Galatians 2:14-21

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

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My Thoughts

This piece of the letter is a brief summary of our Faith.  We are justified because of the love of Christ and no other reason.  It is no longer us who live but Christ in us and it is by faith in Christ that we live from day to day.  It seems simple but it is really not.  Cephas (Peter) lived with Jesus for 3 years.  He saw many miracles, he performed many miracles.  He even walked on water.  Peter was the disciple that first recognized Jesus as the Christ (Messiah).  It was Cephas who Jesus chose to lead the church and even he got it wrong.  We have this need to control the world around us.  Legalism is safe, its definable.  It can be measured and taught.  Our life lived in Christ is a daily conflict between our freedom and our need for routine and boundaries.  If  Peter can get it wrong then we can have a little grace for ourselves. Hope you have a great weekend

Galatians 2:1-10

 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. 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.

As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

Finger of GodMy Thoughts

Jesus had to knock Saul (Paul) off his horse, blind him and speak to him in an audible voice to get his attention. Saul was too busy doing “Gods” business to hear what God actually wanted.  He was too busy with his religious activities and his career advancement to listen.  Once Jesus actually got his attention… Paul listened and immediately went to do the work that he was set aside for.  He traveled for 17 years preaching the gospel in the Gentile lands before needing affirmation from people.  The apostles recognized the grace given to Paul to preach the gospel and accepted him.  They offered him fellowship and sent him on his way to continue his mission.

Today we tend to do these things the other way around.  We look for the voice of man instead of God and seek fellowship (acceptance) from God.  Here is the good news… God has already accepted you and given you His right hand of fellowship because of Jesus.  We need people for fellowship but when it comes to hearing from God we will always hear “Gods” voice through their agenda.  The freedom we have is wrapped up in the New Covenant that Jesus called us into.  The New covenant works like this:“The days are coming,” declares the Lord“when I will make a new covenant with the people…  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me…

We know God so why would we choose to know about Him instead. It is time to access the fullness of our freedom in Christ.  Have a good day.

Galatians 1:13-24

13 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. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 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. 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 (Peter) 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.

My Thoughts

As Paul continues to build his credentials as a sent one (Apostle) of Christ he mentions this… He says that God set him apart and by his grace revealed His son Jesus who sent him on his mission.  He then says that he did not consult any person but simply went to do the work he was sent to do.

This simple act of faith reveals something about the way most of us live today.  When last did we simply rely on God to send us… call us… lead us.  We tend to be dependent on the teachings and advice of those around us.  The problem with this is that the people around us have there own agenda, they are fallible and often unreliable. Which is how the Galatian churches got into their current position.

My challenge to us(me) is this: when last did God tell you something? what did you do with that? The basis of our faith is that we have had our relationship restored so lets relate… speak, listen and trust the Father.

Galatians 1:6-12

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. 11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

My Thoughts

Two things jump out at me as we continue to read this letter to the Galatian churches.

The first thing is this,  Paul is obviously upset that people have turned away from the true gospel and are now following some other form of the teaching.  What is that gospel and how does it shape the rest of our understanding.  The word gospel today means different things to different people but for Paul who is a Jewish scholar in a Gentile community, this is what that gospel (good news) looks like: (Gal4) But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.

It is this freedom from slavery to sonship that Paul is fighting to protect. I think that we need to remember what Christ has done… remember the freedom he purchased and to not let our religious beliefs, or our inherent need to be ruled or governed take away our freedom.

The second thing is this: Our freedom is scary, we cant be controlled, we cant be bullied or threatened we cant loose what has been given to us. So there will always be people who try to take away that freedom so that they can have some form of control over us… Don’t give it away for the sake of conforming, it is precious. Have a great day.

Galatians 1:1-5

1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man,but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters

with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

My Thoughts

This letter to the Galatian church started me off on a journey of discovery.  What if our current approach to understanding what God is doing in the world, in our lives is slightly off center because we look at scripture with a specific set of lenses, prescribed to us by our religion. I am going to explore the full extent of this thought over the coming year starting here. Please join me in this adventure if you are keen to question and explore your relationship with God.  Everything I do will explore the idea that God is good all the time. In His goodness He has given us choice which we don’t often exercise very well and sometimes these choices are wrongly accredited to God.

I will give you more background on this letter as we go but for now I want us to focus on this one point.  Paul says that Jesus came to rescue us from THIS EVIL AGE and not from the wrath of God as we like to tell people.  I think this is an important stating point because if we think that God had to send His only Son to rescue us from Himself… well that speaks for itself. I am a father, imagine what the news headlines would be if I killed my child to prevent me from killing my neighbors who I was actually cross with. No, that does not paint a picture of a loving Father.  Jesus came to…set the captives free, to break the chains of injustice to free the oppressed, give good news to the poor and declare the favour of the Lord.  In a broken world it is difficult to find God so He sent His Son to open the way to make it possible for us to come to Him.  The Evil of this age has been defeated, our Father stands with open arms.  If you believe this then you should spend your life in those arms because it is good. Have a great day

2 Samuel 13

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In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David. Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her. Now Amnon had an advisor named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He asked Amnon, ‘Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?’ Amnon said to him, ‘I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.’

‘Go to bed and pretend to be ill,’ Jonadab said. ‘When your father comes to see you, say to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so that I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.”’ So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so that I may eat from her hand.’

David sent word to Tamar at the palace: ‘Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.’ So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.

‘Send everyone out of here,’ Amnon said. So everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, ‘Bring the food here into my bedroom so that I may eat from your hand.’ And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. 11 But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, ‘Come to bed with me, my sister.’

12 ‘No, my brother!’ she said to him. ‘Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. 13 What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.’ 14 But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, ‘Get up and get out!’

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My Thoughts

I sometimes wonder how people can give into these base desires and cause such destruction without considering the devastation.  This one act of lust ruined many people’s lives including his own.  Tamar is shamed and has to live with her brother; Absalom kills Amnon and flees to another land for 3 years.  This action probably set Absalom on the course that he follows to over throw his father as well.  One nasty thought acted on with the encouragement of an advisor.  Quite a strategic blow to the house of David.  When I read a story like this I understand the plan of God to take on human form, to defeat death, Satan and the weakness within us.  He came to set the captive free…  us. He died in our place, he defeated the powers and principalities and ascended to the right hand of the Father so that we could be empowered and transformed by the Holy Spirit.  The Amnon type thoughts still lurk somewhere inside of us but now we are equipped to resist and to make much better choices – world bettering choices.  Thank you Jesus.

2 Samuel 12:1-10

Hippo sunset

The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, ‘There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

‘Now a traveller came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveller who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.’

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’

Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.”

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My Thoughts

I love this story, it helps us take the story about a third party and evaluate it honestly before turning that evaluation on ourselves.  Here I can see that David is still an honourable man, he sees an injustice and burns with anger and he wants the wrong to be set right.  I believe that all people understand honour, deep down inside we have the blue print of our creator but we have difficulty applying those principles to our own lives.  When I watch movies or read fantasy novels I know exactly how I think the characters should behave. However, I don’t often look at my life through the same lens.  If we can do that, if we become intentional about changing our response to the world around us: Stand up for the person being bullied even if it could end badly for you, help a stranger, be fair in business, look out for the needs of other people when making a deal and don’t try to maximise your gain with no thought to their loss. If we could live like that we would see the world around us change, we would be taking active steps towards ensuring that our children live in a better world than the one we lived in.  Challenge yourself…