  The way we think about others speaks to our love for them.  As it says in the book of Colossians:
                         “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together
                        in perfect unity.  (Colossians 3:14, NIV)

A life full of virtue and a life full of love go hand in hand.  It is difficult to live a life filled with virtue if love is not there also.  And, it is virtually impossible to live though Love if we are not striving to grow the virtues within us.

            You might be able to love your families without virtue.  You might be able to have concern for your friends or acquaintances.  But, in order to love your neighbor with the love of Christ, your life needs to be full of virtue, moral and ethically secure.  To truly share the love of God with our neighbors requires us to fully commit to following Christ and shaping our lives according to his purpose.

            Loving your neighbor is not always easy.  If it were, I wouldn’t have to preach on it.  There are days when it is downright difficult.  There are moments when every fiber of your being is screaming “to flee” when the loving thing to do is “dig-in” deeper.  There are days when your patience will be tested, events where your commitment (your diligence) will wane.  Times when you will bite your tongue in order for God’s kindness to show.  But we cannot give up.  We have to live through love expressing God’s love to the world.

            If we do not have ourselves rooted in Jesus Christ; if we are not striving to allow these God given virtues to develop within us; if we are not open to God’s movement in our lives, then we do not have a chance of living through Love.  Without God, through the Holy Spirit, working through our thoughts and actions, we cannot live through Love.

            But, if we do, anything is possible.  If we are open to the power of the Holy Spirit; if we are open to God’s virtues growing within us.  Then, God will help us to live through Love.

            In the Second letter of Peter, the apostle lists a group of virtues/qualities that we should strive to live by.  At the end, Peter adds:
                        For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will
                         keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge
                         of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (2 Peter 1:8, NIV)

When we live our lives trying to express God’s virtues through our actions, our efforts will be effective.  When we live virtuously we can be productive for Christ’s kingdom.  Our lives express God’s love for the world.