Through Faith

Galatians 3

Galatians 3 26

Paul has been summarizing different points of his life in his letter to the Galatians.  But it is not without a point.  He brings it back to them at the start of this chapter.  They have fallen into the same pattern that Peter and some other Jews had of believing that they were saved by works of the law, so Paul is needing to correct them to right thinking.  Like his reminder to Peter, he reminds them of that faith or belief.

6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

This is us!  We call ourselves of the Faith of Abraham or of the Abrahamic Faith.    God promises Abraham in Genesis 22 that through his offspring, all nations on earth will be blessed because of his obedience.  In God’s earlier promises to Abraham, He promises that his descendants will be blessed, but this takes it a step further and gives hope to those who did not come from a Jewish background.  It was through Christ’s sacrifice that we are able to be a part of the blessing given to Abraham by faith.

Paul tries to explain that we are saved by faith in another way:

16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”[i] meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

Usually when I think of the Old Testament times, I think of the law.  But Paul reminds me here that the promise given to Abraham was before the law and the law does not replace God’s covenant with Abraham.  Abraham, who we look to as an example, was before the law and God’s blessings were given to him.

Paul then summarizes with this encouraging message:

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Our backgrounds don’t matter.  Our identity is in Christ, and he is our hope to be heirs to the Kingdom of God.  That is something to be thankful for!

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

“O Holy Night”

O Holy Night

 

The Christmas carol, “O Holy Night” has a fascinating history.  It was first written as a French poem in 1847 by Placide de Roquemaure, and was set to music by Adolphe Charles Adams that same year.  In 1855, the Unitarian minister, John Sullivan Dwight translated the song into English.  The song was made popular in the United States by abolitionist during the American Civil War.  According to tradition, “O Holy Night” played a significant role in causing a Christmas day cease fire during the Franco-Prussian War.  And in 1906 it was the first song ever played over the radio.  You can read more details about the history of the song here, https://www.beliefnet.com/entertainment/movies/the-nativity-story/the-amazing-story-of-o-holy-night.aspx, a reprint from “Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas” by Zondervan.

O Holy Night!

The stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees!

O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine,

Oh night when Christ was born,
O night divine
O night divine.

            One of my favorite lines in the carol is, “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.”  Jesus came to bring us hope. Paul, in I Timothy 1:1, states that Christ Jesus is our hope.  Peter explains that hope further in I Peter.  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (I Peter 1:3-4). “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (I Peter 1:13).  Our hope is in the fact that Jesus died for our sins, was raised back to life, and is coming back to Earth to live with us eternally.

Today, we are accustomed to talking about hope as wishful thinking.  I hope for a large, year-end bonus.  I hope one day the Lions will win the Super Bowl.  I hope to win a new car.  Each of these statements are just my desires or my wishes; they do not foretell the future. However, Jesus came to bring us an entirely certain hope.  A definite hope that cannot change.  The hope talked of in the Bible is not wishful thinking, but rather an absolutely true promise of things to come.  A hope that will never fail us, never disappoint.  We can choose to put our hope in our church, our job, our spouse, or other earthly things.  However, over the course of time all of those options will bring disappointment. On the other hand, living for the promise of the kingdom will bring us perfect, eternal life.

Everyone puts their hope in something.  Kyle Idleman suggests you can tell what you have put your hope in, by observing what you spend your time and money on, or what makes you worried or mad.  So what about you?  What are you putting your hope in?

 

-Jill McClain

Painful Growth Rewarded

Gen 15 13,14

Moses: Introduction and backdrop

 

Hey i’m Chris Mattison and I would like to take this week to look at Moses and his incredible life story. First, though I would like to take today to look at the situation into which Moses was born.

 

God had made a covenant with Abraham that his descendants would be numerous and would inhabit the promised land (Genesis 15).  In this promise God did tell Abraham that his people would have to leave to a strange land and be enslaved for 400 years, but that they would return to their own land.  As we know countries do not like to have foreigners moving into their land, so God moved Joseph into place as the right hand of Pharaoh so that he could guide the nation through a seven year famine and so that he could provide a place of protection inside of Egypt for the Israelites (Genesis 45:8-11).  As they continued to live in Egypt they prospered and grew in numbers so much that the Egyptians became worried that they would pose a threat to them someday so the Egyptians enslaved the Israelite people. Through all of this their numbers continued to grow as their nation was being painfully incubated inside the protection of Egypt (Exodus 1:8-14).

 

It is difficult to form a new nation in the ancient world because groups always intermarry with those around them and we see this as a major issue for the Israelites for the rest of the Old Testament, and later on God uses the laws and customs that he gives them to keep them separate and unique, but at this time God uses their enslavement to keep them as a single coherent nation of people.  This is maybe one of the most “tough love” ways to keep a promise.

 

During this time the Israelites began to forget about God’s promise and to worship the gods of the Egyptians, because in their minds those gods must be more powerful if the Egyptians are more powerful than them.

 

God’s people always seem to thrive in adversity.  In the early church the numbers of Christians continued to grow even though they were being fed to lions for spectator sport and were being persecuted in every manner imaginable.    Today in areas like China where Christianity is viewed as a threat to the government and is actively repressed the number of Christians is estimated to be around 30 Million and growing rapidly.

 

Maybe you feel like your faith in Christ has set you apart and alienated you from your friends, and that is probably very difficult for you to deal with.  Following Christ means dying to self and maybe that means you have to die to your social group and put up with some ridicule and rejection from society. It can be easy to be worn down by the world and give in and start following the gods of society, and many people do that.  But we need to have endurance to run the race to the end (2 Timothy 4:7).

-Chris Mattison

Tune In!

Jeremiah 27-29

jer 29

Tuesday, March 7

 

After struggling to come up with a devotional topic that hasn’t been completely overdone (Jeremiah 29:11 anyone?), I finally decided on a specific idea to focus on:

Lies are hidden by “good” and the only way to differentiate is by listening.

Hananiah, the false prophet from chapter 28 did not come screaming lies against God, but he came claiming “good” things.  Even Jeremiah was excited about what Hananiah had to say!  Many lies in our own lives come disguised as “good” too.  Some are obvious and easy to avoid; that’s like our pre-test.  Others come hidden behind things that make us feel good and happy, and that is the true test.    So how did Jeremiah know that this “good” prophecy was fake?  He listened when God spoke to him.

I once heard the metaphor that God is like a radio station.  He is always broadcasting, but we have to tune in to hear Him. (Thanks, Susan Landry!)  I know  that I don’t always really listen when God is talking to me.  I’ve been known to completely ignore Him in fact!  As you would imagine, this generally ends in a whole lotta stress and unnecessary discomfort.  It’s not until I really hear what He has to say that things fall back into place.

Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  God promises to His people that as long as they are seeking, He will be there!  He is always broadcasting, we just have to tune in to the right station!

-Sarah Blanchard

 

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