Wednesday, September 6, 2017

When Change is Coming

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ok. It's a rant.

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

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

True Christians will denounce the sin of racism!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 25, 2017

Toe in the classroom water again...

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

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

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, to the lexicons...

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

There are a few more last minute instructions.

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

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

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

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

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

...what counts is a new creation.

And Paul leaves his readers to ponder that.

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

Yes and amen.


Friday, July 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Faithfulness
Self-control

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

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

By living according to the Spirit.

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

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vs 5:1 -  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.


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

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

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