Freedom!

Galatians 5 is chalk full of excellent stuff.  Freedom is the nail that Paul is hitting on the head in this particular part of the letter.  He’s already told the Galatians that they’ve lost their way.  They’ve traded in grace for works & he’s determined to set them straight.  {And I could use a little straight-setting on this very subject from time-to-time myself, so I’ll try to pay attention to Paul}

click picture for *FREE* printable

Grace is such a tough concept.  Our society is not necessarily built on grace.  Our economy is not really established on grace.  Our world, for right or wrong, tends to operate on an A+B=C mentality.  For example, put in the time+hard work=advancement at work.  Or eat right+exercise=weight loss.  Or pay attention in class+study=pass with good grades.  Or even help out at home+have a good attitude=happy parents who give you a phone.  Perhaps these are over-simplified, but I think they’re pretty accurate.  We tend to believe that if we do something + do something else we will get what we’re striving for.  A+B=C

And the converse we believe to also be true.  If I don’t do something and I don’t do something else then I will not achieve what I had wished for.  For example don’t study+don’t pay attention in class=failing the class.  Or eat like it’s December+sit on the couch & watch hours of netflix=gain weight.  This is the way we are conditioned from a very early age & it is reinforced at every turn.

But grace.  Grace throws this all to the curb.  Grace says you can fill A & B with anything you like in the A+B=C equation & the answer will always, always, always be C.  Grace covers up the A&B with the blood of Christ & results in C exclusively.

In Galatians 5, Paul talks about circumcision.  Circumcision was an outward thing that the Jews did to show that they were Jewish & adhering to the Law.  Basically, Jews were not Jews if they weren’t circumcised.  It was a requirement of the Law.  And whoever it was that Paul felt was causing the Galatians to quit running so well {vs7} was telling them that faith in Christ was not enough.  In addition, they also needed to follow the Law {be circumcised}.

For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.  {vs 4}  How very often do I try to make myself right before God by the things I do?  Likely too often to count.  How often do I try to plug the right A & B in the equation to make sure that C {God’s favor & salvation} is the answer?  I ignore that A & B are grace provided by Jesus & I have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with those.  This is freedom!  Real freedom.  I am not a slave to the A & B.  The exhausting attempts to be perfect or to ensure that A & B are exactly what God is looking for are not necessary.  I can stop {we can stop} trying so darn hard. We are free!

Before we get too excited that math does not apply in God’s economy & therefore my behavior is irrelevant, Paul addresses this also.  But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature.  Instead use your freedom to serve one another in love. {vs 13}  It’s like he is reading my mind.  If no matter what I do, I always {as a believer of Jesus} get grace, then why wouldn’t I do whatever I please?  I think that answer is simply because if I understand the significance & sacrifice of grace I wouldn’t ever want to live however I feel {dabbling in all kinds of sinful activities that oppose God’s will}.  And lest I don’t know what those are, Paul lays them out in verses 19-21.  The list is extensive.  And I certainly have at times plugged some of those activities into the A&B of my life’s equation.  But because of forgiveness, the grace of God remains the same and salvation & God’s favor remain my answer.  Hallelujah!

Will I ever fully get it?  I hope so.  But I must admit there are times when I strive for God’s favor, when I try to earn my salvation when I am a slave to my behavior.  Every day, though, I can try to remember that grace is God’s gift, unearned.  And the world’s equation is not relevant in the economy of God.

Bible Study Tip

Half way through our first book in the New Testament in 2017 plan.  How’s it going for you?  Painless & stirring?  Confusing & uphill?  I’ll be honest, some of Paul’s thoughts, I just don’t follow all the time.  Not even in easier-to-read translations.  I wanted to share a Bible study tip that makes this a bit less difficult.

At home I use this Bible.  The New Inductive Study Bible.  I use the ESV version, but it comes in nearly any translation. {& as one of my seminary profs said once, “the best translation? The one you’ll read!”}  Anyway, this Bible is big, awkward, heavy and not carry-around-friendly whatsoever.  But it has some great Bible studying features that I really like. It’s perfect for at-home Bible reading/study.  This Bible is a great companion as you study book-by-book.  I highly recommend it.

 a bit deeper in Galatians

Things to think about:

  1. Jesus Christ is mentioned 38 times in the book.  Mark those in your Bible & make list of what you learn about Him from Galatians.
  2. Look for times when Paul asks questions.  Words like “brothers, you” & “foolish Galatians”.  List them & see what Paul is rebuking the Galatians for specifically.
  3. The Galatians struggled with grace vs. works.  Are you living under grace or works?  Have you accepted God’s grace for your salvation but you still feel you need to earn your salvation?
  4. Read Galatians 5:16-21.  If you are living under grace, under the control of the Spirit, you will not be able to life a life habitually controlled by the flesh.  Evaluate your walk according to these verses.
  5. What do you boast in?

I hope that these 5 things will help to keep you focused when Paul’s words seem to just go on&on.  Have a great Wednesday!

 

she who used to…

I likely won’t post after every daily reading.  But yesterday as I was reading Galatians 1, something struck me & I thought I’d share.

The first chapter in this letter from Paul.  To tell you the truth, reading those first verses in the first chapter of any of Paul’s epistles is usually skim-worthy.  It tends to sound a lot like blah, blah, blah, blah.  Paul can seriously write the longest, most drawn-out sentences of anyone.  {And I know long, drawn-out, run-on sentences well.}  So sometimes when I start reading a new book by Paul, the intro is just so many words strung together that I get bored.

But not this morning.

Beginning in verse 13 :: For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.  Paul was a really bad guy with a really violent & horrible past.  He did some pretty horrendous stuff.  He was not kind.  He was not loving.

Verse 23-24 :: They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”  And they glorified God because of me.  A guy known far & wide for his terrible treatment of others became a spreader of the Gospel message & others glorified God because of him. God took hold of him, crossed out that past {or at least wrote forgiven & free all over it} and turned Paul right way round.  Paul didn’t sit back assuming that his past disqualified him from the future God had.  He recognized the grace he’d received and freely flew to do whatever would bring God glory.

I don’t know about you…I’ve never stoned anyone to death…but there are things I’ve done & said that I’d wished I hadn’t. I have been a “she who used to…”  Sometimes I get stuck replaying the videos of those used to’s in my head.  over & over & over again.  This was a great reminder that, just like Paul, God will cross those things out or at least write grace all over them, letting them be “used to’s” in order to write new “is now’s” in my life.  Because of this grace of God I am free to drop the “used to’s”, embrace the “is now’s” and fly.  And so are you.

As we begin a new year, let’s quit getting stuck on the “she who used to…” so we can make way for all the “is now’s” He is wanting to bring to our lives for His glory.  Begin by listing that junk that you’re hanging on to.  Ask God what to do with it.  Make amends with those you’ve “stoned”.  Forgive those who have “stoned” you.  Ask God to forgive your behavior, attitude, words, whatever.  Then drop it and fly.  Because she who used to is now free.

Galatians :: NT in 2017

This week our reading will take us through the Book of Galatians.  You can find it here.

galatians

A quick flyover of the Book of Galatians:

  • It was written by Paul.  Paul was a zealous Jew known for persecuting Christians, even holding the coats of those stoning Stephen to death {Acts 22:20}.  He was converted after a wild encounter with the resurrected & ascended Jesus {Acts 9:1-19}. 
  • Paul played a roll in the starting of the churches in Galatia that he is writing to in this letter.
  • The Galatians had begun to slip into the belief & behavior that justification was received through works {following the Mosaic Law} rather than through faith in the work of Jesus Christ.  Works over grace.  Paul writes to correct their thinking.
  • Main theme :: justification comes by faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of the Law.

And with that quick little flyover…let’s get reading.  The Word is alive & active {Hebrews 4:12}.  You need no special skill or education or training for it to speak to you.  Just read.  Somedays something will jump wildly off the page and stir up all kinds of “WOW!” and other days nothing will seem to have any significance whatsoever.  Don’t give up on the nothing whatsoever days.  You will have many.  But just keep reading because the “WOW!” days will take your breath away & possibly change your world.

Thanks for joining in the adventure.  I have no doubt this year, we’ll ‘make it to the maps.’

New Year :: New Testament

Tomorrow begins a new year.  And the first day of my resolution to read through the New Testament.  I’ve thrown out all my other whimsical wishes to eat better, drink more water, exercise regularly or otherwise generally better my outside.  This year, I’m looking to see if something can get stirred deep in my heart to create real inner change.  Maybe in my attitude.  Maybe in my treatment of others.  Maybe in my priorities.  Maybe in all of the above.  And I’ve decided that just trying really hard doesn’t ever work.  But I believe that the Word has the power.  So making reading the Word my priority is my resolution.

In an effort to make my goal a reality, I have created some printables to put in my planner to keep me on track.  And today I share the January set with you.

There are 4 in the collection, one for each week of this month.  They are super simple.  A place to note things I shouldn’t forget, a place to note people I should be praying for, a place for our weekly dinner menu & a place to write down those things I need to pick up at the store {groceries or sundries or whatever…isn’t sundries a fun word?}  And, OF COURSE, the weekly New Testament reading for the week.  Click HERE to access the FREE printable pdf file that you can print at home.  {I plan to have the first six months of the year available at my Etsy store printed for your Happy Planner shortly}

One other little problem I have when reading the Bible, or any book for that matter, is mind-wandering.  Do you suffer?  I can read the words but be thinking about other things & not have a clue what I’ve read at the completion of the paragraph.  Frustrating!  I have found that if I have a pen in hand with an “assignment” I am much less likely to suffer from mind-wandering.  To help try to keep me on task, I have also created a VERY SIMPLE journal page to use while I read through the New Testament.  For me, I like to read the passage, write down any particular verse or couple verses that really spoke to me and then write down what is stirring around when I read.  Sometimes there’s a lot written down & other days, hardly anything.  But that’s ok.  This helps keep me focused.  I’d love to share those simple sheets too.  Click on the picture or HERE for your free printable journal sheet.

All the printables in this post are just simple creations that I threw together for my personal use.  {warning::they may not be perfect}  I hope that you can find use for them if they would help you.  If you have your own journal or method or plan, that’s great!  All these printables are sized to print on regular letter size, but all can be cut to 7×9.25 to fit your Happy Planner.  If you have any questions or problems just shoot me a comment.  I’ll try to help. And please check my Etsy page for printed, sized & Happy Planner punched pages soon!

Have a wonderful last few hours of 2016!  Bring on 2017!

2017 Bible Reading Plan

2016 is quickly coming to a close.  I’m not terribly upset about that.  While 2016 had some amazingly wonderful moments, it has also included some of the hardest of my life.  And whether it will be or not, the hope withheld in the newness of a brand spanking untouched and untarnished year, makes 2017’s approach all the more exciting.  Something about fresh starts, new days dawning, hope comes in the morning. Ah, hope.  Such a generous & grace-filled word.  I am counting down these last few hours until we say au revoir to 2016 forever!

I’m not really a resolution kind of gal.  I lie.  Actually, I am.  If you know my personality even a smidgen, you can see that I am a goal setter.  I put my mind to something & I get it done.  Often with lots {and lots and lots} of complaining at times.  But I, nevertheless, get the goal met & crossed of the list.  So, I actually am the resolution type…except that for some reason this goal-setting, list-crossing-off, bucket-list-finishing gal has a problem getting through resolutions.  And as much as I love a good goal set and achieved, I loathe the setting a goal & missing it even more.

So resolutions.  They’re a strange bunch.  Perhaps fueled by all the hope I was talking about before.  New day dawning, spanking fresh start…blah, blah, blah.  Resolutions get somehow thrown on paper in permanent sharpie in a whimsical, wishful way full of hopes & dreams.  And nearly every actual new year’s resolution I’ve ever set for myself has gone uncompleted.  GASP!  I hate unfulfilled goals.  Failure.  That’s what resolutions bring.  From all out hope to utter failure in a matter of usually two-three months.  It’s daunting.

All this to say.  No resolutions for me.  Well.  Except one.  But I’ve given this some real thought, not just unicorns dancing on clouds thought & I’ve put some real planning in motion to see that I fulfill this new year’s resolution.  Because a goal without a plan is just a wish.  So plan I have.

This year I resolve to read the New Testament.  You see, every single year in recent history that I can remember I have resolved to “this year read the Bible”.  And by mid Leviticus I’m out.  Done.  Fini!  Have you ever tried to read through the Bible cover to cover?  It’s not an easy read.  Some of these Old Testament books are weird.  Just plain weird. They are hard to get through.  So I quit.  sigh…

But not this year.  I’m tackling the New Testament & while i know there will still be some weird moments {like all of Revelation} I’m thinking I’m much less likely to throw in the towel like I do every time I get to Noah getting drunk and sleeping with his daughters.  To make this resolution even more attainable, I’ve made the reading fairly easy.  One chapter a day with a very relaxed 2 chapters a week over the summer.  No excuses about time. Oh, and I’ve given myself Saturdays off too.  I’ve picked an order that will likely keep me interested {such as separating the gospels, one per quarter rather than all four back to back}.  And if all that weren’t enough, I made cute little cards to put in my planner to remind me to read.  I have no excuses for this not being a resolution I can accomplish.  And I’m kind of excited. Both to actually finish a resolution & to read the New Testament.

 

If you’re in the mood to read through the New Testament or part of it, I’d love to have you join in the fun.  I have included a printable for free that you can print off at home that includes the entire year of reading. It will print 2 months per letter sized paper.  Or if you are interested, I also have printed sets that will fit the medium sized The Happy Planner available for $6 at my Etsy site.

You can get a Happy Planner from Michaels right now on sale {HUGE SALE}.

Please let me know if you’re reading along.  I’d love to know there’s someone else out there in the same part of Scripture with me each day.  My plan to is post about what I’m reading fairly regularly to help keep me accountable.  The more the merrier.