Sunday, January 23, 2011

Show No Favortisim

Show No Favoritism

Galatians 2:6 As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message.

As I read Paul's writings, I do get the impression that he was not the easiest person with which to get along.  This verse along with some others seem to confirm that suspicion. And then I am struck with the inevitable reality that we probably are much more reasonable and much easier to get a long with.  We are not so argumentative or brash and I wonder if that is right or wrong.

In our society today, you will be branded, labeled if you will, by others as being think-headed, stubborn, prejudiced, racist, homophobic, narrow-minded, simple, minded, stupid, ignorant, unreasonable and just plain wrong, if you disagree with them.  Who wants to be labeled as that?  Apparently Paul had no problem with that. Why? Because he was absolutely convinced that he was preaching the truth and that truth was the difference between eternal live and eternal death. Then I ask myself, "Is that really how we are today?"

Why wouldn't we be? Why shouldn't we be?  If the difference truly is the difference between life and death, and we really, truly believe that with all our heart, then I submit to you, more people should not like us.  More people ought to be calling us names and spitting in our faces.  If we truly are communicating the Gospel message, then where is the hate?  Where is the opposition? Where is the name calling in our lives?

The big thing now a days is tolerance. Not tolerance for differences of opinion, but tolerance of sin.  Sin is bad.  It is the thing that separates us from God.  If sin did not exist, we would not have any problems at all.  It is all because of sin that we need to sometimes be harsh in our communication of the Gospel message.  'Nice' just does not cut it all the time.

A balance? Absolutely!  But if I were to err, I must err toward the Truth as I see it in Scripture. Everybody who is searching for the truth, has a right to hear it.  I believe the truth of the Biblical message.  I believe in the truth of the Gospel and I believe in Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.

How about you? Are you communicating the truth of God's Word?  Are you really communicating the Gospel message?  And many friends do you have that aren't Christian? How many names have you been called? Hmmmm?

Blessings All!


Monday, January 17, 2011

The 9 Fruits: Part 4

I Want it NOW!

Galatians 5:19a The acts of the flesh are obvious...
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The 4th fruit we will talk about is forbearance. It is also known as patience or longsuffering. In the Greek and in the Hebrew this word conveys the notion of not getting all that you a good way.

I think of all the fruits of the Spirit, this is perhaps, the one that we could all use more.  I mean, just think of how this one fruit could change the way we do ministry or how we live our life.

I mentioned this one time before, so if you remember it, sorry, but its just too funny not to mention again.  I once saw a calendar with a picture of a baby orangutan and he was looking up to the sky and shaking his little hairy fist..."I want patience", it said "and I want it NOW!". Many jokes have been made of this because it is so universally needed.  Everyone will recognize their lacking of it in their own life.

In reality however, it is seldom funny.  It is seldom not needed.  And if you listen to the news on any given day, you can identify rhetoric which is laden with impatient harshness and over the top judgmentalism. We could all use a great big dose of it...and you know it.  Just ask my wife.  She will tell you how much I need it!

However, this fruit just does not stop at not saying harsh words and controlling the tongue.  Paul means that the Holy Spirit goes further...much further.  He goes straight to the heart.   Like God who has forbearance and patience and does not give everyone what they truly deserve, but is merciful and loving, so we, as Christ's ambassadors, must exercise the same.

So as my wife said just the other day when talking to someone who did her a wrong...she said she stopped before saying anything and said a short silent prayer..."Lord please show me how I can show YOU in me when I talk to the person."  It is that simple.  Give it to the Lord.  Remember what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit,  "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."  He will not leave you . He will not abandon you. He will be with you till the very end.

Blessings all!


Monday, January 10, 2011

The 9 Fruits: Part 3

The 9 Fruits
Part 3: Peace

Galatians 5:19a The acts of the flesh are obvious...
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

"The word "peace" comes from the Greek word eirene, the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word shalom, which expresses the idea of wholeness, completeness, or tranquility in the soul that is unaffected by the outward circumstances or pressures."  (Sparkling Gems from the Greek, Rick Renner)

Paul started out almost all of his letters with "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ".  He did the same with the Galatians, but he went a step further as well.  He gave them the reason of the grace and peace..."who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father".

Paul was addressing the Church in Galatia.  It was a church that was characterized by many things, but 'peace' was not one of them.  It was a church in conflict since Paul left after he planted them during his missionary journeys through the area. Paul was indeed announcing to them that the fruits of the Spirit, which they should have already possessed, was not one of the things that he saw, but it was a state which he had hoped they would one day attain.

The Bible says much about peace in general, but it says many more things about a particular type of peace...the peace of God.  This peace is promised to all who trust in the Lord. "But wait!", you might say. "Didn't Jesus say that he didn't come to bring peace?"  True. So how do we reconcile this fact?  I think Jesus was talking about peace with the world.  He said to not expect peace that the world gives, because as his disciples, we would be treated as he was treated.  He did not know peace with the world and neither would we.  However, we would have the peace that comes with a right relationship with God.  It was the only peace we would experience, but it would be more than enough.

When Jesus came, he told his disciples it would be better for them that he would go away, because then the Father would send the the paracleton...literally, the 'beside caller...the one who walks besides us..The Consoler...the Comforter....the Holy Spirit.  The disciples did not know what Jesus was talking about at the time but they did now.  Paul elaborates that this Comforter...this Hold Spirit gives us gifts which the Father has bestowed on the Disciples of his Son.  Peace was one of these 9 gifts.

Imagine what a precious gift this was in a world full of violence.  It was, as Paul stated in his letter to the Philippians, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  It was a gift beyond compare.  A rest, a comfort, a total release of anxiety because we do not need to worry about our salvation.  Whatever happens, whether we live or die; whether we have much or are wanting; whether we are liked by the world or not, we still have Jesus.  We can hold fast to that promise no matter what.

How about you?  If you are a Christian, do you realize what a precious gift that the Holy Spirit has given you?  Do you realize that you already have the Peace of God?  Many do not. But it's never too late to experience this.  Give your anxieties...all of your insecurities over to Him.  He cares for you.

If yo are not a Christian...if you do not believe that Jesus died for your sins, how much peace do you have?  Is your life full of worry?  Do you long for the rest and peace that trusting in God provides?  Why don;t you start by reading the Bible and see if the evidence there might not convince you?  Try reading the Gospel of John first.  If you don't want to read the first chapter (I always believe it is better) why not try chapter 14 first?  This chapter will give you  a taste of how Jesus love his disciples and how he took care of them.  Great stuff.

Wherever you are at, I encourage you to read the Bible.  I am not concerned where you start or how much of it you read.  God is in every word.  You will know it once you start.

Blessings All!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The 9 Fruits: Part II

Part II: Joy

Joy: Greek word, chara. (Pronounced Kara)

Galatians 5:24a But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy....

Again we find that the Biblical concept of Joy goes way beyond what our definition would be today.  It is not necessarily just a feeling of happiness, although that is part of it.  Paul here is bringing into the equation both the Old Testament concept of Joy and the contemporary meaning in Greek society as the original hearers would have understood it.

First, let's look at some of the ways that this word is used in the Old Testament.  This is a small sampling.  There are many, many views of Joy in the Old Testament and New Testament alike.

1) Rejoicing in the Lord because of His deliverance.  (1 Samuel 2:1)

2) A feeling of Joy and rejoicing because of the Lord's Provision. (Psalms 4)

3) Righteousness given by the Lord brings joy.  (Psalms 97)
4) The feeling one has because the Lord will justify His People, but will punish the wicked. (Isaiah 65)
5) The feeling of security one has because the Lord is taking care of them. (Zechariah 10)

The New Testament likewise uses the concept of Joy in a full way as well.  Here are some examples.

1) The Joy one has when they are with the bridegroom. (Cf. Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:19; Mark 2:20; Luke 5:34; Luke 5:35)
2) The Feeling we have when we have belief and faith. (1 Peter 1:8)
3) They rejoice when the suffer trials because of identification with Jesus' sufferings and the fact that he will  come again.. (1 Peter 4:13, Hebrews 10:34)
4) They have joy in the HOPE we have in Jesus. (Romans 12)
5) The Joy that is felt...even in the unborn, when in the presence of Jesus. (Luke 1:43-45)

The point here is that there are many nuances to the word JOY.  All of these are used to define the 2nd fruit of the Spirit.  The people that Paul was writing to would have realized each of them.  We must not allow our narrow definitions and concepts of the words to limit what the Spirit gives.

It is also important to remember that Joy, in our human condition is limited.  However, as a fruit of the Spirit, it is not limited.  So while we experience the Joy as  a fruit of the Spirit now, we will fully realize its scope when we meet the LORD face to face.  At that time, our joy will be made complete.

May all of you who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ experience the fullness of Joy that the Lord has given to each of you.

Blessings All!


Monday, January 3, 2011

The 9 Fruits: Part 1

The 9 Fruits
Part I

Galatians 5:19a The acts of the flesh are obvious...
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Love! Joy! Peace!  They sounds so new age when they are said alone, but the Holy Spirit did not leave
them standing alone and Paul, mindful of that, sets these words as a counter to the warning he stated
about the flesh. The works of the flesh are bondage to sin, Paul warns but to know someone of the Spirit
of God, you need to know what kind of actions will be characteristic of such a person. We will examine
these characteristics in parts.

Part I. Love

It is important to realize that Paul was not talking about these in the vacuum of the World, or in the
way the world perceives these words. Paul was talking about them in the context of Christians filled
with the Holy Spirit. People who by name and action belong to the Lord Jesus Christ and do not follow
the ways of the flesh. Paul previously stated what those people are characterized by and their fate as
well. No. Paul indeed was talking here and giving us insight into the heart and character of a True

Love: Greek word, agape (ah-gah-pay). In the Greek New Testament text there are 3 words used for LOVE. Philos, eros, and agape. There is a 4 word, Stego, which is not used in the Biblical text, but in Greek
contemporary writings.
Phileo means 'brotherly-type love'. We get our word for the Pennsylvania city of Philadelphia directly
from this word. The City of Brotherly Love.
Eros, you can well imagine the direct English translation of the meaning of this word.  From it we
derive 'erotic' love and lust.
Stegos, likewise we have Stag. No, not the deer, but one of the more archaic meanings, like in Stag
Party..a social gathering of men only.

'Agape' most Christians have heard about. It means love in a selfless and self sacrificial way. It is
love that is unconditionally given. Love that is always given and never taken. It is the very love that
Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter..."Love is patient, love is kind. It does not
envy, it does not boast, it is not proud..." It is the love the we, as humans can not hope to exhibit
apart from the spirit of God, for as John said, 1 John 4:8 "Whoever does not love does not know God,
because God is love."

Do not be mistaken. There are many types of 'love' in this world, but there is only one type of love
that will spearate us from the rest and this is the love of God. Without this characteristic, God would
not be God and we would not be Christians. So you realize how important these characteristics are? Do
not throw them aside lightly.

I leave you to ponder the words of Paul to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthains 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Blessings All!


Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Entire Law

The Entire Law

Galatians 5:13-14  You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Freedom.  It is something we all long for from the time we are born. You don't believe me? Just watch a toddler. I have had a lot of opportunity to do this not so much with my kids, because let's face it, when you are young and have kids, you are so busy just being a parent, you seldom have time to observe.  I have had more of an opportunity to observe children as my grandchildren.  I see them when they struggle to do things by themselves, but they will not ask for help. They prefer to exercise the freedom they think they have.  We do the same thing.

Paul says that we "were called to be free." The freedom that he is talking about is true freedom. The freedom to say no.  Paul has previously stated that the reason of the Law was to bring sin to light and to hold us accountable.  In that state we had no opportunity to say no to sin.  It was there consuming us like some disease eating away from the inside out.  Jesus has removed the disease; he has cured us.  Now we have a choice.  Will we use that choice for good or evil?

Just like in the Old Testament when the Lord told the Israelites,  "This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live."  Deuteronomy 30:19. Read the whole chapter, it will be good. Pauls tells the Galatians to choose life. Do not use this opportunity that we have to say no to sin, to say yes to the flesh.

This is a hard thing to do isn't it? I know in my own life, this has been one of the toughest things to not only grasp but also to keep and hold.  I still mix up my version of freedom with the Lord's definition of freedom. But if we look further in the passage, Paul also gives us the key to remembering this truth.

"... serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself."   This freedom we have, if we ever get confused, is to be exercised by serving one another in love.  The whole Law, he says, can be summed up with just keeping one command. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love is funny that way.  At least Biblical love.  The love that Jesus had.  The love that Paul had and was advocating.  Love in that manner wipes out all the issues in your life that you think are insurmountable.  That is the love we need to exercise.  That is the love we need to find.  That is the love that brings true freedom from sin and guilt and the need to indulge the flesh.  It is what we need, and not us is the love that the whole world needs.

This year put aside all else and see if you can exercise this type of love everyday.  The more you do it, the easier it will become.

Blessings All!


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christ is Freedom!

Christ is Freedom!

Galatians 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.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie, Days of Thunder.
Dr. Claire Lewicki: (Played by Nicole Kidman said to Cole Trickle, Tom Cruise) Control is an illusion, you infantile egomaniac. Nobody knows what's gonna happen next: not on a freeway, not in an airplane, not inside our own bodies and certainly not on a racetrack with 40 other infantile egomaniacs.

We all want to be in control don't we?  It feels good. It feels right. Let me tell you right now control is not all what it is cracked up to be. With control comes the responsibility of making your own decisions and then owning up the the consequences of those decisions.  Sure we have to take responsibility for the decisions we make, but it sure is unfair for us to take consequences of decisions we do not make. So the trick is to find someone who, when they make decisions for you, they make the absolute right decisions and they have your best interest in mind.

Now when I make decisions, I absolutely have my best interests in mind, no question about it.   However, I can say with a great deal of conviction that I do not always make the right decisions.  How about you?  Have you ever made a mistake? I know I have, but I also know who hasn't made a mistake. Not one mistake. Ever. Who, you may ask?  Jesus that is who I am talking about. Jesus never made a mistake. Jesus is for us.

Paul says to the Galatians, "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"  Jesus has already done the work.  He has already made the decision and now they want to take it all back.  They want to go backward instead of forward.  They want to take control rather than releasing all control to Jesus.  Why do people do that?  It's because they want to have some control. They want to be able to exalt themselves rather than God.  This is a totally human reaction and one that is common, but it also one we must fight with all our heart.  Once we have released it to Jesus, trying to take it back again is pure folly.  I know.  Every time I have done that, the results have been disastrous.

Jesus has done it all. There is no need for us to add to it or to subtract from it.  It is perfect and complete as it stands.  It is, as they say, what it is. Let go and Let God.

I am speaking to Christians now, so if you ever find yourself wanting to take back control  from God, relax.  That is something we all want to do.  But don't do it.  To do so would deny Jesus' work on the cross.  And if you are not a Christian, and have been struggling for some time with control, relax too...and give your life over to Jesus. Make that decision and see if I am not right and this is just what you need.

In another post we will examine the issue of faith and the part that reason  plays in all this, but for now, remember faith is the end it is always enough.

Blessings all!