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,