That's the Book: Galatians
The annual preschool bell choir was yesterday. It's one of my favorite days of the year. I love 3 and 4 year olds. I get them. They seem to get me. We do well together. They are funny, smart, mostly kind and they could really care less about all the pretense which can show up later in life.
We have been practicing for today's bell choir for the past several months. Every Sunday morning we go over the rules. Don't touch the bottom of the bell. Two feet on the ground. Big voices. Smile. Be nice. The rules are there to protect us all. It hurts when a wild bell hits a neighboring child's head. And the bells break if you touch the bottom bit.
Galatians is a letter the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Galatia. Prior to this letter, Paul had preached and served in Galatia. Many Gentiles (non-Jewish people) had accepted his teaching about the grace of Jesus to cover their sins and bring them into right relationship with God. The church was born and was growing. Later, Paul heard this church was twisting the new faith of the local people by adding all kids of rules to the faith. Difficult, detailed, depressing rules. The church was being dragged away from the simple idea of following Jesus to a complicated faith with too many structures and requirements. The book of Galatians is Paul's simple "Stop That".
I grew up in the church where I still attend. This is amazingly joyful most of the time because I know their stories and I see Jesus in them. They know my stories and can call me out when I need it. Occasionally this is hard. Sometimes I hold off writing or doing something I know God is calling me to because I happen to know it will offend someone I love. I really like everyone I love to be happy. But increasingly I'm learning the people pleasing part of me has to die.
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Frankly, sometimes I let them down because I'm following ME. This requires an apology. But if my people are disappointed because I follow Jesus I'm learning to be okay with that. Took me a long time to get there. I like to follow the rules. I've learned sometimes the rules or traditions are wrong or outdated or not as important as the people standing in front of me. I like grace and freedom.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live,, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. Galatians 2:20-21
The kids this morning stood up on stage and declared to the believers watching the glory of Christmas. "For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord." The whole reason I teach preschool is not so we have a cute and heartwarming program. The reason I teach the 3 and 4 year olds is because I don't want a single one of them to remember a time when they did not know about Jesus. How much he loves them. How they can be a part of his family. How he is the greatest gift ever given. It's why I bother to write as well. I think Paul felt the same.
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, than an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7
Paul knew freedom isn't the same thing as anarchy. Freedom has responsibilities. It has relationships. But it isn't bound up in a list of rules. I'm free to follow Jesus. So are you.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:13
Before we dug into bell season, we ran through nine lessons with the preschoolers on the fruit of the spirit. This is the most well known section of Galatians. Paul is begging the church to return to a vibrant growing relationship with Jesus and let go of the piles of rules. He's convinced if they follow Jesus with their whole heart the rest of it will work out. We told the kids if you have Jesus in your heart things will start to grow. Good things. Powerful things. You won't have to worry or stress or fight. The lists will be covered because grace grows the good stuff.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5: 22-24
Today was a crazy schedule day. Bell choir, meeting after church, birthday party, piano recital and play practice. Goodness. I showed up at church this afternoon for the last event kinda spent. My friend offered to bring my kid home after practice. Little thing. HUGE impact. An hour to read, reflect and write.
You know what I figured out in Galatians? Loving people is way more important than pleasing people.
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10
It's the beginning of December. I know your schedule is nuts. Take a few minutes and read Galatians. It's six chapters all about the freedom and grace found in following Jesus. Love people. Follow Jesus. Let go of some rules. Breathe. Don't grow weary. Christ is born. What a great way to ring in the season.
If you are used to these at the end of the That's the Book posts you know I think they are a great tool. If you haven't watched one yet - why not today?
Galations - lots to check out. Here is a great visual from New Spring Church
Tis the season for lights and cookies and trees and Santa! Last week we drove our kids down to a fancy upscale outdoor mall to see the schmancy Santa. He was okay. The tree was gorgeous but the mall photographer had clearly not completed her elf training.
A couple days later we went to our friend's pet store Christmas party. This Santa was a gentle, sweet man. Perfect!
(Side note, you should absolutely shop here is you have pets...they are fantastic.
I even got my photo in with this guy. I like Santa. I love the jolly cheer. I like to tell my girls about the first Santa, St. Nicholas and how much he loved Jesus. No Jesus, no Santa.
The next day we went on an adventure down reindeer avenue. It was fun, but a story for another day. However, there was another Santa! This one has been watching his carbs and working out because he was skiiiiiny.
The next day I had the following conversation with my youngest.
4 yr old: Mom. There are three Santas. Two are the same. One was different.
4 yr old: I'm keeping my eye on him.
Smart girl, little cynical but smart. I'm glad she's watching and careful with her heart. After I quit laughing we had a chat about how Santa probably has lots of helpers and how Santa is for fun.
I do want to warn her about Santa theology. You know....where people mix up Santa with Jesus? Think through this.
Santa keeps a naughty and nice list, Jesus sacrificed himself to make relationships possible for everyone. Santa gives you what you ask for, Jesus gives what is best. Santa is fun, Jesus is forever.
My daughter is keeping her eye on Santa. She is watching to see if he disappoints. As she grows up, I'm praying she'll turn those eyes to the real giver of gifts. For He has His eyes on her.
I was sitting in my aisle at church yesterday watching the kid's Christmas program. A two story crafted building stood on one side of the stage adorned with a bright yellow sign "Hotel Bethlehem". The kids sang their way through a cute rendition of the Christmas story. The hotel is staffed by a team of hard working yet slightly selfish people. The guests come from all over the country and sported darling fake accents. I grinned through most of the show.
And then Joseph showed up asking for a room. And just like in the Bible, the hotel manager informed him there was no room.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. Luke 2:6-7
The next song the kids sang stated "We're so so so so sorry, there is no room for you". It was an upbeat little number, cute choreography and a snappy beat. And I totally started to cry.
The truth hit me right there in the midst of our kids' program. I frequently tell Jesus that I'm too busy, too tired, too distracted or too hurting for him. I say it in a flippant and upbeat way. No room for you. Move along. I've got more important things to do. Oh please this Christmas season may I make room for Jesus!
I make room for Jesus when I pray and when I read the Bible. When I listen to his spirit in my life and adjust accordingly. When I'm grateful for His gift.
The sweet storyline bore futher into my heart as a verse later in Matthew scrolled through my head.
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25: 37-40
Practically speaking, I make room when I love other people. When I feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty. Clothe the naked, visit people in prison.
Oh ouch. It's been awhile.
A sweet stable boy in the play snuck to the side of Joseph and invited him in. The rest of the play involved shephards and hotel staff learning about the gift of Christmas. One invitation made room for everyone to see.
I loved this little play. I love the kids involved and their fearless leaders. I loved the costumes and the music. Mostly though I loved the reminder.
I can make room for Jesus by loving hurting people. And so can you. May the world see.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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