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Archive for July, 2012

Verse 13: “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”–”

I love to play board games with my family and friends. All games, of course, have rules. It has often bemused me (between chuckling and rolling my eyes) to see my sons play a game they made up, and then make up rules on the fly! Especially if the one making the rules is losing! (I think I remember seeing Calvin and Hobbes do something like this in the comic strips!)

We went to the Lego store down at Disneyworld during a vacation once; I purchased a small Lego game called Ramses’ Return, a sequel game to Ramses’ Pyramid, I think. Once you “assemble” the game (remember it’s made of Lego’s) and learn the rules, you can play it. What is neat is that the Lego makers of the game encourage the players to add rules for variety (but write them down, of course!). My sons and I each assembled customized Lego figures down at the store and bought them. So, I added one of my custom figures as a “roll the dice” helper. If the mummy lands in your area while you have some of the treasures that you’re trying to escape with, you get sent back to the beginning and lose that treasure. I added a heroic bionic archaeologist (don’t laugh, this is my Lego character, I created him! 🙂 ) that, if you roll the right color, will save you from the mummy and help you keep the treasure.

Paul continues his arguments on the Judaizers’ insistence of the law by reminding them (through quotes of Scripture in Deuteronomy 27:26 and Habakkuk 2:4) that the law only punishes; it doesn’t save. Faith was always the way to justification. As the Holman Concordance on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians puts it on page 37: “The Judaizers would have been wrong in their fundamental message even if they had lived during the time of Moses, because they misunderstood the purpose and power of the law.” Christ came to take the curse of sin on Himself through His sacrifice. It is only through Him that we are redeemed and free. So why add a bunch of rules that you don’t have to follow anymore? Christ has already provided the saving rescue…and through Him, you’ve “won the game”.

Have a blessed day in Him.

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Verse 6: “Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

Not too long ago, DC Comics ran a storyline through all its major titles called DC ONE MILLION. In this plot, the future descendants of the Justice League from the 853rd century came into the present to invite the present-day Justice League to the future for a celebration. As always, there were villains, present and future, lurking in the midst to mess things up. In the future, Superman was accused of being a Bizarro clone through the devious machinations of the villains, and was on the run from the populace. He was caught by a squadron of Thanagarian elite Wingmen, under the command of Mahol Toj, who responded to the rioting. During their conversation, Superman mentioned the name of his present-day teammate Hawkman; that name was Katar Hol. The mention of the name of a legendary figure in the Wingmen’s history gave Mahol Toj pause, and he gave Superman a chance to prove he was the original, allowing both sides to help each other confront the real villain in the game (some of this research I remembered with some help from a DC wiki: http://glcorps.dcuwiki.net/w/Mahol_Toj_(DC_One_Million) )

The Judaizers were very fond of quoting the law of Moses…Paul “one-ups” them here, and mentions Abraham. Abraham was saved by faith in God, long before there was “the law”. Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 in this verse. So if Abraham didn’t need the law to be saved, why should the Galatians? It was faith in God…for Abraham, faith in God the Father; for the Galatian Christians and us today, it’s faith in Jesus Christ, God the Son, the One who took our sin punishment upon Himself, and paid a debt we couldn’t pay.

In this case…it is Who you know!

Something to think about.

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Verse 2: “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?”

Have you ever seen the TV game show on ABC called Wipeout? It’s the very physically-challenging, wildly manic game show where contestants have to run crazy obstacle courses (all the time over water). From start to finish they have to navigate obstacle laden paths. Along the first path (called the qualifying round), things that look sure and solid can fold, rise, drop, flip, or pummel you…most times into falling off the pathway into the water. Sometimes watching some of these contestants, (some less successful than others) I have to wonder, “why don’t they just take a few steps and make a flying leap on their own into the water to complete the qualifying round? It’s about the only sure thing that’s going to happen to them. If you’re going to get wet, why get pummeled on the way?”

Paul was incredulous that the Galatians were suckered into the Judaizers’ Law plan as an additional requirement to salvation. Paul himself had taught them that the grace of Jesus was sufficient. He even asked them in several rhetorical questions, “how did you receive the Spirit?” It’s analogous to him almost asking, “Did you have to jump through a lot of legal hoops and obstacles, sometimes falling into the water, just to be saved? You realize there is an easier path than the must-keep-all-the-laws path…and you know what it is.”

That easier path is Jesus…in fact, it’s the only path.

Something to think about.

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Verse 14: “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?”

There was an episode of the cartoon Batman: The Animated Series entitled “The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne”. In it, Batman goes undercover at a rest spa, in his civilian alter-ego of Bruce Wayne, to investigate a blackmail scheme. A scientist named Dr. Hugo Strange has invented a machine to read thoughts; using it under the pretense of treating executives for stress, he extracts blackmailing information. Using it on Bruce, he discovers Batman’s secret identity and attempts to auction the information to the Joker, Two-Face, and the Penguin. Thanks to Batman’s ingenuity, the three villains think they have been tricked with a false tape and destroy the real tape evidence in their attempt to get revenge on Strange. As they are attempting to flee and have kidnapped Strange, Strange tries to convince them he was telling the truth.

Dr. Hugo Strange: “Joker, please! I was set up! Bruce Wayne is Batman!”
Two-Face: “That’s absurd! I know Bruce Wayne. If he’s Batman…I’m the King of England!”
Joker: “And people say that I’m crazy!” (maniacal laughter)

Due to Batman’s cleverness (and a well-timed impersonation of Bruce by Dick Grayson), Strange is convinced he didn’t get the true story…the villains didn’t believe it anyway, since as Two-Face aptly put it: “That’s absurd! I know Bruce Wayne. If he’s Batman…I’m the King of England!”

The Gentiles thought they knew Peter (Cephas). An apostle, a church leader, and a disciple of Jesus, he was fellowshipping with the Gentile converts. But the arrival of some Judaizers shamed Peter into distancing himself from the Gentiles. The Gentiles were getting confused…what was the message Peter was conveying? Paul could see how this would hurt the message of the gospel, and he promptly took Peter by the spiritual short-hairs on the back of his neck, and set him straight! By even appearing to side with the Judaizers, who were stating grace PLUS the law, Peter could have done damage to Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. Paul set him straight and made him remember who he really was and who he needed to be to those he witnessed to: a man saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, and that grace alone!

What message are you sending today to those who need to be saved by the gospel of Christ?

Something to think about.

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Verse 10: “They only asked us to remember the poor – the very thing I also was eager to do.”

We often ask church candidates (when our Carpenters for Christ interview team is asking about their mission needs), “Would you do this project without our help?” Most times, if they say “Yes.”, that’s an indication that they can afford the labor costs. One of the goals of our Carpenters group is “constructing church buildings to the Glory of God for churches in pioneer areas that can afford the materials, but not the labor, for much needed facilities to reach people for Christ.” (from the About page at http://www.eastalcfc.org/ ). Many of these Christian building ministries (Carpenters for Christ, Builders for Christ) and other Christian ministries help churches who are not as financially well-off as others. They aren’t poor in spirit…just poorer in the pocketbook sometimes.

Paul and the Jerusalem leadership both had the poor in mind. The Jerusalem’s leadership only request of Paul was to remember the poor. Paul did that through the offerings raised in the Gentile churches, thus “Such giving promoted love and unity among the Gentile and Jewish Christians.” (from the Holman New Testament Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, & Colossians, page 22).

Financially, Jesus walked this earth with just the clothes on His back. He was very cognizant and aware of the needs of the poor, and ministered thusly. It’s a responsibility we Christians have: ministering to the poor. It’s something we need to remember daily, wherever we go.

Something to think about.

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Verse 3: “But not even Titus who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.”
Verse 9: “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, that we might go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.”

Today is July 4, Independence Day, in the United States. This is the day we celebrate the birth of the United States of America; over 200 years ago, our forefathers fought against the tyrannical British monarchy to achieve their freedom from England. They wanted to govern themselves, not be subjected to the unfair laws and rule of King George. They wanted freedom from the law of the English empire.

Paul had gone to Jerusalem to meet with the Christian leadership, and he, too, was fighting for freedom: the freedom from the laws that the Judaizers were saying the Gentiles had to abide by, in addition to the grace of Jesus. Titus was Exhibit A in this case; a Greek uncircumcised Christian. Had the Judaizers had their way, they would have stated that Titus couldn’t be a Christian without obeying the law of Moses, including circumcision. Paul defended that it was grace and grace alone in Jesus Christ that was saving. The Christian leadership agreed with Paul; they also offered the “right hand of fellowship” to Barnabas and him to continue in the ministry to the Gentiles. The Judaizers had kept referencing the Jerusalem leadership in their arguments against Paul…now Paul had the endorsement of the Jerusalem Christian leaders that he was in the right…that the grace of Jesus needed no additional “requirements”.

That is what makes the Christian faith different from other religions; you can’t earn or work your way to Heaven. It’s a gift from God, the gift of Jesus. It’s freedom from the penalty of sin.

Happy Independence Day!

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Verse 2: “And 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.”

I made a boo-boo in choir today. While we were singing the special music for our patriotic service, I said the word “your own sins” where I should have said “our own sins”…I was trying to look between the book for the notes and our minister of music for conducting direction. Since this particular verse was a prayer to God in the song, I felt mortified! I quickly asked for God’s forgiveness, and was glad that my mistake wasn’t heard above the rest of the choir singing “our”. What a contradiction in message that would’ve been!

Within a few months, both national conventions of the Democratic and Republican parties will convene to announce their candidates for President of the US and also to present their unified party platforms. This is the time to make sure the parties stand united in the fall elections, and to smooth or resolve any differences…to make sure everyone is on the same page.

God had sent Paul to Jerusalem to consult the Christian leadership there. The reason? To make sure that the gospel he was preaching was on the same page as the gospel they were preaching. He knew that the message of grace from Jesus Christ had better be the same from all Christian witnesses, or else, confusion in his mission work to the Gentiles would occur. It seems ironic that Jesus presented the gospel in such a straightforward way, and yet we humans can get is so complicated sometimes. Paul knew this and was gladdened to discover that they were on the same page as he was.

We both use the same Book….are you on the same page as Jesus?

Something to think about.

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