Friday, July 21, 2017

Blogging Bible Study - week 8: Galatians 5:2 - 15

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
Paul has laid his arguments, given his illustrations, and now he hits the core of his concern.

Mark my words!  I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all...[you are] obligated to obey the whole law.  You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.   -- 5: 2 - 4

I have heard that passage used to defend the concept that one can lose their salvation; but look at it closely.  It's not talking about someone who has fallen away from the faith, as in someone who returns to a sinful lifestyle.  On the contrary, this refers to folks who take it upon themselves to follow the dictates of religion... righteousness as a law... as a means of justification.  They haven't just fallen away from grace; they've abandoned it as insufficient.

He throws in the contrast of the expectation of faith...the righteousness  that comes through the Spirit by faith, expressed in love.  Circumcision, he says, doesn't really matter one way or another to those in Christ; it has nothing to do with salvation.

Then he expresses his disgust with those who have thrown them into such confusion:

You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?...The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be....As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!  -- 5:7 -12

Strong language, indeed, for a man of God. Ya think he's a little ticked off at those folks?

But look at what he says next...he exhorts the folks in Galatia to work together for their mutual benefit:

You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.  The entire law is summed up in a single command:  'Love your neighbor as yourself'  --5:13-14.

See, he has just argued against the restrictions of the law, but he doesn't want them to think that now means anything goes.  The freedom from the law isn't freedom to indulge personal appetites or ambitions...it's for the purpose of focusing on others rather than ourselves.

I read the rather graphic final verse of today's passage and saw a different application to it...

If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. -- 5:15

How, I wondered, were they biting and devouring each other?  Then it hit me...in a religious organization, totally dependent upon works,  humans judge one another as being faithful or not based on what they're doing.  And, being dependent upon works, there is not much room for the Spirit to lead in any way at all. So personal agendas and ambitions are unchecked.  One advances oneself by stepping on another and pushing them down.

That doesn't only destroy individuals in many ways, it also ultimately destroys the community itself.   Paul is describing the collapse of a church.  Churches don't fold because they are being attacked...they fold because the people don't get along and serve shoulder to shoulder.

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love... --5:6b

Is my Christian expression a following of rules to impress other folks and gain influence and affirmation?  Or is it a true service to others because of what Christ has done for me?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Blogging Bible Study Galatians Week 7 -- 4:19 - 5:1

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
It's mid May, 1996.  I am leading a team of adults...well, ok, the team was me and one other mom... who have hauled a group of kids up to Nashville for Acquire the Fire.  It's the first time anyone from our church has attended the conference, which is at what was then called the 'Nashville Convention Center', if I'm remembering right.  It's Saturday afternoon,  and the kids have gone to the mall across the street to get something to eat before the evening session.  I'm camped out by the expo hall door, hoping to score some good seats once they open the hall.

It's been a rough conference.  Truth be told, a number of the kids came just because they could get out of a Saturday school make-up attendance day (we'd had a rough winter and the school systems were scrambling to make 180 days) by claiming a church event on that day.  Friday night we were in the back of the hall and there were severe issues with the sound; the sound system wasn't adjusted for the size of the space and we had some pretty bad echoing going on.  It was hard work to follow the teaching.  For kids who weren't motivated to put in the effort...it was tedious.  We all left that night with a headache.

We overnighted at a friend's apartment; someone who used to attend our church but had moved to Nashville.  All of us in sleeping bags in the living room.  Not a lot of rest.  We'd left early enough Saturday morning to get good enough seats for the earlier sessions that the sound system was not an issue, but we still had some attitudes going on, despite some pretty good and practical teaching.

After the afternoon session, one of the younger boys flat refused to return that night. We figured that I could get everyone else in the mom van, so the other mom, whose headache had not really cleared up from the night before, took him back to Huntsville.  I was left to get the other 6 kids to get home myself.

I had truly hoped and prayed for breakthroughs for the kids that weekend; but with all the...issues...of the weekend, I didn't know if any breakthrough was going to happen. I was kind of discouraged.  But, I picked up my Bible as I sat and waited and rather randomly it opened to Galatians 4: 19:

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,

Oh, yes...I didn't mention that I was seven months pregnant at the time.  Paul's phrasing jumped off the page at me and I got...at a gut level... the grief and concern and even agony Paul was experiencing  over the church at Galatia.  ...how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! (4:20; the rest of the sentence).

He then launches into an analogy comparing the old covenant and the new covenant to Hagar and Sarah to show the superiority of the new covenant.

[Abraham's] son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. (4:23)

'The ordinary way'...   Humans figured things out, and undertook what they needed to do in order to have the outcome they wanted.  By the way, they had also concluded that that was the outcome God wanted.  So they went to work to make it happen, and it did.

'Result of promise'  ...Humans couldn't make it happen, couldn't do anything that would  bring about the desired outcome.  Sarah was barren.  It was physically impossible.  God made it happen.

The children born from human effort were born into slavery; the children born from the promise were free.

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of the promise...(4:28).  That is, born by the power of the Spirit (v. 29).  And, Paul states, the children born in the ordinary way persecute those born by the power of the Spirit.  It was so with Ishmael and Isaac, and it is so now.

When Paul says to 'get rid of the slave woman and her son'...they are to be allowed no influence:

Vs 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.


Don't go back to the mindset you had before, believing your righteousness depends on what YOU do.

Now, don't get me wrong, behavior does matter.  But not in the sense of trying to be right before God.  Teaching folks that they have to follow rules and regulations to be right before God is putting them under the yoke of slavery.  Being right before God bears the fruit of right living...and Paul does discuss that in other places...but that is not a strict observance of religious requirements.

In what ways do I confuse the fruit of righteousness with the requirements of God?  When have I ever given someone to believe that there was something they had to DO...in order to be accepted by God? Or have I gone so far to the other side that I proclaim to folks that they're accepted by God no matter how they behave...or continue to behave?  How can I articulate the distinction between living right and living religiously?


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Birthday Snapshots

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
That picture was taken, um, 57 years ago today.

That's a long time ago.
The world has changed a lot since that picture was taken.
Notice the open window...that would be closed today.  Central heat and air were not common in 1960.  At least not in rural Indiana.
Ike was still POTUS.
My parents were on a party line.
They had a small black and white TV...that got 4 local channels; one independent (channel 4...which is now, I believe, a Fox affiliate) and the three major networks, although I can't remember for sure which of channels 6, 8, and 13 were which.
The stations all signed off at night.
There was a test pattern on after hours.
It was kind of creepy.
The space race was heating up.
Car seats were just padded crates that hung over the seat so the kid could see out.
Seat belts were not yet standard equipment.
Gas stations had attendants that pumped your gas, washed your windows and checked your oil.
Folks dressed up to go out.
County roads were mostly unpaved.
Cars didn't have A/C either.  They had these weird vent windows that levered out to catch the breeze and blow it on the driver and front passenger.
Moms left kids in the car while making a quick run into the dry cleaners or post office or bank without a second thought.
She also always draped toilet paper over the seat in a public restroom before making use of it...or allowing one of her kids to make use of it.
Coffee was always percolated.
And served in 8 ounce cups on saucers.
Christmas stockings that we hung on Christmas eve were actual socks.  That we wore.
Santa arrived in the stores on the day after Thanksgiving.  Which was when the stores were suddenly and magically decorated with Christmas trimmings.
I had some of the same teachers in elementary school that my mother had.  They frequently called me by her name.
We rode in the back of the truck all the time.  Or on the fender of the tractor.  My dad often says it's a wonder any of us grew up (hashtag sarcasm).  
A computer with the power of the calculator sitting on my desk would take up an entire room.
My dad didn't have a computer sitting on his desk.  He had a slide rule.
After a while, he had an adding machine.
I remember smells....the way the bank smelled (was that money?); the way the library smelled; the way the bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken smelled as we carried it home...about a half an hour drive from the nearest restaurant.  At which we only stopped if we happened to be headed home from the city and going by at the opportune moment.  The way the stubby lopsided Christmas trees smelled.  The way Grandma's shellout beans smelled as they warmed up for about the third time.  The way new-cut hay smelled.
The days were slow, but never long enough.  I hated napping and going to bed at night.  I might miss something.
This is nothing like the post I wanted to write.  But maybe it was the one I needed to write.
Nostalgia is good from time to time.
And a birthday is a good time to be nostalgic.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Blogging Bible Study - Galatians week 6 4:8 - 18

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
Oh, is this not a question suitable for today:

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? (4:16)

The passage we're looking at today echos once more Paul's heartbreak over the decisions of those folks in Galatia to jump up and run after different doctrine.

He reminds them of where they came from...serving idols and religion that  had no true power or authority, being bound up in rituals and rules and laws.  Now, he says in verse 9, they know God and His truth and His power...and yet they are wandering back under the tyranny of rituals and rules and laws.   They have, in effect, gone back to the same setup while claiming a different Lord.

Paul is exasperated. I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. (v. 11). All the work he put in among them and for them is useless if they abandon it so quickly. It doesn't matter what Lord they claim...if they have gone back to the old way of doing things they have abandoned their faith.  Become like me, he pleads in verse 12, for I became like you.  You have done me no wrong.

Notice what Paul said.  He is not taking personal offense at the sudden departure of his pupils. He is grieved, he is frustrated, he is even angry...but he is not personally offended by their actions.  He recognizes the ignorance at work here, and that the true fault is with the folks who have fed them bad doctrine.  He will have further words regarding them later.  But for the Galatians themselves, he simply reminds them of when he first came to them, apparently stopping in the area because he was ill.

And they took care of him in his illness and treated him with honor (incidentally, his statement that, if it had been possible, those folks would have torn out your eyes and given them to me is the basis for many folks' belief that Paul's ongoing physical issues were related to his eyes in some manner).  Indeed, they were glad to receive him.

What has happened to all your joy? he asks in verse 15.

Nothing saps the joy out of faith faster then the obligation of religious duty.  And that's exactly what was sapping the joy from those folks in Galatia.

Now Paul mentions the folks who came behind him, with their gospel of works,  Those folks want to win you over, he warns, but their purpose is not honorable (paraphrase, v. 17).  In fact, Paul states that the agenda of those folks is to alienate them from him; cut them off from any influence Paul might have with them, so that instead the folks in Galatia would be influenced by and zealous for those teachers and their rules and regulations.

It's fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good - v.18.

Purpose matters.  Intention matters.  Agenda matters.  Zeal in and of itself...is not what matters.  And zeal that is for the right purpose is consistent...not there when you're around someone who approves and absent if approval is not forthcoming.  True zeal for what is good and true s always present.

That's a good rule-of-thumb for a quick motive check. If my enthusiasm for a task or project rises and falls with the appearance/interest of someone it may be time to take a hard look at my motives.  Who am I really trying to please?  Is there joy in my service?  Does it rankle to hear the truth?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Blogging Bible Studay: Galatians Week 5 - 3:26 - 4:7

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
You are all sons of  God through faith in Christ Jesus. (v. 26)

As my pastor has commented on more than one occasion, men have to adjust to the idea of being called 'the bride of Christ' and women must reconcile to being called 'sons'.

Christianity is, at its core, gender neutral and ethnically inclusive, regardless of what people have said about it. It supersedes genetics and socio-economic positions.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (3:28)

Which is why women are sons and men can be bridal.  It has to do with position. Sons are heirs and brides are intimate. Just throwing that out there; today's discussion is limited to sons.

For all of you who were baptized [Greek: baptizo: immersed, submerged] into [Greek: eis: a preposition...with the primary idea of motion into any place or thing....Many times in the NT it is used to indicate intention, purpose, identity, aim] Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.  (3:27)

I don't think this is just speaking of the physical act of water baptism, although I'm sure there are those who would disagree. The context is not being baptized in water at all, but literally being submersed into Christ, such that we are contained in Him and He covers us.  We are one IN Christ Jesus. By logical extension, any promise to Jesus would also apply to those IN Him.

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (3:29).

Now, Paul gives another example from daily life, comparing the life of the heir of the household to a servant in that household.  While the heir is a child,  he has no more authority than the servants. He has to abide by the wishes of his father, or the estate's trustees, until he achieves the age at which the father designated he should receive the inheritance. Paul doesn't mention this, but it would be common knowledge that the child might even be put under the authority of one of the household servants, so that in a way, the servant had authority over the heir, under the instruction and supervision of the father.

Paul then applies that example to the difference between being under the law and being sons through faith. The Law was the trustee, keeping those under it in guardianship, subject to rules and regulations and human activity...the basic principles of the human world... until the proper time when

God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.   (4: 4 - 5)

At the time the Father had determined, Jesus came to redeem those under the Law, so now the old instruction no longer apply; the old master no longer has any authority.    The full rights of sonship have been conferred.

When we become sons, we receive the spirit of sonship...the Spirit of The Son...who calls out to Papa from our very hearts.  Paul sums up his argument with this statement:

...since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.  (4:7b)

One of the great story themes across all cultures is the young one who grows up believing themselves to be insignificant, only to find that he/she is a prince, a princess, a swan...one of the great ones.  Someone who will be significant. How would your attitude about your influence, your position, your opportunities change if you really grasped your true identity...a son and heir of the kingdom of God? 

Footnotey stuff:  All scripture references are from the NIV 84; the bold definitions are from Zodhiates' Word Study New Testament

Friday, June 23, 2017

Blogging Bible Study: Galatians Week 4 - 3:15 - 25

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Paul turns to some practical examples to illustrate his line of reasoning. His first example is that of a contract or covenant established legally between two people, pointing out that no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established (v.15).  He states it is the same for God's covenant: once established, it can't be altered.

Then he points out something that is so obvious that most folks don't even stop to consider it:  God's covenant to bless the world through Abraham  preceded the Law by 430 years! (v.17).  The promise  to Abraham and his offspring (singular, meaning Jesus...v. 16) could NOT be set aside by the law that was given 430 years later.  Therefore, Paul asserts, the inheritance does not depend on the law, but on God's promise. (v. 18).

So, that begs the question...what is the purpose of the law?  Paul states:

It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. (v.19)

There was a need for a way to deal with sin until Jesus came.  Hence the law. But the law had limits.  Paul restates one of his main themes:  if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly come by the law.  (vs. 21...compare 2:21). But, despite the centuries of the existence of the law, the whole world is still captive to sin (v. 22).  The law has not brought righteousness.  Instead, Paul says, it has created bondage.  But bondage with a purpose...to lead us to Christ (v.24) so that we could be justified...made righteous...by faith.

Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.  (v. 25)

He's building his argument...specifically, there is no need to become Jewish to follow Jesus, but by extension...rule-following in general does not make one righteous.

While modern Christianity does not generally require folks to follow Jewish law, many, many people have the perception that they can't come to Jesus until they [fill in the blank with the behavior they either need to stop or start].  What do true believers in Christ do or say that fosters that perception?  Or are they listening to people who, like the false teachers in Galatia, have an agenda?  Is there anything in my life that would prevent someone from coming to Jesus or growing in Jesus?  How can I  live my life to counter false teaching?  How easy is it for someone seeking to know God to tell the difference between legalistic works-base doctrine and the freedom of true faith and recognize that true faith produces fruit of righteousness and godly living...not that following rules and regulations produces true faith?  Is it easier for the flesh to follow rules than to give up control and follow Jesus?



Friday, June 16, 2017

Blogging Bible Study: Galatians 3:1 - 14

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
YOU FOOLISH GALATIANS!!!

Nope, Paul does not beat around the bush at all. The first five verses of chapter three are plain exasperation, one rhetorical question after another:

Did you receive the the Spirit by observing the law or by believing what you heard?
After beginning in the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? 

All which follows hard on the culmination of chapter two:  If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!  Any answer to Paul's questions HAD to recognize that it was through belief and the Spirit that God's work is done in them, not by following a ritual or code.

Paul emphasized that with the example of Abraham, quoting  Genesis:  He believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Gen. 15:6)   Furthermore, Paul uses the Abrahamic covenant as evidence that people who were not Jews would come to faith in God, declaring that the Gospel was foretold in the promise to Abraham that "All nations will be blessed through you." It is faith, Paul says, that makes someone a child of Abraham and a partaker of the promise.

Then he moves his argument to the futility of following the law, because the law does not impute righteousness...it only identifies transgression.  In fact, it puts everyone who does NOT follow the law under a curse. But, Paul states, Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law by taking the curse upon himself at crucifixion, quoting Deut. 21:23. He is going to expound on these principles in more detail later, but  he basically sums up his argument in verse 14:

He redeemed us 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.

This was the teaching that got Paul into trouble over and over again with Jewish leaders... that God would include the Gentiles in the promise with the Jews.  But Paul's point is that the blessing comes by faith, not by actions and certainly not by bloodline.  Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. (v. 7)

He actually follows the logic Jesus laid down in an argument he had with Jewish leaders in John chapter 8.  'If you were Abraham's children,'  said Jesus, 'then you would do the things Abraham did.'
and, as Paul pointed out, Abraham believed God.

Our Christian culture doesn't necessarily adhere to Jewish laws, but we do have rituals and regulations.  Church attendance itself is frequently referred to as if it imparts righteousness.  While valuable for many reasons, merely attending church does not make us righteous.  What other rituals or religious actions does our culture want to substitute for actual faith in God?  Are there times when  the enemy uses a failure to observe some ritual to convince me I am unworthy of God's attention?  Where am I tempted to consider myself right with God just because I did something religious? 

Here's a discussion question...does the religious activity (ie, a daily quiet time) lose its actual value if we try to make that our mark of personal devotion, substituting the action for the actual belief that God will meet me and teach me as I study?  Or is there any benefit from doing something for the wrong motives?