This week at Big Meadow Campground, I am finishing up the first chapter of Galatians.
Paul has spent his time so far in Galatians defending his ministry. His apostleship is under attack, so he started off defending the fact that the Lord called him as an apostle.
Next, he defended the Gospel, calling what the Judaizers who are bringing this attack a perversion of the true Gospel.
As we wrap up chapter 1, Paul now defends his ministry and shows us that the Gospel and his apostleship are so intertwined that to attack one is to attach the other.
First, he tells us that the Gospel he is preaching is not according to man. Obviously, this is a point of attack by his enemies in the Galatian churches. They are telling the churches that Paul is out on an island by himself and that they have the true gospel. Paul disputes this idea by saying that he neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. He goes beyond his salvation experience and says that not only was he saved through a supernatural revelation from Christ, but he learned the Gospel through the same means as well.
Paul gives further proof by reminding them of what kind of man he was before he came to Christ. He tells them that they have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God. Paul was growing and advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries.
God had other plans for him though. These weren’t plans that were new plans or spur of the moment plans. The Lord had set me apart even from my others womb and called me through His grace. Paul’s ministry of being an apostle and proclaiming the Gospel were decided by God, not man, before he was even born.
When God was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, something curious happened. We might have sought out a mentor or someone to disciple us. Paul didn’t . He did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me. Paul keeps hammering away that his Gospel is not from man, but from the Lord Himself.
He went to Arabia and then came back to Damascus. Then three years later, he finally made it to Jerusalem. It seems that he simply relied on the Lord. What did he do? Remember that Paul was on the path to becoming one of the major leaders of the Jews. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews and a Pharisee. He knew scripture. He must have spent time praying and meditating on that. With the Holy Spirit in his life, that scripture came alive for the first time. He must have seen how it all pointed to Christ.
Paul must have begun preaching and formulating the Gospel based on his new understanding of scripture and the revelation he was receiving from Christ Himself.
Finally, after three years of this, he went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas. He only stayed with him a hair over two weeks. The only other apostle that he saw was James, the Lord’s brother. And there is where Paul draws a line in the sand with the Judaizers. James was the leader of the Jerusalem church. The Judaizers would have come saying they were from James. Paul is in effect saying that James had no problem with me when I went to Jerusalem before. Why is he having a problem with me now?
Finally, he states that he went off proclaiming the Gospel in Syria and Cilicia. He was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea. However, he was knows by reputation. They heard that He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.
The result? They were glorifying God because of me.
We might read or hear this and say that’s nice, but what does it mean for me today? So what?
1. The revelation of God trumps the teaching of man.
You might say that the Lord has never given you a revelation. If you have a Bible, you have the revelation of God. Read it. Study it. Know it. Compare what preachers and teachers claiming to be from God with it.
2. What have you been set apart to do?
God had a plan for you. It might not be to be a preacher, but no matter what it is, it is to proclaim the Gospel in some way. Are you doing it?
3. Are people glorifying God because of you?
Are you living you life in such a way that people are giving praise and glory to God for you?
A few weeks ago I wrote this post about creating art for the Lord. Today I want to expand on that post just a bit.
When the Israelites left Egypt, Moses received specific instructions about how to build the Ark of the Covenant. Once the construction began, who were instrumental in creating the Ark?
You are an artist of some sort. You may be a writer, painter, or gardener. Maybe you wanted to be at one time, only to set it aside for some reason. You had a dream and it still lives there deep within you.
Is not pursuing that dream a sin?
I’m not 100% sure of the answer to that question. I can tell you that I think it is. Why? Because the Lord wants to give us the desires of our heart. That begins with Him being our number one desire. Our dreams and desires should then flow from Him.
Pursuing those dreams is an act, a way, of obeying and worshiping the One they come from.
The Israelite artists and craftsmen uses their abilities, talents and gifts to create the Ark, the precursor to the Temple. Now there is no building that acts as a temple for our Lord.
We are the temple of God now.
Just like the Israelites, we should use our abilities to build the temple of God. We should build up our brothers and sisters who are the temple as well. Our dreams and desires should further the kingdom of God in the world and within us.
So, I will leave you with the question I asked earlier.
Is not pursuing your dream a sin?
I’m excited to share a new series with you over the next few months. I have the privilege each summer to preach in a campground ministry. I will be sharing with you basically what my message will be each week.
Today I am preaching Galatians 1:1-5. In the way of introduction, Paul has a problem. The churches of Galatia that he has founded are being led astray by false teachers called Judaizers. They have entered these churches and added the Law to the Gospel. They are telling these people that grace is not enough, but works must be added to receive salvation. Word has gotten back to Paul and he writes this letter. Nothing less that the integrity of what he has proclaimed to them is at stake: the Gospel.
Paul immediately asserts his authority in the opening of this epistle. We can surmise that Paul himself has been called into question by these Judaizers. He states that he is an apostle. Most likely these false teachers have told the Galatians that Paul never witnessed Christ’s ministry or even knew him like the other apostles. You can almost hear them scream the question: What right does Paul have to be an apostle?
Paul contrasts himself and these teachers immediately. He says that his being an apostle has nothing to do with any other person on earth. He says that his apostleship is not from man, nor from any agency of man. Instead it is through Jesus Christ and God the Father. Paul is summarizing the fact that Christ appeared to him on the Damascus Road and appointed him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles at that point. The Judaizers, on the other hand, came stating that they were representatives of James and the apostles back in Jerusalem.
Paul gives a familiar greeting in verse 3. Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a typical greeting from Paul, but it seems to pack an even greater punch in the context of the issues he is facing with the Galatians. In essence, Paul tells the Galatians that the message he brought them, the Gospel he preaches is one of grace. The false teachers is one of Law. The Gospel brings peace into your life. The false Gospel brings turmoil.
Paul continues by summarizing the Gospel. He writes that Christ gave Himself for our sins. In five words, Paul reminds the Galatians that Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He wants the Galatians to understand that Christ died in their place so that they could have eternal life. He gets to the heart of the Gospel in that Christ did the work so that they could be right with God.
What is the result of Christ giving himself for their sins? He did this so that He might rescue us from this present evil age. The Judaizers brought a message that Christ, along with the Law, delivered the Galatians from their sinful state. Paul declares that Jesus, with no other help, does this Himself. He rescues us from the state they were in. He delivers them into the kingdom of God. Christ Himself with no help from the Galatians at all.
To further emphasize this, Paul states that Christ does this according to the will of our God and Father. All of the work that Christ has done. The Gospel that Paul preaches. The rescue of everyone that Paul describes. This is done according to the will of God. This is His plan. To alter it in any way to cross the Father Himself.
Finally, Paul states that the Gospel he preaches and the work of Christ is all done for the Father to whom be the glory forevermore. Paul is stating that his message of grace through the Gospel is one that glorifies God. The message that is leading the Galatians astray is one that cannot possibly do this because it includes the work of man in it. Paul’s sole aim in proclaiming the Gospel and founding the churches of Galatia was to glorify God. What is the aim of the Judaizers?
The question we must ask ourselves is so what? False teachers abound in today’s world. Paul’s message is relevant to us as well. We must keep the Gospel close to our hearts and minds in our lives. We must measure the words of anyone claiming to represent the Lord by the truths that Paul preached. Christ has delivered us from the present evil age as well. We cannot afford to be led astray by false teachers and doctrine. We must seek to glorify God in all we do.
I was had a couple of conversations with a friend the other day. Let’s call him Bryan since that’s his name.
One of the conversations was about a time that he was out and about with his then three year old daughter. It didn’t go as smooth as he wanted. His daughter pitched a fit on him. She wouldn’t stop, so he left the store he was in after about fifteen minutes. When he got home, he severely punished her. This punishment carried so much weight that a few years later she warned her little sister of what might happen to her one day.
Another conversation Bryan and I had was one that we have quite often. We discussed God and His nature.
We talked about how while we agree that God is love, this isn’t the total picture that we get from the Bible. He is also a God of judgment and wrath and mercy and grace. All of the characteristics go into who God is.
The problem that Bryan and I see is that too many of us only focus on the love part of God. Too many of us expect God to be this warm, fuzzy feeling God who indulges our every whim and desire.
In other words, we made Him into the God of the rocking chair.
Intentionally or not, many of us picture God sitting in a rocking chair on His front porch in heaven. He sits there rocking, smiling and nodding at what we do much like we expect a grandparent to do.
Grandparents rarely find fault in anything their grandchildren do. They feed their grandchildren things their parents wouldn’t. They let them stay up later. Then they leave the parents to deal with any consequences.
I read a blog post the other day where a man ripped a well known preacher for his picture of God. After reading that post, I wondered is this guy had really read the Bible. I wasn’t sure where he was getting his view, his picture of God.
My feeling was that he did what all of us have done in our lives. He made God into his own image, instead of taking the image God gives us.
God is not a rocking chair, grandparent type of God. He is a God of love, mercy, and grace, as well as a God of judgment and wrath.
Let’s realize that God is not an indulgent God who simply wants to give us our every desire. He wants to be our greatest desire and give to us based on that.
Have you ever realized that you have created God in your own image? Have you ever looked at God as a celestial grandparent?
A post from a couple of years ago.
Last night I bought a CD. Yes, I bought a CD rather than downloading iTunes. It was an 80′s alternative rock anthology. What I realized after listening to it for a while was that I tried to live an alternative lifestyle for much of my life without realizing it.
When I was a teenager, I bought and collected comic books. At it’s zenith, my comic book buying reached around $100 per month. Put that in today’s dollars. It’s a good thing I had a job.
When I was in college, I sought out music that no one I knew was listening to. I was probably the only person at my college listening to the Bodeans.
What I realize now was that none of this satisfied me. Trying to live an alternative lifestyle for the sake of living an alternative lifestyle just wasn’t doing anything for me. It sure didn’t make me happy.
In 1994, all of that changed. I entered into an alternative lifestyle without really trying to . How did I do it? I came to know Christ. Once I came to know Christ, He made me into a new creation. I was different. I no longer had to live like the rest of the world. I could walk in His Spirit. I could abide in Him.
Now a lot people would say, “That’s not an alternative lifestyle, that’s what a lot of people who go to church do.” I didn’t mention going to church. Sure, I do go to church. But that doesn’t make me someone that lives an alternative lifestyle any more than spending time in a garage makes me a car. Knowing Christ. Seeking Christ. Loving Christ. Loving His Church. That’s alternative. Not just showing up in a building with other people two or three times a week.
How about you? Do you live an alternative lifestyle?
This is a post from a couple of years ago.
I was speaking to someone the other day. We were talking about another person doing a work in their church. He responded by basically saying, “God told them they didn’t have to.” Those weren’t the exact words, but basically it gets down to that. This person had played the God Card.
You know what the God Card is, right? It’s what those of us in the church often use to justify what we want to do or to get us out of what we don’t want to do. Someone asks you to do something. Your answer? “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel led by the Lord to do that.” Someone asks you why you are doing something. Your response? “God has led me to do it.” Once that happens the argument is over. Who are we to question whether God wants or doesn’t want someone to do something? Who are we to oppose God’s will? The God Card has been played.
Most of us have played it. I have. I wanted to go to seminary. I felt “called” by God to do it. I was telling someone about it. They said I have better get busy going since God wanted me to do it. They implied that I needed to leave right then and begin. After all, God wanted me to do it. This was the best answer I ever got. It started me on the path to realize that I really wanted to blame God for what I wanted to do. That way I didn’t have to take responsiblity for my decision. The decision was in God’s hands. After all, what else could I do but follow the Lord?
Why do we do this? If someone asks you to work in, let’s just say for kicks, VBS. If you say, “No, I don’t like VBS”, then you will be viewed as someone who is incredibly selfish and does not want to sacrifice for the kids. However, if your answer is “I don’t feel led by the Lord”, then no one can view you in any other light than being obedient to God. See the difference? And let’s face it. It happens all of the time.
Let’s just be honest. If we are pursuing God with all we have, get asked to do something or want to do something, just do it. If you don’t want to, don’t do it. Man up and take responsibility. Don’t worry about what someone else thinks. Charge after Christ with everything you have and do what you want. Don’t look back and don’t play the God Card.
Have you ever played the God Card to get your way? I would love to hear examples of how others have done it.
I love the story about Lazarus in the Bible. You know it, don’t you?
Lazarus died. Word came to Jesus. Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, were good friends of Jesus. They had seen him heal the sick. Lepers had been cured. The dead had been raised. So they knew that if Jesus could get there, Lazarus could be healed. Instead, Jesus held off. He waited.
And Lazarus died.
Jesus waited a bit longer. Then he looked at the disciples and said, “Let’s go.” He arrived on the scene after Lazarus had been buried. He had been in the tomb for four days. He was troubled by the condition everyone was in. So, he said to show him the tomb.
What did Jesus do? He said to roll the tomb away. Imagine what they were thinking. The smell coming from the tomb would be horrible. But they did it. They did as Jesus said. They rolled the stone away.
What did Jesus do? He said, “Lazarus, come forth.”
And Lazarus came forth. And God was glorified.
Let me tell you what Lazarus didn’t do.
Lazarus did not say to himself, “I’m pretty comfortable with my situation right now. I think I’ll stay here a while until Jesus comes back some other time.”
Lazarus did not say, “I’m ok being dead. I’ll just stay where I’m at. I don’t need to come forth.”
Lazarus came alive and came out of the tomb.
Because Jesus commanded him to come alive and come forth.
Before Christ, you and I were dead in our trespasses and sins. We were stone cold dead. It was as if we were drowned on the bottom of a lake. Jesus dove into the water, swam to the bottom where we were and pulled us out. He breathed new life into us.
He didn’t ask us if we wanted to be rescued.
He didn’t ask us if wanted to be saved.
He didn’t ask us if we wanted to live.
He made us alive.
We don’t have the ability to save ourselves. Dead people can’t make choices on whether to live. Only God can make that choice. He rescues who He rescues. He makes alive who He makes alive. Christ didn’t tell the entire cemetery to come forth. Only Lazarus.
Are you and I more powerful than Lazarus?
A post from a couple of years ago.
Do you know how to juggle? I do, sort of. I taught myself how to juggle two and three balls around twenty-five years ago. It’s a neat parlor trick that I can pull out and impress some people from time to time, especially if I don’t drop the balls.
Have you ever seen clips from old variety shows where someone is spinning plates on a rod? They begin spinning plates and add additional plates as they go. Their goal is to keep all of the plates spinning. It’s impressive if they can.
What does that have to do with the normal topics you find here on Deuceology? We are all jugglers and plate spinners in our lives, aren’t we? Just like a real juggler, we figure out how to juggle a couple of things. Then we add another and pretty soon we are really juggling. We are performing. We put different plates up on the rods. We get them to spinning. We are really impressing people. And what happens?
Someone wants us to juggle another ball. Someone wants us to add another plate. What do we do? Too often we say ok. We try to take on another ball. We try to spin another plate. What happens? A ball falls. Balls fall. A plate falls. Plates fall. Why? Because we try to take on more than we are capable of doing well. Don’t mistake what I’m saying. We might be able to handle that first plate. We might be able to handle that first ball. But it will catch up to us. A ball will be added and we will drop them all. A plate will be added and we have broken plates.
It happens in our churches, doesn’t it? We have the balls we are juggling. We have these plates we are spinning. Someone asks us to do something else. Something good. Suddenly we are doing another good thing for God. There’s just one problem.
We not be doing anything GREAT for God. Someone is scratching their heads. Someone doesn’t get it. They are asking if it isn’t good enough to do good things for God. My answer? No!!!!
Jim Collins said that the enemy of great is good. We settle for good, when we could and should be doing something great.
So, what do I suggest? Quit trying to juggle all the balls. Juggle the number you can be great at. Quit trying to spin all of the plates. Spin the number you can be great at. Juggle for the glory of God. Spin for the glory of God. Lay some balls down. Put some plates away.
Be great at juggling some balls and spinning some plates for God’s glory.
Do you need to lay some balls and plates down so you can be great at some things to glorify God?
This is a blast from the past, from around two years ago.
Yesterday I wrote about dreaming. Let’s say that you have now decided to allow yourself to dream. You are pursuing God with all you have and you believe that God has given you a dream. Your dream is to hike the Appalachian Trail, help build a house with Habitat for Humanity, run a marathon, or go on a mission trip. So you wait on the dream to happen. After all, God has given you the dream. He will make it happen for you, right? And you get frustrated because the dream isn’t happening. You begin questioning whether the dream is really what God wanted you to do after all. It just isn’t coming to fruition.
I understand this. I’ve been there. I’ve had this happen and had the frustrations. Why isn’t the dream happening? I think the answer is pretty obvious. God will give you the dream, but you have to do your part to realize the dream. If you want to hike the Appalachian Trail, you had better make a habit of knowing everything you can know about the AT. You had better prepare. You have to do a lot of hiking. You get the right gear for the trip. You do something everyday to make your dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail a reality. Same if you want to run a marathon. You run. You buy the right shoes. You might join a group that will encourage you. You do the small, daily things needed to run 26.2 miles.
In other words, you make your dream a habit. It’s ok to dream, but it’s not going anywhere if you don’t something about it. It will take some sacrifice. Jon Acuff says that you might have to get up at 5:00 am when the rest of your family is asleep. I agree. When you have a dream and want to make it real, you will do whatever you have to do to see it through.
And that ends up being the question, right? Is it really your dream or just something that you think would be nice. The difference is in what you do to make it happen.
What is your dream? Are you willing to do what it takes daily to make it happen?
There is a gentleman where I work who is about to retire. I remember when I first met him, almost seventeen years ago. We ran into each other in the restroom. I imagine that he could tell I was new. We were a bit smaller of a company back then. He asked what I was doing there and I told him. Feeling pretty spunky, I asked him the same question. He told me he was the Executive Vice-President for the division I worked for. I might have felt a bit sheepish at that point.
Some time later he was made the president of this division and has worked to the point of retirement. Someone told me recently that he was taking welding lessons so that he can create art. Think about that for a minute. He has been an executive in a business for close to two decades. He is going to retire within weeks and what does he want to do?
I have had a thought for a while. A question really. It’s been sitting there simmering. Baking. Basting in the slow cooker of my mind for a few weeks. I’ve been wondering for a while.
Is it a sin to not pursue your dream.
Now, we have to define our dreams a bit. I’m not talking about what you have on your bucket list. I’m not talking about working for thirty years until you gain the gold watch and retire to a life of ease. What I mean is this:
A dream is the desire to use the talents you have been given for the betterment of man and the glory of God.
We recently had a sermon series at church. It was called The Follower and was about being a follower of Christ.
On the first Sunday of the series, our pastor displayed a piece of driftwood on stage. It was nothing remarkable. Just a piece of plain, gray driftwood.
The next Sunday, it looked a little different. A gentleman in our church had begun to carve a face into the driftwood. Each Sunday throughout the series it change. The detail to the face grew. This man had taken a his tools that he was skilled at. He made something beautiful out of something that was ugly. He used his talents to do something.
Jon Acuff recently wrote this post about the artists of Israel. You can read the story in Exodus 31 and 36. God gave the wisdom and talents to create art to some of the Israelites. All who were willing were summoned to work on the ark and all of the items for the tabernacle.
The skill of those skillful to create art was put into these people by God. What were they given the skill to do?
God gave talent to certain people and then those who were willing created the ark and instruments of the tabernacle. The artists were heavily involved in the corporate worship of the Lord.
Some, it seems, may have sat on their talent and not used it for the betterment of the nation and the glory of God
You may think that you aren’t an artist. I disagree. You may not be a musician. You may not be someone who can carve driftwood into something beautiful or weld metal into art. You may not be someone who writes a blog.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have talent or don’t create art.
I know a man who has been a hunter all of his life. The Lord has given him incredible talent and ability. He leads hunter safety classes and shares his faith through this. Do you know what he does?
He creates art.
I want to challenge you today. Do an self-inventory. Find your talents. Use them to share your faith. Give them to your church to aid in corporate worship. Display them so that God’s glory can be further displayed.
What talents do you have that can create art for the Lord?