Friday, December 29, 2017


Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I started the year with the intention to read through the entire Bible.  I've never done it entirely in one year before, and I thought it was high time I did it.

The reading plan I used was simply '3 + 1'...three chapters in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament every day.

I stayed fairly well on the plan;  I'd get a few days behind but then catch up again during a vacation or holiday when I had a bit of extra time.

I was on vacation in Gatlinburg at the end of October when I finished the book of Nehemiah in another catch up session.  I checked the list and I had only Zachariah and Malachi left.

Wait.  Only 18 chapters?  And I was behind?  I knew there was a little extra time but I'd never added it up.

I went back and looked at the numbers and realized that, reading three and one every day, you finish reading in mid October.   

There are 1,179 chapters in the Bible, dividing that by 4 is 295 days. Which leaves 70 extra days.  So if you stick to'll finish in the late part of October.

Or, you can skip a day a week; 3 + 1 six days a week and you'll finish mid- December.

Or, you do what I did...realize you had two months to read fourteen chapters and spend some time doing other stuff, like writing a little study on a chapter in Exodus, so that you end up finishing with two days left.

I wouldn't recommend that approach; it was too easy to slack back.

Overall, though, I'd recommend this as a way to cover the Bible without getting too rigid about it.  There is a little slack time for vacations or extremely busy work seasons, or know, life stuff that happens.  I did keep a journal, so I knew where I was in the reading and what I had to do when I got behind.  And I kinda sorta read through it in Chronological order, with a bit of exception (for instance, I started the New Testament with John, which was one of the last books written, because it began with ' In the beginning'...just like Genesis, then just read all of John's writings...1,2 3 John and Revelation before going back to Matthew).  I looked at what dates scholars believed the books were written and followed that, reading two from OT narrative, one from the wisdom books and one from the NT.  When I finished the Wisdom books I started reading three a day from the given book, going from 2 Chronicles to the prophetic books dealing with the last days of the kingdom and the exile before going back to Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah, finishing with the post-exilic prophets.

If I had been just a little more pro-active, I'd've finished Malachi during Advent, which would work very well with the season.

I read through my (relatively) new, unmarked NIV '84, marking as I went.  I'm actually thinking of starting again on Jan 2 with the ESV and going through again.

Wonder if I could just keep repeating the cycle with a different translation for the next few years...hmmm....

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Burning Bush: An Advent Study...the Imperative and the Promise

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

When I decided to do the study based on Exodus 3, I had in mind four little posts...perfect for Advent.  But, as I was actually writing it, I realized there is a fifth post that I couldn't ignore.

God told Moses...I have seen, I have heard, I am concerned, I have come.   Those were the phrases that echoed in my spirit as I considered what I would post this year.  Then a couple of weeks ago, another phrase crept in that was just as insistent.

See, He also told him something else...

"So now, go.  I am sending you...." ...And God said, "I will be with you...I will help you." Ex. 3:10a, 12a, 4:12a.

That sounds a little bit familiar, too.  Kind of like

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  - Matt 28:19 - 20

Here's what struck me...God's presence isn't just to make us feel better or get us out of trouble.

His presence is to empower us to do things beyond our natural abilities, for the purpose of freeing others.

We can't celebrate the coming of the Christ Child without accepting that responsibility.

That's a point that I will probably be pondering well into 2018.

Maybe I should move that bit of artwork to a more prominent place, to remind me that I am not just saved and delivered, I am also sent.

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to my fellow Sent Ones!

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Christmas Soundtrack...

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Mardel asked about Christmas Music on her blog; I started to answer in the comments and then realized it was WAY too long for a comment; better to just do a

We have accumulated quite a collection of Christmas CD's over the years; and we have a 5-CD changer, so the music goes in and stays for a bit, then slowly gets rotated out.  That's been the SOP since, oh, forever long as we've had a 5 CD table (and this is the second one...).

And of course, there are Rules.   Christmas music goes into the CD the day after Thanksgiving, but it's obscure Christmas music.  Not-very-Christmassy Christmas music.  Stuff that is new and unfamiliar, or rather untraditional, or annoying to certain members of the family.  The mix changes frequently with less popular stuff in the changer.

That is the mix until Dec. 1.  On December 1st, some Mannheim Steamroller will enter the mix.  Some Narada.  Straight No Chaser.    I try to keep one instrumental group, one solo/acoustic instrumental, one a capella  group in the mix as we start in with the music that we love.

But the SERIOUS Christmas music...the stuff that was on the cassette tapes that we listened to when making the drive to and from Indiana for Christmas all those years we drove up with the kids...that doesn't go into the changer until the last week of Advent.

The Christmas Day list (or New Year's Day, depending on when we were actually in our house) hasn't changed since we got the 1st 5-disc changer, I don't think.

The inaugural Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CD, Andy Williams, Charlie Brown, a delightful (pun intended) CD I picked up from a bin at the Christian bookstore sometime in the early 90's from the Oklahoma Woodwind quintet (and I've looked for other recordings by that group with no luck).  I managed to find a couple of more copies the following year and gave them as gifts; it's a favorite from everyone in the family who has it.  And, finally, John Denver and the Muppets.

This was the playlist the kids liked growing up; it's what's in the CD player when we celebrate.

After Christmas, I still leave in seasonal music through Epiphany....or when I have to take the trees down, if I have to before Jan 6.  But it's all instrumental and sometimes just winter-related.  Windham Hill has a series called 'Winter Solstice' that is particularly nice.

Funny how traditions get hung up on even small details.  But maybe that's the point of traditions...

Enjoy your Christmas soundtrack...whatever it is!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Burning Bush: An Advent Study - "I Have Come"

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

So I have come down to rescue them... Ex. 3:8a

Is there a more succinct summation of the reason we celebrate Christmas than that simple statement made in Exodus?

Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.  - Matt. 1:20a-21

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14

But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense -- Jesus Christ the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. - 1 John 2: 1a-2

He has come down to rescue us.

Exodus 3 goes on to describe the rescuing that would happen in Moses' day.  Generalizing a bit, God stated he would rescue the people from their oppressors and take them from the place of slavery to freedom in a land of peace and plenty.

Jesus replied, 'I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin...if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.' - John 8:34,36

There is a huge difference between the rescue through Moses and the rescue through Jesus, though; the Exodus records deliverance of a people as they collectively followed  God's voice through Moses.  The deliverance Jesus offers, however, is personal.  Sure, His sacrifice was on behalf of the entire world that was, that is and that is to come, but it is not a collective deliverance.  It is individual.  Available for each person, who must respond from his or her heart.  It's all too easy to focus on Jesus as a baby and forget that he grew up,  deliberately acted to ensure that ALL the scriptures were fulfilled, and died a most gruesome death.  Because he came to rescue us.

So in the midst of the final Christmas preparations, as we commemorate the coming of Jesus as a baby,  let's remember the bit of the story that he told us to remember...His death.

He has rescued us.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' -- which means, 'God with us.' - Matt. 1:23; / Isaiah 7:14.

HE has come.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Burning Bush: An Advent Study - 'I am Concerned'

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

NIV -  I am concerned about their suffering; KJV - I know their sorrows. (Ex. 3:7c)

Strong's 3045 - Yada' - in the Qal Perfect tense, an action completed -   to know, to perceive and see, find out and discern, to know by experience, to recognize, to consider

Strong's 4341 - Mak'ob - a plural noun - pain (physical and/or mental), sorrow

This whole verse has always been one that gave me a selah moment.  The God of Heaven actually gets concerned about those He loves.  He knows their sorrows.  He is not a disinterested observer.  He cares.

He cared about His people suffering abuse in Egypt.  He cared about His people being oppressed under the Romans.

And he cares...he is concerned...he knows by experience...the grief and pain and sorrow and labor of all of us.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are... (Heb. 4:14a).

He knows.  He understands.  He cares.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Burning Bush: An Advent Study - 'I Have Heard'

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
'...I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers,...'  Ex 3:7b, NIV 84.

Strong's says that 'have heard' is entry 8085, Shama', which means  to hear intelligently (often with the implication of attention, obedience, etc.).  It is the Qal Perfect tense, which indicates a completed action.

'crying out' is actually a noun, Tsa'aqah, Strong's 6818, a shriek.  Bible Study Tools dotcom renders it a cry of distress (especially as heard by God).  

 'because of',  Strong's 6440, is Paniym, which means face, person or presence 

and finally, 'slave drivers' ('taskmasters in KJV and ESV) is Nagas, Strong's 5065, which is, with the participle,  driver, taskmaster, ruler, oppressor, tyrant, lord, exacter of tribute.

I have heard their cry of distress in the face of their oppressors is a fair translation.

They were sorely oppressed by the Egyptians.  The first century Jews were sorely oppressed (including the exaction of tribute) by the Romans.

God heard their cry of distress.

So...what is oppressing you this Advent season?  Is there a tyrant exacting tribute?  Maybe not a person, but...a habit?  A frame of mind?  Fear or anxiety?  Exhaustion?

He is paying attention to your distress cry as you face your oppressor.  Just has He has indeed seen...He has also heard.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Burning Bush: An Advent Study - 'I Have Seen'

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people" - Ex. 3:7a, NIV 84

Not really just 'seen', but 'indeed seen' or, as it is rendered in the ESV, KJV, NASB and AMP, 'I have surely seen'.  Mr. Zodhiates shows a verb construction that includes an affirmative complement to the verb, an almost redundant emphasis.

The verb rendered 'have seen' is Strongs' 7200, ra'ah.  This particular tense is rendered as to see, perceive, have a vision, look at, regard, look after, learn about, observe, watch, look upon, look out, find out, consider, give attention to, discern, distinguish, gaze at.  Not a casual glance, but a true comprehension.  Emphasized.  God not only saw, He understood.

 And what is it that He truly saw?

The Hebrew word is 'oniy (Strong's 6040), which is rendered as affliction, poverty or misery.

Affliction - 1) a state of pain distress or grief ; 2) a cause of continued mental or bodily pain
Poverty - 1) the state or condition of having  little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor, indigence; 2) lack of something specified 3)deficiency of desirable  ingredients, qualities, etc. 4) scantiness; insufficiency 
Misery - 1) wretchedness of condition or circumstances 2) distress caused by need, privation or poverty 3) great distress of mind; extreme unhappiness 4) a cause or sources of distress; 5) pain  
(definitions from the Random House Collegiate Dictionary)

All of which applied to the Israelites in Egypt...and, also, by and large, to the Israelites under the Roman rule, paying taxes to the Romans,  being subjected to their rule, having little national autonomy.

In this Advent season, maybe you need a reminder that God has surely seen your misery, affliction, and poverty.  And, just as the Israelites looked forward to the deliverance of God, Advent is our season to anticipate His deliverance in our own lives.

Because, know this:  God has indeed seen.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Burning Bush: An Advent Study

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I've been pondering the approaching Advent season, wondering what approach I'd like to take in reflecting on the season.

If you've been around here long, you know I tend to be somewhat... unconventional... in my Advent musings.

This year turned out to be no different.  The refrain that I heard repeated in my spirit when I considered Advent was  ...I have seen, I have heard, I am concerned, I have come.

 Of course, this is from Moses' encounter with God in Exodus chapter 3:

The LORD said, 'I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt, I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them...'  Ex. 3: 7 - 8a, NIV84

That is a nice little four part statement, worth exploring for the four Fridays of Advent.

Dec 1 - I have seen
Dec 8 - I have heard
Dec 15 - I am concerned
Dec 22 - I have come

Dunno how deep or how profound this will end up, but then, that's the fun of it.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Popping In

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Just a note, really, because it's been way too long since I posted here!

My Sweet Babboo had some rather major surgery on Wednesday to remove a cyst.  Turned out to NOT be the type of cyst they had believed; it was somehow related to they lymphatic system and appeared to be attached to the pericardium (sac around the heart). But it was completely benign and now it is gone.

But he had a huge incision wrapping around his right shoulder blade to his ribs and, after he spent a couple of nights in the hospital being monitored,  yours truly now has nursing duty...keeping a soak-it-up pad over the drain site and cleaning the glued-up incision a couple of times a day.

Something of a challenge for someone who's been known to get woozy at the sight of blood.  But so far so good.  I have noticed that his persistent cough seems to have disappeared...which was what started the whole journey.  So that's a praise!

 I will share one  note...the instructions for his first day post op were to walk 5 laps around the hall on the floor.  (19 laps is one mile).  I spent most of the afternoon with him; we did a fair bit of walking,on top of what he'd done before I got there.  When
I left to go to choir practice about 5:30 PM, he had walked 90 laps.  He asked them what the record was, and they told him they thought it was 105. You know he had to beat it.  He ended up with 120 before the evening was over.

And that, my friends, is why his FCF moniker is 'Walkin' Stick'... :-)

'Walkin' Stick' in full gear for Buckskin testing September 2014

Thinking about the coming Advent season and a new little devo for the month.  Hopefully I can pull that off. ;-)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Life and Stuff

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

The most recent sunset picture, taken from the front sidewalk, since the sunset has now moved too far south to be seen clearly from the porch.

Despite my best efforts, I'm not getting to the 'new post' page nearly as often as I'd like.  So a little bit of catching up...

This was the first real week of moving stuff from our current church building, where we've been since 2003, to the new building ...a 50-year-old retired high school.  We cleaned out the attic storage, some closets, the high bay construction area...anything that isn't going to be actively needed for ministry in the next three months.   We have to be out of the building...which has been sold to a church who has been setting up and tearing down in a local high school every week and is READY to have a building...on Feb 1.  But our new sanctuary won't be ready until May.  So we'll add an extra service and have four every Sunday in the theater...which is only about 17 years old and in great shape but only seats 750.

The decision has just been made to move the offices on December 15, so we can have a decent Christmas rest and then spend January basically cleaning out the rest of the building.  I've no idea what that last service is going to look like.  It's going to be bittersweet but we outgrew that building, like, three times and just kept making extension campuses to hold the overflow.

So I'll be packing up my office pretty soon...bringing home my personal stuff and generally getting the rest ready to haul.

Because that first bit of December is kind of up in the air for us.

My Sweet Babboo has had some off and on health issues for a very long time.  For the last year, it's been more on than off and he finally got sent to a specialist who did a CT scan and found a bronciogenic (the spell check doesn't recognize that and I'm too lazy to google it again; the spelling's close) cyst between his windpipe and the upper lobe of his right lung.  It's a birth defect.  He's had it his whole life...which could be the explanation for a lot of things.  The cyst itself is not a dangerous thing, but they can grow/turn into other stuff so the medical protocol is to remove them.  But it's too deep for laparoscopic surgery so...full on cut-through-back-muscles surgery that the dr says will have him in the hospital for threeish days and out of work for likely a month, although he can work from home as he feels up to it.  That will be just before Thanksgiving.  I'll likely be working from home as well, just to be around if needed for the first couple of weeks or so.  So I'm not sure how much packing I dare leave until after the surgery. Or how much Christmas shopping.  Or any other thing that requires time and attention.

Needless to say, our plans to travel to Indiana for Christmas have changed, although the kids might still make the trip to spend the holiday with their grandparents.   So anyway you look at it, this is going to be a season.

Gonna be tough to get everything in the Annual Christmas Epistle, I think...

'Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness...the LORD is good to those whose hope is in him...'  -- Lamentations 3:21-23, 25a  NIV84

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Christian Message

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I stumbled across a linked up post on social media in the last week or so that has had my stomach churning.  I haven't been able to focus on writing a blog post because I wanted so much to answer the accusations made, but I didn't trust myself to do so coherently.  I still may not make a good pass at it, but I've waited about as long as I can wait.  I don't like to go too long without some kind of post and since this is the thing that has had me stewing, sigh, I'm gonna have to address it.

It would be tedious to track it down again;  but the gist of the post was that Evangelic Christianity is not authentic Christianity but is, in fact, toxic, and should be destroyed.  But what I could not understand is that the author was not rejecting the idea of following Jesus but just the message of sinful mankind requiring a savior.  I don't have a clue what the author thought of the Bible; I can't for the life of me imagine how anyone could make a consistent Biblical argument against what is basically the meta-narrative of the entire collection of 66 books.

But, Barna tells us that a shockingly small percentage of folks actually claim to believe the Bible is, in the words of the Statement of Faith that we repeated over and over again in Friends and Girls Only clubs, 'the inspired and only infallible and authoritative written word of God'.

This is where I get totally flummoxed.  I can understand someone not agreeing with the doctrines of Christianity...that is, after all, the freedom of choice.  But what I don't get is someone who wants to be a Christ-follower while rejecting the very documentation that provides the foundation for the faith. That simply does not make sense. If one rejects the authority of the Bible...what is left upon which to base one's faith? 

Not much.  Without the Bible, there really is no Christianity.  So to reject the Bible, but yet claim to be Christian...doesn't make sense.

The Christian Message...that Adam and Eve chose disobedience and passed that inclination down to all their offspring, rendering human kind unable to enter the presence of God (an aside...can you take darkness into light?  What happens to the darkness when the light comes on?  Likewise a person cannot come into the presence of God with unrepented, unatoned sin..because sin cannot coexist with the holiness of God.)  Because God loves the humans that He created, He himself became a human, to live the sinless life that we could not live and pay the wages sin demands so that people could receive His righteousness in place of sin and so be able to live in His presence.  He works in those who do so to transform their thoughts, desires and behaviors so they conform to Him.  In the end, the eternal spirit of each person will dwell with God if they have allowed him to remove their sin and follow Him as Lord ...or ...elsewhere...if they did not.

Of course, there's lots of details I've left out for the sake of brevity, and I'm not going into the weeds of one one denomination or another believes regarding those details, but in a nutshell...that's the Evangelic Christian message.  I won't deny that there are many folks who have taken the message and twisted it and used it to advance their own agendas, or that those folks haven't managed to all but obliterate the purity of the Gospel at times.  But the message of the Gospel...that God loves people and desires to walk in relationship with one of love and hope.

The idea of destroying a message of hope and love...that, to me, sounds toxic.

Sigh.  I don't feel like I've really expressed what I wanted to express. But maybe it's a start.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Stay The Course...Around the Bend

A slightly overexposed IG pic of the She Tent at the 2017 Seeking His Embrace conference.  
The paper flowers were all handmade by volunteers and were A.May.Zing.

The answer to my last post's questioning was Friday morning prayer, in the Session Messages, in the sermon by our guest speaker on Sunday following the conference and again in our Pastor's sermon this past Sunday:

Don't let the discouragement that you are experiencing distract you from the purpose God has for you.

I don't think it could have been more plain to me if someone had called me out of the congregation for a prophetic word.

And, I really and truly am on the edge of New Stuff.  Not that I need to walk away from anything now, but that I need to buckle down and  be ready because I'm about to be stretched.

Item one...the Life Group semester has found me teaching a half a dozen or so folks who want to be able to get into the Bible for themselves.  We just had our second class last night and they amazed me...they had all done the homework!  And they were finding applications for themselves!  After just one week!  I was blinking back tears, which kinda surprised me,  as I watched the lightbulbs flash on.

I didn't do that.  I just opened the door.  They walked through and the Holy Spirit made it real.

I had forgotten what it was like to watch that happen.

Item two...we're about to kick off a new ministry in the evenings, twice a month during life group semesters, for women.  A chance walk through the fellowship hall during the life group sign up in the spring landed me in the position at the end of the summer to be invited to join the team to make that evening study happen.

And I'm going to have to go out on a limb and build relationships.  If you've been around here long, you know I've backed away over and over again from that relationship thing. But this is where I am and that is what is needed and...I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.  I've got to push past that gut level retreat into that new place of service.

And I saw a floorplan of the office space in the high school that we're renovating.  One whole classroom 'pod' (yeah, the high school dates from that is being dedicated to staff offices.  I really figured I'd be in a large classroom with 3 - 5 other folks, but I saw my name on an actual office with a door.  I won't have to pack my office and stuff...up.  I'm going to on be on the hall with the IT crew instead of the Finance ladies, which is going to be a little different.

It made it feel...almost scary close...the move is coming.  Instead of being out there on the's actually closer than the horizon now.    Conversations are starting to not be 'when we get to Butler' but about events that are going to happen after the move.  Deep breaths.

Change is coming. And I'm not going to let the enemy throw discouragement and frustration at me.  Not at this point.

But I still need a new phone.

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 level one and level two 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 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 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 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 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,

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 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! 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 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. 
Fits of rage
Selfish Ambition

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:


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 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'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 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 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 a gut level... the grief and concern and even agony Paul was experiencing  over the church at Galatia. 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 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 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 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. 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 lead us to Christ (v.24) so that we could be justified...made 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

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 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, 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 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?