"So I say live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other...."

Galatians 5:16-17a

"There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which taken at the flood leads to fortune. Omitted, all the voyages of life are bound in shallowness and miseries. We must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures."
Abigail Adams, quoting Shakespeare

"Sure, You can worship God with a fishing pole in your hand, but when was the last time a trout told you 'Your sins are forgiven'?"
Sign on a Minnesota church during summer

While I was serving in Las Vegas, I had a 25 gallon fish tank filled with clownfish, angelfish, and the requisite goldfish or two. I had a special system which had a couple of plastic tubes that I would need to run through the water to get it looking clear every week or so. Unfortunately, I had more of the "S.O.S." than the "every week" and even though the fish seemed to be doing well and the tank looked fairly clean, something was happening in the places I couldn't see. I was brushing the sides one day and dug through the bottom gravel and waves of dirty sediment came bursting out of the rocks. Yuck! Time to do the infamous major cleaning where I had to transfer the fish, drain the tank, and was I terrified of what I found! The tank, which looked clean on top, was loaded with algae and slime in all the places I couldn't see, and it took a tremendous amount of scrubbing to get it all off and the tank clean again.

Sometimes the power of the gospel stirs the souls in ways which inspire and equip us for life, and sometimes it stirs up emotions and feelings which reject our self congratulatory attempts at "faith" and makes us uncomfortable for the sake of transformation. In the Pentecostal church we called this "being convicted," or having to see our own sin face to face. Jesus and Paul had a way of stirring up the souls of others and often they were condemned and punished for doing so. Both realized that too often our faith looks like my fish tank, pretty clear and bright on top, but as soon as something "stirs" us up, the worst is waiting to come out! We become defensive and accusatory rather than dealing with what dirties our own souls and keeps us away from God.

Paul exhorts the Galatians to be stirred up with the virtues of the Spirit instead of the passions which may protect our own carefully crafted images of self but instead continue to enslave us to our own brokenness. We cannot be blind to the dirt collecting deep within our souls, for if we neglect our spirits, we will find ourselves rejecting the greatest invitation of all, the invitation to experience peace, contentment, salvation.

Let us not neglect so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:3), and let us overcome the sludge which when allowed to gather in our souls, makes us so unhappy. Let us claim the virtuous life our Lord longs for us to have.

In His peace,
Rev. Michael


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