Daily Scripture and Prayer October 2021
Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church
October 3 -November 6, 2021 Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church
This month we continue our spiritual work with the Fruit of the Spirit. Last month we explored the Spirit fruit of love, joy, peace, and patience. If you have missed the first part of this series, I urge you to go back and get the September devotions and start from the beginning. Each day’s devotion builds on the journey up until that day. While each devotion stands on its own and can be useful, real growth will happen more easily if you ponder the words in order. This study will take you through the first Saturday of November so this month’s guide includes those days.
Explore Kindness This Week
Sunday, October 3, 2021 - Re-read our theme verses today. Galatians 5:1;22-25 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery….By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
The beautiful Greek word that we translate as kindness in this verse is chrestotes. It is sometimes translated as mellowness or goodness and is often linked with the word for philanthropy. The root word is for a kind of useful, easy goodness or graciousness. It refers to an inward disposition that is expressed in outward ways. It is the grace that pervades a person’s nature to such an extent that all that could be harsh, mean, judgmental or aloof is mellowed into a kind of benevolent, understanding service to others. It is not just ‘being sweet’ or biting one’s tongue. It is much sturdier and more all- encompassing than that. It is that aspect of the Spirit in us that refuses to do harm even when it might seem justified. Chrestotes connotes a softening of the soul that results in active compassion. Notice today where you feel a mellowing and kindness toward others, particularly those with whom you disagree or who irritate you. Notice as well, the times that that mellow mercy evaporates. What helps you find kindness? What leads you to abandon it?
Prayer: Gracious God, open us today to your Spirit of kindness that resides within us. Help us to act with kindness as you have acted kindly toward us. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Monday, October 4, 2021- Read Ruth 2:20 “Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead.”
Today is a day to simply take note of kindness wherever you experience it. Notice the opportunities that God brings to you to go out of your way to be kind. Are there moments when you notice a Spirit urge to be kinder to yourself? At bedtime jot down a few of those
opportunities. Notice the times that someone showed you kindness whether it was the checker at the grocery store or a friend or family member that showed patience and compassion to you. Don’t focus on the moments of unkindness or disrespect. Let those go! At bedtime jot down a few of the moments of kindness you received today and thank God for them.
Prayer: Gracious God, open our hearts to receive the kindness that is shown to us today. As we are filled with your kindness toward us, may it overflow in acts of kindness toward others. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - Read Job 6:14 “Those who withhold kindness from a friend forsake the fear of the Almighty.”
Notice today the opportunities to be kind that you did not take. What do you think led you to neglect those opportunities? At bedtime, take a moment to list those moments and let them be the basis of your prayer of confession. Ask God to provide more opportunities for kindness tomorrow. Give no thought or energy to the ways others could have been more kind to you. You cannot change that, but you can change you. At bedtime jot down a word about those missed opportunities and thank God that a new day will bring you more chances to be kind.
Prayer: Gracious God, you flood our lives with opportunities to show kindness and mercy as you have shown us. Sometimes we are too wrapped up in our concerns or hurts to notice. We are sorry. Help us today to see our opportunities more clearly and give us the energy to be your kindness in all things. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Wednesday, October 6, 2021 - Read: Proverbs 21:21 “Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find a life of honor.”
Reflect today on how you might increase (pursue) opportunities to show kindness. Ask God to open your eyes and take you out of your comfort zone. Notice the looks in people’s eyes. Say a kind word. If something irritates you, remember that most people are doing the best they can. Practice a kind word in every situation. At bedtime survey your day. How did you seek out opportunities to be kind? In what circumstances was that most difficult? In what situations was it impossible? Jot down the ways you went out of your way to be kind today. Note, too, any special kindnesses you received today. Thank God for loving others through your kindness and for loving you through the kindness of others.
Prayer: Gracious God, we are so thankful for the ways you have loved us through the kindness of others today. Thank you and help us to show kindness in your name as well. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Thursday, October 7, 2021 - Read Mark 14:7 “For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.”
Reflect today on ways that you can show kindness to the poor. Also ponder the nature of true kindness. Kindness always builds up the other and connects them to a deep source of inner power. Kindness is not motivated by guilt or the need for a response. Its motivation is gratitude to God for our own blessings. At bedtime, make a list of ways that you can show kindness to the poor. Choose one way from that list as your mission for tomorrow.
Prayer: Gracious God, we live in a world with a lot of meanness, and it is often directed at those who are most in need of kindness, friendship, and a helping hand. Help us today to open our hearts to those in need and show them the same kindness you have shown to us. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Friday, October 8, 2021 - Read Col. 3:12 “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
Notice today any people that you have difficulty forgiving. It is hard to be consistently kind when we harbor resentment toward another or spend energy on an unforgiving heart. Ask God to help you let go of resentments so that you can have a generous heart. At bedtime, practice opening your heart to forgive. Forgiving does not mean saying that what happened was okay. If it had been okay, you wouldn’t need to forgive. Nor does it mean that you have to reopen the relationship if it is not safe or prudent to do so. Forgiveness just frees up your heart to live more bountifully and kindly. If this is too hard, be kind to yourself and give yourself the kindness of time. Thank God for giving you the courage to start.
Prayer: Gracious God, by the power of your Spirit within us, release any hardness of heart you find there. Make our souls softer and more forgiving. Help us to release others as you have released us. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Saturday, October 9, 2021 -Read Romans 3:12 “All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.”
Today reflect on the importance of kindness and its scarcity in your life and in the world. It is clear from this verse that kindness is at the heart of righteousness. Ponder how you may be able to recover a deep and abiding spirit of kindness in your life. At bedtime, make a promise to God that you will seek Christ more every day. Tell God how much you long to be kind and to spread the spirit of kindness in your life, in your church and in the world. Ask God to show you ways that God wants to use you to spread kindness. Take a moment to jot down everything you can think of where you have noticed kindness today. Pray for that kindness to multiply like the stars in the heaven.
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for your eternal kindness to me. Help that kindness to flow from me today to all those that I meet. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Explore Generosity (Goodness) This Week!
Sunday, October 10, 2021 - Re-read our theme verses today. Galatians 5:1;22-25 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery….By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
The word that the NRSV version of the Bible translates as generosity is agathosune. It is related to last week’s word chrestotes. It is more active. While chrestotes (kindness) refers to a kind of mellowing of character, agathosune is a more zealous, focused active goodness. An example might help. When Jesus shows his indignation in the Temple and turns over the tables, he is showing his agathosune…active zeal for goodness that is itself goodness acting. Can you see the difference between that and Jesus’ chrestotes which is the mellower kindness sort of goodness that we see in the story of the lost sheep? Agathosune is honorable character doing morally honorable things. I think of this aspect of Spirit life in us as faith on its feet. And not just any old feet. It is faith on God’s feet. It is sometimes translated as generosity because it carries the sense of overflowing goodness toward others with little thought of the self. This is often the word used to describe God’s generosity/goodness is Jesus. It is all about motive. If we do something we would say is good or generous in order to get something, even recognition, that is not agathosune. Today, notice those times when your heart has been stirred up toward moral good acts for the sake of others. At bedtime, jot down any moments like that that you can recall and ask God to awaken you to your own generosity/goodness more and more all week.
Prayer: Gracious God, still us today to generosity, to goodness, to faith on our own feet for the sake of the world. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Monday, October 11, 2021 - Read Romans 15:14 “I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.”
Agathosune, whether translated as generosity or goodness, means to act in an honorable way that pleases God and gives freely of the self. Generosity holds nothing back. Here, Paul tells us that the ability to give of oneself lavishly is tied to our personal knowledge of Christ and our willingness to help one another to learn about the spiritual life. In what ways do you give lavishly of yourself to others? Do you find that you ever give too much or too little? How does your knowledge of Christ help you to find the right balance? Notice today how internally generous you feel with your time, your influence, your attention, your resources? Ask God today to enable you to be ‘full of goodness.”
Prayer: Gracious God, help our hearts to brim with generosity today so that we may live the life of your Spirit within us! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Tuesday, October 12, 2021 - Read Romans 12:9 “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;”
Sometimes it seems easier to hold on to the bad things in life than the good. Earthquakes, wars, poverty, pandemic, crime, in-fighting, fill the news and can leave us feeling infected with the negative. Here Paul is saying that our love must not be a hypocritical “yes-but” kind of thing. We can’t dwell on faults and love genuinely. Rather, each day we are to cling to the good things like a rope thrown to a person gone overboard. What are the truly good things in your life? Make a list of at least ten things and put it in your wallet or phone. Whenever you take out your money to pay for something, or pick up your phone to check for messages, read your list. Let the feeling of positive gratitude flood your heart. When you are tempted to focus on the harsh and negative, get out your list and add to it. Even if the things you add seem small and insignificant and the hard things huge and insurmountable, just add to your list of good and soon you will find a strange new power in you. It is the power of goodness itself and it will change or meet any challenge you face. Make a point today of saying grace for your meals. Thank God for food, for the laborers who brought it to you and for the capacity to buy it.
Prayer: Gracious God, I thank you today for every good thing in my life and in your beautiful world. Help me to pause long enough today to look around and within for the beauty of these moments. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Wednesday, October 13, 2021- Read Ephesians 5:9 “—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.”
The author of Ephesians is trying to get his readers to realize that not everyone who claims to have the truth actually does have it. Their church is being torn apart by ‘false teachers’ who are telling them that they have it all wrong. Here we see that when the light of Christ truly shines in our hearts and lives it will be displayed in us as truth, holiness, and goodness. How does the light of Christ shine brightest in you? When are you most certain of the truth? How does Christ’s light shine in the good things that you do in your daily life? Take a moment sometime today to light a candle and gaze at it. Remember that Christ is the one sure light to your path. In the presence of that little light, ask God how you might shine with goodness and holiness today. Ask for one small and specific thing that you can easily do today to make a difference in the life of another.
Prayer: Gracious God, let your light shine from me today and lead me to those who need its warmth the most. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Thursday, October 14, 2021- Read 2 Thess. 1:11 “To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith,”
Our attempts to live with the fruit of goodness flowing through us are not solely up to our own will power and determination. God is constantly at work in us making us better than we have ever been before. What are some of the areas in which you think you have grown
morally finer? Are you a little more loving? Do you give a little more generously? Do you find that you stay a little closer to the truth? Do you avoid gossip a little more than you used to do? Take a moment today to do a simple moral inventory. Think of all of the aspects of a fine character that you admire in others. Do you see some of that in yourself? Notice how you have grown. Notice where you need Spirit power to make strides. Ask God to work a ‘good’ character into you and to start today.
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you that you are not finished with me! Thank you for all the good work you do in my life and in my heart. Help me today to open more fully to Spirit’s goodness in my awakening heart. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Friday, October 15, 2021 – In your own Bible, read Luke 7:37-50. This is the story of a repentant woman who anoints Jesus with some very expensive ointment. The disciples are aghast and can only see the financial ramifications of her action. They show a distinct lack of generosity and can’t see that the action she took for Jesus was more important than any bottom line. In a similar incident in Matthew, Jesus quiets his friends and tells them that she has done a ‘good’ thing for him. Goodness always involves radical generosity. In what ways do you show lavish generosity to God? What comes first in your financial life? Is it your own sense of comfort and security or is Christ’s call through the church? What fears hold you back from generosity? If you find that generosity is hard or confusing for you, ask Jesus to show you exactly how you start a ‘generosity experiment’. Ask to be shown where the need is and how you can pour yourself out for him in it.
Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you for your generosity toward us. Help us to learn from you and be generous in the ways you lead. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Saturday, October 16, 2021 – In your own Bible, read Matthew 21:12-13. This is the story of Jesus running the vendors and money changers out of the Temple. Sometimes moral goodness requires ‘tough love’. To do a good thing in a bad situation is rarely popular and often misunderstood. Yet, as the body of Christ today, we cannot consider ourselves morally good if we allow injustice, exploitation, and casual immorality to reign without a word of protest. The fruit of generosity/goodness is never passive or abstract. It is active and concrete. How might you speak up for justice, fairness, and equality today? Is anyone being bullied, shunned, or rejected at your work or in your bridge group or neighborhood? How might you reach out? Are there things in your family toward which you have turned a blind eye for too long? Who are the people you think of as ‘them’? What might you really have in common? Take a moment to sit quietly. Imagine that you are the Temple. What might Jesus need to overthrow or run out in you? Ask for forgiveness, if needed, and divine help to live a good life.
Prayer: Gracious God, cleanse me today of everything that hampers your Spirit’s witness in me. Give me courage to stand for that which is right and just in all my interactions today. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Explore Faithfulness This Week!
Sunday, October 17, 2021 - Re-read our theme verses today. Galatians 5:1;22-25 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery….By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
The word we translate as ‘faithfulness’ is a form of the Greek word, pistis. It is not about what we decide we believe in our heads. Pistis is about what we are willing to stake our lives upon. It is about what and whom we truly trust. Pistis means to lean into someone and to let go and allow the one trusted to hold sway. The opposite of pistis is not unbelief. It is ego blinded self-reliance. It is not dependent on circumstances, nor does it require constant proofs. It is sometimes simply choosing to trust anyway. When Paul was writing to the Galatian church, he recognized the precariousness of their situation. He knew that if they could not develop a deep and constant trust and allegiance to the ways of Christ that, when hard times come as they are bound to do, they would have nothing to hold them up and see them through. This kind of trust is both a gift of God to us and a result of Spirit’s work in us over time. Deciding to believe with our minds can happen in a moment. Learning to live in and out of trust takes time. Today, think of times when trust came easily to you. Why do you think that was? Now think of times when trust is harder. Why? Don’t try to fix anything you notice. The noticing itself makes room for Spirit to work to help you grow.
Prayer: Gracious God, increase our trust in you alone. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Monday, October 18, 2021 - Read 2 Chronicles 19:9 “He charged them: ‘This is how you shall act: in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart;’”
Things are a mess in Judah. King Jehoshaphat has made too many concessions to the greedy and helped the wicked too often. Jehu the prophet has called him down about it and the king is instituting reforms, especially of the judiciary. In this verse he tells the new judges how they are to behave: with the awe of God, wholeheartedly dedicated to their job of justice and with faithfulness as their power. In Hebrew, faithfulness means something like assurance or supreme confidence. What do you have wholehearted confidence in today? Does that which you depend upon deserve your supreme confidence? How do you live out your confidence in God today? What does God value and promise that you can depend upon? Ask God to give you wholehearted faithfulness in a way that you can feel and put to work today.
Prayer: Gracious God, today we ask you to increase our faith and trust so that we can easily remember and rely on your promises to us. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Tuesday, October 19, 2021 - Read Psalm 119:30 “I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your ordinances before me.”
Here the psalmist tells us that faithfulness is not an accident or even serendipity. It is a choice to cooperate with what God’s Spirit is doing within us and among us. Every day, we choose to rely on God’s promises. As we do, our confidence in God grows. As our confidence grows, we find that many of life’s problems begin to come into clearer focus and we find new and better solutions. The psalmist also reminds us that faithfulness grows when we set God’s will and values before our eyes at each moment. Obedience is another choice, and it is one that breeds deeper faithfulness and confidence. How might you live in obedience to God today? Ask in prayer if there is anything special that you can do to please or serve God today. Remind yourself of all of the things that are important to God. Choose one of those things (service to the poor, study of scripture, prayer, working for justice, supporting the church, etc.) and ask God to give you a task you can perform in that area. If something occurs to you, write it down and begin to ponder how you might fulfill that command.
Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you for your constant faithfulness to us. Help us today to act in faithfulness toward others as an act of devotion to you. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - Read 1 Cor. 2:3-5 “And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
No matter what our circumstances may be, our faithfulness is powered by God. Faith and faithfulness (the same word in Greek) refers to a kind of radical reliance on Christ. It is all about trust that issues in commitment. Paul recognizes that human wisdom can only take us so far. Expecting things to make sense in the human sphere of power and posturing will not bring us the true wisdom and power that can only come from the Spirit. In what areas of your life do you need to trust God more? Are there things that you spend a little too much time worrying over? What, in your heart of hearts, do you fear or feel that God will not or cannot do for you? Take a moment to honestly tell God how you feel, even if it feels silly or you don’t usually talk to God in that way. Don’t worry if you don’t feel anything, or don’t receive an answer. The message has been received and answered and it will soon become clear. Ask God to help you trust.
Prayer: Gracious God, I am having difficulty trusting you with…(list anything that comes to mind.) Help me today to release this problem to you and to trust you to address it perfectly. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Thursday, October 21, 2021 - Read Phil. 1:23-25 “I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more
necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith,”
Paul is in prison in horrible circumstances. He suffers persecution and also from a terrible chronic illness or trial. We don’t know what that was, only that he constantly prayed for relief from it. In many ways, he is ready to go on and be with the Lord. Yet he realizes that he still has usefulness to the churches he has founded. He wants to help them grow in trust and joy. Those two things are integrally linked. The more we rely on Christ, the more we experience joy even if our circumstances don’t change in ways we would wish. How might trusting in Christ make this a more joyful day for you? What do you need? State your needs before God, then practice resting in the joyful faith that God will bring to you exactly what you need, maybe even more perfectly than the requests you have made. Take a moment to imagine what it would feel like to have all your needs and yearnings fulfilled. Spend some time just feeling that until it feels real. That is the state God longs for you to inhabit constantly. Thank God for all that is coming your way.
Prayer: Gracious God, you have given us so much! Today help us to remember our blessing and to rest I contentment, trusting that you will provide what we need when we need it. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Friday, October 22, 2021 - Read 1 Thess. 3:2 “and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith,”
We do not have to go it alone. God wills for us to live our lives in a community of faith so that others’ faith can encourage us and build up our own. Who are the people in your life that encourage you and help you to trust God more? How can you give that gift to others? Look for moments throughout the day to give encouragement to yourself as well. Tell yourself that you are growing in your faith, even if you are not sure that is so. Make a renewed commitment to worship and Bible study. Ask God how you can encourage someone’s faith today.
Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you for all the ones who have encouraged us over the years, especially for….(list those that come to mind.) Help us to encourage others as we have been encouraged. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Saturday, October 23, 2021 - Read Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.”
Sometimes we major in minors, don’t we? We spend our energy on small actions but do not allow deep faith to soften and mold our hearts. Justice and mercy are words we don’t even associate with faith very often. Yet they are faith’s necessary partners. How does your deepening trust call you to works of justice and mercy? Make a list of those to whom
you would like to offer special mercy. Ask God to give you opportunities to exercise your faithfulness in those ways.
Prayer: Merciful God, make me merciful today. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Explore Gentleness This Week
Sunday, October 24, 2021 - Re-read our theme verses today. Galatians 5:1;22-25 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery….By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Of all the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, gentleness came as the biggest surprise to me. It is not a simple sweet spirit. That is more akin to kindness. It is not a cowering cringing stepping softly so as not to arouse difficulty spirit either. The Greek word has nearly nothing to do with how we usually use the word gentleness in English today. The word is praus. It is very, very hard to render into English. But let me try. Praus refers to one’s inner attitude toward God in which, from the core of one’s being, one accepts God’s dealings with us, God’s very self as completely good. Therefore, we live our lives without disputing or resisting. Praus is a word that denotes power. Praus is calmness of spirit that is neither inflated nor deflated because it is simply not concerned with the small ego self at all. It is the calm unassailable certainty that God is good and is always up to good. Each of the aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit helps us explore the nature of God. How could they not? They are God at work in us. Even so, this week gives us an opportunity to examine whether or not our theology of God’s goodness is lived out in us or has been dimmed by doubt or hardship. Today ponder how you experience God. Be as honest as you can be. God is big enough and good enough to hold whatever you notice. Offer those things to God in thanksgiving and for reform if needed.
Prayer: Gracious God, all round us, people claim that you do not exist, or that if you do, you are horrible or unconcerned with the lives and hurts of your creatures. Help us today to rest confidently in your presence and gentleness. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Monday, October 25, 2021 - Read Zephaniah 3:12 “But I will leave among you a humble and lowly people, and they will take refuge in the name of the Lord.” Zephaniah has just told the people of the destruction they face at the hands of their enemies. As so often in the Old Testament, the prophets equate Israel’s suffering and defeats with her shallow and half-hearted faith. Here the prophet gives a word of comfort. All is not lost, the humble or gentle will remain. This kind of gentleness is not weakness; it is rather, profound strength that comes from relying on God. In what ways might you take refuge in God this week? Are there areas of your life in which you feel vulnerable or disappointed? Stop often today and
repeat today’s prayer. Repeat it often, even if you don’t ‘feel’ that you are doing what you are saying. The prayer itself will open up a new reliance and strength in you.
Prayer: Today I take refuge in You, O Lord. Fill me with gentleness. In Jesus holy name we pray. Amen.
Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - Read Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The Greek word we are considering this week is praus. It is an inward grace of the soul and is primarily used to describe the attitude of acceptance of God’s dealings with us and trusting that they are good. Here Jesus uses this word to describe himself and to help us understand the level of peace and rest that he offers to us. Are there areas of your life in which you feel less than peaceful and rested? Take a moment to list those areas in a prayerful attitude before God. Then offer each of those areas to God with a gentle prayer of thanks. Perhaps today’s prayer can serve as a template for your praying. Try throughout the day to notice when you feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or worried. In each instance, pause and offer the situation to God trusting that God is working something wonderful for you long before you see it.
Prayer: Dear God, I am worn out from trying to make things work out. Give me peace and rest for I know that you are always working good for me in every area of my life. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Wednesday, October 27, 2021 - Read Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.”
Here Jesus tells us that the inward disposition of powerful acceptance of God’s goodness and trustworthiness is at the heart of happiness (the meaning of the word blessed). Not only is our joy tied to our gentleness (praus) but the living out of our gentleness makes us like God and heirs of all the richness and beauty of the earth itself. What a powerfully wonderful promise! Because Jesus describes himself as gentle, when we act in gentle acceptance of God’s goodness and love for us, we are acting like the body of Christ itself. Ponder today how you might practice deeper acceptance of God’s goodness in your life. Let your heart remind you of all of the good things that God has done for you. Don’t try too hard. Just let the thoughts and blessings come into your mind. Don’t yes-but them. Let yourself feel the feelings of joy associated with those blessings as if they were all happening to you right now. When you are doing your daily duties, pause often to pray today’s prayer.
Prayer: Today, Lord, I am filled with blessing. I am filled with joy. All that you have for me, Lord, I am receiving in due time. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.
Thursday, October 28, 2021 - Read Ephesians 4:1-2 “I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,”
Gentle and powerful acceptance of our situations is difficult enough in good times. For some of us it is nearly impossible in times of trial. Paul was in prison in the worst possible circumstances, and still he accepted that even in the horror, God was working out that which was good and perfect for him. The reason that this kind of gentleness is possible is because it does not rely on our own power or circumstances. It is rooted entirely in God’s power and goodness. Paul is experiencing this for himself, so he urges the church in Ephesus to deepen its dependence on Christ in order to withstand whatever is coming its way. Can you identify anyone in your life that has shown you this kind of gentleness and faith during hard times? What is your usual response to hardship? What helps make it bearable for you? How do you connect to your Source in difficulty? Remember in prayer today all of the faithful who are living with trials or under persecution. Ask God to fill each one with gentle assurance of God’s goodness and love.
Prayer: Gracious God, please make me gentle of spirit in hardship and show me how I might encourage others in difficult circumstances. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.
Friday, October 29, 2021 - Read Colossians 3:12 “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
Here we learn that the graces are ours to claim. They are in us because God is in us. We may put them on like a sweater against the winter chill, or a sun hat in the summer sun. It is not too hard for us. We have them already in our spiritual closet, carefully chosen and a perfect fit for us. We simply pick them up and put them on. Another implication of the clothing language is that the graces we wear will show to others. While praus is primarily an inward attitude of the soul toward God, living out of that attitude shows to the world. It is patently obvious. Which of the graces in this verse do you think is most obvious in your life? How do you think that others might notice your gentle confident trust in God? When you get dressed this morning or put on a jacket or sweater later in the day or your robe at night; take a moment to say to yourself: I am wearing my gentle trust in God’s goodness today. Notice how you feel and whether you can see a difference in how you act or react today as a result of ‘wearing’ your faith.
Prayer: Gracious God, I am wearing my gentle trust in you today. Thank you! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Saturday, October 30, 2021 - Read 1 Timothy 6:11 “But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.”
Paul is writing to a discouraged colleague, Timothy. His letter is full of practical advice for his ministry. He is cautioning him not to give in to the temptation of looking to wealth to solve problems or to be an end in and of itself. Instead, he is to pursue the things that really make life worth living. One of those things is gentleness (praus). While gentleness is a
result of living by the Spirit (a fruit) we must pursue this level of faith and acceptance actively to receive full benefit. How might you pursue gentleness today? In what areas can you seek to trust God more? How can you make God’s goodness known today? Try to think of one specific thing (large or small) and commit to it today (not tomorrow). If you are at a loss for how you might pursue praus, ask God to bring an obvious opportunity to you. In the meantime, go over in your mind all of the things that you love and that bring you joy. As you are reminded of, and feel, all of that, your gentle/powerful/trust will grow as well.
Prayer: Gracious God, help me to pursue true gentleness today. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.
Explore Self Control This Week
Sunday, October 31, 2021 - Re-read our theme verses today. Galatians 5:1;22-25 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery….By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
The final word in Paul’s list of the Fruit of the Spirit is enkrateia. Translated as self-control, this word comes from the root for strength. It is all about the right use of power and includes the right use of our capacity to make choices. It is at its heart the harnessing of the tyrannical ego. This kind of self-control is about being able to say no to the self when to say yes will be harmful or hurtful. It is also about saying yes, when to say no would be easier and somehow damaging to self or others. Enkrateia is the right use of strength and freedom. It sets us free because when we exercise this control over our egos we are no longer tyrannized by ever momentary desire or defense. This kind of self-control makes space for an awareness of the beauty of the ordinary and issues in a non-needy moderation. The opposite of this is, akrates, which means powerless, morally impotent, or unrestrained. Notice today when you feel that your ego is firmly in charge. One way to notice is if you find that you are feeling out of balance in some area. Notice if there seem to be patterns to your times of imbalance or lack of moderation. One way to grasp this is to remember that self-control (enkrateia)is not the same as Self-in-control! It is about Spirit in us controlling and healing destructive impulses.
Prayer: Gracious God, help me today to notice where I am out of balance and to consider ways to come again into the balanced spirit you want for me. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
Monday, Nov. 1, 2021 - Read Acts 24:24-25 “Some days later when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus. And as he discussed justice, self-control and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present;’” Sometimes the prospect of real self-control
can be daunting. I remember years ago when I went to my first Weight Watchers meeting. All I wanted to do was sit in the back and cry. I have heard people with all kinds of addictions say similar things. They want to quit, but the thought of living without the substance is terrifying. Ponder today whether or not there are any habits in your life that need to change. What are your feelings about changing them? Tell God exactly how you feel and ask the Holy Spirit to unleash an amazing spirit of self-control in you. The Spirit will give you just enough for today and that is just enough. Take a moment at bedtime to review the choices you made today. In what ways did you make faithful choices? What choices were less than perfect? Did you feel any new bursts of self-control? If so, thank God. If not, ask for more help tomorrow.
Prayer: Gracious God, help me today not to use things or people as a substitute for you. Help me not reach for anything that is harmful to me or others. Give me today your gift of self-control. In Jesus’ holy name we pray.
Tuesday, November 2, 2021 - Read 2 Peter 1:5-7 “For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.”
Self-control is a crucial link in the chain of the spiritual life that moves our often-timid belief into the realm of deep love of God, others and even ourselves. Without that link, we can get stuck along the way and lose the felt experiences of love and wisdom that God has given to us in Christ Jesus. In what ways do you find self-control difficult in the spiritual life? Are some spiritual practices easier for you to make into habits than others? If so, celebrate the Spirit’s work of self-control already at work in you. If worship attendance has become a habit, that is the Spirit exercising a new self-control in you. If you pray each morning and evening, that is self-control. The Spirit gives the power, but we must make the choice to put self-control to work. At bedtime tonight thank God for the moments today that you exercised self-control. Ask for this gift to grow in you tomorrow.
Prayer: Gracious God, I thank you for the growth that I am experiencing. Help me to shift my focus and see self-control not as an ego struggle but a gift of faith. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.
Wednesday, November 3, 2021 - Read Titus 1:7-8 “For a bishop (overseer), as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled.”
Self-control is an essential quality of leadership. Whether we are called into leadership positions in the church or not, all of us as believers lead by example in our daily lives. How might growth in self-control make your life more productive, powerful, or influential? How do you think that people see you? How do other people feel when they are with you? If they feel more holy, safe and inspired then you are probably living with a good deal of
self-control. If they feel nervous, uncertain, or confused, it may be that you lack self-control and so they never know what to expect from you. Before bed, think for a moment of the ways that you have led by example today. Were there times you held your tongue? Times you took good care of yourself or others? Thank God for those times. Ask, also, that tomorrow you will be able to live with more awareness and self-control than today.
Prayer: Gracious God, today I ask you to help me notice where greater self-control is needed in my life. Help me to exercise that self-control in love of love of self, others, and you. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.
Thursday, November 4, 2021- Read 2 Cor. 6:18 “I will be your father, and you shall be my children, says the Lord Almighty.” The word we translate as ‘Almighty’ here comes from the same root as our world for self-control. It means strength and is used of God as the One who holds all things together. In this section of Paul’s letter, he is cautioning the people in Corinth to be very careful about their interactions with unbelievers. He knows, as we do, that behavior is often contagious. It is easier for us to do something, whether or not it is moral or in our best spiritual interest, when others are doing the same thing. Are there people or circumstances in your life that make self-control harder for you? Are there people who make it hard for you to resist gossip when you are with them? Are there people who seem to draw you into their ‘drama’? Are their people or events that make it harder for you to eat right or drink responsibly? Make a list of these people or situations. Don’t worry about trying to ‘fix’ it right now. Just ask God for greater awareness. With that awareness will come a fresh resolve and before you know it you will be limiting those situations and/or taking control of your behavior in them.
Prayer: Gracious God, help me today to make good choices about where I put my time and energy. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.
Friday, November 5, 2021 - Read John 11:35 “Jesus began to weep.”
Exercising self-control does not negate our emotions. It is impossible and dangerous to our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health to try to suppress our emotions. We have them for a reason and so did Jesus. He was not a stoic kind of guy. He felt grief, anger, joy, frustration, triumph and abandonment. So do we. Self-control does not come by trying to force ourselves to remain impassive. Self-control comes by choosing to stick to our values and live with integrity in the midst of any emotional situation. Do you ever berate yourself for your emotional responses to circumstances or people? Do you ever feel that you are too emotional or that you lack empathy? How might the Spirit fruit of self-control help you in your emotional health? At bedtime, thank God that you are created in God’s own image with the full range of emotions and aspirations. Ask God to show you just exactly what disciplines of the faith (prayer, study, service etc.) are the perfect ones for you to develop more fully. Choose one to start with and make a commitment to how you will approach it in the morning.
Prayer: Gracious God, we are wonderfully and awesomely made! Help me today to reflect you in all that I do. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.
Saturday, November 6, 2021 - Read 1 Cor. 9:25 “Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.”
To receive the full bounty of the Christian life requires self-control and discipline. Just as athletes discipline themselves in order to be their best and to have a competitive edge, as Christians, we discipline ourselves for rewards both here and in heaven. In fact, when we choose to faithfully worship, study, serve, pray, and reflect, God brings us a little bit of heaven to earth. Our joy overflows. Our bounty increases. Our capacity to love deepens. Our compassion and energy for service explodes. Are there elements of your Christian ‘training program’ that have grown lax? Where do you need to recommit and reconnect? Without thinking too hard, make a list of the first things that come into your mind when you pray, “Lord, show me what I need most.” Pray through that list whenever it comes to mind today. Offer it to God and ask for guidance and the perfect opportunities for you.
Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you for the gift of these days spent pondering your Spirit fruit in our lives and world. Show me today, what I need most and equip me to do my part. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.