I hate tug of war.
Feet slipping in the dusty dirt below,
hands burning as the rope
cuts across my palms,
fingers rippling down the ridges
of the rough twisted twine.
I remember it from field day...
I could see the red marker
knotted in the middle, dangling down.
It neared the line which marked
the winning side of our opponent.
We heaved and pulled.
Leaning back, we grunted
and gritted our teeth.
But no matter the effort,
we continued to lose our footing,
until finally we gave in to the pull and
were tugged across to the other side.
And I hated standing up,
dusting myself off while the
winners gloated and laughed,
mocking the weakness of a team
I didn't even chose to be on.
Don't you hate that in life...
when you end up in a difficult
situation that seems impossible to win?
Sometimes it's a definite
choice we make.
But then there are times when
circumstances take over and we really
don't have much say in the matter.
Have you ever gotten
stuck on a team, or
put with a group
and the members don't
pull their own weight.
And no matter your suggestions
to organize, to lead, to speak life
into the situation, you just get
dragged along in their dirt,
with flashbacks of rope burn
on field day.
Or what if you're trying to tackle
something on your own, because
you've given up on the team approach.
But you keep hitting a wall,
and get frustrated when every new
avenue turns into a roadblock.
When will I get my break?
I'm so tired of watching everyone else
succeed while I stand back cheering on
the outside but really just wanting
the same thing for myself.
This life truly is a tug of war!
Mind, heart, soul, spirit...
I want to have my own way!
Even if we stop and pray about it,
time stands still and
nothing seems to change.
Even when we search
in the Bible for answers...
we hear Paul tell us,
You, my brothers and sisters,
were called to be free.
Galatians 5:16 NIV
But Paul, that is so much
easier said that done.
So he continues...
But do not use your freedom
to indulge the flesh; rather,
serve one another humbly in love.
And as I understand it,
when Paul speaks of
the FLESH, he is referring to
the sinful state of all human beings,
or a power that is in opposition
to the Holy Spirit.
So now it seems to me
that this picture I've had in
my mind of this tug-of-war
isn't really me against the world.
Rather, it's more like me in the middle,
and on one side is my flesh...
or my sinful nature.
On the other is my spirit...
that deeper place in me
which desires connection with God.
This is the part of me that has
been saved, if I have given my life
to Jesus at some point in the past.
These two are at war within all of us,
a spiritual tug-of-war for our attention,
our devotion, our words and our deeds.
As Paul continues, he makes
his point a little more clear
in the next few verses...
So I say, let the Holy Spirit
guide your lives.
Then you won’t be doing
what your sinful nature craves.
The sinful nature wants to do evil,
which is just the opposite of
what the Spirit wants.
And the Spirit gives us desires
that are the opposite of what
the sinful nature desires.
These two forces are
constantly fighting each other,
so you are not free
to carry out your good intentions.
Galatians 5:16-17 NLT
That's the tug of war!
Not just the battles outside of us
which we see, feel, and
have with other people.
But much more the internal struggle...
which tears us apart inside.
You know exactly what this is...
we all do!
These are the days
when you realize
what you SHOULD do, but
you really FEEL like doing
something else... or some desire
is trying to CONVINCE you
to do the opposite, right?
Those are internal and external
struggles tugging and warring
between flesh and spirit.
When I look at that list of things
the Spirit produces...
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
they seem like the perfect life.
I mean, who wouldn't want those?
But they are the fruit of living
by the Spirit. They are the results
of letting the Spirit lead us.
And fruit doesn't grow overnight.
It takes some time to not only grow,
but to ripen and be ready for harvest.
Which means that I will need to
lean into and follow the Spirit regularly,
and repeatedly if I want to have
that fruit in my life to live on...
to sustain me.
The same will be true, though for
the life lived in the flesh.
I won't be full of that list of stuff,
some of which we think could never
happen to us, right away either.
Just like the fruit, that will take time
to grow and ripen as well.
And if I live in the flesh long enough,
I bet those things won't seem
quite as shocking or strange to me.
But here's the biggest problem.
Trying to have both.
Or not being ready
to let go of one, to have the other.
And thats where most Christians live;
right in the middle of the tug-of-war zone.
Because we aren't willing to
completely give up our flesh.
And it's really hard to wait
for all that fruit to grow in the Spirit.
So we keep one hand on the flesh
and one hand on the Spirit.
Sometimes though, the flesh tugs
a little harder than the Spirit.
You see the Spirit is a gentleman.
He's not going to boss you around.
But the flesh... yep, that's what he does.
And you may just have to let go
of the Spirit to get both hands
on the flesh and you'll go for
a wild ride one weekend...
then Sunday comes.
Freedom comes when we decide
to give both hands to the Spirit
and let Him gently lead our life...
fully turned toward Him,
no longer looking back toward
our old life of the flesh.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus
have nailed the passions and
desires of their sinful nature to
His cross and crucified them there.
Since we are living by the Spirit,
let us follow the Spirit’s leading
in every part of our lives.
Word of God
train me today...
To let go of my old nature,
nailing my flesh to the cross of Christ.
To turn and give You both hands, Lord.
To let the Spirit lead me and wait for
the best fruit of my life to sustain me.
Letter writing is an art form
that unfortunately is becoming
a thing of the past.
It's not the same
as sending an email.
And cannot remotely
be compared to a text.
I'm referring to the old-fashioned,
hand-written letter with
a stamp on the outside
of an envelope that is delivered
by the U.S. Postal Service.
Yes, that antiquated art form.
Funny, one of my daughters
asked me the other day
where she could get a stamp.
And she didn't mean
around my house.
Like she had never purchased one
so she didn't know were to go
to get one, or two, or a book of them.
I do remember taking them
to the Post Office when
they were little.
But I'm sure they don't have
any clue why we stood in that line.
Even the letters we do get in the mail,
are typically junk mail on letterhead
and we skim over them to see
if there's anything necessary
before we shred them or
pitch them in the trash.
Some of them I can tell
before I ever open the envelope...
with that fake handwritten ink
on the outside of the envelope.
I realize it's not from someone
I know, so I don't even read it.
But what if you got one...
a REAL letter?
Would you take the time
to sit down somewhere quiet,
away from the hectic pace of the day
and really absorb what your friend
or loved one had to say to you?
Because they took the time
to write it out, it must truly be
something of great importance.
Do you remember the last time
you got a letter like that?
Did it begin formally
with a greeting of some sort?
Hoping you are well...
would vary, of course
depending on how you were
acquainted with the sender.
I was actually reading
such a letter earlier today.
Mine had been printed.
But in its original form
it was hand-written,
most likely not in pen, but on
some sort of parchment.
These words on the page
clearly poured over and
measured out in a language
I don't speak.
But it has been translated
and carried across many lands
so that I could open it today...
yet careful not to
skim past that greeting.
Grace to you and peace
from God the Father and
our Lord Jesus Christ,
who gave Himself for our sins,
that He might deliver us
from this present evil age,
according to the will of
our God and Father,
to whom be glory forever
and ever. Amen.
Galatians 1:3-5 NKJV
How often I skim past
these opening lines of
the letters of Paul in my effort
to get to the deeper subject
that I believe he has to teach.
When these words he writes
in the greeting could be
a lesson in, and of themselves.
For Paul dearly loves these people.
He had spent time teaching them
as he built up a body of believers,
about the life, death and resurrection
of Jesus, and how he had a personal
encounter with the Lord on the road
as a blinding light.
So Paul certainly knew
first hand what this word
GRACE truly meant.
Grace to you and peace
from God the Father and
our Lord Jesus Christ
This wasn't some churchy word
he threw around casually.
To him, GRACE was a blinding change
in his life from persecuting Christians
in the most zealous way,
turned radically toward winning
souls for Jesus and adding
to the church daily.
So when Paul writes of GRACE
as a greeting, he is offering it
as it was offered to him...
the Lord's favor freely given,
leaning forward for all to receive.
Now this PEACE also is not just
throwing up of our first two fingers
like those of the 1970's might do.
This was the Greek word eirene
which meant "to join, or tie into a whole."
And when all the essential parts of us
are put together, we are much less
frazzled people, less distracted,
less disjointed, less discouraged.
The prefix "dis," as a matter of fact,
means apart. So any of those words
that make life more difficult for us,
beginning with these three letters,
are actually the opposite of PEACE.
Because they are not allowing us
to be joined together in wholeness.
This to be certain is what Paul was
calling for the people of Galatia.
GRACE and PEACE
Are these things that we,
in our own power, are able to gain
and master in our daily lives?
Well, I'm pretty sure I've tried
without success. I'd like to say
that is the case for most of us.
But I do know...
that God is a Master at both of these.
In fact, He is able
to bring them about in our lives
when we are willing to give into Him,
to give over to Him, all that we aren't.
And that is Paul's greeting summed up.
Jesus willingly gave Himself for us
that He might deliver us
from all those things in this world
that pull us apart, that cause us
to be a messy pile of pieces.
Maybe I shouldn't speak for you,
but I'll confess that I'm a messy
pile of pieces... often!
I may not always look it on the outside,
but boy do I feel it on the inside!
And when I open up my
heart, mind, soul and spirit
to God and release these pieces
to Him, He can join them together
into the wholeness... PEACE...
by leaning into me with His love
and GRACE... the favor He willingly
gives without reservation.
All I need to do is accept it.
It is a free gift, no strings attached.
How thankful I am that Paul
greeted us so well, so simply
but so profoundly in this letter
to the Galatians.
Today, I am going to receive
GRACE and PEACE,
knowing that when I lean into Him,
He is leaning into me!
Word of God
train me today...
To slow down and acknowledge
Your greetings if wholeness and favor,
leaning into You.
To give You all the random
pieces of my mess,
knowing that You can join them together
to make a masterpiece out of me.
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