Monday, December 27, 2010

The Mary Series: Life isn't easy

(originally published November 11, 2009)

Remember the song, "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden"? Ouch 1973.

As I have studied and prayed over this passage in Luke 1 concerning the angel's announcement to Mary of her favor with God, and then the plan that is put before her, I get the feeling poor little Mary must have been one frightened little gal. The angel made a point to say "Fear not" to her. If I was met with a large spiritual being while I was making my bed, or doing the dishes, I would have to say that I definitely would be a little surprised and a lot nervous. But more than just for the momentary excitement, I think the angel needed to let Mary know that what he was about to say to her, could cause her fear.

God had a plan. This was His Big Plan, and He needed someone that trusted Him, loved Him, and revered Him. God needed someone who was willing to lay down their own plan, and pick up the plan that God was laying before them. Mary was just a young teenager, 13 or 14, I have heard. She had met and was engaged to a young man named Joseph. They had a plan. They were going to get married and live happily ever after.

Most young women have a plan similar to that. I know I did. Whether it's a career, or a marriage, or travel (or all of it) we all have dreams and aspirations, that's just part of our human nature...and it's good that we have that. Plans and dreams motivate us. Our plans and dreams may have slight variations, but most include a love story, a family, and a white picket fence. Youth sees things through those rose colored glasses that maturity often requires us to remove.

Version: NAS
Luke 1:30-34

30. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31. "And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32. "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33. and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end." 34. And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"

Luke 1:37-38

37. "For nothing will be impossible with God." 38. And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Now, back to The Plan. When we become a Christian, we not only ask Jesus into our hearts, spiritually, but in turn we should be willing to hand over our hearts to Jesus. I have said before that when I became a Christian I made Jesus my "Lord and Savior", but it took a long time for me to allow Him to become "Lord of my Life".

Read it again please, not just Saviour but The One Who is in Charge.

So here is Mary with her own plan, and now she has to be willing to say "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."

My life didn't change a lot until I finally got to the place where I said, "Lord, I am willing to put aside what I think and want, and let You show me what You want." That was not an easy time for me. It was a process of letting go of some things. It wasn't a rose garden, but if we do use the analogy, then there were some mighty big thorns and a lot of manure that I had to be forced to deal with.

Mary "signed on" as I said before. She agreed with God for His plan. Now, I'm not spouting doom and gloom here. God has good plans for us.

Jeremiah 29:11-14

11. 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 12. 'Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13. 'And you will seek Me and find [Me], when you search for Me with all your heart. 14. 'And I will be found by you,' declares the LORD, 'and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,' declares the LORD, 'and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.'

He has good plans, they may just not always be easy. Remember when James and John's mother came to Jesus. She asked what she thought would be a good question. She asked Jesus if her two son's could sit with Jesus in Heaven. She really didn't know what she was asking.

Matthew 20:20-28

20. Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Him with her sons, bowing down, and making a request of Him. 21. And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left." 22. But Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They said to Him, "We are able." 23. He said to them, "My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on [My] left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father." 24. And hearing [this], the ten became indignant with the two brothers. 25. But Jesus called them to Himself, and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and [their] great men exercise authority over them. 26. "It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27. and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28. just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

Mary signed on to become a "servant", a bondslave of the Lord, she was "indebted" to Him. So, even though we may have to lay down our own plan for our life, wouldn't you rather be doing what God has planned for you? I know I would. I'm shortsighted and don't know what's best. I've gotten my own self in lots of ditches over the years. I have found that God has good plans. They may not always be easy, but they are best, and His best for me (and you).

Romans 12:1-2

1. I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship. 2. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

I would love to hear from you all. What has God asked you to lay down for His plan for your life? How has He taken "your plan" and given it an "overhaul"? I know you all are out there, I'm asking you just to leave a short (or long) comment on these posts, if you feel God nudging you. Let's hear what each other has to share. :)

Be Blessed, Everyone.
love, Debra

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Mary Series: Blessing Follows Favor

(Originally posted November 11, 2009)

Favor and blessing. How do these two things connect? What exactly does "blessing" look like? Let's see what the Oxford Dictionary has to say about "blessing". noun: invoking favor, a gift of God, favor of God, advantage, good fortune.

Version: NAS
Luke 1:28-33

28. And coming in, he said to her, "Hail, favored one! The Lord [is] with you." 29. But she was greatly troubled at [this] statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be. 30. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31. "And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32. "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33. and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end."

Luke 1:34-38

34. And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" 35. And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God. 36. "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37. "For nothing will be impossible with God." 38. And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

I keep hearing the phrase, "Blessing follows obedience." It's a concept that I have learned over the years. Not always in an easy way. I'm a pretty bullheaded, stubborn person, in the natural. I have tendency to do what I think is best. I make up my mind and then I can steamroll right over you; that is part of my nature. It is a quality that can be good, especially when things need to be done, but sometimes it doesn't particularly set well with God. It's been a hard lesson for me to be "submissive" to the Lord, He and I have gotten in a tangle of two over the years. Believe me, He is loving and kind, but there are times, He has had to sit on me to get me to pay attention. He's a good parent; a much better parent than I could ever hope to be. I lose my patience, get mad, give in, compromise, (but not in a good way), be harsh, be neglectful,etc. You know what I mean. I'm a human being and sometimes not a glowing example.

I believe Mary was a young woman who had learned submissiveness, which resulted in favor, which resulted in blessing. When we talked about the Samaritan woman, I mentioned the scripture from Matthew 11:28-29, concerning taking the yoke that Jesus offers us. If we get in step with Jesus, and go where He wants to go, the "burden" is lifted off of us and we let Him shoulder it.

Jesus wants us to get in step with Him, not running off on our own. How many times that has happened to me, and unfortunately I have paid a heavy price. This is where many people that don't know God would scream that they don't want to become a mindless zombie and be like everyone else. That is a good point. God appreciates our individuality, but He's not asking us to become like everyone else. He's asking us to become like Him. Then our individuality shines through in His likeness.

When we submit to Him and get in step with Him, He can work with us. He takes us under His arm and says, "Great, OK, now we can start to get somewhere. I'm showing you my favor because you are looking to me."

Proverbs 3:1-6

1. My son,(and daughters) do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; 2. For length of days and years of life, And peace they will add to you. 3. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. 4. So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man. 5. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. 6. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

Mary was a young woman who kept His commandments in her heart, wore truth around her neck, allowed Him to write them on her heart. The result was that she found favor with God, and man. She trusted in the Lord with all her heart, even though she did not understand how all this could be. She acknowledged Him and the result was He made her path straight. When we do these things, God "obliges" Himself to watch over us. He favors us, and then blesses us with His powerful Presence. He walks ahead of us on the path, and Blessings follow.

Mary had a lot to go through. She had "signed on" for a path that would not be easy. She trusted God, no matter what, and because of that she ultimately received the highest Blessing any woman could seek. She received God's presence in a way that none of us will ever fully know. We may not be able to carry the Son of Man in our "womb", but we can all carry Him in our hearts.

And that's where the blessing lies. Not just in material goods, happiness, or fulfillment of our desires, but the blessing of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Then, and only then, will we find our highest and best. Sometimes that includes all the things we reach for in our life here on Earth. Sometimes wealth, fame, and happiness, but true Blessing only comes when it is attached to the Favor of God.

Today, may you each find God's Blessing in your life. If you haven't read the last two posts on Mary please do, they relate to one another, in this little series of posts.

Thank you all,
Much love and Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Mary Series: This Thing Called Favor

(Originally published in November of 2009)

How can we work together with God to see things change in our lives? How can we know that He is hearing our prayers and seeing our needs? How can we get God's attention? Let's look at Mary, the Mother of Jesus, before she received the news of his forthcoming arrival.

(If you have not read the previous post, please do. It introduces our look at Jesus' Mother, Mary)

Version: NAS
Luke 1:26-38

26. Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth, 27. to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28. And coming in, he said to her, "Hail, favored one! The Lord [is] with you." 29. But she was greatly troubled at [this] statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be. 30. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31. "And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32. "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33. and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end." 34. And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" 35. And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God. 36. "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37. "For nothing will be impossible with God." 38. And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:28

"...the angel went to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.'"

I want to talk about favor today, because it is a crucial element of Mary being chosen by God for His mighty work, to be accomplished.

Favor in the Oxford Dictionary says: esteem, liking, approval, goodwill, friendly regard, partiality, support, promote, prefer, courtesy, consideration, preference, to help, and benefit.

Looking at this scripture we need to see it for what it was, Mary had found a soft spot in God's heart. He hears us all and regards us as His children. We are all loved. He is our Father. A lot has been said of the scripture concerning our standing in His eyes.

Romans 2:11 says specifically that ..."God does not show favoritism." So there must be a difference between "favor" and "favoritism". Subtle?...yes, but a difference. This is what Oxford defines as favoritism: unfair partiality, bias.

Because the Word of God does not contradict itself, we need to look further into how we perceive what is being said. Sometimes what we think a word means in the Bible, really is not how it should be translated. This is something I've run into many times. What in today's context means one thing, in Bible times, meant something else. It's our "frame of reference", that is different.

When I think of "favoritism". I think of special treatment. Of one person getting something that the others do not receive. It brings to mind images of a bunch of people wanting the same thing or treatment, but one "lucky" person who receives it without merit, simply because they are considered better on a whim by the "giver". Whereas "favor" is more of a heartfelt emotion that comes with strong relationship and bonding. Yes, the concepts are similar and subtle. But one is random, without relationship, while the other is genuine connection due to past relationship and experience.

So we find that Mary had "favor" with God. He had preference, support, esteem, liking, benefits, etc. toward her.

Haven't we all said or at least felt toward our children at some time or another that ,"I love you, but right now I do not like what you are doing."? Our love has not changed, but we do not like what they are involved in, or an act that they have committed, or an attitude that they are exhibiting. Our relationship is suffering. I know I have, and unless your children are perfect, which mine were not, you have most likely felt that also. That is how God is sometimes. He loves us so much He sent Jesus to die for us, but He doesn't always approve of what we are up to, how we act, or our attitudes toward Him or others.

So for Mary to have had favor with God, she must have been doing some things that were looked upon by God with approval. That's what I want. I want to be the kind of person God looks at and says, "We have good relationship, we communicate, I see that she is trying to make me happy. She has favor in my eyes."

That's where Mary was, she desired relationship with God and her attitude and actions supported that. So the angel said to her "Mary, don't be afraid, you have found favor with God."

Today I'm seeking the Lord in a more ardent way and attitude. I'm asking for His favor on me and my life. I want and need Him to be with me. And He says to those who seek Him: "Don't be afraid you have my favor."

Be Blessed
love in Jesus,

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Mary Series: What's Character have to do with it?

Last November and December God had me in a time of study about Mary, His earthly Mother. It really blessed me to take a look at this young woman; a girl still, probably only about 14 years of age. What was her life like, her frame of mind, her relationship with God the Father? In preparation for Christmas, I want to re-post this series, so we can all take another look. If you were with me at this time, please read them again, I know you will receive a blessing, just as I did when I went back through them.

I'm a "planner": a person who likes to be prepared and ready. I like to see the road in front of me and have it all laid out. I like to be "in the know" so to speak. God has called me with a gift of "looking ahead". To hear Him and know what He is doing and where He is going. He called me as a "Watchman" long ago. One that "stands on the wall" to see who and what is coming.

John 10:1-5, Mark 13:35-37, and Psalm 119:148.

When I sit down to write these posts I have no "heads up" where they are going. I have asked God to let me know in advance what His plan is for the next post, but He will not let me in on it. I don't know what I'm studying or writing until I sit down at this computer. So having said that, today the Lord said to me, "Let's talk about Mary". So in my purposeful "shortsightedness", I think we will be looking at this young woman's "call", and how we can learn from her, and incorporate her faith into our daily life.

Luke 1:26-38

Version: NAS
26. Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth, 27. to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28. And coming in, he said to her, "Hail, favored one! The Lord [is] with you." 29. But she was greatly troubled at [this] statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be. 30. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31. "And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32. "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33. and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end." 34. And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" 35. And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God. 36. "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37. "For nothing will be impossible with God." 38. And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Matthew 1:18-19

This is how the birth of Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Two thousand years ago, saw a time of corrupt and evil government. The leader of the country, King Herod, was a man of evil intent and maliciousness. He was self-centered to the highest degree. Corrupt, decadent, and evil. He thought only of himself and his perpetuation of power and cared not for the betterment of his country and people. He wanted things his way, without thinking of the well being of others.

Mary was born in this time of corruption, she was a young woman who was loved by her family, as she loved them in return. Safe and secure in a small town life... insulated. I'm sure she was a devout young woman, who had been taught the ways of her Jewish roots. Undoubtedly, she was taught that some day Messiah would come and be not only the Savior, but also the leader of her country.

In this time, strength of character was what God was looking for in a woman. Character as defined in the Oxford dictionary as, moral strength, honesty, integrity and uprightness. Mary was a young woman who was willing to let God lead her, and she submitted to Him. Submission, not only of her thoughts and heart, but also of her very life. And isn't that what God is looking for still? Men and women of character, who are not afraid to bow their knee to their Heavenly Father and say "I am here for you to use, to work with, to shape and mold. Use me Father."

Today, many of us are reluctant to step out in society and share our Christian faith. Is it the times we live in, or is it our own character? This has been a question God has asked me lately. "Are you willing to step out and be used by Me?"

If you would like to read about Mary as a young woman, please do so. I think we will be talking about her for a few days. Put yourself in her place. Look at your life in the context of comparison to Mary's life. Let's see where this takes us. As I have said, I value everyone's opinion and ideas. Don't be afraid to leave a comment and put yourself "out there". This is what it's about. Interactive is what I'm going for here. Please read the comments even if you do not leave one. Many ideas, comments, and thoughts are exchanged. I really love hearing them. You can add things that I have not thought to cover. Your experience and beliefs are so valuable!

I think this study of Mary will be really thought provoking and enriching!

Blessings to you all!
Thanks for traveling the road with me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The "Blessing in Thanksgiving"

Each time I sit down to write a  post, I pray for God to lead me to the scripture He has for me and you. He led me to James today. Thanksgiving is this weekend; A time for family and friends to gather and "Be Thankful". This is a passage I may not have connected with "thanksgiving", so let's see what is here for us on this timely topic.

Version: RSV
James 3:9-12

9. With it (our mouth) we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. 10. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. 11. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and brackish? 12. Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

In the morning how do you wake up? Are you at peace and ready to start the day...or are you agitated at all that needs to be accomplished? Maybe you're heading for the coffee like I do, to try to get my eyes open and my brain kick started. So again, how do you wake up? Or maybe we should even take this one step further: "how do you sleep"? Do you toss and turn and lay awake at night thinking of all the things that are needing to be done, worrying, making plans, making decisions? It can translate into our waking hours and affect our day. Then after a while it affects our personality.

Let's say that our mouth has a lot to do with our outlook on life; how we think of ourselves, others, and the future.  I can be just as negative as the next guy (or gal). Griping and complaining are an easy trap to fall into. Money, health, family relationships, jobs, the future. Especially if there are matters at hand that we feel pressure over; maybe something that we don't have much control over. It weighs on us and seems to feed itself every time we open our mouths.

OK, people I'm preaching to myself here. Feel free to take what you need from this, I guess God has been needing to speak this to me. Anyone else feel free to grab on. Let's look at the scripture verses and think about these two words, Blessing and Cursing. The word blessing comes from the Greek word, eulogia, which means blessing, praise, thanksgiving, flattery and generosity. This is the word "eulogy" comes from. which we think of as a short speech or written statement at a funeral concerning the life of a person. Only good things here. We don't want to concentrate on the bad. And then the word cursing,  katargeo, which means to speak against, contrary to, in opposition with, negativity, making ineffective, to nullify.

Now when it comes to the scripture, it says we are speaking both things out of our mouths. Positive and negative, good and bad, building up and tearing down. I guess we know the old saying "if you don't have something good to say then don't say anything at all". I've always thought that to be sort of "fakey" and pie in the sky, but I realize it is more of a "lifestyle" than just pertaining to gossip or individual circumstances. I'm not suggesting here that we go coo coo and wander around with some silly grin on our faces, but more like I said; Thinking in terms of the positive and not the negative.

So if the word Blessing also means "thanksgiving" I guess I need to concentrate on the Blessing part; Recognizing them, focusing on them, thanking God for them everyday (not just one day a year). Speaking out of my mouth encouragement, not only to others, but to my own self.

Philippians 4:4-7

4. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. 6. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It's hard sometimes to be thankful, When things aren't the way you want them to be it's easy to be negative and down. In all things we are to be thankful, whatever situation or circumstance. Not thankful for the circumstance, but thankful that God is our Father and that if we ask Him, He will be in control of it. Working it out for our benefit. Prayer accompanied by a thankful heart can move mountains.

So this week when we stuff our mouths with some delicious food, let's also all be aware of another purpose for our mouths. The generation of speech and praise, thanksgiving and blessing. Turning our lives over to God and believing in Him for the blessing He has for us!

much love in Jesus,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Don't Go Back

We are still visiting with Paul as he writes to the Galatian believers. They are confused about their salvation and knowledge of the Gospel. They are letting others sway them into coming into the Jewish laws and rituals, in order to secure their salvation and relationship with God.

Galatians 4:8-20

8. However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10. You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain. 12. I beg of you, brethren, become as I [am], for I also [have become] as you [are]. You have done me no wrong; 13. but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; 14. and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus [Himself]. 15. Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness, that if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16. Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17. They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out, in order that you may seek them. 18. But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you. 19. My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you-- 20. but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

I'm hoping that you'll not skip over the scripture in these posts. I sometimes get in a hurry and think "Oh, I know that, so I won't bother reading it", but I can assure you that any time WE take the time to read God's Word there will be a blessing; a new thought or revelation, comfort and peace, a desire to seek God, and an energized spirit.
In verse 8 we are reminded that before we knew God that we were slaves; slaves to the world's way of doing things. Lost, confused, missing out on what life is really about. Sometimes, sadly, we don't even KNOW we are slaves. We are locked in a prison of doubt and unbelief and misinformation, because "the world" offers us no truth or life. Coming to know God through Jesus Christ is freeing and liberating; a lifting of burden and darkness that is replaced with joy and blessing and peace.
Verses 9 - 11 Paul is asking a question of the Galatians that goes for all of us Christians, today: Once we have received the freedom that Christ brings, why would we want to turn around and walk back freely into bondage and slavery again? I think guilt and persuasion that we sometimes hear either from the pulpit or from our own thoughts, can make us doubt that we are living a life that is acceptable to God. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we have the right to lead a "sloppy" Christian life. By "sloppy" I mean, lax and worldly, and not a life that glorifies God. I know I've been there before, so it's easy to fall back into old ways of doing things. Mostly I'm talking about the feeling that we aren't "good enough" to please God. God always wants us to be moving forward and growing in our Christian faith. But God is not a hard task master. H e doesn't heap unrealistic burdens on us or pressure. He's a leader, and we are the followers.

Matthew 11:28-30

28. "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29. "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. 30. "For My yoke is easy, and My load is light."

Not only did the Jews at that time celebrate the feasts and Holidays, and follow the Ten Commandments, but they had tons of little rules and regulations that crippled the Israelite people. You know the phrase, "You can't see the forest for the trees"? Well Jesus was being ignored, because these Judaizers were concentrating on all the minutia of everyday rules and regulations, none of which were God ordained.

I truly enjoy studying and hearing about the "Feasts" that God set forth in the Old Testament. They are a "picture" and prophecy about Jesus and our relationship with Him. They were taught and celebrated so that the Old Covenant Jews could understand and have revelation about what was coming. It's important that we are familiar with these concepts of Old Testament life and worship, yet we don't want to fall into the trap of feeling that we have to follow these "to the letter". That's what the Judiazers were saying to the new Christians. "You're not "good enough" to just believe in Jesus, and have had a salvation experience. You must now "follow" all that the Jews have done". This put an unrealistic "burden" on these new Christians, and in doing so confused their knowledge of God's great love and sacrifice for them. Remember that the Old Testament is still relevant for study today. But also remember that it is "the Old Covenant" and that Jesus came to bring us into the "New Covenant".

In verses 12-18 Paul reminds them of the love and relationship that they had had together when he first came and set up the Church in their area. How they cared for him with great compassion in a time of illness. The new converts and Paul had been close and loving, yet the Judaizers were wanting them to alienate themselves from Paul's teachings. They wanted them to disassociate themselves from Paul and follow them.

Pray for discernment if any pastor, teaching, or denomination tells you that your belonging to this specific church is the only way for you to be saved. So many people have been hurt and abused by "churches" that are finger pointers. So praying for discernment can help us not only stay away from groups that are "fringe" and dangerous, but it can also lead and guide us where we should be. The Holy Spirit is there to lead and guide us into all Truth.

John 16:13

"But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

And in verse 19 Paul gives the analogy of "giving birth". Anyone that has had a baby knows the pain of labor. Work and pain, but well worth the outcome. Salvation is immediate, but our being transformed into the image of Jesus can sometimes be a long process. It's not always easy, but so worth the journey.

I've mentioned before that this "expository" type of teaching has been so beneficial to my knowledge and understanding of the book of Galatians. It makes me pray and dig for the meaning of these scriptures. I don't want this to be boring for you, but right now this is just what God has asked me to teach. I have a feeling there are more of you out there than just me this can be enlightening for.  Concentrating on one passage or book can give us so much understanding and revelation. Let God lead you to where He wants you to read and study. When you do I can guarantee He has something to say of great value for you.

love in Jesus,

Monday, November 8, 2010

Abba, Daddy

A few weeks ago we talked about a young Roman boy, how he received a tutor/ teacher/guardian until he reached adulthood. Even though he was heir to the estate and wealth of the father he needed to be trained and matured. He was a "son" but didn't have access to the inheritance until he was grown up. Basically he was in no stronger standing than "a slave". He had to do what he was told. He was to obey and stay under the authority of the "teacher".

Version: NAS
Galatians 4:1-7

1. Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, 2. but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. 3. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4. But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5. in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7. Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

In the time of the New Testament years the Roman Empire consisted of about 60 million slaves. Yes, you heard me right. These were captives from subjugation of other countries, or impoverished persons whom needed to be employed. Their lives basically were not their own, and they were property of their master without rights. (verses 4:1-2)

Galatians 4:3-5 refers  to the time of the Old Testament or Old Covenant in which the Jews were still really "children" being taught; under the bondage of the "elemental" things of the world. Then when the time was right God sent Jesus to earth to elevate us, or "graduate" us from childhood to adulthood, or "adult sons" of God. Jesus death on the cross took us from being no better than slaves into an actual "relationship" with God the Father.

When I was young I was afraid of God. I grew up in a church that was legalistic in many ways. Sermons on "hell fire" and "needing to be saved" were the topic of most Sunday mornings. I had a skewed vision of God and who He was. This view of God stayed with me most of my adult life. I've shared this before, and I know that many of you were brought up like me. I felt like God was sitting up there in heaven just waiting for me to mess up, so He could strike me with lightening when I did. And did I ever mess up? Sure. Did I get struck by lightening? Well, things didn't always go well, but I know now that it wasn't God's fault. He ultimately wants the best for us, and isn't "out to get us".

I could recite the Lord's Prayer, but never really felt like God was a "father" to me. Knowing God as our Father can be difficult. A lot of it has to do with our relationship with our "earthly" father. How he treated us, whether he was available, at home, loving, kind, considerate, or if he was absent, abusive, unloving, and harsh. I had a good relationship with my own father, but he was often involved with other things, hobbies, etc. and wasn't a "communicator" to any great degree.

God has a great desire for us to think of Him as our "Heavenly Father". He doesn't desire for us to think of him as "the boss" or even as royalty in that he is aloof or unapproachable. He wants us to think of ourselves as His greatly loved children. And in that relationship enjoy His presence, closeness, kindness, and involvement in our lives.

Galatians 4:6-7 tells us that when we accept Jesus into our hearts and find "salvation" that the Spirit of God, or the Holy Spirit comes to us and desires that we have that Father/Child relationship. That we then truly get to know God in the way He desires. Not just our Father in a "shake your hand or pat your back" kind of way. But a way that is personal, loving and intimate. The kind of relationship that asks that we think of Him as our "Daddy". The "crawl up in His lap" kind of relationship that offers unconditional love, kindness, soothing, forgiveness, and instruction and guidance with a gentle spirit.

John 3:16-17

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17. "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.

If you truly cannot call Him "Abba, Daddy", for whatever reason; be it a lacking relationship with your earthly father or a less than desirable experience within the church, please seek Him for that special love and tenderness He desires for us to know. It will truly change your life.

love, in Jesus,

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Crack in the Door

John 3: 24-30

24. For John had not yet been thrown into prison. 25. There arose therefore a discussion on the part of John's disciples with a Jew about purification. 26. And they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have borne witness, behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him." 27. John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven. 28. "You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.' 29. "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. And so this joy of mine has been made full. 30. "He must increase, but I must decrease".

Today, I've been hearing this in my spirit. Over and over it has been told to me.

I'm taking a break from Galatians to share with you what I feel God may be saying to me.
I feel like I'm supposed to share something with all of you; I guess, not for an opinion, but as a step of faith for all of you to be my "witnesses".  I feel like a door is cracked open and I'm being told to "take a peek inside". In the past I've mentioned that I was called to teach, and share God's Word.  It's not something I've talked alot about because, well, in a nutshell, I'm not doing that in my day to day life right now. I have in the past, but since I've had health problems, that part of my life has been limited by God's hand. 
I love to teach and share with you from here, on this blog. But I'm feeling things are about to change. (Not in the blog, but in another area of my life. ) How do I know? Honestly it's more than a feeling, more of a gut knowing. Something I'm awakened with in the middle of the night. Something that comes to mind at odd and obscure moments. It doesn't go away. Now is there anything "in the natural" that gives credibility to this? No. Actually, a resounding "NO". So why am I sharing this now with all of you? Because I'm supposed to. I know this little post seems random and mysterious, and in my own mind, I guess it really is. I know nothing about what the future will be like a year from now. I think I'm just being obedient to share this with you.
We are all given "gifts" and "portions" from God. Some of this and some of that. I have a little "something" inside that has been there for a long time, but the flame has been diminished. I've had to let it sit on the back part of the shelf for the last seven years now, but God seems to be taking that little something and moving it toward the front. He's been doing it quietly and without me really knowing about it. I'll look around, and there it is; moving forward.
Honestly, I'd rather be doing a lesson from Galatians today, but that was not meant to be. Sharing a little bit of my heart is what is happening instead. This isn't meant to be spooky or anything weird. I've just been getting a "heads up" from the Holy Spirit, and I think this is a step of faith to share it.
So why the underlined verse in John 3? When I read this passage, that verse jumped off the page at me. There are a lot of things in life that we "receive" but only the things that God gives us are lasting. And what He gives us, He asks us to use. The way we are asked to use it may not always be exactly the way we think we would like. In other words, things don't always turn out the way we think they will or should. I've been trying to "put on Jesus" everyday, and in doing so I have to let Him "hold the coat" so to speak. Do you get that picture in your mind's eye? Like a gentleman helping a lady with her jacket. He's holding the "coat", and I'm letting Him put it on me.
So, now that I have everyone totally saying "Huh...?" Join the club. I guess that's where I am. With a  question mark, and an open heart. Willing to do what God asks, not sure where I'm going, but willing. I consider you all friends, even if we haven't met, so "friends" please pray for the door to open.

(and in a p.s. sort of thing, I know there are a lot of metaphors in this little rambling post, but God gives little mental pictures to help describe and explain things to me, so that's how I'm sharing it with you.)
love in Jesus,

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Clothes

Fun topic Some of you gals may relate a little more to this concept than the guys, but who doesn't love to get a new outfit? Change of season and I'm all over the mall hunting down some new things to spruce up my closet. I'm not a "fashionista" in any sense of the word, but I look for trends and what fits me and my lifestyle. I do like to look and feel as young as I can, without being silly or age "In-appropriate".

Version: NAS
Galatians 3:26-29

26. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

And then in the King James Version:

Version: KJV
Galatians 3:26-29

26. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29. And if ye [be] Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

If you think about it, the Bible talks a lot about "clothes" and clothing. Not in a "fashion" sense, but in metaphorical reference to our spiritual life. Case in point, Joseph and the coat of many colors (Genesis 37), the Priest's holy garments (Exodus 39), Elijah's mantle (1 Kings 19:19), our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6), and our robes of righteousness (Revelation 7). These are just a few that come to mind.

It's important that we have a grasp of the society and culture of the day in which the Bible was written. In this case, the New Testament time in which Rome was in control of Israel and all the surrounding area. In studying for this lesson, I learned that when a Roman boy was school age he received a tutor, or teacher, that would serve him for his complete childhood. This tutor was a disciplinarian, babysitter, teacher, guide, and guardian of the child. He served his young master, but was really in charge of him. As a young boy the charge wore a youth's clothing, but as he became a young man, and "graduated" from his schoolmaster, he was given a new set of "adult" clothing which was covered by a tunic. This change in garment is referred to here, as we are all sons of God. It was made mention that the word "children" in the King James Version should actually translate "adult children" of God.

And not only do we "put on" Chist, we are told that we are all equal in the eyes of God. We are all sons and daughters of the Most High. There is no distinction in God's eyes as to rich or poor, influential or meek, male or female. We all have the same standing with Him and He treats us the same. So with that in mind we all need to think of ourselves the same way; brothers and sisters "in Christ". Then with that knowledge we realize that we are heirs with an inheritance.

Version: NAS
Romans 13:11-14

11. And this [do], knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12. The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to [its] lusts.

The scripture that we have today says that once we make the decision to follow Jesus Christ and become a believer that we "put on Christ". And how do you do that you might ask. Well, it starts with a relationship, which means that we have to communicate with God: prayer, Bible Study, just spending time with Him. Making a determined effort to be "about" Him in our daily lives. 

"Putting on Jesus" has also been spoken of as a "uniform", like a military uniform, that shows the world we are believers. It's our duty as believers to be clothed in Jesus. We have a decision to everyday get up and wrap ourselves in the presence of Jesus. Sometimes I don't do a good job of it. I forget. This is a good reminder to me that our belief system and relationship with Jesus needs to be not only on the inside, but showing on the outside also!

love in Jesus,

Friday, October 15, 2010

Inheriting the Promise of Abraham

We are still visiting with Abraham today. Way back in Genesis, when God told Abraham to go out and look at the night sky and then to try and count the stars. He couldn't even begin to count them. Then God says, "Abraham, I'm making you some promises today. You will have descendants numbering more than these stars, you will be blessed and be a blessing, and your descendants will include "the Seed"; the Messiah."
Background reading Genesis, Chapter 12 and Chapter 15.

So back to the New Testament and the Book of Galatians:

Version: NAS
Galatians 3:17-18

17. What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later (than the promise God gave to Abraham), does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.

Galatians 3:19,21,23,24

19. Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the Seed (Jesus Christ) should come to whom the promise had been made... 21. Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law... 23. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24. Therefore the Law has become our tutor [to lead us] to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.

How many of us have had to read this more than once...? How many of us truly understand what Paul is saying here...?
Verses 17 and 18 are key to the subject today. God's promises are for us no matter what. Does that sound too simple? Well, yes and no. There are so many promises in the Bible that are given to the children of Abraham. Remember, I'm not just talking about the Jewish people, but we as Christians lay claim to those promises also. These scripture verses are discussing the fact that before The Law and the 10 Commandments were given, God had given promises to Abraham. God had made a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15) long before the 10 Commandments were given to Moses. The Promises of God were received by Abraham through Faith, not by abiding within rules and regulations. The Law did not invalidate the Promises, as Paul argues here, but the Law "complimented" the Promises. Paul is talking to the Galatians about the Judiazers trying to force them through fear to go back to the Jewish ways of doing things; sacrifices, celebrating the feasts, keeping the letter of the Law, circumcision, etc.
Verse 19 asks the question, "Why was the Law given?" Great question!! Paul says it's because of "transgressions". A good Biblical word for SIN.
Let's look at an analogy here: We're driving down the road and we see that the speed limit says 65 miles per hour. Now, testing and study have gone into the setting of the speed limit on this particular road. Is it straight or hilly, or winding? Is it 4 lane? How's the surface quality? Is there a lot of other traffic? Intersections and traffic lights? You get my idea. Speed limits are determined and posted for our safety and the safety of those around us. By following the speed limit we are trying to the best of our ability to be cautious, diligent, and model good driving manners. Now that doesn't mean that we won't have an accident, that our car may not break down, or that we might not get lost, but it does mean we are following the rules in one critical area of traffic safety; our speed.
How many of us though, upon seeing the speed limit sign just use that as a "concept" of how fast we can go. Do we push the pedal to the metal and say, "OK, I think I can do 70 mph and get away with it." Or...75...or hey, why not 80...if 65 mph is good, why not 80? OR, maybe we're just not paying attention and we unknowingly drift over to 68 mph. I'm not suggesting that we're all lawbreakers, but how many of us have pushed the "limit" here and there and gotten away with it. And not just with speed limits!
Same goes for the Law and the 10 Commandments. The speed limit wasn't given so that anyone who automatically goes over 65 mph goes straight to jail (although we may get a ticket), but it's a warning and a sign that if we do go over 65 we are violating  the rules of the road. A lot of us get away with it, some of us don't. We keep the speed limit as a good faith gesture to ensure our safety and the safety of others.
No one EVER was able to keep the Law, the 10 Commandments, and all the hundreds of little rules that the Jewish leaders thought up. It was impossible, and even if someone had been able to do that. it wouldn't have gotten them to heaven. The Law was given to the Israelites to point out that they were sinners. The Law was a guideline, but they weren't going to go to heaven by the Law. It only showed that we are all incapable of keeping them. Verses 23 and 24 say we are held prisoners by the Law, locked up until Jesus was revealed, and that the Law was put in place to direct us to Jesus through faith in Him.
So the Promise to Abraham about his descendant, Jesus Christ, was going to stay current even though the Law would be given at a later time. Jesus came along as our payment for sin because in God's Holiness, there is always payment. Good thing Jesus' death on the cross was OUR payment for the sin we all have committed. Jesus was the New Covenant, or New Testament that then completed the Law. A progression.
On a personal level I want to say that God gives us all "promises" personally. Don't get caught up in trying to do everything perfectly in order to make them come about. Have faith in God and His Word. Stick with Him and have faith. He's looking for our faith, then let Him be responsible in bringing the "promise" to pass.
love in Jesus,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Abraham's Blessing

Today we're going to take a little trip back to the Old Testament in the Book of Genesis, to look at Abraham. God instituted a Covenant with Abraham that layed out the way to salvation, many years before the Law was brought about. It was a Covenant of Faith, looking toward the prophesied Messiah. Abraham was reckoned as "righteous", finding salvation, because he "believed" God and His promises. 

Galatians 3: 6-9
6. Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, [saying], "All the nations shall be blessed in you." 9. So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

Galatians 3:14
"He (Jesus) redeemed us (from the curse) in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit."

Genesis 12:1-4
1. Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; 2. And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3. And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." 4. So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Back in Genesis 12 we first meet Abraham, or Abram as he was known then. He lived in an area of pagan worshippers, but he was known by God. God saw something in this man that made Him know he would listen and obey God's Word. God asked Abram to pick up his family and leave his country. God said, "leave" and that He would show Abram where to go. How many of us have heard that same call from God? God tells us to "pack up" either spiritually or physically" (maybe both) and head out. Leave our comfort zone...and be willing to act in faith and move forward in to whatever God is doing. I know I've been there.

God had a big plan for Abraham, and to be able to reveal it to him, he had to be out of the atmosphere he had been living in. Sometimes God calls us to leave friends, churches, security, jobs, lifestyles etc. in order to get to a place where we can hear Him better. Our comfort zones can sometimes be a hindrance to our calling in life. Safe and secure, like Peter in the boat. God can call us to put our feet out of the boat into the uncertain waters where all we can do is look at Him and trust God that our feet will stay up and that we will not sink.

If you look back at Genesis 3:6 you will see the main point of this post: Abraham believed God and thru that Faith in God's Word he found salvation. The covenant that God made with Moses many years later which instituted "the Law" did not obliterate the covenant God had made with Abraham. The Law was given to guide and show that we cannot be saved by rules and regulations. Therefore Abraham's covenant preceded the "Law". Faith in God is the key here. Salvation through faith.

Romans 4:1-3
1. What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2. For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God. 3. For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."

Ephesians 1:13
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise...

So we've looked at a lot of scripture today, and what does it all mean in our study of Galatians? The Judaizers were trying to get the Galatian Christians, and all other Christians for that matter, to return to the Jewish way of doing things, i.e. the Old Testament way to salvation. But they were wrong even on that count, because even under the Law of the Old Covenant, salvation was not found in obeying the rules and regulations of the Law. Salvation had always been through believing in the promise of a Savior and of the Holy Spirit. So the Judaizers were wrong on all counts. The Abrahamic Covenant came before the Mosaic Covenant of the Law (the Ten Commandments). The Law did not discount the previous covenant at all. And even so, when Jesus says that He did not come to do away with the Law, but to fulfill it, the concept still stands.

No one can find salvation, or "get to heaven" by following rules and regulations, or by being "good enough", or by doing acts of charity or good will. Giving gifts to the poor or helping others are all wonderful attributes, but they do not provide salvation. Acknowledging our sin and asking Jesus to be our savior and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ are the only ways to be "justified" and made righteous in the eyes of our Heavenly Father.

Writing these posts on Galatians have made me know that in just a few minutes here each week I cannot "teach" a book of the Bible. It requires study, time, and prayer. Not only for me, but for you. A personal time for Bible Study and prayer are life changing. That's why I encourage you to look up the scripture for yourself and to pray for understanding. One of the best ways of "studying" the Bible is to look up the other scripture references in the center or margin of your text. I have used a New International Version Study Bible for years and would not go back. It gives reference material and other scripture that helps give a well rounded understanding of what you are reading.

I used to call it Bible Study Scavenger Hunt, because one scripture would lead to another. Take time with a notebook/journal and write down the scriptures you're finding and what you "get" from each one. You'll be surprised that shortly you are personally coming up with a lot of "revelation". It takes a little time, but it's so rewarding. Plus it puts you in the place of "hearing God" speak to you individually.

And I'd love to hear from more of you about what you're receiving here, if anything. I know a lot of people come in to the site, but I don't know how many of you are actually reading it or gaining anything from it. I also know we're super busy and sometimes a comment takes a minute. I'd just like to know if you're reading.

I'm called to do this, but it really makes it so much more meaningful to me if I have some input from some of you. I know there are some of you out there that come from other countries. I'd love to say "hello" to you and thank you for visiting here.

Not preaching here, just encouraging Bible Study, and asking for your ideas and thoughts on our subject matter.

I love writing these posts because it keeps me in tune and in touch with what God is saying. Believe me, He IS relevant for today and knows what each of us are doing and thinking and going through.

Have a great week everyone.
Hugs and blessings,
in Jesus,

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Redeemed from the Curse

What exactly is a curse? Can a Christian today find themselves in the same place as the early church? Paul has something to confront the Galatians about and now they must be ready for an awakening. 

Galatians 3:10-13
10. For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them." 11. Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "The righteous man shall live by faith." 12. However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "He who practices them shall live by them." 13. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us."...

When you have a moment, go back to Galatians Chapter 3 and read the start of this chapter.  Paul asks the Galatian Christians, who has "bewitched" them. Pretty strong accusations for Paul to hand out. What would we say today if someone came to speak at our church and stood at the podium and asked us that particular question? I would imagine we'd be pretty indignant and irritated. Can you imagine the gasps, denials, and finger pointing?  Yet, that's just what Paul did. He stood up and asked a pointed question of the Galatian church.

Lets look at two words here in the Greek that give us an indication of the seriousness of his topic.

The word "bewitched" in the Greek is "baskaino" which means "to charm, to bring evil upon", and the Oxford Dictionary gives the following: "to enchant, delight, cast a spell on, charm, fascinate, beguile" (with words)

The word "cursed" found in verses 10 and 13 "epikataratos" means "doomed, and to bring evil upon". The Oxford Dictionary gives these: "something that causes evil or harm, denunciation, misfortune, affliction, damned."

So we can see from looking at these words that Paul uses, that he was totally serious in his accusations. Life or death, blessings or curses... we hear this topic throughout the Old and New Testament. When we studied Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, back in February, we find that Adam and Eve's sin caused them to be evicted from the Garden of Eden and they were subject to living under "the curse". (read Genesis Chapter 3). Then again in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 28, we see again how "curses" can come upon us.

Now, I want to explain this thought about curses in a way that I feel the Lord has shown me. Don't think of this as God's maliciousness or ill will toward you or anyone else. Think of us individually walking with Jesus and he is holding an umbrella. It is pouring rain and hailing. Now, because of a personal decision, someone chooses to leave Jesus' side and walk out from under that umbrella of "blessing" and protection. Think "free will".

This is where we leave the "blessing" and walk "under the curse". I'm not saying that anytime anything bad happens that we have sinned or chosen to walk away from Jesus. We live in a world where "things happen", and I'm living proof of that. I didn't choose to have cardiovascular problems or heart attacks. Someone doesn't have cancer because they are "sinning". People don't die young because they have walked away from Jesus. I'm talking about a mindset that lures us away from the Word of God, prayer, and intimacy with our Father. When someone chooses to leave Jesus, and His way of thinking and doing things, He allows us, but we walk out from under that umbrella of blessing, and basically are on our own.

Hope you all understand what I'm saying here. This is what happened to the Galatians. Paul was fearful for them, because the Judiazers had "bewitched" them with their words. They had convinced and confused the new Christians at Galatia, and in their fear, they reverted back to the Old Testament Law, of rules, regulations and never being "good enough" to find salvation.

There are a lot of ideas, concepts, and theories out there that can subtly lure us away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It doesn't have to particularly be this idea of "the law".  The "New Age" doctrines can sound surprisingly close to scripture. This is why it's so important to know God's Word and be in it daily. This allows the Holy Spirit to speak to us and warn us when something isn't quite right. Beware being bewitched with false doctrines. If you have questions, don't be afraid to ask God about them. He will lead you into the truth. That's part of his "job description".

So, back to our scripture in Galatians; don't let anyone or anything try to drag you back "under the Law". The Law was given to the Israelites to be a "guideline", but not for salvation. It has always been a matter of "faith". God's grace is the key to salvation, not living by rules and regulations.

Thank you, Jesus!!

Next time we'll talk about Abraham, and why he is considered to be not only the Jew's spiritual father, but as Christians, ours also.

Thank you all so much for your prayers for my family as we celebrated the life of my father in law, and rejoiced at his "home going".

love, in Jesus,

Monday, September 20, 2010

Life in Christ

I'm sharing a personal thought today in this post. My husband's father passed away last Thursday evening after a long time diagnoses of Alzheimer's. He had been married for sixty-five years to my husband's mom. They lived a good life, but not always an easy one. He had been a POW in WWII, shot down over Czechoslovakia. So I have been thinking a lot this week about "life" and "death" and then what constitutes a successful journey. My own dad passed away almost eleven years ago, my brother over seven years ago. They have been on my heart this week also. My dad and brother both too young for passing. Each one knew the Lord, and had committed his heart to Jesus Christ.
I pondered what to write in this post today because the book of Galatians has not been in my sights this week, but as I read the next verses of our text in Galatians Chapter 2, I landed on a verse which has held such profound influence, emotion, and power in my own life.

Galatians 2:20

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me."

Living a life void of Jesus isn't really living. Yes, we have a body, mind, and spirit, but without the power and presence of Jesus in our heart we live a life that is empty...artificial...without real purpose. We truly begin to LIVE when we lay our old life down for Jesus. Crucifying "ourselves" to let Jesus Christ "live" through us. Our old thoughts and life are left behind, we are reborn with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Then the new life in Christ that we receive is lived by faith. Not just faith for salvation, but faith in Jesus Christ for our daily lives. Committing daily, to living a life for Him, not ourselves.

I have had my own moments where "death" felt near. It has caused me to rethink my "living" re-evaluate what kind of life I want to live. When it all comes down to it, I know this in my heart; I am nothing without God in me. The life I live today isn't to be compared with our eternity with our Father.

I really think that this video from Phillips, Craig and Dean is one of the most powerful that I could share. It reached into me and powerfully transformed my outlook on life...and death. Even if you've seen and heard it a hundred times, please listen one more time, asking God for it to truly be manifested in your own personal life.

And then Paul says again in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain".

We have a week of family and spending time with them. I'll be back next week, please say a prayer for my mother-in-law. She needs to feel God's arms around her.

Love you all,
in Jesus,

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Un-Masking Peter

In Galatians Chapter 2 we see once again, that Paul is meeting with Peter. Anyone who ever thought the disciples of Jesus were perfect, all we have to do is look at Peter. God had a big plan for Peter's life and ministry, but human he was, with some opinions and positions that God desired to change. God said it was time to remove the mask that Peter was hiding behind in regard to the Gentile believers.

Version: New American Standard
Galatians 2:11-13

11. But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I (Paul) opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he [began] to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13. And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.

The Oxford dictionary tells us that the word hypocrisy means to be insincere, two-faced, dishonest, a pretender, having a false claim to virtue, and pretense.

Hard to imagine that Paul was calling Peter out for this, but he was. Peter's personality had some flaws as we have seen in the Gospels. He was quick tempered, impulsive, and inconsistent. He walked on water to meet Jesus, yet began to sink as fear set in. In the Upper Room, he promised that he would be willing to die with Jesus, yet denied him three times during the arrest and trial of Jesus. When Jesus called him "Peter" meaning "the rock" I believe He was stating His great desire for Peter; one that changed his nature and molded him into a great apostle.

Peter knew first hand the meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are saved and "justified" not by works or the Law, but in faith and by the grace of God, through Jesus' death on the cross for our sin. Yet when push came to shove he reverted back to his old traditional ways of thinking and acting, that of the Old Testment Law. He was succombing to the pressure of the Judaizers and the Hebrew "church" once more. And feeling trapped in the middle, he sympathized with the Jewish Christians in their exclusion and fellowship of the Gentile believers.

As I did some online study for the word "hypocrite" I found the following. I thought that it was worth sharing with you. The following is taken from RBC Ministries.

"What is so dangerous about hypocrisy?

The word hypocrite originated when a Hebrew word with a general meaning of “godless” and a root meaning of “corrupt” or “defiled” was translated into Greek with a word having the meaning "to play a part."(Think about the Greek masks of Comedy/Tragedy) Religious hypocrites corrupt themselves by concealing their true nature beneath an outward show of uprightness."

“"But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. "They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, "greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ "But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. "And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. "But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. "And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:5-12 NKJV)

Jesus was especially concerned about hypocrisy (see Matthew 23). He condemned it more vehemently and frequently than any other sin. He described how hypocrites are more interested in appearing good to other people than seeking true inner goodness. There are several reasons that hypocrisy is a very serious matter.

Hypocrisy hates the truth. Because a hypocrite’s self-worth is based on maintaining an illusion of righteousness and godliness to himself and to others, he must continually deceive himself and others that his righteousness is genuine. However, since his righteousness is not genuine, he must be on constant guard against facts, circumstances, or people that might expose him. Instead of truth being the foundation of his life, values, and hope, it becomes a enemy against which he must always be on guard. (Matthew 6:23; Luke 11:34-36; John 3:19-21)

Hypocrisy excludes healthy relationships. Once a person’s self-worth is based on appearances and role-play rather than genuinely held inner values, he only associates with people who confirm his carefully-guarded illusions of self-righteousness and superiority. He shuns genuine relationships with people who care enough about him to confront him with things he needs to know about himself. Since love is founded on honesty and genuine relationships on heart to heart communication, the fact that a hypocrite isn’t in touch with his heart makes him incapable of a genuine relationship. He is frightened to know or acknowledge what his heart really is like. He avoids the very people who might bring love and light into his life.

Luke 6:42

"Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.

Hypocrisy makes self-knowledge impossible. Although it is a terrible thing to live without loving relationships, a hypocrite not only forsakes relationships with other people, but loses his relationship with himself.

Hypocrisy turns others against the truth. A person who is obviously evil is dangerous, but not nearly as dangerous as someone who appears to be good (Matthew 7:15; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Hypocritical exploitation of the truth for evil purposes is profoundly harmful. The initial damage occurs when the innocent are misled (Isaiah 32:6; Matthew 23:1-13) Further damage occurs when victims of hypocrisy come to realize what has happened to them.

This is why Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers and drove them out of the temple.

 (Matthew 21:10-14) This is why He said:
If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

It is a serious thing to reject the truth. But it is much more serious to cause others to reject truth by misusing it for our own evil and hypocritical purposes. This is why each of us must always be on guard against this most serious of sins."

OK, everything you ever wanted to know about the word Hypocrite? A lot of information, but well worth the time to read it. Jesus makes a point many times in the Gospels about not playing favorites: when he went home with the Tax man Zachaeus, when he ate meals with the "lower class" and social misfits, and even when he acknowledged the widow and her small gift.

Version: NAS
James 2:8-9

8. If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. 9. But if you show partiality (favoritism and hypocrisy), you are committing sin [and] are convicted by the law as transgressors.

So we see in Galatians why it was so important for Paul to confront Peter in his hypocrisy. He was lapsing once again into the law versus grace thinking. He ignored the Gentile believers in favor of the Hebrew believers. He sided with the "important and influential" thinkers. No matter that they weren't Biblically sound, Peter was swayed by the majority. Paul is continuously battling for "Grace" as the Jerusalem church and leaders are reverting back to the Law of the Old Testament.

On a personal note on this subject. God has made a point with me to have had me be in a small church start that included people from all walks of life. Rich, poor, "socially unfavored" such as drug addicts, unwed mothers, alcoholics, those from every race and ethnic background, people who had no "proper" church attire or manners. People from all walks of society. Nothing challenges and changes you like these surroundings and "out of the box" situations. Jesus made it clear to me He held no favoritism, and that to truly be a Christian means getting in the middle of it all, leaving all preconceived notions and status behind. When He said in John 3:16 "whosoever" He truly meant it.

love, in Jesus,