DSG | Discipleship Study Guide | Vineyard Boise

Galatians

The Marks of Jesus | Galatians 6:17-18

ea_series_galatians_header_2FRIDAY
Reflection 70 of 70

Reflect
Galatians 6:17-18  |  ESV  [This Week’s Passage: Galatians 6:11-18]
17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

Mike’s Authorized Version (MAV)
That’s it. I’m done. Let no one belabor the point any further, no more harassing, nagging follow-up questions or retorts. You want proof of God’s covenant in me? You want to talk about scars? Fine. Let me bare my back and show you the marks of Jesus I bear in each of those scars. Each welt, each wound will bear its own silent, final witness of what really matters.

The only thing now left to be said is, simply, my heartfelt prayer and desire that the free, forgiving and life-giving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ would not merely be understood in your mind as a theoretical, theological concept – but that it would be present to, in, and with your spirit, reshaping your inner and outer life from one end to the other, my brothers.

So say we all.

Receive
Stigmata. “A term used by members of the Christian faith (mostly Catholic in orientation) to describe body marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ, such as the hands, wrists, and feet,” one source says. The phenomena is actually connected with Paul’s statement here about the “marks (Greek stigmata) of Jesus.” I don’t think Paul was talking about materializing nail marks in his skin. No, I think by letter he is lifting his tunic and showing them his back – his back that would have borne the scars of so many public beatings. The troublemakers proudly boasted of their “stigmata” for God in the glorified surgery of circumcision. Paul one-ups them. In showing his back, his chest, his legs, his face, he bore stigmata that most would see as a real stigma. Most of us try to cover and cosmeticize our scars – especially if they mark the time I got beaten up in public. But for Paul they were all marks of Jesus, lines of grace through which His face is revealed. Religion masks. Jesus marks. Faith marks us. Our words and explanations become mere captions underneath what is truly the work of art to behold: Christ in me, Christ on me, Christ through me. This is the ultimate point of this entire letter to the Galatians, wrapped up nicely in Paul’s simple prayer, perhaps written with the largest letters yet: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Grace with our spirit. Marks of Jesus on our body. Welcome to the New Creation.

Relate
How does your life bear the marks of Jesus?

Respond
Lord Jesus, may your free, forgiving, and life-giving grace burst beyond mere theory and theology in my life. Let your grace become vitally present to, in, and with my spirit, reshaping my inner and outer life from one end to the other. Make me a marked man, a marked woman, in Christ. Let me bear on my body, in my life, the marks of Jesus, of faith, of grace, of Life. Amen.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Israel of God | Galatians 6:15-16

THURSDAY
ea_series_galatians_header_2Reflection 69 of 70

Reflect
Galatians 6:15-16  |  ESV  [This Week’s Passage: Galatians 6:11-18]
15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

Mike’s Authorized Version (MAV)
To finally see straight is to see this: circumcision and being religious count for nothing – and neither does uncircumcision or being irreligious; all that matters is the New Creation, Kingdom come! To see this is to see everything. And for all who do see this and then walk it out, who walk out this line, this truth (you want to talk about keeping rules? Here’s the Rule to keep!): life restoring, soul mending, world healing peace upon them – and overflowing mercy! Now we’re talking Israel – the Israel of God.

Receive
“You can be replaced!” Sometimes we say that to each other when we are exasperated. Many suppose that God has said that about the Jewish people, that Israel has been replaced as the people of God by a primarily Gentile church (which Jews are welcome to join if they become Gentiles like us!). Others insist that Jews still have a primary status as God’s people alongside the Gentile church. Both are perhaps missing the point Paul is making here as he finishes out his “large letter” writing in this conclusion to Galatians: God doesn’t have two Israels, two peoples, two brides. On a foundational level there is, always has been, and always will be only one “Israel of God.” And it actually has nothing to do with ethnic ties, religious calendars or dietary rules; it’s not about the presence or absence of a foreskin but has everything to do with the presence of faith – a life-transforming trust that says “yes” to God as he calls us, like Abram, to step out of the familiar and pursue him into the unknown. Being “Israel” is not about meekly falling in line with religious demands, it’s about wrestling all night with the realities of God and Christ – and being marked with a limp from the struggle. Earlier in this letter, Paul called this “faith working through love.” Here he calls it a “new creation.” Kai-nay keh-tee-sis. It’s as foreign sounding in the Greek as the reality of “new creation” too often is among followers of Jesus. So easy for us to find ourselves endlessly traveling with the Galatians in the traffic circle of the old world of religion, rules, and performance. To be finally free of that roundabout is to find ourselves in the Israel of God and traveling the road of life-restoring, soul-mending, world-healing peace and mercy.

Relate
In what ways do you presently feel stuck in a roundabout? What is the key to finally getting out – to finally experiencing the “new creation”? What has this looked like for you?

Respond
Lord, show me the way out of the roundabout I find myself in – or the one that will try to pull me into its pointless cycles today. Keep me traveling free along the highway of your mercy and peace. Unfold your new creation in me. Just a bit more of it. Today. Through Jesus.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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No Trophies | Galatians 6:14

ea_series_galatians_header_2WEDNESDAY
Reflection 68 of 70

Reflect
Galatians 6:14  |  ESV  [This Week’s Passage: Galatians 6:11-18]
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Mike’s Authorized Version (MAV)
No trophies for me. None. Ever. Only the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. There, and only there will I whoop and holler, there only will I raise the roof with boastful, extravagant praise. Because it’s there this whole sick, backward world system with all of its upside down values and views has been finally and forever crucified, dead, and buried to me, and I to it.

Receive
Counting coup refers to the practice of the Plains Indians in gaining prestige by touching an enemy warrior and returning unharmed. After battle, the tribe would gather and share tales of bravery and “count coup.” We collect trophies. The Galatian troublemakers collected foreskins. And yes, that’s gross, but it’s the truth of it. Takes me back to David’s unusual dowry for Saul’s daughter Michal. He was asked to deliver 100 Philistine foreskins. He showed up with 200. Ugh. Religion really can degenerate into such a bloody business of self-promotion and trophy hunting as we try to placate others (and God!) and advance ourselves. Our ego is so wrapped up in securing bragging rights! And our temples, synagogues, and churches, intended to be sacred spaces, can so easily end up being just another dandified trophy case. Jesus catches us perfectly in his story in Luke: 

He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’ “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’” Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” (Luke 18:9-14 | Message)

For Paul it’s simple: No trophy but the scandalous cross; no bragging rights but Jesus. But O with what difficulty does ego depart from us!

Relate
What trophies, religious or otherwise, do you find yourself compelled to collect?

Respond
“God, have mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.” Lord teach me to pray this prayer in all the right and healthy ways. Pry my fingers off all the trophies I cling to. Let me live free and lightly in you, with you as my only ground of bragging – and being. Through Jesus.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Unmasked | Galatians 6:12-13

ea_series_galatians_header_2TUESDAY
Reflection 67 of 70

Reflect
Galatians 6:12-13  |  ESV  [This Week’s Passage: Galatians 6:11-18]
12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.

Mike’s Authorized Version (MAV)
Let’s revisit these troublemakers one more time. What do they really want? What are they really after? They’re all show, all externals, all outward appearance. And so why this obsessive fixation with circumcision? Why so knife-happy? Why so insistent on seeing you go under that knife? One reason and only one when it all comes down to it: they want to avoid the razor-sharp judgment, the hounding criticism of a religious culture that is totally scandalized by the cross of Christ and what it represents. You disagree? You think it’s out of sincere desire to obey God? Here’s the undeniable truth: those who zealously hold the line on circumcision fail miserably when it comes to actually living out the Law it represents. But they turn around and insist on you being circumcised and becoming just like them so they can, quite literally hold up their “pound of flesh” as a religious trophy for their wall. They’re counting coup! All show. All externals. All outward performance. Pathetic. Nauseating.

Receive
Religion can be such a bloody business of self-promotion via hacking away on or at people as a means of ingratiating ourselves to others. Pettiness and pride so frequently masquerade as piety. As Paul finishes up this letter with his own hand, he first writes large letters about the Galatian troublemakers and in doing so pulls off the mask. What from all appearances looked like hunger for God and thirst for obedience is revealed to be little more than a religious quest for personal achievement and the ultimate ego trip – or at the very least a mere effort to save their own skin  (even as they literally cut into the skin of others). Ah, but this is the risky thing we do when we start removing masks. To tinker with the masks of others is to invite attention to our own. At its root, this is the heart of what “hypocrisy” really is. Hypocrisy isn’t saying one thing and doing another. That’s actually called humanity. Hypocrisy is wearing a mask on the stage of life and playing a role. Too often, what we know as “church” is the ultimate stage performance with masks aplenty. Unholy masquerade. To truly be in Christ is to experience the ultimate unmasking. It’s as if in these final lines, Paul is saying, “Look at their mask. Now look at my face.”

Relate
What mask or masks do you wear – and where do you feel you have to wear them?

Respond
Jesus, free me from the masks I feel compelled to wear! Let me with unveiled face gaze into yours – and let me not be afraid to show it. In your name.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Large Letters | Galatians 6:11

ea_series_galatians_header_2MONDAY
Reflection 66 of 70

Reflect
Galatians 6:11  |  ESV  [This Week’s Passage: Galatians 6:11-18]
See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.

Mike’s Authorized Version (MAV)
And now that we’re getting to the end of this letter, I take the pen in hand myself to write these final signature lines – and look what fine, large signature lines they are! Hopefully in these large letters you’ll see my heart and not miss a thing.

Receive
It was ancient practice to employ scribes skilled in writing when sending documents or letters of importance. Jeremiah had his Baruch, and when writing the defining document of his life, the letter to the Romans, Paul had his Tertius (Romans 16:22). This presents us with a picture of Paul passionately dictating his thoughts as a scribe furiously wrote, trying to keep up. But Paul made a habit, as was common, in the final line or two, of taking the pen from the scribe and adding the distinctive flow of his own penmanship, saying, for example, to the Thessalonians – who evidently had dealt with some forgeries – “I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand – which is the distinguishing mark in all of my letters; it’s how I write” (2 Thessalonians 3:17). So here in Galatians, it’s evidently a signal that at this point, and throughout the remainder of the letter, Paul is now writing with his own hand. And though we can’t see his unique handwriting due to the fact we’re reading a translation and no one has that original letter he sent, we have to imagine his style. And it was evidently IN LARGE LETTERS. SOMEWHAT LIKE WHEN WE TYPE THINGS IN ALL CAPS. FOR US IT’S A WAY OF SHOUTING THROUGH PRINT. IT’S LOUD, BOLD, EMPHATIC, NOISY, BORDERING ON RUDE IF IT GOES ON FOR TOO LONG. Perhaps that’s how our English translations should be printed when we come to this final section of Galatians. Some imagine that as a tradesmen Paul’s hands were too fat and clumsy to write delicately, or that his “thorn in the flesh” was glaucoma or some such eye condition forced him to write with abnormally large letters. Maybe. But I get the feeling that at the end of a very passionately argued letter, this is Paul’s way of putting his own stylish exclamation point at its conclusion. He wants this to be heard and the content of the entire letter thereby underlined.

Relate
How most recently has God spoken to you in ALL CAPS? What did he say? How did you respond?

Respond
Lord, may it not take large letters from your hand to get my attention. Let me not be as the mule that needs much prodding with bit and bridle to turn and respond. Give me a heart that sees and responds to the subtlest of your movements, to the stillness of your voice?

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Sowing, Meet Reaping | Galatians 6:7-10

ea_series_galatians_header_2FRIDAY
Reflection 65 of 70

Reflect
Galatians 6:7-10  |  ESV  [This Week’s Passage: Galatians 6:1-10]
7 …whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Mike’s Authorized Version (MAV)
Changing metaphors, let’s step out into a farmer’s field. Whatever you plant in the field is what you will reap in your life. Count on it. Sow the oats of your lower self and reap a correspondingly grim harvest that will spoil as soon as you gather it; sow the precious grain of your higher Spirit-led self and watch yourself reap an unspoiling harvest of unending and ever deepening Life. So this is no time to stop! Keep at it! Keep scattering the seeds of doing good and living holy. The harvest – the great pay-off – is coming. And we won’t share in it if we can’t wait for it, but instead shrug our shoulders, and walk off the field. Don’t do that! Knowing that the harvest is coming, seize each moment, each opportunity to get our hands dirty doing good for anyone, for everyone – especially for members of this expansive and expanding family of faith.

Receive
Carpe diem. Seize the day. We’ve heard it so often it’s trite. But the only reason we’ve heard it so often is because it’s what we so rarely do. We sleepwalk through life, mostly, perpetually hitting the snooze button and rolling back over. Perpetually stuck in an Ecclesiastes ennui: What’s the point, why bother, it’s happened before and it will all happen again. Through these lines of Galatians Paul is splashing cold water in our faces, reviving us to a quite literal field of opportunities right under our feet, right before our skeptical, weary eyes. Our very lives are the seeds meant to be scattered not hoarded or holed up in a napkin, wasted, buried in the field of the world. Bob Dillon sang, “ You’ve gotta serve someone.” We can add another refrain: “You’re gonna sow something.” And we do. We are all sowing something. We are all sowing to something. Low life of the flesh. High life of the Spirit. We are all sowing something. And we are all reaping something. The two, of course are vitally connected, although we often deny the connection insisting that we can sow oats and reap apples. We insist we can keep sowing indifference with each roll in the bed of apathy and reap significance. Paul does us a favor here for which we will hate him at first: he rips the blankets off apathy’s bed, and like an excited child on Christmas morning, pulls us by the hand to see the harvest of opportunities awaiting us.

Relate
What opportunities for doing good lie before you today? How ready are you to pursue them as they crop up before you?

Respond
Abba, keep ripping the blankets off the bed, keep splashing your cold water in my face. Don’t leave me hinged to the bed of indifference. Awaken my soul again to the field of opportunities that awaits me this day.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Attitude Check | Galatians 6:7

ea_series_galatians_header_2THURSDAY
Reflection 64 of 70

Reflect
Galatians 6:7  |  ESV  [This Week’s Passage: Galatians 6:1-10]
 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked…

Mike’s Authorized Version (MAV)
Wait a minute. Did I just see you rolling your eyes? Do I hear you muttering, “Puh-leeeze”? Don’t kid yourselves. This is serious business. You’re actually thinking of thumbing your nose at God? God will not be messed with like that!

Receive
“Don’t be deceived, God is not mocked.” Timothy Keller observes that “don’t be deceived” captures the essence of the entire letter of Galatians. The whole thing is about them not allowing themselves to be pulled off course, which clearly had happened with many of them. Now the question is would they be too smug in their own new “epiphany” of law and circumcision to receive Paul’s reminder and instruction through the letter? Paul had just stressed how those who are taught should bless their teachers. Across the miles, Paul senses from many only the “blessing” of their eyes rolling and their noses being lifted in defiant scorn. We’ve all been teens, so we are familiar with the attitude and motion (we have to have teens to fully appreciate it from the spectator’s standpoint). And we’re all human so we’re still familiar with it frequently when it comes to our response to authority and to God. There is very little you can do with someone who is rolling their eyes. Scornful pride is not teachable soil. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” is a frequent refrain in Scripture. It fits nicely with Paul’s statement here. And so we are provided with the enlightening opportunity for an attitude check (notice how we love giving this to others?): are our eyes open expectantly, waiting to receive and respond/change/adapt accordingly? Or are they rolling at the very thought we even need to listen or change anything? Wait a minute; did I just see you rolling your eyes?

Relate
Are your eyes open with the expectation of receiving, of learning something new, something that could be a total “gamechanger” for you? Where does such adventurous humility come from?

Respond
Spirit of God, break through the walls of my smug pride and self-inflated assurance. Puncture me! And then lead me to that place where I may sit at the feet of the One Who Knows, so I may know as I am known. Through Jesus.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Feed the Ox | Galatians 6:6

ea_series_galatians_header_2WEDNESDAY
Reflection 63 of 70

Reflect
Galatians 6:6  |  ESV  [This Week’s Passage: Galatians 6:1-10]
Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.

Mike’s Authorized Version (MAV)
And look, when you’re the one being supported by others as they put hands and feet to God’s Word for you and get your feet moving in harmony with its rhythms, don’t forget to stop and acknowledge them by showing your appreciation in all kinds of good, practical ways.

Receive
It can be a toss-up. Sometimes it can be just as hard or harder to receive help and instruction from others than it is to give it. Being a follower of Christ means becoming skilled at doing both. It is pursuing the grace of giving and receiving. When we are on the giving end of the equation, the challenge is to see the need and to lovingly, humbly, gracefully engage with that need as Christ in us would, as we become agents of reconciliation and healing. When we are on the receiving end, it’s the challenge of surrendering pride in receiving the help or instruction rather than chafing under it, and then being appropriately thankful. Jesus calls Levi out of his tax-collector’s booth and in the very act of it teaches him huge lessons about the nature of the kingdom of God, grace, and judgment. Levi learns, receives, and then throws Jesus a huge dinner party. Jesus didn’t call and instruct Levi so that he could get a free meal out of the deal – but he certainly didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation! The entire table then became another “lectern” of instruction about the kingdom of God for all present (see Mark 2:13-17). And so Paul says, “Those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14), or, quoting Moses in Deuteronomy, “Don’t muzzle the ox when it’s treading out the grain.” Comparing himself to an ox may not seem complimentary, but Paul says this entire statute of the law is ultimately aimed at just such a teaching moment. The message is clear: when someone blesses you with life-changing and transforming instruction, don’t begrudgingly accept it. Go over the top in your appreciation. It’s amazing how such gratitude can oil the wheels of God’s economy of grace.

Relate
Which do you find most challenging: giving instruction or receiving it? Why? Who has really helped you recently by “instructing you” in living out the Word? How can you thank and bless them?

Respond
Lord Jesus, lead me in this grace of giving and receiving in your divine economy of grace. Keep the lines of my heart flowing and open in healthy attitudes of grace and thanksgiving. Shape me into one who is both teachable and able to teach.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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The Law of Christ | Galatians 6:2-5

ea_series_galatians_header_2TUESDAY
Reflection 62 of 70

Reflect
Galatians 6:2-5  | ESV  [This Week’s Passage: Galatians 6:1-10]
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.

Mike’s Authorized Version (MAV)
So, you’re hot to trot to the tune of Law? Instead of being absorbed in your own needs and desires, put a shoulder under each other’s burdens and you will carry out fully the only “law” that matters: the law of Christ. But if you think you’re above laying a finger on your brother’s need, it’s time for a reality check: those who think they’re at the head of the class when in reality they’re bringing up the rear, only pull the wool over their own eyes and end up playing the fool. Take a good, hard look at the substance of who you really are and what you really do – and then you can take healthy pride in who you are without having to make constant references to what you consider to be the poor showing of others. And no one can do this for you – it’s a load of self-examination each of us has to carry for ourselves.

Receive
When I was first waking up to the mind-blowing grace of God, we were leading a home group that was processing the Gospel of Matthew. One of the leading couples in the church were there, and insisted that as we went through Matthew we begin compiling all the commands of Christ and thus, more or less, assemble the “law of Christ.” Some of us might recoil not only at processing the Gospel of Matthew this way (a recoiling I certainly share to this day) but also at the very concept of there being a “law of Christ.” But Paul didn’t  The teachers upsetting and dividing the Galatians were obsessed with the Law of Moses, and Paul, rather than becoming anti-Law, period, instead embraces the concept of “law.” He simply redirects and redefines it. In Galatians 5, Paul says the entire Law is summed up in one word or command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Now in Galatians 6, Paul summarizes this yet another way: bearing one another’s burdens. The law of Christ isn’t a list of regulations about how to “do church” in the sense of regulating “church services” as to their content and style or that aim to regulate society at large. It’s about helping each other to share the burdens of life. One day, I watched as a worker tried to unload a shipment of many bags of large onions off a truck using a forklift. The pallet they were stored on was evidently rotten – and there were plainly just too many onions in the load! It crashed, onions everywhere. I then watched as a team of four came together over the mess and then pitched in, stacking the bags of onions on two newer pallets, the forklift operator then lifting the more manageable loads and moving them into the warehouse. Paul is saying, “Yes, that’s the law of Christ. Do that with and for each other when the pallet cracks and onions scatter everywhere in your life. Help each other gather up the pieces. Help each other move forward.”

Relate
How do you tell the difference between a burden that we need to help someone else carry, and a load that they need to figure out and carry themselves? How is the Lord challenging you to fulfill the “law of Christ” today?

Respond
Lord Jesus, help me to see myself as I am before you so I can see others as they are before you and relate to them in healthy ways. Let your law of love be the practical “law of the land” in my life today. Amen.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Help Them to their Feet | Galatians 6:1

ea_series_galatians_header_2MONDAY
Reflection 61 of 70

Reflect
Galatians 6:1  | ESV  [This Week’s Passage: Galatians 6:1-10]
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Mike’s Authorized Version (MAV)
Brothers, look, if someone’s caught falling on their face, making a fool of themselves, don’t stand there gawking and pointing. You call that moving to Holy Spirit rhythms? Here’s the move he calls for: Come alongside. Lift them up. Help them to their feet. Get them moving again. And do it gently – no chiding or clucking your tongue at them. And keep an eye on your own feet while you’re at it – or you might just end up sprawled out all over the floor next to them.

Receive
Our culture lives to see celebrities and politicians fall. The harder, the more spectacular, the better. Maybe it comforts us to know they are human after all. Maybe it just gratifies us to see someone who messes up worse than we do – or at least worse than we get caught doing. An entire industry of scandal/gossip newsstand papers is supported by this all too human bent in us. Jesus was leading up to this “bent” in his story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. His listeners (and us, if we are honest) want to see the arrogant upstart youth get his comeuppance when he drags himself back home in shame, smelling of pigs. But instead our religious sensibilities are scandalized by the father’s extravagant grace in running out to his son, embracing him, and then throwing him the party to end all parties at which a radically different tune is being played. So it is here with Paul as we enter the final “page” of his letter. The Galatians seemed to have been at each other’s throats as a result of the troublemakers’ influence and teaching among them. As Paul’s letter sets matters straight, it would be easy for the “faithful” among them to seize a major “I told you so” moment over those who saw the error of their thoughts and ways. Like Jesus in the prodigal son story, Paul urges them to dance to a different tune – one that gives up the “I told you so” finger-pointing and replaces it with a supportive, reconciling, healing embrace that is given in the sober recognition that they too have and/or will find themselves in the same boat. Sooner or later.

Relate
What is your first emotional response when you hear of a brother or sister who has had a more or less public “fall from grace”? When have you been called upon to support such a brother or sister? What did this look like for you?

Respond
Lord, instill within me a love that “rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.” Show me how to lovingly, faithfully support those who have stumbled in their daily walk, even as I pray for you to support me. Through Jesus.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Living Out of the Tomb | Galatians 5:24-26

ea_series_galatians_header_2FRIDAY
Reflection 60 of 70

Reflect
Galatians 5:24-26  ESV  [This Week's Passage: Galatians 5:16-26]
24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Mike’s Authorized Version (MAV)
And if you really belong to Christ, and he to you, your lower self with all it’s well worn ways is history – crucified, dead and buried, with all its insatiable longings and grasping cravings serving as the burial clothes. Don’t you be rolling that stone away anymore – and leave the burial clothes of your former way of life on its corpse, will you? If you’ve stepped out of that tomb into a Spirit-led life, no lingering at the door, no more gazing back into the tomb. Life is out here. Keep moving to these new rhythms, rather than grinding to those tired, old, overworked jukebox tunes blaring out from that tomb the top 40 empty has-been songs of your past as you challenge each other to a dance-off in which you leave each other shredded on the floor.

Receive
“Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Crucified took me to buried, buried took me to the concrete image of a tomb. Like Jesus, our old way of life (our lower self, the flesh) has been crucified, dead and buried. Unlike Jesus, it needs to stay in the tomb. No bad resurrection, no zombified reemergence of that old self. And no living at the door of the tomb, or on the threshold, half in the darkness of the tomb, half out in the light of day. The lower self and the whole momentum of disconnection it embodied needs to be left in that tomb – along with all the grave clothes of habits, addictions and drives. We need to move on, to dance in the wide world of Light and Life in the Son. This picture in turn took me to Plato’s Cave – a fictional story/parable Plato told of prisoners chained to a wall of a cave. Their only exposure to reality was through distorted shadows on the wall of the cave that they ultimately fully associate with reality. Even when one escapes and tells them of life beyond the shadows, none of them believe. For reality is in the shadows. It’s a powerful and appropriate image. The detail Paul would add from this Galatians’ portrait is that we are no longer chained to the wall. Because of Christ, we can walk out. The further image I saw here was that of a jukebox in the cave that continues to play the tunes of our captivity, the songs of our lower self and the downward spiral, the song of the shadows dancing on the wall. Only as we walk away from the cave will our soul be captivated by a deeper, more resonant rhythm – and our feet be freed to dance to it in harmony with the rest of God’s humanity.

Relate
What “songs” from the life of your “lower/former self” are still the hardest for you to resist? What is the key to hearing God’s new song and dancing to it?

Respond
Abba, let my former self of self-assertion, pride, and ego truly be crucified, dead, and buried. Lead me out of that tomb. Let me drop every last strip of the grave clothes of that former self. Lead me out of the tomb and into the freedom of the Son. Through Jesus.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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The Other Road | Galatians 5:22-23

ea_series_galatians_header_2THURSDAY
Reflection 59 of 70

Reflect

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

The alternative? The path your higher Spirit-led self would lead you into? Organic. Personal. Fruitful. You can’t make this stuff up! It’s what grows in you, through you, around you. It is the way of love that sees people, that stoops to wash their feet; the way of boundless, contagious, off-the-wall joy; of radical, risky peacemaking; of seeing endless possibilities in the most impossible people
and…..waiting…. for…… it; of a deep-seated kindness that cannot be contained; of an active goodness that continually flings open the pantry doors to all comers; of seeing divine possibilities and believing in them despite all evidence to the contrary; of a yielding spirit that totally works around the needs of others rather than asserting its own agenda; of a heart reined in under the reign of God. Connection. Ultimate. Wondrous. We can’t get enough of it – and even the Law is gobsmacked by the Glory.  Galatians 5:22-23  MAV

Receive

The “fruit of the Spirit.” Nine qualities that are frequently turned into a nine-session sermon series. And while that can be a productive exercise, such handling of this fruit can miss something very crucial. It is one fruit, with nine aspects or sides to it (notice it’s the fruit of the Spirit, not fruits).  In the oldest manuscripts, these nine qualities would have been written out as one long word with no punctuation marks: lovejoypeacepatiencekindnessgoodnessfaithmeeknessselfcontrol. When ancient writers made lists, if they wanted you to pause over each item they would essentially insert “and” between each, the “and” serving as a signal to linger over each successive item and weigh it carefully. With no “and” you were intended to see the list as something of a composite sketch. And so here we have a composite sketch of the spiritual life with nine aspects of “shading” – or, alternately, a portrait of love as the fruit of the spiritual life with eight attributes filling out the picture of love and making it 3D. It is the whole picture we must linger over. There is a direction, a momentum of life-giving connection we are meant to catch here. And that is the other crucial bit to grasp: this is fruit. We really can’t make this stuff up. Our lower religious self loves to turn fruit into imperatives, into commands that kill on our latest “to-do” list. The one imperative here is connection. To be connected to the tree is to have its nourishing sap flowing through you, and the result is, ultimately, fruit. Turning a fruit tree into an assembly production line = a bad business.

Relate

Which aspect of the fruit of the Spirit do you find most challenging? What is the way on – the way to seeing this fruit borne more richly in our lives?

Respond

Spirit of God, breathe into my nostrils the breath of life and let me become a living soul in you. Bring your fruit to full, rich, deepening maturity in my life. May many freely eat from the branches of my life, and may the leaves be for the healing of a broken world. Through Jesus.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 5:16-26. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Disconnect | Galatians 5:21

ea_series_galatians_header_2WEDNESDAY
Reflection 58 of 70

Reflect

Disconnect. Total. There’s no Life along this path. How many times do I need to say it? How many times do you need to hear it? How many times do you need to see it? You won’t find the queue here of those lining up for the all the goods of God’s Kingdom. Dead end. Game over.
Galatians 5:21 MAV

Receive

It’s so easy to relate to the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit as a moralistic list of do’s and don’t’s. Don’t do any of these things, because if you do, you won’t get into God’s whole heaven party thing. Do these things, because if you do, you’ll qualify. That’s actually quite the religious take on these, and we have become expert practioners and expositors of it. And it doesn’t give us, or anyone else, one bit of life. Not one bit. Something much deeper and significant is surfacing in these lists. Patterns, momemtums of connection and disconnection. The entire Bible story is the story of humanity starting utterly connected – connected with God, with each other, with creation; then comes dramatic disconnection in Genesis 3; then in Genesis 4 through the end of Malachi that disconnection deepens; with the appearance of Jesus in the Gospels connection is reestablished; Acts through Revelation 20 shows that reestablished connection deepening; Revelation 21-22 is a portrait of that fully integrated connection Scripture calls the Kingdom of God. All of us are experiencing a primary momentum of either connection or disconnection. The works of the flesh evidence the latter. Paul is giving us the simple heads up reminder that we cannot continue to embrace a darkening momentum of disconnection from God, creation, and others (and ourselves!), and then expect eternity to reveal dynamic connection. As Maximus calls out to his men prior to battle, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” “Amen,” says Paul.

Relate

What do you think of this perspective of the Bible story being all about connection and disconnection? Which momentum do you see in evidence in your life? Why?

Respond

Lord Jesus, let me never lose connection with you, with life. Awaken me from paths of disconnection and death. Chase those rhythms out of me, for I am powerless to charm them away. Claim my life, all of it, for the kingdom you are, even now, bringing into this world.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 5:16-26. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

bible-reading-guy-782907


Stalemate | Galatians 5:16-18

ea_series_galatians_header_2MONDAY
Reflection 56 of 70

Reflect

And so I’m saying (are you listening?): as you walk in the dusty paths of this world let your feet carry you into a realm that truly transcends and transforms it all: the realm of Spirit, of Life, of Kingdom Come! It’s the one way to ensure you avoid the dead-end side roads your lower self would lead you down. Isn’t this how it plays out? Your higher Spirit-led self yearning for things above, pulling against your lower self; your lower self parading its safe, familiar urges and longings along it’s well-worn lower paths, pulling against your higher Spirit-led self? And there you are, in the middle, struck between the two, trapped and blocked whichever way you want to go. Face-off. Stand-off. Stalemate! But the higher Spirit-led life breaks the stalemate and finally avoids the checkmate of Law.
Galatians 5:16-18  MAV

Receive

The stalemate Paul presents us with here seems to fit well in the classic “Mexican standoff” scenario. Most precisely, a Mexican standoff is a confrontation among three opponents (my mind automatically goes to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly). In a traditional duel, the first to shoot has the advantage, in the Mexican standoff, it’s the second to shoot, because while A shoots at B, C can shoot A while he’s distracted shooting B. Okay, what kind of a devotion starts with shooting! Well, this one. This is a violent, life-and-death business here in Galatians as three parties square off: there’s the “higher Spirit-led self” (the “Spirit”), the lower carnal-driven self  (the “flesh”), and you. And it’s a standoff we experience daily. Higher self vs. lower self, flesh vs. Spirit. And you in a pickle between them. The practical effect of the standoff is paralysis: “You cannot do the things that you would.” And as long as this standoff plays out under the auspices of Law (religion really does not help us here!) the flesh draws on us and consistently seems to win the day, one way or another. But as Paul goes on to develop here, we are armed with more than informed good intentions. To be “in the Spirit” is to tap into a spiritual realm and dynamic that doesn’t just give us the edge in this perpetual standoff; it removes the standoff altogether and frees us to get moving in God’s “unforced rhythms of grace” (see Matthew 11:28-30, Message Bible).

Relate

Where in your life do you presently feel stuck in a standoff? What might be the way out?

Respond

Lord, give me ears to hear and a heart to embrace the “better angel of my nature,” to cling and move to the higher Spirit-led self that you have placed within me. Let me choose to move in life-giving ways today.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 5:16-26. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Love Feast | Galatians 5:13-15

ea_series_galatians_header_2FRIDAY
Reflection 55 of 70

Reflect

Okay. Reset.

Brothers, you were called to be FREE! But this isn’t a freedom to do as you please, giving you a platform from which to carry out the whim and will of your fallen, baser, all-too-human selves. No! It is a freedom empowering you through love to serve one another like devoted slaves of Christ. You want to talk about Law? The entire Law is summed up and carried out in one word. LOVE. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if the only love feast you know is the kind inspired by these troublemakers, one in which you love to tear into each other, to rip each other to shreds in religious contention and debates – careful now. After that “love feast,” when you’re all done with each other, there may be nothing left. Galatians 5:13-15  MAV

Receive

“Love Feast.” That was one of the early descriptive terms for what we usually now call “Communion” or the “Lord’s Supper.” It was a love feast because all would gather and all would share a meal at the same table, leading to communion – regardless of social, cultural, or gender barriers. It was scandalous. And the watching world marveled – or scoffed. The Galatians were evidently offering a spectacle of another sort to the watching world: a “love fest” that more closely resembled a Smackdown wrestling event or a Monster Truck rally as they ran over and trashed talked others (this sounds too familiar). Paul, having worked up a pretty good head of steam himself, and understandably so, now pauses, hits the “reset” button, and reminds them once again that Christ has set them free – and that this freedom in Jesus does not mean a free-for-all. Instead it is the empowerment to do what has always mattered most: to love people. Particularly the ones right next to you at the moment. When asked which of the 613 Old Testament commandments the Rabbis tallied in the Old Testament was the greatest, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul here does a re-post of Jesus’ comment with his own “like” attached. The whole point is love, and the whole point of Jesus is freeing and empowering us to love. Anything short of that is a love feast that we can surely afford to miss.

Relate

How do you define “love”? How would you respond to someone who said love is just a side benefit Jesus offers us, but that the really important thing is ________________________?

Respond

Lord, set my heart free to love as you do, to embrace life and others as you do, to humbly serve as you do. Remind me throughout the day that I don’t have a license to do as I please, but the power to love as you have loved us. Through Jesus.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 5:1-15. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

bible-reading-guy-782907


Agendas | Galatians 5:11-12

ea_series_galatians_header_2THURSDAY
Reflection 54 of 70

Reflect

Ahhh, but now that voice is whispering about me. Is it insinuating that I secretly have a circumcision agenda myself and am just jealous of their success? Really? Listen, brothers, if I were interested in preaching a message of circumcision that dovetails with their religious system, then why am I being constantly hounded and labeled a heretic? If I were a flag-waving religious cutter like them, then everyone would be happy and any bad press because of the cross would evaporate. This so boils me. You know, I wish all the frenzied foreskin fascination of these troublemakers upending you would lead them to just cut off the whole thing. Then they wouldn’t have anything to point to, would they?  Galatians 5:11-12  MAV

Receive

“Agenda” is actually the plural of the Latin “agendum” meaning “what ought to be done.” Perhaps we can see in this the fact that no matter how simple our “agenda” might be, there are always potential layers of intention involved, whether the agenda is hidden or not. Have you noticed how those with the most layered, hidden agendas often talk the most about the agendas of others? This was definitely the case with the troublemakers among the Galatians. While presenting themselves as straightforward and sincere, they simply couldn’t stop speculating over Paul’s motives and his real agenda, their speculations always (surprise!) leading them to conclude that Paul was less than honest. Perhaps this is another huge indicator of hidden agendas lying below the surface: when someone’s “sales pitch” is constantly drawn to personalities (namely, trashing them) it’s just another indicator that the voice we are listening to is “off.” Perhaps that’s why we so rarely have names – or even a clear statement of exactly what opponents are saying – in these New Testament letters. While Paul certainly clarifies his intentions (which he usually feels is only pointing out the obvious) and makes his thoughts about his adversaries painfully clear (“I wish those who trouble you would castrate themselves!”), he seems to have better things to do than engage in trash-talking theology focused on personalities – which is just another example of bad business.

Relate

“Trash-talking theology focused on personalities.” Why do you think this can be such a popular “bad business” in the religious world? How should we respond when we are the targets of such “bad business”?

Respond

Lord, when you were insulted, you never hurled insults right back. And yet you also clearly called a spade a spade when it came down to it. Grace me with a heart inclined to bless and not curse – and that also knows how to weigh in appropriately hard when needed. Let my sole-driving agenda be to see your children walking free in the Truth. Through Jesus.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 5:1-15. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Shadow Voices | Galatians 5:7-10

ea_series_galatians_header_2WEDNESDAY
Reflection 53 of 70

Reflect

You were doing so well in this invigorating marathon run of faith in Jesus – so who put a roadblock in front of you detouring you away from the clear voice of Truth? Think! That’s not Jesus. Abba’s voice wouldn’t lure you off track like this. A smooth-talking shadow voice that works like yeast spreading through the whole mass of your mind, infecting everything – that’s what’s at work here. But in my gut – no, in the Lord! – I know it’s not too late for you! I know you can still clear your head and see straight again. But as for that slippery, devious shadow voice that has caused all this fuss? He will pay. Through the nose. In spades. And I don’t care who he is or how many books he’s written.  Galatians 5:7-10 MAV

Receive

“The sheep follow him, for they know his voice; a stranger they will not follow. They will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:4-5). I recall hearing a tourist to Israel recounting how he saw several flocks thoroughly, hopelessly mixed together at a well in the Holy Land. But when it was time, the different shepherds simply gave their distinctive call – and the sheep sorted themselves right out, each drawn to the voice of its own shepherd. So Jesus said it was with him as the Good Shepherd. And so Paul says it should be with the Galatians. But it’s not. Total strangers called out to them and they shuffled right over to them. Of course, Paul doesn’t use the analogy of sheep, but of runners in a marathon who are lured off the marathon path into what was anything but a divine detour. Who are these guys? Why are you listening to them? Their voice in itself gives them away. The Galatians should have known better. Smooth-talking shadow voices. Paul says it’s a voice like yeast, “working through the whole batch of dough” – working through the whole mass of their mind. Ultimately there’s only One Voice we listen to, and it’s a voice we learn to listen for everywhere because it frequently pops up in unexpected places – even as it’s often absent from the places and faces we would most expect.

Relate

When listening to others, how easy or difficult is it for you to recognize the voice of Jesus, of Truth?
How can we develop a greater sensitivity to the Divine Voice in our daily lives?

Respond

Lord, teach me to listen for and recognize your voice and, when I hear it, give me the grace respond as the young boy Samuel did: “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 5:1-15. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Bottom Line | Galatians 5:5-6

ea_series_galatians_header_2TUESDAY
Reflection 52 of 70

Reflect

Don’t you see? We, by the Spirit (not by a religious knife wielded by human hands), tapping into deep reservoirs of faith (not endless religious requirements), with heads turned and eyes squinting, we wait with bated breath for the full realization of the hope of our whole, healed, and upright stand before God in this world. You see, in Christ, in Jesus, circumcision and being religious count for nothing – and neither does uncircumcision or being irreligious. No. It’s all about faith fully energized and flexing its muscles through love (with or without foreskin). This is the only bottom line that matters. Galatians 5:5-6  |MAV

Receive

Three times Paul makes this bottom line statement, each time using a different hue from the same palette. Two of them are in this letter. “Circumcision is nothing, uncircumcision is nothing; what matters is faith expressing itself through love,” he says here. On the final page of the letter he’s at it again: “Circumcision is nothing, uncircumcision is nothing; what matters is a new creation” (Galatians 6:15). And then again to the Corinthians: “Circumcision is nothing, uncircumcision is nothing; what matters is keeping the commands of God” (1 Corinthians 7:19). Placing all three bottom lines together provides quite the view, each one reflecting, elaborating, amplifying the other – for there can be and is only one bottom line: Keeping the commands of God = faith expressing itself by love = a new creation. There it is. Religious conformity is not where it’s at – and neither is irreligious non-conformity. Both come with their own chains of bondage. The thing that matters: doing what God says. And doing what God says means embracing a faith that refuses to remain on the shelf or within the lines on a page or creed; it’s faith that must move. And when it moves, it moves to the rhythms of love emanating, resonating from the New Creation that is Jesus, that is us in Jesus. Any other bottom line is a big fat zero.

Relate

What is the true bottom line of your spiritual life? How would you quantify it? How is it adding up for you?

Respond

Lord, give me the wisdom to see what really matters today, to live and move to the rhythms of your kingdom. Let the bottom line of my life in you be always a faith that moves in love.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 5:1-15. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

bible-reading-guy-782907


Raw Deal | Galatians 5:1-4

ea_series_galatians_header_2MONDAY
Reflection 51 of 70

Reflect

Christ has set you FREE! So take up that banner of freedom in Christ and take your stand. Don’t. Give. An. Inch. And don’t let anyone con you out of that banner of freedom for a yoke of slavery.

Attention, everyone! (loud whistling sound) I, Paul, tell you flat out that if you go through with this religious operation, this circumcision, it’s more than your foreskin that you’ll be missing. Any prospects, any benefits, any advantages you did have in Christ will be lopped clean off, it will all be zeroed out. That’s not plain enough? Then let me take the stand, and raising my right hand I swear, again, to every man Jack of you who let’s himself go under the circumciser’s knife, that not only have your profits in Christ vanished, you’re now in hawk up to your eyeballs, in debt, spiritually liquidated and now under complete obligation to kow-tow to the entire system of religious law. Didn’t read that fine print did you? You are rendered null and void, zeroed from Christ, zeroed from all he is and offers – whoever of you signs on that dotted line of religious conformity. It’s a second fall of man. A fall from grace.  Galatians 5:1-4  MAV

Receive

The religious exchange: a banner of freedom for a yoke of slavery; a full Jesus portfolio and prospects for spiritual bankruptcy and dependency upon human dictates. It’s a bad deal. Losing one’s foreskin to the religious knife (literally or metaphorically) cuts off a whole lot more than a pound of flesh. But it seems such a good, sound investment. The religious brokers are dressed so professionally. They are so confident. They seem so concerned. Their pitch is so polished. And look at all of that scripture on the contract! It’s all so biblical. They offer such certainty, such assurance. And they promise me I will be part of an exclusive circle of elect investors – unlike all the losers and wannabes out there who don’t have the good sense to sign. But the fine print on the deal is deadly – fine print like a washed out watermark on their parchment, fine print that can be read in the lines on their faces. Fine print in all caps: “Abandon hope, ye who sign here.” In Hebrew it would read רָע עִנְיַן “Enyan rah.” Bad business (see Ecclesiastes 1:13). A raw deal. A fall from grace.

Relate

Where in your life are you being tempted right now to accept the raw deal of religion?

Respond

Lord, rescue me from religious brokers who would broker away my soul, my freedom, my Life in you. Make me tenacious for freedom in Christ, tenacious for grace received and freely given.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 5:1-15. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

bible-reading-guy-782907


Spoiler Alert | Galatians 4:28-31

ea_series_galatians_header_2FRIDAY
Reflection 50 of 70

Reflect

Do you see yourself in this picture? You’re Isaac, laughing yourself all the way home with the Promise. And history repeats itself: Ishmael, the servant boy born just like everyone else, couldn’t wait to spoil Isaac’s party, making sport of him. And looking at those spoiling your party now, we can see that some things never change. But what’s the caption beneath this scene? “They’re out of here, the both of them: servant girl and her son; the servant girl’s son will never share the goods with free-born Isaac.” Get the picture? Brothers, we’re not standing at sulking Ishmael’s side sharing slavery’s chains with him; we’re standing tall and proud right there alongside gloriously free and laughing Isaac.  Galatians 4:28-31  MAV

Receive

A child of trusting faith and promise. A child of calculating flesh and improvisation. Rivalry and one-upmanship will naturally sprout among siblings – but such sproutings can be in toxic abundance in a home with rival mothers. The name “Isaac” is a play on the Hebrew word for “laughter.” Abraham and Sarah both laughed when foretold of his birth – a laughter of incredulity and joy. Ishmael laughed in scorn and derision at the party when Isaac was weaned. God’s scandalous reversal of grace doesn’t leave everyone happy (scandalous because it offends our religious sensibilities). The elder brother sulks at the edges of the celebration, resenting every cheer, every joy. He’s a spoiler. “I was here first, I have worked hard, and you never rolled out the red carpet for me like this!” It’s a scene replayed again and again, wherever God’s grace is manifested. That’s who these false teachers really are, Paul is telling the Galatians. They are Ishmael resenting the celebration of God’s grace as you have been weaned from the milk of pagan religion and have started feasting on the Bread of Life, the true spiritual food. They just had to spoil the party. They are envious and jealous, interrupting the party, derisively overturning the table of grace, and offering the soured milk of their own religion. The verdict over the first Ishmael and his mocking mother now hangs over these later Ishmaels spoiling the celebration of grace. Only the broken can enjoy this feast of Bread. The verdict can seem harsh, but it merely echoes once more the pronouncement of Jesus: “Many from the east and west will sit down at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God, but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out.” May we keep the feast. No spoilers.

Relate

Looking back over Abraham’s family portrait this week, where do you see yourself in it now? Do you see yourself at God’s table of grace, chowing down on the Bread of Life? Why or why not?

Respond

Jesus, thank you for setting before me this table of grace “in the presence of my enemies.” Thank you for the overflowing cup of grace. Thank you for pursuing me in your goodness and mercy. No matter where I am or where I go today, let me drink deeply at this table – and pass it around.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 4:21-31. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible. You can get the full background of Abraham’s story in Genesis chapters 16-21.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

bible-reading-guy-782907


Blessed are the Barren | Galatians 4:27

ea_series_galatians_header_2THURSDAY
Reflection 49 of 70

Reflect

Another God portrait from so long ago but still there hanging on Isaiah’s wall:

Shout for joy, barren woman who’s never birthed a thing.
That’s right, scream and cry out, woman who’s been a stranger to the maternity ward all her life.
Scandal! The childless, lonely woman crying herself to sleep every night has more kids
than the fertile woman in bed with her man night after night.

Galatians 4:27  MAV

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The prophetic portrait from Isaiah (see Isaiah 54:1) is one originally of the Jewish exiles returning from Babylonian captivity. All of their dreams of nation, temple, king, and promise were literally dashed to the ground. All seemed over and done with. A dispossessed, barren, people who ultimately had birthed nothing. The great empires and nations around them seemed strong, vivacious and fertile, in the prime of their youth, with imposing cities filled with “children.” By comparison they were the barren, infertile, divorced, woman with nothing to show for her life, living in total shame. And then the great reversal of grace. An exiled people and shamed city outshines them all. The barren woman ends up with a sea of humanity for children flowing into a city that now stands head and shoulders above them all. Paul now applies this to the Galatians. They have been shamed by the false teachers as spiritually barren nobodies – false teachers putting themselves in the role of the spiritually full and fertile trying to help out the pathetic spiritually barren gentiles. Paul turns the tables with the Isaiah portrait, very much in line with the beatitude of Christ: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is from the spiritually barren and distraught that fertile, spiritual life springs in glorious abundance. “To the one who has not, more will be given; to the one who has, even what he thinks he has will be taken away from him.” Jesus had announced this truth from the beginning. Paul is simply holding the mirror of that reality up before the Galatians. Perhaps we could stand to take a long, reflective look into that mirror ourselves.

Relate

Where have you experienced barrenness in your life that has suddenly seen this great reversal of blessing? Where are you currently feeling such barrenness? How will you entrust this into His hands?

Respond

Father, I marvel at your scandalous grace that so meets us in our brokenness, our complete barrenness, and transforms the dry desert into a fertile field. Do that in the barren places in my life today. And use me to bring it to others. Through Jesus.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 4:21-31. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible. You can get the full background of Abraham’s story in Genesis chapters 16-21.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Daily Reflection: What a Mess | Galatians 4:24-26

ea_series_galatians_header_2WEDNESDAY
Reflection 48 of 70

Reflect

This picture can be viewed symbolically, metaphorically, allegorically – there’s much more here than initially meets the eye! For these two women, these two mothers, are stand-ins for two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai and only births children in chains. This is Hagar, totally. Hagar = Sinai, that famous mountain in Arabia, and furthermore, Hagar also equals Jerusalem here and now. For the city of Jerusalem is nothing but a slave to Rome, along with all of her kids. And in another surprising turn, Jerusalem above is the free woman – and this is our true mother.  Galatians 4:24-26 MAV

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What a mess. When he was 75, Abraham had been promised by God that he would have an heir that would inherit the land of Canaan, and who, much more than that, would become the means through which all of humanity would be blessed. So Abraham stayed. And waited. And waited. Ten years pass. Still no hint of an heir. He’s now 85. Sarah is now 75. Time is seemingly running out on the promise – if it’s not already gone. Abraham’s wife Sarah makes what probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Make her Egyptian slave girl Hagar a surrogate mom and thus Abraham’s legal wife as well. It made sense. It’s what people in that culture did in such situations. Abraham listens. A son is born after travail on multiple levels. But still the plan worked! Or so it seemed. But then God announces to Abraham that no, it’s not through Ishmael or through Hagar. And when Ishmael is about fourteen years old, Abraham has the long-awaited son through Sarah that was in God’s playbook the whole time. Soap operas can’t make this stuff up. So much of the history of redemption reads like a soap opera – too much of it like a bloody, violent soap opera. Messy spirituality. Messy people with messy families in messy situations through which God brings healing to the comprehensive mess of all humanity. Our God is a God of the mess. Perhaps now is a good time for us to acknowledge his presence in the midst of whatever mess we are facing.

Relate

What messy, sticky, icky situations are you facing right now? How can you seek God’s presence in the midst of it?

Respond

Lord, thank you for being a God who is in the midst of the mess as an empowering, transforming presence of grace. In the mess of this day, let me seek your face, pursue with faith your best for me and all those in the midst of it. Through Jesus.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 4:21-31. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible. You can get the full background of Abraham’s story in Genesis chapters 16-21.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Daily Reflection: Allegorically Speaking | Galatians 4:21-23

ea_series_galatians_header_2TUESDAY
Reflection 47 of 70

Reflect

And this picture can be viewed symbolically, metaphorically, allegorically – there’s much more here than initially meets the eye! For those two women, these two mothers, are stand-ins for two covenants.   Galatians 4:24  MAV

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In his book, Eyes Remade for Wonder, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner observes that there is “an important difference between literalism and metaphor. Literalism is clear, unequivocal, complete. Metaphor is suggestive, illusive, unsure of itself, unfinished, if you will, a little foggy. ‘And the Lord will appear in a cloud.’ In a cloud everything is up for grabs. According to the rabbis, each word of the sacred text has seventy faces and 600,000 meanings. Scripture, like Freud taught of any dream, is infinitely analyzable. And all the parts are essential – every word, every letter. There is, in principle, no distinction between the ten commandments and chapter 36 of Genesis, which delineates the progeny of Esau.” Most of us in western culture are only trained and therefore comfortable, mostly, with the literal. Every sentence has only one meaning. Clear, unequivocal, complete. God said it, I believe it, that settles it (someone should really make that into a bumper sticker). Scripture consistently attests to the fact that there is more. Every turn, every jot, every tittle matters. Not that we want to be weird with that. Just aware. This is where Paul goes when he explores Abraham’s family portrait. There are layers. There is more here than meets the eye. Victor Hugo describes one of his characters as examining life “with the eye of a linguist who is deciphering a palimpsest,” i.e. someone who not only reads between the lines, but who can see underneath them. Eyes remade for wonder indeed.

Relate

How do you tend to handle Scripture? Do you see it with layers of meaning potentially to be unpacked with the Holy Spirit’s help and illumination? Do you see it as something a bit more literal and straightforward? What are the potential pluses and minuses present within each approach?

Respond

Lord, let your Word be more of an open book to me. Open wide my heart to you as I encounter you in its pages – in, between, through, over, and behind the lines on each page of the Book and of my life.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 4:21-31. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible. You can get the full background of Abraham’s story in Genesis chapters 16-21.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Daily Reflection: Family Portrait | Galatians 4:21-23

ea_series_galatians_header_2MONDAY
Reflection 46 of 70

Reflect

So how’s this for a different tack. Tell me this one thing, you who are so eager to put your necks under the yoke of Law: aren’t you paying attention to what that Law actually says? This is the picture the Law paints, and the original is still on display after all this time: Abraham and his two boys. One of them was a child of a servant girl; the other of a free woman – his full and free wife, Sarah. The servant girl’s boy was conceived and delivered the same way everyone else is; the other boy was unique from the start – a child of Divine Promise.  Galatians 4:21-23  MAV

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Any notion that Abraham is the “father of the faithful” because of a spotless record or a perfect home life is quickly dismissed when we look at his family portrait in the book of Genesis. The prophetic words from Belshazzar’s wall could have been written on Abraham’s with regard to his home life: weighed and found wanting. We’d even help the angel with that bit of divine graffiti if we weren’t thinking about how well the same graffiti would fit in our own homes. Abraham had two rival wives who gave birth to two rival sons. Sarah and Isaac. Hagar and Ishmael. In history, many lessons can be derived from observing this family portrait – most of them negative. So Paul does a surprising thing. He pulls out Abraham’s family portrait and turns it on the Galatians and their Law-hungry teachers. ‘You’re so hungry for Law? Then eat this, my friends,’ he seems to say. He then proceeds to do what all good rabbis would do: he takes that family portrait, cuts out the faces (as it were) and puts us in the picture. The shocker for all concerned is where we all fit. There is a great, scandalous reversal at work in this story, whatever else we may think about it, whatever other significance we see in it. And it mirrors the scandalous reversal at work among zealous law-keepers and former pagan believers. The question is, where are we in the story?

Relate

As you take time to reflect on the lives of Ishmael and Isaac this week, ask yourself where you see yourself in this story: Barren Sarah? Enslaved Hagar? Seemingly bewildered Abraham? Rejected Ishmael? Chosen Isaac? Where are you in this story and why?

Respond

Abba, keep me from making the mistakes and misjudgments that Abraham and Sarah made in their home life. Work through the mistakes I do make. Grant me the faith of Abraham, the boldness of Sarah, the eyes of Hagar, the laughter of Isaac, the submission of Ishmael. Through Jesus.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 4:21-31. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible. You can get the full background of Abraham’s story in Genesis chapters 16-21.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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