Sunday, October 31, 2010

Purpose in Suffering (Psalm 119)

[NOTE: I’ll be back in Galatians tomorrow, but I’m taking a quick break. Mostly because I really need today’s words.]

Psalm 119 ...

Remember the word to Your servant,
In which You have made me hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction,
That Your word has revived me.
(vv. 49-50)
May Your compassion come to me that I may live,
For Your law is my delight.
(v. 77)
Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations;
You established the earth, and it stands.
They stand this day according to Your ordinances,
For all things are Your servants.
If Your law had not been my delight,
Then I would have perished in my affliction.
I will never forget Your precepts,
For by them You have revived me.
(vv. 90-93)

So much suffering in our world. Natural disasters. Disease. Abuse. Criminal activity.

It makes Paul’s words to the Philippians truer than ever: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain … For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:21, 23).

The older I get and the frailer my body becomes, the more I long to be in the arms of my heavenly Father.

But as long as God keeps me on earth, I know He has a purpose for my being here. And I know this because of His word to me. Verses like Jeremiah 29:11 remind me that He indeed has a plan for my life.

And verses like those highlighted today help me to better handle times of affliction. God is faithful, and He holds me tightly through my pain. I can read words of comfort throughout the Bible, and I am revived.

I wonder sometimes how those who don’t know Jesus survive affliction. If they don’t see a purpose in their pain, why bother?

I know, for me at least, Psalm 119:92 rings very true:

If Your law had not been my delight,
Then I would have perished in my affliction.

I pray for everyone who suffers. I pray they’ll delight in God’s word. And remember that He does have a purpose for the pain. We may never know this side of heaven what that purpose is, but He does have a purpose.

He promises.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-21)

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
(Galatians 5:16-21, NASB)

Why do so many who call themselves Christians live in habitual sin? It seems there are two reasons: Either they’re ignorant of what the Bible says are “deeds of the flesh” or they’re not being led by the Spirit.

Many people who have accepted God’s gift of salvation through belief in and acceptance of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection haven’t spent much time in God’s word. They have a sincere faith, but they’re still “baby Christians.” In other words, they just don’t know any better.

However, once they grow in faith and study and meditate on God’s word, they begin to see how their behavior is contrary to God’s will for their lives. They seek to behave in ways that please their heavenly Father.

On the other hand, some who once made an “altar call decision” to follow Christ didn’t really commit their lives to Him. Oh, they may still go to church on Sunday and say grace before meals. They may carry their Bible and say “amen” in the appropriate places. They may serve on committees and volunteer their time to help others.

But in the privacy of their homes, they “practice” sin. They live in habitual sin—and they know it.

Only God knows the heart, but one has to wonder: If I knowingly sin, if I deliberately do something the Bible clearly says is wrong, if I ignore the prompting of the Spirit … am I really a follower of Christ? Are you?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Love Others (Gal. 5:14-15)

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
(Galatians 5:14-15, NASB)

Imagine what this world would be like if we all followed this simple commandment.

No thefts. No rapes. No murders.

No arguments over property lines. No one cutting off another in traffic.

No cheating. No lying. No backstabbing.

Instead, people would share with one another. Care for one another. Marriages would remain intact. Families would thrive.

But no. We don’t love each other as we love ourselves. We “bite and devour one another,” and in doing so, we “consume” each other.

We hurt those we say we love. We let petty differences destroy. We look at that “greener grass,” and think nothing of breaking hearts.

We step on others in our never-ending climb up the corporate ladder.

And maybe this behavior can be accepted in the world. But those of us who claim to follow Christ? May it never be, as Paul would say. We need to be the example of Christ’s love to a hurting world. We need to love one another even more than we love ourselves.

Imagine how your world would be if you did.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Freedom Through Christ (Gal. 5:1, 13)

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. . . For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
(Galatians 5:1, 13, NASB)

True freedom comes through Christ. Before salvation, we were slaves to sin. We were slaves to our flesh and its desires.

But when we came to faith in Christ, we were freed from the yoke of slavery to sin. We no longer have to do what the world says to do. We don’t have to listen to the lies our flesh tells.

We are free.

But Paul makes it very clear. Yes, we are free from sin’s grip through salvation in Christ, but we still have to be alert. We have to stand firm … and keep on doing so.

It’s a constant battle between the flesh and the spirit. And freedom in Christ does not give us license to sin as we please and then go back to Him for forgiveness. Instead, we need to focus on God’s commandments and His will so we can experience true freedom.

We can serve Christ and use the freedom we have in Him to serve Him and others.

That’s what true freedom looks like: living to glorify our Savior, doing the will of the heavenly Father.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Our Abba ... Our Daddy (Gal. 4:6-7)

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
(Galatians 4:6-7, NASB)

Oh how I love the reminder that I can call my heavenly Father, “Abba”! I can crawl up on His lap and call Him “Daddy”!

I absolutely love that!!

Those of us who didn’t have the greatest of fatherly influences sometimes don’t understand what it means to have a daddy. A man you can trust. A man who has your back. A man who will love and cherish and protect you.

And that is exactly what our heavenly Father is for His children.

He is our protector, our provider, our refuge. He is our strength, our healer, the lover of our soul.

He loves us with an everlasting love. He will never leave us or forsake us.

He is faithful and trustworthy.

He is, indeed, our Daddy … in every sense of the word.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Adoption as Sons (Gal. 4:1-5)

Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
(Galatians 4:1-5, NASB)

Before Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Law, believers in Jehovah God needed guidance—“guardians and managers.” And that guidance came through the Law. Without the Law, God’s people would have behaved like children, easily influenced by the “elemental things of the world.”

Think of the attention span of most young children. One moment watching cartoons. The next coloring. And then chasing the dog.

But then we grow up—hopefully. We make wise decisions and choices.

And the wisest decision we can make is to follow Jesus Christ. God the Father sent His Son to provide redemption for His children. We are adopted into God’s family, and as His children, we are guided directly by the Holy Spirit.

We can ask the Spirit to help us choose well, to help us follow the Father’s will.

Our Father’s will.

Monday, October 25, 2010

One in Christ (Gal. 3:28-29)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.
(Galatians 3:28-29, NASB)

We are “all one in Christ Jesus.”

Read the first verse again. There is no distinction between individuals in God the Father’s eyes. As long as we’re followers of God the Son, Jesus Christ, we are one.

We can—and must—look beyond race, gender, socio-economic background, and see the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our faith should transcend everything else that makes us different according to the world's definition.

Think about it. How often have you met a stranger and then, when you found she was a fellow believer, you instantly connected? Wherever we go, we can instantly find kindred spirits in a Bible-believing church.

I just love that!

And then in the next verse, we’re reminded that we’re heirs to God’s promise. And what is that promise? Redeemed hearts and eternity with Him.

We aren’t outcasts. We aren’t distant relatives. We aren’t afterthoughts. We are heirs of God. We are His dearly-loved children.

Take a moment and thank God for His promises. And for His Fatherly love.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

For God So Loved

Internet problems have caused issues this week, so I'm posting this via my phone...Isn't technology grand?

And since I can't write my usual devotional, I just want to encourage you with a reminder of how very much you're loved.

I know you're probably familiar with John 3:16, but take some time today to meditate on it. And then thank God for His love for you.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sons and Daughters Through Faith (Gal. 3:25-27)

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
(Galatians 3:25-27, NASB)

Love these verses!!!

The Law provided guidelines by which God’s people needed to live to obtain atonement from sins. His people needed a tutor. We don’t need a tutor any longer.

We are sons and daughters of the Father through our faith in Christ. We can enter directly into the Father’s presence because of Jesus’ intercession for us!!

And not only are we sons and daughters of our heavenly Father, but we are also “clothed” with Christ. We take on His godly attributes when we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We can take off the influences of the flesh and put on the fruit of the Spirit

That’s what faith in Jesus Christ, our Messiah, does for us. And even though we don’t need tutoring by the Law, our faith in Christ gives us the desire to serve the Father and follow His commandments.

It delights Him when we choose to follow Him and His commands—not out of compulsion, but with willing hearts.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Under the Law's Custody (Gal. 3:22-24)

But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
(Galatians 3:22-24, NASB)

Everyone sins. Everyone. Try as you might not to, you still sin. A burst of anger at another driver. A lustful thought. A momentary envy.

Everyone sins.

And before “faith came,” that is, faith in Jesus Christ, mankind was “kept in custody under the law.” Think of that word, custody. Being under the “immediate charge and control” (Webster’s Dictionary). If a person wanted to be righteous, he had to give himself entirely to the Law.

In addition, the Law was the “tutor,” by which people learned what to do—and what not to do—to find atonement. In other words, the Law told mankind how to behave in order to find favor with Creator God.

Can you imagine? Having to watch every single thing you said and did. Every thought. Wondering if you missed something. Did something. Thought something. Anything that might make you lose God’s favor.

What a sad, difficult way to live. And without a once-for-all sacrifice, that’s how we would live.

But stay tuned, tomorrow, we’ll see yet again that there’s another way!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Son Fulfilled the Law (Gal. 3:20-21)

Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.
(Galatians 3:20-21, NASB)

Jesus mediates between us and God. It was His sacrificial death and victorious resurrection that paid our sin debt. And now He sits at the Father’s right hand and intercedes on our behalf.

And as we’ve said several times through our studies, the Son fulfilled the Law. He was not contrary to it. The Law itself could not save us from our sins. It could not “impart life.” Only the sacrifice of a perfect Lamb could do this.

I don’t know about you, but this gives me tremendous assurance and encouragement. I know I couldn’t become righteous on my own. Even though I’ve been walking with the Lord for a long time, and even though I do my best to follow His commandments, I fall … more often than I’d like. And if I had to rely on my own abilities to be “good,” I’d be destined for eternal separation from God.

But I’m not. I am confident I’ll spend eternity with my Father. I know my sins are forgiven, and I know I’m righteous in my Father’s eyes.

Because I accepted the Son’s gift of payment for my sin. I committed my life to God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

And He has given me life. Eternal life.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why the Law? (Gal. 3:10)

Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.
(Galatians 3:10, NASB)

If God the Father always had a plan for our salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son, why the Law?

Because we humans are fleshly and sinful. And without a system of law, we’d run amok. Think of our world without laws. Without traffic law or civil law or criminal law. Frightening? Indeed.

So the Father instigated a system of Law so we’d know how to behave. We learn we shouldn’t take things that don’t belong to us. We shouldn’t hurt others. We should tell the truth.

Love God. Love others.

But the Law doesn’t save us.

Salvation comes only through the “promise” of the “seed.” Jesus, the one “seed” from Abraham. The promised Messiah. The once-for-all sacrifice. The fulfillment of the Law.

Our Mediator.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Assurance (Ps. 46:1)

I'm temporarily leaving Galatians to meditate on one of my favorite verses.

"God is my refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble."

The last few weeks have sapped much of my already-limited energy. While I love what I've been doing (performing in a play and spending time with my niece and her family), I'm worn out.

And this past weekend, higher levels of pain just added insult to injury. I knew I was totally incapable of getting through two Saturday performances and yesterday's matinee.

On my own, that is.

I'm so very blessed that God is with me! He is, indeed my refuge and strength. And I know I can always come to Him in my times of trouble.

Praise Him! What wonderful assurance I have in Him!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

God Keeps His Promises (Gal. 3:15-18)

Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man's covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ. What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.
(Galatians 3:15-18, NASB)

God always had a plan to reconcile us with Him. He knew the choice Adam and Eve would make to follow their own path, so He instigated a temporary way of atonement through animal sacrifice—the spilling of blood.

But when He cut covenant with Abraham, God promised fulfillment through a “seed” of Abraham’s. One seed. Christ.

And Christ—God the Son come to earth—fulfilled God’s promise of redemption and reconciliation. We can claim God’s promise when we accept Jesus’ gift of salvation, when we commit ourselves to serving Him.

God always keeps His promises. Always. We can be confident as we pray for His will, if He speaks to our hearts, He will do as He promised.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Christ Took Our Curse (Gal. 3:13-14)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”—in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
(Galatians 3:13-14, NASB)

We who follow Christ believe He took the sins of mankind on Himself when He died on the cross. But did you think of His “having become a curse for us”? He, the perfect Son of God, chose curse over perfection.

For us.

Jesus died for us. He took on our sin. He chose having His Father turn from Him—even for a moment.

For us.

We have received “the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Our Lord Jesus Christ’s taking on our curse makes us righteous in the eyes of our Father. He redeemed us. He saved us.

That’s how much He loves me. How much He loves you.

Have you thanked your Lord lately for His sacrifice? For His taking on your curse?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Live By Faith (Gal 3:11-12)

Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM."
(Galatians 3:11-12, NASB)

Webster’s Dictionary defines faith as “allegiance to duty or a person” or “belief and trust in and loyalty to God” or “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.”

The first definition is relatively easy. I can be faithful to my husband because I see him and talk with him; I know his history of loyalty and integrity. I have friends I share my secrets with because they’ve proven themselves to be trustworthy.

That last definition of faith can be difficult. We can’t touch Jesus with our hands or see Him with our eyes. No definite, absolute proof exists that God exists. Yet countless people have faith in Him.

And countless others don’t believe in God because they want every “I” dotted and every “T” crossed. They say they can’t believe in Him unless He appears in their very presence. They want to know everything about Him.

But a god that can be fully known by our human, finite minds isn’t much of a god at all. I believe in the God who remains a mystery. But, my faith isn't blind. I’ve seen the results of His work in creation. I’ve experienced His intervention and His miracles.

And even though I’ve never seen Him or touched Him or audibly heard His voice, I know He is. I know He loves me and blesses me and walks alongside me. He heals. He provides. He gives peace.

I have faith. In “something for which there is no proof”—for my mind, at least. But in something my heart trusts completely.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Following the Law (Gal. 3:10)

For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM."
(Galatians 3:10, NASB)

Can you imagine if we didn’t live under God’s grace? If, in order to be forgiven and therefore righteous in God’s eyes, we had to follow the Law—completely?

It would be impossible. None of us would make it. Have you read Leviticus lately? It truly would be impossible for anyone to “abide by all things written in the book of the Law.” And if we can’t do so? We are cursed.

What if you had to somehow make up for any broken law? You burst out in anger at your children. Some unwholesome word pops out (see Eph. 4:29). You tell a “white lie” to your spouse. You neglect some ritualistic cleansing.

You break the Law.

Maybe just one tiny part of the Law. Maybe something seemingly insignificant. According to the Bible, breaking one law is breaking them all.

And it really is impossible for anyone to keep every single law.

It would seem we’re doomed … ah, but wait until tomorrow! We’ll see the hope we who follow Christ have!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reckoned as Righteousness (Gal. 3:6-9)

Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU." So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
(Galatians 3:6-9, NASB)

Followers of Jesus Christ are justified by faith in God and are therefore "sons of Abraham." And we are blessed by God.

Foremost, we are blessed with salvation and the promise of eternal life with our Lord and Savior. I, for one, am looking forward to that!

But think of all the ways God blesses us each day. Or perhaps I should speak for myself.

I’m blessed with a supportive, loving husband. I’m blessed with caring, praying family and friends. I’m blessed with a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear.

And even through the difficult parts of my life, I’m blessed. I suffer from ill health, yet I’m blessed with the confidence that Jesus carries me through those days when I can’t carry myself. I don’t have children of my body, yet I’m blessed with many children of my heart.

Blessings through sunny days and mountaintop experiences. Blessings through storms and deep valleys.

All because I’m a daughter of the King, a woman of faith.

And that makes me smile. A lot!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Faith ... Not Works (Gal. 3:1-5)

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
(Galatians 3:1-5, NASB)

I’ve probably written this before, but I love how Paul gets to the heart of the matter … and doesn’t mince words.

The Christians in Galatia had been “bewitched.” Many of them had actually seen Jesus crucified, yet they’d fallen prey to false teaching. Works, they were told, “perfected” their faith. They were taught that they received the Spirit through works, not faith. And Paul called them “foolish.”

And rightfully so. Jesus Himself made it clear. Eternal salvation comes through His own sacrificial death (John 3:16). The Father, part of the triune God, gives each of His followers the Spirit—also part of the triune God (Luke 11:13), and it is through the Spirit we are reborn (John 3:6). The Spirit gives life (John 6:63), and He dwells in us (John 14:17) and helps us through each day (John 14:26).

Jesus didn’t even mention “works.” But somehow, some in the early church decided that what Christians did was more important than who they were in Christ. Works were more important than faith.

It was foolish then. And it’s foolish now.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Christ Living In Us (Gal. 2:19-21)

For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.
(Galatians 2:19-21 NASB)

These are familiar verses to many of us, and sometimes, when we’ve heard something over and over, we tend to overlook the importance of words.

Jesus fulfilled the Law. Before His death and resurrection, redemption came through adherence to the Law and a blood sacrifice. But Jesus’ payment of the penalty for our sin made certain aspects of the Law unnecessary. Ritual cleanliness. Circumcision. A perfect lamb’s spilled blood.

No longer does our righteousness come through the Law. We die to our sin. We die to the Law. And we live to God. But remember: It’s not we who live. It’s Christ living in us. Our faith in God gives us a heart to serve Him. Not because we’re trying to keep a bunch of rules and regulations. But because we want to please Him. We want to delight Him.

But don’t pass over that last verse. Sometimes we still feel we have to tow the line. If we give our tithe, if we serve at the homeless shelter, if we help our neighbor, we’ll sometimes be more righteous in the Father’s eyes. If that were the case, however, “then Christ died needlessly.”

Oh, my friend. What a tragic thought. Jesus suffered excruciating pain and torment needlessly? He died an agonizing death needlessly?

No. On the contrary, His suffering and death gave us a way to the Father apart from the Law. And when we strive to be righteous by what we do, we’re negating our Messiah’s sacrifice.

In the words of Paul, may it never be!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Justification Through Faith (Gal. 2:15-18)

We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor.
(Galatians 2:15-18 NASB)

We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. And it’s more than just believing that Jesus lived. It’s believing that He’s part of the triune God, that He came to earth and took on flesh, and that He died to pay the penalty for sin.

When we have that faith, that confidence in God’s grace, then we are justified.

There’s nothing we can do to gain salvation on our own. We can’t do enough good things. We can’t memorize enough scriptures. We can’t serve in enough soup kitchens.

It is only by grace—God’s unmerited favor—that we can be assured of salvation and of our spending eternity with our Lord God.

And when we’re justified, when we’re saved by God’s grace, we will seek to live as sinless as we possibility can. For Jesus is not a “minister of sin." In fact, even in flesh, He remained without sin. And it’s because of His perfection that He could pay the penalty for our sin.

That’s grace. That’s justification. And it’s ours if we sincerely accept Jesus Christ’s gift of salvation and commit our lives to Him.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Don't Be a Hypocrite (Gal. 2:11-14)

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
(Galatians 2:11-14, NASB)


For generations, one of the biggest obstacles to people finding faith in Christ is the hypocrisy of Christians.

For too long, unbelievers have been able to point to church leaders and deny the truth of the gospel because of those leaders’ behavior. Sexual sin, financial corruption, arrogance, anger.

So many people saying one thing and doing the complete opposite. No wonder people are turned off by the church. And it’s certainly not just in our generation. Even in the early church, some of the greatest leaders behaved contrary to what they taught.

So what are we to do? How can we attract rather than repel?

First, we need to look at our own hearts and behaviors. How are we living God’s word? Are we both talking the talk and walking the walk?

Second, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to work in those areas of hypocrisy. What are we doing that goes against God’s truth?

Finally, we need to acknowledge we’re flawed—the world has had enough of “holier than thous.” We are sinful creatures forgiven by our Sovereign Lord. He has changed us from the inside out. And we need to live accordingly.

Don’t be the one others can point to as a hypocrite. Speak and do God’s will, and let Him work through you.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Remember the Poor (Gal. 2:7-10)

But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.
(Galatians 2:7-10, NASB)

The poor and destitute have a very special place in God’s heart. And those of us who have been blessed with more are obligated to help those who have less. But it’s more than an obligation; it’s a privilege, not to be taken lightly.

I grew up watching my maternal grandfather’s heart for the “least of these” (see Matt. 25:31-46). He was never wealthy, yet he gave of his time and treasures to help those less fortunate. He gave years of his life to serve at the Los Angeles Union Rescue Mission.

He looked at those whom society would pass without a glance, and he loved them—genuinely loved them. He wiped tears and washed feet. He comforted and counseled.

He was, in fact, Jesus in the flesh to countless men who’d lost hope.

And he did it eagerly—just as Paul did.

Not long ago, I had the privilege of helping a friend get back on her feet. She’d had some pretty devastating experiences that had left her virtually homeless. I was able to provide her with some necessities, and she was so grateful.

But I found myself feeling even more grateful that God had, even through my own financial difficulties, blessed me so I could bless her.

I believe God rejoices when He sees His children selflessly give to those in need. How long has it been since you gave? Maybe it’s time to give again.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

God Shows No Partiality (Gal. 2:4-6)

But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me.
(Galatians 2:4-6, NASB)

As I meditated on these words and prayed for the Spirit’s words for you, I realized I could focus on one of several ideas: false brethren bringing us into bondage; not yielding to those speaking lies; or making certain the gospel remains in us.

But what really caught my eye and touched my heart were the words, “God shows no partiality.”

Stop a moment and read over those words again. “God shows no partiality.” None.

We tend to revere those who are smarter or richer or more talented than we are. Somehow they seem to be better or greater. Even in the Christian community, we look at those such as Billy Graham or Beth Moore or Charles Spurgeon—or Paul, and think they’re more spiritual than we are or are closer to God.

God doesn’t see us that way. He doesn’t look at how famous we are or how much money we’ve donated to worthy causes. He doesn’t care if our name has been on the cover of countless books or if we’ve had our own radio or television show.

He cares about our hearts. He cares about our motives. Just as Jesus commended the widow for giving all she had (Mark 12:40-44) or the tax-gatherer for his sincere prayer (Luke 18:9-14), God esteems us when we sincerely seek His will. When we give sacrificially—and quietly. When we use the gifts He’s given us to serve Him and others.

Our society—especially in the United States—looks at status, at bank accounts, at notoriety. However, God looks at hearts, at service, at dedication to Him.

It’s comforting to know that God loves me as much as He does anyone else. And He loves you just as much!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Waiting on the Lord (Gal. 2:1-3)

Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.
(Galatians 2:1-3, NASB)

We’ve talked about this before: God always answers prayers, but He answers differently, according to His will. Often, the hardest answer to receive from God is “wait.”

Sometimes God just wants us to patiently await His work. Paul waited 14 years to continue his God-given journey. He was an itinerant missionary and knew God had designed a particular path for him to take. And he was patient, knowing God would reveal His will in His timing.

Have you prayed for something for a long time, yet you feel God hasn’t answered? Chances are, He’s asking you to wait and trust Him.

I’ve been praying over 17 years for my husband’s salvation. I believe God is softening his heart, but so far, the answer has been, “Wait, My daughter.” It’s hard sometimes, but I know without doubt that God is faithful. I know with quiet certainty that He loves Russ so much more than I ever could. I know I can patiently and trustingly wait for the moment when the answer is finally, “Yes!”

We are invited to come to God and pray to Him, knowing He will listen. (See Jeremiah 29:12-13.) But we have to be ready to receive whatever His answer is. Even if He asks us to wait. For 14 years … or 17 years … or even longer.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

All Glory to God (Gal. 1:18-24)

Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord's brother. (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only, they kept hearing, "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy." And they were glorifying God because of me.
(Galatians 1:18-24, NASB)

God changes lives. He defeats addictions. He calms anger. He repairs relationships. He takes rebellious, sinful hearts and makes them white as snow.

And He sometimes takes the most defiant against Him or the most ambivalent towards Him or the weakest and makes them His spokespeople.

Moses feared he wouldn’t be able to speak to Pharaoh. Paul actively sought to destroy those who followed Christ, thereby destroying a new religious movement. Corrie Ten Boom was in her sixties, frail from interment in a Nazi death camp.

Yet each of these became a powerhouse in proclaiming God’s truth.

On a quite lesser scale, I was a rebellious, fist-in-the-face-of-God teenager and young adult. I didn’t want to have anything to do with faith. Then I recommitted my life to the Lord, and all I wanted to do was know Him better and serve where He wanted me.

I never expected He’d use me to speak or write. I felt unworthy to do either. Yet, God, in His mercy and grace, chose to give me the privilege of telling His stories.

You may think your choices have somehow made you inadequate to be used by God in a significant way. But that’s one of the great things about our God. He’ll use the most broken vessel to do His will.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been. If you surrender your life to Him, willing to do whatever He asks, He will use you. You may be a Moses or a Paul. Or you may be the only Jesus your neighbors, friends, and coworkers see. In either case, others will be pointed to Christ through you.

And God will receive all the glory.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Called Through Grace (Gal. 1:15-17)

But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.
(Galatians 1:15-17, NASB)

It still amazes me that God “set me apart” and “called me through His grace.” That’s how much He loves me.

And He continues to use me—oftentimes, in spite of me.

Tonight, I’m so very blessed to be opening in a stage adaptation of Little Women. The cast is amazing, and the story so heart-warming. And it shares how blessed we are as children of God. Why God has allowed me to be a part of such a ministry, I’m not sure. But I’m grateful for His love and grace.

And He’ll shower you with the same love and grace. Because you, too, are “called through His grace.”

Friday, October 01, 2010

God Uses Us ... In Spite of Us (Gal. 1:13-14)

For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.
(Galatians 1:13-14, NASB)

Have you ever thought you’re not “good” enough to be used by God? Maybe you’ve done things that shame you when you think of them. Or you deliberately turned away from God in rebellion. Or you’ve made choices that hurt you or others.

How can God use me? you think.

Guess what? None of us is perfect. All of us have our flaws and failings. And yet God chooses to use every one of us in His plan.

Paul persecuted those who chose to follow Christ. And he did it zealously, hoping to wipe this new faith off the map.

Yet God transformed him and used him mightily.

I made choices that led me on a twenty-year journey away from my faith. I very consciously chose to follow my own path and shook my fist in the face of my loving Father.

Yet God welcomed me back with open arms and gave me the blessing of serving Him through speaking and worship arts.

We do not—none of us—deserve God’s grace and mercy, and yet He offers them freely. And no matter where we’ve been, no matter what we’ve done, He will use us as He builds His kingdom.

How amazing!