Wednesday, September 6, 2017

When Change is Coming

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Sunrise from the suspension bridge at Turkey Run Aug 17,2015


It may just be that the cold front went through and the air is cool and clear instead of hot and muggy.

Or it may be that I'm tired of letting things pile up in the corners...allegorical corners and real corners...and it's time to shift focus and deal with it.

Or it may be that I've run into a virtual brick wall one too many times and now I've stepped back and begun to wonder if I'm moving in the right direction.

Or it may be that I've run the course and done all I can do and it's time to put down the tools and move on to a new challenge.

Or it could be that the Enemy is having a heyday throwing discouragement at me and I'm letting my perspective be skewed by subconscious cynicism.

Or it could be that the Spirit is just beginning the whisper saying it's time to step out of something old into something new.

Or it could be something I recently told a friend...change happens about every five years and it may be there is a five year cycle that's coming to a close.

Or it could just be that it's time to give up the flip phone.

I honestly don't know.   I just know that there's a restless angstyness that I haven't felt in a while.

This weekend is our Women's conference.  It's a bit abbreviated this year, as we are in a huge building program (yes, change IS coming...).  I don't have any major responsibilities; I'm hoping to just soak and listen and see if there is more to this unrest than just sticky keys on my old phone.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ok. It's a rant.

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
And a rant, well, tends to ramble.

It's been brewing since something jumped out at me from my Facebook newsfeed a few days back:

True Christians will denounce the sin of racism!

Now, to be honest, I don't remember who posted it, other than I recollect being surprised at it because this wasn't posted by someone who normally discusses how a Christian life is properly lived out before God.

And, you know, what I have been hearing, for the past year or so, mostly from the non-active-Christian portion of my newsfeed either  by posted links, memes or statuses, is that Christians have no business denouncing sin.   < sarcasm> Because, you know, Christians are just hypocritical bigots who follow a bunch of man-made, white-priveledge, homophobic, archaic rules that benefit them and nobody else.< /sarcasm>

So I was somewhat surprised that now, all of a sudden, Christians are expected to denounce sin.

Or at least the politically correct sin to denounce.  That one is okay.  Denounce away.

Of course racism is a sin.  Christianity, above all religions, is, at its core, racially and ethnically inclusive.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,...there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3: 26, 28)

But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.  For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:9 -10)

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to one hope when you were called -- one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  (Eph. 4:3-6)

Hatred is a sin. Wait.  I didn't say that right.  Hating people is a sin...there are some things that are properly hated. There are things God hates.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft;  hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like.  I warn you, as I did before,  that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  (Gal. 5:19-21)

So, are we not to denounce the other things that God hates?  The other sins that we commit?  Those things in that Galatians list that will keep people from inheriting the kingdom of God?

No?  Just racism?  Doesn't that sound just a little bit, oh, I don't know...inconsistent?

Has anyone noticed that meanings of the words have been twisted around and turned upside down and inside out and now nobody knows what they mean?

I thought 'Hate' meant that you actively wish something destroyed, undone, obliterated...but apparently it now means that you disagree with someone.

I thought 'Love' meant that you hope and work for another's long-term good, even if they don't always agree with you.  But apparently now that means you will support and accept anything that the other person wants to do, so long as it makes them happy at that moment.  And, of course, if you don't...or if you disagree with them...then it's 'hate'.

Whose idea was it to mess with the meanings of words???

Some folks seem to have forgotten that freedom of speech does not include an obligation for anyone to listen.  Just because someone is spouting ugliness doesn't mean you have to get in there and throw it back at them.  Sometimes the best way to get such attention-demanding obnoxiousness to go away is simply to yawn and turn your back and refuse to be the audience.  Sharing an outrageous post with an indignant comment really only gives it more exposure.  I mean, look at the last whatever you shared on FB...what is more prominent, the thing you shared or your comment about it?  See what I mean?

One of my favorite reads is CS Lewis's Space Trilogy...and the final book, That Hideous Strength is nearly prophetic.  Especially in the bit about how the press was manipulated.  The same organization was behind the news in both the liberal and the conservative press in order to jerk the chains of both.

News bites from either side of OUR political spectrum seem to be following that pattern now; one prints only what the other omits and neither presents an accurate picture of what actually happened.

Anything can be edited to say, well, anything.  Both political camps are crackerjack editors.

How does one be a true light in such craziness?  When even folks who claim to follow Christ can't stomach to hear what He said?

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.  I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive but you are dead.  Wake up!  Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.(Rev. 3:1b - 3a)

We best denounce racism by working for the kingdom alongside our brothers and sisters of all races and skin tones, and there are those who have been doing that for years.  One body, one Spirit, one Lord.

I don't know if that will appease the person who put up that post or not.  But it really doesn't matter either way.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Toe in the classroom water again...

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

It's been 3 years since I last taught a class.

In that time, I've completed two classes of the Elijah House School of Prayer Ministry, attended the DIVE worship school and a DIVE songwriter's conference and completed an online Master's degree.

None of which I could've done had I been teaching three classes of teen girls every week.

But I get the 'contact us' forms that folks fill out with questions, comments and requests, and we recently got the latest in a series of requests for an evening beginning Bible study; this one requested a ladies' study.

I did a little checking; the women's ministry suggested I talk to our Life Group (small group ministry) pastor.

I asked him to keep me in mind when we get to the new building...whenever that happens in the next year...as I know we're going to be launching a good number of study/education type classes once we have the space (and we WILL have space...we're renovating a recently retired high school.  We will have LOTS of classroom space).  I figured it'd be at least six months to a year before that came to pass; lots of time to construct a syllabus and build a curriculum.

But he got excited that I was interested in doing that and...gulp...the 6 - session class begins next Thursday night at church.  I've got, I think, 7 ladies (it was offered co-ed, but so far only ladies have signed up), which is good for the 'let's build the curriculum' class.

It's offered as a 'Bible Study for Beginners' and I'm going to teach three simple strategies/ methods for personal Bible study.  My goal is to give them a strategy and tools to be able to read and study the Bible for themselves...and get them inspired/excited about doing so.

That's basically what I did at various points of teaching my teen classes over the years; it shouldn't be such a stretch to share that info with adults.

So, ya wanna tell me why I have butterflies about it?  :-)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Blogging Bible Study week 10 - Galatians 6: 1 - 18

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I'm second guessing my decision to cover all of Chapter 6  in one discussion; it seems to me to be a collection of last-minute thoughts Paul wanted to share with the folks in Galatia.  He's communicated to them the message that he felt compelled to share, but, you  know how it is when you're conversing with someone you don't see often -- there's always a few other points that need to be made while you have their attention. 

So it is with Paul.  Chapter 6 is not so much a straightforward argument, as it has been throughout the book, but a collection of choice morsels to ponder.  And each of those morsels could be a complete teaching in and of itself.  But I have determined to stick to the syllabus, so buckle up for a kind of bounce-around discussion...

He begins with church discipline...what do you do when a member of the body falls into sin?

The spiritual folks should restore that person gently, he instructs. But there's a warning...watch out, lest you be tempted yourself.

That's a real danger.  Sin is sticky stuff, and it's designed to trap humans.  Think of the big names of years past, who, in their work against sin...be it pornography, addictions, whatever...fell into that very behavior themselves.  It was shocking, because they worked so hard against it.   It's a serious danger, and we need to take it very seriously.  Verse 3 -- if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  We truly are nothing...we don't have the ability, in and of ourselves, to deal with such things.  Only through the grace and power of the Spirit can we fight those battles.  Doing it for the wrong reasons, with the wrong motives, from a position of self-deception that we can handle it is the recipe for disaster.

There is a bit of a conundrum: in verse 2, Paul writes, Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ; and then in verse five he turns right around and says each one should carry his own load.  Um....

So, to the lexicons...

'Burdens' in v. 2 is baros -- which means 'weight' but can also mean a load, abundance.  IE, something that 's too much for them. 'Load' in v. 5 is phortion - which is primarily 'an invoice' but can also mean a burdensome task or service, which hit me as the idea that it is an obligation one must fulfill.  Here's my take: if you see a fellow believer struggling to carry a burden that is clearly too much for them, help them out.  But there are duties and obligations that you alone can fulfill and you need to take care of those.  The context for that is in not comparing oneself to others...what they are doing or not doing...so that we don't judge ourselves as better or more oppressed or any other comparison, because we truly don't know what's going on in all aspects of another person's life.  Don't let your obligations slide because of how you perceive another person handling theirs.

There are a few more last minute instructions.

Share good things with those who instruct you well.  (Comments are good things, btw...lol).

He points out that reaping follows sowing, and what was planted is what is yielded. This logically leads to one of my favorite promises:
Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Verse 9)
This implies, of course, that we should do good every time we have a chance and be especially looking to do good to those who are also believers.

But Paul can't say good-by without one last comment on his main topic; he marvels at his handwriting, which reminds him of why he was so urgently compelled to take up the pen himself.  He states that those folks who are trying to get them to follow the Jewish rules are doing it not because they really care about the Gentiles who are coming to the faith, but because it's the politically correct thing to do amongst their cronies and they can brag about the number of converts they've made.  Paul, on the other hand, is not interested in bragging about anything, except what Jesus has done.  And he sums up his argument one last time:

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. - v. 15.

I'm going to wander off into a bit of commentary here, because I see so much of this kind of thing today.  How many people came forward...how many were baptized...etc.  Now there's nothing wrong with folks coming to an altar, or being baptized, for sure, but there are people who put their confidence in those actions, rather than in what Jesus did, just as those Galatians were putting their confidence in following the Jewish laws.  Those things, in and of themselves, really don't mean anything.  Because what counts is a new creation.  Did the person really yield themselves to follow Jesus?  Or were they just going through a religious ritual?  Hard questions...but they matter.

...what counts is a new creation.

And Paul leaves his readers to ponder that.

Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God...The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Yes and amen.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Blogging Bible Study Galatians Week Nine...5:16 - 26

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
The earnest appeal from Paul in the first half of the chapter...don't abandon grace!...is fleshed out in the second half of the chapter as he describes the difference between living according to one's self (sinful nature or, as the KJV calls it , the flesh) and the Spirit.

Verse sixteen has hit me various ways over the years...first, it was a promise:  live by the Spirit and you won't gratify the desires of the sinful nature. IE, living under the influence and instruction of the Holy Spirit would protect me from wandering into sinful actions.

And I do think that's true, but lately I've seen another application to it...my selfish, sinful nature will be deprived of fulfillment.  Which means it's gonna complain about it.  Loudly, at times.  Now, it's true that the less you feed something the weaker it grows, but very few things starve quietly and that sin nature is certainly not one of them.  Which certainly does not negate the promise of the verse...but it does reflect the internal battle that rages at times.

Because, as Paul points out in the next verse, the sinful nature and the Spirit are contrary to each other.  You have to go one way or the other; you can't follow both at once.  They lead in opposing directions.

Think about that for a minute.  You can't follow both at once because they lead in opposing directions.  And look at the list of things that Paul states are works of the sinful nature:

Sexual immorality. 
Impurity
Debauchery
Idolatry
Witchcraft
Hatred
Discord
Jealousy
Fits of rage
Selfish Ambition
Dissensions
Factions
Envy
Drunkenness
Orgies
Etc.

Some of those things we easily lump into 'The World/The Sinful nature'...but some of those things are quite comfortable in our modern churches.   Some of them have just changed names and become matters of civil rights instead of morality and are now actually embraced by church after church in an attempt to be inclusive.

Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is not inclusive.  Not one bit.

I warn you , as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  (5:21)

Remember, you can't follow both because they lead in opposite directions! Those who live like that will not inherit the kingdom of God because they have been led away from it.  Away. From. It.

But we do tend to focus on the more...blatant...acts of the sinful nature and totally overlook the ones in the middle of the list: hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy.  When we realize that those have just as much root in the sinful nature as the ones that get the headlines, and are just as deadly, we might actually repent and seek to walk in the Spirit.

Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit; what people who truly seek to live by the Spirit will see in their lives and relationships:

Love
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Faithfulness
Self-control

He points out in verse 18 that one led by the Spirit is not bound by laws...because, as he states in verse 23, the Spirit produces lawful behavior.

Following Jesus means crucifying the sinful nature AND its passions and desires.  And, while it's true that the sinful nature will not go down without a fight, it's also true that we have the power and ability, through the Spirit, to crucify it. It can be done.

By living according to the Spirit.

So, Paul says, lets keep in step with the Spirit, and not get conceited about it, which will result in provoking and envying each other, a warning that hearkens back to verse 15.  If we do not provoke or envy one another, we will never reach the point where we are biting and devouring one another.

Abandoning grace means relying on oneself and one's own strength...the sinful-natured self...to follow the letter of the law. But that sin-natured self will not produce the fruit of the Spirit, only the works of the flesh.  It taints even the attempt to live holy, if that is the means by which one is trying to do so. The better way; the way of grace is to walk in the Spirit and from that we will be able to crucify those self-centered attitudes and actions.

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?

 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Blogging Bible Study Galatians Week 2: Gal. 2:11 - 21

Paul is still laying the foundations for the argument he is building against a legalistic form of doctrine that required the Gentiles who were coming to faith in Christ to observe the requirements of the Jewish law...ie, become Jews before they could be recognized as followers of Christ.

Last week, we saw that Paul presented his testimony and the validation his message received from the council in Jerusalem, today, we're going to see him apply the argument to someone who might have been considered a higher authority than Paul...the Apostle Peter.

And if Paul would oppose Peter 'to his face,' how much more would he oppose those folks who were confusing the Galatian believers by mixing grace with the law?

The situation, as Paul describes it in 2: 11 - 14, was that Peter had come to Antioch and made no distinction between Jews and Gentiles until some rather influential, unnamed men came up from Jerusalem.  Then, Peter suddenly pulled back and began observing the requirements of the law by not eating with the Gentile believers, so as not to offend the new arrivals.  This set a bad example, and the other Jewish believers in Antioch, including Barnabas, Paul's co-worker, began to behave in the same manner.

Paul, who  tolerated no such nonsense,  called Peter out publicly for his, in Paul's words, 'hypocrisy'(v. 13).

According to the quotation marks in my Scofield NIV, the entire rest of chapter 2, from verse 15 through verse 21, is Paul's quotation of the argument he gave to Peter...which is the basis for the argument he will make to the Galatian churches.

Here are the main points of his argument to the Jews who would insist on observing the law:

1) We, the Jews who have had the revelation of God for generations and have followed Christ,  have put our trust in Christ for our salvation, knowing that no one is justified by observing the law. (vs. 14-16)
2)  The law makes it evident that we are sinners; we can't keep it; our efforts only prove that we can't keep it. ( 17 -19)
3) Belief in Christ means that we have accepted Him and His sacrifice...we died in Him, He lives in us.  (v.20)
 And, his final, mic drop point -- If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! (v. 21b).

The logic of that last point is irrefutable.  If humans, by observing rules and regulations and traditions, could become righteous and cleansed from the sin that separates us from God, there would be no need for sacrifice.  But Jesus came and sacrificed himself on our behalf,  proving that behavior modification is totally inadequate for redemption.

Paul says Peter's error came about because 'he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.'    When have I given into the temptation to compromise my beliefs just so I won't give someone the occasion to find fault with me?  When have I valued the opinion of a person more than I valued  living out the truth of the Gospel?  How can I recognize similar situations in the future and prepare to stand my ground, even if that results in someone misjudging, misunderstanding, or just plain rejecting me?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Blogging Bible Study Galatians Week 1: Gal. 1:1 - 2:10

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
According to the Scofield notes in my study Bible, Galatians is one of the earliest epistles Paul wrote.  The date is listed as either 49 AD or 52 AD...if it's 49, then it is the first one, predating 1 Thessalonians by about 2 years.  But it appears that most scholars favor the 52 date, which would make it one year younger than both 1 and 2 Thessalonians, but still just the third letter.

Paul visited several cities in Galatia on his first missionary journey...among them Iconium, Lystra (where he was stoned and left for dead) and Derbe.  The pagan people of the area were completely amazed by the power of the Spirit in Paul's ministry and many believed, but Jewish leaders in those and surrounding towns were extremely provoked by Paul's ministry to the Gentiles and stirred up riots nearly everywhere he went.  After he moved on in his travels, other teachers came and began teaching the folks in those cities that, to be true followers of Jesus, they had to submit to circumcision and follow the Law of Moses as Jews.  Apparently a number of the Galatian believers were convinced that it was what they should do and began to incorporate the Jewish rituals into their worship and lifestyle.

Paul got word of this development and was so distraught that he sat down at once and began writing a letter to them himself, apparently having no one handy to act as his secretary.  It's difficult for Paul to write (evidenced in 6:11, when he describes his handwriting) but he feels he needs to correct the error immediately.

Indeed, he begins his letter with a flat statement of the authority given to him to teach...(All quotes today taken from the NIV 84).

Paul, an apostle -- sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father... (1:1)

Right off the bat, he wants them to realize that what he's about to tell them isn't just his own opinion or the opinion of other leaders, but something he received from Jesus. That immediately sets him apart from the folks who are touting tradition as their authority.

Then, he reminds the Galatians of the work Jesus did:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. (1:3 - 4).

He's already setting up his argument:  1) he has authority to teach from Jesus and 2) Jesus gave himself for our salvation...which is shortly going to be contrasted with the works-based theology they've been hearing.

Paul doesn't beat around the bush.  He's angry, and it comes through.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--which is really no gospel at all. (1: 6-7a).

Any person who has taught the Word to people who subsequently walk away from what they were taught can identify with Paul.  This anguish will come through again and again as we go through Galatians. These converted pagans were people who had a radical paradigm shift in their view of faith and life,  babies without much training. Now they were being taught error but they didn't know enough themselves to realize it.   Hey, those folks that came after Paul seemed authoritative.  They certainly sounded like they knew what they were talking about.  The Galatians didn't know any better.

Paul has some choice words for those folks who were teaching error:

If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (1: 9b)

Strong language.  It's actually repeated twice in verses 8 and 9... no one should misunderstand Paul's opinion of someone who is perverting the gospel they originally heard.

Then, by way of reminder, he reviews the history of what they heard and how they came to hear it and why they can trust that Paul is really telling them the true gospel.

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. (1: 11)

He reminds them of his personal testimony...how he --a zealous, Christian-persecuting Pharisee-- had a personal revelation of Jesus and a call to preach the gospel.  He reviews his early history...his time in Arabia, his introduction to Peter and James, and the impact his testimony had on the churches in Judea.

They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy."  And they praised God because of me.  (1:23-24)

Then he cites the Acts 15 conference at Jerusalem, the one in which all the leaders in the church in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and elsewhere met together to discuss the very issue that was currently troubling the churches in Galatia.

This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.   (2:4)

Paul states that he shared the message he was preaching to the Gentiles with the leaders there, and
those men added nothing to my message. (2:6)

In fact, he said, they did not require Titus, a Greek who was with him, to be circumcised (2:3), and they recognized that

God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. (2:8).

The only thing they asked Paul to do, he reports, was to remember the poor, which was something that was already on his heart.

Nowhere was there any indication that the Gentiles to whom Paul was sent should observe any Jewish requirements.

But he's still laying the foundation for his argument.

Have you been on either side of this situation?  Have you found yourself wandering from the Gospel you first believed, because someone who seemed to have authority told you something that didn't line up but made sense to your human nature?  How did you realize  and deal with the error?
Or, have you poured into new believers and then watched them turn and listen to worldly or religious-based reasoning and walk away from the truth you had given them?  Did you have an opportunity to correct them?  Or, like me, are you still praying for them to wake up and see how far they had drifted?

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Forgotten Standards?

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi


This began as a Facebook status...then I thought, no, it should be a Note...nah, let's do a blog post...
 
The 3 + 1 reading had me beginning James today. Chapter 1. I'll be honest, reading along, I began to wonder if modern American Christianity has forgotten that this book is in the canon...

... each one is tempted when, by his own evil desires, he is dragged away and enticed. ( v. 14b)

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and accept the word planted in you, which can save you.  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (v. 21-22) 

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (v. 26)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  (v. 27)

I've taught James a number of times...at least three different class years of Christian Women's Job Corps,  in a ladies' small group at church, and I linked up the notes in the blog a few years back (see sidebar, 'Previous Bible Studies'). But this time, James' use of the word 'religion' caught my eye...what did he mean by 'religion'?  

They are variants of  the word threskia - Strong's 2356 - which means 'Religious worship, especially outward ceremonies; religious discipline, religion'.  It's only used two other times in the entire New Testament...in Acts 26:5, Paul, giving his testimony, states '...according to the the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee,' and  in Col. 2:18, where Paul warns against being influenced by folks who 'delight in...the worship of angels'.

'Religion', then, is not a hot topic in the New Testament.  James' use of it here really doesn't involve the  concept of  'accepting the word planted in you, which can save you'.  In fact, it's really not talking about salvation at all, but of just going through the motions of religious activity for personal gratification.   I could paraphrase it this way...

'If anyone considers himself successful in his adherence to the rituals of worship, but doesn't watch his mouth....gives in to the temptation to put people down, curse, gossip,  break confidence, lie, etc... he's just fooling himself and the rituals are meaningless. The disciplines that God considers pure are to take care of widows and orphans and to refuse to be influenced by the culture that dishonors Him.'

 Worship, then, is best expressed by caring for others and by resisting the influence of those who do not fear God.

Where, then, does the current philosophy that insists that Christianity must change to suit the culture fit?  Christianity cannot be separated from Christian morality.  It just doesn't work.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Summer Study: Galatians

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I have an itch to do another study and decided to dive into Galatians, one of my favorite books, for the summer.

Paul writes an alarmed epistle to the believers in Galatia;  other teachers had followed him and were confusing the new believers with doctrines based on human achievement and religious activity.  The churches in Iconium, Lystra, Pisidian Antioch and Derbe were in the region of Galatia, cities Paul had visited on his first missionary journey and the believers there were dear to him.

Paul wants to settle the issue for them regarding the doctrine that was being propagated by a loose group of folks Bible scholars frequently refer to as 'Judaizers'.  The essence of their teaching was that Gentiles who wanted to follow Christ must be circumcised as Jews and follow the Law of Moses as the Jews did.  Paul had been present at the discussions in Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15, and knew that those requirements went against the prayerful decisions made there.   His argument is historical, logical, and passionate, using some strong language.

It's a good study to consider today; a reminder to believe what was approved and taught from old.. we are saved by grace into freedom to serve in love.

Here's the syllabus:

6/2 - Gal 1:1 - 2:10
6/9 - Gal 2:11 - 21
6/16 - Gal. 3:1 - 14
6/23 - Gal. 3:15 -25
6/30 - Gal. 3:26 - 4:7
7/7 - Gal. 4:8 - 18
7/14 - Gal. 4:19 - 5:1
7/21 - Gal. 5:2 - 15
7/28  - Gal. 5:16 - 26
8/4 - Gal 6:1 - 18

That's just my first breakdown into what appears to be reasonable sections; if I'd planned ahead a little better I'd have a blurb statement for each but, since the inspiration just hit, I'm going to leave the blurb for the discussion.

So, if you're interested, grab a 4-color pen and join me in a study of Galatians this summer!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day!

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I posted this as a Facebook Note last year and thought it might be worth a repeat...

For every woman who has ever...

Rocked a baby that refused to sleep...and then kept rocking when sleep finally came, just because the moment was too sweet to end.

Bandaged bloody knees and fingers, or put ice on bumps and bruises, or rigged steam tents in the bedroom to ease that non-stop cough, or sat in doctor’s offices and emergency rooms when the home remedies were insufficient...and held the child for the shot, with tears in her own eyes, or gritted her teeth and kept trying until the medicine went down.

Found an exuberant mess where no mess had been just minutes before, often at the most inconvenient moment.

Made pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

Taught a child to whistle, to cut snowflakes from a folded piece of paper, to bake cookies, to feed a pet or to blow bubbles.

Sat in car pickup lines...day after day after day....

Helped with the school Christmas party.

Sewed costumes for a school play

Gone through the stack of flash cards. Again.

Gone to Wal-Mart at ten pm for poster board for the project due tomorrow.

Taken the forgotten lunch to school. Again.

Explained the facts of life.

Read aloud to a kid. Or a group of kids.

Stayed up making goodies for the bake sale.

Manned the class booth at the PTA fall festival.

Sat through two hour award ceremonies to see one little second grader get a certificate for maintaining a B average.

Stood firm on a principle in the face of teen angst.

Watched that new driver back out of the driveway and head down the road alone for the first time.

Cleaned up after a sleepover.

Walked into a newly empty bedroom and turned off the fan that the fledgling left on after packing up and heading to the dorm or the new apartment.

Prayed for a kid, hugged a kid, was kind to a kid, taught a kid or gave up something to make a kid’s life a little better.

God bless you all on Mother’s Day.

And an especially Happy Mother's Day to my mom...who did so much for me!  Love you!
 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Mental Hairballs

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi


We have a cat.

A cat who sheds prolifically.

Evidence is all over my black knit clothes, the sofas, the chairs, folded laundry left overnight in a basket...you get the picture.

I buy lint rollers by the case at the local buyer's club.

I also buy 'hairball control' cat food. Because hairballs are gross.

However, despite brushing and brushing and the not-so-cheap kibble, hairballs are a fact of life with this kitty.  They still get hacked up, hopefully not on the still-newish carpet, and they have to be cleaned up.  Some take more cleaning than others and sometimes there's a shadowy spot that never quite comes out.

Yesterday I  caught myself saying something I really didn't want to say.  As in, I'd lectured myself at various times about expressing that opinion.  Don't do it.  No point in it.  It can only upset folks.  And you're making too big of a deal about it anyway.

I did well.  Until yesterday. And the opinion came flying out of my mouth without so much as check at the door.

Fortunately, due to the circumstances, I don't think very many folks heard it.  And it wasn't a horrible, ugly thing...just an unnecessary thing.  But I was upset with myself just the same.

And I suddenly realized what I'd done is hack up a mental hairball.  Something that had collected over time until the  moment arrived when the brain couldn't process it any more.  So out of the mouth it came.

And, like some actual hairballs, I was fortunate that 1) it didn't appear to land on the newish carpet and 2) it didn't make a horribly big mess.  Sort of like one that lands on the linoleum in the kitchen and can just be sorta wiped up and tossed.

I have had much, much worse messes to deal with.  But that really didn't help my disgust at this one.  I'm tired of dealing with them.

So I pondered...how does one neutralize mental hairballs? They are an irritant; demanding attention.  Distracting.  They need to go away but...giving them vocabulary and air time is not the way to do it.

It takes an act of will to do the 2 Corinthians 10 thing...take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.    See, that hairball needs to dissolve in God's grace.   I can't, by force of my own will, make it go away.  In fact, the more attention I give it the uglier and more irritating it gets.

It was kind of a revelation that we get rid of those things by releasing them to God.  Not focusing on it at all...but focusing on Him.  Those ugly opinions, gossipy tidbits,  self-justifications...all of that stuff...will fade right out when they're not given attention.  Taking a thought captive means cutting off its source of strength...which is our very own focus.

It's hard. But God gives us His grace to do hard stuff.

And it's less hard to turn it over to Him and focus on His grace and His beauty than it is to clean up the mess and get rid of the stains when those things are dealt with in the natural way.

Just sayin'.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Master's is DONE!

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Three weeks is long enough to go without posting...something...

I have officially finished my online master's degree.

I feel like I should put an asterisk by that, with a footnote stating that I don't think I did coursework comparable to attending a brick-and-mortar campus.

I think the institution from which I am receiving the degree is changing and plans to make much use of social media to increase the workload, so I probably got through easier than those who will follow.

Not sure how accomplished I feel.


The only class that was a drag was the one in which I had to read a handbook of weddings and funerals.

The wedding ceremonies were nice, and some had very touching, creative bits.

But there were way more funeral samples.  How many funerals can you read before a dark cloud descends?

Some were about aged saints who went home to glory and left grand legacies.  Those were inspiring.

But the rest...oy.

Was glad to finish that one.

The textbook I was least impressed with was the last one...an overview of the entire Bible and Apocrypha.

The author wrote two or three points that were just plain wrong.  As in, I don't know how those statements got past a proofreader.

But more than that, he couldn't seem to decide if he were writing to give evidence that the Bible is accurate or to cite folks who wanted to logically explain why it was inaccurate.

It felt...mushy.

Still, there were some good insights so it wasn't a total washout.

By and large, the year of study was good for me.  I commented to a friend that even if I have no benefit to either my career or ministry, I'm glad I did it because of what I gleaned personally.

And, as it turns out, there's going to be a 'graduation ceremony' during 3rd service on May 21. There have been a few folks who have finished varying levels of work and the head of the online school is coming, with full academic regalia, to confer degrees and such.

Not sure if I'm going to be in cap and gown (I don't even know what the protocol is for Master's level headgear) or not.

But my grad fee is paid and all is in order.

My creative had kind of shut down during the push to finish.

Hoping it has had a nice break and is ready to come back online now.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Triumph of Love

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

As a kid, once I was old enough to grasp the significance of Good Friday...that it is the day we  observe the anniversary of the crucifixion...the name became an enigma.

In my head, it seemed...wrong...to call a day 'good' that saw such unspeakable cruelty. A day on which, to all appearances, evil had its way. A day that saw innocence suffer for the guilty.  I had a hard time reconciling that with the word 'good'.

To be honest, I still struggle with it from time to time when I think of the human-ness of Jesus suffering the abuse and trauma he in no way deserved.  But I think I understand now why we call it 'good'.

It was the day evil ran rampant.  When the enemy threw his full force behind the destruction of good. And it seemed for a time that evil triumphed.

But, when all was said and done, when the enemy had delivered his best shot...that shot came up short.  Evil could not overcome good.  Or, to put it another way, when all the evil had been poured out, the good covered it and had more besides.

The enemy could not get Jesus to stop the process.  Jesus took everything the devil threw at him.  Physical pain, humiliation, verbal abuse, rejection, the horror of the guilt of sin...Jesus drank the cup to the very bottom.  He did it.  We see the triumph three days later, but I think the real triumph was in the words 'It is finished!'

He had endured the worst the enemy could do and it wasn't enough to stop the love and grace of God that day.

Oh, there may be liturgical and theological reasons why we call today 'Good Friday'...but in my mind and heart, it's good because today is the day love won.  Even if it was three days before anyone knew it.




Thursday, April 6, 2017

What is Truth?

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
I had to make a quick stop at Publix on Tuesday night and glanced at the magazine rack as I checked out, in something of a hurry, and saw this:
Had I not been in such a hurry, I might have paused to consider that I might want to actually read the pertinent articles, but I paid for my purchases and left.  When I realized later that I really should have read it, I decided to pick up a copy when I got my next gallon of milk...which was today, but the new issue was in the stand.  Too late.

A little internet searching turned up that, first and foremost, they were discussing politics and the media.  There may be more discussion about the place of truth in our increasingly post-modern society, but that wasn't mentioned in detail in the little discussion blurbs I found.

But this has been percolating for a bit.  I just finished class number 11 out of 12 in the pursuit of the masters of ministry degree, which was on Biblical preaching.  But the textbook was a series of interviews with 20 prominent preachers of recent years.  Some were old school, while some were part of what is increasingly called the 'emerging church'.

It showed the tension between the modern exegesis, based on a structured presentation of a solid concept of truth, and the post-modern narrative, which comes at truth in a different, more experiential way.

It was eye opening, to say the least.  I found I am completely modern in my thinking; one of the characteristics of modern thought processes is the axiomatic acceptance of the existence of absolute, objective truth.  That certainty is reflected in the kind of engineering and scientific thinking that developed rockets and put men on the moon.  But the post-modern thinker is not so sure there is such a thing as absolute, objective truth and really doesn't consider it to be important if there is.

It was a shock; having just come to the realization that my core value is truth, I suddenly saw myself as a dinosaur.  That kind of conviction affects absolutely everything I think and believe.  That anyone would be basically unconcerned about truth is...incomprehensible to me.  I just can't fathom it. So how can I communicate with a person to whom the word 'truth' has a whole different meaning than it does to me?

One of the interviewees in the book (I'd look it up, but I took the book to work and it's on my shelf there) made a statement to the effect of '...millenials don't care so much if Christianity is true.  We can't argue them into accepting Christianity because it is true.  What we have to do is convince them that it is beautiful and good, then they will be open to considering that it might be true.'

All of my logical arguments for Christianity...why I believe it...are basically meaningless to a post-modern thinker.  I might as well be speaking a foreign language.

And the enemy has done a very thorough job of throwing bad examples of Christians before people who have no basis by which to know they're bad examples.  All they see is something that, to them, looks harsh and judgemental and controlling and...ugly.  If it's true, they don't want it.

This is the challenge of the 21st century for the modern thinking Christian...and it's going to require a lot of effort in uncomfortable ways.  We can no longer proclaim Christianity...we have to display Christianity in a way that is relevant to folks who aren't at all interested in learning more about something they think they know already.  I think it was the same person who made the above statement that also said something close to 'They will come to Christ not through argument but through influence.'

That's going to be quite a challenge indeed. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Contributing

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Two weeks ago I sat down to write the Friday something and, when I had it all written out, realized it discussed the topic-of-the-month for our churches' women's ministry blog, which is now soliciting submissions from folks in the ministry or who have been influenced by it.

So, instead of posting it here, I submitted it there.  And that used up all my blogging time for the day.

It got selected for publication and went live last Friday, so I thought, 'Oh, great!  I'll link it up!'

But wouldn't you know.

Somehow the format gremlins got into the wordpress account that day and turned off the word wrap on the paragraphs.  Several just ran right off the page into oblivion.

My friend Paulette, who's editing the submissions, worked on it for about three days trying to get  it fixed (it had happened to one other post earlier in the week as well).  Finally, she pasted the submissions into Notepad and then back into the posts, which somehow stripped out all the weird formatting and all the words showed up in their proper spots.

Of course, it also stripped out the italics and the bold that I'm so fond of using, but, hey, at least it's readable.  You can read it HERE.

You can also click around and read the other submissions as well; this month's topic is  'She is Worth'...which hearkens to our women's conference theme last fall.  And you will quite soon see that there are some fabulous wordsmiths amongst our ladies.

I am coming down the home stretch on the Master's of Ministry; I should finish class number 10 this weekend.  I just ordered the books for the final two classes; I may make it by the goal I gave myself of the end of April yet.

But blog posts will likely be scarce between now and then. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Current Reading Feb 2017

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi 




Friday being the one day I try to get something posted, I'll give you the best I have right now...which happens to be the books I'm reading at any available time.

Starting at the lower right, The Power of Humility by R.T. Kendall is required reading for everyone in the worship department at church.  We're discussing it at choir practice, as are the other arts ministries.

Humility is not a popular subject, but, wow this book is good.  I'm about halfway through chapter 5, as I took it with me to a couple of dr appointments this week and read in the waiting room.  Chapter 4 was on wisdom, and it was an eye opener, to say the least, to see the connection between wisdom and humility so clearly laid out.

The second book,  The Complete Book of Discipleship by Bill Hull, is from Navigators and it's the textbook for my current class in the online Master's program.  It is rich.  It's also dovetailing nicely with the choir study, since...surprise...humility is a key part of discipleship.

In other words, my paradigms are getting punched one-two, left-right.

The cover on the discipleship book is curling badly; I couldn't get it to lay flat for the picture.  My Bible was laying on the table, too, so I used it to anchor the cover on the paperback and then realized that yes, it belongs in the picture, too.

I'm still plugging along on the 3 + 1 reading, although I did get a bit behind on the trip to Indiana for my dad's birthday last weekend.  But I have so far finished all the writings of John (Gospel, Epistles and Revelation) and I'm heading into Matthew.  I'm 1/3 of the way through Psalms and I'm well into Leviticus for the Old Testament.  This is a relatively new Bible,  so I've got my 4 color pen to hand and I'm marking as I go, which keeps me paying attention to what I'm reading so I don't fall into just skimming through.

But being a bit behind on the Bible reading and definitely behind where I want to be on the schoolwork, I'm pushing to catch up.  Other things that I want to do are, well, not getting done.

But it's just for a season...right?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Everything We Need

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
I'm still whaling away at the Counseling class in my Master's of Ministry program.  I should've finished it by the end of January, so I'm behind.

The text for this class, however, is a deep word. I just can't charge through it.  It wants slow, considerate reading. And it keeps coming back to a basic text:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in this world caused by evil desires.  -- 2 Pet. 1:3-4

If I were doing the scripture memorization challenge this year, this passage would make my list.

I've been pondering it off and on as I've been reading...slowly...through the textbook.

Do I really believe I have everything I need for life and godliness?  What in my life shows that I do ...or do not...believe that?

But there are some sort-of qualifiers on that.  I have what I need through my knowledge of Him Who Called Me.  So if I don't have all I need, or don't believe I do, that's not a reflection of Him Who Called Me, it's a reflection of how much I have pursued knowledge of Him.

If there's something I feel like I need... either I don't really need it OR I'm pursuing it instead of pursuing the One who holds it.

Either way, I need to look at what I'm pursuing.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sitting Down

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

We had a big leadership conference a couple of weeks ago; I haven't blogged much because I'm still processing.

The conference followed a time of fasting and prayer.  I'm not only processing from the conference, but from the week previous.

Been trying to figure out a way to describe what I'm working through and I really don't have any brilliant summaries.  And it may not be applicable to anyone else.

But I kinda have a feeling that, until I work through what I've found in front of me here, my writing/blogging is going to be kinda, well, distracted?

Anyway.

Part of the mix was a shift in roles; as the data base admin, I've been the Person Responsible for Registration for the last couple of years.  Just as we began gearing up for this, I got word that registration was moving over to the Events team.

Which makes tons of sense and was something of a relief.  It was a little more abrupt than I had expected; I figured I'd use this conference to train the newbies and then let them handle the next event, but, no, it was 100% handed off with me just playing the role of consultant.

They didn't even need me to be part of the registration desk team at the conference.

Hold that thought for a minute while I backtrack.

We had several topics to ponder and pray through during the fast; one of the first topics was 'Awakening Passion'.

And, in the process of praying through 'Awakening Passion', I came to realize what my core passion is.

Truth.

Of all the things for a believer to be passionate about, Truth seems to me to be the most objectively cold and lacking in compassion.  But it explained a lot.  Why does it matter if the data entry is sloppy?  Because it compromises the integrity - the truth- of the data base.  Why do I feel an unction to teach?  Because it's sharing truth.  Why do I get all frustrated when movie-makers change the story the book author wrote?  Because it doesn't tell the true story.  Et cetera.

That's a far cry from the little girl who used to tell fantastic stories about things just to get some attention.  Or maybe it's not...maybe the call-out I got on it in middle school was the thing that pushed me from 'tell it like I wish it was' to 'truth matters'.  I don't know.  But I do know that truth matters to me... a lot.

The next great revelation came on the day I was praying through 'Awakening Identity', in which I found myself asking the question 'What AM I afraid of?  What's keeping me from living in my identity?'  Of course, I thought it was failure...but, to my surprise I realized I'm not really afraid of failure.  I'm afraid of disappointment.  Afraid to get my hopes up.  Afraid to dare to believe something...because I might get disappointed.  And, if I'm honest, there was an 'again' at the end of that.  I'll just be disappointed again.  Failure in and of itself isn't what I cringe from...it's that 'disappointed again' that comes with it.  Failure is me. I can try again. Disappointment...well, that comes from so much around me.  It's connected to  The Jinx Lie...that wanting and hoping for something is a sure way for it NOT to happen.  That 'hope deferred' thing that makes the heart sick.  And it may explain something of why I hate it so much if I disappoint someone or let someone down if they were counting on me.

So.  I was going into the conference with those two revelations fresh in my spirit.  And I had no assigned task.  That's hard, for someone who tends to be performance-oriented.  I wasn't needed in my usual spot and I didn't have another.  There were folks on staff who were working their little tails off...just as I had done in previous conferences.  One of my fellow staff members suggested I hang with her at her position and possibly learn how to do some of what she does...at first, I thought, 'ok, I can do that.'  It would, of course, give me the feeling of being Useful and Needed, of Pulling My Weight.  But about two days before the conference, in the fast and seek time, I clearly  heard in my spirit, 'I have cleared your calendar for you.  Now SIT DOWN.'

I hadn't heard anything that strongly or that clearly in quite some time.  So I told my friend I would just be a regular peep for this conference.  My Sweet Babboo being out of town for a professional conference, I sat by my older son for the first session on Thursday night though an awesome worship set led by David and Nicole Binion.  At one point during that set, I had words that I just had to record, so I flipped to the back of my conference notepad and wrote, in the midst of the cry of my heart, 'God... you have set me up.'  I was going to dare to be expectant...to risk disappointment.

The speaker of the evening, Jim Raley, began his message with a series of declarations that the congregation repeated after him.  The first one was 'God, you have set me up.'

Alrighty, then.

What followed...well, you can click on the link and see.

So I'm trying to get out of myself and risk disappointment.  And the first thing I have to do is finish what I've started.  So I'm digging back into the online Master's degree; it's the home stretch and it is getting a little tougher.  Taking some time.

 And, in all honesty, I'm still pretty much in 'SIT DOWN' mode regarding anything else. Just waiting to see what 'double door' will open.  I have a feeling it will be something I have not expected and couldn't have planned.