For Father’s Day, I was given something by my kids that I had never gotten before. Tucked inside a book they gave was a Fandango gift card. That’s right, I’m going to the movies soon.
If you know me well, you can probably guess what movies I will see. I’m a bit behind right now. I plan to go see Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel. If I have any left over, I plan to go see The Wolverine next month. As you can guess, I’m a bit of a superhero geek.
Most of us know the basics about Superman. He came from the planet Krypton, crashing as a baby into a field in Kansas and found by the Kent family. He was raised as Clark Kent and hid who he really was. On one hand he was stumbling, bumbling Clark Kent. On another, he was the most powerful man on the planet. Talk about identity crisis.
Iron Man is completely different. Rich beyond belief, Tony Stark is a narcissistic genius. Captured by terrorists, he is ordered to construct a weapon. Instead, he builds a suit of armor which he uses to escape. He perfects it when he gets back. Later, in a press conference, he announces to the world that he is Iron Man. Tony Stark is Iron Man. Iron Man is Tony Stark. One and the same.
Wolverine is a little trickier. His name is Logan. He is a mutant that cannot remember his past. He recalls a few fragments here and there. This is frustrating because he basically has no idea about his past or who he really is.
I think we Christians fall into these categories as well.
Too many of us seem to be like Superman. We claim an identity in Christ, but for some reason we try to hide it. We create separate identities for our church life or Christian life and the rest of our life. We hide behind the masks we create for ourselves. In some ways, this makes us live confused lives where we don’t truly know who we are.
Others of us are like Tony Stark. We are who we are. There is no separation between our life in Christ or any other part of our life. We are comfortable with who we are. We aren’t hiding who we are from anyone, much less ourselves.
Others of us seem like Wolverine. We have no idea who we are. We go through life in a state of confusion, not knowing how our lives of faith fit with the other parts of our lives. We try to connect the different parts of our lives, but don’t know how they fit together or even if they do.
Each of us have our own identities in Christ. Our challenge is to figure out who we are and live the life we are called to live in Him.
Do you know who you are in Christ?
Lately I’ve been searching for something. For a while, I could relate to what Bono used to sing: I still hadn’t found what I was looking for. There were three corner pins to my property that I could not locate.
One corner was easy to find. I knew the general spot where it was. With my father-in-law’s metal detector, we found it easily. It’s twin on the opposite side of my property was trickier, but I finally located it.
The one closest to the road in front of the first one proved to be trickier. We searched with the metal detector all around where it should be, but could not do anything. Finally, I had my kids use the Pythagorean Theorem to determine the measurements for it. After stretching some twine from one corner and another spot, we were close. Lo and behold, we found the pin. That just leaves one more and it will be no problem. I just have to measure from two corners.
There are several things that this allows Jan and me to do. We can now plant a row of trees down the border of our property. It lets us know where we can build a utility shed that we want to build. It lets me know exactly where I can truly mow for my property. It also gave me some things to think about in my spiritual life too.
I have the freedom to operate freely within my boundaries. I can plant and build almost anything I want on my property. I can put raised garden beds over there. I can build my building over there. A row of azaleas parallel to the road. Whatever my imagination can conceive, I can do it.
We believers live a life of grace, but God certainly gives us certain boundaries on how to live. We can do virtually anything we want to do within those boundaries.
I can build a beautiful life when I know what my lines are. The aforementioned azaleas. Sunflowers in my garden. Bradford pear trees? Why not. Fruit trees? Certainly. Walkways. Decks. A small outdoor pavilion. These are just some of the ideas and thoughts we have.
It’s the same with our spiritual lives. We can fill it with all sorts of beautiful options that the Lord gives us when we know what the boundaries are. Mission trips? Helping the poor? Community? You name it. You dream it. The Lord has all sorts of ways we can fill up our lives within His boundaries.
The question we have to ask ourselves is if we know what those boundaries are.
Have you found the corner pins and boundaries of your life?
As we continue our journey through Galatians, today we begin chapter 3. There are a few things that need to remember as begin:
- False teachers are spreading a “false gospel” among the Galatian churches, which Paul calls not a gospel at all.
- Paul is being discredited by these false teachers by their attacks on his authority and apostleship.
- Paul gives evidence to why his gospel and mission are not from, but from the Lord, as well as his unity with the Jerusalem apostles.
- The message of the false teachers, also called Judaizers, is that faith must be supplemented by works of the Law for you to be a Christian.
In chapter 3, Paul has had a enough and lets the Galatians have it. He has spent the first two chapters showing them what is wrong with the Judaizers message. Now, he begins questioning them as to why they are following the Judaizers. Why are they falling for this false gospel which is no gospel at all. Paul says You foolish Galatians. He tells them that they are being foolish in dropping the gospel he preached for the one the Judaizers are preaching. This is not an ear tickling message that Paul is giving. He isn’t worried about their feeling. He hits them right between the eyes with what he thinks about their current state.
Paul next comments on the state of their being by wondering Who has bewitched you? Notice the underlying message of what Paul is saying. He is stating that, in reality, the only people who are not bewitched are those who have come to know Christ. Another way for Paul to have said this is “What kind of spell are you under?” Paul is seriously wondering what kind of power do the Judaizers have over the Galatians. After all, Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. In other words, Paul preached the gospel to them which is the means to salvation.
Paul’s next questions is simple: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law or by hearing with faith? Paul takes them back to their time of salvation. He reminds them that with salvation the Spirit came into their lives and he wonders with them if that came through works or by faith? The obvious answer is faith, since that is the gospel Paul proclaimed.
Paul continues his anti-how to win friends and influence people message by asking them another question: Are you so foolish? For the second time, Paul calls the Galatians foolish. Paul is hammering the point home that abandoning the gospel of grace for a false gospel of works is just plain foolish.
Paul’s next question leads us to a big theological word. Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Paul is bringing up sanctification here. In essence, what Paul is asking them is were you saved by faith (and notice the Spirit’s role in salvation) only to have to work for sanctification? This is an important lesson for us to realize that our faith begins with the Spirit and continues with the Spirit. We can’t do it ourselves. We have to rely on the Lord for our salvation to continue to sanctification, our becoming who are to be in Christ.
Paul wraps up this set of verses by taking the Galatians back to their lives as they came to know Christ. Did you suffer so many things in vain – if indeed it was in vain? Coming to salvation through faith in the gospel Paul preached had brought suffering into the Galatians lives. Had they suffered that only to abandon their faith? Faith and miracles had taken place in their lives. 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? Paul is telling the Galatians to look at the evidence. Did you come to faith in Christ by the Law? Did He send the Spirit by the Law? Do miracles come through the Law? Paul is obviously saying no.
What can we take away from these verse?
1. Reality comes by faith through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. Salvation comes though hearing by faith.
3. The Spirit’s presence in our lives is evidence of salvation.
4. Sanctification is result of faith, not works, as well.
5. Suffering and miracles may be part of our lives of faith.
Dale picked up Melissa’s plate and head to the trash cans. She was talking with Teresa and Tom, seeming to hit it of well with Teresa. Dale paused for a second. That was one reason why he wanted his family to stay at their home church if they chose him to be interim here. He knew that they would make a ton of friends quickly and would have to leave those friendships behind. There was no need to tear them away from their normal routine only to rip them out of this church in a short time.
Dale threw the typical church luncheon Styrofoam plate away. How many meals had he eaten off of those during his time in church? Countless, he imagined. The kids had already finished and made their way to the playground. They would soon be running and playing with other children from the church, easily making their acquaintance, dizzily spinning on the merry-go-round, laughing their way down the slide.
Dale stood back and watched for a while. He saw husbands and wives, men and women, finish their meals and head to the desert table. Pecan pies, chocolate cakes, and many he couldn’t identify right off were arranged in an order than he wasn’t sure anyone knew. If he was going to get him or Melissa anything, he knew that he had better head in that direction.
A few people came his way, complimenting him on his sermon, shaking his hand and introducing themselves. A couple told him that they were looking forward to him being there as interim, even though the vote wasn’t for another week. One little old lady even said that she didn’t know why they would just be voting on him for interim, that he should just their permanent pastor. Dale took it all in stride, shaking their hands and smiling. It would take him a while to get to know everyone if he was voted in. Even though it was unusual, he had heard of votes not going well for interims. He was leaving that int he Lord’s hands.
Fred McGinly made his way over to Dale. He had immediately liked Fred, reminding him of some of his early mentors in his ministry. He was the kind of deacon that every pastor needed, one who was there to support them, but who would be frank as well. He had had one in particular while in seminary who had helped him maneuver some landmines while attempting to pastor his first church.
“What do you think, Dale? Think you can handle this bunch?” Fred stood there smiling, knowing that this would be as easy as Dale would have it if he came on board following the vote.
“Seems like a good church, Fred. I’m sure there isn’t anything here I haven’t seen. I’m going to preach, visit and love on you folks, providing I’m here. I think that’s what you need more than anything.” Dale continued to survey the room, smiling and waving back at a few people smiling and waving and waving at him. Melissa looked up from her conversation with Teresa, her eyes saying she loved it here. Tom looked bored with the conversation. Dale couldn’t figure it out until he saw Teresa reach over and pat Tom’s hand. He hadn’t noticed it before, but it looked like the beginning stages of a relationship, so new that Tom didn’t dare leave Teresa’s side yet.
“It is a good church, even though we’ve had out struggles lately. I’ve been here as long as I can remember. Everything will swing back in the right direction. It always does. That bunch over there, though, may give you a few fits. I hope they’ll leave you alone, since you’re interiming, but who knows?” Fred kind of nodded at a handful of people who didn’t look happy, despite their conversation and laughing.
David stood up from his table and walked over to throw away his trash. He was another that Dale had immediately liked. He knew that between him and Fred that he would have plenty of support here. A couple of guys walked by, shook hands with David and Fred, introducing themselves to Dale as well.
David turned to Dale, looking at his watch.
“Are you ready?” David looked a little tense, as though what was coming would be harder on him than Dale.
“Sure, whenever you are.” Dale threw started over to the drink counter to fill up. He wanted something to sip in case his mouth got dry during the next little bit.
David spoke up loudly. ”Everyone, if you’re ready, we’ll move to the Q&A session.” With that, he brought Dale up in front of everyone.
“Well, here goes!!!” Dale thought as he turned to face everyone.
If there is one thing that we in the Church are interested in, it is our spiritual gift(s). We read over these lists in the Bible trying to figure out which we have. We take Spiritual Gift Inventory Tests in our attempts to discover our role in the Body of Christ. There’s just one problem. Some people live as thought they have spiritual gifts that the rest of us can’t seem to find in the Bible. Here are 5 Spiritual Gifts that none of us aspire to have.
1. Discouragement — You know this person. They discovered they had this gift and taught it to Debbie Downer. Everyone is upbeat and happy. That is they are until this person walks into the room or the meeting. They never met an issue that they liked. Ever. They suck the life and energy out of every class or get-together they attend. They have never found anything positive that anyone has ever done.
2. Ism’s — This person has the gift of Ism’s. They find new Ism’s all the time. They started with Fundamentalism. They moved on to Evangelicalism. No one has figured out how they are in favor of both Arminianism and Calvinism. Of course, they are in favor of Evangelism of all of these other Ism’s for our benefit.
3. Prayer gossiping — This person has been gifted with the ability to make prayer time extremely uncomfortable. They have the talent of being able to talk about everyone and everything in the community in one simple prayer request. If you know this person, there is no need to read the local newspaper. All you need to do is attend a prayer meeting with them. You will hear all of the news that is and isn’t fit to print.
4. Giving…..a hard time — This person often suffers from Big Fish In Small Pond syndrome. They have taken it upon themselves to be both the church police and the church mafia at the same time. If you drop a hymnal, if your church still uses hymnals, if you even know what a hymnal is, they will blow the whistle to your mom or dad. They believe that their reach extends beyond the church and they are the arbiters of property lines and disputes between neighbors.
5. Epistles — No, I’m not talking about the kind that Paul wrote. No, this person has decided that they will send letters to the pastor or anyone else that raises their ire. The pastor is blessed to receive a letter or email each week detailing what was wrong with their sermon. At least one Letter To the Editor in the local paper detailing what is wrong with modern society is published each week. They saw you speeding? You’ve got mail.
There you have it. Five spiritual gifts that you don’t want.
Obviously these are not really spiritual gifts. In fact, these are not gifts at all. Let’s hope that none of us “receive” these gifts in our lives.
Do you know what your spiritual gift is? What spiritual gift do you no want?
My buddy, David, and I were sitting around one day on break at work. I’m not sure how we got to talking about the subject, but it came up. When I think about it, I kind of want to turn in my man card. However, I have vowed to be rather transparent here at Deuceology. So, you deserve to know what we were talking about.
This wasn’t like the Saturday my other friend, Justin, was on a sports radio program. Justin and the other guys were discussing how weddings, especially those here in the South, should not take place during college football season. At least they shouldn’t take place if the bride and groom want anyone to come.
No, we began discussing how Jesus was at a wedding in Cana. He turned water into wine. He was the event of the day. He was at a party.
We wondered who he went to the wedding with.
We know his mother was there. She asked him to do something about the wine. I think Jesus just kind of shook his head and laughed when He asked her what that had to do with Him.
Did Jesus go to the wedding with his mom?
How about his brothers? James, the future pastor of the church in Jerusalem? Joseph, Judas or Simon? All of them? What about his unnamed sisters? Did the whole family go?
Did Jesus have some friends that He hung out with? John the Baptist was a wild man. He probably wasn’t on the guest list.
The family of Zebedee were from the area. Did the Sons of Thunder attend this soiree’? Were they there to dance with the single girls?
What about Peter and Andrew? They were Galilean fisherman. Did that merit an invite? Were they buddies of Jesus? We know Peter had a mother-in-law. Was he married at this point?
Weddings aren’t many guys favorite thing to do on a fine Saturday. Many of us simply don’t want to get all dressed up and sit in a church just to get some snacks afterwards. Sometimes our wives will give us that look when we try to wiggle out of his. To quote the Borg, “Resistance is futile.” We have to go and there isn’t anyone better to go with than the one we looked forward to seeing coming down the aisle at a previous wedding.
There’s another wedding coming some day. It’s the marriage between the Bride and Christ. That’s one wedding that we all want to attend. We are all looking forward to that wedding, whenever it happens.
Who would I want to go to that wedding with? You. And you. And you. I want us all to attend this wedding.
Who would you go to a wedding with?
This is a series of posts based on the messages I deliver in a campground ministry I am involved in. I am preaching through Galatians and sometimes I think I benefit much more than the people who listen to me on a given Sunday.
So far, Paul has defended his apostleship, the gospel and the mission the Lord has given him. He has described a short trip he took to Jerusalem and then, fourteen years later, another trip he has taken to Jerusalem. He and the other apostles are on the same page. They are preaching the same gospel. He is fighting charges from false teachers called Judaizers who say that his gospel is incomplete and that the Galatians Christians must all follow the Law on top of accepting Christ as Savior.
Paul picks up in Galatians 2:11 with Peter coming to Antioch to visit. This didn’t go so well because Paul opposed him to his face. Things didn’t start out bad, it seems, but they went downhill fairly quickly. It seems that at first Peter enjoyed the freedom he had in the gospel. He used to eat with the Gentiles. Peter had no problem with it at all. That was before the coming of certain men from James. Once this happened everything changed. Peter began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.
What kind of effect did this have on the Christians meeting together in Antioch? The rest of the Jews joined him in this hypocrisy. Peter was Peter, after all. He was one of the Twelve. He was looked up to and his words and actions carried a lot of weight. Even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. That’s right. Barnabas. Son of encouragement. Paul’s right hand man. He was affected by what Peter and the Jews were doing. Even he was pulling away from the Gentiles. All of this because Peter feared living out the Gospel because a bad report might be taken back to James by these men from Jerusalem.
Paul had to act fact. After all, Peter, James and John had given him the right hand of fellowship several years earlier. They did not feel compelled to require circumcision for Gentiles that came to know Christ. They were on the same page. Singing out of the same hymnbook. Now, suddenly, things are changing. Why? Because of fear. Paul didn’t have the luxury of going to Peter in private. Peter’s mistake (sin?) was public and affecting people publicly. It was going to affect the way an entire local church viewed the gospel.
Paul opposed Cephas to his face because he stood condemned. That sure sounds like Peter had publicly sinned. Peter and the rest were not being straightforward about the truth of the gospel. Paul spoke to Peter in front of everyone. He said, “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 you have the hypocrisy of Peter that led to the hypocrisy of others. He was living one way and requiring others to live another. He would not have preached this, but his actions were louder than words.
What can we take away from this?
1. Fear can make good guys act stupid. Peter was not for this type of behavior. He just didn’t want a bad report to go back to the pastor of Jerusalem. Peter had denied the Lord on the night of his trial and here he was denying the truth of the work of Christ.
2. We must stand for what we believe. Paul opposed THE apostle of the day. How intimidating could that have been? No wonder the others were following his lead. Not Paul. He had been transformed by the gospel and he wasn’t going to follow someone just because of who they were. If Paul could stand up to a powerful figure within the Church, what could we and should we do if someone is doing wrong within our local bodies of believers.
3. The truth of the gospel cannot be compromised. It would have been easier for Paul to have worked this thing out behind the scenes. After all, he had gone to the apostles in private in Jerusalem. However, this was public and getting out of hand quickly. The reputation of the gospel was at stake. They were not living the truth. There was not room for compromise here.
This is a part of a fictional series that I am currently writing and posting on Saturdays. For the past installments, check out my FICTION page.
The last few notes of At Calvary were wrapping up. David closed his hymnal and placed it into the rack on the back of the pew in front of him. His palms were just a little sweaty. He had no problem speaking in front of the church, but his body didn’t always react like it. He was suddenly a little thirsty. “No wonder some preachers liked to have a cup of water up their with them”, he thought. The choir director was looking in his direction, so he started making his way up to the stage as everyone was being seated. It was a little strange to him, each time he did it, to stand behind the pulpit to give a report.
“Good morning!!!”, he said into the microphone. He wasn’t sure how well he it was picking him up. The sound of the preacher had gotten a lot better since he first been in church. When he was young, no microphones were used at all. Everyone was silent and the preacher would get loud when he needed to. Then microphones were added. Next were lapel mic’s. Now the microphones looked like the headsets used to make phone calls. It sure allowed a lot of preachers to become pulpit prancers.
The congregation responded back with an obligatory “Good morning” of their own. He saw a few people seem interested in the fact that he was up there. The youth group sitting together seemed to have a good joke going on. More evidence of how times had changed. If parents hadn’t taken care of it when he was a youth, the pastor would have called them out in front of the church. Pastors didn’t seem to do that any longer. He wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. Preachers probably didn’t want to face the heat on that by the parents who thought their children did no wrong.
“I would like for the rest of the search team to come up here with me, please. Don’t try to hide. I see all of you sitting out there.” David wanted them to be there with him for moral support, but he also wanted the church to know that they were unified in this. He didn’t want there to be any misunderstanding on where the search committee stood with each other.
Tom was the first one out of the pew headed up. Teresa wasn’t too far behind. Bill stood up and walked up without looking at anyone. It seemed like some of his old crew were giving him the cold shoulder. He wondered what trouble his change of heart of late was causing him. He certainly didn’t need any sort of added stress in his life at the moment. Fred was last up to the stage, which wasn’t unexpected. David had watched him slow down physically quite a bit over the last few years. He was still in good health, but he was well past retirement age and wasn’t moving quite as fast as he used to.
“Folks, this is your pastor search team.” David paused slightly as he said this. “We are working hard at the job you selected us to do. We are going to communicate with you everything that we can, when we can. The first item on the docket for us was to find an interim pastor. Next Sunday, Dr. Dale Adkins will be preaching. He is our candidate for interim pastor. We will have a lunch afterwards for him and his family. Following that, there will be a brief Q&A for anyone that has any questions for him. The following Sunday, we will vote on whether to accept him as interim. If that goes in favor of him, then our team’s focus will shift to finding our permanent pastor.”
David could see a few folks nodding. Some husbands were leaning over and talking to their wives. There were a few that sat there as stoic as possible. He wondered if that was what pastors saw every Sunday as they stood there preaching the gospel. He glanced over to the other members of the team.
“Do any of you guys have anything to say or add for the congregation?”
“I do, David.” Bill Johnson start moving toward where David stood. David cringed, more out of habit than necessity. He knew that Bill wanted to stand before the church and say some things, so he wasn’t shocked at this. It needed to be done and Bill believed that it would best be in conjunction with the team.
“Folks, I’m really not sure why you voted me on this team. I believe it was because I had a certain segment of the church who were in favor of me and the direction I thought the church should go. We banded together and helped run Donald off to an early retirement a few months ago. I led the charge and was the instigator of that movement. I know you all know this, but no one has really called me out on this. I sinned against the Lord and I sinned against this body of believers. I confess that to you and I apologize.”
The murmuring was louder than it had been earlier at that. David could see the folks Bill was talking about squirming in their seats. They didn’t look happy and had obviously been caught off guard by Bill’s comments.
“Some of you may be wondering what has changed for me to say this. Well, all I can say is that the Lord has gotten a hold of me. It just took me getting a brain tumor for Him to do that. I don’t have long to live. This thing is inoperable. Sure, we’ll do everything we can to fight it, but I don’t hold a lot of hope that the doctors can do anything. There’s only one Physician who can do anything about it.”
That got people’s attention. The room quieted down, even among those that had stood with Bill to oppose the previous pastor. David could see more than one person dabbing their eyes at the news. He couldn’t help but admire the man who just a few weeks ago had caused him more trouble than he cared to face. He was amazed at the transformation that Bill had gone through. He just wished it hadn’t taken getting a brain tumor for him to get to this point.
“Last thing and I’ll shut up. I want all of you to stand behind this team. They’re good people. They love the Lord. They’re seeking His will in this search. You selected them because you thought they could find the right people. Trust them on this and future decisions.”
Bill walked back to his spot. David glanced around at the audience. With a look to his right, he turned it back over to the choir director.
Welcome to the first Hi-LARRY-ity post. Future editions will be determined by my own warped sense of humor.
I was on pastor search team a few years ago. Actually, it was more than a few years ago. Looking back, I was probably even a bit too young to be doing such important work. What did I really know about searching for a pastor. I had barely lived life at all.
I was even on the flip-side once, being interviewed by a search committee.
What I do think now, a decade to nearly two decades later, is that I know how to tell you’re interviewing the wrong pastoral candidate. Here are some ways.
1. Your candidate learned Klingon during seminary rather than Greek. Does he want to boldly go where no pastor has gone before?
2. Your candidate’s opinion of Calvinism is that he always loved that comic strip
3. Your candidate’s response when asked if he is King James only is that he like Dwayne Wade too.
4. You ask him to describe how the Lord called him into the ministry and he says by text.
5. When asked to describe the hours he expects, he says that he will need weekends off.
Those are just five ways to tell that you are interviewing the wrong pastor.
How might you know that you are interviewing the wrong pastor?
The other day I was sitting there in church. It was getting late in the service. Our pastor was preaching a good sermon. I was enjoying it. Then it happened.
I got sleepy.
My eyes closed a little. I wasn’t completely nodding off, but I could feel my head just begin to lean forward. My daughter kind of tapped my shoe and causing to join everyone back in paying attention.
I really didn’t want to end up like Eutychus from the book of Acts. It would have been embarrassing to have fallen out of my chair right there in front of everyone. Fortunately, we are on a single level, so I think I would have survived the fall.
The big question is why was I so sleepy.
Was it because I had just had a hard week at work? This is true and may have contributed, but it wasn’t the total truth.
Was the sermon boring? No. I already said it was a good one.
Had I worked so hard on Saturday that I was still tuckered out from so much exertion? Uhhhh….no.
I’m going to let you in on the secret. It’s why you might have hard time staying awake. It might explain why you have drifted off during the message. Are you ready?
You didn’t go to bed early enough.
That’s it. Simple enough.
If you don’t want to get sleepy in church, go to bed earlier. SNL isn’t worth it worth it.
Do you ever struggle to stay awake during church?