NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

David recollected that as a young lad, with long unruly hair and a ruddy complexion, sleeping out in an open pasture under a starry sky after watching his father’s sheep all day long; how he would take his little harp and sing to the God above all gods. Looking up, he saw the sky as a huge tent with the sparkling stars as lights that lit up the night. He may have even tried to count them once or twice. But what really impressed him was that each night every star was in exactly the same place, not one of them was missing. He was so overcome with awe that he penned a hymn to the creator of that starry universe.

O my LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius, as You display Your grandeur all over the heavens for all the world to see. For through these small and tiny dots of light You communicate as a way of countering those who don’t take You seriously; yes, You do this to silence the doubter and unbeliever. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies Your hands created, the stars and the moon You put into orbit I ask, “What role do humans play in this vast universe; why do You care and fuss over them?” Then I realized, You created them a little short of being angels; endowing them with attributes of honor and dignity; making them the smartest and most influential creatures on earth; putting them in charge to being stewards of Your handiwork, even taking care of the animals, both domestic and wild, including the birds that fill the sky and the fish that fill the sea. O LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius for all the world to see.” Psalm 8:1-9

Reflection: Back in the days of the hippy movement I sat in a coffee house in Stuttgart, Germany talking with a long-haired flower-child about God. The young man was respectful but adamant about his doubts concerning God’s existence because he couldn’t see Him or talk to Him. At that moment the Holy Spirit gave me an inspiration, so I pointed to a picture hanging on the wall beside our table and asked the young man if he believed that picture came into being due to an accidental collision of paint and paper. He laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous; that picture was painted by an artist.” I responded that I wasn’t convinced because I couldn’t see the artist in the picture; how did I know that maybe one day it just appeared on the wall by accident. The young fellow looked at me for a moment and then admitted that even though I couldn’t see the artist in the painting, I had to accept the fact that an artist painted the picture because it just makes sense. I told him that in the same way, one must exercise faith to believe an unseen talented artist created such a beautiful portrait, we can also believe an unseen God created the beauty of the universe. The magnificence of God’s creation shows His responsibility for man’s existence, and man’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s handiwork. The young man smiled somewhat embarrassingly as he bowed his head and said, “Okay, you got me on that one.” I asked him if we could have prayer for him to have faith, but he wasn’t sure. As he went away I asked the Holy Spirit to go with him and open his eyes to the truth.

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER SIX (Lesson CXXVII)

Dutch theologian Alfred E. Bouter disagrees somewhat with other Bible scholars as to what conditions led to a believer being suddenly surprised that they were in the grips of a temptation they did not see coming. We are not talking about someone continually living in sin, nor is it someone consistently living in a wrong relationship or a sinful lifestyle or corrupt attitude. It no doubt involves some person who went off the beaten path. Furthermore, it is not this individual’s regular course of living a holy life that they were following. Additionally, the temptation did not suddenly come out of the dark and astonished them with it being so deadly. Eventually, we find that it involved something that took place in the past when they took a wrong turn, hoping to get back on track before their error is exposed.

Bouter then offers an example of one of those Galatian believers influenced by the Judaizers and overtaken with all the religious legal requirements. He missed the mark (that is what sin is), but not only that, a trespass is something that means you are out of step. The Apostle Jude writes in his epistle “to him that can keep you without stumbling.” [1] It is beautiful to see that Paul addresses the believers as brethren here. We have seen how he was in despair over them in chapter four, but also how he had confidence in them because they were true believers, and convinced of the work God did in them. When a person gets out of step with the Spirit, Bouter says, there are many things to do in finding a remedy. One of those is to find a mature spiritual mentor to help restore them. Another is to seek help in humility. And lastly, to take a good look at themselves so they can address their weakness and lack of commitment. [2]

Jewish writer Tim Hegg has his conceptualization of fallen believers who got caught responding to temptation. He likens them to a ship filling with water and slanting to the side. If they do not plug the leak, it won’t be long before the liner sinks. Then raising the vessel will be a lot harder, and getting it back on an even level above water will prove difficult. The craft is the Church, the failing believer is the leak, and all the passengers are their fellow believers in the congregation. That’s why Paul warns those who are trying to stop the dripping must be careful so that they do not become part of the problem. In other words, just don’t stand there and watch the ship filled with water. Do something! But be careful so that you don’t make the leak bigger.[3]

Christian Messianic writer D. Thomas Lancaster, notes that Paul speaks of those considered “spiritual” as taking the lead in helping restore those gone astray from the Gospel. He points out those who walk in the light of the Torah with the leading of the Holy Spirit. It includes those conducting godly lives with the fruit of the reborn spirit guiding them. Among this fruit is “gentleness.” Paul makes this a necessary virtue for those restoring and correcting erring believers who strayed from the truth. It is a commandment that flows directly from the Torah through Paul’s pen onto the parchment of this letter: “Do not hate your fellow citizen in your heart, but rebuke your neighbor frankly so that you won’t carry around sin because of them.” [4] [5]  The sin Moses talked about is hatred for one another. We find the same warning in the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.[6]

I was taught in grief and bereavement counseling, that the person who serves as a counselor should never say to the person needing help, “I know what you’re going through; I know how you feel, or I understand what you’re dealing with.” The counselor may know the facts, some of the details, or even perceive the emotions expressed. Still, only the person themselves can personally experience what that event did to them emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and physically. So, it is the mission of the counselor to help them deal and cope with the difficulties they are living through, not what the counselor may imagine them to be. Otherwise, they will be thrown totally off course in their effort to recover and suffer depression and despair. It certainly is true when helping a believer grapple with some error in their words or deeds against God’s Word or will.

I remember hearing this illustration used years ago by Dr. Billy Graham, taken from a scientific experiment done in the late 1800s: “Drop a frog in hot water, and it will jump out immediately. Put a frog in the water at room temperature and then slowly heat it to a boil, and the frog will cook itself to death.” In that same vein, Paul tells the Christians in Galatia that their fellow believers can find themselves going astray from God’s will because of the influence that constant temperature of temptation has on their sinful-self.  Therefore, they must learn how to minister using the fruit of transformed love in their spiritual oneness with the Anointed One to deal with such lapses in the most effective way.

Paul offers excellent illustrations of “situation-solution” in verse one. Let’s look at them in the order in which they appear in the sentence.  Paul talks about the situation of a believer being “caught” in a compromising state. The Greek word for “caught” means to prevent someone from getting away with something to avoid responsibility and punishment. Today we would equate it to being uncovered by an exposé instead of entrapment. Here we sense a lapse of time. In other words, something a person had habitually been doing for some time, and finally, the truth comes out.

In searching for a solution, they discover they got into this predicament because of what the KJV translates as “fault,” and the NKJV renders as “trespass.” Paul’s uses of a Greek noun paraptōma which means, “A mental lapse or deviation from what one knows to be right and true.” Here we see the old sinful-self being allowed to carelessly lead someone into a trap because of not being careful; of not paying attention to the danger involved. In other words, dabbling in immoral activities just for the fun of it, only to find out it has taken over the heart and mind.

We are not dealing with those who deliberately and maliciously sin. Anyone who tried walking through the house at night without turning on the lights can point to their swollen toe and say, “I should have been more careful!” Then there is the driver staring at an accident as he drives past. After he smashes into the car ahead of him, he laments: “I didn’t watch where I was going!”

Paul continues his “situation-solution” approach by noting that the conditions require someone who is spiritually stable and blossoming with the fruit of the spiritual oneness with the Anointed One is called on to help the brother or sister. They are staggering from the wounds they’ve received in being careless and getting caught. In doing so, we must be careful not to approach a hurting believer by concentrating solely on their fleshly weaknesses and pointing out all the mistakes they’ve made; it comes across as a form of being on trial and receiving judgment. Don’t keep hitting them on the head like a Mexican Piñata, continually asking, “Why did you do this? How could you have done that? What were you thinking when you said ‘Yes’?” You cannot beat this sin out of them. Instead, encourage and motivate their spiritual oneness with the Anointed One to take back control, so any victory in overcoming will be theirs, not some solution we forced on them.

In choosing the proper solution, we need to apply the right remedy. Paul recommends helping this person to be “restored.” This Greek verb katartizō infers something on the mend, like a broken bone. What an excellent insight! Especially for those whom the Holy Spirit calls on to help nurture someone discovered practicing or involved with deeds not pleasing to God. As a result, they wandered away from His will. The Christian approach to restoration should not be punitive but curative. We should treat getting caught as a blessing to them from God, so they can repent and be given time to heal. But don’t lead them to believe it will all go away overnight to downplay the seriousness of what happened to them.  Stick with them, encourage them in their spiritual rehabilitation; don’t judge them, or make them feel they only have one chance to get it right with God, or He will grow impatient with them.

In a previous lesson, Paul talked about a fruit of the spiritual oneness with the Anointed One called “gentleness,” and described it as a soothing balm to be put on wounds to help them heal.  Gentleness is firm but tender; keeps its eyes focused on the task at hand; it does not let its attention stray to other things.  Paul does this with a warning to the mentor involved in the healing process: do not come across as “holier than thou” because we are not exempt from making the same unintentional mistake they did. Embarrassing them makes them feel spiritually inferior and not worthy of our or God’s love. It’s the last thing we want to do when helping restore a fellow Christian who allowed themselves to drift into letting the sinful-self, get the upper hand.

Only eternity will reveal the damage done in past years when church members were unceremoniously drummed out of the fellowship because they made an error in judgment; or a weak moment of surrender to their sinful-self.  Sometimes their dismissal was not based on a spiritual fault, but their failure to keep some church ordinance having to do with attire, cosmetics, hairstyle, source of entertainment, or even failing to participate in some church ritual or following some church rule. Too bad, they were unable to employ Paul’s teaching as a model on how to restore them in love tenderly. For sure, love transformed into the reborn spirit’s fruit gentleness did not prevail in many of those cases in Galatia.

Imagine what would have happened if Jesus got rid of Peter because of his denials? Told James and John to leave, over their desire to be first in the kingdom? Refuse to talk with Thomas due to his doubts, and reject Paul because of his earlier persecution? Judas Iscariot excused himself. To whom would Jesus’ have said “upon this rock” and who preached on the Day of Pentecost, then went to Cornelius’s house to preach the Gospel to Romans? Who would have been the one standing at the cross with His mother, first to the tomb on resurrection Sunday, and given the Book of Revelation? Who would have been the one to verify the nail scars in Jesus’ side and wound on His side except for the doubting Thomas? And would the seven Gentiles in Asia ever have been evangelized and brought into the body of the Anointed One without Paul? And what about believer’s past and present who were restored and became shining lights for the message of salvation. You and I may be one of them.

[1] Jude 1:24

[2] Bouter, Alfred E., On Galatians, op. cit., p. 81

[3] Hegg, Tim: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 253

[4] Leviticus 19:17

[5] Lancaster, D. Thomas: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 260-261

[6] 1 John 4:20

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POINTS TO PONDER

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Lauren Conrad, reality television star, one said, “I think a good friend, to me, is all about trust and loyalty. You don’t ever want to second-guess whether you can tell your friend something.”

Psychologist Dr. Michael J. Hurd writes that loyalty is widely considered a virtue. And psychology generally falls into line behind widely accepted virtues as a measure of mental health.

Is loyalty actually healthy, wise, and good? Subconsciously, most people probably equate loyalty with integrity. Integrity refers to consistency between your ideas/principles and your actions. Loyalty is an extension of this principle. It applies to upholding your ideals, but — more specifically and concretely — loyalty concerns the people in your life who are important to you.

Here’s where it gets complicated for many: Most of us choose friends and romantic partners based on vague or unidentified feelings alone. When it comes time to be loyal — or disloyal — to friends or associates, we’re unclear on what we’re actually being loyal to. As a result, we’re left with nothing else but feelings.

If you live your life consciously, by a set of convictions and principles, then you deliberately select your friends and loved ones accordingly. If you value integrity and honesty, for example, then you not only seek to practice it but to find people who do the same. Ditto for any other virtue you consciously hold near and dear to your heart and mind: intelligence, intellectual honesty, productivity, and rationality.

Adam Hanft, a brand strategist who also writes and speaks on business and cultural trends for a variety of print, television, and online media, says that loyalty is an emotional concept with strong unconscious components…not measurable through direct reporting. That means you can’t ask people, “Why are you loyal to this brand, ideology, person’s character, or group’s mission?” and get an explicit answer. Often, they will say because of the product, the service, or the people. They aren’t consciously misleading; rather, they are largely unaware of the associations that drive loyalty.

For instance, says Hanft, to inspire more loyalty, a small business should create a caring relationship and establish a mutual basis “where obligations are involved.” Both sides have accountability – each is to keep its word and behave “justly” toward the other. The brand needs to treat customers with respect, fairness, and consistency – all the characteristics of healthy interpersonal relationships. At the same time, the customer needs to respect the brand. For example, if a company makes the mistake of pricing an item at a certain amount, but next week it goes on sale, the customer who bought high cannot take advantage of the low price. That customer will not remain loyal because the chain of mutual respect is broken. The customer will feel cheated and shop elsewhere.

If this works for business, it will also be effective in families, neighborhoods, churches, etc. That’s why Jennifer White, a clinical counselor who focuses on mental wellness, notes that loyalty is one of the most weaponized words she has encountered. Companies, business partners, even friends, families, and significant others sometimes demand this from you. It is a misleading word and has questionable psychology behind it.

Here are the unfortunate truths about it. It creates a hierarchy. Very often, the person or group who demands loyalty has something you need; it could be a job, knowledge, money, love. They demand that you are loyal to them, and they will reward you for it. They will put themselves in a dominant position and will create a dependency. Very often, you give more than you actually will receive back, or you might never really get what they promised you.

It can also damage your self-worth. When loyalty is demanded by a company, partner, family member, friend, association, or group, it means very often that no matter what they do, you stay with them and support them. In good and also in bad times. You might even classify this as a noble act, you are there also in bad times, however, the bad times might be there more often than the good times. It tries to question your morals and integrity to yourself. You might even be given a task you cannot fulfill and wonder why you are not good enough already. People who demand loyalty will feed into your belief that you need them and cannot reach any goals by yourself without their help. They will create a dependency on them, which very often is an illusion.

Furthermore, it stops healthy criticism. The person or company that demands loyalty stop you from asking questions or criticizing what they are doing. You automatically assume that what they say, do, or demand is the correct way. They put themselves and their decision making above yours. Often, they might hide facts or knowledge from you; you might not be able to see the whole picture. They might ask you to trust without telling you the entire story. As we want to be a good and kind human being, we might obey and see the good in it.

In addition, it stops you from growing. You might develop a tunnel vision, believe that you will see results soon, or will be rewarded for your loyalty. In doing this, you might not explore other options. He has seen companies that demanded loyalty through hard times and did not reward their people after all, not even with words. Especially job-based loyalty can end up with working overtime, which leads to exhaustion, anxiety, and depression.

While these views and concepts are accepted in secular society, how does loyalty affect a person’s relationship to God, His Word, and the Family of God – the Church? While the KJV does not use the word “loyal” or “loyalty,” it does express the sentiment of loyalty.

King Solomon said, “Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.” [1] He also said, “A friend is always loyal, and a good friend is born to help in time of need.” [2] And he made it clear that friends come and friends go, but a loyal friend sticks by you like family.” [3]

However, the NIV does translate several Old Testament Hebrew words as loyal but does not do the same with any New Testament Greek words. That’s why loyalty is proven more in action than in words. Of course, we all know about the Apostle Peter’s false pledge of loyalty to Jesus.[4] Nevertheless, the New Testament does speak of “faithfulness” in the same sense as loyalty.

Jesus defines it this way: “The one who remains loyal to the end will be saved.” [5] Then, our Master asks, “Who is the wise and loyal servant that the master trusts to give the other servants their food at the right time?” [6] He also quotes a satisfied landowner who responded to his servant’s industrious actions that improved the estate, “You did well. You are a good and loyal servant. Because you were loyal with small things, I will let you care for much greater things.” [7]

The Apostle James speaks of this same loyalty found in His children. He says, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love [and are loyal to] Him.” [8]

And the Apostle Paul speaks of love this way: “If you love someone, you will be loyal to them no matter what the cost. You will always believe in them, always expect the best of them, and always stand your ground in defending them.” [9]

But one test of loyalty that stands out is Ruth’s devotion and loyalty to her husband’s mother. Naomi told her to say behind and enjoy life in a familiar environment where she was used to the manners and customs of her people. But Ruth would not agree. Instead, she pleaded with Naomi, “Don’t beg me to leave you or to stop following you. Where you go, I will go. Where you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.  And where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. I ask the Lord to punish me terribly if I do not keep this promise: Not even death will separate us.” [10]

Can we honestly say the same to our spouse, our family, a friend, our God, our Savior, and our Comforter? One thing we never need to worry about is their loyalty to us. God said it Himself, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid, and do not panic…For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” [11] And Jesus prayed to the Father, saying, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one shall snatch them away from Me.” [12] So, that leaves the final question. Can He depend on you to be as loyal to Him as He is to you? – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Proverbs 3:32 – New Living Translation (NLT)

[2] Ibid. 17:17

[3] Ibid. 18:24

[4] Matthew 26:33, 35

[5] Ibid. 24:13

[6] Ibid. 24:45

[7] Ibid. 25:21 – New Century Version

[8] James 1:12

[9] 1 Corinthians 13:7 – The Living Bible

[10] Ruth 1:16-17 – New Century Version

[11] Deuteronomy 31:6

[12] John 10:28 – The Living Bible

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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GOING OUT ON A LIMB

25-year-old Alyssa Pfannenstein of Minnesota headed to the park over Labor Day weekend with her 4-year-old daughter and her boyfriend, Justin. While her daughter played, Justin and Alyssa set up a hammock between two large birch trees. The two lovebirds cuddled together in the hammock as they watched and laughed as Alyssa’s daughter joyfully danced around, enjoying her freedom to run and play.

It was quiet, except for a few birds chirping. The couple had a lot to look forward to and dreamed of a bright future. Alyssa’s daughter was one of the main objects of their love. They wanted to give her a happy home and a joyful life. She had been without a dad for some time, now she was going to have one that loved her.

Suddenly, the midday calm was broken by a loud crack! Before the couple could find out where it came from, they felt their hammock drop out from under them. Little did Justin or Alyssa know, one of the birch trees was completely rotten on the inside. As a result, it came crashing down and landed on top of Alyssa, hitting her in the back and the head. “It was surreal, said Justin, at that moment there was no time to respond because it happened so quickly.”

The impact left Alyssa motionless, but conscious, lying on the ground. Yet, somehow, she remained calm through the whole terrifying ordeal. Rather than worry about herself, she bravely comforted Justin and her daughter. “Her composure quieted me and her daughter down and made us believe everything would be OK,” Justin recalled.

At the hospital, the family learned the freak accident shattered Alyssa’s C5 vertebrae. At that moment, she was completely paralyzed from the neck down. Friends and family prayed, as well as set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for medical bills. And as news of the accident spread, more and more people lifted Alyssa up in prayer.

Despite her terrifying experience, Alyssa remained just as self-assured and optimistic as the day the accident happened. Rather than focus on the many obstacles left to overcome, Alyssa was determined to celebrate each victory, encouraging her family to do the same.

Alyssa underwent extensive surgery to remove bone fragments and repair her damaged spine. Afterward, she started regaining some mobility in her arms, as well as feeling in her body. The prayers are working! “We want to appreciate every miracle,” Justin exclaimed. “Accidents happen, and we will get through this like anything else.” And already there have certainly been miracles to celebrate!

Determined to get better, Alyssa quickly defied her doctor’s expectations. There were setbacks too, but Alyssa has kept her positive outlook through all of it. As Alyssa continued to stabilize, doctors moved her from the hospital to a rehab facility. And with her upbeat attitude and determination, everyone was hoping and praying she’ll make a full recovery!

Alyssa’s positivity in the face of such a tragic event was truly inspiring. It began to inspire others to adopt the same attitude. “There’s no sense in feeling sorry for myself,” she said. “Why keep thinking about what I may have lost instead of what I have to gain?”

Her family and friends saw this faithful woman thanking God for each and every blessing. And how incredibly thankful she was that the accident happened to her, rather than her daughter. Sometimes things go horribly wrong, and we just don’t ever know why. It’s a time when, like Alyssa, we need to cling to our faith and trust God to carry us through.

Alyssa’s family and friends report that she is still so positive and is getting stronger. She has overcome complete paralysis; her movements are a bit quicker, and her determination has already defied what doctors predicted. After overcoming a couple high fevers and low blood pressure, she is now stable. She is now receiving treatment from the best spinal facility in Minnesota.

We may not suffer such a paralyzing accident that makes us physically immobile, but we can be paralyzed emotionally by things that haunt us from the past, or a situation we find ourselves in at the moment, or even fears of what is facing us in the future. But yielding to that sense of “I can’t do it” or “I’ll never make it,” will only keep us mentally bed-ridden and of little use to ourselves, our family, even our Church.

Instead of letting things like this freezing us in place, do what Alyssa did, look forward to the way you want to be, and start taking one step at a time. You don’t need to do it on your own. You have God’s Spirit dwelling in you. You have Jesus, who is willing to walk with you. You have friends and family who will cheer you on. And you have God’s destiny for your life that you need to reach with His help. You must decide to do it, or don’t do it. It’s all up to you. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER SIX (Lesson CXXVI)

Philip G. Ryken, President of Wheaton College, tells the story about one of the most unusual figures in church history. It was a man named Simeon the Stylite. He was the first of the so-called Desert Fathers. Around the year 423 AD, he constructed a short pillar on the edge of the Syrian desert, climbed to the top, and lived on it for the next six years. Simeon received many visitors to his desert perch. No doubt, many of them came to see if he was out of his mind. But the hermit explained that he was simply a Christian who wanted to commune with God in solitude, free from worldly distractions. Living on top of a column in the desert was his way of separating himself from sin and consecrating himself to God.

As strange as it may seem, the life of Simeon the Stylite[1] raises an important question: What does it mean to be spiritual? As far as Simeon was concerned, one could be more religious in the desert than in the city, and more spiritual off the ground than on it (the higher, the better). But was he right about what it means to be close to God? As he reflected on Simeon’s spirituality, one recent writer asked: “Is there child-care in the desert?” The writer was married with children, and his point was that not everyone could go and live alone in the desert. Isn’t there some other way to be spiritual?[2] Yes, there is! It’s called being in union with God through His Spirit. That union does not depend on one’s elevation but one’s exaltation. Read what the Apostle Paul says about this.[3]

Distinguished English theologian and academic Charles Ellicott (1819-1893) has a few things to say about what Paul meant by saying that the ones who were overtaken by a fault and even surprised committing their wrongdoing need tender loving care and understanding. In other words, they were not only discovered but caught in the very act before they could cover it up or escape detection. So, no matter what these circumstances may be, one who is genuinely spiritual will still deal gently with such offenders. That’s why Paul recommends that only those who know for sure that they are qualified but have a record of remaining true to the doctrines of the Gospel and their commitment to live by them, be appointed to deal with these struggling believers.[4]

Plymouth Brethren theologian Thomas Crockery (1830-1886) believes that the person overtaken by some moral or spiritual weakness and falls into temptation, is not a case of mere inattention or ignorance, but the evidence of falling away from a Divine command – probably misconduct more than misbelief. The doctrinal reaction at Galatia was no doubt caused by a morally unsettling tendency. It was a case in which the offender yielded to the force of temptation, the same temptation that stronger believers faced as well. That’s why Paul warned them, “in case you also fall.” The sad part is that such entrapped believers endeavored to hide their transgression from the congregation.

In some cases, a member of the assembly experiences misunderstanding with another member over misconduct or attitude. With the help of a more mature fellow believer, they must be willing to work it out, not fight it out. It is alright for one believer to share the weaknesses tied to their sinful tendencies and how they were surprised by sudden temptations. We see that with the prophet Nathan in the life of David and Bathsheba, and Peter with his three denials and Jesus’s rebuke. The honor of being anointed is the fact they are believers, and for the offender and offended’s benefit demands a prompt but tender intervention of caring Christian brothers and sisters.[5]

Early 20th-century commentator Ernest DeWitt Burton (1856-1925), feels that what we see here is how church leaders can learn to deal with those believers who, through weakness, ignorance, or indifference, allow the works of the flesh to reenter their spiritual lifestyle. Burton points out that the stronger Christian must always resist becoming self-important about their knowledge, authority, and standing in the church. Pride will make them less willing to help others who need assistance because they will then have no sympathy for those who do have faults and will refuse to make such shortcomings any of their concern.[6] And the Apostle James utilizes this word to implicate a “fault.” [7]

Bible word study writer Archibald Robertson (1863-1934) makes an interesting point here about the Greek noun paraptōma (KJV) “fault”; (NIV) “sin,” which means to “fall, a lapse or deviation from truth or right living.” In Romans, Paul uses the same word, which is translated by KJV as “offense,” [8] and again, rendered as “fall.” [9] But Robertson says it means “a falling aside, a slip or lapse (mistake in copying) in an essay rather than a willful sin.” [10] So we can see why Paul said that in our efforts to restore such individuals to their rightful place, do it much like you would reset a broken collar-bone. That is the intent of the Greek verb katartizō (“restore”) that follows. And Cyril W. Emmet (1820-1903), Anglican Vicar, believes that this word also suggests “being overpowered.” Not only was the temptation surprising, but once aware of its presence, it was too strong to resist.[11]

Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest (1893-1961) puts the problem with the Galatians adding adherence to Mosaic Law from a higher perspective. He writes that those Galatians putting themselves under the Law, and by self-effort attempting to obey that law, as taught by the Judaizers, were finding that sin was creeping back into their lives. They were so enthusiastic about living a life of victory over sin, in conformity to the ethical teachings of the Gospel, that the presence of sin in their lives surprised them. They found that mistakes often appeared in their actions before they were aware of its existence, and at a time when they were not at all conscious of harboring any sinful desire.

They were in about the same position as Paul before he knew of the delivering power of the Holy Spirit when he said, “I am all too human, a slave to sin. I honestly don’t understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate . . . I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” [12]

That is precisely the predicament which many Christians are in today since they do not have an intelligent understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the needed corrections provided by God’s Holy Comforter. Instead, they decided to depend upon self-effort to obey the legal legislation of the Mosaic Law rather than the Gospel ethics of Paul. By depriving themselves of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the lives of the Galatians were easy prey to the tempter of men’s souls, and he was working havoc among them.[13]

German/American Bible scholar Hans Dieter Betz, says there is no reason to believe that Paul went over this subject of restoration with the Galatians while he was there. It seems apparent, now, that they were not prepared for what happened, especially after the Judaizers arrived with their error-filled doctrine. That’s why Paul concluded that they needed some recommendations on how to handle this problem of believers being sinners when no one else was around, and saints when surrounded by their fellow believers. So, Paul provides them with the restoration regulations that they desperately needed. They must do something concrete before such conduct gets out of hand and becomes the new standard way for Christians to live.[14]

American Reformed Presbyterian theologian and Bible teacher John Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) sees this believer overtaken, and becoming trapped is also a possible pitfall for those who try to restore them. When trying to get the erring member back into step with the Spirit, whatever their moral lapse may have been, they should be aware that it can also affect those who are helping them get up and going again. For one thing, it may lead to the person assisting the wounded believer in feeling superior. A hurting brother or sister does not need a mentor who acts conceited because they’ve never been tempted by what made this believer fall into a snare.[15]

Current American theologian Robert H. Gundry, a student of F. F. Bruce at Manchester University in England, also sees the sudden awareness of the errant believer’s transgressions by a more influential spiritual leader would surprise them as well. It’s the old case of people who decide to cut corners or leave something lacking with the wrong belief that no one was looking.  The wrongdoing here, Gundry believes, can be tied to what Paul already described in verses nineteen to twenty-one. Therefore, any effort to set the believer who has gone astray on the right path means first and foremost to bring them in line with the Spirit, not with the counselor’s standards or those of the church. That can come later with further counseling. Only when the wandering believer reconciles with God through the Spirit can they have peace of heart and mind. Then, and only then, can they be led to a more in-depth process of learning how to prevent such falling away from happening again.[16]

American theologian Grant Osborne (1942-2018) makes note that this verse emphasizes our responsibility for one another. In our modern era of rampant individualism, people dismiss the idea of depending on one another in decision making. But God expects believers to be involved in each other’s lives. We are to share and care for one another. The restoration process is supposed to begin whenever we become aware that one of our spiritual siblings is struggling with something in the past, not in the present. It also does not make that which overcame them as the work of someone or something with which they were unfamiliar. They were aware that there was an enemy out to get them and try to trip them up so that they had an embarrassing fall. At any rate, says Osborne, sin seems to have been caused because one of the believers failed to keep in step with the Spirit.[17] [18]

[1] Stylites were also known as one of the “pillar-hermits,” who, during more than six centuries, practiced a strange form of asceticism for holiness throughout eastern Christendom, also known as the East Orthodox Church with the mother church in Constantinople.

[2] Ryken, Philip Graham. Galatians, op. cit., Kindle Locations 4267-4276

[3] Romans 12:1-3

[4] Ellicott, Charles J., On Galatians, op. cit., p. 139

[5] Pulpit Commentary: op. cit., Galatians, Homiletics, Thomas Croskery, p. 317

[6] Burton, Ernest DeWitt: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, loc. cit. pp. 325-330

[7] James 5:16

[8] Romans 4:25

[9] Ibid. 11:11

[10] Robertson, Archibald: Word Pictures in the N.T., Galatians, p. 1473

[11] Emmit, Cyril W., On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 58-59

[12] Romans 7:14-15, 18b, 19

[13] Wuest, Kenneth: Galatians in the Greek N.T., op. cit., p. 88

[14] Betz, Hans Dieter: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 296

[15] Boice, John Montgomery: Expositor’s Bible Commentary: op. cit., On Galatians, Kindle Location 9790

[16] Gundry, Robert H., Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[17] See Galatians 6:25

[18] Osborne, G. R., On Galatians: Verse by Verse, op. cit., p. 198

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

 

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER SIX (Lesson CXXV)

Presbyterian scholar Matthew Poole (1624-1679) believes that by using the term “Brethren,” Paul is sending a secret message to a select group in Galatia, to persons that were not sinning openly, but doing it behind one another’s back. Not only should any careless adventure into a sinful trap be dealt with, but sharply rebuke such quiet and hidden sinning with kindness. Sometimes one’s moral weakness is overwhelmed with a temptation to sin. It does not only involve the pastors and assembly leadership but also anyone who received the Spirit of the Anointed One, especially those who were more informed about the ways of holiness and spiritual gifts confirmed to be in them. That is the way Paul uses it in his letter to the Corinthians.[1]

Poole says further that Paul wanted those called on to speak to such individuals in a spirit of humility. Poole notes that the word translated “restore,” signifies to put back together or returned in the correct order. Sin is uncaring and puts the soul out of its proper place and position. In other words, if a person’s conscience allows them to have table wine with meals, when they start drinking wine out of habit and for no reason are sinning against their conscience. Such members need to be placed back in moderation again. The whole idea is to win them back and restore them to their rightful place with tender loving care.

Puritan theologian George Swinnock (1627-1673) once said that saints are like clocks, made up of small and big wheels, springs, and weights, but after a while, these gears and wheels are soon out of sync. Therefore, they need God, the Master Clock-Maker, to put them back in running order again. When He works on those who follow His principles of virtue, He will do so as a caring father to encourage them. Through His Spirit, He will minister directly to them if they struggle with doubts and will be an understanding Judge to correct them if they are involved in wrongdoing. Christians must allow one another to be God’s instruments for helping them with their shortcomings, but must not allow one another to get involved in their failings. These words in verse one are very emphatic and point to us, says Swinnock.[2]

William Burkitt (1650-1703) warns that temptations can suddenly catch some of the most observant, gifted, and mature believers. But enticements and faults are not the same for everyone. What might overtake some may not overtake others even when living under identical conditions. But what they all do have in common is that they are proven to be weak in parts of their spiritual and moral lives. That’s why Paul offers the stronger believers the method they should use in dealing with the more frail believers in any attempt to restoring them to their rightful place in the body of the Anointed One. Burkitt feels that the words Paul uses about “putting them back together” may be a metaphor for those who restore broken bones and dislocated joints. They must perform this ministry with great tenderness. To do that, Burkitt says, there are three needful talents: an eagle’s eye to discern where the fault lies, a lion’s heart to deal faithfully, and gentle and tender hands.[3]

Wesleyan theologian Adam Clarke (1760-1832) sees this concept of someone suddenly being made aware that they are participating in something wrong and unpleasing to the Spirit, not only as being caught by surprise but being pounced upon from behind.  He cites an illustration from the writings of Strabo, a Greek geographer, philosopher, and historian (63 BC – 24 AD). During one of his travels to Africa, he noted that when a rhinoceros attacks an elephant, it does so from behind to puncture the belly and wound the big beast and bring it to its knees.  If the rhinoceros came head-on, the elephant’s trunk would be enough to defend itself. That’s why those who are called on to deal with errant believers should remind themselves that they are dealing with a wounded saint. Therefore, the first effort should be to treat and mend the wound so that it can heal and bring them back to full spiritual health.[4]

New York City Evangelical Pastor Justin Edwards (1774-1849) feels that those Paul called here in verse one as “spiritual,” were those well-advanced in Christian knowledge and experience. Although they were mature, spiritual Christians, they, too, were still vulnerable to sin’s lure. It should make them kind and compassionate towards all sinners, and active in efforts to reclaim them. It should cause them to be watchful, humble, and prayerful, remembering that, but for the grace of God, they might have been among the chief of sinners. Not only is this true of adults, says Edwards, but of young adults as well. Many times, surprised parents must deal with a child who wants to get out of the house and be on their own. In a sense, Paul is telling the adult believers in the Galatian congregations to think of these who erred as children in the faith and treat them in such a way that they will come back to them on their own for further advice and counsel.[5]

Scottish theologian John Brown (1784-1858) feels the same way about verse one here, as many commentators felt about verse one of chapter five. He says that this passage connects with previous verses. It amplifies the Christian duty Paul spoke of back in chapter 5, verse 25 that if we live spiritually, let us also act spiritually. Those not guided by their reborn spirit are susceptible to being overtaken by a fault or deficiency or weakness as outlined in the previous chapter as works of the flesh. The only way to help restore them is if they have a mentor who will develop a more prayerful life and become more dependent on God’s Word for guidance and trust in the counsel of those who are stronger in the Lord. Brown goes on to say that one of the biggest problems for such fellow believers is “inconsistency.” [6]

Brown also points out Paul’s most important factor in this matter. They were to embrace this believer, knowing where this individual is weak or secure. Help them carry that part of their burden, be it guilt, condemnation, depression, or feeling like a total failure. One thing any mentor or helper must always keep in mind that since God saved them, you can’t throw them away. Do not immediately dismiss them from the assembly, or drop their names from the rolls. They may have broken the laws of the Church, but mentors and helpers are not to break the Law of the Anointed One – the Law of Love. Brown then notes that the subsequent verses contain Paul’s caution against handling such a dear brother or sister in some egotistical way as to hurt them, not help them. It would be like kicking a person while they are still down just to show one’s dissatisfaction with their performance.[7]

British Bible scholar John Edmunds (1801-1874) feels that Paul’s words here suggest that among the leaders in the congregations in Galatia were some who lost sight of how to deal with an errant believer. Some were proud that they proved stronger against temptations than these weaker brothers or sisters. Somehow, they forget that loving and helping one another was their duty. After all, these believers didn’t go out looking for sin. Yes, they were careless and didn’t think they were that vulnerable, but, like a poison snake, it bites them before they can recoil. These fellow believers were not shattered and broken to pieces; they were only wounded and broken. They needed to be repaired and restored to their original Christian beauty. So why not take over some of their responsibilities until they were back on their feet again? Instead of weeping for them or weeping over their terrible error, cry with them in repentance and recovery. It was the Law of the Anointed One.[8]

Reform theologian at Oxford University, Benjamin Jowett (1817-1893), suggests that the individual Paul is speaking of here is one who had a previous moral failure that came back to haunt them. That’s why special love and care are needed. So, says Jowett, Paul spends the next ten verses contrasting the effects of the works of the flesh and the fruit of the reborn spirit he talked about in chapter five. That’s where we find his appeal that if we are going to live in union with the Spirit, we should also act like the Spirit is in us. To put it in modern terms, writes Jowett, “as our faith is, so let our practice be.” Today we would say, “practice what you preach!” Then he ends the chapter with a mood change from what to do, to what not to do. Both of these are Christian duties. While we practice what we preach, don’t do it just to get attention. Instead of that bringing harmony and wholeness to the assembly, it will result in disharmony and discord among the saints.

Jowett also notes that Paul tells the leaders of the assemblies in Galatia to help those doing what no Christian ought to do. In other words, they are freed from the sinful actions of human nature to produce the fruit of the reborn Spirit. But some allowed circumstances to overcome them and started giving in to the sinful tendencies of their fallen human nature. But remember, they are now spiritual fruit bearers. So, they are not to be treated as unregenerate sinners but as wounded and hurting children of God. They already know they’ve done wrong. And most probably, it was a sinful tendency that they struggled with the most. Therefore, this isn’t the first time they’ve sinned this way. It shows that they have a weakness in their moral character. They may be injured, but they are not yet fatally broken.[9] [10]

The great church history researcher Philip Schaff (1819-1893) points out that while Paul talked about a believer’s spiritual life,[11] he now talks about a believer’s spiritual living. In other words, it must go from acts to action. But the transition must be done with love, humbleness, and modesty. There should be no bragging about the spiritual things a believer can do. All honor, praise, and glory go to God for the act of saving us; now, we give Him glory by the things He helps us do as a redeemed person. And one of them is to look out for the welfare of our fellow believers. God did not call us through His spirit to isolate ourselves as monks or nuns but openly be engaged in laboring in His vineyard. Monks and nuns are known to be humble and do everything for their community, so we too must humble ourselves and do all we can for our assembly of believers to help care for the weak brothers and sisters around us.[12]

[1] 1 Corinthians 3:1

[2] Swinnock, George, Works of, Nichol’s Series of Standard Divines, Vol. II, James Nichol, Edinburgh, London, 1848, The Christian Man’s Calling, Part III, p. 362

[3] Burkitt, William: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 338-339

[4] Clarke, Adam: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[5] Edwards, Justin: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[6] Brown, John: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 316

[7] Ibid. p. 323-326

[8] Brown, John: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 82-83

[9] Cf. Philippians 2:3-4

[10] Jowett, Benjamin: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 386-387

[11] Galatians 5:25-26

[12] Schaff, Philip: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 347

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER SIX (Lesson CXXIV)

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) also picks up on this same theme of correcting errant members and cautions those given the task or opportunity to counsel the straying believer to be understanding. He wants them to be careful not to take on the role of a teacher when, in fact, they end up disrespectfully rebuking and ridiculing the one sinning, or even arrogantly dismiss them as being incurable.[1] The Bishop goes on to explain that nothing makes people more inclined to be merciful than the thought of one day ending up in the same predicament. So, while Paul did not want them to be neglectful of family discipline, neither did he want them eager to fight. Many people will quarrel when suddenly opposed and prevented from having their say. So, let peace and love be preserved in our hearts by the thought of fighting the same enemy – sin.

Ambrosiaster (366-384), a contemporary of both Chrysostom and Augustine, sees Paul’s new theme here as a continuation of what he just said before about believers not being puffed up and arrogant with their fellow believers just because of their position in the Church or society. In this section, the Apostle addresses those who are not only ministry leaders in the congregation but spiritual leaders as well. In their position as elders and deacons, they are usually the first to find out that someone in the body of believers has strayed from the truth. That’s why they become a first responder in trying to get them back on track. Ambrosiaster cautions them about being so comfortable in their blessed life that they are quick to reject someone led astray by sin and throw them out as damaged goods.

In Ambrosiaster’s opinion, if they are sharply attacked by a superior, they will not put up with the assault and become very defensive and look ashamed and appear to be worse than they are. Rise above that, make your appeal as an argument against sin, but be willing to show the steps to take to recovery humbly. This is the best way of chastening the proud, says Ambrosiaster. And ensure that all of this is applied equally with all humility and gentleness.

Ambrosiaster also sees an effort on Paul’s part to soften those who are giving advice, because they too may find themselves in need of counsel and guidance. By keeping this in mind, these more influential Christians will avoid the temptation to reject the person in need, knowing that they, too, are capable of sinning. In this scholar’s eyes, the Anointed One came to save all who would believe.[2] Therefore, whoever counsels a sinning brother or sister and persuades them to return to the right way is fulfilling the will of the Anointed One.[3]

Pope Leo the Great advised John, the Bishop of the City of Ravenna in Northern Italy, on the subject of counseling those who’ve fallen into temptation’s trap. When a believer commits a fault, not out of spite, but only from ignorance or weakness, it is undoubtedly necessary to tone down the admonishment to the erring member with moderation. For it is true that all of us, so long as we subsist in this mortal flesh, are subject to the sinful tendencies of our Adamic nature. Everyone, therefore, ought to be aware of how needful it is to show love and concern for another believer’s weakness. It will help prevent them from lashing out with hurried words of scolding against a neighbor’s wrongdoing, instead of thinking about how they would feel if it happened to them under the same circumstances.

That’s why states Leo: Paul counsels the Galatians here in verse one. He tells them that if a person finds themselves overtaken by temptation, spiritually healthy believers, in the spirit of humbleness, must work to restore such a person to spiritual health. One day, that person may help you in the same way. That is another way of saying, says Leo, of admitting that you have overcome weaknesses and imperfections yourself. But it was through spiritual counseling you recovered, not something you did yourself. Therefore, let the Spirit moderate the zeal of your reborn spirit when you feel forced to call into question their shortcomings. Think about how you would feel if someone treated you the same way when trying to help you get your life straightened out again.[4]

Early church commentator, Haimo of Auxerre (820-865), says that the person being pointed to here as the wayward sheep, is someone who did something and suddenly realized that it was wrong. In other words, they unexpectedly got caught in a mistake that was not premeditated. As such, we should admonish a person who sins unexpectedly differently because the offense was not intentional. As such, we must correct these precious people with a gentle spirit, so they don’t end up slipping into despair. If that happens, then they will need sharp chastisement He goes on to say such persons are those who are fragile and frail, and especially the ones who quickly slip into guilt, especially the ones who with an immature understanding and not prone to being deceitful.[5] Let us remember as we read these comments of early church priests and bishops that it was back in the day when everyone believed that it was the Church who saved you. Therefore, they had control over you going to heaven or hell.

Robert of Melun (1100-1167), born in England and raised in France, notes that in verse one, they translated the Greek verb prolambanō (“to anticipate” [“overtaken” KJV]) into Latin as præoccupatus (“preoccupation”). He then points to the Latin version of the Psalms that reads in English: “Let us anticipate His presence with confession and let us sing joyfully to Him with psalms.” [6] So, as Robert sees it, every believer should anticipate that temptations will confront them along life’s highway. In other words, don’t ever become complacent and think that you need not worry about the sins you are carrying around in your life. God will see to it that conviction by the Holy Spirit will warn you. Fascination with wrongdoing can catch up to you, even from behind, when you are not observant of its presence.[7]

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) gives a more scholarly treatment of Paul’s instructions here. First, he says that the one chosen to deal with the errant member is to make sure they know what type of error is involved. Think of it the same way a teacher correcting a paper turned in by a student gives them credit for correct answers and then explain how they answered the other ones wrong. And do so humbly and mercifully. Secondly, consider the frequency of this sin. Some are done quite often, such as cursing, lying, lusting, etc., and must be dealt with differently. And thirdly, view the quality of the sin. For instance, whether committed through commission or omission.

Aquinas perceived sinning by commission as a graver sin than sinning by omission. Sins of commission are opposed to the principle of wrongdoing, which is in effect every moment of the day. Sins of omission are often in conflict with the ethics of right doing. However, since it is not binding on us every moment, and since it cannot be known ahead of time whether deciding not to do what we should do will turn out to be harmful, the decision of omission is only seen after the fact. That’s why it is asked: “Who can understand sins?” [8] And when taking a second look, says Aquinas, it is a sin committed through ignorance.[9]

Martin Luther (1483-1564) offers a picture of how these things were thought of by the church in his day. Back then, he says, the Vatican taught the exact opposite of what the Apostle commands here. They must carefully scrutinize every small offense. And to justify their intrusive curiousness, they quote the statement of Pope Gregory that advises people living law-abiding lives to be afraid of a fault even if they can’t see one at the moment. Church moral evaluators must be respected, although they are sometimes unjust and wrong. It is on this kind of thinking, says Luther, the Roman Catholic Church bases its doctrine of ex-communication. Rather than terrifying and condemning people’s consciences, they ought to help lift them and comfort them with the truth gently and humbly.[10]

John Calvin (1509-1564) does not hold back in what he has to say about the way some church leaders dealt with those in the congregation who did not live up to their expectations. As he sees it, uncontrolled ambition in enforcing church rites, rituals, and regulations is a dangerous and alarming evil when utilized to condemn and destroy. But the same goes for ill-timed and excessive severity in discipline, which, under the name of zeal for what is right, springs up in many instances from pride, and dislike and contempt of others.

Some people seize on the faults of other believers as an excuse to criticize them for doing wrong, especially when using offensive and humiliating language. Any pleasure they may take from rebuking someone in the name of discipline, they should not do disrespectfully. Strict reprimands are of severe offenders. But while we must not be afraid of speaking out against sin, neither should we omit to mix the oil of kindness with the vinegar of correction.[11] In other words, it is alright to use the fist of correction, but do it while wearing a soft glove.

Calvin goes on to explain that we are taught here by Paul to correct the faults of believers mildly and to consider no rebuke as representing a religious or Christian character if it does not breathe the spirit of meekness. To gain this objective, Paul explains the design of godly discipline, which is to restore those who are fallen so they can retake their place among the righteous. Such efforts will never be accomplished by hostility, or by a disposition to find fault, or by the intensity of using harsh language. We must first display a gentle and meek spirit if we intend to heal our brother or sister. As we can see, even in early Protestantism, strict church discipline was practiced. However, today the pendulum has swung to the opposite. Today there is minimal correction given to erring members; making them comfortable with their habits seems to be the motto of the day.

Anglican Bible scholar and commentator John Trapp (1601-1669) looks at what Paul says here about a person overtaken in a fault. It entrapped them before they realized they got caught. They had no time to consider the consequences and decide it wasn’t worth the risk – many saints sin by not thinking things over. However, once they are made aware, they repent and make things right. We usually attribute such faults to a person’s emotions, and we know that feelings do not last that long. Trapp says that the best remedy for this is to adopt the ways of the believer that David speaks of in Psalm One.[12] [13]

[1] Augustine of Hippo: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[2] John 3:17

[3] Ambrosiaster: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit., p. 31

[4] Leo the Great: The Book of Pastoral Rule, Part 2, Ch. 10, p. 523

[5] Haimo of Auxerre: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[6] Psalm 94:2

[7] Robert of Melun: On Galatians, op. cit., Kindle location (1686-1686)

[8] Psalm 18:13

[9] Aquinas, Thomas: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[10] Luther, Martin: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[11] Calvin, John: Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, loc. cit.

[12] Cf. Psalm 139:24

[13] Trapp, John: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 586

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER SIX (Lesson CXXIII)

There were some of these same wayward believers in Thessalonica because Paul wrote the congregation and urged them not to consider them as the enemy that needed to be captured and disciplined as traitors but to counsel them into being excellent, conscious believers. They only need help to stand and get going again.[1] He also instructed Timothy to approach such weak and needy believers the same way.[2] Both the Apostle James[3] and the Apostle Peter had the same attitude on how to restore an errant brother or sister.[4]

But Paul posts a warning sign to those called to this ministry of restoring wandering sheep to the fold.  They must know the risks, be prepared to be tempted, keep their eyes open for the deceiving serpent who shattered Adam and Eve’s relationship with God. It was similar to his message to the leaders of the Corinthian congregation.[5] Don’t end up being so proud of yourself that you consider temptation to be no problem. As Paul might put it today, “Be careful. If you are thinking, ‘Oh, I would never behave like that’ – let this be a warning to you. For you too may fall into sin.” [6] It was especially true if they followed what the writer of Hebrews instructed them to do.[7]

The Apostle James called on everyone who goes out to help another believer who is in a losing battle with their sinful tendencies. He wrote: My brothers and sisters, not many of you should be teachers. I say this because, as you know, we judge teachers more strictly than students. We all make many mistakes. A person who never said anything wrong would be a perfect candidate. Someone like that would be able to control their whole body too.[8] But there was only one such person, and that was our Lord and Savior Jesus the Anointed One.

To those who questioned Paul’s positioning of himself as an authority, the Apostles let them know he treasured the right to being called an Apostle. He shot holes in the Judaizers’ adding humanitarian efforts to the work of the Anointed One to achieve self-salvation. It gave him the insight to define who the heirs and joint-heirs in God’s promise to Abraham. He wanted the Galatians to display the supremacy of their reborn spirit’s union with the Anointed One over the actions of their sinful-self. It’s why he now embarks on a critical assessment of how the ripened fruit of transformed love is most effective. Whatever they learned up until now, if they don’t apply this truth, it will all be in vain.

Paul spent most of the previous chapter teaching how the spirit-centered reborn nature can be in control over the self-centered fallen human nature. Now he calls on those who are spiritually healthy to help those who are spiritually frail. The contextualized version of this verse renders it as follows: “Dear brothers, if someone is suddenly overtaken by some sin, which is sure to happen when they feel secure in their efforts to live by Bible principles and moral standards, then those of you who are controlled and led by God’s Spirit should help them strengthen their faith in the Anointed One so that they can have God’s powerful Spirit flow into them, thereby restoring them back into the Body of the Anointed One. Do not be rigid or critical. Do the restoring with a spirit of mildness, not with an air of superiority. Remember that you will fall into that very sin if you criticize or judge your brother for his sin.” [9]

Here Paul offers a blistering reprimand and stern admonishment to all hypocrites who have forgotten their original pledge and dedication to Jesus the Anointed One and His mission here on earth.  We have hundreds of opportunities to display our benevolent Christian character, both to each other and the world.  Let us never exploit the weaknesses of others to the benefit of our pride. Neither should we compel them to adopt our model of Christian living as though it had no flaws.

As a young Christian, I got the impression that everyone should get saved in the same way I did. I also thought they should be sanctified and filled with the Holy Spirit and join the same church I belonged to if they were going to reach the pinnacle of favor with God and receive His greatest blessings. But I later discovered it was more crucial for these be an individual experience, never as an imitation of my own to satisfy God’s calling, will, and purpose for their lives. Since the God-man Jesus healed the blind man by putting mud in his eyes, should the disciples have insisted that He heal all other blind individuals the same way? If so, they would have denounced poor blind Bartimaeus as a fake believer.

There is no contradiction here. In verse two, we are encouraged to carry and share in helping our fellow believers carry their burden, especially if they are weaker than we are. In verse five, the admonishment is to take as much of our spiritual struggle as possible and not push it off on others. We can volunteer to help another with their burden, but transport our own as long as we can. It stands to reason, that when one is carrying their load, they do not attempt to take on too much of the weaker believer’s burden so that they bog down and need help ourselves.

Interestingly, Paul uses the Greek noun baros (“burden” KJV) in verse two. It signifies “heavy load, weight, burden, trouble, something that wears you out.” [10] The Greek noun phortion (“burden” KJV)  used in verse five refers to “burdensome rites, obligations, troubled conscience, that which oppresses the soul.” [11] Paul is addressing those in leadership and encouraging them to help those who require motivation and assistance to keep going by adding their insight, prayer, and spiritual guidance to that of the weaker brother or sister, but don’t wear yourself out doing so.

In one of his letters, Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (200-268 AD), responded to Bishop Antonianus about a scholarly Catholic priest and theologian named Novatian (200-258 AD) who was also very much against the election of Cornelius as Pope in Rome and was elected himself as Pope. But then he was ceremoniously excommunicated. Cyprian writes that we must not prejudge when the Lord is to be the judge unless He finds the repentance of Novatian honest and meaningful, then He will approve what we have done. If, however, anyone uses the pretense of repentance, God, who is not mocked, and looks into man’s heart, will judge those things which we have imperfectly looked into, and the Lord will amend the sentence of His servants. In the meantime, dearest brother, we ought to remember the written word, “Let all of you individually be careful yourselves, so that you’re not equally tempted. Bear each other’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of the Anointed One.” [12] [13]

For early church scholar Victorinus (280-355), Paul now moves from instructing the whole congregation to dealing with individuals, so that each one will stop and consider where they stand to prevent themselves from being misled. After all, these false teachers from Jerusalem knew the value of picking off weak believers one at a time. For that reason, says Victorinus, each one ought to come to the aid of a person going astray and, by the indwelling Spirit, instruct them through discussions of proper behavior and reinstatement.[14] So the purpose served in addressing an errant believer is to heal, not to hurt.

Early church preacher Chrysostom (344-386) points out that Paul does not say “rebuke” or “judge,” but “set right.” Nor was that all he wanted to say, to show that they should be very gentle towards those who lose their footing. He adds we are to accomplish this in a spirit of humbleness. He does not say, “in humbleness,” but, “in a spirit of humbleness,” signifying that this is acceptable to the Spirit. Furthermore, to be able to administer correction with humbleness is a spiritual gift. Then, to prevent being unduly praised after successfully correcting others to abandon their crooked ways, they need to know that it puts them under the same fear, saying, “Look at yourself, so that you also do not become tempted.’” [15]

The preacher also interprets Paul’s use of the term “overtaken” or “caught unaware” is likened to a person who has a severe illness but isn’t aware of its consequences. How many times has someone asked you: “Are you feeling okay?” When you tell them, you feel good, and then inquire why did they ask, they tell you: “Because you look so pale, and your eyes are not as bright as they usually are,” then you realize there may be something wrong with your health. Therefore, we should take what Paul is saying here as an indication that the spiritually ill believer involved is not consciously doing wrong; that’s why we must handle them with care and compassion. Richard Longenecker suggests that such believers felt entrapped, caught in a snare, entangled, or seduced, and the quickest way to exit was to give in to the momentary temptation and then get out.[16]

Jerome (347-420) believes that a genuinely Spirit-led person should speak to a wayward believer gently and humbly. They must never be inflexible, angry, or grieved when they try to correct them. We must capture their interest by letting them know there is divine forgiveness by the grace of God. They can deal with their mistakes and even stubbornness by proclaiming that Jesus the Anointed One is still their Lord and Savior and invite Him to retake charge of their life.

It is reasonable to ask, says Jerome, why we should instruct the sinner in a spirit of humbleness. It is good to reflect that if they were in the same situation, they would want to talk with someone gentle and kind. What righteous person is so confident of their resolve and assurance that they cannot fall? Therefore, they have no duty to instruct the fallen believer in the spirit of gentleness? We reply, says Jerome, that even if the righteous person did prevail in overcoming temptation since they know how much strength it took, they should be ready to extend forgiveness to the sinner. Overcoming or not overcoming is sometimes based on our willingness or unwillingness to take the necessary steps to get back on the right track. But being tempted is in the power of the tempter. The Savior Himself was tempted. So how many of us can be confident we will make it across this sea of life without any temptations?[17]

[1] 2 Thessalonians 3:15

[2] 2 Timothy 2:25

[3] James 3:13

[4] 1 Peter 3:15

[5] 1 Corinthians 7:5

[6] Ibid. 10:12

[7] Hebrew 13:3

[8] James 3:1-2

[9] Aiyer, Ramsey, The Contextual Bible Galatians, loc. cit.

[10] See Acts of the Apostles 15:28

[11] See 1 Thessalonians 2:6

[12] Galatians 6:1-2

[13] Cyprian of Carthage, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Epistle LI (51), To Antonianus About Cornelius and Novatian, p. 332

[14] Marius Victorinus: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[15] Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, loc, cit.

[16] Longenecker, Richard N. On Galatians, op. cit., Volume 41, Kindle Location 13769

[17] Jerome: On Galatians, Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). op. cit., pp. 92-93

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER SIX (Lesson CXXII)

6:1a My dear brothers and sisters, when you catch a fellow believer unaware that they are drawing away from what they know to be right, those of you guided by spiritual unity with the Anointed One should gently, and with forgiveness. Help put them back on the right path, always keeping this in mind: the same thing could happen to you.

In the First Covenant, we have several examples of what Paul is hinting about here concerning someone who either knowingly or unknowingly does not heed the warning and walks into temptation’s trap. For instance, after the flood, Noah planted a vineyard and one day drank too much of the wine and became intoxicated. It leads to an embarrassing incident that caused his grandson Canaan, through Ham, demoted to the life of a servant to all of Noah’s other descendants.[1] Rabbi Avraham Saba comments that getting drunk on wine was not Abraham’s downfall; it was not taking care to cover himself inside his tent. That allowed Canaan to be tempted beyond his capability to resist.[2]  So, carelessness caused Noah’s mistake.

Then we have Abram’s bad decision as he and Sarai were about to enter Egypt. So, he pulled her aside and whispered to her, “Look, I know that you are a beautiful woman. When the Egyptian men see you, they will say, ‘This woman is his wife.’ Then they will kill me and keep you alive because they want you. Tell them that you are my sister. Then they will be kind to me because of you. In this way, you will save my life.” [3] What he didn’t realize was that it was his deception that would almost get him killed. I’m sure that Abram was taught not to lie. But he took a chance, and it almost turned out to be a catastrophe instead.

Then, of course, we read about where Moses struck a rock instead of speaking to it as the LORD told him to do, and it caused him to be barred by God from going into the promised land. Sometimes we all do things in anger that we know is wrong while we’re doing; it can only result in violence and not victory.[4] According to Rabbi Saba, that reason Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it, was because he turned to the Lord and said, “are we expected to produce water for You from this rock?!” Apparently, the people demanded from Moses that he produce water from a specific rock of their choosing.[5]

And then, there’s David’s horrible mistake of taking what did not belong to him and ended up having to murder to do it.[6] Greed can be a terrible factor in causing a person to ignore the teaching and what is accepted by society as a crime. We could go on with Peter[7] and others. But what we see here is what many scholars interpret as Paul’s meaning when he talks about someone whose actions are motivated by foolishness, lying, greed, fear, etc.

Paul uses the Greek verb prolambanō, which Thayer, in his Greek Lexicon, sees as someone trying to keep something from happening, but before they can flee their crime, they get caught. I like the way the Living Bible renders King Solomon’s proverb that says, “It is senseless to pay to educate a fool since he has no heart for learning.” [8] But Paul’s main aim is to teach the Galatians (and us) how we deal with such a person. As he told the Romans, accept them because they need help and don’t argue over how wrong there were to do what they did.[9] That’s why God made some strong so they could help the weak.[10] And the writer of Hebrews (which many accept as Paul), advised us to be upright in our conduct so that those who’ve fallen will see us and get up and keep going.[11]

But Paul does not trumpet this proclamation as a call to arms on poverty, crime, disease, or lawbreaking. He immediately talks about the needs that he sees in the spiritual lives of those who are children of God. Their weak spirit in faith may lead to some of that, not as bankers, detectives, doctors, or police in the secular world but in the Spiritual realm. He told the Romans what leads to a person getting into so much trouble that they end up lying, being greedy, dishonest, or becoming stubborn. He was clear by telling them that if they let their sinful tendencies control their mind, it will lead to failure. But if they allow the Spirit to control their mind, it will lead to a significant life and peace.[12]

To live by being led by our Spirit-filled reborn spirit, it will help any person able to make judgments about all these things that the Spirit reveals to us. That’s why anyone without the Spirit’s help will not be able to make a proper evaluation and then look at all the options available to make the necessary changes. But worldly people without the Spirit’s insight, will not know what to say or do.[13] And there were some of those in Corinth. During his first letter, Paul said: Brothers and sisters, when I was there, I could not talk to you the way I talk to people who are led by the Spirit. I had to speak to you like ordinary people in the world. You were like babies beginning their union with the Anointed One.[14]

The whole purpose of Paul’s address here is not to make the spiritual members of the congregation judge and jury. He didn’t want them to think that as soon as some brother or sister makes a foolish mistake due to pressure or inattention, to interrogate them until you have every last bit of evidence to convict them and send them on their way. The Greek verb katartizō Paul uses here is translated by the KJV and NIV as “restore,” which means “to render fit,” “make sound,” “make complete.” Several ways exist to accomplish this. To mend or repair it. Equip, put in order, arrange, or adjust. Ethically, to strengthen, make complete, wholesome, what it ought to be. In his Lexicon, Thayer favors this last choice. It is what Paul recommends as the proper way to treat such brothers or sisters in helping them recover.

How to handle a person who foolishly committed a grievous sin is shown by the prophet Nathan when he approached King David after his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and placing her husband in the line of fire on the battlefield where he died. Instead of accusing David directly, he used an illustration of the heartbreaking affair that helped highlight what David did, so he could see the awful sin involved. Then he told David, “you are the man.” David’s conviction proved so strong that he wrote Psalm 51 to show his repentant spirit.[15] In other words, don’t’ accuse them of sin; let the other person say, “God forgive me, I have sinned.”

When wise man Job was going through the trial of his faith, even his friends tried to help him understand that it was a test, not a trial. After all, they said, “Job, you have taught many people. You encouraged those who were ready to quit. Your words helped those who were ready to fall. You gave strength to those who could not stand by themselves.” [16] It sounds like Job was doing it Paul’s way long before Paul came along. Paul may have also been inspired by the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “With good this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.’” [17]

The prophet Ezekiel got the correct method from the Lord, who told him to let His people know that He will search for the lost sheep. He will bring back the sheep that were scattered and put bandages on the sheep that were hurt. He will make the sick sheep healthy.[18] No wonder Jesus told those who doubted His message of getting right with God, with His mission of coming specially to save wayward believers,[19] in His parable of the lost sheep.[20]

The Apostle James, who was present when Jesus told this parable, includes the same theme in his letter.[21] Also, Jude explains it very clearly in his letter: Help those who have doubts. Rescue those who are living in danger of hell’s fire. There are others you should treat with mercy, but be very careful that their filthy lives don’t rub off on you.[22] And the Apostle John echoes the same call for those who are spiritually mature not to interrogate those who go astray but invest in their lives by helping them turn around and go back to the straight and narrow way to holiness and heaven.[23]

However, unless such rescue and restoration are done humbly with love, it will not be useful in the long run. Jesus set the tone for this when He invited anyone imprisoned by sin through the Law to take off that harness and put on His yoke because He was gentle and humble in heart. By wearing the yoke of the Anointed One, we too will be mild and humble when we go out to help people get rid of the harness of sinful tendencies and put on the yoke of discipleship offered by Jesus.[24]

Paul tells the Corinthians that this was a lesson that he learned from the Master, so when he offered to go back to Corinth to help them straighten out many who were overtaken by mistakes, that he would not come with the intent to punish them. Still, he would come with love and a gentle spirit.[25] And just in case they doubted him, in his second letter, he told the Corinthians that he was pleading with them with the humility and gentleness of the Anointed One.[26]

[1] Genesis 9:20-24

[2] Avraham Saba: Tzror Hamor, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 165

[3] Ibid. 12:11-13

[4] Numbers 20:10-13

[5] Avraham Saba: Tzror Hamor, op. cit., Vol. 4, p. 1662

[6] 2 Samuel 11:2-27

[7] Matthew 26:69-75

[8] Proverbs 17:16

[9] Romans 14:1

[10] Ibid. 15:1

[11] Hebrews 12:13

[12] Romans 8:6

[13] 1 Corinthians 1:15

[14] Ibid. 3:1

[15] 2 Samuel 12:1-15

[16] Job 4:3-4

[17] Isaiah 35:3-4 – New Living Translation (NLT)

[18] Ezekiel 34:16

[19] Matthew 9:13

[20] Ibid. 18:12-15

[21] James 5:19-20

[22] Jude 1:22-23

[23] 1 John 5:16

[24] Matthew 11:29

[25] 1 Corinthians 4:21

[26] 2 Corinthians 10:1

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POINTS TO PONDER

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Around the 4th of July, we hear a lot about “freedom.” But it appears that a portion of society who celebrate think of freedom and liberty in a different context than the majority. Their idea of freedom is lawlessness – free to do what they want to do no matter what it costs or the disadvantages it brings to others. That’s not what our county’s framers had in mind for Independence Day.

I read about freedom according to a psychologist’s point of view. He says, we all want freedom, but we are not always so sure about what it is or how to attain it. If freedom were merely a matter of not being in a prison cell, then the vast majority of us should be free. Still, we often find ourselves imprisoned by internal anxieties, worries, habits, compulsions, fears, depression, addictions, and false assumptions.

True freedom is primarily a state of mind, not a physical condition; therefore, the study of the mind is central to an inquiry into freedom. Philosophers and theologians have had much to say about the nature of freedom and the mind over the ages, but the discipline of psychology as we know it is relatively new. Psychology, simply put, is the study of the mind. In order to study and understand the mind, we need to observe it. We see how it works by watching what it does. The essential factor is “self-observation,” the consciousness, which is doing the watching. If we ignore “self-observation,” as psychology has largely done until recently, then we may have been looking at the mind from the wrong perspective, like trying to understand it by thinking about it rather than observing it.

Psychologist Alex Lickerman observed that America is a symbol of freedom all over the world, enjoying as it does freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press. Our ancestors prized these political freedoms so much that many of them were willing to die defending them. And though many of us are often accused today of taking them for granted, we continue to see people rising up to fight for them when they’re threatened.

These freedoms, of course, aren’t absolute, says Lickerman. I can’t yell “fire!” in a crowded movie theater when I know there are no fire exits, to cite a famous example of the limitations imposed on free speech. Nor can I threaten to detonate an imaginary bomb on a plane (even writing that phrase in a post is likely to attract the attention of the Office of Homeland Security). Nor, to paraphrase another famous line, can I swing my fist into the space your nose happens to occupy? In other words, to state the obvious, we’re all free within limits.

So, it has always been and so in a civil society must it always be, notes Lickerman. Mostly we don’t notice these limitations because we’ve been programmed not to even think about being released from them (for the most part). And even when someone does want to punch someone else’s nose, the threat of punishment isn’t the only thing that stops them (at least we hope). It’s also the sense that we shouldn’t interrupt someone else’s right not to have their nose punched.

Psychologist John A. Johnson says that it appears to him that people often equate freedom with having a lot of control over things. We think we would rather be the boss who has control over other employees than a subordinate or follower who is under the control of the boss. Psychologists reinforce the idea that control is a good thing. Research on “control” indicates that people with internal control (people who believe they are in control of the rewards they receive in life) are psychologically healthier and more successful than people with external control (people who believe their fate is in the hands of external, uncontrollable factors).

Yet there is a downside, says Johnson, to being in control when it involves trying to control other people, because other people don’t want to be controlled by you any more than you want to be controlled by them. In therapy, we often hear that if we do not like the way in which others are behaving, we are better off changing our feelings about their behavior than trying to change their behavior. The reason for this is that behavioral habits are notoriously difficult to change, even when a person really wants to change his or her habits; if people are not interested in changing their behavior, it is almost impossible to make them change. People who strongly desire to be in control of their so-called freedom often to not realize they are infringing on other people’s freedom by their actions.

But what does God’s Holy Word have to say about freedom? The Bible does not dispute that freedom is controlled by the mind. But it includes the fact that mental freedom brings relief from physical, emotional, and psychological distress.

The Psalmist said, “Out of my distress, I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.”[1]

And the prophet Isaiah declared the Word of the Lord concerning the coming Messiah who would proclaim, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.[2]

That’s why Jesus was able to say, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”[3]

Also, Jesus proclaimed that if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.[4] And the Apostle Peter had a deep insight into the subject of freedom when he said, Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.[5]

Also, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.[6] Furthermore, says Paul, “You were called to freedom, brothers, do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”[7] Then he told the Corinthians, “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.[8] And to the Romans, he wrote, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become servants of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.[9]

As we can see, freedom is a give-and-take proposition. There are issues in which we must give-in to the other side because it will benefit us as a whole, such as the freedom for people to express their hatred for what we hold near and dear while we can shout our support for the same things. On the other hand, we must reserve the right to take what is ours because of the rights we possess under the Constitution and the law, while those who object must give us that right because it’s lawful for us and for them.

For instance, the freedom to worship God as we see fit and proper while others serve Him in a different manner, or even serve Satan as their God. That is what contributes to a civil and lawful society. And when it comes to tearing down historical statues and emblems, one side should not have the right to smash it to the ground any more than we have the freedom to see it remain standing. It can easily be settled for both sides to agree to put it somewhere (like a museum or special commemorative park) they are not forced to look at it, but we can look at it if we so desire. Oh, that God would grant us this adjustment in our thinking so that we can have a peaceful co-existence as a free society even when we disagree. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Psalm 118:5

[2] Isaiah 61:1

[3] John 8:32

[4] Ibid. 8:36

[5] 1 Peter 2:16

[6] Galatians 5:1

[7] Ibid. 5:13

[8] 2 Corinthians 3:17

[9] Romans 6:22

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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RAGGED OLD FLAG

 The first time I heard Johnny Cash sing this song I got chill bumps as my shoulders went back and my head went up in respect for our country’s flag. You can hear Johnny sing this song on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shU_eiyVRvk), but here are the lyrics for you to read along and have them warm your heart on the 4th of July. If you are not a true patriot, it will sound like some old forgettable country song. But if you are a true patriot, it will make you prouder than ever that you are an American.

 I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench an old man was sitting there
I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down
He said, naw, it’ll do for our little town.
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that’s a ragged old flag you got hanging on it

He said, have a seat, and I sat down
Is this the first time you’ve been to our little town?
I said, I think it is
He said, I don’t like to brag
But we’re kinda proud of that ragged old flag.

You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when
Washington took it across the Delaware
And it got powder-burns the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing O say can you see
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin’ at its seams.

 

And it almost fell at the Alamo beside the Texas Flag,

But she waved on through.

She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville,

And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.

There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard and Bragg,

And the south wind blew hard on that Ragged Old Flag.

On Flanders Field in World War I,

She got a big hole from a Bertha Gun,

She turned blood red in World War II

She hung limp, and low, a time or two,

She was in Korea, Vietnam,

She went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam.

She waved from our ships, upon the briny foam

and now they’ve about quit wavin’ her back here at home.

In her own good land here She’s been abused

She’s been burned, dishonored, denied an’ refused,

And the government for which she stands

Is scandalized throughout the land.

And she’s getting threadbare, and she’s wearin’ thin,

But she’s in good shape, for the shape she’s in,

Cause she’s been through the fire before

And I believe she can take a whole lot more.

So, we raise her up every morning

And we bring her down slow every night,

We don’t let her touch the ground,

And we fold her up tight.

On second thought

I “do” like to brag

Cause I’m mighty proud

Of that Ragged Old Flag.

 

Johnny Cash

 

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