Galatians 6 Restoring Gently

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Galatians 6:1

I seem to have a horrible sense of balance. Part of it was just natural skill at being unbalanced and part of it, I’m sure, comes from the fact that my stomach muscles have been cut into during two different surgeries thereby making them weaker to support me. Regardless of why I have difficulty balancing my self, I struggle especially in the winter-time when it is icy out. I can’t tell you how many times I have fallen on my butt only to have to struggle to gain enough balance to stand up while still on the ice. It’s not easy.

Most of the time when I fall I am all alone (thank goodness!), but I sometimes imagine what my friends would do if they were there. What technique would they use to help me up, that is if they weren’t too busy doubled over in laughter. Would they grab my hand and yank with all their might? Would they barely lift at all, making me still do all the work? Would they grab with both hands and gently lift taking care to apply force when I need it? Would they stand on the ice with me or just off of it if possible?

How do you help a fellow Christian when they stumble? Do you just laugh when they fall? Do you try to pull them from the depths of despair with all of your might? Do you just put out a hand and barely do anything to help? Or do you grab with both hands, support them and apply force when and where needed while making sure not to step into what caused their stumble? Paul says that we should help them gently and humbly, making sure they get back on the right path without falling into temptation ourselves.

This isn’t an option, we need to help those who have stumbled, period!

This ends my study of Galatians, I am going to do some personal studies for a little while and then maybe I’ll post another study after the New Year. Thank you for joining me.

Galatians 5:13-26 Acts of the Flesh and Fruits of the Spirit

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

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. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:19-26

There is no story today, no modern day example for today’s reading, only the stark realization of how many of the acts of the flesh we commit on a regular basis. I don’t want to concentrate on the negative so I will leave it at this. We are are saved through the grace of Christ are not subject to these anymore. Through the Holy Spirit we can truly experience the fruits of the Spirit.

I want to quote from a Bible study series that I have been consulting during my study of Galatians because what they say about the fruits of the Spirit does a great job explaining each and showing how to apply them. The book is Galatians: Walking in God’s Grace by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz. They say:

Love, joy, peace. These virtues point to our relationship with God. Our first love should be for God, our joy should be in God, and our peace should be first and foremost with God.

Patience, kindness, goodness. These three virtues refer to our relationship with others. Patience is the quality of hanging in there with people, even when they irritate or offend us. Kindness reflects a pleasant disposition, and goodness stems from our words and deeds towards others.

Faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These three virtues focus on our inner selves. When we keep our commitments, we are faithful. When we act with humility and an attitude of service, we are gentle. And when we exercise self-control, we are doing the opposite of indulging our flesh.

Galatians 5:1-12 Freedom is a gift, say thank you today!

Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. Galatians 5:2-4

If you read my post a few days ago on Galatians 4:1-20 you will see an analogy between slavery in the US and being slaves to sin. In the analogy I compared someone going into a slave market and buying all of the slaves, setting them free and adopting them into their family to what God had done for each and every one of us. We were all slaves, God sent his representative down to Earth to purchase us and we are now God’s children. I am going to extend that analogy and look at the slaves response to that choice. Lets say that the owner tells each of his new adopted children that they can stay or go, the choice is theirs and their freedom is not affected either way. It is theirs to keep.

I can only imagine what an actual slave would do if their freedom was bought and they were given an option to join the family of the person who paid for their freedom, but for the sake of this analogy I can see three possible reactions from the slaves:

1. The former slaves embrace their new family and out of their gratefulness and respect for their adoptive parent they do work for them to show their appreciation.

2. The former slaves go to live with the adoptive parent, but only take from them, giving nothing in return.

3. The former slaves say thanks, but no thanks and strike off on their own attempting to do the best they can without any help from their adoptive parent.

Do you see your reaction in those three examples? Maybe you are a mix of two of them, sometimes showing your love through works and sometimes trying to strike out on your own. I know I struggle to be living like the first response. I want to live every day showing God my love and appreciation for Him by doing good works, not because I have to because my salvation is secure, but because I want to. I want to show others a tiny example of what God has done for them and me.

How will you show your appreciation for God’s gift today? Will you help someone on the side of the road? Give a few dollars to someone in need? Pay for a random person’s coffee? Listen to a friend or stranger in need? Write an e-mail of thanks to someone who means something to you? How can you help others see Christ in you right now, in the next hour or sometime today?

“Freedom in Christ does not give us the right to do as we please, but the power and ability to do as we ought.” Max Anders

Galatians 4:21-31 Yikes!

But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit. Galatians 4:29

Persecution is a funny thing. Not funny ha ha, but more interesting funny. Persecution differs from place to place and time to time. The persecution in the US now is not what persecution was in the US in the past just as the persecution in Iran now is not what it used to be and what it will be in the future. When I read this verse I thought about whether I am being persecuted or not. My initial note said “We are free and if we are living like Jesus then we will be persecuted. It’s a guarantee. If we aren’t being persecuted then we are probably not living boldly for God.” This is where the yikes comes in. I began to think about whether in my regular life I see any persecution.

I decided to look up the definition of persecute. It says: “To pursue with harassing or oppressive treatment, especially because of religion, race, or beliefs; harass persistently.”

The first thing that popped into my head when I read this definition were my days in Junior High. I was kind of a dork and by kind of I mean, I was a dork. Add to that that I was a fat kid and you get the recipe for harassment. It got so bad that my main bully was a girl. That’s how much of a dork I was. Hardly a day would go by that I didn’t have my books knock down or words said about me or any number of things. It was persistent harassment, but it had nothing to do with my beliefs as far as I know.

That was the worst harassment I have lived through and in retrospect it wasn’t really that bad. It got me to wonder though, have I been harassed persistently for my beliefs? Have I had someone oppress me because of my beliefs? Probably not. I was hoping that the definition would say something like ignored, not invited to things withhold invitations to parties, etc.  Those things I could claim but not anything like harassed persistently.

Have you been persecuted for your faith? If so, I commend you for sticking to your faith in the hard times.

Have you never been persecuted? What does this mean? Honestly I don’t know. Christianity is tolerated in the US so it is hard to imagine any major persecution happening (I know it does happen though), but shouldn’t we all be persecuted some if we are living boldly? That’s a tough question to answer and I guess a simple answer is we could all probably live a little more like Christ and a little bolder. That is my prayer this week for sure.

Galatians 4:1-20 We were all slaves

God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. Galatians 4:5

I just got back from a trip to Charleston, SC and being a northern boy my stomach always drops when I am in the south and I see remnants of slavery. Now I am not ignorant of the fact that slaves were prevalent in just about every part of our country at one point or another, but down south you see much more remains of the horrible institution of slavery. Whether it is the plantations, slave marts, or you hear the stories of slave revolts, slavery was a major part of southern life. I took a photography tour and the tour guide showed us a slave mart that is now a museum. She told us that at one point a “seasoned” male could go for as much as $1,000 1860 dollars. After doing a little research I found that this would be about $26,000 today. I also found that some slave auctions had over 200 slaves, men, women and children, at their auction. If the number of each men, women and children were equal that would give you a total of 103,900 (1860 dollars) or $2,701,400,000 (2011 dollars) for 198 slaves.

Now imagine the Bill Gates of that time coming to one of the slave auctions and buying every single slave up for auction. That would be insane! Bill Gate’s total worth is about 59 billion, but still 2 billion is a lot of money to spend. Now lets say he goes one step further and adopts every single one of the slaves into his own family. Could you imagine that? 198 former slaves are not only free, but they will be fed, clothed, and provided for as if they were born into this family. No one could ever expect anyone to do that.

Paul says that this is exactly what God did. God sent his representative, Jesus, to the slave auction and told him that no matter what, those slaves will be in my family. Spend whatever you need to spend to free them and bring them to my table. Jesus went to that slave auction and the only way that He could fulfill His Father’s wish was to offer His life in place of theirs. He did just that and then instead of blaming the now-former slaves  He instead opens His arms and welcomes them to the family.

We were once slaves to sin and not only set free from that sin, but also welcomed into God’s family and God hopes that every single one of us can join Him at His table. What a great picture of God and what He Has planned for us.

Galatians 3:15-29 Like a new pair of shoes

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. Galatians 3:27

Typically when you buy new clothes you enjoy wearing them so that others can see you in them. Whether its a new pair of shoes, a new shirt or really any other piece of clothing. You think you look good in it so you want to let others see you look good. Then you get a new piece of clothing and you wear what you once loved a lot less. Why is this? Is it that you don’t like it as much? I doubt it.  Do you still look as good in it? Probably, but it’s not as new, people have seen you in the old clothing, but not the new clothing.

I feel weird as a man making this point,  but when I read Paul’s words about clothing yourself in Christ and I realized that people treat Christ the same way as they do a new shirt, suit, dress or shoes. At first they want to tell everyone, it doesn’t matter who, a new Christian typically wants to let everyone see them in their new outfit of Christ. Then after a while the newness of Christ wears off and we go searching for something else to in which to be clothed. Whether we clothe ourselves in good things like church activities, family, friends or not-so-good things like alcohol, gambling, etc., we clothe ourselves in things not eternal. We need to be reminded that just because it might be an older outfit, it doesn’t mean that we don’t look stinking amazing wearing Christ as our clothes.

We should be excited to be given the chance to daily clothe ourselves in Christ.

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!