Untitled Thoughts About Galatians 4 – or – If Jesus hands you a burger

Galatians 4 (& Ecclesiastes 7-8)

“All this I observed, applying my mind to all that is done under the sun, while one person exercises authority over another to the other’s hurt.” (Ecc 8:9)

As you are all aware, the United States has a deep and dark history with slavery. Generations of family wealth were built on the blood, sweat, and tears of slaves. We abused our power and took advantage of others for our own gain. Thankfully, although through great struggle, we abandoned the practice.

But we still feel the ripples of our past today. Slavery ended, but it took many, many years before everyone could say they had the same fundamental rights. It takes a long time to recover from being held down as a people for so many years, especially as those in power do everything they can to stay in power. It is painful to see that senseless acts of racism and hate still happen, and that the systems and powers still propagate forms of racism. I do not claim to know what the solutions are, but there is still a lot of work to be done to correct our great wrongs.

The United States wasn’t the first nation to have a practice of slavery. For an example, let’s go back in time to the exodus. You probably remember the story, but if not, it’s… in Exodus. Moses and the Israelites were miraculously delivered from slavery in Egypt. This was an important memory for the Israelites and was commemorated by the Passover meal. In fact, we trace our tradition of communion back to one particular Passover meal that Jesus had with his disciples.

If we move forward to the time when Paul was writing to the Galatians, slavery was a thing then too. It was a normal part of the culture. Although, compared to what the United States did, it was milder. Think more along the lines of indentured servitude. It was not a good situation to be in, but it was not to the level of horror that we took it.

Unfortunately, the practice of slavery is still alive and well in our world. There are more slaves in the world than ever before. Usually we call it “human trafficking” now, but the concepts are not that different. It is about owning people. The mindset that you can own a person and profit from them is big business, and it’s terrifying to think about.

We come to Galatians 4 and see that Paul is drawing a strong connection between following the Jewish law and being under slavery. This seems to fly in the face of what we have seen elsewhere in scripture about the law. The law is supposed to be a good thing that was received from God. For the Israelites, it was an important pathway toward connecting with God. Jesus himself upheld it as something good (Matt 5:17 and surrounding verses). In Galatians 3, Paul seems to agree it was good, and even necessary for a time. But if we have a chance to corner Paul and ask if he thinks the law is good or bad, he’ll probably say “Yes!” There are two sides to this.

Usually you don’t think of things as absolutely good or bad. You compare them to other things or judge them in context. A burger is better than salad. It is savory with lots of protein and fat. The salad is better for providing micronutrients and some fiber, otherwise it is worthless. I would put a tomato slice and lettuce on the burger and call it a day. If you are hard pressed for finding food, then a salad is better than nothing. But if you had access to a burger, then you would not bother with a salad. I am the least picky eater I know. I can enjoy and see the value in a salad. They are a good thing. But there is just no comparison to a burger. A burger wins every single time.

The law is like the lettuce that the Jews had to live on until they had burgers. It was the best option for a long time, and it was a blessing from God. But now that we have grace, the promises of God, and the spirit through Jesus, the law looks pathetic in comparison. After a bite of that burger, you won’t go back. Taste and see!

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (Gal 4:4-7)

Paul is saying it is better to be a child and heir than to be a slave. Because of what Jesus has done, your status has changed from a slave under the law to a child of God and an heir of his promises. If you’re a child and heir, with rights and a large inheritance, you wouldn’t think of going back to having nothing.

You can imagine that trying to follow the letter of the law would feel burdensome, like it owned you. And the law has a way of making you hyper-aware of your sin. And sin is all tangled up with death. Thankfully we are filled with and are influenced by the spirit of God to help guide us. If we keep in step with the spirit and make ourselves vessels of God’s love, we don’t have to worry about breaking God’s laws. It is like they take care of themselves.

Starting in Galatians 4:21, Paul gives us an allegory of the slave woman and the free woman. He’s presenting us with a crossroads of sorts, but the choice should be easy. Of course if Jesus hands you a burger, you take it, and don’t bother with the salad. Why be a child of the flesh when you can be a child of the promise? Why be a slave when you can be free?

With all of this influence from Ecclesiastes lately, I can’t help but think Paul would say being slaves to the law is like chasing after the wind.

-Jay Laurent

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at Bible Gateway here – Ecclesiastes 7-8 and Galatians 4

You Forgot Your Membership Dues

Ecclesiastes 3 & 4 and Galatians 2

What we know as Christianity started as a movement within Judaism. The first Christians were Jews who became part of this new movement that Jesus started. They recognized not only that Jesus was a great guy with revolutionary ideas, but that he was also the son of God and the messiah, and that his death and resurrection shifted the course of history.

The Jews had certain traditions and customs to stay right with God and set themselves apart. They followed the law of Moses as closely as they could and worshiped at the temple. The males were also set apart physically by one particular practice called circumcision. Within a different age and culture where public nudity wasn’t that rare, you might be able to tell if a guy was Jewish by catching a glance. It sounds completely strange to us now, but it was an important marker that set them apart. Over time, the idea of circumcision didn’t just mean cutting off some skin, but started to symbolize all the things the Jews did to set themselves apart as belonging to God.

Through Jesus, the grace and promises of God that belonged exclusively to the Jewish tribe for millenia were suddenly being extended to the entire world of uncircumcised gentiles. Imagine how scandalous this would have seemed to the Jews. The gentiles didn’t have their penises cut a certain way (literally uncircumcised), but also, they hadn’t done anything else that a Jew is supposed to do to live out being the image of YHWH (metaphorically uncircumcised). It doesn’t seem fair because it isn’t.

Naturally, this caused some conflicts and disagreements in the early church. Some thought that in order for them to be truly justified, the gentiles would need to be circumcised and follow the law. You might say they would need to become Jews. Others, like Paul, thought that the gentiles didn’t need to do this. Paul had already shared the gospel with the churches in Galatia and told those gentiles that they were just fine not becoming Jews. Then others came along to them saying that they were doing it wrong and that they had to become Jews to be in the club.

When Paul heard about this, he knew he had to write this letter to the Galatians. You can almost feel his frustration bleeding through the pages. Paul says in chapter 1 that if anyone (even an angel) comes around preaching a different gospel than what he originally shared, they should be “accursed.” Those are strong words.

Paul mentions in chapter 2 that he had a big argument with Cephas about this issue. Cephas was hanging out with the gentiles until he came under pressure from the people who insisted the gentiles needed to be circumcised. So he separated himself from the gentiles to avoid criticism. Paul was rightfully disgusted by this two-facedness.

According to Paul in Gal 2:16, we aren’t justified by following the law, but by faith in Jesus (or by the faith or faithfulness of Jesus, some interpreters suggest). Jesus loves us and gave himself for us. That is how we received that grace. If we are made right with God by following the law and being circumcised, then what did Jesus die for? We can’t earn grace by jumping through hoops. It has already been given to us. The gentiles had already received the grace through Christ and were walking in the spirit. Paul was not going to let someone come along and say what they had was not real and try to heave them back to square one.

There was a lot hanging in the balance. What if Paul and others had not intervened, and the gentiles had been convinced they should become Jewish for all intents and purposes? Would Christianity among the gentiles have died away, leaving just a sect of Judaism? The message may not have spread like it did. Maybe everyone who believed Jesus was the messiah would have quietly died out and we never would have even heard the good news today. All we’d read about is some first century Jewish insurrectionist being executed by the Roman government and his strange but brief cult following.

No wonder Paul was frustrated. He knew that having the gospel twisted in such a way could have been the demise of the church. Thank God that Paul channeled his anger and pain in this matter to write an important letter of correction and encouragement. And thank God that it has been preserved and passed down so that we are able to read it today.

-Jay Laurent

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages on BibleGateway here – Ecclesiastes 3-4 and Galatians 2

The Law of the Letter or of Life

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

Job 3-4, 2 Corinthians 3

The Olympics are going on in full steam with the final days approaching this week. Though I’ve never been one to follow gymnastics, swimming, track, or fencing, when the Olympics comes around, I’m glued to the screen watching people strain towards earthly glory in the form of a gold, silver, or bronze medal. Today, I was watching the morning news, and Caleb Dressel was doing an interview. When asked about how he took care of his mental health, he said that the first thing he did when he got back home from a big event was to not think about swimming for at least two weeks. When he got home, he wasn’t a medal winning athlete; he was just himself. He said if he didn’t do this, the pressure would be too much. He would start to go after an unattainable goal that would ultimately lead him down a dark path. 

Though we can pursue earthly achievements in our careers, finances, homes, sports, hobbies, etc., we are called to live with eternity in mind as Christians. A gold medal, large retirement account, promotion, or degree is not the pinnacle of our life. The way that we live now is working towards that final goal which will come when the trumpet sounds. As I talked about earlier this week, we can rest in assurance that this goal has already been achieved. The victory is won, and we wait for Jesus to come. 

I can say that… but in my heart of hearts, sometimes it’s hard to live like that is actually true. I like to be in control, and for the things that I’m actually good at (which is not sports), I like to be one of the best. I will go all out. And, so in my Christian walk, I can fluctuate from being distracted and worried about the cares of the world and being so legalistic that I stifle the relationship that I’m trying to work towards. When I make it about me, I can go down a wrong path – just like Caleb Dressel. I can’t do anything to add to the accomplishments of Christ, and so all of my actions where I am trying to be the ‘best’ Christian ultimately burn me out and leave me empty – and they can actually leave me further away from Christ (like the Pharisees). 

In 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, Paul writes, “17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

We don’t have to live by the law of the letter anymore. We can live in the freedom that comes from living in the Holy Spirit. We are not changing ourselves on our own power; we are relying on the power of God. And, God can do so much more than any man – Olympic medal winning or not. When we rely on him, we have the victory! Whose power are you living in?

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 3-4 and 2 Corinthians 3 .

To Die in Peace and Hope

The Death of Abraham
Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 25 & 26 and Matthew 13

After serving God for 100 years, “Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years”.  This fulfilled a promise God had made to him in Genesis 15:15, when God had promised Abraham that he would die in peace at a good old age.

In addition to a great quantity of life, I think Abraham had also enjoyed a great quality of life for all those years.  At the end of his life, he could look back with satisfaction, and even then could still look forward with anticipation to God’s promises.  Promises including: Abraham and his descendants would inherit the promised land forever, his descendants would be as numerous as the sand and the stars, and that all nations on earth would be blessed through him.

I suspect only a small minority of people can face death like this.  I’m guessing most look back at their life with regret, and look ahead with fear.

You may be wondering how Abraham could die in peace, with peace.  I believe it all comes back to his relationship with God.  We’re told that Abraham was God’s friend (2 Chron 20:7, Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23).  In Hebrews 11, we’re told that Abraham died in faith, having not received what was promised, looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

You may be wondering how Abraham developed such a close relationship with God. I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t by following the law.  He died hundreds of years before God would give the law to Moses.  He didn’t become righteous by circumcision, because he was declared righteous years before he was circumcised.  Back in Genesis 15, God made a promise to Abraham, and in verse 6, “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”  Abraham became right with God, because Abraham believed God.  And in so doing, Abraham became a model of how all of us can become right with God.  Paul used this example in Romans 4 to argue that all are justified through faith alone.

Ephesians 2: 8-10 tells us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

In chapter 2, James used Abraham as an example to demonstrate the importance of proving faith by deeds.  We aren’t saved by works, but those works prove our faith.  And lack of works proves lack of faith.

Abraham left quite a legacy.  When God reiterated His promise to Isaac, as recorded in Genesis 26:3-6, we read, “…I will be with you and will bless you.  For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.  I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, BECAUSE (emphasis added) Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees, and my laws.”  Did you catch that? All of this was because Abraham was faithful to God.

The New Testament starts with, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.”  God had promised Abraham that all the world would be blessed through him, and God kept his promise.

I’d like to leave you with a few questions..

Have you thought about preparing now to face death when it comes?  Ecclesiastes 12 encourages us to start young.  Ecclesiastes 12:1 says, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.”  Verses 13-14 go on to say, “Now all has been heard;  here is the conclusion of the matter:  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

Are you living by faith?  Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  And are you demonstrating your faith by your actions?

Finally, what legacy are you leaving?  Exodus 20: 5-6 says, “…I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  

–Steve Mattison

Twice Written, Twice Shy(ing away from sin)**

Jude & 2 Peter

Today, I would encourage you to read the material (Jude, 2 Peter) BEFORE the devotion, if you don’t already do that. Go do that. This can wait. 
You may be saying to yourself, did I just read the same thing twice?  They are very similar.*


I’ve written this before, but in scripture, when something is repeated, IT IS IMPORTANT. In Ancient Cultures, reading wasn’t the norm. The people in the time of Jesus and before were oral cultures, and repeating oneself in written form was a way to emphasize important points. What’s happening in Jude and 2 Peter is God “repeating himself” for our benefit. 

Jude and 2 Peter are both focused on false teachers bringing in destructive teachings among the people of God. Jude tells us that these people “creep” in “secretly”. They are teaching two general ideas : they are denying Jesus as Messiah and Master and they are turning grace into immorality and sensuality. These are twin ideas. These people were declaring that Jesus was not the only one who could save us from our sins (Messiah) and had no place in telling us what was right and wrong (Master). The false teachers seemed to have held the view that sin was not “real”; there was not one thing that was right and another that was wrong, but all were saved by the grace of God, and all would be permitted to spend eternity with him. All action was permitted. 


We are still talking about the ancient world, though I know how similar it sounds to our own. Jude and Peter are warning us to not be seduced by these ideas. Instead, FIGHT for the faith. Don’t let those who would water down the gospel win. In love, speak truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You contend because those who are teaching these false things are bound for destruction. THEY should have known better, but YOU DO know better. Don’t let others go down this same path, but watch out for yourself. Peter says to live with all godliness and righteousness. Jude says to build yourself up in faith and keep yourselves in the love of God. 


My brothers and sisters, may you see in Jude and 2 Peter faithful authors speaking to the same truth : there will always be someone trying to convince you that Jesus is not the Messiah, and their way to live is the best (either by adding commandments or removing standards). May you turn away from these false teachers. May you see two testimonies about the dangers of these heresies and sins, and may you make sure to be doubly cautious before following an unknown teacher. 

-Jake Ballard
—————————————————————————————————*If you would like to see a pretty decent analysis of why they are similar, you can read this article here : http://exegeticaltools.com/2020/05/15/the-literary-relationship-between-2-peter-and-jude/ The author of this devotion does not necessarily endorse everything said on the site (of course) or even the implicit conclusion of the article. (I think Jude wrote first, and Peter copied and riffed on his writing.)
** To the Tune of Last Christmas by WHAM! (Merry Christmas Eve)

Today’s Bible passages can be read on BibleGateway here – 2 Peter & Jude

Tomorrow we will read 1st John.

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear”

Daily reading: 1 Timothy 1-6

In the movie Elf, Buddy the Elf is taught the Code of the Elves, which the elves all recite and know by heart. Number three on the list is about spreading Christmas cheer, and by the end of the movie, Buddy has spread that message to lots of people.

In the book of 1 Timothy, Paul explicitly tells us his purpose when he says, I am writing you these instructions so that…you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church.”

So, in essence, Paul’s giving us the Code of the Church. And what are some of the things in that code?

  1. Remember you’re a big fat sinner (ie: Grace)

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1:15)

Before we say a word to anyone else, our perspective on ourself needs to be right.

Unfortunately, there seem to be an awful lot of believers out there who don’t seem to see themselves as Paul did. They might rephrase this verse to say, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—praise the Lord I’m not like them” or if we’re really honest, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—thankfully I’m not as bad as the worst of them.”

And although I don’t really believe most Christians would actually rephrase Paul’s writing in those ways, our attitudes do it for us. Brennan Manning, one of my favorite authors said, “Jesus came not only for those who skip morning mediations, but also for real sinners–thieves, adulterers and terrorists, for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams.”

The lyrics to the song, “Come to the Table” are a lovely picture of recognizing that we are all sinners redeemed, and that our unworthiness does not exempt us from a seat at the table of mercy.

Must sin be called out? Of course. With a heaping side of grace.

Grace first. Grace always.

More on that later in the code.

2. Pray for your leaders

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  (2:1-2)

Pray for them (ARROW) THAT…

The code dictates that we’re praying for leaders that will enable us to live out a Biblical faith.

Here’s a resource that can help you do that if you’d like.

3. Take church leadership seriously.

If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? (3:5)

Chapter three is almost entirely devoted to this piece of the church code, laying out indicators of what believers should look for in church leaders. This much real estate in Paul’s letter should tell us that it’s something that he found important, and should therefore garner our attention as well.

4. Train yourself to be godly…because it doesn’t come naturally

..train yourself to be godly.  (4:7)

Training involves work, often times painful work.

As we alluded to in step one of the code, identifying sin is a part of responsibility of the believer. Both in our own life and for one another.

Paul writes in other places of ‘walking in the Spirit’ vs. ‘walking in the flesh’. Walking in the flesh could be described as doing what comes naturally to us, and that is frequently (almost always) not the same as what God would call us to.

This is why we need to train ourselves in it. Despite all the Chuck Norris jokes to the contrary…Chuck Norris wasn’t born all ‘Chuck Norris-y’. He has trained and worked hard physically to attain the physical strength and skills he has.

While we do want to train hard and push ourselves and one another to greatness, the underlying foundation must always be love. It must always be grace. (See #1 of the Code)

5. The church takes care of its own

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers,older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters (5:1-2)

Much of chapter 5 centers on the care of widows in the church, something we may deem a waste of Paul’s time. However, it shows a real care and elevation of women. A woman whose husband had died could become desolate very rapidly, and this was to ensure that this not happen to believers.

Although the specific issue of widowhood may not be as relevant to us today, the idea that God expects believers to provide for their family has not changed. Also unchanged is the notion of the church family stepping in for believers without blood-family to support them.

Good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever. (5:25)

Our church code of conduct may not be quite as catchy as the one Buddy the Elf learned in the North Pole, but ours has a far more lasting impact…and no tights required!

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Timothy

Tomorrow we will read Titus 1-3.

Who are You Imitating?

Matthew 5-7

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 5-7.  You may know this as “The Sermon on the Mount”, and this may be among the most well known passages in the Bible.  The Jews Jesus was teaching knew the Old Testament laws really well.  Jesus took this opportunity to focus on what God really requires – he focused on matters of the heart, not just following the letter of the law.

For example, the old law said, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”  Jesus took it further and taught, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”  This is a difficult teaching, but wait – there’s more.  

Then, in Matt 5:42-45, Jesus tells us, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – This is even harder to follow.

In this passage, Jesus is telling us more of the reason behind his new rules.  God loves even those who hate him, and he does them good – in spite of their hatred for Him.  And we should imitate this characteristic of God.  Jesus takes this even further in verse 48, where he said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  – Ok, now this isn’t possible to obey without some serious help from God.

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  Basically, this is asking God to forgive me only to the extent I forgive others.  Jesus then told us plainly in Matt 6: 14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  – This is a pretty good reason to forgive others! – But still not easy to do.

Then, Jesus tells us in Matt 7: 1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  – Did you catch that?  I will be judged in the same way I judge others.  This is a pretty good reason for me to not condemn others!  This goes back to the old saying, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

As I read these passages, a couple things jump out to me.  First, I need to imitate God as much as possible. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at doing this, so I need to beg for His forgiveness.  Fortunately, He is loving and extends grace.  From His example, I recognize I need to be loving, and extend grace too.

Second, once I recognize I am a worthless sinner, saved only by the grace of God, it’s suddenly easier for me to be less eager to condemn others.  Then, if I can see them through God’s eyes – as other sinners in need of grace – that makes it even easier for me to extend grace to others.  And that grace may take the form of forgiving them, or of not judging them, or even turning the other cheek if they hit me.  On our own, this isn’t possible, but we can do these things with God’s help.  Ultimately, we can (again with God’s help) come to the point of loving or enemies, and blessing those who persecute us.

Jesus closes this section talking about the wise builder (who built on a rock) and the foolish builder (who built on sand).  The wise man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and put it into practice – building his life on the rock.  The foolish man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and didn’t put it into practice – building his life without a foundation.  In both instances, storms come.  But only the house built on the rock survived.  By analogy, only the life founded on Jesus’ teachings will not be destroyed.

So again, we find that today’s reading has implications for us today, and for eternity.  And just knowing these truths isn’t enough, we must put them into practice.  Please join me in taking this seriously.  Apply this to your life.  Ask God’s help living up to these requirements that are impossible to accomplish on our own.  Become an imitator of God.  The reward is eternal.

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 5-7.

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 8:1-13 and Luke 7 as we continue on our Bible reading plan. SeekGrowLove.

Dem Bones…Can They Live?

Ezekiel 35-37


It would probably be blasphemous to suggest God asks silly questions, so I won’t. But I would imply that the creator of the universe makes inquiries which His creatures wouldn’t. I don’t think most of us, upon seeing a valley full of human bones, dried out by years of the sun beating down on them, would think to ask: Can these bones live? No, I think the first question would be: “What on earth happened here?” Followed by: “What’s the quickest way out of this place?” But that is not what happens in chapter 37 of Ezekiel. No, Ezekiel doesn’t get to ask a question, instead, one is posed to him by God, “Can these bones live?” And he responds with either the biggest cop-out of an answer there is or the wisest: “Only God knows.” I would lean towards wisest. God’s not trying to learn something from Ezekiel; He is trying to reveal something to the prophet so Ezekiel can relay it to the people of Israel, which is why he doesn’t try to guess at an answer. Ezekiel doesn’t care to have his opinions heard by God; he wants to know what God has to say. We would do well to learn this trait from the prophet–you could say it would be quite profitable (sorry!).

While Ezekiel doesn’t provide a yes or no answer to the question, God does: yes, these bones will live again. These bones, representing the house of Israel, who have been cut off from their land, and whose hope is gone, will live again. God’s people who, time after time, have rebelled against Yahweh and received mercy only to rebel further, will once again experience the grace of God and return to the Promised Land. This vision, like all those received by the prophets, is first for the Jews. It concerns God’s People and it is for God’s People, but there is much for us, as Christians, to learn from the words of the prophets today.

A few things we should recognize from this particular revelation and meditate on are (1) God’s relentless love for His people, despite their blunders, foolishness, and obstinate ways (to put it mildly). (2) That God can (and does) redeem those who have been abused, discarded, and forgotten. (3) We can (and should) have hope and trust in Yahweh, despite any and every problematic, perilous, or pernicious situation we may be in. The God we serve does not cower at death, does not withhold second chances, and does not fail to love the unlovable. Neither should we. 

– Joel Fletcher

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – ht

tps://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+35-37&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will read Ezekiel 38-39 as we continue on our

Poor in Spirit

Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:3

Matthew 5 3 niv

Having just finished Revelation I thought it would be beneficial to revisit Jesus’ teaching for the next six days. There really is no better place to do this than the Sermon on the Mount. In my opinion this is the most important teaching that Jesus gave us. We will be expanding on six of these beatitudes over the course of the next week. Hopefully, a beatitude a day will keep the doctor away and make us spiritually healthy. And yes, my corniness knows no bounds.

So today let’s explore the first beatitude found in Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Let’s start with this first word “Blessed”. What does blessed actually mean? The debate over this topic is varied but I think we can generally assume it simply means happy. I don’t think it means momentary happiness. I believe what Jesus is aiming at here is long term, lasting happiness, the kind of happiness where you know all you are doing and being is worth it.

Now, for the command “poor in spirit”. For the longest time, like longer than a decade, this phrase left me confused. I have talked to all sorts of different pastors and people seeking an explanation but always walked away unsatisfied. I was left feeling like their definition was somehow incomplete. Finally, I heard it defined as spiritual brokenness and this finally made sense. But what does that really mean, right? This story may help.

When I was twenty years old my sister and I swapped vehicles because I was doing a lot of driving and had a truck with terrible gas mileage. My little sister wasn’t driving a lot and she wanted to drive my truck because well, it was really awesome. It was jacked up with a wicked exhaust system. Basically, it was every teenage boy/country girl’s dream truck. One super early Saturday morning my dad woke me up saying “There is something wrong with your truck” and hands me his cell phone with my sister on the line. He then left the room and probably went back to bed.

Much to my surprise on the other end was my now “frantic and scared for her life” sister. She explained to me how the truck had just stopped moving. Even though the engine was still running. Now this probably wouldn’t have been an issue if it was a normal situation but it wasn’t. The truck broke down during the middle of morning traffic on one of the few bridges that stretches for miles across the Hudson River with no shoulder or pull off at all. Even this would have been fine if it had been bumper to bumper traffic which is typical in New York City but it wasn’t. Traffic was moving well, really well actually and cars were flying past her at 60+ mph. She was stuck in the right hand lane of traffic literally praying to God that they would miss the truck.

In this moment she was experiencing the hopelessness of my truck’s brokenness with danger coming fast directly behind her. It is the same way with spiritual brokenness. Without God we are spiritually broken and helpless. The honest truth is that we are in danger and that without God and Christ our “trucks” are not moving on the middle of a highway, that if we were to stay there – it would end in our deaths.

We adopt this attitude of being “poor in spirit” when we realize how much we need God, his son’s sacrifice and how broken we are without him. We acknowledge God’s holiness and that we don’t deserve his grace or his love. We realize there was/is nothing we can do to earn any of what he has done for us. This isn’t condemnation for the sake of making ourselves feel ashamed or worthless rather it is acknowledgement of how much we need him and all that he has done for us. You can look at your sin and say “I suck” or you can look at your sin and say “I have a great, merciful God who loves me more than I understand.”

This is summarized well in the quote “Those who feel their spiritual need.” by Goodspeed.

So, let’s adopt this attitude of brokenness and helplessness before God because not only will we be happy but we will also have the kingdom of God as well.

 

Dan Wall

You’re Being Watched

Titus 2

Titus 2 7a

Yesterday we got a glimpse of some of Paul’s “good works”. Today we are going to focus more on our own good works.

 

Verse 7 says – ¨In everything set them an example by doing what is good.¨

This is a good reminder that people are always watching, and looking to you as their role model. By always doing good you will be encouraging others to do good as well.

 

Moving further into the chapter in verses 11 & 12 we learn that the grace from God helps teach us to live godly lives. My Bible’s footnotes for these verses says, ¨This same grace instructs us that our salvation should produce good works.¨ (Zondervan, NIV Study Bible) 

 

Verse 14 brings up another good point – we should be, ¨eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14).  Because of the grace that God has given us we should want in our hearts to do good works as a way of thanking Him. God’s grace gives us a chance to start over and live a life that pleases Him. Which, as you might have guessed, includes good works. 

 

Take a minute and meditate on the chorus of the song Give Me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath.   Ask God to open your eyes and show you some good works that need to be done. 

 

Give me your eyes for just one second

Give me your eyes so I can see,

Everything that I keep missing,

Give your love for humanity.

Give me your arms for the broken-hearted

The ones that are far beyond my reach.

Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.

Give me Your eyes so I can see

 

Ephesians 2:10 – ¨For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.¨

 

-Makayla Railton

 

We need to open our hearts to figure out what God wants us to do for him.