What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Galatians Summary

I began a new Bible study today. It’s a new beginning. I learned a lot studying Galatians, but it’s time to move on to something new. So I’m going to the origin of everything: Genesis.
Before I start writing about Genesis, I want to write a note about what I’m taking away from my study of Galatians. The study led me to look back at the time or era in which Paul wrote to the Galatians and to whom he was writing to. The Galatians probably understood Paul’s sermon differently than we expect as we try to look at it from a modern-day perspective.
The audience for Paul’s letter is telling. He was writing to the church of Galatia. This was a church made up of three kinds of believers. 1. Jewish born who had become Christians. 2. Gentile born who had converted to Judaism then became Christians (proselytes). 3. Gentile born who became Christians and did not have to convert to Judaism in order to gain salvation.
He was not writing to or about “the world” or unsaved Gentiles. So his messages about following the law or not following the law deal with not making the gentile believers convert to Judaism. The church was made up of all three of these groups and Paul expected them to worship, study, and eat together. He chastised the proselytes who were trying to “influence” the gentile believers to convert to Judaism in order to really be a part of the church. It was, and is, not necessary to follow the parts of the Bible that tell the Jews how to behave so they are easily recognized as God’s chosen people.
Paul used “the law” to signify the traditional and ritual actions that God had assigned to the people of Israel. He’s not referring to the entire Old Testament.  And his “gospel” said that a person doesn’t have to perform the traditional and ritual laws in order to be saved by Jesus Christ. Whether one is Jewish or Gentile (circumcised or uncircumcised) is not what gains us access to God in heaven. It’s faith in Jesus Christ (the Messiah) that determines salvation.
Paul didn’t say that Jewish people (those born Jewish and the proselytes) should not follow the Torah with it’s traditions and rituals. He, being a believer, followed the law his entire life. So it’s okay to follow the Torah, especially if one is Jewish born, but doing those things is not what saves people from eternal death and separation from God. Paul even went so far as to say that Jewish people should continue to follow the Torah to set themselves apart as God’s chosen people, but doing so is not what will save them. Faith in the Messiah is the necessary ingredient.
Paul used the example of Abraham who lived before the law was given to Moses. Abraham’s salvation was reckoned to him because he believed in the coming Messiah and in the promise that God had made with him. (Romans 4, Galatians 3) Just as Abraham was saved by faith, all people are saved by believing in and following the Messiah. Paul gave the Messiah a name: Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
As an application, I am trying to be more aware of when I’m just following the rules, traditions and guidelines of the church instead of devoting myself to believing in and following Christ’s rule. His basic rule is two fold: to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. The whole of Scripture can be summed up in those two principles, as told to us by Jesus in Mark 12:30-31: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” So my application is to continue to learn about and put these principles into practice on a daily basis by studying His Word and serving others.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Just Some Thoughts

I’ve been sitting at my computer for an hour hoping an idea will just pop into my head. No such luck. Sometimes the well is just dry. Usually I can go to the Word and find some inspiration, something I have enough to say about so that I can write 400-700 words about for my blog article. Today that didn’t happen, even after some time praying about it and writing an email to a friend.
I did read from my list of promises (one for every day of the year) and the corresponding Scripture passage. The promise said, “I will be the voice behind you, guiding you in the way you should go.” This promise is based on Isaiah 30:21 which says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” This was a promise to the Israelites, but I think Jesus made us similar promises. For instance, He promised that the Holy Spirit will dwell within us prompting us to make good choices. So possibly this promise is a good principle which does apply to us New Testament believers.
I wish my ears heard an audible word from God or the Holy Spirit, telling me exactly what I should do in each situation that comes up in my life. I have to accept the reality of that not happening (although God could communicate with me that way if He wanted to). So that’s why I try to keep myself reading portions of Scripture, having daily devotions, and working on Bible study on a regular basis. Usually God speaks to me through the messages in His written Word.
However, lately I’ve had trouble hearing God communicate with me. The primary reason is that I’m not devoting myself to the study of the Scriptures. I know I should make a concerted effort to get back into the routine, but emotionally and mentally I’m just not motivated to do so. Maybe by telling on myself, I will be motivated to be a little more consistent in doing those things. Maybe not. As I write this article, I pray for all my readers that they will be motivated and diligent in “meeting with God” on a daily basis. I know that when I’m not hearing God’s message, it’s because I haven’t been reading His Word. If you are not hearing God, maybe it’s because you are not reading His Word, either.
Okay, so there were some thoughts from me today. I hope they encourage you. Maybe by next week I will have a more developed topic in mind to write about. That will probably happen if I keep faithful to the various ways I read and study the Scriptures.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Forgive and Forget

In AA we have a saying: “We have built in forgetters.” I find that’s true in my own journey. For instance, I forget about all the chaos my drinking caused, and I forget the emotions (mostly guilt) that came when I would start to sober up a little. I forget how alcohol had power over me and I forget how powerless I was to choose the productive over the unproductive in my life. Every once in a while it’s good to remember what I have forgotten, so I remember why taking a drink is never the answer to life’s problems.
There are other things I tend to forget. Those things are usually wrongs done to me by someone I love. Forgiveness plays an important role in helping me to forget my own transgressions or the transgressions of others. When I forgive I am able to forget and have compassion. This kind of forgetfulness is a positive attribute (as long as I don’t continue to make the same mistakes over and over again).
In the Word of God this afternoon, I read a passage that talks about God forgiving and forgetting. It was amazing to me. Hebrews 8:12 says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” It sounds to me like God has a built in forgetter, too. However, He forgets our sins (the things that are not done according to Christ’s laws). Like a loving, caring parent, God forgets our sins after forgiving us for any wickedness that is part of our personalities or behaviors. So forgiving sets God up to forget all our wrongdoings. This is only possible because of His great love and mercy for us.
It’s amazing to me what God chooses to forget. He knows all: past, present and future. In all that knowing, He chooses to forget our sins. He just doesn’t remember them anymore. I would say that His is an example we should follow, but no matter what transgressions we choose to remember no more, it will never be as much as God has chosen to forget. Again, all I can say is that His forgiving and forgetting is amazing to me. It’s too big for me to truly grasp. And it’s a goal for us to follow: forgive and forget.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Looking Ahead to the Future

My daughter inspires today’s article. When she was going off to college three years ago she took along a homemade poster with a specific verse as the focal point. I saw that poster again on Tuesday when I helped her move into her apartment for this school year.
The poster’s central focus is on the reference of Deuteronomy 31:8. I like it best in the Amplified Version of the Bible:
“It is the Lord Who goes before you; He will [march] with you; He will not fail you or let you go or forsake you; [let there be no cowardice or flinching, but] fear not, neither become broken [in spirit—depressed, dismayed, and unnerved with alarm].”
As the school year begins, I’ve been thinking about what I will do while everyone is at school or other activities. Several suggestions have been given to me, but when I think of them, I am afraid to pursue any of them. I’m afraid I will “mess up” somehow. However, in general, I’ve demonstrated the ability to do many tasks and to do them well. I’ve not really failed at anything to which I’ve set my mind. However in my low mood it took several people reminding me of that. And, one of those persons was my therapist. We talked about how, with God’s help, I’ve managed to raise successful children, stay married for over 29 years, complete college (twice), maintain long term relationships with several friends, and a few other things.
The verse in Deuteronomy 31 reminds me that I am not going to pursue something new on my own strength. There is One who goes before me. He’s marching, actually going before me to set things up for me as I press on to the future. He will not fail me or forsake (some versions say “leave”) me. He instructs us to not be cowards or flinching, and to have no fear as we move into new territory. Finally, He instructs us to not become broken. This part of the Amplified Bible’s version is what I like most about this verse – we are not to be depressed, dismayed, or unnerved with alarm. I’m not sure I can choose not to be depressed, but I can choose to not let that become the defining element in my life. I can rely on God’s strength and help and focus on the good things in my life. I can stand strong with God and not be afraid of what the future might hold. By trusting in God, I can avoid becoming unnerved by alarming situations.
So, I’ve decided to make a poster of my own with Deuteronomy 31:8 at the center. I will stick it up on my office wall and begin trusting God, one day at a time, to go before me and pave the way for whatever new venture I may try to take on.