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

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXVIII)

Paul concludes this part of his plea for the Galatians to reconsider their choice by, as some would say, “Make up your minds!” Since he was a Jew out to convert Gentiles, he faced the accusation of customizing his gospel to please both sides. So he confronts his critics face-to-face with a rhetorical question: “Was his mission in standing up for the Gospel an attempt on his part to win man’s approval, or God’s approval?” Before they could answer, he settles the question for them. If he were trying to become popular with people, he would certainly be out of God’s will. Paul knew what he was talking about. When he practiced as a committed Pharisee, he attempted to serve God and please people at the same time, but no such thing was possible for a Christian Apostle. It’s all about integrity and intention.

Whether or not Paul read all the Greek writings available in his day, there is a chance he heard some of them quoted or used in speeches. Thucydides, an orator who lived in Athens 460 years before the Anointed One came, made the observation that no good citizen should seek to win a debate by frightening their opponents, but by beating them fairly. After all, officials often give credit where credit is due to their best advisers. They don’t punish those whose advice turns out to be incorrect. This way, successful orators will not be tempted to cancel their convictions in order to gain popularity in hopes of winning even higher honors. Likewise, unsuccessful speakers will not be lured into saying something they don’t mean just to win over the crowd.

This is not our way, says Thucydides, and besides that, the moment that a person is suspected of giving advice for ulterior motives, however well-meant, should not be rewarded with any approval they did not merit. Therefore, both good and bad advice has become suspect because the person trying to perpetrate the most hideous deception will be no less tempted to do so in order to become popular than the best counselor will be tempted to lie in order to be believed.1 Not only should every preacher be required to memorize this pledge, but so should every politician.

After Chrysostom (349-407 AD) deferred being elected as a Bishop, he wrote six books on the priesthood. He wrote it much like Plato, where he formed a dialogue between himself and Basil, Bishop of Cæsarea. He wrote about the prevailing conception of a real priesthood, baptismal regeneration, the real presence of the Anointed One in the sacraments, prayers for the dead, but he was silent about promoting the pope and councils, orders to the clergy, prayers to saints, forms of prayers, priestly vestments, incense, crosses, and other doctrines and ceremonies of the Greek and Roman churches. He held up the Apostle Paul as a model for imitation. The sole subject of the preacher must be to please God rather than mankind.2 In Chrysostom’s mind, a minister should combine the qualities of dignity and humility, authority and sociability, impartiality and courtesy, independence and humility, strength and gentleness, with only one intent in mind: to do all for the glory and honor of Jesus the Anointed One and the welfare of the Church.3

As a footnote: Syrian born theologian Theodoret (393-466 AD), Bishop of Cyrrhus (near Antioch), tells us that during the time of Chrysostom’s ministry (344-386 AD), that a pastor named Leontius, a shining example of many virtues, pastored the assemblies in Galatia as a Bishop.4 The Bishops who followed him later were: Pancharius (Marcellus) of Ancyra (Ankara), Corconius of Cinæ (Palermo), Dicasius of Tavia (Turkey), Philadelphus of Heliopolis (Egypt), and Erechthius of Tmausont (Greece).5 This gives us some flavor as to how the congregations Paul deals with here in this letter survived and the influence they brought in their development in the southern Roman province in Galatia. Later, the Armenian Protestants in this area would come to the forefront for Christianity. Today, it is estimated there are roughly 200,000 to 320,000 faithful believers in that part of Turkey.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) made it clear that in his mind no one can persuade God to think differently because God knows the whole truth, to begin with. On the other hand, someone who aims to make the truth acceptable to people even if they are unacceptable to them is persuading them in the right way. Likewise, someone who is acceptable to people who receive the truth in order that they may be saved, and who are not seeking personal glory for themselves, but the glory of God shining through them, are not only pleasing people, but God – or at least pleasing God and people at the same time, and not just people. It is one thing to please people, it is another to please both God and people. Similarly, in the case of someone the people find pleasing because they are telling the truth, it is not the person who pleases them, but the truth.6

As Ambrosiaster (366-384 AD) sees it, here we make note that the Apostle Paul, who taught that we ought to please God with all devotion, was not afraid to offend other people as long as he was promoting the glory of God. Laying aside everything for the present time, he devoted himself to the hope of future reward as a faithful servant of the Anointed One. Servants cannot be faithful if they look after their own interests while claiming to be working for their Master.7

Ambrosiaster goes on to point out that before the Anointed One came into the world, it was God’s will that the Law be preached. Consequently, there was a period assigned to it during which it was to be understood and followed. But when the Anointed One Who was promised in the Law came, it was time for the Law to cease – just as the prophets predicted. So it might be said that what Paul saw was that these false teachers convinced the Galatians to resurrect the dead Law so they could be subject to it again, and put the risen Savior back in the grave because He wasn’t needed anymore in order to fulfill the Law.

In the works by Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 AD), we find a letter he wrote to Theocrista (Theoktiste, in Greek), the sister of the Roman Emperor during Gregory’s time when he was Bishop of Rome. Apparently, she was a devout Christian who was distressed because of the way the people of Rome were living in immorality and sin. Gregory wondered how she could remain steadfast being so annoyed since her heart was fixed on heaven. He encourages her to continue her charitable work since it represents the lamp we were given to let shine before people.8 Gregory then points out what John the Baptizer went through in his efforts to announce the coming of the Anointed One, as an example.

It was said that John was not like a reed that could be shaken by the wind, and that should be the attitude and resolve of every believer. And he congratulates her on being a loyal student of the writings of the Apostle Paul who God called to be a teacher to the Gentiles. And he was sure that she read what Paul wrote here in verse ten that we should never live our lives just to win human approval. It is God’s approval that we should seek first and foremost. So he didn’t want her to feel that she needed to win the approval of those who were part of the wicked world. If she did this, then she would no longer be considered a loyal servant of Jesus the Anointed One.9 Since that was good advice back in Gregory’s time, it is equally good advice to all believers today.

Haimo of Auxerre (800-865 AD) wonders if Paul is not trying to say, that instead of him attempting to persuade people to believe in the Anointed One and hold on to their faith, that he is trying to persuade God to hold on to them as the practiced salvation by works and not let go of them as easily as they let go of Him. Haimo says “No!” Paul was not trying to persuade them to go back and reinstitute circumcision and the Law as part of God’s plan of salvation. Rather, he was attempting to persuade the Galatians that God took something that was broken and mended it so that it would work the way He wanted it to. The Law promised salvation but could not deliver it. It pointed out mankind’s sin but was given no power to forgive or cleanse it. So if God showed no immediate intention of changing things to please them, then Paul was in no hurry to do so either.10

Another Medieval commentator, Bruno the Carthusian (1030-1101), hears Paul saying this: “Do I speak in a persuasive manner just to please people for my own glory or am I trying to please God so that He receives all the glory?” It is as if he wanted to point out that there was a time before his conversion that Paul also tried to persuade people by preaching the Law for his own glory. But now in faith, he seeks to persuade people in pursuit of giving God glory. So he no longer tries to persuade people because he no longer seeks to please them. For Paul, if he is still trying to please people by preaching the Law, then he is no longer a servant of the Anointed One. For then what he would attribute to the Law would actually take away from the grace of the Anointed One.11

Martin Luther suggests that we carefully observe the masterful cleverness with which the false apostles went about to bring Paul into disrepute. They combed Paul’s writings for contradictions (our opponents do the same, says Luther), to accuse him of teaching inconsistent things. They found that Paul circumcised Timothy according to the Law,12 that Paul purified himself with four other men in the Temple at Jerusalem,13 that Paul shaved his head at Cenchræ.14 The false apostles cunningly suggested that Paul was talked into observing these ceremonial laws by the other Apostles, perhaps at Peter’s bidding.15 Since these Jews were unable to sufficiently repudiate the message of Paul, they decided to repudiate Paul the messenger.

1 Thucydides, History of Peloponnesian Wars, Bk. III, Ch. IX, Fourth and Fifth Years of the War – Revolt of Mitylene

2 See Galatians 1:10 above

3 John Chrysostom: Nicene Fathers, op. cit., Prolegomena, Ch. 4, p. 18

4The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers op. cit., Vol 3, Theodoret: Ecclesiastical History, Bk 5., Ch. 27, p. 291

5 Syriac Miscellanies; Or Extracts Relating to the First and Second General Councils, and Various Other Quotations, Theological, Historical, & Classical, Translated into English by B. H. Cowper. Williams and Norgate, 14, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London; and 20, South Frederick Street, Edinburgh. MDCCCLXI. (1861)

6 Augustine’s Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

7 Ambrosiaster: op. cit, loc. cit.

8 Matthew 5:16

9 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol. 13, Gregory the Great: Epistle 45, To Theocrista, Patrician

10 Haimo of Auxerre: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

11 Bruno the Carthusian, Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

12 Acts of the Apostles 16:3

13 Ibid. 21:26

14 Ibid. 18:18

15 Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 21

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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 ONE (Lesson XXVII)

I like the way retired Baptist minister and English professor Peter Pett describes Paul’s frustration over the Galatians’ so easily turning around and running away from the Gospel. For him, the double-stress and double-curse he felt brought out how much his emotions were being stirred up. These Judaizers who came preaching to the Galatians, and were wrongly stressing that they were given the backing of the Jerusalem church, unlike Paul (or so they said), were bringing a powerless message. Instead of seeking to bring the Galatians into the freedom of the Anointed One they were trying to bring them back into bondage to a rigid set of religious and ethical regulations and ceremonies.

They were entangling them in “do this, do that, and don’t do the other,” until it was not clear to them what they really ought to do. They were loading them down with burdens too heavy to carry. And the sad thing was that these things, that they were involving themselves in, possessed no ability to save them. They were simply man-made requirements which gave an outward show of being religious and substituted for the truth without a fundamental inward change of heart and mind. They imparted a certain satisfaction because people hoped that they were achieving something, but in fact, they were achieving nothing, for they left them worse off than they were before.1

Richard Longenecker believes that the Apostle Paul was using a bit of irony in suggesting that an angel from heaven might just bring such a corrupt gospel. In other words, Paul didn’t really think that would ever happen, however, he said it for another reason. It was no doubt meant to counter the Judaizer’s claim that they brought impeccable credentials showing them as members in good standing of the Jerusalem church council, or that to have the authority of the Jerusalem apostles supporting them was equivalent to heaven’s approval as messengers, or perhaps both. If they were from the Jerusalem church, then it is quite likely they were present, and even took part in, Paul’s defense of his Gospel before the council,2 and also being there when Paul rebuked Peter of hypocrisy in Antioch.3 Paul insisted that a preacher’s authority is derived from the Gospel, and not vice versâ. So his challenge to these Judaizers was on the basis of their claim of authority based on their own credentials and the approval of a higher church authority. All authority for preaching the Gospel comes from the Gospel, not from other human beings.4

Ronald Fung explores the “angelic messenger” aspect that Paul speaks of here. He pronounces, without exception, a serious condemnation upon any preacher of a message which is “at variance with” the original apostolic preaching, whether such a preacher is an angel from heaven or even Paul himself or one of his coworkers who first brought the Gospel to the Galatians. First of all, this implies that the Gospel embodies a standard core of fixed tradition so that no preaching deviating from it can be called “Gospel” in the proper sense of the word. Secondly, the authority of the Gospel resides primarily in the message itself and only secondarily in the messenger. The difference between these two points indicates that whereas a message implies the uniqueness and unchangingness of the Gospel, the messenger refers to more than a possibility of something they say turning out to be factual. There is one Gospel but many kinds of messengers. Perhaps the reference to an “angelic messenger” suggests that Paul has in mind specifically the Jewish understanding of a false messenger since the Judaizers might have stressed the connection between the Law and the angels through whom it was mediated5,6 though this remains uncertain.

As a current scholar, Vincent Cheung points out that since the purpose of the Gospel is salvation; since the Gospel of justification by faith in the Anointed One is necessary for salvation; therefore, anyone who preaches something different is not preaching the true Gospel. Unfortunately, it follows that anyone who believes something different fails to believe in the true gospel and, consequently, receives eternal damnation just as quickly as someone who preaches false doctrines. So we can see at least three points here that combine to narrow the ways to salvation to just one. First, turning to another “gospel” is the same as turning away from God. Secondly, there is, in fact, no other Gospel. Thirdly, anyone who preaches a different Gospel is condemned to suffer the same fate as those who believe it. This passage leaves no room for distortions, alternatives, or lenient interpretations of the true Gospel.7

This certainly addresses the growth of “religious legalism.” One Jewish writer came to the conclusion that it becomes clear in what Paul says next, that the particular bad news to which the Galatians have been exposed is religious legalism. Legalism can be defined as, “the false principle that God accepts people as being right with Him and worthy of being in His presence on the grounds of their obedience to a set of rules.” This means, that they can earn salvation apart from putting their trust in God through Jesus the Anointed One, and relying on Him, loving Him, and accepting His love for them.8

In his condemnation, Paul does not mince words. He uses the Greek noun anathema which carries a strong factor of condemnation to something that is dedicated to evil such as placing a curse. Here, it actually refers to a thing that guarantees excommunication from the congregation of believers. For instance, imagine you are a sky diving instructor and you tell your students that under no circumstances are they to jump out of an airplane without a parachute. However, someone comes along and says that since man’s arms are the evolutionary product of bird’s wings and can, therefore, be used for flight, and that makes a parachute simply an option. Needless to say, jumping out of the airplane without a parachute would guarantee their quick elimination from the club by their own foolishness.

Without doubt, more sheep have been led astray by those who offer “another route” or an “alternate path,” or a “shortcut,” or an “easy way,” or even the “most logical way,” to salvation and heaven, than by all the atheists and agnostics who ever lived. Some point to the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, Modernists, Moonies, and other cults as proof of that. One can be easily fooled into crossing over to a parallel track that appears to be going in the same direction as the one they are on. But if they could see around the bend up ahead it would reveal that they eventually part ways with the true path to God and are led off into a different direction. That “bend” usually occurs when the true path reaches the river labeled “the cleansing blood of Jesus” and on the other side the “land of sanctified living.” There is no bridge at this river, as some false teachers imply. Those who want to reach the other side must go through this river, led by the Holy Spirit.

Not only that, but the true path to righteousness always leads toward the light, while the other leads away from the light. As the psalmist says, His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our pathway.9 The Apostle Paul just couldn’t believe that the believers throughout Galatia were so easily fooled and deceived. Perhaps, he thought, “What didn’t I tell them? What didn’t I make clear What didn’t I explain more fully? But the needed questions might have been, “What didn’t they take seriously? Why didn’t they ask questions about so they could be sure?” And, “Why didn’t they seek the truth more fully while I was with them?” It isn’t always the message or the messenger, sometimes it’s how the message is treated and received that will either cause it to make an indelible impression or only have a brief effect.

1:10 Do you think I’m now saying this just to be a crowd pleaser? Absolutely not! More than anything I want God’s approval. If I was trying to be popular with people I would not qualify to be called a servant of God.

Since these were strong words in the previous verses, Paul offers an explanation of why he is being so hard on those who are causing confusion and discord in the Churches in the province of Galatia. Knowing who to listen to is very important. After all, when Peter and John were told to never mention the name of Jesus when preaching, they said to their persecutors, “If it is better for us to listen to you instead of listening to God we’ll let you decide. But we are going to preach what we have seen and heard.”10 And when Peter and John were arrested again, Peter told them without flinching that they were going to obey what God says rather than what men say.11 After all, the most these Jewish leaders could do was kill their bodies, but God could do more than that to their persecutors.12

The point was that whether believers are standing before men or before God, they will be accountable for what they did while here on earth. So it is always best to do what pleases God instead of what delights mankind.13 That’s why Paul told the Thessalonians, “God has allowed us to be trusted with the Good News. Because of this, we preach it to please God, not man.”14 Paul knew that there were some who might doubt his conversion. But, as he told the Corinthians, after sharing the story of his experience of being taken up into the highest heaven and shown things that were impossible to describe or explain, that he gave credit for all the good he did and any miracles that were performed to the power of God. He was not trying to make himself look good but was doing everything to show the goodness of God for their benefit.15

And there was a good reason for that. All that God does for us in our calling, redemption, election, justification, and empowerment with the Holy Spirit is to live in such a way that others are blessed, not just ourselves. This was the example the Anointed One left us.16 And there is another factor. Paul told the Ephesians that they should not try to shine as a good servant of God while others are watching and then act differently when they were alone. After all, God is watching us every minute. We don’t do what we do for Him to please others but to please Him.17 Never forget who bought your freedom by the price of His blood. By working for Him, you work for others.18 No wonder Paul kept introducing himself as a “servant owned by Jesus the Anointed One.”19

1 Peter Pett: On Galatians, Truth According to Scripture, e-book

2 See Galatians 2:6-10

3 Ibid. 2:11-14

4 Longenecker, Richard N., On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Location 5939-5944

5 Cf. Galatians 3:19

6 Ronald Y. K. Fung: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p.46

Cheung, Vincent: Commentary On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

Stern, David H. op. cit, loc. cit

9 Psalm 119:105 (cf. Proverbs 6:23)

10 Acts of the Apostles 4:19-20

11 Ibid. 5:29

12 Matthew 10:28

13 See 2 Corinthians5:9-11

14 1 Thessalonians 2:4

15 2 Corinthians 12:19

16 Romans 15:1-3. See also 1 Corinthians 10:33

17 Ephesians 6:6

18 Colossians 3:22-23

19 Romans 1:1

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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 ONE (Lesson XXVI)

It is interesting that Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560), one of Martin Luther’s closest advisers and the first systematic theologian of the Protestant Reformation, spoke about this same issue. In writing about the question concerning the jurisdiction of bishops, he said that civil authority must be distinguished from ecclesiastical jurisdiction. They are certainly given the divine right according to the Gospel to oversee things related to people’s conduct in the ministry, the interpretation of the God’s Word, and the correct manner in which to use the ordinances of water baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and also the preaching of any doctrine contrary to the Gospel. Such ministers who misinterpret or stray away from the Word of God should be disciplined, and if they did not change, then have their ministerial license withdrawn and excluded from offices in the Church.

He goes on to say, that it is a necessity and by divine right that congregations must respect them as being over them in the Lord.1 Also, that congregations were to exercise the right given to them by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount.2 That’s why what Paul says here in verse eight, is just as important for them to remember. False prophets were not to be tolerated, not even those claiming to be sent directly from God.3

Jakob Arminius (1560-1609) has something to say about those who come around with a new revelation or insight into God’s Word that is unfamiliar teaching to the church body. When any believer finds out by whose authority what is being said becomes known, and when what is said blends in with the consciences of all those to whom the teaching or the writing is addressed or directed, they can then accept or reject it in the appropriate way. However, when those who are receiving any teaching or writing can be confident that what they are receiving has been delivered with God’s anointing on those that approve of it, publish, preach, interpret, and expound it, it is much easier to distinguish and separate it from words or writings which are suppositions and alterations of the Divine Word.

What these people say and write does not add one ounce of legitimacy to their claim that it is from God because their sole authority, whether contemplated on their own or with others, is only that of mortals. Things that have God’s anointing need no further confirmation, nor indeed can receive it from what humans may say about it. This whole concept of approving, preaching, explaining, and discerning the truth of God’s word and the ideas of mankind, even when it is discharged by the Church Universal, can only be taken to mean that she declares, holds, and acknowledges these words or writings under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit are from God and God alone4.5

Matthew Henry (1662-1714) poses a practical question on what Paul says here in verse eight: “How confident was Paul that the Gospel he preached to the Galatians was the only true Gospel?” It is clear that he was so fully persuaded that he pronounced condemnation on those who pretended to preach any other Gospel, and, to let them see that these instructions did not proceed from any irritableness or intense zeal in him. In fact, he repeats it again in verse nine. This does not mean that we are justified in thundering out condemnation on against anyone who differs from us in minor things. It is only against those who devise a counterfeit gospel, who remove forgiveness and justification from the solid foundation of the covenant of grace. Instead, they set up a program of good works in the place of the Anointed One’s work on the cross.

This is what the Judaizers were doing in corrupting Christianity with Judaism which Paul strongly denounces. He even asks the Galatians, Do you think I would do such a thing? Do you think that an angel would be sent down from heaven to do that? Paul was at ease asking such questions because he knew they were both impossible. But just in case, by some unexplainable reason, someone would come to Galatia saying that he sent them with a different version of his original Gospel, or someone saying that God sent them to preach an enlightened gospel rather than the one Paul preached, they would be lying! Anyone who would do such a thing puts themselves under a curse and is in danger of having the curse put upon those who accept them. So we can see why Paul was so worried about what was happening to his converts in the churches in Galatia.6

J. P. Lange (1802-1884) in his commentary mentions that these Judaizers were out to destroy the Gospel of the Anointed One that brought the Galatians out of the darkness of heathen ignorance into the marvelous light of understanding the Gospel. So Paul was saying, more or less, let these troublemakers be destroyed for what they are doing. It doesn’t matter if they do call themselves messengers from God. It was an effort on their part to counter Paul’s claim that he was commissioned by God to bring them the Gospel, don’t pay any attention to them, says Lange, they are only out to cause havoc not harmony.7

W. A. O’Conor does not believe that the persons referred to taught anything logically contrary to the Gospel, but they made what seemed to be a seemingly harmless addition that drained its life. If falsehood were openly opposed to the truth there would be no difficulty in detecting it. The danger is when it comes in the form of friendship, and advances the claims of coming from a longtime tradition. The teaching of the Judaizers, in its uncorrupted form, expressed at one time the relation between God and man. Circumcision and the observance of seasons were of heavenly origin. They were as the stringy ringlets on an ear of corn, which, when the grain is ripe, becomes chaff, and must be cast aside and burnt. The Apostle Paul communicated the pure sifted truth to the Galatians, and now other men were mingling straw and chaff with it. The evil of this mixture was, that the cross would become only another form like circumcision.8

Charles Spurgeon makes an interesting comment on what Paul said about not receiving anyone who comes preaching another gospel. For Spurgeon, it was a way of “fraternizing” with people with different views. But the modern way of saying this would be, “Let’s see if we can get along with them; they are people who think out of the box.” This comes from the idea that we shouldn’t tie people down to just one way of expressing themselves. After all, if they make mistakes we’ll just point it out to them and they will begin to see things our way. “No, no!” says Paul. “I’ve told you once and I’ll tell you again, if they preach any other gospel to you than what you received from me, let them be accursed.9 In more up-to-date terms, treat them as persona non grata.

Marvin Vincent in his Word Studies tells us that many Roman Catholic interpreters insist that the Greek preposition para should be rendered as “contrary to,” since their Vulgate uses the Latin “præterquam“ which means “not comparable, beyond, besides, except.” Even some Protestant interpreters insist on the word “besides” as being against supplementing the true Gospel with traditions. The explanation is found in the previous words, “a different gospel.” Any gospel which is different from the one true Gospel,10 is both beside – as noted in the margin, and contrary to – as contradicting the original.11

Sir Robert Anderson, in his own police detective way, supposes that a stranger suddenly shows up in metropolitan London claiming to be the bearer of a Divine revelation to mankind. And in order to give any credence to his claim, he proceeds to display miraculous power. Let us assume, for the moment, that after a thorough examination by experts, the miracles are unanimously established as genuine. That would certainly allow for people to believe them. Now in like manner, everyone must come face-to-face with this question: If the “Christian message” is also found to be sound, the Gospel preached by this Apostle must also be accepted without question. However, anyone who knows anything about human nature would doubt that any such unanimous agreement could be reached on even in the best of times and on the best of days.

The Christian, however, would certainly be cautious about accepting the words of a doubter over that of believers. Does not Paul say here that when even one claiming to be an angel from heaven came preaching any gospel other than that which was preached by a true servant of God, let them be considered an abomination? Any serious Christian would insist on taking any new miracle-accredited gospel and testing it with God’s Holy Word. And if they found it to be inconsistent with the Gospel they already received, would reject it. That is to say, they would test the message, not by the miracles, but by the Bible they accept as a revelation from God.12 Could it be that Anderson is curious as to whether or not Paul’s reference here to “another angel” being an undercover jab at Peter for what he did in Antioch? Also, could Paul’s reference here to “other gospel,” be a hint at what he would say later on in the letter about his confrontation with Peter in Antioch?13

As Cyril Emmet (1875-1924) sees it, Paul’s reason for calling what the Judaizers were teaching “another gospel” is because Paul’s Gospel was built upon the revelations from the mind of God expressed in the First Covenant. However, the gospel of the Judaizers was built upon the revelations of the human mind found in the writings of the Rabbis. It is true that the essential principles of salvation by the love of God and the free grace of the Anointed One can be presented in different forms, but what these Judaizers was spreading was a radically different concept of salvation based on adherence to a temporary law. Emmet warns that the same thing can happen when preachers today try to lay down these same principles of God’s love and grace in terms of modern thought. The Gospel will always be the Gospel the way it was taught by the Anointed One and preached by the Apostles.14

1 See Luke 10:16

2 Matthew 7:15

3 Philip Melanchthon: The Augsburg Confession, Article 28, pp. 32-33

4 John 15:22, 24; 8:24; Galatians 1:8, 9; Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14; John 1:6, 7; 5:33-36; 1 Thessalonians 2:13

5 Jakob Arminius: op. cit., Vol. 1, Disputation 1, pp. 346-347

6 Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible-Book of Galatians (Kindle Location 288-297). Graceworks Multimedia. Kindle Edition.

7 Lange, John Peter: Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical, Trans. Philip Schaff, Galatians – Colossians, Vol. VII, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1870, p. 19

8 O’Conor, W. A: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit. p. 9

9 Charles Spurgeon: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

10 See Galatians 1:6

11 Marvin Vincent: Word Studies, op. cit., Vols. 3&4, p. 86

12 Sir Robert Anderson: The Silence of God, Chapter 4, from Rediscovering the Bible, at https://rediscoveringthebible.com/Anderson.htmlCh. 4,

13 Anderson also makes reference to a work in circulation during in his day by William Paley (1743-1805), an English Clergyman who was a philosopher and Unitarian who argued for the existence of God, the intelligent creator of the world. as being in conflict with another work called “Essays on Religion.”

14 Cyril Emmet: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 4-5

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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 ONE (Lesson XXV)

Let’s look again at what Paul meant when he said that he would be willing to suffer all the punishment that was coming on his fellow Jews because of their calling Jesus the Anointed One a curse, if somehow it would bring them back to God. All they needed to do was to accept Jesus the Anointed One as their Messiah, Lord, and Savior.1 And Paul used this same analogy when he told the Corinthians that if they are filled with the Holy Spirit, then it would be impossible to call the Anointed One cursed, as many of the Jews did. At the same time, it is equally as impossible to call the Anointed One “Lord” unless the Holy Spirit dwells within.2

In fact, Paul went so far as to tell the Corinthians that if anyone who calls themselves a Christian does not really love the Lord Jesus, let them be cursed. In other words, that they miss out on the Rapture.3 And the Apostle Peter was not far behind, for he told his readers that he prayed that those who once knew the Lord and returned back into sin. They did so because they found more satisfaction in serving sin than serving the Lord. This would only send them to hell.4

This was so important to Paul, that he repeated himself by saying that if anyone comes along preaching a Gospel that is not based on God’s Word and the revelation of the Anointed One, let them suffer the embarrassment of having a curse placed on them. And Paul wasn’t fooling. He once told the Corinthians that when he says “yes” he means “yes,” and when he says “no” he means, “no.”5 So they should take him seriously. He has no tolerance for those who corrupt the Gospel in order to benefit themselves, nor should we.6

In other words, Paul didn’t want anything he said to be watered down so that it didn’t sound too harsh, or advance too high as to give the impression that only intellectuals could understand it. He was totally against those who were out to mislead and redirect people away from the Gospel of salvation by grace, not by works. Did not Agur son of Jakeh7 say, “Every word of God has been proven true. He is a safe-covering to those who trust in Him. Do not add to His words, or He will speak strong words to you and prove you to be a liar.”8 So it is no mystery why the Apostle John used these same words at the end of his Revelation.9

Paul now raises the bar of proof for these Judaizers to show that the good news they preached was not the Good News approved by God and taught by Jesus the Anointed One. Paul refuses to allow the Good News he preached to be served alongside other so-called gospels, like a side dish. There is only one true Gospel of the Anointed One. For Paul, the true test of whether to accept a message from anyone who came preaching good news was how it matched up with God’s Word, even if that messenger claimed to have come from heaven.

Unfortunately, some ministers want their authority to be based on their position in the organization. If they preach something that does not conform to the Gospel of the Anointed One and confronted by laity or ministers of lower rank, they point to their position of authority and feel insulted that anyone of lesser importance dare question their interpretation. Paul felt no fear in declaring that even if one thought of themselves as being part of God’s angelic ranks, if they preached a gospel other than what the Anointed One ordained, denounce them, and get rid of them.

The Patriarch of Alexandria, Athanasius (293-373 AD) was closely associated with the Coptic Orthodox Church in Constantinople rather than the Catholic Church in Rome. He was somewhat of a rebel when it came to the Church’s hierarchy, but never left his solid belief in the Word of God as being sovereign over the believer’s faith. As a member of the Nicene Council, he penned a defense of the Council’s stand on how the Word of God was wrongly used by the Arians who objected to the Council’s conclusions.10 He said that they were like the Jews who questioned why Jesus healed on the Sabbath.

He points out how each generation since Adam, passed on what the Lord revealed to them. Likewise, what Paul received directly from the Anointed One he passed on to the Galatians. That’s why he was so shocked that they so suddenly were led astray by another gospel. So the Arians needed to be careful that they would not be declared anathema by the Council.11 We see already that the Church which grew mostly out of Paul’s ministry was now facing what Paul himself faced in Galatia.

Early church scholar Jerome (347-420 AD), says that we must understand this idea of angels preaching another gospel, as a hyperbole. It is true that some angels were doing so – not meaning that an Apostle or an angel would preach something other than what he preached. Yes, angels are changeable because some listened to Lucifer and fell with him when God cast him out of heaven. And his tendency, to this day, is to confuse everyone through deceit. And Bishop Theodoret feels that Paul certainly knew that the holy angels were incapable of distorting the truth. But through this, Paul criticized what he saw as a serious shortcoming of all humanity.12

Vincent of Lérins (d. 446 AD), a French monk and early church Christian writer, felt led to write about how heretics in his day were citing obscure passages in the writings of ancient philosophers in support of their own novel way of looking at Christianity and the Gospel. I like Lérins’ colorful description of those he likens to the wandering Judaizers in the Apostle Paul’s day, who wandered about in provinces and cities, and carrying with them their dishonest teachings, found their way to Galatia, and when the Galatians, on hearing them coughing up their nauseating ideas, and regurgitating their soured doctrines of the Apostolic and Catholic faith, somehow became fascinated with the garbage of their heretical fairy-tales.

But here in verse eight, the Apostle Paul put into action the authority of his office and delivered his condemnation with the utmost severity. For Paul, such nonsense should not be accepted even it was brought by someone claiming to be an angel. If that happens, says Paul, treat them as scum and order them out of your presence. For Lérins, this is what the church leaders should have been doing back in the Fifth Century.13 If it was the right thing to do in Paul’s day, and in Lérins day, then it should be the right thing to do today.

Haimo of Auxerre (865 AD) feels that Paul may have been more astonished that the Galatians turned away so quickly, rather than that they turned away in the first place. And in addition, that it took so little persuasion to get them to switch from the Gospel Paul preached to the false teachings of those who came in behind him. The Gospel that Paul preached was the “Good Tidings of New News!” The teachings that this others brought was “Bad Tidings of Old News.” Why were they fooled so convincingly, when the plan of salvation that came through the Gospel of the Anointed One was a gift by grace, and the plan of salvation that came through the Law that required hard work. Many of them already learned that it was an impossible task to earn ones salvation by works.14

Bruno the Carthusian (1030-1101) has an interesting comment on Paul’s skillful response to those who opposed him on the grounds that he would not allow Jewish rituals in the Churches in Galatia. Perhaps it was because these Judaizers did not understand that Peter only approved of these things because he thought it was better to nourish the simple faith of Jewish converts to Christianity through these concessions than to destroy it by scaring them away with excessive holiness. In reality, what Peter allowed was only intended for the Messianic Jews. Since Paul was sent to preach to the Gentiles, then these things did not apply to them. As far as the Jews were concerned, the stronger their faith in the Anointed One and the Gospel, the easier it would be for them to eventually abolish such needless rites and rituals.15

On the subject of someone being excommunicated because they came preaching a different Gospel than the one preached by the Apostles, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) dealt with the question of whether or not an individual church member may excommunicate themselves, or excommunicate an equal member, or a superior.16 Aquinas uses what Paul says here in verse eight concerning excommunicating an angel if they came preaching a gospel other than what the Apostles preached. Therefore, it would seem that an individual church member can excommunicate himself, his equal, or his superior.

After all, an angel of God is greater than Paul. And according to what Jesus said, “I tell you, of those born of women, there is no one greater than John the Baptist. The least in the holy nation of heaven is greater than he.”17 Now if Paul suggested excommunicated an angel from heaven for preaching a false gospel, and if the least of those in the Kingdom of God are greater than John the Baptizer, then certainly an individual church member may excommunicate a superior.18 The term excommunicate is used here in the context of an ordinary member of a church telling another member, their pastor, or even a visiting minister to leave, to go away and never return because they were preaching a false and unacceptable gospel.

1 Romans 9:3

2 1 Corinthians 16:22

3 Ibid.

4 2 Peter 2:14

5 2 Corinthians 1:17

6 See Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; 13:1-5

7 The name “Agur” means “the one who is brave in the pursuit of wisdom;” “son of Jakeh” signifies “he who is free from sin.” – Jewish Encyclopedia

8 Proverbs 30:6

9 Revelation 22:18-19

10 Arianismis a nontrinitarian Christological doctrine which asserts the belief that Jesus the Anointed One is the Son of God who was begotten by God the Father at a point in time, a creature distinct from the Father and is therefore subordinate to Him, but the Son is also God.

11 De Decretis: Nicene Fathers, op. cit., Ch. 2, p. 506; Also see p. 1212

12 Edwards, M. J. (Ed.)., op. cit., loc. cit., p. 7

13 Vincent of Lérins, A Commonitory, Ch. 8, pp. 273-274

14 Haimo of Auxerre: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

15 Bruno the Carthusian: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

16 Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica, Vol. 6, Part (4)-Question (22)-Article (4), p. 192

17 Matthew 11:11

18 Ibid. Thomas Aquinas, Part (4)-Question (22)-Article (4)-Objection (1), p. 192

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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 ONE (Lesson XXIV)

Ernest DeWitt Burton (1856-1925) suggests that the Apostle Paul was dealing with the Galatians caught up in a perplexity between salvation by faith and salvation by works and salvation by faith and works. To make matters even worse, Burton says, the Greek verb tarassō suggests that the agitators were still there and working hard. So it wasn’t that the Judaizers troubled them earlier, but they were still troubling them as Paul wrote his letter. Burton points out that tarassō can be taken to mean “to disturb mentally” with perplexity or fear.1 And although the influence of these Judaizing missionaries did not win the Galatians over completely, their trouble-making remained an ongoing fact. They also knew that the Galatians were not yet irreversibly persuaded, but it was still their goal.2

Robert Gundry gives us the evangelical view of this “different gospel” theme. For him, any gospel that stands in opposition to believers being saved by “the grace of Jesus the Anointed One,” is a “different gospel.” That is to say, a different gospel displaces the Anointed One’s grace. Since this grace makes the Gospel what it is – namely, “good news” – the subversion of the Anointed One’s grace produces “a different gospel,” even a “non-gospel” (which isn’t even another gospel). Given our sins, the diluting of His grace makes for bad news, not good news.3

Gundry goes on to add that these Judaizers were stirring up the Galatians to defect from Paul’s Gospel. This implies that the defection was a kind of rebellion, a transfer of allegiance from the One who called the Galatians, to a different gospel that’s not really a gospel at all.4 Because of the preceding emphasis on his apostleship, we might have expected Paul to portray their defection as deserting him. But because both his apostleship and the grace of salvation stem ultimately from God, Paul portrays the defection as deserting God. And the description of God as “the One who called the Galatians in the grace of the Anointed One” makes the defection and desertion not only unwarranted, but also ungrateful.5

Gundry also believes that Paul takes exception to his own expression of astonishment at the Galatians’ ungrateful defection. For the blame shifts now from them to “some who are stirring you up and wanting to distort the Gospel about the Anointed One.” This deflection softens Paul’s tone so as to make the Galatians responsive to his upcoming defense of the Anointed One’s grace and his critique of the non-gospel. They know they’re changing the Gospel that Paul proclaimed to the Galatians. They haven’t corrected it, they’ve distorted it! The grace in essence is the grace of no less a personage than the One anointed by God to give Himself for our sins.6

1:8-9 But even if we – or, someone claiming to be an angel from heaven! – were to announce to you some so-called “Good News” contrary to the Good News we announced to you, let them be under a curse forever! I said it before, and I’ll say it again: if anyone announces “Good News” contrary to what you received from me, let him be under a curse forever!

Mark A. Nanos says that Paul is reminding the readers that since he was in Galatia preaching the Gospel, some time has passed since they separated.7 However, Paul did not feel that time pushed them apart as fellow believers in the Anointed One. They still shared their unbroken spirit of unity in the Anointed One. So this letter to the Galatians should not be looked at as some historical discourse dealing with supposed or imagined problems, but was a personal letter from some person to some people who shared a common love for God and His Word. And since Paul was inconvenienced from returning to Galatia at this time, such a personal letter provided the closest means for a face-to-face conversation, even though it was one-sided. So what Paul says here to his Galatian brothers and sisters should be read with feeling.8

Furthermore, the way Paul starts and writes this letter is similar to what is found in many ancient middle-east texts of someone who gave instructions before the letter was written but those guidelines were being ignored or disobeyed. If Paul sent such instructions before hand, no doubt he was still waiting for an answer. After all, he expected a lot more from them. In fact, he taught against the very false doctrine that was now being circulated among them. So it was understandable that he expected through his teaching, his instructions, and by the Holy Spirit that they would know and behave otherwise.9 He wants them to know that even though they’ve been apart, he has been fighting on their behalf to preserve the truth of the Gospel for a long time at great personal expense. That’s why, from his perspective, he possessed every right to be exasperated by their failure to remain faithful to the Gospel of the Anointed One10.11

So why should anyone in Galatia question if Paul should expect more from them than what he heard about their conduct. What seemed to surprise Paul was that all the trust he put in them to follow what he taught was apparently misplaced. We all know the feeling that comes when after we have given instructions to someone on how to operate a piece of equipment or how to find a certain location by giving them all the left and right turns to get there, and then to hear that they got all mixed up because they failed to write our instructions down or decided to do things their own way. If that would cause frustration, then we can understand why Paul was not only astonished but perplexed and stunned that they did the same with his instructions and guidelines. In fact, some think that Paul was reiterating what he told them before, only this time in an ironic, ridiculing tone, something he would not do were he still with them. Certainly Paul felt constrained to ask them to reconsider who they are and who they want to become even after all this took place in spite of his attempts to prevent it.12

When Paul warned about someone claiming to have a new revelation from God, even if they were to call themselves an angel, do not be fooled. When Paul warned the Corinthians about false evangelists, he told them not to be surprised because even the devil can make himself look like an angel of light. And so it is no surprise if his servants also make themselves look like preachers of the Good News.13 Paul felt the need to caution young Timothy against several such impostors in their day.14

And to Bishop Titus Paul gave this advice, “Do not argue with people about foolish questions and about the Law. Do not spend time talking about all of your early forefathers. This does not help anyone and it is of no use. Talk once or twice to a person who tries to divide people into groups against each other. If he does not stop, have nothing to do with him. You can be sure he is going the wrong way. He is sinning and he knows it.”15 From the context of Paul’s comments it seems obvious that those annoying Judaizers were still on his mind.

Then Paul brings up a custom that was well-known in Jewish writings and stories. It all began in the Garden of Eden after the serpent fooled Adam and Eve, causing them to disobey God and not only lose fellowship with Him but also were evicted from the Garden. Then God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all livestock and wild animals.”16 In other words, the worst will come to him and he will not be spared with any mercy.

The Hebrew verb ‘arar (meaning “cursed”) is used, and it’s a way of wishing the worst on someone. As such, a person who has been cursed will be detested and treated badly by everyone around them. No matter how bad things may get, they will be looked on without compassion by everyone. Unfortunately, the next person to suffer this horrible curse was Canaan who violated the privacy and decency of his grandfather Noah.17 Rabbi Saba tells us that when Noah contemplated how to curse Canaan, he decided to forever place him in a subordinate position to all the rest of his siblings and relatives. This meant neither he or his descendants would ever rise to a position of power and authority.18 So in a sense, Paul was saying that anyone who perverted the Gospel should never be respected or given a position of authority in the Church.

This same curse was wished upon anyone who would make an idol, or image, or icon meant to replace God in their worship.19 This is also what happened to those who decided they would try to fool Joshua into thinking they were in need when they were not, and they came because they heard about His God. In reality, they only wanted to keep Joshua from conquering their land. When Joshua found out he called them together and told them, “Now you are cursed. You will never stop being servants, cutting wood and bringing water, for the house of my God.20

1 See Matthew 2:3; John 14:1; Acts of the Apostles 15:24

2 Ernest DeWitt Burton: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 24-25

3 Gundry, Robert H: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Location 155-180

4 Cf. Galatians 5:4

5 Ibid. Gundry

6 Ibid. Gundry

7 See Galatians 1:13; 3:1; 4:12-20

8 Mark A. Nanos: On Galatians op. cit., p 25

9 See Galatians 3:1-5; 5:3, 7-10, 21

10 See ibid., 2:2, 5, 11, 14, 20-21; 3:1-5; 4:11-20; 5:1-3, 7-11; 6:9, 14-17

11 Ibid., Nanos pp. 45, 145

12 Ibid., Nanos pp. 53, 215

13 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 14-15

14 1 Timothy 1:19-20

15 Titus 3:10-11

16 Genesis 3:14

17 Ibid. 9:25

18 Tzror Hamor: by Rabbi Avraham Saba, Translated by Eliyahu Munk, Lambda Publishers, Jerusalem, 2008, Vol. 1, Genesis, p. 168

19 See Deuteronomy 27:15

20 Joshua 9:23

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POINTS TO PONDER

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Siddharta Gautama, known better as Buddha (483-400 BC) a monk and well-known teacher in India and Nepal was quoted as saying: “Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” It is obvious that these are all things that money cannot buy nor can wealth guarantee. When anyone attempts to purchase these things, they will only get imitations.

Psychologists and trainers all tell us that no matter who you are, what your goal is and how you define success, one thing holds true: a healthy body and mind is essential if you want to lead a truly successful life. Even the most influential motivational speakers and business tycoons know that when they get sick they lack the energy and enthusiasm to stay involved with their work.

But Buddha calls it a gift. By that he no doubt meant that while we can maintain good health, it comes to us at birth. At first our parents are responsible for keeping us in good health. But eventually it falls into our hands to continue on. Without this, it will be hard to gain any contentment. Yes, disease may invade our bodies, but we are not always culpable.

But even greater is contentment. Contentment means a feeling of calm satisfaction. One way of achieving satisfaction in life is to separate your needs from wants. As we have been taught, human wants are insatiable. Contentment is not about getting what you want but the ability to enjoy what you have. Be content enough with the person you are so that you seek ways to develop yourself. further You are not in competition with anybody but yourself. Get ahead of yourself, and stop worrying about what others are thinking about you or want you to be. You were not created to be like everybody else! As someone once said: “Contentment will make a pauper act like a prince.

And then comes faithfulness. Faithfulness is built on trust. What does trust mean? Trusting someone means that you think they are reliable, you have confidence in them and you feel safe with them physically and emotionally. Trust is something that two people in a relationship can build together when they decide to have confidence in each other. You can’t demand or buy trust; trusting someone is a choice that you make. But faithfulness to such trust does not come quickly or easily. Building faithfulness requires mutual commitment. The more faithful we are, the more faithful they will become.

When the Bible speaks about good health, it talks about what we take in to maintain our wellness. That’s not only food, but what we see, hear, have interest in. King Solomon says that we should never become egotistical about what we know or think, but have reverence and respect for the Lord and stay away from evil. If you do this, it will be like a refreshing drink and medicine for your body.1 And in another place he says that being optimistic is good medicine, but when we become pessimistic, it will sap our strength.2

And the Apostle Paul asked the Corinthians, don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body…. whatever you do, whether it’s eating or drinking or anything else, do it all so as to bring glory to God.3

And when it comes to contentment, King David told his people to trust in the Lord and do what’s good. Work with what you’ve been blessed with and be dependable and reliable. Enjoy serving the Lord, and He will see to it that you will be given more.4 Jesus no doubt knew of this Scripture, so He told His followers that what they should want most is being part of God’s kingdom and doing what He wants them to do. Then He will give them all the other things you need.5

So the Apostle Paul tells the Philippians that he knew what it was to survive on almost nothing or love with everything. He learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For he was able to do it all with the help of Jesus who gave him the strength.6 And to young Timothy Paul wrote that godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.7

But the Word of God also talks about faithfulness. But mostly, God’s faithfulness. That His blessings are new every morning. He does not use leftovers from yesterday nor does He borrow from tomorrow, they are freshly delivered every day.8 Without faithfulness to God there can be no Christian life. Christianity is based first on faith that God is faithful, then, that through Christ Jesus we can be forgiven and are saved. Our faithfulness is a commitment to adhere to the One God who is true and supreme and to follow His will.

What are the benefits of faithfulness to God? Here are some of the things I read:

To some, perhaps the most beneficial aspect of faithfulness to God would include the fact that the faithful will not suffer God’s judgment. Until our judgment day, there are many other benefits while we are here on earth.

  • Psalm 37:28 – “For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.” (NIV)
  • Proverbs 3:1-2 – “My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart. If you do this, you will live many years, and your life will be satisfying.” (NLT)
  • Proverbs 16:6-7 – “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the reverence of the Lord evil is avoided. When the Lord takes pleasure in the way people live, He causes their enemies to make peace with them.”
  • Proverbs 28:20a – “A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.”
  • Revelation 2:10 – “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested and will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (NKJV)

So we can see that faithfulness is based on one’s trustworthiness. It is ironic that on all U.S., currency the words, “In God We Trust” are stamped or printed. We know that we can trust God, but I’m not sure God can trust us as a nation.

So in response to what Buddha said about good health, contentment, and faithfulness, once a person has all three, then life can become pleasant. But they all three must be genuine, otherwise, like many imitations, they will stop working, the paint will begin to peel, and the veneer will start to fall off. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1 Proverbs 3:7-8

2 Ibid. 17:22

3 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 10:31

4 Psalm 37:3-4

5 Matthew 6:33

6 Philippians 4:12-13

7 1 Timothy 6:6-7

8 Lamentations 3:23

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE

After reading a story that touches my heart, I’ve found a lot of times that the writer wants all glory to go to God so they don’t add their name. But when I find it in a reputable magazine I must believe that they would not publish it without verification. I pray that this story not only touches your heart but increases your faith to believe that God can do anything.

Like any good mother, when Karen found out that another baby was on the way, she decided to do what she could to help her three-year-old son, Michael, prepare for a new member of the family. And when she found out that the new baby is going to be a girl, she settled on teaching him a song to sing to his little sister while she was still in mommy’s tummy.

So day after day, night after night, she teaches to Michael sing to the little sister that he can’t see but believe she’s there. And once he felt his little sister kick inside his mommy’s tummy, he really began to sing loud so she could hear him. And when the labor pains started coming, off mommy and his little sister went to the hospital.

But complications arose during delivery. Hours of painful labor. Would a C-section be required? Finally, Michael’s little sister is born. But she was in serious trouble and Karen couldn’t take her home for Michael to see her for the first time. Then, with the siren howling in the night, an ambulance rushes the infant to the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital, Knoxville, Tennessee.

The days slowly inched by. Michael’s precious little sister keeps getting more and more critical. The pediatric specialist tells the parents, “There is very little hope. Be prepared for the worst.” So Karen and her husband contact a local cemetery about a burial plot. While Karen carried her little gift from God around during pregnancy, she and her husband fixed up a special room in their home for the new arrival. But now, they tried to pick out the right casket in planning for the funeral.

Michael keeps begging his mom and dad to let him see his tiny sister. “I want to go sing to her,” he whimpers. After two weeks in intensive care, it looks for sure as if a funeral will come before the week is over. Michael keeps nagging and crying about singing to his sister. But he may never be given a chance because children are never allowed in intensive care. But Karen makes up her mind. She will take Michael whether they at the hospital like it or not. If he doesn’t see his sister now, he’ll probably never see her alive.

Now Michael is all excited as mom dresses him in over-sized scrubs and marches him into ICU. He looks like a walking laundry basket, but the head nurse recognizes him as a child and bellows, “Get that kid out of here now! No children are allowed in the ICU!” But the protective mother spirit rises up strong in Karen, and the usually mild-mannered lady glares steely-eyed into the head nurse’s face, her lips a firm line. “He’s not leaving until he sings to his sister!’

Karen tows Michael into his sister’s room and stands him next her bedside. He gazes at the tiny infant hooked up to all kinds of tubes, not knowing that she is fighting a losing battle just to live through the night. Then, with mom’s go ahead signal he begins to sing the song he learned and practiced day after day. In the pure-hearted voice of a three-year-old boy, Michael begins to sing: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray.” Instantly the baby girl responds. It’s as though she’s heard that voice before.

Suddenly her pulse rate becomes calm and steady as Michael keeps on singing. “You never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away…” Miraculously, that familiar voice causes her ragged, strained breathing to become as smooth as a kitten’s purr. But Michael isn’t finished, he keeps on singing. “The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms…

Now Michael’s little sister relaxes in as though she’s being sung to sleep. Tears conquer the face of the bossy head nurse. Tears flow from Karen’s eyes as well, but they trickle down over smiling, glowing cheeks as Michael finishes his song, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. Please don’t take my sunshine away.

All of a sudden Karen is no longer thinking of a casket and funeral service, now she’s got the picture of the little nursery room they made for her at home. So the next day – the very next day – the little girl is well enough to go home! Woman’s Day magazine, who published the story called it “the miracle of a brother’s song.” But the medical staff at the ICU just called it a “miracle.”

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