Monday, July 10, 2006

Galatians 1 - Paul is a little miffed at the churches
When I read this chapter, I was struck that Paul (who in other letters is encouraging to the church) was so blatant in pointing out that the church was not living up to his expectations. Instead of bringing forth the Message of the lamb, he roared more like a lion in this chapter.

You have to remember that Paul, who used to persecute Christians (literally), has come to love and serve the Lord that he abhorred. This is about as dramatic a conversion as they come. And still the Church didn't "get it". They didn't understand what he was preaching to them.

My favorite verse here is v11, "this great Message I delivered to you is not mere human optimism. I didn't receive it through the traditions, and I wasn't taught it in some school. I got it straight from God, received the Message directly from Jesus Christ."

I was raised in the church. My father was the pastor. I heard the Message every week and as mentioned in previous posts, I just didn't get it. It didn't have one bit of an effect on my behavior or my thinking. Of course the Presbyterian church is not well known for dramatic conversions or the transformational impact of the gospel of Christ. Those who attended our church were always well dressed and polite. In fact, when my dad would reach out to the poor and invite them to church, it made the church members pretty uncomfortable. And when he started having prayer meetings mid-week with the lonely, downhearted and outcast, or had them share in church on Sunday how God had changed their lives, it made them downright angry and they kicked him out of the church. Really.

Many of you have seen the Church do similar things that do not agree with the teachings of mercy, grace and Love that Jesus shared when he walked the earth. Perhaps they happened to someone you love (like it did with my Dad) or perhaps it was to you. Or worse, perhaps the church you attend or have attended in the past really didn't teach anything that was life transforming or even encouraging. Pleasant noise and music, but not really worth skipping a Sunday morning of boating, golfing or just staying in bed with a great cup of coffee and the New York Times.

Paul didn't want to hurt the Galatians. What he was trying to accomplish in this letter was to get them to understand the transforming power of Jesus on his very own life and to encourage them that if he could be saved from his base nature, then anyone can. And he wanted them to see his transformation for the miracle that it was!

Sin sounds so dark and ominous. Perhaps you live a pretty good, clean life and are generally nice to people, perhaps even contributing to charity. And you might even describe yourself as relatively happy most of the time. You are happy for others that find their faith to be important, but it hasn't really got a place in your life.

As we will see in the balance of Galatians, God isn't impressed with outward appearance and there is nothing we can do to earn His love anyway, so it isn't about the "dos and don'ts" of the religious. It is a free gift. And if our lives are good when we meet Him face to face for the first time, then it only gets better and better!

My prayer today is that if you have met Him face to face that your walk would be deepened by sharing in this study.

If you don't know Him - perhaps have just "visited His house" or "read his Words", but haven't truly had an encounter with him, I pray that you would take time to let him show you His face. Most of you know the verse found in Matthew 7:7 - Seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened. Again, I find the Message translation refreshing here:

7-11"Don't bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn't a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing. You're at least decent to your own children. So don't you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?

What do you need in your life today?

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