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,