Friday, December 31, 2010

God Sent His Son

God Sent His Son

Galatians 4:4-7 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”  So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

 This is the last day of 2010 and these verses are very apropos to the occasion because many people view the end of one year and the beginning of another to try and change their lives for the better.  People make all sorts of 'resolutions' but by and large people see something wrong in their life or perhaps some place where they are falling short and quite naturally, they want to better themselves.  Sometimes this process does not go as intended.

Paul previously has chastised the Galatians for trying to better themselves because the result of what they achieved fell far short of what they already had.  It seems that we all can learn from this and these verse explain how if we listen to them with God's ears.

What is interesting about these verses that Paul has written here is that they are totally what we need to hear when we start making all these resolutions for improvement.  "...when the set time had fully come..."  How many times do we want to rush things?  I remember seeing a calendar one time.  You know the kind.  It was one with animals on it in funny poses and there was a funny caption to each one.  One of the months show an baby orangutan who was look upward and shaking his fist.  It was a funny pose. The caption said, "Lord, I want patience and I wand it NOW!" Funny right? But isn't this what we do sometimes too?  We see a fault in ourselves and we look to God shaking our fist and say, "Lord I want (fill_in_the_blank) and I want it NOW!".

When God the Father sent Jesus to earth to fullish His ministry, it was exactly the right time.  Not too soon and not too late. It was perfect.  The results speak for themselves. Jesus died on the cross and thus fulfilled prophecy and presented himself a spotless substitute for our own deaths and sins. We have salvation full and free. Paul said because of this, " are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. "

What I am trying to say is that sometimes we have to wait until God himself helps us with our goals and aspirations.  No matter what we do or want, if it isn't in God's timing, it will not be right.  So this year, if you happen to make those lists (I do not), but if you do, why not bring the Lord into it and pray about it first.  After all, God has pretty good timing, doesn't He? And he wants the best for us, right? So why not let go and let God?  I think your results will be spectacular!  Try it and see. What have you to lose?

Blessings ALL! and have a Happy and Blessed New Year!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Children of God

Children of God

Galatians 3: 26-29 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,  for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

 Paul has just got through explaining to the Galatians that they were foolish for going back to things of the Law such as circumcision because if you did, he said, you needed to keep the whole Law and not just one part. He goes on to state that if they did so, then faith would not be of any benefit to them.  This sets up a tension on the need for the Law at all. Paul explains that the Law was necessary in order to shut up sin. The Law was our guardian until grace appeared but once grace has come through faith we are released from the guardianship of the Law.

Then Paul gives us the beautiful pericope. Let us look at this in more detail.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,  for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

There are people today who believe that we are all children of God because we are all human beings and humans were made by God therefore we are all His children.  While it is true we were all made by God and all of us bear the image of God, albeit deformed and mangled because of sin and its effects, it certainly is not true, Biblically speaking, that we are all Children of God.  This phrase is reserved only for people who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and who have been born again. For example, when Jesus' disciples asked him how to pray, Jesus famously told them in Matthew 6:8-10 "Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray:    Our Father in heaven,  hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,  your will be done,  on earth as it is in heaven'... ."  People also like to call God their 'Father', but that word is reserved only for believers as the Lord's Prayer clearly states. Do not be fooled.  It is a hard thing, but there is a great difference between true believers and their relationship with God and between unbelieving humanity and their relationship with God.  The relationship will be even more distinct during the end of days.  True children of God are distinguished through their faith in Jesus Christ, as Paul points out.

 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Once we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are equals.  The Jew is equal to the Gentile...the slave is equal to the free person...the pastor is equal to the laity. There is no difference in God's eyes once we become His children. The Cross is the Great Equalizer. And praise the Lord for this! But wait...because we are all equal we must realize that this goes both ways now.  No longer can we point to someone and say, 'They should have been doing this or that..'.  Now it is all our responsibility too to do "This or That". Certainly we all have different gifts, but those to not exempt us from doing the things of the Kingdom.  We must all bear witness to Jesus in our lives to other people.  We must all defend the faith. We must all love one another. No, there is not exemption here.  No easy way out. We must all pick up our cross daily and follow Jesus.

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

 Oh the promises of God!  All the promises made to Abraham's seed are for everyone who is born again through Jesus Christ.  Why? Because we are adopted into the family! And what a glorious family we have!

Are you part of this family?  Will you enjoy all the benefits of being a child of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings?  If you are not, why not? Well I am, and would certainly love to call you brother or sister!

Blessings All!


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I'm Crucified

I'm Crucified

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This is one of my favorite verses in Galatians.  In it Paul gives the reason for his existence and why he is so zealous for the Lord. Let's look at it piece by piece.

1.  I have been crucified with Christ... 
Just like the thief on the cross next to Jesus, Paul states that he has been crucified with Christ. His flesh is dead; the old man is dead. Long live the new man. Why was Paul crucified to begin with? Being an adherent to the Law of Moses doomed him. When he realized the true reason for the Law, this set in motion a series of realizations which concluded with his condemnation.  You see, no matter how pure Paul was, it wasn't enough. No matter how much he followed the Law, it wasn't enough. There was no way for Paul to achieve absolute righteousness that the Lord required. But the good news? Christ was crucified for our sins!

2. ...and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
A great truth made even greater by the fact that Christ died for us and we must also die. Jesus said in John 12:24 "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." Jesus died on the cross. Paul died to sin and shame.  He was born again of the Spirit of God and new life breathed into his sinful bones. Literally, Christ living in us is what sustains our lives as Spiritual Beings.  I've heard it said we are not human beings on a spiritual journey, we are spiritual beings on a human journey.  In order for us to be the kind of spiritual beings that the Lord wants us to be, we MUST...again I say, MUST have the Spirit of the Lord living in us.  We can only do that if we die and are born again from the Spirit.  There is no other way according to God's Word...and that comes by means of and through Jesus, and Jesus alone. John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

3. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." John 15:13 What can be our response to such a love? What should be our response? Paul stated that he no longer lives his former life, a new life has been granted by virtue of the Holy Spirit. The life that he now has in the Spirit is sustained and made possible by faith in Jesus.  Since Jesus loved him and gave himself on the cross for Him, his life belongs to Him and he gladly uses it for His glory. 

My friend, what about you? Have you been crucified with Christ? Are you sustained by the Holy Spirit of God? Please, please, please...if you have not made a decision on following the Lord Jesus, make one today. Don't wait for tomorrow or next week: 2 Corinthians 6:2 For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

Make Jesus yours today!

Blessings all!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Different Gospel

A Different Gospel

Galatians 1:6-10
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Paul was under attack. Not only from complete non-believers, but especially, from people who claimed to be Christian. These people, known as the 'Judiazers' were telling the church of Galatia that Paul's Gospel was incomplete. Something was lacking in what he was preaching.

The real thing that they thought was lacking was that Paul's preaching did not include being Jewish and following the Jewish ceremonial food laws and other Jewish ceremonial laws such as circumcision. In other words, the Judiaizers were teaching a different Gospel from what Paul was teaching and were saying that because Jesus was Jewish, then to be a true Christian, you needed to be Jewish first and then you could become a true Christian.

Paul preached a Gospel of grace and grace alone to be saved. As he stated in his letter to the Ephesians 2:8-9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." There was no mention of being Jewish first.

Paul goes on in the 1st chapter to tell the Galatians about his former life as a Jewish Leader and how he first persecuted the church and tried to destroy it. Later when he was traveling to Damascus, Jesus himself appeared to him to reveal the true Gospel message and from that point forward, Paul was a changed man; Living for Jesus whom he preached to all the gentiles.

How about us today? Are we changing the Gospel message from that which we first received? Are we preaching "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast."? Do we add to the Gospel message?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we are faithful. We pray that you will keep us humble and true to your Word because your WORD is truth; Your WORD is LIFE. To add to that or subtract away from that is pure folly. Help us all to remember the Gospel message and live it out in Spirit and truth in such a way that when people see or hear us, the see and hear Jesus himself.
In Jesus' name and for His sake, Amen.

Blessings All!


Monday, December 27, 2010

Grace and Peace

Grace and Peace

Galatians 1

1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

In almost every letter that the Apostle Paul wrote, he set out to establish himself as a true Apostle. Make no mistake, it was important for him to reiterate this fact at every opportunity because there were those who were working against him and his ministry by saying he was just a charlatan, an impostor, who went out on his own and did not have the Lord's blessings as the original Apostles did.

As you may recall Paul, who was originally known as Saul, began as an enemy of the Church and went around arresting and even putting to death Christians who were preaching the Gospel. For more background on this, read Acts 7, 8 and 9.

However, Paul never stopped with just establishing his Apostleship among the brethren. He also went on to give them a blessing and to restate the Gospel message which he was spreading among the gentiles. This also is quite common for the letters that Paul wrote to other churches as well. Let's look at each of the phrases that make this up in Paul's letter to the Galatians.

Galatians 1:3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

Grace and peace. Who's grace and peace? God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Paul was not talking about his grace and peace. It would have been polite, but secular. Paul goes one step further in establishing his own relationship with the Lord. As his Apostle, is was within his power to grant the grace and peace that comes directly from the one who sent him. Apostle, means literally, the one who is sent, or the sent out one.

Do Christians today have the right to extend grace and peace to people? Absolutely! In fact, we are almost mandated to do that if we preach the Gospel or if we present the Gospel message to someone and ask them to follow Jesus, aren't we? How in the world can you ask someone to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior if you do not offer them the Lord's grace and peace? That is what Jesus did for us! We must do it for others as well.

Paul goes on to explain in the next 2 verses his rationale for offering this Grace and Peace.

Galatians 1: 4-5 ...who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Grace and Peace offered to us because of what the Lord himself has done, not by our will, but by the will of God the Father. And indeed to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen!

Blessings All


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

We had an awesome Christmas eve service at Church last night!

This morning I woke up at 3:00 AM. For me, that's a little late, but I was excited about Christmas and particularly, excited for my grandchildren. I get to see them later today when we bring the Christmas meal over to my son's place. There we will open presents, have a meal and have fun. I will be trying to impress on my 6 grandchildren that the reason we are celebrating, is because this is Jesus' Birthday. If it were not for Jesus, not one of these children would be here today. I can state that with absolute certainty of fact.

If it were not for Jesus, I may not even be here today. Jesus was the one, who, when he came into my life when I was 27 years old, changed me and brought about such a quantum change in my behavior, that I am convinced, that with out His loving kindness, I would have self-destructed. I am not alone. I know many people who have had the same experience.

So apart from all the eating, celebrating, gift-giving and craziness of this world today, think on this: Jesus came into this world cradled in his mother's arms, but he left on a Cross. He came into this world in darkness but He left this world with light. He came into this world unknown but He left this world to be known by many. He came into this world without friends and left this world alone, vowing to come back to His friends. Amen! Come Lord Jesus!

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There's just something about that name. Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there's just something about that name!

Blessings All!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Burned Toast

Burned Toast

You may be aware that I have been feeling under the weather the past few days. Nothing serious, just a bad cold that consists of common symptoms like a stuffy-head, sniffles, coughing and body aches. Bah humbug! I'm a man and men don't let these things stop them. My Dad would have made me run in the snow without a shirt or jacket and then would have sent me out in the woods to find my breakfast. He was TOUGH. Ex-Marine. Just their nickname, Leathernecks, brings to mind people who are beyond human.

However when you are like me, that couldn't be further from the truth. I'm a baby, at least when comparing myself to the former generation who went through the Great Depression and WW II. No comparison. But one thing my Mom used to do for me when I was young and sick with a cold like this, was to make me her "Special Poached Eggs". These were not your regular poached eggs...oh no! They were poached in whole milk in an old cast-iron pan on an old gas fired range, then set on a bed of toast...burned toast. And not just slightly burned..Oh no. Burned to a crisp...catch on fire burned...smoke filled kitchen burned...totally black.

Mom used to make burned toast for me every breakfast. She used to say that it was special toast. It would make my hair curly and black just like my Uncle Dave's hair. I really liked that idea. I had dishwater blond hair...straight as a board and greasy. Curly back hair would have been wonderful. It never happened.

Years later my mother confessed the reason she made burned toast was because her toaster had always burned the toast, especially if she forgot it. This was before the new toasters where you could set it for the doneness you wanted. It never popped up on it's own. If you left it in a minute too long, it would actually set fire to the bread. Rather than throw the toast away, she made up the story about changing my hair. I believed it, eventually enjoyed it, and my Mom saved money and effort.

To this very day, burned toast gives me comfort and brings back warm and fuzzy feelings about my mother, who always came through when I was sick. Even now, when I get sick, I make myself some poached milk and set on a bed of...burned toast. Not the same as Mom's, but still good.

How about you? What gives you comfort when things go wrong or you are sick? If there are certain things in this world, one of them is that it is not friendly and things will assuredly not go your way all the time. In the Biblical text there are many stories about this very thing. Read the story of Joseph when his own brothers took him and sold him into slavery. He never let it get him down. In fact, years later when he had rose to a prominent position in among the Egyptians, he never even held a grudge.

He stated in Genesis 50:19-21 But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. "So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

You see Joseph did not allow the circumstances of this world interfere with his mission. His mission was to glorify the Lord in whatever he matter the circumstances. In sickness or health, in good times or bad, it did not matter. What an example for us today. What an example for me when I feel sick and sorry for myself that the world is treating me wrong.

So again, I ask you, What is your burned toast?

Blessings all!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I am What I Have

I am What I have

I came across this interesting quote this morning.

Erich Fromm-- "If I am what I have and if I lose what I have who then am I?"

It brought to mind how we humans are so caught up in the world. I mean think of it.."I am what I have..." To many people this is the goal of life, to accumulate as much wealth and things as possible because after all, I am what I have and if I have more, then of course I am worth more and my status in the world grows proportionately. Bully!

But think about it a moment. This is exactly opposite of what Jesus taught, isn't it. Time and time again Jesus showed this thinking to be foolishness.

For the Christian, it is not what you have, but who you have, (and who has you!). It is not what you've accumulated, but what you have given away. It is not what you have stored up, but where you have stored it.

Indeed for the Christian, status in the world is already guaranteed. The Lord has said we all have status by virtue of us being children of God. We do not need to earn that. That is ours. As a Christian, we have the Seal of Redemption; The Holy Spirit of God living in us. The treasure we store, the most important treasure of all, our soul, we store in Heaven. As Jesus himself said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." Matthew 6:19-20

Maybe I was wrong at the beginning, maybe we are what we have. But what we have as Christians is not something we earn. What we have is not something we can brag about. What we have may not give us much status in this world. But what we have is priceless and was bought with a the greatest price that was ever paid.

Meditate on this during this Christmas time. Be thankful for what the Lord has done. Above all, take care of your treasure. The birthday we celebrate during this time of year was a gift to us, beyond measure.

Blessings All!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

12 Days of Christmas

12 days of Christmas

My cousin, who has always been a little whacky, but in recent years even more so, sent me this story about the 12 days of Christmas. I knew the song, almost everyone does, but did you know this?

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

-The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas pass it on if you wish.

Blessings all!