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?