So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
I’m frustrated when I try to get beyond the ‘we’re all the same in God’s sight” cop out, and the word-service given to the philosophical acknowledgement of Galatians chapter three verse twenty-seven’s resounding ALL.
I’m afraid we still think in terms of God approving and disapproving of everything, and we assume we need to think in those terms. But are we sure we have to hold opinions on everything, and approve or disapprove of every thought, person and belief?
God’s ALL is not about approval and disapproval, it’s about the worth of people. And when we (Humans, not God) want to make ourselves look better, we first make our detractors look unworthy.
People have been degrading others since the first person accepted slavery as an institution, since politics became a profession, since success or society’s approval, or wealth became the measurement of a person’s worth. And it has seeped into the church and Christian’s attitudes between denominations and believers.
Competition seeps in and we resort to proving ourselves worthy and the ‘other’ not. We tear down effectiveness; analyze to death with emphasis on the negative; and apply what is no longer acceptable in today’s society to yesterday’s actions. We try to prove worthy or unworthiness through approval or disapproval.
But God’s ALL is not about approval. ALL who believe are worthy; ALL have the same value, and ALL can become believers and be redeemed.
And as such, ALL enjoy God’s love. With our actions we judge who God will find acceptable. We make lists of what we agree and disagree with, approve and disapprove of and forget God’s disapproval does not negate worthiness; it reflects actions. God approves or disapproves of actions instead of worthiness.
But when it comes down to politics – church or otherwise – , denominational or personal survival, or establishing reputations in life or business, God’s love goes out the window. We draw lines and we fall back into the trap of approving/disapproving and attacking worthiness.
And so I pray:
God, help us let You redeem our scornful natures.
Help us find the place to stand when we have disagreements of belief and ideas
Without degrading our opposition,
Without assuming our disapproval cancels Your (God’s) ALL..
1 Kings 19:4-8 (NIV)
4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said.
“Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank.
Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
So the Great Elijah had this wonderful experience
With the burning altar when God sent the Fire down and burned everything
Including the Water he soaked the wood with to prove the power of God.
However, in proving God’s power, he made powerful enemies.
And he panicked and ran.
He ended up safe and provided for by angels,
But his spirit was broken.
“The glory days are over,” he says to himself.
“Here I am of use to no one.
I don’t have anyone to serve.
I am of no better than my ancestors who couldn’t remain faithful
To God for more than one generation at a time
Before falling back into sin.
So, God, just take me home.”
No one has to live very long,
No one who has a servant’s heart,
No performer or artist who has ever had a perfect performance or result,
No pastor who knows it is time to turn the congregation over to the next person God has prepared,
Who comes to a low point following the great times of the mountain-top experience,
Can deny they know exactly what Elijah felt in that cave.
“Things will never the same,”
Something deep inside insists,
“Or ever as good the emotional seat taunts.”
We don’t leave God, but we hide out.
In fact we often find God is supplying our needs during the process.
But we are scared the opportunity for service is gone.
The special lift, or heightened communication with God or community
Will never be experienced again.
“This is as good as it will ever get. It’s over. I’ve reached the peak of life.
God, just take me home now, or I am afraid I cannot ever serve you like that again.
And I will fail you, me, and the people I am supposed to be serving.”
This is not just a pity party.
This is the loss of confidence in our ability to reproduce this kind of experience ever again,
“I cannot conceive of things ever going anywhere but down from here time.
Life will never be this good again. And I have many years yet to live.”
And most of it really is true. Life will never be the same
After one of those periods of life… after a truly spectacularly mountain-top time of service,
Service may never again be so meaningful for quite some time.
Relationships may not be as rich.
God nurtures us while we flounder in uncertainty of what comes next.
And before we know something sparks that servant’ s heart.
We find a kind of perverse joy in the mundane…..
As a musician knows the joy of just practicing returns,
We experience life in normal valley as good.
Perhaps the fire on the mountain experiences will never again be part of daily life.
But it is not over.
God is, as he always was, still there – working, prompting, going before us, clearing the way
For the different, new – if not spectacular – thing he is guiding us to.
Quietly we follow.
Gently God leads.
We expect little.
God presence is often just enough.
And step by step we travel through the tunnel of transitions,
And unexpectedly emerge onto a whole new mountain place of life
Made possible by the journey that began when we thought nothing would ever be the same.
So, then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh – 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die: but if by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are Children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs with Christ – if in fact we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified.
I John 3:1
3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
As we celebrate mothers one month and father’s day the next we often study the scriptures Paul writes about us being God’s children.
God is father, and adopts us into the community of the children of God, and joint heirs with Jesus. And if we can grasp that, it changes our approach to God and life. We use terms like Christian confidence and boldness in approaching God and life. And that is good.
We also speak of being like children in trusting implicitly, without reservations, in God’s love. And that is good.
I don’t know about you, but when I was younger, when I was around my parents I sometimes reverted to feeling like a child. And I think that is natural. But as I grew up, my relationship with them changed. And as an adult, the element of friendship entered. I still was their child, I still trusted them, loved them, cared deeply for them, but my maturity was reflected in the relationship.
As I read this scripture, I wondered if our relationship shouldn’t change as we mature as a Christian. And this is not how we normally like to think. We want to remain as youngsters in Christ. That simple trust. That totally true or totally untrue world we live in as a child. And that was good. We don’t want to think about our relationship. We just want to feel. And we set about our lives based on what makes us feel good.
We choose our church, our activities, and service according to what fits our needs to feel fulfilled. As lay people we tend not to ask God to show is where he wants us to serve. That is an adult this to do. Learning to love as God taught us…others come first.
As youngsters, our love is based on what parents do for us, and we gradually begin to understand love is the basis of their actions. We all have seen the conflicts that results when either the parent or child fail to have a healthy view of the love interaction. It is a sign of maturity when we begin to respect who our parents are and learn to love them for who they are.
But in all of this, we remain their children.
As a young person, we are first drawn to Christ because of the things he does for us. As we begin to mature in Christ, we learn to love God because of who God is.
But in all of this we remain God’s children. We just become God’s adult children. But the emphasis the relationship changes. It is no longer primarily about what God does for us. It becomes about the fellowship, the joys of life, and the courage to persevere. And we come to see God at work even when he doesn’t do things our way.
Obviously the child parent illustration breaks down at some point due to age, but no matter the dynamics, we still remain our parents’ children.
And we remain God’s children. While retaining the childlike trust and wonder at the depth of God’s love, we should become the adult Children of God.
Matthew 9:18 – 22 (NIV)
18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.”19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.
20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
On his way to another healing Jesus was interrupted.
On his way to helping someone, another asked for help.
His thoughts were focused ahead to the one at his destination
But as he went he stopped and helped the woman in front of him.
Some became impatient.
Some were puzzled.
Very few knew what was happening.
But she did – and so did Jesus.
Some also have suggested the scriptures at the end of the gospels
That say go ye to all the world….
Are better understood as saying
As you go to all the world, take the good news with you.
On the way to work or play, or eat out or meet your accountant,
One the way to funerals, or weddings, or births, or the hairdresser,
One the way to your desk, or worship, to serve or be served,
Stop and see the person in front of you.
See the person whose stress shows.
See the person who just needs a listener.
See the person who faces a challenge.
See the person who needs something you can supply.
A smile, shared laugh, a pen, a few extra dollars, a word of appreciation,
Your jacket, the ability to pick up a dropped item, a hand to open a door.
A push so someone’s shopping cart, a word of encouragement,
Better yet, recognize the person brimming over with good news – celebrate with them!
As you go along your way,
Take the good news of God’s presence in the world with you.
Scatter blessings and be the reminder things can be different
Remind people all is not negative, cold or impersonal by being personal, warm and positive.
The conversation between Jesus and the woman he healed on his way to another healing
Took but a few minutes – perhaps he had stopped to let someone pass,
Or got slowed down by the traffic and she took advantage of the moment to touch him,
But her courage and his response changed her life and leaves us with this reminder.
As you go,
On the way to the next thing, when you get slowed down,
Don’t forget to respond to the person in front of you.
When they are in need, or reach out – reach back.
New International Version (NIV)
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
It is a fact of nature that big things come from small.
Trees and adults alike start as seeds and embryos.
Songs are often born of feelings, poems of a passing conversation
And many a good marriage is born of a smile.
God help me remember who I am today didn’t happen just yesterday.
Yet what I am tomorrow is happening today.
That seems a contradiction, but life is made up of small steps.
Daily reactions and decisions from the situations you put me in.
Help me be sensitive to your leading in small things,
The way I react to a person, what I say to him or her,
How I decide to act on any given situation
Can begin molding my character and determine opportunities for witness.
Planning and looking to the future are good and necessary.
But help me attend to the sacredness of daily growth.
Give me wisdom to identify and implant the best daily activities
For me to grow into what you have for me in the future.
The speaker told the congregation about a rowing team she was on in college.
The rowers sit with their backs to the goal, facing a person.at the end of the boat.
The rowers’ job is to row, following the directions of that person,
And the person who faces forward guides the rowers to the finish line
In their final race, with qualifying heats over, they finally were neck and neck,
When their guide crashed them into a bridge.
Her text was God’s words “for I know the plans I have for you…”
Using her illustration, God sits at the end of the boat
And we are the rowers who have our backs to the goal.
We cannot see what is coming but the one facing forward, God,
Knows the future and directs us from that point of view
We talk about stepping into the future, facing the future,
But really all we know is the present and past,
So in reality, we are facing the past and stepping backwards into the future.
All we really have is hope, trust,
And faith in someone who will not crash us into a bridge.
Starting with Old Testament stories, through Revelations,
We gain an understanding of how we can expect God to handle our trust.
And if we insist on crashing into bridges, which we sometimes do,
God doesn’t withdraw,
But allows the trouble and then supplies wisdom and strength to endure.
As I consider the past, I can trust that the God who worked then still sees the future.
He still knows the plans for a hopeful future he had for them, us – me –
Have not changed since he first promised Israel’s exiles he had one.
And he will hear my prayers for courage when
– keeping my eyes on him – I step backwards into the future.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray I will listen.”
Vs 8 He said, ‘They are my very own people. Surely they will not betray me again.” And he became their Savior. Vs 11 Then they remembered those days of old when … they cried out “Where is the one who brought Israel through the sea…Where is the one who sent his Holy Spirit..?”
I see a picture of a people,
Having neglected the vital relationship with God,
Have become weary, self absorbed, bent over with cares.
Finally they say to themselves,
“Where is that God who used to be with us? “
God hears, says these are my people. Surely they will listen now,
And prepares a savior.
When the people straighten and look up,
God already has the savior ready to send.
For centuries Isaiah’s words have been acknowledged
To be speaking of the events we know as Christmas.
So again, I see the picture of a people who are bent over
Who are weary with self-absorption,
Troubled at the chasms that have grown up between us,
Searching for new ways to satisfy the old needs that never go away.
And when, or if, we straighten, look up, and ask
“Does it have to be this way? Is there not a better way?”
God has already prepared the answer.
He doesn’t ask us to return to our ancestors’ way of living,
Or an antiquated philosophy – he calls us to return to his presence.
In doing so, we turn from the negative and begin the journey to wholeness.
This time of year most of our moods lighten in the festivity.
Some of us hide behind preparing the season for everyone else,
Hoping for a different outcome that will be more satisfying this year,
While others truely find momentary fulfilment in the preparation.
We all hope to carry the spirit with us into the next year –
But too often when the season is over, the joy goes with it.
So why don’t try something new? – look up!
God is waiting for that first realization we need something more than we have.
Ask, “Didn’t there used to be a different way?”
Let God remind us there is joy in believing he is with us.
Let God remind us he wants to live in us and help carry the load.
Let God remind us when we turn around to look for him,
He is already standing there, his face toward us.
Let God remind us of the name of Jesus, Emmanuel –
God with us.
He has already sent a savior,
But we call it Christmas.
When you’ve been doing the same thing for a while
Restlessness sometimes sets in.
Needing refreshment, you look around at other people’s lives,
And wonder if you need to do something new or different.
In such a state, I went visiting – spent some time in other people’s homes.
And, you know, my life doesn’t seem so dull.
I asked myself how I could handle some of the things they face.
And God let me know what I lacked, and what I had.
I’ll take my stresses,
The ongoing problems, my financial status,
The home I live in,
Even the stain in the bathtub I can’t seem to get rid of.
So, I choose the life God has given me.
I choose my journey with the failures and successes.
I embrace my lack of certain abilities and the talents I have been allowed;
Thankful for the spouse God has given me, and the people in my life.
So, with a deep breath, expectation and dread, hope and worry,
I turn toward the new year.
With another breath, I accept what is, with my failures and successes,
And not yearn for what I do not – or ever will not – have or achieve.
Okay, let’s get on with it.
God has given me things to do, a person to be.
I confess, I do love my life,
And with that confession, I give it all back to God.