Galatians 3:1-14 Descendent of Abraham?

So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Galatians 3:6-7

I am not Jewish. In fact, I am not sure what all I am, but my pasty complexion tells me fairly certainly that I am not Jewish. I do come from a line of pretty awesome people though. My great-grandparents were missionaries in Africa, my grandpa was a pastor, my grandma (mom’s mom) led my dad to Christ, my parents have stood up for the rights of people with developmental disabilities and I’m sure there are many other pretty amazing people that I just don’t know much about. We are from England, Germany, France, Ireland or Scotland (maybe both?), and maybe Native American. We are from a lot of places and yet I am not Jewish.

According to what most people think about the Old Testament this would mean that I have a 0% chance at getting to Heaven. No matter what I do, I could not make it to Heaven because I am not a true descendent of Abraham and Moses. Paul’s words put out something differently. He says that anyone who has faith is a descendent of Abraham. Heck yeah! I mean, I still have a 0% chance of making it to Heaven on my own, but I have a 100% chance of making it due to my faith that Jesus Christ was the end result of God’s covenant with Abraham and therefore I am able to make it to Heaven. It does not matter where my family is from, what they have done or anything like that. It only matters that I have faith. Man, that makes me excited!

Galatians 2:11-21 Friends

Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also…When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. Galatians 2:1,11-13

I was very blessed in Maryland for most of the time I was there. I may not have liked my job, but I had a good group of friends who helped me like the rest of my time there. Was there drama? For sure. Were there times when we didn’t get along? Absolutely! Would I trade that time in for anything else? No, not at all. My Bible study friends were as close to members of my family as some of my actual family. Christine slept in a chair overnight in my hospital room because I was rushed to the emergency room and my mom was on her way, Lois and Kerensa took me on “field trips” to Target and Safeway when I was regaining my strength and could barely walk, Nick and I drove to New Orleans together, Bridget and Ana went to Germany with me for the first time. I could go on for hours talking about how amazing my friends are, but that’s not the point. The point is that my friends went further with me than just on the surface. Nick and I would call each other in the morning to make sure we both were up in time to do quiet times. Kerensa encouraged me to take on a leadership position in our Bible study. Ana, Bridget and I had many talks about how our spiritual lives were going. That is why my friends are amazing.

Paul had these same friends. After 14 years of ministry Paul was going back to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostles. He took Barnabas and Titus too. He didn’t need back-up or anything, but he took his friends with him. The next part of the chapter that stood out to me, verses 11-13, showed what else friends need to do. When we are wrong, or our friends are wrong, we need to be told. We need to be confronted. Paul may not have done this the best way that he could have, but he did it this way nonetheless. He confronted Peter (Cephas) because Peter was being hypocritical and theologically wrong in his actions. Why did he need to do this? We see in verse 13 that others were joining in on the hypocrisy, that’s why. Our actions influence others, so if we are wrong, our friends need to be there to say so and we need to accept their constructive criticism.

Galatians 2:1-10 One suggestion

In fact, James, Peter,and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognized the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers. They encouraged us to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they continued their work with the Jews. Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do. Galatians 2:9-10

The poor are everywhere, big cities, small cities, rural areas, big countries, small countries, it doesn’t matter. There are poor people and families just about everywhere you look. The problem is, there are enough people with money to help those without and yet some do and some don’t. Some people, unfortunately myself included sometimes, forget about the poor because we live ignorant to their issues. We sit around and do nothing to help. So how important is it for those of us who have been blessed to help those in their time of need? Let’s look to the words of Paul to find out.

A little background first. Paul goes back to Jerusalem, not for the approval of the apostles in this chapter, but to make sure that the Gospel that both groups were preaching were in line with each other. At the end of that time all that the apostles tell him is in the verse above. Help the poor, that’s it. He already had the Gospel message down and beyond that their main concern was to help the poor. Is that your main concern? Is it mine? Jesus talked about the poor too and His words are reiterated by Paul. He said in Matthew 25:40, “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” We are helping Jesus when we help the poor! How awesome is that? If Jesus was in your town, wouldn’t you offer to do just about anything to help Him? Then why not do some of that for the poor in your area.

Hopefully in the coming holiday season we can remember to do what we can for the poor, but I also hope that we extend it beyond the feel-good holiday season.

Galatians 1:11-24 Meticulously Planned for You

But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me. Galatians 1:15-16a

Apparently I am on a planning mindset recently because God’s plan in this verse stuck out to me just like His plan for Jesus stuck out to me yesterday. I’m not going to lie, I can be very impressed by a good plan. I am extremely confident about two abilities of mine: my peanut butter cookies (or some variation thereof) are amazing and I can plan out the intricate details of events well.

Let me tell you a little story before I get into what stood out in this verse. A little while back I went camping with my friends to Shenandoah National Park. We discussed who was going to bring what, but we realized that if we didn’t plan it out we would probably end up with a whole lot of chips and pretzels. Maybe we would end up with some hot dogs that we could have roasted over a fire that we couldn’t build because someone else didn’t bring the matches or maybe we could have made s’mores with marshmallows and chocolate but without the neglected graham crackers. I could see disaster coming so I volunteered to plan out what everyone would bring. It ended up taking me a while to make the list, but I truly enjoyed that time and when I gave the list to everyone, everyone was satisfied with what they were bringing and we had everything we needed.

Alright one more story. A few years back again I was living in Maryland and the Bible study I went to was a pretty big group and we were all really close friends. Well, I read in “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” a sentence talking about how the men in Josh Harris’ group made dinner for the women in their Bible study. I thought that was a great idea and so I brought it up to the men in my group and they were all for doing that. We didn’t just stop at dinner though. The whole group of guys made a night that we hoped the women would never forget and would remember specifically when they were in a relationship so they knew how they should be treated. We planned a surprise night of dinner and dancing with during-meal entertainment as well. The girls were treated to a 5 course meal with two options for each course including things like Maryland crab soup, salmon penne pasta and molten lava cake. After dinner they were escorted to another room where we talked about how special they were to us as godly women and how we wanted to thank them for that. Then came dancing where every woman got to dance with every man. To end the night they were given gift bags with cards in them from all the guys telling them how special they were to us. It was an amazing night for all of us. On a side note, if you think it might be nice to do something like this, I highly suggest doing something like this for the woman in your life.

I say all that to get back to my point. Paul says, “But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace.” God is a planner and he can meticulously plan everything way better than I could ever plan one single, simple thing. I am confident in my planning abilities, but not when I compare them to God’s ability to plan. Look back on your life at things that have happened to you. Have you figured out why they happened yet? I know there are a few things that happened to me when I was in Junior High (18 years ago) that I just figured out why they happened. Why did I take German after school? To prepare me to go to Germany as a missionary. 18 years of pre-planning? Thanks is incredibly ridiculous. Here’s my point though. If I/we know how amazing of a planner God is, why do we first seek to create our own plans? I am as guilty of this as most people. I have plans and I want to see them to their end, but God’s plan is so much better than anything I could come up with. Now I just need the patience to see His plan through and not try to insert my own plan, no matter how good I think it is.

My suggestion for you today is to think back on your life and see what things had to be in place years ago to get you to where you are today and then thank God that He is an amazing planner!

Galatians 1:1-10 The Gospel in One Sentence

Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. Galatians 1:4

The first half of the first chapter in Galatians is jammed packed with nuggets of good information. From God as a planner (1:1-4), Paul feeling offended when people turned their back on God (1:6), recognizing false teachings from people who mean well (1:6-7) and then of course verse 10 where it deals with pleasing both people and God and how impossible that really is.

The verse that stuck out to me the most though is the verse above. It is what I call (I’m sure I’m not the first), the Gospel in one sentence. If we had just one short, simple sentence to share with other people I hope that this is it. It starts out simply, “Jesus gave his life for our sins,” alright so maybe the content is simple, but the sentence is. The whole Bible is essentially based around these words. That’s the reason the Bible was written to spread these seven words. If Jesus did not give his life for our sins, if he was just another man, or if he died for part of our sins, or he decided he wasn’t going to die, nothing else would matter. The whole rest of the Bible would be pointless, there would be no hope for us. Thus these 7 simple words combine to make one all-encompassing, all-amazing sentence that reminds us that we do have hope.

The next part of the sentence, “just as God our Father planned,” is also an incredible addition. It is essential for new believers to understand that this wasn’t some plan B that God threw together at the last moment, this was planned. God planned for his Son to take our place. He didn’t just make the best of the situation. He chose the hardest thing a father could be asked to do and he sat down and he meticulously planned it so that nothing could go wrong. I am not a father, but I could not imagine planning out every detail of my sons life from before his birth up unto his death in such a way that it guaranteed he would suffer a horrible death to save other people. God did just that and everyone should know that He did.

The last part, “in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live,” is just as impacting to a non-believer. If people don’t realize that the world in which we live is inherently evil then they may not want to watch what they do. If they do not watch what they do, they may try to please both man and God (verse 10) and we all know how well that goes.

This verse is not just a good tool to use with non-believers, but honestly it is a reminder to me of what Jesus really did and why He did that for us. This is something that should be stored in my heart so I can adjust my actions accordingly as well.

Invitation into the Book of Galatians

So recently I have felt a little convicted about how I have studied the Bible in the past. I have very rarely dug down deep into the books of the Bible to see where they were written, by whom, who they were to, etc. I was in a Christian book store and searching through the clearance section like I always do and I found a short commentary/study on Galatians so I decided I would start studying this book. There is no real reason why other than I found that book. What I am planning on doing is reading the 6 chapters broken down into 12 parts (the book I bought does this for me) and then writing a short blog about each part. I am not a theologian, nor have I attended Bible college or had any official training, whatsoever, but what I do have is a desire to find out more about the Bible than I have had in the past and I trust that God will bless that desire.

I invite you to join me in this endeavor. I will start tomorrow with my first blog on chapter 1:1-10. I would love to get some good discussion in the comment section that would enhance my study, but also enhance the study of anyone else who decides to join me. If you don’t want to join me, feel free to stop by and read my thoughts.

goTandem.com, a pack of tools for your spiritual growth

If you are a friend of mine on facebook or twitter you may have seen a comment from me about trying out this new website that is geared towards helping people in their spiritual growth. The service bills themselves as the following: “If spiritual discovery is a journey, then goTandem is the pack of tools you’ll need for the trip. We’ll equip you with everything you need to be the person you want to be, and we’ll do it every day.”

Let’s start with the video that Tandem uses to introduce themselves to you.

 

 

Let me go over what the service offers and then give you my opinion of it. When you first sign up you have to share some basic information like name, location, how many times you read the Bible last week, e-mail and phone number (not required). Once the basic information is done you fill out a spirituality questionnaire (only one non-multiple choice, don’t worry I don’t think you can fail) that asks you questions about your beliefs like “What do you think happens after death?” and “How well do you know the Bible?” The questionnaire takes around 10 minutes to complete and the only painful part about it is when you realize that you would like to change what you are doing, but that’s why you are using Tandem in the first place, right? Once you are done with the questionnaire Tandem takes you to the subscriptions page where you decide how involved you want Tandem in your life. There are many options. There are five options they give you to choose from. They are: “Encourage Me” phone call, “Hear from God” non-topical phone call or e-mail, “Respond to Him” non-topical text or e-mail, “Take a Step Closer” topical e-mail, and “Relate to Others” topical e-mail. I’ll explain each in more detail later. For each of these options they ask you to choose specific times to receive these and what days as well. Once you are done making those selections is takes you to the dashboard where that days e-mails are displayed for you to check out. For each subscription you can go into your account and make a comment to share with the Tandem community, make it a favorite to look at later when you need an extra pick-me-up or write a journal entry for your own private thoughts.

Alright here are my thoughts. I know you have been reading this blog with baited breath for me to give you my thoughts, so here they are. I have been a member of Tandem for just over a week now and so far I like it a lot. Well, I hope you liked my review, that’s all……….Alright so I guess I can get a little more detailed in what I like about the program and what things I think could be improved. I’m going to break it down into Love, like, not-so-excited about and dislike just to break it down a little.

Love it!

1. The variety of ways of contact. Phone call, text and e-mail make this usable for just about everyone. The best thing about the variety is that they are each optional too. You don’t have to have the phone calls if you don’t want them, or maybe you are still not a big fan of texts, either way you can choose what you want.

2. The Encouragement phone call (completely optional). I had my first one last Thursday and at first it was a little strange since a stranger was calling me, but it ended up being very nice. I answered the phone and the guy on the other end sounded like he genuinely cared about my spiritual growth. He asked me how many times I read the Bible in the last week, what he could pray for me about and then he literally prayed for me right then. There was no judgement and I truly believe he is praying for me this week, maybe even right now. That’s cool to think!

3. The randomness of it all. I chose to be contacted at random times. I don’t know how random it is, because I don’t pay attention to things like that, but it seems like sometimes I am getting a text with a simple verse and question (makes you think about the verse) right when I need it. I got a text while at a men’s breakfast that was from Romans 12:5. It said “With Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” Then it asked “So you act like that? It was perfect timing. I’m sitting in a room of over 200 guys trying to be better men and we were talking about mentoring and being mentees with other men. It was so cool to get this text at that moment, reinforcing what the Christian community should really be about.

Like it

1. The e-mails are brief for the most part. That allows my short attention span to read it right away and not wait for later (we all know what that means sometimes).

2. Some of the e-mails are topical specifically geared towards me based on my answers in the questionnaire, but not all of them are. I like that because I don’t want to be inundated with e-mails only on specific topics. The non-topical e-mails and texts are kind of like opening the Bible to a random page and reading whatever is there. It doesn’t always hit home, but when it does it is oh so nice!

3. The Bible reading e-mail is nice because if I missed the phone call or wanted to hear it again the e-mail has a link to the audio so I could theoretically save it forever.

Not-so-excited about it

1. The journal and comment parts don’t get me too excited, but honestly I think that is just me. I am sure some of you would love to journal about some of the entries. It’s just not my thing.

2. Linking Tandem to Facebook or twitter so you could share comments or your journal entry would be pretty nice. That way, if you wanted to, you could share with other people what you are learning. I guess I could use copy and paste to create a note on Facebook, but sometimes I’m just lazy and would rather click a share button and have it done for me.

Dislike

1. The Bible reading phone call is nice overall, but if I miss the call and want to hear it on the voice mail sometimes it cuts out the very beginning. Not a huge deal, but I had to have something I disliked, right?

2. The only other thing I dislike is the lack of community beyond the comments. Honestly I am not sure if I would like more community, but it would be interesting to see something where you could have conversations with other people who are maybe on the same topical e-mails as you or something to that effect.

Overall I like Tandem. Like I said, sometimes the texts, e-mails or phone calls seem to come at the right time or have the right verses and words for whatever I am dealing with that day. The bottom line is that Tandem does what it says it is going to do. It helps you get in the Word on a daily basis which I know is something I struggle with sometimes. If you are like me, then try it out. The worst that could happen is you absolutely hate the service then you deactivate it and look for something else that meets your needs. The best that could happen is you love the service and continue daily to grow closer to God. There is definitely more of an upside than a downside.