I Marvel

Galatians 1:56-7 “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

Pretty strong language from the Apostle!  Twice he repeats that those who preach any other gospel than that which he himself preached  are under God’s curse.

But isn’t that intolerant?  Isn’t that being exclusive, and “my way or the highway”? Doesn’t that show a lot of arrogance on Paul’s part, to believe that he is the only one who has the true gospel?

I love the first two words of this passage, “I marvel.”  Paul was amazed, dumbfounded, shocked, that the people he had so recently brought to Christ through the gospel of salvation by grace through faith would be so quickly turned from that truth to “another gospel,”  which he has not yet named or described. So soon!  With so little time to process what he had taught them, they were already being influenced by those who preached another gospel.

And why was his language so strong as to twice say that the bearers of this other gospel are under God’s curse?  Why, because  that new gospel braided works-based salvation into the gospel of Jesus Christ, and when you start doing that, it isn’t long before the true gospel is perverted, and people will believe they are going to heaven based on their good works. In other words, souls will be turned from the truth to the lie, and souls will be lost.

Satan is always quick to find any weakness, any flaw, and to worm his way in with a lie that is wrapped with  just enough truth to be very dangerous.

In the colonial days of our country, the Congregational Church was governed by a board of men who all had clear-cut testimonies of coming to faith in Jesus Christ  through faith, plus nothing. Membership in the church required the same testimony of its members. Faith, grace. No works.

However, as time went on, fewer people joined the church, which, by the way, governed the colony. It began to lose its original members through death. Their children and grandchildren were not as strong in their faith, and the church began to lose its influence over the colony.  Church leaders, because they were concerned with losing power, came up with the idea of offering memberships to those who were the children or grandchildren of the original members. They were not required to have a firm testimony of salvation by grace; they were accepted as partial members on the basis of their parents’ testimonies.  Thus, the Half-way Covenant.  It was hoped that these partial members would eventually come to salvation and become full members, thereby maintaining the authority of the Church over civil matters in the colony.

It was another gospel. And the half-baked plan of the Half-way Covenant didn’t work very well. Today, those colonies where the Congregational Church had been the major influence have fallen away from the gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ.

It can happen really fast.

Paul’s Greeting

Galatians 2:2-5. “And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia. Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver  us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Having established his apostolic authority in verse one, Paul continued with his greeting to all the churches in Galatia. He mentioned “all that are with me.” One of Paul’s more endearing qualities was his consistent appreciation of those who labored with him for the Gospel.

Grace was the Greek greeting; Peace  was the Hebrew. Paul gloried in the fact the the wall between the Jew and the Gentile had been taken down with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

In verses 4 and 5, Paul emphasized the work of Jesus. Paul always, always reminded the recipients of his letters of the incredible sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  In Il Cor. 5:21, Paul writes that “He hath made Him to be sin for us. . .”   Jesus not only died FOR our sin; He actually BECAME sin.This is a truth that God has really brought home to me during my study in Matthew, and I hope I never forget it. Jesus, while He hung on the cross of shame, actually became sin in our place.  Paul never failed to remind people of that great truth.

Someone said once that Jesus’ sacrifice was like a huge, perfect diamond displayed on a background of black cloth, with the light shining on the diamond to reflect all its facets. I like that picture. My sin is the black background that makes  His death and resurrection so incredibly beautiful.

With the final words To Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen  Paul completed his greeting and now moves on the the introduction, stating his reason for writing the letter.

Friday Counseling Issues: Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is miserable for the one who has it; difficult for those who live with and love the person who has it, and a challenge for the doctors who treat it as well as the therapists who try to give useful counsel.

Image result for Bipolar Disorder

This face speaks to me so eloquently of the battle a lot of people have who struggle with Bipolar Disorder. Robin Williams entertained us for years with his lightning-quick repartee, his energy, his incredible wit and brilliance. Here’s what I want you to do with this picture. He has a half-smile on his face. Put your hand over the bottom half of his face and study his eyes. All I see there is sadness.  Now cover his eyes, and even the smile  is sad.

Since I’ve been working in the counseling field, I’ve suspected that Robin Williams, along with a couple of other popular actors,  had struggled with Bipolar Disorder. He could go from high to low to high in a very short period of time. His speech was often rapid-fire, hard for us to keep up with. Remember him as the genie in Aladdin?

He was a gifted actor, able to do serious roles, comedy, and sometimes both in the same movie. Yet, underlying his gifts, he was a very sad and troubled soul, eventually taking his own life. He was weary of the struggle.

I don’t know if he was being compliant with taking his medication. I don’t know what took place toward the end of his life that caused him to just give up. What I do know, from talking with clients who have Bipolar Disorder, is that no matter how successful they may be, there is a lifelong feeling of not having a place in society; of not feeling they’re just like everyone else. 

We used to call it Manic Depression, because of the highs and lows that characterize the condition. The word manic, however, has been widely misunderstood, and I’m glad the label has been changed to Bipolar.

Manic can cover everything from extreme irritability and violent anger all the way to unrestrained euphoria. Typically, men tend to be more irritable and angry, and women tend to lean to euphoria. That is not true in every single case, of course, but is a general observation.

What is euphoria?  Extreme delight. Unusual energy.  Sleep can be done without. The person who is euphoric can often stay up 3-4 days in a row, never seeming to run out of energy.  It is during these bouts of euphoria that a Bipolar person will max out her credit cards, gamble, shop, indulge in promiscuous sex, talk nonstop, save the whales and the spotted owl, and consider running for President.  When the euphoria passes, she comes down with a nasty thud and often sinks into a deep depression that can last for days or weeks.

The angry side of mania is easier to identify. Anger, belligerence, argumentative, confrontational, sometimes physical acting out.  I had a client who would hurl her grandmother’s crystal glassware when she was manic, destroying much of a lovely collection.  I suggested she go to garage sales and pick up boxes of cheap dishes, put them in a corner in her basement where no one would be hurt, and throw dishes to her heart’s content.  She like the idea.  I don’t know if she ever followed through.

One of the biggest problems in counseling Bipolar Disorder is that the client will just stop coming.  They feel better, they no longer need counseling, and they’re fine on their own.  For a while.

I have a hard and fast rule:  I will not work with a person who has Bipolar Disorder unless they make a solemn problem that they will stay faithful to their medication.  And I always know when they’ve decided to quit taking it.

Next time, we’ll go into the specifics of this difficult condition, and talk about some of the medications that are used to stabilize it.

Paul, an Apostle

Galatians 1:1. ” Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, Who raised Him from the dead).”

When we write letters today, we always greet the recipient by name in the first line of the letter.  In Paul’s day, it was appropriate letter-writing etiquette for the writer to identify himself in the first few words.  What we need to pay attention to here is that Paul calls himself by name, and then uses the appositive “an apostle.”

Paul used this identification only when his apostleship had been called into question by the recipients of the letter he was writing; or, when he is about to expose some great, important doctrine that would probably not be accepted unless  the people understood his commission by God to make it known. Otherwise, Paul introduced himself as a “servant of Jesus Christ,” a bondsman, one who was bought and paid for.

The word apostle means messenger, minister. In this case, however, Paul needed to identify himself as legitimately  connected to the twelve who  were the apostles specifically to the Jews, and later the Gentiles.

Paul was not made an apostle by the appointment of men. He said his apostleship was given to him by Jesus Christ and God the Father. We can read of Paul’s conversion and appointment by God in Acts 26 when he is allowed by Agrippa to speak in his own defence. He describes his experience, starting specifically in 26:13, when he is visited by God upon the Damascus Road. It was quite a dramatic event, and it changed the course of his life. In verse 16, God says, “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee.”

I encourage you to read the whole account.  It is indisputable that Paul saw Jesus; that Jesus spoke to him directly, appointing him to the ministry of apostleship.

Why, in Gal. 1:1, did Paul mention God, Who had raised Jesus from  the dead? One of the requirements of apostleship was that the person must have seen Jesus Christ in person, alive. Those who doubted Paul claimed that he had not seen Jesus when He was ministering here on earth, and so could not truly be an apostle.  The claim is put to rest by Paul’s reminder to them that he had indeed seen the risen Christ there on the Damascus Road.

Isn’t is amazing how much is packed into one short verse?

Law and Grace

This is the subject of Paul’s letter to Galatia:  Law and Grace.  It is a beautiful treatise, coming from Paul’s legal training and scholarly mind.

Law and Grace

The book can be neatly divided into three parts:  Chapters 1-2, Personal;  Chapters 3-4, Doctrinal; Chapters 5-6, Practical.

In the personal chapters, Paul shares his own personal experiences with the Law, and with grace.  In the doctrinal section, he discusses the great truth of salvation by grace plus nothing. The last two chapters are full of the practical, moral, and ethical considerations that arise from a knowledge of salvation by grace alone.

With this short introductory information, I think we’re ready to dig into the scriptures. I’m looking forward to it. Galatians is a rich little gem that should never be overlooked.

Attacking Paul

The judaizers from Jerusalem  not only attacked what Paul taught; they also attacked him personally, impugning his integrity and calling his apostleship into question.

I think it’s pertinent that we never hear the names of these rascals, but Paul is known around the world and through the centuries.

If they were to be successful in shaking the new believers in Galatia in their faith, then they had to shake their faith in Paul. Why, you may wonder, would anyone want to do either of those things?  What did the judaizers have to gain? Was it a matter of authority and control?  Were the judaizers simply untaught themselves? Did they truly believe that the Law still needed to be observed in order for people to obtain salvation?

Probably a little of all the above.  I’m inclined toward their dislike of giving up authority, myself. It will be interesting to see what we learn as we walk through the book.

When Paul heard what was going on in Galatia, he wasted no time in penning a strong reproof, gentled with great love, to his converts.  In fact, he was in such a hurry to write to them that he didn’t wait for an amanuensis (secretary) as was his usual practice, but he wrote the letter with his own hand. Toward the end of the book, he refers to how large a letter it is.  Paul very likely had some kind of vision problem, and wrote in large letters, taking up lots of manuscript. That he did it in his own writing was a proof of his strong desire to help the Galatians get back on track.

Galatians: History, Setting, and Purpose

I’ve been thinking for a long time about tackling both Galatian and Ephesians, so today is the day :) The first two or maybe three posts will give some background, before we actually get into the scripture.

Galatia was not just one city, but rather an area in what we now know as Turkey.

The cities to which Paul ministered in Galatia included Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. It is interesting to me that the people who lived in Galatia are the same people racially as the ancient inhabitants of Ireland, Wales, the Highlands of Scotland, France, and northern Spain.

Paul was writing from Rome, about A.D.68. He had labored there on two separate journeys (refer to the first map above) and had planned to go a third time, but the Holy Spirit led him elsewhere, and eventually to Europe. You can read about Paul in Galatia in Acts 13 and 14.

The letter to the Galatians was written to set them straight on the error taught by those who said they were from the church in Jerusalem, sent by James and the apostolic band there.  In order to understand why the Galatians were so quickly lured into Judaism, we need to remember that they had all been idolators before Paul brought them the true gospel. They were initially filled with joy to have been introduced to the light and liberty of the gospel that brought them out of the bondage of idolatry.  However, old habits die hard, and they fell hard for the judaizers who told them that unless they kept the law of Moses, observed the covenant of circumcision, and the different holy days of the Jewish economy and the appointed seasons, they could not be saved.

Satan is always working to undermine the faith of new believers.  He will immediately introduce ideas that seem to be from God’s Word, and will easily lead new believers into serious error.  In fact, there are many seasoned believers who have fallen for some “new” doctrine that is introduced by a charismatic personality who claims to have a newer, more enlightened understanding of God’s Word than anyone else has yet attained.

What is so interesting to me is that often, this “new” knowledge becomes far more important to Christians than their original understanding of the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ in its simplicity. In actuality, there is nothing new under the sun. Satan just recycles his deceptions  under different titles, knowing how gullible we are and how easily attracted we are to the same old stuff if it’s wrapped in shiny new paper.

Human nature doesn’t change much over the centuries, does it?