It’s a Daily Thing

Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh…22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law. [NIV]‬‬

I try to find ways to read Scripture to experience it’s meaning for my life. That one word “freedom” and the association Paul made to the fruit reminded me of a study method I’d learned from William Barclay’s commentary. Jewish Rabbis would study Scripture based on these four words that formed the consonants of PaRaDiSe:
1. Peshat – literal
2. Remaz – suggested
3. Derush – investigative
4. Sod – allegorical

That idea of reading Scripture as a connection to paradise seems helpful and right. Here are my cliff notes if you want to try this method of studying the Bible for yourself.
1. What is the simplest possible meaning?
2. Is there a sub-text meaning?
3. What can I learn from references, footnotes & commentaries
And finally the bottom line…
4. Can I see how to make these truths a part of my daily life?

1. Paul tells us our freedom was the whole point of what Christ did to free us from the “law.” We have within us a willful desire to identify freedom with being satisfied that what we are doing is right if we meet certain requirements. √
2. Relying on what we think God requires of us instead of Christ changing us is an invisible barrier that distracts us from the real freedom God means us to experience. √
3. New thoughts from Rev. Bruce Puckett at Duke University. “We are a society and a culture that loves (and I mean loves) to talk about freedom… we’ve looked for the wrong fruit within a community and called it freedom. We see…desire for more and more and more — and call it ambition and success. We see strife, dissensions, and factions…and call it our right to individual opinion, and options from which to choose.” √
And finally the bottom line…
4. Pay attention to the distractions of daily life. Don’t let them become an invisible barrier that settles for “fake” fruit. “Walk by the Spirit…” and choose a serving from the fruit of freedom: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  It’s a daily thing.

PTL for Seeing Reality

We ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord. —Colossians 1: 9–10 NRSV

Today has become one of many meaningful lessons for me since I created this site. I decided I should tackle The Revelation. I’d spent 4 or more hours to come up with what I thought would be my first post until I read the last few sentences of what I’d written:
…from my point of view the end times began the day Adam and Eve ate that fruit. End times are all I’ve ever known. I’ve spent more than half my life learning to live with, and from, Jesus. Personally it matters more to me that I know the end of the story than the details. Jesus wins…and I’ll be there with him.’

Then I had my own revelation and had to confess and pray ‘I can’t do this.’  It was humbling to admit that A. I didn’t have the theological expertise to understand all that symbolism and B. I didn’t really care about the details. I feel twinges of guilt about both “A” and “B” but truth is a reality of God’s will and that reality is a process not a program you can decide on.   And…I do know the end of the story!

In the meantime I rediscovered the reality of this prayer from Colossians and by changing the pronouns to personal ones it could become my prayer.  I also found  this quote in Reading the Signs of Daily Life by Henry Nouwen; “theology is all about—looking at reality with the eyes of God.”  I really did need a spiritual eye check-up to see God’s reality.  I’m am not a theological scholar but I am learning to see the reality of God’s will at least some of the time.  PTL for seeing reality.

Cause and Effect

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

I’ll bet most of us have thought about our own salvation in terms of surrendering our circumstances and behavior to God. There may be as many stories of personal conversion as there are saved people. That testimony almost always states the effects, the blessings, of “our” surrender to him.

This quote from My Utmost for His Highest reminded me of the “cause” of my surrender: “The fact that He [Jesus] saves from sin and makes us holy is actually part of the effect of His wonderful and total surrender to us.”

It’s a blessing to live with the effects of our surrender but there would be no blessing without the reality of John 3:16. It was God’s “total surrender” of his own son Jesus on our behalf that caused our surrender to effect his blessings in our life. We surrender to God because he first surrendered to us!

I Think it’s Safe to Say…

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
2 Timothy 1:9 NIV

•”So many have the idea that in sanctification we draw from Jesus the power to be holy. We draw from Jesus the holiness that was manifested in Him… This is the mystery of sanctification… it is His holiness in us.” Oswald Chambers from Our Brilliant Heritage.

This Scripture reminded me how easy it is to equate holiness with behavior. Holy behavior is an convenient yardstick for us but even that good thing can be a problem if it’s the goal instead of the outcome of a relationship to Christ Jesus.     I’ve actually never thought in terms of holiness and power before. It seems an odd combination to me. Then I realized I’m sitting here with the perfect object lesson. Remember this is meant to be a spiritual comparison to ponder for daily life not an ad for digital devices.

I think it’s safe to say right now you’re reading on your computer, an iPad or maybe a smart phone.
•These are all amazing devices created for an important purpose. In my comparison these devices would be us. We are created for God’s own purpose that we might life a holy life.
•These devices have given us finger-tip access to almost limitless information. In my comparison this would be the resources of faith that God has made available online including many versions of the Bible and commentaries of saints, old and new.
•The bottom line is these devices are dependent on a source of power outside themselves. They have to be regularly recharged or they are not able to do what they were created to do.

I think it’s safe to say that is the bottom line of my comparison too. We are dependent on a source of power outside ourselves to live a holy life. Our holiness is “not because of anything we have done but because of his [God’s] own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…” Our power source is this: “We draw from Jesus the holiness that was manifested in Him…”


-Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

-Matthew 22:37 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

-Luke 10:27…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.

These three New Testament Scripture passages all quote Jesus speaking words that would have been familiar to his Jewish hearers, the Shema. They’re words still used repeatedly in Jewish prayers. They all include loving God with your heart and soul which seems obvious. The inclusion of mind and/or strength is the variant that got my attention.  I understand the access to mind and strength more than I do heart and soul.

This is the age-old debate: Is it strength of commitment or the exercise of the mind that fills the heart and soul? How do we figure out what’s required of us to prove our sincerity?  It would seem even these Bible authors had their own opinion on that.  Mind and strength? Mind? Strength? Do I have to choose one or the other?

Hillel was a famous religious leader in Jewish history. He was asked to recite the whole law for a dedicated student who would prove his sincerity and his physical strength by listening to it all while standing on one leg. That’s a funny mind picture isn’t it?  Hillel’s short answer was probably pretty welcome to him; “What thou hatest for thyself, do not to thy neighbour. This is the whole law, the rest is commentary. Go and learn.”

This is the whole law…“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…”   Now go find a comfortable spot, read, study and think.  God will begin to write his whole commentary in your mind and on your heart to strengthen your soul

Seed of Innocence

Matthew 13:3 Then he [Jesus] told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” NIV

I am a confirmed believer the Spirit of God uses repetition to direct my mind. Repetition of a recent word or thought gets my attention and that’s exactly what God desires. Remember my reference to the “mustard seed” in the last post? This truth about seeds just “happened” to pop up in this blog by raincitypastor, Richard Dahlstrom, Step by Step Journey.
“One of the most famous parables in the Bible is the story about the seed and the sower. “A farmer went out to sow his seed” is how it begins, and by the end of the tale we discover that not all the seeds reached their full potential. The seed, though, was never the problem; it was the soil. Too many rocks. Too many thorns. Not enough depth. It’s a powerful tale, because later in the Bible we’re told that “His seed abides in us.”

That thoughtful commentary recalled yet another recent repetition of thought for me – the book of Genesis and our future.  We all know the long-ago story of Adam and Eve and their “original sin” that became our heritage.  Thankfully that is not the end of the story at all.  1 John 3: 9 says “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”

I think God’s  provision for Adam and Eve was more than clothing as they left that perfect Garden to begin a life of “painful toil.” He chose to leave a little seed of his “original innocence” within them insuring there would be a new heritage for all their descendants – the possibility of overcoming their own sin.  Innocence was no longer a given but there would be “good soil” that could produce a crop of purity — “a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Confess the Truth

Ephesians‬ ‭2:3-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬ All of us also lived among them [our transgressions and sins] at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

I’m fascinated with the uniqueness of the Greek language to distinguish subtleties of words and meanings. In this scripture there is one word [hamartia] translated “sin” and another [paraptoma] the NIV translates as “transgressions.” What makes it interesting is not the way we might differentiate between those two words but how the Greeks did. These are my edited notes from William Barlclay’s study of Ephesians.
•Hamartia (Greek #266) is a shooting word that means to miss the target completely.
•Paraptoma (Greek #3900)…means taking the wrong road when we knew enough to take the right one.

Sin is a loaded word even for those of us who believe we are sinners saved by grace.   The Greek definitions don’t impact the reality of the scripture but they do influence my courage to recognize and confess the truth of it.

What if I read this Scripture as:
I have also lived with missing the target completely and choosing the wrong road at one time, gratifying the cravings of flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like so many, I was by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for me, God, who is rich in mercy, made me alive with Christ when he saw the road I’d chosen was going nowhere—it is by grace I have been saved.