Purpose Revealed in the Patterns

Hey Eastgate – this Sunday we’ll be celebrating the communion of the bread and cup – so if you are watching online, you’ll want to have some symbol of sustenance ready, like bread or wine or whatever is available to you. I guarantee it will be better than what we’ll be using in the in person meeting – those tiny cup and wafer things that Matt Greene commented were really authentic because they sort of taste like your really drinking blood and eating flesh. I know you’re all excited to join us this Sunday! yay.

We’ll be continuing in our study of the letter to the Galatians, reading ch 4:21-31. Paul is finishing up his argument against Christians being compelled to follow the Law of Moses – and he wraps it all up with a rather strange analogy…or allegory…or maybe a little of both. He points to the story of Hagar and Sarah and the children born to them as images of people of the promise as opposed to people who work things out for themselves. Paul wasn’t trying to insinuate that the story of Hagar and Sarah had it’s real meaning in the end of the Torah age – he simply saw it as a pattern, and he saw God’s purpose revealed in that oft repeated pattern from the Biblical story.

As you read the text and consider the story – you should also become familiar with the source material from Genesis: Genesis 16  and 21.

What was the difference between how Isaac came to be and Ishmael? What do we learn about how God accomplishes his purposes in our lives and in this world?

In what ways will this affect the way we see this world, God’s Kingdom, and our place in it?

I hope you find this study as interesting as I did – hope you can join us, in person or online via Facebook and YouTube.


Why Return to Servility?

Phew…2020, am I right? Sally did a real number on Pensacola and Gulf Breeze, and the Calvary Chapel out there has really taken a hit. Please visit their website to see what I’m talking about, and pray for them. If you are able, consider donating or contacting them to see if they need help on the ground. They were very generous to us during our struggles in the aftermath of Michael. You can find them HERE.

This Sunday we’ll continue doing our study of Galatians, reading chapter 4:8-20. Paul will be talking about servitude and freedom, and marking out our clear calling to choose freedom. As you read his very first statement in v8 – what does the natural condition of humanity outside of Christ seem to be? In what ways might we see that principle exampled in our world?

Paul talks about how the Galatians were in bondage to idolatry, then warns them that they are heading right back into the same bondage. They weren’t tempted to adapt paganism again…what were they being compelled to observe? What does that tell us about Paul’s view of adding any sort of religious law or code, no matter how good it is, when it comes to our relationship with God in Christ?

V 19 tells us the reason God has set us free to begin with. Paul compares himself to a pregnant woman in labor (he’s clearly one confident dude) – what is it he wants to see birthed – what does he want for their lives? How can we see this become a reality in our own lives? In what ways might we see Christ developed in the way we live?

Please be praying for those affected by Sally…and keep your eyes on the Gulf, the season isn’t over. Hope you can join us on Sunday, either in person or on Facebook and Youtube live!

The Purpose in the Promise

This Sunday we’ll be continuing our study in the letter to the Galatians. We’ll also take some time to pray for the people out west who are suffering through those fires, pray for the people of Louisiana who are recovering from and facing another storm. And we’ll pray for our own county since we are on the bad side of this coming storm if it drifts Eastward.

In our Bible study, we’ll be reading Galatians 3:26-4:7. Last week we considered what Paul described as the purpose of the law – as a diagnostic for the human condition, but not the cure. In this next section, Paul will be outlining the purpose of the promise God made to Abraham. He does this by describing the new way in which God’s communities form around his values. Not by coercion, but as mature humans, united with God.

V 28 is a powerful verse, and many scholars believe Paul is quoting from a hymn or liturgy from the early church. The words, and how Paul interprets them are profound. Paul has expanded what the issue was at Galatia, the demand that gentiles live as Jews, to include the radical way in which the Gospel transforms human community. He is undercutting the whole world’s social, cultural and sexual boundary markers. How do the words of v28 affect you? How would you apply this declaration of equality to your own life, or to the church, or to the world around us?

As we get to chapter 4, Paul places a big emphasis on maturation as the fulfillment of the promise. How would you describe the difference between a child who lives under restrictions mean to keep them safe and a mature adult who knows to make good choices? Which would you rather be? That is the essence of Paul’s point.

Hope to see you Sunday, and if you can’t join us in person, tune in on Facebook or Youtube. Stay safe and be prepared and mindful of the incoming storm system.

The Purpose of the Law

This Sunday we’ll be continuing our study in the letter to the Galatians, reading chapter 3:19-25. Paul has been making his adamant point that the Law of Moses was a parenthesis, not the main emphasis of God’s plan. The question that would naturally come up then, would be: why institute the law in the first place? This will be the focus of this section of the text.

When Paul says, in v19, that the law was meant to show people their sins, what does that mean to you? How does the law accomplish that? How would you describe the difference between a diagnosis and a cure for some disease?

Paul also uses an analogy of a guardian (or tutor or trainer depending on the translation). In the ancient world, a family servant would be assigned the task of educating and corralling a child until he came of age to take his place in the family. The analogy is highlighting the restrictive nature of this time in a child’s life. What analogies from our modern setting can you think of that highlight a temporary restriction until it is safe to lift it?

This section is probably one of the most important passages from Paul’s letters, helping us decipher his thinking throughout all of his letters. It should be an interesting study. Hope you can join us in person or watch our live feed on Facebook or Youtube. The meeting starts at 10 AM this Sunday!

A New Way to Read an Old Story

There are a lot of things happening in our world – natural disasters as well as the crisis of racism and its resultant disasters, all wrapped in the arms of a global pandemic. I know it’s difficult to navigate these troubled waters, but I know that time spent reading The Book will not be wasted and can bring redemption as we learn to live what we read. So, this Sunday, we’ll keep reading The Book – studying the letter to the Galatians. We’ll be continuing in chapter 3, reading vs 15-18.

In this section, Paul continues to drive home the importance of the promise made to Abraham. It might do some good to become familiarized with that part of the story, since Paul certainly gives it a central place in the meaning of the Gospel. You can read Abraham’s story in Genesis, starting with chapter 12 and continuing on through chapter 24. It doesn’t take that long to read it. The most pressing part of that promise has to do with God blessing the nations of the earth through him, by making them his people. That gives us a clue as to the central import of the Good News.

Paul’s insistence on reading with an emphasis on Abraham and not Moses tells us a lot about the Apostolic approach to reading the Bible. Which begs a question: How do you read the Bible? What do you understand the story of the Bible to be about, and how do the stories of the Hebrew Bible synthesize with the letters of the New Testament? Knowing these things go a long way towards getting in step with the message and values of the Bible. I’m someone who is concerned that average church-goers have drifted quit far from the flow of the Divine Revelation – and a robust (and proper) reading of Scriptures could do a great deal of good for our present day, American Church.

I hope we’ll be encouraged and challenged to start reading the Bible well this Sunday. We’ll be celebrating communion, and if you aren’t joining us in person, be sure to have bread and wine or some other symbols of sustenance handy as we observe this ritual together. Whether in person or online, hope you can join us!

The Detour and the Destination

We’ll be continuing our study in the book of Galatians this Sunday – reading vs 6-14 of chapter 3.

Paul moved from telling his own story to reminding the Galatians of their own story, to now reciting the larger story of God’s covenant people. He goes back to the very beginning – to Abraham himself, making an important point about the basis for Abraham’s acceptance by God. What is the basis? Paul’s point is that a relationship with God by faith predates the law by hundreds of years.

Why would that be an important point? What does that mean about the law – how should it be viewed in light of the Gospel? That is the issue Paul is getting at, and what we’ll be considering as we read through these verses.

This Sunday we’ll also be announcing our current list of Micro-Missions – small ministries that advance God’s Kingdom in a variety of ways. We’re hoping that they are a starting point – to join with or as inspiration to start your own Micro-Mission. We’re excited to see where God takes our church!

The Power to Change

This Sunday, as we are able to gather together to learn the skills needed to attend to the mission the Gospel calls us to, we’ll be reading Galatians 3:1-5.

Paul continues expressing his dismay at the Galatian church for allowing themselves to be intimidated into submitting to the Law of Moses. He frames his argument around several rhetorical questions. He first demands an answer as to how this journey of faith started for them, through the law or through faith in what Jesus did on the cross. Then he makes a stark contrast between obedience to the Law and life in the Spirit. One thing you may want to do is go through and notice how often a word gets repeated in a section of Scripture. That will often indicate what the writer’s emphasis is. How many times does the Holy Spirit come up in contrast with obedience to religious laws? What emphasis do you discern from this?

Paul also pointed to their own history as evidence of how God is working in their lives. What are the experiences of grace that you can look back on that reinforce the reality of God’s power to change your life? What are some of the turning points you’ve gone through? What were the circumstances around them? It can be a helpful practice to keep a written record of the many ways in which God has shaped and redeemed your life.

Hope to see you or that you can join us online!

Promoting the Grace of God

We’re having our first in-person meeting at the Eastgate building since March! We’ll still be streaming live on Facebook and YouTube for those who can’t be there.

We also don’t want to forget the important message we considered last week – about our goal to be an unshakable church in this world. We still want to consider the questions posed then: Is my attendance and participation in a weekly church service the main way that I live out my Christianity? If meeting in a building was no longer an option, what would I be doing instead to show the world around me my hope as a Christian? Does our idea of a church meeting need to be restructured to better match God’s calling for us as Christians?  My hope is that we will continue praying about these and seeking God’s guidance concerning our function as a church. We are currently working on a list of the micromissions that are already happening with Eastgate, and others are beginning to develop, which really gets me stoked! If you didn’t hear the conversation last week, you can find it here: An Unshakable Church, starting at the 28 minute mark. I really encourage everyone to listen to it.

This Sunday we will be continuing our study in Galatians, reading 2:11-21.

In this section of the letter, Paul recounts a confrontation he had with the Apostle Peter…one of the very big names of the early church. Paul had been in Antioch promoting the Good News, which is the message of a new world through God’s grace. Peter’s actions in v12 were undermining that message, and Paul called Peter out on it. In the last part of v12, what is the reason Paul gives for Peter’s behavior? If we want to promote God’s grace like Paul did, what do we have to overcome in order to do that?

Underlying this controversy is Peter’s removal of himself from people who were deemed by others as “less-than”. This is key to Paul’s reaction. What does it tell us about the mission of grace in this world? Who are the “less-thans” we tend to withdraw from? How can an appreciation for God’s grace correct that tendency?

Paul, in V19-20, gets to the heart of his position. Keeping religious laws is not sustainable in order to be right with God. What is his focus then? How can we promote God’s grace by sharing that same focus?

I think this will be a provocative study, and I believe we’ll find useful clues as to how we can go about our mission as the church in this world. Hope you can join us, Sunday at 9AM.

Keys to Unity in Diversity

Hey Eastgate – we’re going to continue our study in Galatians this Sunday – and we’ll be reading Galatians 2:1-10.

This section is still part of Paul’s autobiographical statements made in defense of the gospel he preached to the gentiles. One of the major emphasis’ of Paul’s letters is about unity. We have such a propensity to fragment into tribalism as the human race.  As you read over Paul’s words – keep the idea of unity in mind.  In v 2 we read about Paul submitting his teachings to Peter, who was a big name in the early church. Why does he say he did that, and what do you think this says about Paul? What key to unity can we find in his attitude?

In v4-5 he describes people who wanted to enslave Paul and Titus – what did he see that enslavement as being? Why did he not give in to that according to v5? Who was he resisting for? What key to unity might be seen in this section?

V7 has Peter’s evaluation of Paul. What did they come to as a resolution in v8? How would it encourage unity? How can we follow their example as we interact with believers who hold different traditions from our own?

Hope you can join us online this Sunday at 9AM. Also – it will be another virtual communion – so have your symbols of sustenance ready!

The Difference Christ Makes

Hey Eastgate – I trust everyone is staying safe. We had a great time last Thursday partnering with A Hand Up ministry and Truth Fellowship for a pop-up food pantry distribution. A lot of people were helped, and God was glorified. We’ll hopefully be doing that again sometime, it was a deeply edifying experience…despite the face-melting heat.

This Sunday we’ll be having our online only service on Facebook and YouTube – and we’ll be continuing our study in the book of Galatians – Libertas Ex Christo, remembering the freedom we have through Christ. This Sunday we’ll be reading ch1:10-24.

All too often the concept of freedom and grace become misconstrued for lawlessness – living with no moral compass and relying on God’s grace to excuse it. But a careful reading of Paul’s letter to the Galatians makes it clear that Paul didn’t live by that notion. In fact, as we read in our text for this Sunday, Paul has quite a bit to say about the difference Jesus made in his life. As you read over the text, what stands out to you about Paul’s pre-Christian life and his life of following Jesus? In what ways can you observe changes in your own life – in terms of values and priorities – that have happened as a result of committing your life to Jesus?

Far from living any old way he pleased, Paul describes a fundamental re-shaping of his life to the point that people were stunned at his reversals. This will prove to be a challenging insight into his example – hope you can join us!