May we be One!

Ephesians 2

Paul is saying to us and the Ephesians here to not forget where and what we came from. What did Jesus save us from. In verse 1 he calls Satan the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” Make no mistake, Satan may be prince of this world but that is where his authority begins and ends. He may be the prince but he is not the King. We were all born sinners, and it is Satan’s aim to keep us that way. 

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7

Also, make no mistake God, loved us before we even thought about trying to earn it. Not that we ever can earn His love! God’s great love for us came to us because of Him not because of us or anything we could ever do to earn it. God loves us and makes us alive with Christ. God’s grace is what saves us! And because of His love, because of His grace, because He saves us we get to be in Christ! Once you become a Christian your identity is in Christ. When God looks on us, He does not look at us as who we were, or even as we are now, He looks on us the same as He looks on Jesus. He just sees Jesus all over us. 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

We have been saved by grace through faith, but it is not our faith that saved us, it was the gift from God. Nothing we can do or believe could ever be enough to save us. It only comes to us because of the faith that God puts in us. What we do is also not of us, it is from God. I love that phrase “for we are his workmanship”! I read that the Jerusalem Bible translates workmanship as “work of art”. We are His work of art, he created us to do works for Him, and look He prepared us “beforehand” for the work that He has for us to do, and even more, we just have to walk in them. 

In the following verses Paul wants them to remember that though they are Gentiles, though WE are Gentiles, we are no longer separated from Christ. Paul wants them to get rid of the things that divide us. The reconciliation is not just for us with Christ, it is also for people groups to be reconciled, such as the circumcision (Jews) and the uncircumcision (Gentiles), Jesus is greater than our political differences, our racial differences, our economic differences, any language, geographic or anything that divides us. When we have Jesus all over us, we should be able to live in harmony with the differences and be one in Christ. 

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” Ephesians 2:13-16

If we have Jesus, if we have accepted what He did for us on the cross, we all have access to the Father. No matter what earthly differences may be between us, we are all His children! Jesus came to build in us, but we are all to be a part of the building, the kingdom of God. 

“So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” Ephesians 2:19-21

When we individually keep our minds and our focus on Jesus, God so masterfully fits us together to form His “whole structure”. Each of us have our place, each of us have our work that belongs in His holy temple. Jesus is the center of it all! 

Oh sweet Jesus may we not forget what you saved us from. May we walk in your works, so that we will build together your temple! 

Please pray for your churches and especially your pastor and church leaders today! 

Spiritual Blessings!

Ephesians 1

I love Ephesians. When thumbing through the 6 chapters of Ephesians there is not a chapter that does not have highlighted verses in my Bible. It seems most of Paul’s letters to the churches were written to address issues in the churches that he wrote, but not Ephesians. This book has a more uplifting theme to it. It’s purpose seems to be to bless and explain doctrine rather than to admonish and correct. Paul starts this chapter much like he always does with this credentials and then who he is writing to, and with this one he goes right into a blessing. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:3-5

Paul is sending a blessing to God in response to the blessing we have received in Christ. He is explaining here that if we are in Christ, we have every spiritual blessing. What are our spiritual blessings? Spiritual blessings are the new heart that he has given us, it is the relationship that we get to have with Christ. It is the knowledge that he will guide and direct our lives and show us the way we should go. It is the knowledge that he will watch over us and those we love and lay at his feet. Many of us can say we have been materially blessed as well, but all the material blessings in the world do not match up to the blessings of the heart that we receive through Christ. Those verses also point out that God chose us long before even the foundation of the world. He chose us to be adopted into his kingdom and he has blessed us and called us his Beloved! 

Through what Jesus did for us on the cross, he has redeemed us from death, we have forgiveness for the sin in our life (v. 7). The spiritual blessings are the way he shows us what He wants us to do, what our purpose in life is (v. 9). The spiritual blessings we have received show us the inheritance that we receive from Him because of the hope that we have in Christ. (v11-12)

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

This verse right here is your promise, it is your assurance that when you received Christ, you were sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit. He is our guarantee, that we belong to Christ. He is in your heart and your life to help you and to guide you. He is the seal on your life in Christ. I’m sure I frustrate him sometime with the lessons I have relearn over and over again, or begging him for direction. But one thing is sure, I know Christ and that means I have the Holy Spirit as my guide! 

The latter part of this chapter is Paul giving thanks for the church in Ephesus and his prayer for the people. Paul has heard of their faith in Jesus as well as their love “toward all the saints” (v. 15). Paul knew that the church in Ephesus were doing a lot of things right because of their love for each other and for those who were preaching and teaching the gospel. The prayer that follows is a great prayer that if you have a loved one that you want to know Christ you can pray over them. I love praying scripture for my people. 

“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:17-21

Lord Jesus we pray for us and for our people to know wisdom and revelation of knowledge of You. Lord, we pray that you will open the eyes of our hearts so that we would know our hope lies in You! Lord we pray to know what direction our steps should take us, what is our calling, what would you have us to do for You. Lord that we may know the power that is within us, the same power that raised You from the dead working in and through us. Thank You Jesus! 

Please pray for our churches and our pastors today! Also, continue to pray for recovery efforts in Alabama, Florida and Louisiana. 

It’s all about Jesus!

Galatians 6

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2

Paul is beginning the final chapter of this letter to the Galatians telling them that they need to look after each other. This is different from the Corinthians when Paul told them to get rid of those who were in the habits of sin. Some translations describe this one as being “overtaken by sin” which lends to the thought that it is someone who knows grace but has fallen from grace. Someone who has made a mistake, not someone who is in a habit already. Maybe, and this is my thought here, what he is saying is this is the one who is open to correction from his sin. It seems that so many times in churches of today, just like then it seems, when a person “falls from grace” that person is not gently corrected as scripture tells of it, but yet they are either gossiped about or judged. We need to be mindful of gently correcting but also, Paul also says watch yourself so that you are not tempted as well. Paul does complete this thought with the fact that we can help each other up, we can gently correct, but each person will have to answer for themselves. 

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but he one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7-8

If what one is “sowing” is sinful or bad behavior, there will be consequences of that. But when one, walks in the Spirit, there is help that comes to that one and the ultimate reward will be eternal life. The next verse is a favorite of mine. 

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10

I am sure that I am not alone of growing weary sometimes of “doing good”. Whether it be praying for someone or just of trying to walk a right path and feeling like the earth is just moving under me and I am going nowhere. This verse gives me encouragement when it says “in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Sometimes it is hard to stay the course, but we have to know that God’s timing is not our timing, his thoughts are not our thoughts and if he is delaying in giving us direction and answers it is because the timing is not right. This is probably the first time I have ever read verse 9 with the continued thought of verse 10. I love that thought though, “so then, as we have opportunity, do good to everyone, especially to fellow believers.” 

Paul then gives his final warning and benediction to the Galatians. 

“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.” Galatians 6:11-12

Paul put emphasis on this final warning to the Galatians by writing with his own hand in large letters. This would be like he underlined and wrote in all caps. He wants the Galatians to realize that those who are forcing them to circumcision, because of the Mosaic law are only doing it to show them as their own badge of achievement. Paul points out that even those who are circumcised do not always keep the law but they wanted to boast in the fact that they had these Galatians as their followers. Paul only wants to boast in Jesus, not in the fact that he has followers. 

“For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as to all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” Galatians 6:15-16

Whether you go through the rituals of the Mosaic law or not, what really matters is are you a new creation in Christ. It doesn’t matter what church you go to as long as they teach Jesus. It doesn’t matter which bible study teacher is your favorite, as long as they teach Jesus. It doesn’t matter whether you like good old southern gospel or praise and worship music as long as it is all about Jesus. It doesn’t matter if your church has a full band, or just a piano or if you sing acapella as long as you are singing about Jesus. 

Lord help us to walk in the Spirit, help us to keep it about you, help us to help each other up and not tear each other down. Help us to remember it’s all about Jesus! 

Please pray for the educators and the students today. Everyone is still trying to figure out this very strange school year. Also, Sally is still hanging around down there around the coast. Pray for those who are affected with property damage and pray for the safety of people on the coast of Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. 

Walking in the Spirit!

Galatians 5

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

The Galatians were backtracking into living under the law. The law had so many rules and regulations about it. What you could eat, how many times a day you needed to pray, and so on and so on. These Galatians had learned about Jesus in the past and yet, there were others who were still trying to put the yoke of the law on them. Paul is using the practice of circumcision to drive his point home. Once you have been set free from Christ you do not have to look to circumcision or keeping the law to make you righteous. Your righteousness comes from Christ and your faith in Him and what you do with it. 

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” Galatians 6:6

“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Galatians 7-9

Paul is pointing out that these Galatians are listening to the wrong people. There is an old nursery school song that goes “oh be careful little eyes what you see, oh be careful little ears what you hear, for the Father up above is looking down in love.” This is what Paul is saying to them. And he is saying it to us too. We should always be careful who and what we are listening to that will form our views. Things can come at us from all sides. I am sure these Galatians thought that what they were hearing and who they were listening to was good. They were preaching circumcision and the law. Paul is telling them check it with grace. Whether it be someone who is trying to feed you things that appear good but they are not or whether it be someone trying to feed you evil and you can recognize it from afar. You check it by the Holy Spirit who lives in you and by grace to see if it should stand. 

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Galatians 6:13-14

I don’t know about you but in learning about Paul’s letters, I have come to know and love Paul better and better. I love that he preaches grace and love. He is not saying that we have the freedom to do whatever we want to do in our fleshly nature. He is telling us to check the way we love others. But how do we maintain this freedom and stay in check. It sounds so exhausting. 

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 6:16-18

You see it really can be very simple. When you exercise your spiritual muscle and you get closer to Jesus and you learn to hear the Holy Spirit in your heart and mind, then you are not walking by the flesh, but you are walking by the Spirit. It just takes time, time to let the Spirit take over your thoughts and your desires. And over time of spending time in the word and in prayer, with the Spirit, you find your thoughts and your desires changing. And this is where the fruit of the Spirit take over your life. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 6:22-24

If you belong to Christ, and you cultivate your relationship with Him and with the Spirit, these things will become easier to see in your life. I  learned the list of the fruit of the Spirit by singing the VBS songs every year. But my heart learns the fruit of the Spirit by walking with Jesus every day. That is not to say there aren’t a couple of fruit that I still struggle with. But: 

“If we live by the Spirit; let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 6:25

I want to live by the Spirit, I want to do my best to keep in step with Him. I am not here to judge or to tell you what to lay down or what church to go to or what you should believe. I pray that others can see Jesus in me. I just want to introduce others to my best friend Jesus. I want my life to always point to Him. 

Oh sweet Lord, thank you for walking with me every day. Lord, please be my guide and help me to keep in step with You! 

Please pray for the medical professionals. And while you are at it, we have another big storm in the gulf threatening our coast. I’ve got people I love down there that I am praying specifically for. Please pray that Sally will calm down and that the damage will not be what they are expecting. 


Galatians 4

“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.”  Galatians 4:1-2

In this chapter Paul is going to try to explain to the Galatians what he means by living in freedom of Christ and living under the law. I’ll be honest, I had to read this chapter several times and read commentary to really glean what Paul was trying to say here.  He starts out explaining to them what it means to be the heir and what it means to be enslaved. Children of a wealthy estate are under the guardianship and guidance of their parents and in some cases maybe even the adult slaves. However the adult slaves will never inherit the estate. The children will grow up and inherit the estate. Paul is saying that when people were under the law, before Jesus came that is how they were. They were like the children of the estate that would inherit all the benefits of knowing God, however they would never really grow up. They would always live under the law and the rules and the regulations. But after Jesus came, we are not only like the slaves but we have been redeemed into God’s kingdom as his sons, as His grown up sons who not only inherit but get to walk in the freedom of calling Him our Father. 

“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:6

Don’t miss the term Abba! Young children usually call their earthy father Daddy. They may grow up to call him Dad. But the term Daddy is an affectionate one. It doesn’t just show the relationship as child and father, it shows an intimacy. Saying Abba in Aramaic is like saying Daddy. It is affectionate. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we can be so affectionate and intimate with God as to call him Daddy. Not just Father!  And furthermore our hearts can cry out to Him Daddy! My first thought here was like a young child who has had a nightmare in the middle of the night. He is going to cry out DADDY! We get to do that! 

“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” Galatians 4:8-9

People who do not know God or who are not known by God, see this christian life as if being enslaved. The Galatians had apparently at some point bought into what Paul was teaching them of freedom in Christ and they had come to know God and were known by God. But they were slipping back into the patterns of slavery. Of looking at the law and the christian life as a list of rules and regulations in which to keep. This troubled Paul and he quite frankly couldn’t understand why they would want to do it. In verses 8 – 20, Paul is showing concern for the Galatians. So much so he compares his concern with the anguish of childbirth. 

“my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” Galatians 6:19

Have you ever had someone you wanted to know Christ and the freedom of Christ so badly that you almost felt like you were in anguish of childbirth over them? That is how Paul felt about the Galatians. 

“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son by the free woman was born through the promise.” Galatians 6:21-23

We are children of the promise like Isaac. We do not have to live under the law but we can let the law be our guide. I found this quote from Spurgeon that explained the law and freedom from the law so well. 

“The law is under a Christian; it is for him to walk on, to be his guide, his rule, his pattern… Law is the road which guides us, not the rod which drives us, nor the spirit which actuates us.” (Spurgeon)

I loved that the law is no longer our list of rules, however it is our guide. Just like a parent starts out raising children with rules, as the children grow the rules lessen and the parent attempts to make them more of a guide for the children to live by, teaching the children to make decisions for themselves and to use the rules of the family as their guide to a good life. We start out seeing the law as rules, but as we mature in our relationship with Christ, these laws simply become a guide to live by and not rules to live under. 

Lord Jesus may we live with the law as our guide and with you as our best friend and may we be so intimate with God as to call You Daddy!!! 

Please pray for the President, Vice President and our government leaders today. Please also pray for the upcoming election. 

Faith, Righteousness, The Promise

Galatians 3

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” Galatians 3:1-2

Boy Paul sure knows how to start a thought doesn’t he. Using the term “O foolish Galatians” could have shut them down I would think. Or maybe that is just this day and time. But Paul was driving home the thought to them that they seemed to be buying into other thoughts that were totally against what they had already been taught. It appears to me that the Galatians had received the message of Jesus but now they were falling into line with judging themselves and each other simply by their works. I actually love how Paul just jumps right to it. He doesn’t beat around the bush with rhetoric. He asked the question “Did you receive the Spirit by works or by faith? You see, we can never be “good enough” for God. Our thoughts and our ways are as filthy rags to Him. But when you receive what Jesus did for us on the cross then you received it by faith. Paul goes on to give them, and us, a history lesson on Abraham. You see Abraham was held in high regard to the people of Paul’s day. But one thing that Paul points out to the people is that Abraham “believed God.” Not that Abraham believed in God, but that he believed God. Paul points out as well that Abraham was told “in you shall all the nations be blessed”. If you are of faith you are considered a son of Abraham. Even back in the days of Abraham, Paul is saying, God revealed that he would justify the Gentiles because of their faith. 

“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Galatians 3:8-9

Abraham exhibited his faith in God and believed God even before the law was given. He was a man of faith who walked with God. He didn’t just rely on his list of rules. 

“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law and do them.’” Galatians 3:10

How exhausting to live by the list of rules. I don’t want to just live by a list of rules and regulations. 

“Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Galatians 3:11

Humanly speaking, we cannot keep the law enough to be justified before God. That is why this relationship with Jesus is so important. Believing in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is what having this faith is all about. Believing in Jesus and accepting Him is what gives us our righteousness. Jesus took on the curse for us. The curse that we can’t live up to the law. Jesus took it when He died on the cross so that we can be seen as righteousness to God, so that we could receive the Spirit through our faith in Him. 

“So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:14

Paul goes on to explain the law and the place that it has for those in the faith. He explains that no one can add to or take away from the law. The law was given to Abraham and to his offspring. Abrahams offspring was Christ. Christ did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill the law. The law was given to Abraham until Christ should come. But just keeping the law, just keeping the rules is not what gives life. Trying to strive just to keep the law, the list of the rules is like being held captive. But the law was given as a guardian or a guide to them, until Christ came. Christ came so that we can put our faith in Him and allow Him to be our guide. If you have faith in Christ then it is almost like you are wearing Him. He is with you always to help you, to guide you, to show you the way to walk and to live. 

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:27-29

Lord Jesus I pray that we have “put on Christ”. I pray that we are wearing you just the same as we wear our clothes and that You will guide us and that You will lead us. 

Please pray for the small business owners and those in the service industry today. 

Walk by Faith

Galatians 2

“Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.” Galatians 2:1-2

Paul is recounting a trip he took to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus. He states here that he went because of “revelation” not because anyone had called for him to go but because he felt called by God to go. During this trip he met with “those who seemed influential” privately so that he could present to them the gospel that he preached to the Gentiles. Paul also goes on to say that while he did go to talk to them and to present to them what he was preaching, it was not something that changed the way or what he was preaching at all. Again Paul reiterates that he was confident in his message. And he was confident that God was not showing partiality to the influential nor to him. But that each had their own ministry. Among these “influential” were James, Peter and John. Paul is pointing out that they have their ministry to the Jews and Paul had his ministry to the Gentiles. 

“And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)-those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” Galatians 2:6-9

In verses 11 – 14 Paul calls out Peter publicly. Don’t you just love Peter? I do because he is so real, and it looks like some of his character traits that were pointed out by Jesus are still deeply embedded and can tend to rear their ugly heads again. It seems that Peter tried to play both sides of the fence. When he was with Paul ministering to the Gentiles, he would eat with them and he was very accepting of them but when he was with his Jewish friends he would draw back from them and would shun the Gentiles. I wonder how many times I can be guilty of the same thing. You see when Peters world collided and his Gentile friends and his Jewish friends were in the same place he had trouble being the same person to both. Paul calls him out on this publicly. 

“But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?’” Galatians 2:14

I love that Peter is a real guy and that scripture points it out to us. Because it makes me realize that the people who we read about and learn from in the Bible were just that, real people. Real people who were fallible and made mistakes. It gives me hope that they made mistakes and still had ministry, I don’t have to think better of myself or try to be perfect. Oh yes, I strive to do what is right, but I am real and fallible just like good old Peter was. 

In the last verses of this chapter, Paul is explaining to them that our faith is justified because of what Christ did for us on the cross, not because of the list of rules we can keep up with. We are not saved by our works of the law, but we are saved by Christ. 

“But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.” Galatians 2:17-18

To fall into step with trying to keep the law is only setting yourself up for failure. “If I rebuild what I tore down”, in other words, I set aside that list of rules and regulations to walk by faith in Christ and if I set myself up a new set of rules then I will only fall at those as well. 

“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Galatians 2:19-21

What Paul is saying here is when we put more emphasis on the list of rules to walk by, what to eat, who to eat with, circumcised or uncircumcised, we are negating what Christ did for us on the cross. When Paul says this life I now live in the flesh, he is saying, this everyday stuff that I do, the struggles I have, the things I do right and the things I do wrong, I do with the faith that the Son of God has already done what needed to be done for me on the cross. Christ has already done the work, now all I must do is live in relationship with Him. 

Lord please help us to walk with You, please help us to remember the grace of what You did for us on the cross. 

Please pray for your churches and pastors today. 

Whose approval do you seek?

Galatians 1

Today we will begin looking at the book of Galatians. Paul wrote this letter to the churches in Galatia. While the Corinthian letters were written to the church (one) in Corinth, this letter was written to all the churches in the region of Galatia. 

“Paul, an apostle – not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead- and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Galatians 1:1-5

Paul, as usual starts with his credentials as an apostle, pointing out that he is not an apostle because he was called by man but because he was called by Jesus. He also sends his greetings to the Galatians, grace and peace from God, our Father and Jesus. 

It appears that the churches in Galatia had begun listening to others who were bringing them a different gospel other than Christ. 

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-7

Paul was astonished that they would turn so quickly. The people of Galatia had received the gospel from Paul but because there were others who were distorting the gospel they had begun to believe them. This is why we should always be careful to know the word of truth ourselves and not just what the pastor is telling us. I have sat in churches before where I felt a stirring because the pastor may say something that does not line up with the word. I even sat in a church one time where the pastor told his congregation that he was the authority to them and that they should not question his authority. And I have sat under pastors who told me it was just as much my responsibility to know what was in the word as it was theirs. Give me those pastors anytime. You see the veil was torn for all of us, not just for the pastor that stands in front of us. They are mere humans just like you and me and there are those out there who will distort the gospel. Paul is calling those out that are preaching the gospel contrary to what he is preaching. Paul gives us the key in verse 10. 

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

Is the pastor in front of you preaching a gospel that is meant to please the congregation or is he preaching the word, whether it “steps on toes” or not? But also bring it home, are you doing your every day life, am I, to seek the approval of man or is it to seek the approval of God? OUCH! God calls us to things that may not always get the approval or the understanding of man. It’s not about the Facebook likes or the affirmations. 

In the rest of this chapter, Paul explains his calling to them. He knows that the Galatians have heard about his life before his conversion experience. Paul explains his calling to them. 

“But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostle before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” Galatians 1:15-17

Paul gives them a little insight here into his life immediately following his conversion. I learned something here. I had always thought that Paul set out preaching as soon as he had his experience but apparently he did not. Even though he mentioned that God had set him apart even before his conversion experience, he had the experience and then he spent some time before he actually began preaching. I thought this was very enlightening. Paul spent time building his own relationship with Jesus before he began preaching. 

Oh sweet Lord, may we all work on our relationship with You first and foremost. Lord, I pray that You would always make me aware when someone is trying to distort the gospel in any way. 

Please keep praying for the educators and students. Everyone is trying to figure out what the new normal is. Please pray and give grace. 

Final Warnings & Greetings

2 Corinthians 13 

Paul is planning a 3d trip to visit the Corinthians and he is giving them a warning before he comes. The first trip was when he founded the church, the 2d trip was when there was conflict between the Corinthians and himself.  This trip is when he is planning to deal with those who keep on sinning and to prove his apostleship once and for all. 

“This the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them – since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.”  2 Corinthians 12:1-3

He is telling them, you have been asking for me to be more bold when I am present with you, well get ready, because I am coming. Paul gives a charge to the Corinthians. 

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 2 Corinthians 12:5

Paul is telling them that he has given them all the tools. He has told them how to have a relationship with Jesus and while Paul does not want to live by a list of rules and regulations but in relationship, he has told them some absolutes that some of the Corinthians kept on doing. When Paul says “test yourselves” he is wanting them to examine their relationship with Jesus. Paul is wanting them to examine themselves before he comes because he is planning to clean house when he comes. 

“For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

Paul’s ministry is all about building others up in their faith. But Paul is recognizing here that sometimes you have to tear something down that is not God honoring. And he is just letting them know that he is willing to do it. 

Before he comes he leaves them with some parting words in his letter. 

“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  2 Corinthians 12:11-14

I read in my studies that this is the only place in the new Testament where the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are mentioned together in this type of blessing. Paul is wanting the Corinthians to be a blessed people. This reminds me of when Jesus stated his lament over Jerusalem. 

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Matthew 23:37

Jesus is lamenting over Jerusalem. Paul is trying a different tactic with the Corinthians by blessing them. 

Lord we pray we may always Aim for Restoration! And Lord we thank you for your grace, love and fellowship! 

Please pray for the medical professionals today. Pray for the doctors and the nurses as well as the people checking in over the counter or cleaning the hospital rooms. 

Thorns & Grace

2 Corinthians 12

“I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.”  2 Corinthians 12:1

Paul feels like all he has done with the Corinthians is talk about himself when he would rather talk to them about Jesus. The next few verses Paul begins talking of a man he knows who had a vision or a revelation of Christ. He starts off speaking in the 3d person of this other man, however in verse 7 he falls into speaking in the 1st person of himself and these revelations. Scholars believe that he was speaking of himself the whole time. But because of his discomfort in speaking of himself was why he tried to speak as if he was speaking of someone else.  Verse 7 also leads us into some much loved and quoted scripture. 

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  2 Corinthians 12: 7-9

We all know of Paul’s thorn in the flesh but scripture does not tell us what the thorn was. Why? While studying the thought was pointed out, if we knew Paul’s specific thorn in the flesh, I wonder how many people would compare themselves with Paul. I had never thought of that before but it truly does make sense. Also, would we glorify the thorn, rather than God? Paul was very conscientious about not wanting to glorify himself. The fact remains that God did not allow the thorn to be brought into scripture, and since that is the case, we can know that we all have our thorns. One does not necessarily mean worse or harder than someone else. I have often heard it said that if you think you have it bad, just look around someone will have it worse. I know that one time my family was going through a particularly difficult time. A friend asked me how we were. As I proceeded to tell her, I was humbled. You see this particular friends husband was in the dying process from a childhood illness that would soon be ending his life. I told her I knew that what I was going through was nothing compared to her. This friend, so sweetly told me, “Sonia, do you know whose cross is harder to bear?” I looked at her puzzled and she looked right at me and said “Your own.” I love that we can’t compare our thorn to Pauls. Because if we could we may think that the next verses weren’t for us as well. 

Paul says that three times he had pleaded with the Lord to take away his thorn. To unpack that, friends I can tell you I have prayed and I have seen the Lord answer and take things away and fix things that I wanted fixing. But I have also had things I have prayed for that remained. I have wondered why and I have cried out and begged and pleaded. Probably many more times than 3 times. I am somewhat more hard headed than Paul. When you aren’t getting the answers you want about something you are praying about the answer is always verse 9. Which bears repeating right here. 

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:9a

You see when God is not “fixing your problem” or taking the thorn away, there is always something more to be learned or there is a way that God will be glorified in the end. Sometimes those thorns stay with us to keep us humble. Sometimes it’s just not time. But we can know this. “My grace is sufficient for you”. I have had many many things I could not walk through if not for His grace! His grace keeps me upright. His grace keeps me humble. His grace keeps me sane. His grace puts a smile on my face when I don’t really feel like smiling. It’s all about His grace! 

Oh sweet Jesus thank you for the grace to get up in the morning when I don’t really feel like getting up. Thank you Jesus for the grace that is sufficient for me! 

Please pray for our government leaders today.