Monday, March 28, 2011

Running in the "Grace" Lane

In life we have many races, but none more important than that of our Christian faith and experience. Our race is not TO salvation, but IN salvation. We continuously put one foot in front of the other; sometimes it's a sprint, other times it's a relay, but always a marathon. It starts at our salvation experience and ends when we come face to face with our Heavenly Father. How are we running that race?

Galatians 5:7,18, 25
"You were running a good race. Who cut in on you, and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you...But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law...Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."

Our writer of Galatians, Paul, frequently used analogies of physical activities, and as the people of this time were familiar with the Greek culture of athletics and races, they understood what Paul was speaking of.

Philippians 3:12-14
12. Not that I have already obtained [it], or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of [it] yet; but one thing [I do]: forgetting what [lies] behind and reaching forward to what [lies] ahead, 14. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

So now we understand that this is a race for the believer; one who believes in and personally knows Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Each day we run. We may not seemingly do anything of "spiritual" value or consequence, but each day we are moving forward, hopefully led by the Holy Spirit. Our attitudes, actions, and beliefs are all part of that race.

What happens when we step on a piece of loose gravel, have a leg cramp, or get distracted by someone in the stands? Do we whine and groan, fall over and give up...or do we keep going? Maybe we have to slow down our pace or tend to an injury, but most important, we cannot give up. Are there hurdles that you didn't see to the last minute...someone else who is down and you lend a helping hand to get them back on track?

Maybe you're lacking stamina and you need to run "in tandem" with another runner for awhile to keep up the pace. Life is like a race. It may not be easy. It may be long, and it may be tiring. One thing for sure is that there is reward in the end. Our salvation race does have a finish line, and at the end, the one who hands us the prize and congratulates us is Jesus Himself.

The Galatian Christians were given the Gospel by Paul years before. They were running a good race, but the Judiazers we not only heckling them from the sidelines, they came out onto the field and were blocking their way. The Judiazers were giving them wrong information about their salvation. Sort of like someone standing in the middle of the lanes that directed the runners off course. And if you get off course in a race you can be disqualified. Wrong information can cause us to not only lose momentum it can keep us off balance and cause us to stumble.

If you haven't read the previous posts here from Galatians, why don't you take some time to find the backstory of the Galatians. They had been told that their belief in Jesus Christ as Savior wasn't enough. These were non-Jewish believers that had been hijacked into believing that salvation came through keeping the Jewish laws and customs. Jesus came to bring Freedom and to release us from captivity of the bondage of rules and regulations that the Jews had based their salvation upon.

Galatians 5:1
It is for Freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Freedom from condemnation under the Old Testament Law. Freedom to know Jesus personally. Freedom to live our lives to the fullest without fear. Freedom in mind and heart. Freedom in the Spirit, that our spirit may run fast and strong, not giving up; looking ahead and seeing Jesus at the finish line, arms open and smiling wide. Run in the "Grace" lane.

Where are you in the race?

love in Jesus,

Monday, March 7, 2011

Waiting for Isaac

Reading scripture has a tendency to get personal. What happened to certain individuals over a thousand years ago can work it's way into our present day hearts and minds. People in the Bible aren't just "stories" or legends. They led lives similar to our own. Hopefully, the lessons they learned the hard way can help us from making those same mistakes. Most probably though, we have to make our own, to really grasp the concept. 

Over the last few weeks I've been "marinating". I am still in Galatians, even though I haven't done a post from that book in a little while. I don't want to leave Galatians until I share a few more things. Important things. The whole book of Galatians really speaks to us about our freedom. Freedom that is found in our relationship with Christ, versus the bondage that the Jewish people had lived in for thousands of years.

Galatians 4:21-23
21. Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? 22. For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 
(photo from a book cover by Andrew Murray entitled Waiting On God)

Genesis Chapters 18-21
(Background Scripture)
Let me give you the abbreviated version:
God called Abram out of a country that was full of idol worshippers, He asked him to take his family to a place as yet undisclosed. Abram and his wife, Sarai, had no children and they were advancing in age. Sarai was beyond childbearing years and because of that they didn't have much hope even though God had promised them an heir and son.
After years of waiting, with no child, Sarah and Abraham (as they were renamed by God), decided to take matters into their own hands and use a handmaid to be a surrogate. The child would be Abraham's, but not Sarah's. So this was done without the consent of God. They had been told to believe and wait for their own child, but they did not. Let me state, this isn't a discussion on surrogacy in modern times, or adoption, but about listening for God's specific plan for your life. This goes beyond birthing children, and entails any subject that we have been praying and waiting for God to move in.
So Ishmael was born and the trouble started. There was bickering, jealousy, manipulation, get the picture. Sarah who thought she was doing herself and her husband a favor created a situation that God did not ordain nor desire. Then "in the fullness of time" as they like to say, i.e. God's timing; Sarah herself miraculously conceived a son and delivered him.
Happy ever after...?
If you think there was trouble before Isaac's birth, it only got worse as time went on.
Can we see the "moral of the story"? If God tells you something, believe and wait. Don't get anxious and go try to make things happen yourself. Don't put together Plan B since it looks like Plan A is a washout.
How many times have we been guilty of this? Don't think I can count the times...
And then the result becomes such a huge mess.We are hurting and we hurt other people. Why didn't I wait? Why didn't I have the faith and stamina to believe what God has said, and stick it out.
The good news?
God forgives our sin, and has the power to bring change, even when we are at fault. He can take ANY situation and make it better. He's good like that. It doesn't mean that there might not be consequences, but even then, He still knows how to bring good out of a bad situation.
So do you have areas of your life that you've taken control of yourself? Areas and situations where you've prayed but seen nothing happen. Situations where you decided it was time to do it yourself because you were tired of waiting for God's promise?
Just get before God and ask Him to take over. Admit that you've not followed His direction, and that you are handing it back over to Him. He'll take it. And the pressure will be off you. This is God's Grace. He is totally able. We don't need to "work" to make things happen, not even our salvation.
Thank You Father, that you are the One who knows our hearts and minds; who sees our faults and comes to our rescue.