What Race Are You Running?

Race Running

Galatians 5:7-12

7You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

We’ve all heard the story of the tortoise and the hare, and that slow and steady wins the race. But how about the great race of the focused and the unfocused? A good example of this would be the Rich Young Ruler found in Matthew 19:16-22:

“Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’”

Jesus answers and lists off a couple of commandments, to which the foolish young man replies:

“’All these I have kept,'” the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’ Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.”

This man was running his race, with his own set of rules of how to win: Cross the finish line with as much stuff, and as much of an appearance of goodness as possible.

He probably didn’t start off his race that way. He probably started off as a good kid, who was learning the commandments, and was eager to make his parents, and his Lord, proud. But as he grew up, he would hear how good he was. And that got to his head. Those little words worked through him, and worked their way through the batch of dough and caused him to crave others’ approval. And he chased that approval by trying to impress others with shiny new things and his good behavior.

Thought for Today: Are you running the race that God has marked out for you to run, or are you running your own race? Cause no matter what race you are running, and no matter how you choose to run that race, there is ONE finish line (death) and one judge who will determine whether you are getting a prize or not.

Prayer for Today: Lord, please help me to be focused on what You would have me do. Help me not to look to the right or left at what others around me are doing or saying. Help me to look up at You for guidance, direction, and approval. And please help me not to hinder those who are running as well, but to be an encouragement that all things are possible in and through  you. Amen.

How to Celebrate Life in Jesus

Celebrate LifeGalatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

For those who have decided to follow Jesus, there is much to be thankful for. A new life,  a second chance, a renewed identity, and peace all come to mind. One of the sweetest gifts we’ve been given is freedom, which applies to a handful of areas of our lives:

  • Freedom from our past mistakes
  • Freedom from the things that have been done to us
  • Freedom from trying to work our way to God
  • Freedom to have a relationship with God

In working His way to us, Jesus gives the opportunity to live freely. For those of us who have struggled with things in our past or the feeling of never being good enough, that’s certainly something we can be thankful for today.

However, there’s a tendency that many of us have. Whether in a moment of weakness, after a hard day, or when we’ve let our guard down, there are times that we choose to be slaves to our past, insecurity, or fears. Sometimes we catch ourselves immediately; other times, we don’t realize our way of thinking until we’ve carried some old hurts or habits for an extended season.

We’re not alone in this. In the Old Testament, the Israelites fell into the same way of thinking, time and time again. There was a time they prayed that God would bring freedom,  and He did. But, not long after being set free, they found themselves hungry and searching for food. In a moment of weakness, they actually found themselves wishing they were back in slavery because they were guaranteed a meal. Think about that—they thought that completely losing their freedom for the sake of temporary comfort was worth it!

Maybe it’s an old, but toxic relationship we go back to. For some, it might be that habit that we kicked that shows up when we’re under stress. Maybe we slip back into thinking that our identity is wrapped up in what we do, as opposed to who (and whose) we are. At some point or another, we’ll make the same mistake the Israelites did, and choose temporary comfort over freedom. That’s why this verse reminds us to “stand firm.” Paul struggled with this, as did the church he was writing to.

So how do we stand firm? Celebrate the life change that has happened in your life. Surround yourself with others who will celebrate with you, but who encourage you to stay on the right path. Let go of the feeling that you have to go from 0 to Jesus Jr. overnight. Lastly, and timely, be thankful. Daily tell God how grateful you are that He loved you enough to work His way to you and give you a second chance at freedom.

Thought for Today:

  1. What are some of the old and unhealthy things that you choose to go back to or believe?
  2. What satisfaction are you trying to find in that thing? Ask God to be the source of satisfaction in that area.
  3. Who can you surround yourself with that can celebrate the life change that has happened, and cheer you on as you take your next steps in following Jesus?

Today’s Prayer: God, thank you for a second chance and for freedom. Remind me of the new life you’ve offered me when I’m tempted to go back to the things that aren’t best for me. Give me the strength to stand firm, and find others that can remind me of truth when I’m feeling weak. Thanks for a day like today—a time to stop and reflect on what we’re thankful for. You’re so good to us. Amen.

How Jesus Offers Us Freedom

Jesus Offers FreedomGalatians 4:28-31

28Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

There are moments when I read the Bible that I must stop and look beyond what I am reading. Galatians 4 is looking at how Abraham decided that it was his responsibility to fulfill God’s promises. In Genesis 21, Abraham decides that in order to become the “Great Nation” that God promised, he needed to have a child through his slave, because his wife Sarah was barren.

Like Abraham, we all can find ways to manipulate our circumstances to see what we believe God has promised to be fulfilled. God’s promise to Abraham was that his descendants would come through his wife Sarah, not through his slave Hagar. Because Abraham didn’t trust God, his son Ishmael was sent away.

In Galatians 4, the Apostle Paul looks back at this event and draws a spiritual conclusion. When God makes a promise, there will always be things that will seek to distract us from embracing God’s promise for our lives. When we get distracted, we miss out on the best that God has to offer. God’s promise for us is that we all have the opportunity to have our sins forgiven, and our broken lives healed when we say yes to Jesus. But, there are forces in this world that want us to focus on our human efforts, instead of receiving God’s gift of grace.

So here is our choice: Embrace freedom that was purchased by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross or try to find a restored relationship with God through our own human effort. Embrace the promise of New Life in Christ or embrace a lie that says we can be good enough on our own merit. What we choose matters because it is the foundation for everything else in our lives.

All world religions want us stuck. They promise freedom, but enslave us in legalistic rules that never give us hope or provide peace. Jesus offers grace. A simple promise that if we will just say “yes” to Him, He will change everything!

Thought for Today: Which promise will you choose?

Do You Trust God’s Leadership?

God's LeadershipGalatians 4:21-27

21Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?  22For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.

24These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27For it is written:

“Be glad, barren woman,
    you who never bore a child;
shout for joy and cry aloud,
    you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
    than of her who has a husband.”

In Genesis 16 Abram (Abraham) and his wife Sarai (Sarah) began to doubt God’s promises that they would have descendants. Rather than trusting God’s leadership and timing they tried solving the problem completely on their own.

Have you ever had difficulty trusting in God’s leadership and timing? How have you been tempted to do things your own way instead of trusting God’s way?

We’ve all been there, including Abraham. The outcomes of our singular efforts always fall way short of God’s divine promises.

Thought for Today: Remember today that God’s desire for you is far more than anything you could ever ask or imagine. He loves you. You can trust Him.

Today’s Prayer: Father, help me to be reminded of Your love today. Help me to see where I am hesitant to trust You. As I choose to lean in to Your direction, would You continue to reveal Your faithfulness to me? Thank You for loving me. Amen.

Is the Truth Your Enemy?

Truth EnemyGalatians 4:12-20

12I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. 13As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?

17Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. 18It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. 19My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!” 

On occasion, my wife tells me things I don’t really want to hear. For example, sometimes I need to hear that my ego has grown out of control. Occasionally, when I do something out of character, I need to be reminded of what I stand for. She’s there for me and I appreciate her telling me when I am off-course. I need that.

That’s what’s happening in this passage. In compassion, Paul is reminding the Galatians of his love for them and warning them about the wolves who have slipped into their camp. There were people among the Galatians leading them to believe false truths for selfish reasons. Like a good friend, he reminded the church in Galatia of the truth he originally taught them and also why they should still believe him.

Paul is shocked and perplexed because he can see so clearly the dangerous path they are on and he wants to be with them to help them see. It’s too bad that the Galatians didn’t want to hear what Paul had to say initially. Paul says: Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?”

Thought for Today:Who’s allowed to tell you the truth? Who in your life would care enough about your future to be honest with you? Those types of friends are hard to come by, but at the end of the day, honesty only works in our lives when we are willing to weigh the feedback and make changes as needed.

What steps will you take today to ensure you have someone like Paul in your life?

Today’s Prayer: Jesus, please bring trustworthy people into our lives who tell us the truth when we need to hear it. Give us wisdom to listen and apply godly advice from friends who love us. May we live lives that glorify you. Amen!

Who Are You an Example to?


Galatians 4:8-11

8Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

There is alarm in Paul’s words here! Galatians, you were once slaves of idolatry, were set free, and now you are turning back to the “weak and worthless things of the world.”   How can you? Unbelievable!

Yes, the attractions of the world are strong.

Every one of us, as freed slaves ourselves, is subject to alluring enticements. Peter’s straight talk in 2 Peter 2:22 graphically calls them “vomit.” Vomit! “What the true proverb says has happened to them. ‘The dog returns to its vomit.’”

I love Peter. He says it like it is. No mincing of words. But shouldn’t we look at the “idols” in our own lives the same way?

We are “known by God.” How frightening. How wonderful, we are not alone. He has His hand on us always.

But there is always a price to pay if we stray toward the “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world.” A huge price in our personal lives and the agony to see our family, friends, and disciples trapped as slaves by our example.

My good friend, John, has shared one of his struggles. He loves sports and constantly guards against spending a disproportionate amount of time watching TV.

Thought for Today: Stop. Think for a moment. Who in your life (family, friend, or disciple) looks to you as an example? How can you minister to them? Pray for specific needs in their lives. You, by praying, may bring blessing that will change their lives, perhaps forever.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5.16).

No Paul, you did not labor in vain.

Today’s Prayer: Heavenly Father, bring to my mind those I can pray for, their specific needs. Especially for my family. May my life be an example and encouragement.


God is a Good Father

Galatians 4:1-7

1I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

The Old Testament offers a lot of names for God: Provider, Counselor, Shepherd, Prince of Peace, Healer, Almighty… Each of these names are significant and relevant, but we’re introduced to a new name for God when Jesus is nearing his death on the cross.
“And he said, ‘Abba Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but you will” (Mark 14:36).
“Abba” is an Aramaic word meaning “father” and is used as an intimate and tender identifier by Jesus towards His dad. Paul reminds us in this passage in Galatians that we are invited into that intimacy that Jesus shares with God.
We used to be slaves to sin, slaves to this world, slaves to the law. But now? The good news Paul communicated to the Galatians still rings true for us today. God sent his only son to redeem us to him, and we have been adopted as sons and daughters of the most high King, and will inherit his righteousness.
Paul later echoed this sentiment in his letter to the Ephesians. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).
Thought for Today: Let us dwell on the fact that we are indeed children and heirs of God, not by our birthright or our own doing, but by the sacrificial love of a good father who has brought us near to him.
Today’s Prayer: Lord, thank you for being a good, just, righteous and loving Abba Father. You are abundantly gracious and merciful. I’m so glad to be called your child. Amen.