Pause

The Spirit of Christ is already within you:

forgiving, healing,

redeeming, loving.

The God of our salvation is here.

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Listen

At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience. At one time you were like those persons. All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else.

Ephesians 2:1-3

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Think

One of my teachers studies an area of cognitive science called “executive functioning.” These are mental processes that help us stay organized, work toward our goals, and regulate our behavior. The parts of our brains that perform these tasks aren’t fully developed until we’re 25 or so. Even afterward, everyone struggles to master these skills.

The writer of Ephesians seems to know all about the struggle: “All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted.” It’s easy to confuse what feels good with what we really want. And it’s no sin to want to feel good. Where we get in trouble is pursuing what feels good without thinking, without considering the consequences, without asking if it’s what we really want.

Christian life in community is designed to help us align our values with our actions. Think of it as “Spirit-filled executive function.” We will fall short — all the time, in fact. The mercy of God is what gives us the strength and courage to keep practicing, learning, growing.

Kyle Matthew Oliver

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Pray

God of mercy, like your servant Paul, “I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do” (Romans 7:15a). Transform my desires by your grace. Help me to act with integrity and purpose. Amen.

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Go

God’s mercy endures forever.

We are imperfect,

yet we are called:

to freedom, to risk, to love.

God’s mercy endures forever.

Kyle Oliver

Kyle Matthew Oliver is an Episcopal priest and a researcher studying educational media. His website, Creative Commons Prayer, publishes multimedia spiritual resources for anyone to use and remix. Check out prayr.cc to learn more.

Reflections on the Way: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Ken Medema

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