tug-o-warTug-of-War… The classic game of strength, teamwork, grit and for the inexperienced, rope burn. The game pits two teams against each other for dominance and bragging rights and the satisfaction of dragging the other side through the mud. It has been some time since I anchored the end of the rope but the thoughts bring back some fond memories of the many church picnics and tug-of war competitions I joined as a kid.

The Galatian people in some respects were participants in a sort of Tug-of-War when it came to the truth of the gospel. Remembering that Paul was writing to Christians, imagine if you can two ends or sides of the rope stretched over a line. Faith being on one side and works on the other, each pulling for your attention.  When we read through the letter to the Galatians Paul has some strong words for the people, “As we have already said, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse.” (Gal 1:9). Paul is saying to the people that there should be no contest, there is only one gospel anything else is “variant message” an “alien message” (1:6 MSG).

Paul continues throughout his letter to remind and teach the people that it is through faith in Christ that we are saved, not through the works of the law. He digs deep into the roots of their past and reminds them of the covenant (promise) given through Abraham, a promise of one who will come to redeem us and give us everlasting life through him. Take Paul’s concern for the Galatian people and fast forward generations and centuries to our day and age now, these same principles apply. There are many things in life today that pull for our attention, things that distract us from living fully in life by the spirit.  Like the people of Galatians, we need continual reminders that Christ is the center of the gospel message. When it comes to winning the game of Tug-of-War I am reminded of Romans 8:1 “If God is for us, who can be against us?” I want God on my team.

“To Be Continued…”

tobecontinuedOne on my pet peeves is seeing these three words “to be continued” as they appear across the screen at the end of one of my favorite television shows. There is usually a good reason for it but it really irritates me. I think it has something to do with leaving me hanging on the edge of my seat, I need, well OK, I want resolve. I want to know what happens next. The unexpected pause in the story has to wait for another time.

There is a momentary pause, a “to be continued” when we reach the end of Luke’s Gospel before we get the continued story in Acts. If we read scripture as it is sequentially laid out in our bibles today, we read through John’s Gospel before Luke continues his account of Jesus’s life and mission. Luke’s introduction in Acts chapter one sets the scene for what will be the continued work of the Holy Spirit through the apostles.  Acts 1:1-2 reads:” I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen”. When I read these two short verses my attention is drawn to the word “began”.

I am reminded of the commonly used phrase “to get the ball rolling”. Luke’s Gospel, his account of the life of Christ and his ministry among us is the momentum that moves us to want to continue sharing the same good news that Jesus proclaimed. The “to be continued” in this sense becomes dual purpose; first, Luke continues his story and secondly, we like the apostles are called to move with and maintain the momentum of Christ’s work here on earth. The book of Acts gives us a clear picture of how this work is to be done, not on our own power but through the power of the Holy Spirit. The work that Christ began for us and in us will carry on as described in Philippians 1:6, we need to walk in confidence that He (Christ) will complete His work when he comes again.

Immediately: im·me·di·ate·ly /iˈmēdēətlē/.

timeWe all have an expectation when it comes to time. There are many things in life that we have come to expect with a sense of immediacy. For example, if your waiting more than a second or two for your webpage to load or your search results to return you might be prone to wonder if there is something wrong. What about instant messaging? We send a message, we can see that it was delivered (sometime we can even see when it was read) and for whatever reason we expect a message to come back right away, after all it is supposed to be instant.

The one part of the story of Mark that continues to astound me is when Jesus calls his disciples, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him”. The “at once” can also be translated immediately. Simon and Andrew are two fishermen who dropped their nets and followed Jesus, just like that. We see it again when he calls James and John, “without delay” … these guys left their dad in the boat and followed Him. When I consider these accounts of obedience in God’s call on their lives and their immediate response I think about the significance and priority of the message they were called to teach and preach.

Jesus goes from place to place calling people to follow Him, He displays his majesty and power so that people will believe in Him. He has the power to change peoples lives on the spot. The question I ask myself is is this: how am I living out my calling today? Do I do things for the Lord without delay or at once? These are difficult questions and honestly I think I can do better at listening to what the Lord is calling me to do and follow through on it sooner. Sometimes we really wish that our efforts would produce results in an instant, we can all think of that “lost” person who if they only found Jesus right now would be so much better off. God’s timing in all of life can’t be forgotten; we work in different realities of time and through His leading and in His time He will use us to accomplish His will.