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Even the most beautiful #works done by man are nothing outside of #Christ.

Galatians 6:11 “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.”

It is impossible to be dogmatic about Paul’s reasoning in writing verse 11. We have the Greek translation and nothing else. However, we do know that forgeries were a constant problem. Paul had to address one such problem in his second letter to the Thessalonians where he refuted the claims from a forged letter, supposedly from him, regarding tribulation. (2 Thessalonians 2:1) Consequently, Paul used a scribe to write most of his letters but then wrote the conclusion and gave his signature in his own hand in order to verify the letter’s authenticity. Whereas this is most likely also the case with his letter to the Galatian church, we are still left to wonder why he drew attention to how he wrote the end. He seems to be drawing attention to his poor writing given a physical malady, which most scholars agree was probably a problem with his eyesight. When we consider the point of this letter, refuting the Judaizers’ claims that one needed to be physically circumcised in order to be saved, we can most likely conclude that Paul is using his own imperfect writing to make the point again—flesh-driven works and accomplishments have no bearing in the Kingdom of Heaven. Even his imperfect handwriting does not diminish nor preclude the majesty of God’s mercy and grace in salvation. The most beautiful penmanship by the most accomplished scribe wouldn’t make the Good News of the Gospel any more joyous, and nothing man does can add to or take away from the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Study/Meditation: How does the message that Paul seems to be conveying in Galatians 6:11 give you comfort when it comes to your own inadequacies?

*Father, thank You that it is nothing about me nor anything that I do that determines Your grace and mercy. You are great and worthy to be praised. Amen.

Why are believers to do #good to everyone, especially to other believers?

Galatians 6:10 “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

When Paul begins this verse with “So then,” he is connecting his admonition about sowing to the Spirit with a practical application on how that is done. In order to reap eternal things, we are to “do good to everyone” first. Why? The ultimate good we are to share is the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world that is dying without Him. How are they to see this glorious news as good if it is not ensconced in good things? Brothers and sisters, if you have a hard time sharing Christ with your unsaved neighbor because you are shy or feel inadequate, set your life on doing good to them, and the ease to which that will lead to conversations about Jesus will astound you. Christians are to be about the work of doing good to others, “and especially to those of the household of faith.” There are a couple of reasons Paul ends with this qualification. First, the body of believers is a family. We must love each other and take care of each other as we would our family. However, this connects directly to the instruction about doing good to all men because again, the ultimate good we do is to direct others to our Lord, Jesus Christ. Who wants to be adopted into a family of people who mistreat one another? The world is watching, and often the first thing they see is the manner in which we love one another in good works. In summary, this section of Galatians could be stated simply as: “Do all that you do on this earth with eternity in mind.”

Study/Meditation: Read 1 Peter 2:13-17 (http://www.esvbible.org/1%20Peter+2/). How does Peter explain the reasons we do good to others?

*Father, help me to see the opportunities given me to do good to others, especially those in my church family. Amen.

Why should we keep doing the right thing even when no one notices? #perseverance

Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

The Christian life is certainly full of difficulties, just as Jesus promised us it would be. Persecutions, temptations, trials—all of these plague the believer’s life while he lives on this earth. However, perhaps one of the hardest things a Christian must endure is perseverance in doing the right thing when there seems to be no reward coming in this life. It’s hard to remain quiet when others are slandering you. It’s very difficult to repay an unkindness with a kindness, especially when it goes unnoticed. It seems impossible sometimes to financially support those in God’s kingdom when you’re not even sure from where your next paycheck will come. God knew this would be true. After all, His children are living in a foreign land where evil and sin often seem to reign. Therefore, He gave us a myriad of encouragements and guide posts along the way as we read His Word. The one that perhaps puts things in truest perspective is the one described by the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 12: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (12:1) This life is a marathon; it isn’t a sprint, so we run it always “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,” (12:2) and we run it knowing that our rewards are eternal, not necessarily temporal. In so doing we “lift our drooping hands and strengthen our weak knees, and make straight paths for our feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” (12:12)

Study/Meditation: Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. (http://www.esvbible.org/1%20Corinthians+15/) What does it mean that our “labor is not in vain”?

*Father, give me the strength to look to eternity in this life and not expect my reward now. Forgive me when I am short-sighted. Amen.

Malawi image

 

Three young men took the stage, and we anticipated their worship.  One of the many things that Africans have over on Americans is their ability to worship, and we knew that we were in for another beautiful song offering from these handsomely dressed young men.

Heidi looked over at me and smiled.  We were well into day five of the “Count Your Blessings” conference in Blantyre, Malawi, and every experience had proven to be more blessed than the last.  It’s always my immense pleasure to get to speak at these conferences, but it’s even more my blessing to get to witness the genuine love for our Savior that the African people display.  In particular, I get great joy from watching the dedication and love from the young people.  

The Praise and Worship Team is made up of all young people, and they take great pride in their worship.  They spend months rehearsing leading up to the conferences, and each of them either makes or has made their matching ensembles for each day.  These young people arrive early every day and they are always the last to leave, often leading worship ten to fifteen times each day.  Malawi 14, P & W 5

However, on the last day of any conference I’ve attended in Africa, the team wears its best outfits and there are a number of special worship offerings given throughout the day.  On this particular last day of the conference in Blantyre, we had been worshiping together with the team for about an hour when a trio of young men dressed smartly in red satin ties and black shirts and pants walked up on stage. (more…)

 

Spiritual Sahara image

She sits in bible study again this week, and she smiles every time it seems appropriate.  She says “Amen!” with the rest of the ladies when something particularly moving is said, and she answers questions when they are asked of her.

But still she doesn’t feel it.  Still she doesn’t feel anything.

There is a vague recollection, a faint memory of feeling her faith once upon a time.  It seems that she can almost grab onto this long ago heart condition, but then it slips away, more elusive with each passing moment.

What happened to that girl she once knew who was so on fire for Jesus?  Where did she go?  It doesn’t make it any better that everyone else around her seems to be having no problem living in the faith they proclaim.  They cry and laugh and genuinely seem to feel what they believe.  

Life just got in the way, and now she is left with doubt and pain at this Spiritual Sahara Desert which has become her life.

Spiritual Sahara image 3

Have you ever felt this way?  Have you ever entered into seasons of your life where you can only describe your faith as in your head but seldom in your heart?

Are you living in the Spiritual Sahara? 

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Liberation exists for those who seek only to please Christ. #freeinChrist

Galatians 1:10 “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Let’s face it: Paul would not have been a poster boy for Dale Carnegie’s, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” He had been accused of watering down the law so that Gentiles could be grafted into the kingdom, and he had likewise been accused of rigidness in terms of the law so that he wasn’t tolerant of other pagan practices. Paul knew that he had just begun this letter with some hard truths, truths about damnation and judgment for those who skew the gospel in any way. However, this apostle lived by only one principle and guide, and that was pleasing His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This didn’t mean that he sought to alienate everyone. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:33, “I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many,”—don’t miss the rest of that verse—“that they may be saved.” John Piper restated it like this: “It is good to please people provided that pleasing them is a means to their salvation and their edification and to God’s glory.” (“When Not to Believe an Angel,” John Piper, February 6, 1983, desiringgod.org) You see, Paul had a singular purpose, to advance the Gospel of Christ so that man might be saved. This freed him to say and do whatever led to that end, not with the goal of alienation, but with the goal of salvation. How liberating for believers to make every decision and say every word based on what pleases only one Person—Jesus.

Study/Meditation: Read Colossians 4:5-6. How can we be sure that we are saying the right thing at the right time?

*Father, help me say and do only those things that advance the Gospel and bring glory to Your name. Amen.