Posts Tagged ‘Galatians’

surrenderIt’s an unpleasant word: bondage. It brings up all kinds of lascivious images of chains and whips and leather. It’s the new interpretation of the word; it’s the culture in which we live. But in this case, it’s about slavery and compulsion and captivity. It is the antithesis to freedom.

During the time before you knew God, you were slaves to powers that are not gods at all. But now, when you are just beginning to know the one True God—actually, He is showing how completely He knows you—how can you turn back to weak and worthless idols made by men, icons of these spiritual powers? Haven’t you endured enough bondage to these breathless idols? [Galatians 4:8-9; The Voice translation]

And the phrase that I keep hearing is “haven’t you endured enough bondage . . . ” How much more do I need to experience before I finally set free from my old self, my old habits, my old way?

I have read that a body, once overweight, believes that higher weight is the norm. As a result, despite conscientious diet and exercise, the body will continue to betray and crave. It wants the old me back again: indulgent and insatiable.

Haven’t you endured enough? Haven’t I endured enough? I have.

I want everything that God has for me.

When I was just a baby believer, trying to figure out what it even meant to follow Christ and how it would change me . . . or, did I even want to change? No, not back then. Truthfully? I wanted everything to stay the same, just add in the Jesus bit. I thought I could treat Jesus like a spice, just sprinkle it on top. That is not how it works. Not really. And especially not if I say the words and surrender.

And I did. I waved the white flag back then and again and again and again. Each time, each year, a new surrender, a new discovery.

That’s been the journey; two steps forward, one step back. But I feel as though I am coming to a new place, a fork in my road, a new terrain. It’s like the last push before reaching the top of the mountain.


Read Full Post »

Now that would be true freedom: to partake so fully of the work of the cross and thereby be dead to the wiles of the world, as in the profane and avaricious, covetous and greedy. But I get sucked in all the time. Why else would I continue to live beyond my means?

Galatians 6:14
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

We have three dogs in our household and our oldest (and smallest) dog has suffered the most from the acquisition of the other two, both in the same year, both only a year old and full of energy. He knows he is supposed to be the alpha dog, but he hasn’t figured out how to make it so. Mostly, he tries to prevent the other dogs from eating at mealtimes. His other tactic is to hoard the chewies and toys. It’s not that he necessarily wants them to eat or for play, but he believes it’s his right to have them all.

Am I any different? So often, I simply want what others have. It looks so appealing on them: the nice car, the designer clothes, the perfect hair, the manicures and pedicures, the successful honor students, the cohorts of friends, the dinners, the barbecues, the season tickets, and so on.

I mean, I can appreciate the amazing things that people like Mother Teresa have accomplished, but come on, own nothing? Eat the same as the poor (which means not eating regularly)? Wear the same “drapey” thing every day? What about having my teeth cleaned twice a year? And my eye doctor visit or my gyno exam? What about learning how to cook a gourmet meal? And how would I get my skin tags and moles removed?

It’s an amazing thing, the cross. That work, the ultimate sacrifice, made it possible for me to have relationship with God, creator of the universe. It also avails me to be set free from the web of “gotta have it.” But I haven’t appropriated that aspect of the cross at all. I have accepted the primary benefit but shrug off the other half of the equation. It’s when I step into this realm that I’m pretty sure, I can serve others freely.

I don’t serve others because it’s still, despite everything, it’s all about me. God forgive me. Give me courage to let go of the threads that I am holding (and not that hold me) in this worldly web. Christ died for me so that I could die to the “world” as we have come to know it. There is another world outside this one, that kingdom world, that is calling me.

Read Full Post »

I don’t like doing anything slowly. Part of that is my personality and part of it I inherited from our current culture. Fast food, fast cars, fast acting detergent, whatever! About the only ones who appreciate slow are the Slowskies from the Comcast commercials.

Galatians 6:7b, 9
A man reaps what he sows. . . . Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

But truthfully, sowing has it’s own rate of speed. I can’t make something grow any faster than it’s intended to grow. It’s total futility to sit in front of a small pot and try to talk a seed into germinating. That is all God-stuff. It’s that way in nature and it’s undoubtedly the same way in the soil of the human soul.

I have posted about the Tortoise before. This ongoing battle of speed. My mind starts that buzzing first. I wake up in the mornings, and my mind is racing far ahead of my body. It makes me tired. I want to go back to sleep just to shut it off. But it’s even worse if I put that clock on sowing good things.

Good things will always reap good, eventually. If the motive is good, the results will be comparable. But I cannot predict what this “good” will look like. Sometimes, things get worse before they get better. Sometimes, the good we sow seems absorbed and lost. But, that is just perception. Good has a power, like energy, and cannot be destroyed. Good is love.

God is good. “Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” [Mark 10:18b]
God is love. [I John 4:16b]

I believe our focus should be on the planting, the sowing, part of the equation. Plant love in the lives of others and good will grow. I have been too “results” oriented. I’ve been looking for harvest.

My kids are all teens and I keep crying over the mistakes their making in their lives, the false starts, the collapsing dreams. I’ve been counting on those early seeds to be bearing fruit already. And sure, in some cases, that’s how it happens. But now I’m thinking, they are still germinating. And instead of sorrowing over the slow growth, I should be planting more and more. No one has ever said that we’re supposed to sow and then sit around and wait for the reaping. That will come, in its good time.

More sowing. Nice and steady. Every day. Every day.

Read Full Post »

Print by Missy Mohn Schwartz

In how many ways do I have to be told that the essence of walking after Christ is birthed in the Spirit. This is an inside-out faith, not the outside-in. The law was created to initiate the “external” expression of faithfulness. The Messiah finished this work by planting it within.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

If I can operate in the center of love, joy, peace, etc. then the law is unnecessary because I wouldn’t break the essential laws (10 commandments at the least). One doesn’t lie or covet or kill someone we love or cherish. The gentle soul does not rage or participate in sexual orgies. Self-control brings all things under its umbrella.

At the same time, none of these Spirit fruits can be manufactured externally alone. I can’t act in a patient way without being patient. I can’t exhibit kindness without knowing what kindness is . . . or goodness. . . or peace. Love (in this context) is not just a that girly-boyfriend feeling, it’s “agape” and carries the deepest of meanings and expressions. There are inner motives that drive these fruits of the Spirit. They are fruits that must come directly off the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

And as these fruits become ripe within, they become ready for harvest. And when they are harvested, they are distributed freely to all those around us. . . slave or free, gay or straight, black or white or brown or red or yellow or mixed media, Muslim or Hasidim, Mormon or Witnesses, young or old, male or female, . . .

If we are fruitless, then there is nothing to harvest and the only protection we have, the only way to curb our less admirable desires, is the law. First, there is the spiritual law that God gave as a covenant to the people. But, if that fails, then there is the secular law. Neither is particularly known for mercy or grace.

Perhaps we should be more like those cliche mothers who are reaching out encouraging others to “Eat, Eat, Eat,” or like Jesus, “Take, eat; this is My body.” [Matthew 26:26b]

Read Full Post »

Easy, peasy. Just live by the Spirit and all shall be well. Why? Because the Spirit can crowd out my desire for all the other stuff. The Spirit is big, a consuming fire, a powerhouse, a counselor, a wise and holy One. So what’s the problem? Apparently, the Spirit is also a bit finicky about the conditions of its dwelling place.

Galatians 5:16-17a
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.

Photo by Cherie Stangis

If I were to compare my inner habitat to a house with many rooms, I think, most of the rooms would be considered pig pens while the Spirit is hanging out in one of the closets. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen this closet. I’ve even been in there. It’s immaculate, orderly, clean, and full of light and color. Additionally, it’s not unlike the Tardis from Dr. Who: once I step in there, it’s a lot bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside.

All right, it might not be quite as bad as that. I mean, there have been seasons of my life, when the Spirit had an expanded domicile into some of the other rooms, but I haven’t been very cooperative and a lot of those rooms have gone back to their original condition. You know how it is, the Spirit wants to paint a room yellow and I’m in the mood for red. So what does polite Spirit do? Lets me have a red room with all that goes with it. One difference, the Spirit doesn’t hang in there with me. My choice. My free will. My loss.

Intellectually I understand all of this. If I just let the Spirit re-decorate the whole place, without my interference, it would look and feel so much different. And the more I consider and study, I’m sure a wholly Spirit-run establishment would become a miracle-working address (mountain moving and so forth).

Face it. I still want to be in control (Harumph! As though I have “interior” decorating experience). I’m not that different from the original Sarah (you know the story: “let me show you how to make God’s promise happen with little Hagar here”). [Genesis 16]

Red, green, and black rooms, all stuffed with furniture while windows are covered with heavy blinds, and electronic gizmos sit in every corner. You know, of course, every room has a refrigerator and a pantry too. There’s one room that has nothing in it but disappointments. Another room has chalk boards filled with all the things I’ve said to hurt others. Another room has pictures of people in my past plastered everywhere; I go in there for target practice. But undoubtedly, the biggest room of all is the courtroom. I have my own dais and gavel and when the memories float by, I pound out my judgments. It’s quite crowded and noisy in there.

How do I begin to tackle all of this? Mind boggling. Frightening. HUGE.

Does this sound possible? First, I find my way back to the Spirit Closet and call that “home base” (need to be sure I can get there from anywhere). Then, from there, with the closet light shining out, I will start on the immediate area near the closet. One square foot at a time.

In the organization business, there are only three choices: throw it away, file it, or act on it. Although I know that courtroom is the biggest and hardest room to clean up, I won’t jump in there just yet. I will start smaller and get a little experience behind me, particularly the “throwing away” choice.

If I give over each of these rooms to the Spirit, I know, most of the stuff I’ll find is junk. I’ve been hoarding. I know it. But, confession, I’m pretty sure, when I get to those really messy rooms, I’ll probably need some help. That’s where community comes in. Can I count on you to help?

It’s time for a little Light housekeeping.

Read Full Post »

Photo by Vincent Rodriguez

Despite the simplicity of the command, there is still quibbling: Who is my neighbor? What is love? What if I don’t love myself? Who am I? What is my purpose? And the next thing we know, the focus is back on me and not about my neighbor at all.

Galatians 5:14
The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” [Leviticus 19:18].

Some people have found some peace and revelation by asking the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” By asking this to themselves, they are able to adjust their responses, their behaviors, and so forth. Personally, I don’t really know what Jesus would do, I mean, not really. But I do know, without a doubt, whether or I not I want someone to say or behave toward me as I have done to them.

Here’s what I do for myself out of self-care. I keep myself clean, fed, clothed, and sheltered. I work to earn enough money to provide for my needs as well as several non-essential desires. I choose how to use my time. I entertain myself with people, books, technology, music, daydreams, and outings. On good days, I take care of my body through exercise. I sleep to ensure I am rested. I spend time with my young adult children, relatives, and friends, but pretty much on my terms and time table. These are the outward benefits.

Internally, I am usually kind to myself, I give myself encouragement and pep talks, I pray for my circumstances, friends, and family, I soothe myself, and I forgive myself (although I’m not very good at it).

Nonetheless, is there any reason to withhold any of these things from others? Where is the stumbling block? I think it goes back to judging. I look at others and instead of seeing the “sacred,” I see differences that separate us. I imagine that the same things that comfort me may not comfort them. Or, there’s another voice that complains about their abuse of whatever I might give: money spent on something frivolous, junk food instead of “nutritious” food, alcohol instead of milk, and so forth. I judge before the gift is out of my hands.

Forgive me for putting a silo around myself.

Read Full Post »

I should write a book: “My Favorite Bible Metaphors.” There are a zillion ways that Jesus used to communicate with the people about faith and the Kingdom of God from seeds to light to fish to sheep to salt to cooking. These word pictures were then passed down through stories. They still work today.

Galatians 5:7, 9
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? . . . “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”

One of my good friends bakes bread several times a week to provide this staple for her family. Her father baked it for their family when she was growing up and it’s a tradition she has continued. Whenever I think of yeast-rising bread, I think of her.

I did my own stint at bread making some years ago. At first, the hand method (which is preferable) and eventually to a bread machine. The smell would envelop our house. I actually gave up the practice because my husband and I were devouring a loaf a day and our waists followed suit. But it might be time, with teens in the house, to return to this simple practice of adding yeast, working dough, watching it rise, and then shaping into a tasty loaf. There’s something a little “zen” about it.

Bread of all kinds is staple for all cultures. Everyone understands the yeast/dough image. It only takes a small amount of yeast to transform bread from flour, salt and water. Yeast affects all the dough. It too transforms itself to have the effect.

As a metaphor, it is a simple message. In Galatians, Paul refers to the “yeast” of a misleading but charismatic preacher who was drawing the original Christ believers back toward Jewish law, particularly circumcision.

It only takes one person to change a group. It only takes one to deadlock a jury. It only takes one to break consensus. It only takes one to undermine a team. It only takes one to start a war. But it also works the other way, it can be the one who motivates a group to higher challenges, or one to bring a family back together, or one to inspire a nation, or one to raise the flag of peace, or one to be the watchman crying out a warning.

Many years ago, I was on a women’s retreat and we were all assigned to a certain discussion group that would meet and discuss the teaching sessions. (For those in the know, this format is used in a variety of parachurch organizations like Cursillo, Walk to Emmaus, Tres Dias, and so forth.) The first day I was sure I was assigned to the wrong group. Each woman came with so much baggage, even the assigned facilitators were a mess. The first couple of discussion sessions were painfully dull or fraught with misunderstandings and confusion. I cried. Can’t anyone see I’m miserable? Can’t I change to that happy group over there? Can’t I be with the fun group on the far side of the room, or the clever group behind us? Finally, God “smacked me up side the head!” And I literally heard a voice from within say, “It’s you! You! You are not being the yeast or the salt.” I had come to that retreat experience with some expectations, not realizing that I wasn’t entering the story. I was sitting back and waiting for story to come to me. When I finally engaged fully and lovingly, everything changed. By the end of that weekend, our group became the most impacted, the most cohesive, warm, and authentic. There was much healing.

Lord, give me courage to be yeast in the right circumstances. And when it’s yeast coming against me, help me jump out of the bowl. 🙂

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: