Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Galatians 2:11-14

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Paul was definitely his own person, or God's person, depending on how you look at it. Jesus had spent years with Peter, and it sure seemed to be a long, slow process of growth. And here is Peter again, letting his reactions get the better of him.

I think back to the day of Pentecost, and the boldness of Peter. It kinda puts Peter in a place where I just picture that he is on track now, and not gonna ever blow it again. I guess I can see where the Catholics get it. But Peter was still human. Why should he be any different than anyone else? than me?

I guess Peter was not perfect after all. And Paul called him on it. Not that Paul was perfect, but he had an understanding of truth that went beyond what might be considered normal, and he was not afraid to address what must have been an awkward situation in a righteous manner.

The Bible does not say, but I like to think that Peter handled it in an appropriate manner. I like to think that he recognized his error and took Paul's criticism in stride. But then again, he was Peter...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday Music

There is just something bizarre about posting a Michael Jackson cover that strikes me as I do this, but then I tend to like bizarre here goes...

I enjoy the music of Sidewalk Prophets. And I understand their covering this song. Change does start with me, but my change starts at the cross. Somehow, I think Michael missed that part.

Christmas is about a baby born in a manger, and how one wrought a change that is still felt 2,000 years later. But I believe that is true because of the supernatural nature of that change. If my change is to be real, it is not about what people will say of me when my life is but a whisper, but it is who I am with that matters. about a cover for Thriller, video and dance steps included?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lapping Up God's Word - Yum!

Galatians 2:6-10

And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

A lot of people make the Bible into a gushy book full of love and nothing else. But that is not the truth. Jesus often confronted people, he turned over tables, he turned people off with his words. Paul was also a no-nonsense kind of guy. Even though at one time he was one of the influential people, or at least on the fast track to being one, he now thought nothing of earthly influence, not even when it came to the apostles. I don't think he disrespected them, but he did not let their position cause him to place them on a pedestal. They were both charged with sharing the same gospel. Apparently, the apostles felt the same about Paul. They were not in awe of him, but were encouraged when they saw what God was doing through him.

How far we have gotten from this, when preachers are placed on stages and television, and we lap up every word as if it were God himself who were speaking. Yum! Not a hint of bitterness here! I am not saying that God does not speak through preachers who speak the truth, but we have a responsibility in this too. I love that the apostles remind Paul not to forget the poor. Looking at the lifestyles of our current "evangelists," can we say that they have done the same?

I guess I just look for a balance. Preaching truth where my responsibility is to be discerning and be responsible for living truth out for myself. Jesus turned tables because those who had been entrusted with truth abused it. And everyone there just saw it as normal. Perhaps because they had lost tune with the God whom they were worshiping. I don't want to lose that vision.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Galatians 2:3-5

Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

In verses 1 and 2, Paul seemed to be questioning if he were doing the right thing, preaching the right gospel. I understand this, because the gospel that Paul was preaching was counter-intuitive. It just makes sense that we owe God, and that we should have to do something to pay that debt. We should desire to earn God's favor, because we are not perfect. There must be some element of the law that we can still cling to.

But not even Titus was compelled to be circumcised. If the Jews were going to keep any element of the law in place, it would seem circumcision would be a logical choice. It was instituted by God and labeled them, set them apart. Titus was a Greek, not a Jew. One would think that he would want ot make sure that he was safe, that he was a part of the "in" group. Why not be circumcised, if for no other reason than to play it safe? But Titus was confident that not only was no such action needed, it would be a hindrance to his faith. This was a part of hte freedom that Titus had found in Christ. Not a freedom to do anything that he wanted, but a freedom that meant he was not bound to the fruitless requirements of a legalistic system that couldn't fix the problem of sin.

Others observed this, and couldn't comprehend it. Or they simply did not want to give up the control that it gave to them. Sure, Christ saves, but they wanted the debt and allegiance of others to continue. Remember the later church's idea of indulgences? Same principle. You can be free in Christ! Now follow us in obedience to these laws and freedom will be yours.


Our freedom in Christ does free us from the law, but it does so in order that our service to Christ will be a response of love that honors him. That is the truth that Paul wanted to preserve! No one suffered more for the cross than Paul, but he did it not out of obligation to a set of rules. He did it as a response to what Christ had done for him.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I find this insane!

Galatians 2:1,2

Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.

So Paul has been at work for 14 years! Think about all the highs and lows, the victories for the cause of Christ, the personal suffering he had to endure. So then he goes to Jerusalem to meet with those who were the leaders. And Paul presented what he believed the gospel to be. 14 years into it, and he wants to make sure that he has not been doing all of this in error?

First, let's stop and look why he went. He went in response to a revelation. The Holy Spirit was guiding him to go to Jerusalem. He knew he was going to talk to the leaders of the church. Was this because he had been doing something wrong? We all know that feeling, when you are called before someone of importance and we don't know why. Be it boss or parent or the boss's boss, our mind sometimes begins to wander, thinking, "What could I have done wrong?"

I am not sure if I see a moment of doubt here, or a moment of humility, or perhaps both. There is nothing wrong with a moment of doubt, and certainly nothing wrong with humility either. I like that Paul is open and honest, whatever the reason, and is willing to listen. I pray that I would be that way. And I pray that all leaders would be that way.

How crazy, after 14 years, for Paul to consider if he had been running his race in vain. The only thing crazier would be for him not to consider such a thing.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I don't know when I first ran across this video, but it has only been a few years back. I heard it on a Bebo Norman CD, and later found out it was written by Jackson Browne.

I used to listen to Jackson long ago, back when he wrote things like "Doctor My Eyes." I imagine that this was written around that time and just never got a lot of play. At least that is what I like to think.

I don't think Jackson views himself as a Christian, at least not in the traditional sense. I think he is rather turned off by Christians actually. After listening to this song, I can see why.

What do I need to change about how I treat Christmas this year?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Deep and Wide

Galatians 1:17-24

17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[b] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.

Paul was converted and immediately begins a missionary journey. He does not feel the need to get the rubber stamp of approval from the Apostles. I find this a bit curious, as the Bible is clear about the fact that we should be submissive to leaders, but then again, how often does one's conversion come as a direct result of an encounter with Jesus?

I love the idea that Paul's conversion is a matter of public discussion. I liken it to the idea of a Richard Dawkins type becoming a Christian. C. S. Lewis comes to mind.

It also reminds me of Christ's teaching the he who is forgiven much loves much, and he who is forgiven little loves little.

Lord, help me see the depth of my salvation!

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Galatians 1:15-16

But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.

What does Paul believe about how he became a follower of Christ? Was it his decision or God's? From this passage, it appears that Paul did not have a say in the matter, being set apart from the womb, and called by grace. It is as if God chose him and then waited for just the right moment to reveal Christ to him. And once this was done, Paul did not feel the need to get this verified. He didn't go to the apostles, his mother, the High Priest, or any human for that matter. He knew. He knew and it changed him. He knew and it wrought a conversion the likes of which is seldom seen. Not that this invalidates any other conversions of lesser magnitude, it was the conversion that God had set him apart to experience. It was the conversion that God created and used to glorify Christ. It was beautiful.

How to stop smoking (for some)

Galatians 1:13-14

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

Paul was a fairly famous person, at least in Christian circles. And this was true prior to his conversion. Prior to his conversion he was the guy you did not want to show up at your prayer meeting. Like having a cop show up at a drug deal. He was a bad man with a mission to destroy the church. Intensely destroy it. It was a passion of his. And this passion was working for him. He was quickly advancing up the ranks in his religion, destined for greatness and even more power. 

Where does such a passion come from? Or better yet, what can cause a man with such a passion to turn 180 degrees? Something had to happen to cause his mind to switch tracks.

My dad was a smoker for most of his life. He tried to quick various times, but soon was back to the habit. Then one day, he had a heart attack and ended up in the hospital. That ended his craving for cigarettes. It just stopped, like a bug hitting a windshield. He often spoke about how he just no longer even desired a smoke. Not everyone who has a heart attack has the same result, but for him it turned his desire around and ended his addiction.

Paul met Jesus. He was confronted with what Christ had done for him. It turned him around. Not everyone understands the depth of what Christ has done like Paul did. Not everyone will turn like he turned. But to deny Paul's authority, to ignore what he will bring out in this letter, I don't think that was an option for the Galatians. I'm not sure it is an option for us either.

This speaks to what conversion is, what happened to Paul, and what needs to happen to you and me better than I can...

My favorite line: "If you don't have a new relationship with sin, you do not have a new relationship with God." 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Insanity Test

Galatians 1:11-12

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

This is such a bold claim. One that makes so much sense to those who get it, and is utter nonsense to those who do not.

When looking at the gospel, especially a gospel that would be invented by such a potentially prominent Jew, the gospel that Paul preaches makes no sense. It gains him nothing, and costs him everything. So unless it is true, Paul is insane.

I don't think he was insane, so listening or reading this is more than just something to do, it is something to investigate. It is something to work out. It is something to test. And if found to be true, it is something to live out in the same manner that Paul lived it out. Anything less seems insane.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I'll pick Jesus

Galatians 1:10

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

 Paul makes an interesting statement here when he says, "If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." I think it is more what he doesn't say that strikes me. He does not say that by preaching Christ, or calling himself a Christian, he would be rejected by man. He says that by seeking man's approval he would no longer be a servant of Christ. I think that there are so many who are working to do both, and sometimes just the former. Paul was not interested in that. If he were, he wouldn't have confronted the Galatians regarding their straying from the heart of the gospel.

So for those who seek to keep the peace, because so-and-so is a major contributor, or they volunteer in so many places, etc., does that peace keeping show you to be a servant of Christ? I am not saying that Christians should always be confrontational, but there does seem to be a time and a place to do so. 

And one of the sad things is, we often get it backwards. We are so ready to stand up and confront the world, to purge the world of sin, but when did God commission us to purge the world of sin? I was of the understanding that God called us to make disciples. We are willing to make enemies in the world in order to appease those in the church, when Jesus was always willing to make friends in the world while not caring if a few religious leaders or even disciples were bothered in the process.

Hmmm...who do I want to be like?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Good cheesecake!

Galatians 1:6-9

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Paul has laid out who he is  and how he feels about the gospel. He is enveloped in the gospel more than anyone I can think of, outside of Jesus. He has an understanding of it and a passion for it. He has grasped the concept of grace and it has changed his life. Now he looks at others, and is astonished that they could feel or act differently. How could someone be impacted by an understanding of grace and truth, and give that up to go back to living under some kind of other law? That would be like tasting a my mom's cheese cake, and then going back to store bought. 

Paul likens this change of heart to following a different gospel. Not that such an animal really exists as far as God is concerned, but in man's eyes, that is exactly what it is, a different gospel. And it is not a new animal, it is the same old dirty dog that bit you before. But there is a certain level of comfort we have with this old dog. 

But for those who return to their old ways, they shall be cursed.Cursed because they have missed the boat and are in danger of hell, but also the curse of living under the law. Because when you live under the law, the only way to satisfy it is to maintain every aspect of it, and impossible task. Paul, as good as he was in his previous lifestyle, surely still realized that he was not perfect. He deeply understood the freedom that grace afforded. And he relished it, and was amazed that some would not. 

I want to find that deep of an understanding of grace. I want  to grasp the meaning of the gospel message. Don't I? (Yes, I understand there is an inherent risk to that kind of an understanding.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Really good cupcakes

Galatians 1:3-5

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

 Paul is not ashamed of the gospel. Sure, he is writing to a group of Christians and you might expect talk like this, but somehow I think that this is how Paul would talk regardless of the audience. 

Grace to you, and peace...don't those two go together just like popcorn and butter? Like steak and potatoes? Like copy and paste? Can there really be peace without the promise of grace? And just look how grace permeated Paul's life. Paul gave up an entire lifestyle because of the grace of God. He turned from a man on a fast-track to power and prestige and became a man who joyfully endured suffering like it was the frosting on a cupcake, the really good, creamy kind, with sprinkles.

That is what the gospel does, if you get it right. It ruins you for the stuff that you used to think that you could not live without. Paul was a realist. He looked at the age he was living in and saw it for what it is, a present evil age. I don't think he was comparing it to any other age on earth, as many people are prone to do (although perhaps he easily could have). I think he just realized that any age on this earth is an evil age, because sin reigns. And God has through Christ redeemed us from this age, and that is something that Paul completely grasped.

All of this, Paul's gift of apostleship and his radical life-change make his message compelling, one that is at least worthy of an audience. At least it does for me.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Music Monday

I listen to a variety of music, some by Christian artists and some not.

One of the albums that I cannot seem to get enough of lately is by a group called "The City Harmonic." This is one of my favorites, "Holy(Wedding Day)"

The group has a sound that reminds me of U2. Very powerful. Hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What's Up Next...

So I made it through the book of Job...

I thought I would take up the book of Galatians next. This is the book that changed my thinking about what it means to be a Christian at a time when God had just begun to steer me in a direction that I did not want to go. Changing me from a church-goer to a follower of Jesus. A road that I still travel...
Galatians 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me,

Paul is the author of this letter, and he begins by stating his authority as the author. He was an apostle. This authority was recognized by the other apostles, who had taken the other route to their office. Those were the ones who had been with Christ throughout his earthly ministry. Paul was different, he was dramatically called out of a life as a persecutor of the church. 

Paul was set apart by God to be an apostle. What does that mean? Does it mean he did not have a say in the matter? So say that of course he did, and that if Paul had not chosen to follow Christ, God would have raised someone else to do the job. But I struggle with that, because there was only one Paul. Only one who was on the fast track to Jewish leadership, with an eye on perhaps being High Priest. Only one who was a Pharisee among Pharisees. How could God raise up someone with those credentials, when all along he had chosen Paul for this job? 

Being chosen by God, those are some great credentials. I don't think I can argue with them, knowing what I know about Paul's life. Knowing what he gave up, knowing how he lived, what he endured, and how he endured it. Seeing his contentment, a contentment that was not based on circumstance, but on a relationship and love for God. Seeing a man who had undergone a change in his belief system not unlike, at least in some ways, the change I was to go through. Yeah, this is a book that I might want to pay close attention too.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What I Learned

So now that I have finished Job, what have I learned?

One thing I learned is that my actions, good or bad, do not affect who God is. I think I used to have this idea that my sins devastated God, and to overcome this He sent his Son. This means that God sent his Son so that for himself, so that he would be able to allow me into his presence. Now I see it a bit differently. While God is Holy, and he is disgusted by my sin, God could easily live without me. The fact that he sent his Son was done out of love, and was for my benefit. God is ultimately content regardless of my choices. When Adam brought mankind into sin, God was not viewing himself as a failure. He cannot fail.

So what is the impact of this? It means that my love for him is based on what he has done for me and me alone. Sending his Son was not something he did so that he could be with me, but something he did so I could be with him. A subtle difference to some, but something I see as a major shift in thinking. I was completely and selflessly done on my behalf. Just like when God commands us to worship him or live in holiness, it is done for me. Therefore my response should not be to be a moral good-nick because that is what makes him happy. My response should be to love and worship him completely because that will ultimately bring me the greatest joy.

Job saw God and repented. Previously he was a hearer, but upon becoming a seer of the truth, seeing his worth to God in light of his standing before God, Job came to appreciate and love God. I think it was at this point that Job received his salvation, and that everything in his life was leading up to this moment. Just like when Satan had Jesus crucified, thereby cementing our salvation, God used Satan to ultimately bring Job into a true relationship of salvation, taking him from a Pharisaical hypocrite to a true child of God. I love that.

BTW: If you have read some of my previous posts, you know that struggles that I have with the institutional/evangelical church. Here is a great series of 5 short posts that not only highlight how I feel, but also relate to what Job endured from his 3 "friends."

Job's First and Second Responses

So Job has listened to God tell him how little he is compared to an infinite God. And Job responds by telling him that he (Job) is of small account, and that he will shut up and listen now. I find that to be a good response. Perhaps my wording is a little harsher than the Bible's, but I think that is how Job took it. I think the translations tend to water things down a bit.

Can Job catch God with his little games the same way he sparred with his friends? That would be like trying to catch a dinosaur with a stone, or catch a whale with a fish hook. Ain't gonna happen.

So Job responds again, a little differently this time. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Oh yeah, it is me, Job. I was saying what I did not understand. I think that now I am ready to listen. Not only am I ready to listen, but I get it now. I don't just hear, I see. And because I see, I repent.

In Job's first response, he is humble. In his second response, he is humiliated. I know that some will think that is harsh, but I believe it. At first, Job expresses his place before God, yet God continues to show him his place. Perhaps like the man that Jesus healed, who at first saw people but they looked like trees walking, he needed some more convincing. (Mark 8:22-26)

Job saw clearly, and he was humbled enough to repent. He went so far as to say that he despised himself.

So now God turns to his friends. He rebukes them and then has Job pray for them, saying he will accept Job's prayer. He forgives them and restores Job's fortunes. His His brothers and sisters came and ate with him, and comforted him for all that the Lord had brought upon him.

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
    but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
    and repent[a] in dust and ashes.”