Law Of Sin

First scripture reading:

Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-13

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed,

O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come.

When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.

Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.

By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might.

You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.

Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.

You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it.

You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.

You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness.

The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy,

the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

Romans 7:1, 4-6, 8:1-11
Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only during that person’s lifetime?
In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law–indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

SERMON

Paul began this section of his letter, starting in charter 7, by identifying his readers. “I am speaking to those who know the law.” Who were those who knew the law? Right, Jews and Jewish Christians. It was important to Paul that his readers knew the Law because he was, metaphorically, about to pull the rug from under their feet.

For around fifteen hundred years, the Jews had relied on the Law of Moses to guide them to lives acceptable to God. And now …

Well now I’m going to leave Paul and the Roman Jews story hanging for a moment. I am going to give you a very brief synopses of what I believe, my theology of freewill.

God created humans to be in a close working relationship with Himself. And so he gave the gift of freewill.

Freewill means that we can truly love God by choosing to obey. It also means we humans have the ability to disobey God. I strongly believe that freewill is the only thing which we can truly call our own. And It is the most important gift we can give back to God.

Now let’s get back to Paul’s letter.

The Law, all 613 laws, was, and is, the center of devout Jewish life. It was how to judge their own actions, the actions of others, and even the desires of God.

There were laws covering every aspect of life. The law was the guidebook on how to live a life pleasing to the Lord. If you could put a checkmark next to every law, then you were good-to-go. If not, you knew where to improve. Simple, right?

Paul earlier in his letter to the church at Rome wrote, “As it is written:There is no one who is righteous, not even one.'” That is the truth of the human condition. Even if a person were able to cheek off all 613 of the laws on the list, it was not sustainable. We are constantly stumbling and falling off the path that God places before us. So, if even for a second the light of the Lord were to shine upon us, the cloud of our sin would soon overtake us. That is the Law of sin.

Sounds hopeless, doesn’t it? If we try you live by the law, it is hopeless. Period.

Ah, but hear the good news: when we accept Jesus as Lord and saviour, we also accept that our old sinful nature died. The Law of Moses ceased to have control over us, because we have become something new. (2 Cor. 5:17) “You are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Therefore, brothers and sisters I Christ, we must live as the Spirit directs us. What we are not to do is to live as our self-directed nature guides us. If you live the way your self-directed nature directs, we will surely be eternally separated from God. But if by the power of God’s Spirit we quit doing the sinful things that your bodies desire, we will live eternally. We who allow the Spirit of God to guide us are God’s children. God’s children are not subject to the Law of Sin but the Law of Life Eternal.

Go and sin no more. Amen.

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“Encounter with God”

Encounter with God”

August 30, 2020
(Minister – Rev. Caesar J. David | Union Park United Methodist Church)

Scripture Lessons:

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Introduction.

Today we have a beautiful passage from Genesis that talks about Moses’ encounter with God. We’re all familiar with Moses and the Burning Bush. The word “encounter” has a lot of theological significance that goes beyond what the word denotes. The denotative meaning from the dictionary is: an unexpected or casual meeting with someone or something. It basically means ‘to run into’. And Moses, while taking care of his father-in-law’s flocks, quite literally ‘ran into’ God. And yet, this meeting, as we discover later, was more than a casual encounter because it had ramifications for
Moses’ life purpose and destiny, and in fact for the destiny of an entire nation, or nations. That is what we want to focus on as we talk a little bit about ‘Encounter with God’.

An Encounter with God is more than a distant admiration or an emotional 5 minutes in our life. It’s a ‘moment’ in our history, not just a moment of chronological time. It’s not a moment of emotional or spiritual high. It’s a life-transforming all-pervading and allpermeating experience.

Let’s see a few things that Moses learned from his Encounter with God. It tells about how God is like. When we encounter God or seek to draw closer to Him, we must know that it is the same God we meet today as Moses did that day.

1. Abundance of God

When you look carefully at the passage you will notice that Moses was not surprised that the bush was on fire. Some say that it just appeared that it was on fire. If there was fire then it’s really strange, but then many scholars tell us that in that location mountain fires, trees or bushes on fire was not such a strange phenomenon after all. What was strange, and what Moses went close to find out was why it didn’t get burned up, or consumed.

We know that, for the bush to keep burning it must have a continuous supply of fuel to keep the flames alive. That talks of the abundance of God, the unending supply of his Grace and Love. Our God is the God of abundance.

• Look at the example of Jesus providing for a crowd of more than 5000 people out of five loaves and two fish. The Bible tells us that all the people ate and were satisfied: They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. (Matthew 14:20).
• We also have the example of God’s provision of Manna in the wilderness as His people were on the way to the Promised land.
• Jesus said “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”. (John 10:10). And while that can include material blessings also, those are secondary. What we’re seeking is Kingdom and His Righteousness. Matthew 6:33 says,
“Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you”.

Coming back to Moses, The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, (Exodus 34:6). What else do we need?

Why is it so important to know about God’s abundance? Why is it so precious? Let’s try to understand.
When we think of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), where younger son takes his share of wealth from his father and leaves home. He squanders all that wealth and then finding himself all alone and without means, remembers his fathers who he has wronged. He realizes his mistake and goes back home where he finds that his father had been waiting to welcome him with open arms with everything forgiven. We have often taken comfort from realizing that when we, like the prodigal son, repent and return to our heavenly Father, we are forgiven and welcomed.

Let me stretch the story of the prodigal son a little. What if, the prodigal son, after returning to his father’s house, stays meekly and obediently, and then after a while, for whatever reason, again fights with his father, takes his money and leaves on a second round of merry-making.

• Would you call him foolish to not have learned from his mistakes?
• Would you call him insensitive to hurt his loving father again?
• Would you call him ‘truly undeserving’ because he’s wasted even his second chance?
• Would you say that he hadn’t really repented in the first place if he made that mistake again?
• Would you say that he is a candidate for even more mercy and forgiveness?

Let’s look at ourselves. Have we perhaps done this? Have we stumbled and strayed even after we’ve tasted God’s Goodness and forgiveness? But in our stretched out ‘prodigal son’ story, let’s say that the son really realizes his mistakes, truly repents again, and comes back to his father’s house, what should the father do?

Here’s what our Heavenly Father would do: He would take you back. He would welcome you back, rejoice at your returning and forgive you again! You would bear the natural consequences of your choices, but when you want to come back to His arms, you’ll always find Him eagerly waiting! The caveat is that the repentance and remorse must be genuine. God would know if we’re trying to find loopholes to exploit His Grace!

That’s the heart of our Father God. That’s the limitless Grace and love of our abundant
God – abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. We have other examples in the
Bible like the prophet Hosea who was asked by God to marry a prostitute. Hosea married Gomer who slept with other men. Very crass imagery, but that’s about as real as it happens. God was demonstrating His love for His people although the people were unfaithful to Him (How unfaithful? Hosea 4:12 says that the people of Israel
‘prostituted’ themselves to other gods).

If you’ve made mistakes and strayed away from God a second or a third time and feeling foolish or doubtful if you deserve God’s love, have no worry, if you’re really sorry and repenting of your sins, God’s Grace is abundant. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” God really loves you!

2. A communicating God

That brings us to a second aspect of this encounter that we must appreciate. God called out to Moses by name. God calls out to you and me today. We may not be able to hear it above the din that is around us.

We can be sure that our God is not a concept or an academic construct. Our God is a Personal God who watches over us, cares for us, and longs for fellowship with us.
When we pray to Him, we can be sure that God listens, understands and answers.

3. Simple but profound

Moses was doing his business of grazing the flock on an ordinary day in an ordinary way. This encounter of Moses with God completely changed him and his life. What seemed like a simple encounter and a chance meeting had such a profound impact on all nations and history. We don’t often pay attention to the little, simple and ordinary things in life because we don’t expect to find anything significant in them. But it is possible that the little moments of quietness, simple thoughts that compel little actions, the simple plans made by sincere minds, all these may glorify God. Not every revival begins in a dramatic way. Small changes, little acts of love, small beginnings, small dreams, small, unsteady steps, all these don’t seem like much but can all have a big impact. We must learn to recognize God’s Hand in our day-to-day affairs and acknowledge the little miracles that surround us.

One of my favorite poems is William Blake’s “Auguries of innocence”. I like the way he starts by drawing attention to the profound in the seemingly simple:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour…

And it continues.

Conclusion.

Here are some questions I want to leave with you –

• Where might you encounter (or have encountered) God? It could be an unlikely place.
• Do you realize His abundance of love and faithfulness?
• Does that fill you with joy and hope for yourself and your loved ones?
• Do we take the time to talk to Him and also listen to what He has to say?
• Moses was used by God to free His people from slavery in Egypt. Can we make ourselves available to be used by God to liberate people from slavery to fears, defeat and hopelessness.

Prayer.

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your Love, forgiveness, Grace and restoration. Make us eager to heed your voice and to walk in obedience to your Will and plan for our lives. Help us to see and acknowledge your Greatness in everything so that we may honor you in everything.
In Jesus’ precious name we pray, Amen.

“ Who do you say I am?”

Guest Minister – Rev. Caesar J. David | Union Park United Methodist Church, Des Moines, IA

Psalm 124

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side —let Israel now say—
if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when our enemies attacked us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the flood would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone
the raging waters.

Blessed be the Lord,

who has not given us
as prey to their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,

who made heaven and earth

Matthew 16:13 –20

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the messiah.

“ Who do you say I am?”

In this passage we have a significant moment of spiritual encounter for Peter. (We have here Peter’s confession). Jesus asks his disciples these two questions:

A. Who do people say I am?
B. Who do you say I am?
To the first question they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:14) Some said that he was John the Baptist. They felt that John the Baptist was so great a figure that it might well be that he had come back from the dead.

When the people identified Jesus with Elijah and with Jeremiah they were, according to their understanding, paying him a great compliment and setting him in a high place, for Jeremiah and Elijah were none other than the expected forerunners of the Anointed One of God. When they arrived, the Kingdom would be very near indeed.

To the second question, Peter answers “You are the Messiah”.

The three gospels have their own version of the saying of Peter. Matthew 16:16, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20 variously say “Messiah”, “Christ” or “Anointed One”.

The word Messiah and the word Christ are the same; the one is from the Hebrew and the other is from the Greek for The Anointed One. Kings were ordained to office by anointing. The Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One is God’s King over men.

(Christ comes from the Greek word χριστός (chrīstós), meaning “anointed one”. The word is derived from the Greek verb χρίω (chrī́ō), meaning “to anoint.” In the Greek Septuagint 1 , Christos was used to translate the Hebrew ָ שִׁ י ח ַ (Mašíaḥ, messiah), meaning “[one who is] anointed” – Wikipedia)
It’s important for us to under stand that this question is not just about the identity and work of Jesus Christ, but it is also about the allegiance of the one who answers. Peter’s confession recognizes and affirms Jesus as The Christ or Messiah. And this came from God-given wisdom, not human knowledge. It is when Peter has reached a certain level of understanding and knowing Jesus that he is able to make that confession.

That question is directed at us today. “Who do you think I am?” Who is Jesus to you?

(1 A Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament), including the Apocrypha, made for Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC and adopted by the early Christian Churches. )

Your answer must go beyond the intellectual and the academic.

 Your answer will depend on your approach to knowing Jesus.
 And your answer will determine how much you love and honor Him.

So when Jesus is asking “Who do you say I am?”, He’s asking you “What am I to you?” or “What do I mean to you?”

Let me suggest 3 ways, approaches or levels of ‘knowing’ Jesus that we may have according to the focus or basis of that relationship . We may say that “Jesus is the Christ”, but we may have different things in focus in our relationship with Jesus. Let’s get into a little detail to know what those could be.

1. Relating to Jesus with a focus on only fulfilment of our physical needs.

Jesus is known to many as healer, miracle-man, wonder- worker and so on. It’s possible that our approach to Jesus is limited to having some need fulfilled. It could be a physical blessing of some sort: the provision of something we need, and the removal of something that impedes our perceived happiness.

Unfortunately, that can sometimes become the limited scope of our relationship with Jesus. We go to Him only when we’re in need, or when we’re in pain or when we really want something.

Jesus is not dismissive of such a relationship that is based on our needs. Often our walk with the Lord begins that way. But if that does not lead to a growing spiritual awareness of all that Jesus wants to do in us and through us, then our relationship is limited to a temporal and material one and does not grow enough to really honor the Lord.

2. Relating to Jesus with a focus on only receiving spiritual benefits.

We may go beyond the material and physical to understanding how we stand to receive spiritual benefits in relating to Jesus at a higher level. If the spiritual benefits are the only things in focus in our relationship with Jesus and is the basis of it, we may still be unyielding and selfish in only wanting an escape and an insurance.

Jesus did pay the price for our sins, we have forgiveness and eternal life in the merit of His blood. It is God’s Grace freely given; we just have to receive it. But if that is our only focus in our relationship with the Lord and we do nothing to make that relationship grow or we do not grow in love with Jesus, then perhaps we know Jesus only as an escape hatch. If so, we’re still not at a level of knowing Jesus in a way that brings Him honor, glory and joy.

3. Relating to Jesus with a focus on our unworthiness, His unmerited Grace and seeking to love Him.

This is the level of knowing Jesus with a truly repentant, broken, humble and contrite heart. When we know Jesus and approach Him out of a sense of remorse and sadness because we have displeased Him we will find ourselves most prepared to receive His mercy with the greatest joy. This is where we’re seeking forgiveness for our sins more than any other thing.

Many of us may have experienced that at this level of understanding who Jesus is, we are completely aware of our own wretchedness and we’re not seeking to get any benefits because we know that we don’t deserve any. We’re just craving to say “sorry” and craving the opportunity to express our love for Him because that’s what we want to do the most – to get right with God, to love Him as He first loved us.

It is then that we discover the things that bring pleasure to God and how we can honor Him. It is then that we discover the beauty and true joy of our relationship with the Lord.

Co ming back to the question of Jesus, “Who do you say I am?” We’ve each got to answer it for ourselves. Think hard. Think honestly.
 Is Jesus only a way to get some material benefits.
 Is Jesus just an insurance policy to keep me out of hell?
 Is Jesus my King and Lord – Someone to whom I completely surrender and want to serve and love?

If your answer reveals that you’re honoring God, Praise the Lord! If your answer reveals that you still may not be in love with God, don’t be discouraged. Peter was not able to respond in his own wisdom. It was heavenly wisdom. With more experiences of His love, more awareness of His working in our lives, with prayer for greater understanding of His ways, we will find a deeper, richer and more satisfying and growing relationship with the Lord – We will know about being in love with God.

God bless you.

IT IS A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH!

*

OPENING PRAYERS

Let us take a moment of silent prayer to lift these voiced joys and concerns to God as we also lift those unspoken concerns of our hearts.

O Lord our God, you are always more ready to bestow your good gifts on us than we are to seek them, and are willing to give more than we desire or deserve.

Help us so to seek that we may truly find so to ask that we may joyfully receive, so to knock that the door of your mercy may be opened to us; through Jesus Christ our Savior.

And all God’s people said “Amen”

1st READING Romans 6:2b-23
How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, So we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.

For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death.
But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2ND READING Matthew 10:40-42
Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;
and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

3RD READING PSALM 13
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS

Lord, we who are imprisoned by our sins, have become so comfortable with that imprisonment that we are afraid to come into Your light and into the freedom you offer.

We are like little mice that venture slowly into the light and then scurry back into the darkness.

We are so fearful of change, but we truly want to become the people you intend us to be.

Can we truly be forgiven?

I am the God who forgives your sins, and I do this because of who I am. I will not hold your sins against you.

Isaiah 43:25 (TEV)

MESSAGE IT IS A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH!

IT IS A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH!

In his letter to the Romans, Paul, the Jew of Jews, schooled in the 613 commandments of the Hebrew law, like a good lawyer, hammers away at his point from many angles.

He repeats his arguments over and over.

Here is His main point right up front.

How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

Indeed, if we have died to sin – how can we go on living in it? Why would we want to?

We were prisoners to sin. Why would we return to that life?

Why would people released from prison return to doing the things that put them in prison?

The correct term for this is recidivism. (rE-sid-eh-vism)

I found some statistics about recidivism – that is people who have been released from prison but end up returning to prison.

Two studies come closest to providing “national” recidivism rates for the United States. One tracked 108,580 State prisoners released from prison in 11 States in 1983. The other tracked 272,111 prisoners released from prison in 15 States in 1994.

The prisoners tracked in these studies represent two-thirds of all the prisoners released in the United States for that year.

67.5% of prisoners released in 1994 were rearrested within 3 years, an increase over the 62.5% found for those released in 1983

The re-arrest rate for property offenders, drug offenders, and public-order offenders increased significantly from 1983 to 1994. During that time, the rate increased:

– to 74% for property offenders

– 67% for drug offenders

– to 62% for public-order offenders

The re-arrest rate for violent offenders remained relatively stable at about 60

Overall, reconviction rates did not change significantly from 1983 to 1994.

Among, prisoners released nearly 47% were reconvicted within 3 years

Among drug offenders, the rate of reconviction increased significantly, going from 35% in 1983 to 47% in 1994.

The 1994 recidivism study estimated that within 3 years, 52% of prisoners released during the year were back in prison either because of a new crime for which they received another prison sentence, or because of a technical violation of their parole.

Why?

One theory has to do with how people “see” themselves – their identity.

Identity develops through the application and adoption of labels.

Labeling theory argues that people develop as a result an identity forced upon them and then adopting the identity, or by self adopting an identity until that identity is accepted as their norm.

People are creatures of habit. Over time we become comfortable in whatever situation we are in.

For example, abused spouses often stay with the abusing spouse even when given an opportunity to safely leave.

Sexually abused children often grow to be sexually abusive adults.

As another example of how we become comfortable in our surroundings; several years ago a group of us went to the Appalachian mountains on a mission trip.

This is coal country. And the mines are mostly closed.

Real unemployment is around 80%. By REAL I mean not the unemployment rates reported by the government which only tracks those who are drawing unemployment benefits.

Because once the benefits have run out, they are no longer counted – even though they are still unemployed.

At any rate, we discovered that many children who grew up in the area would leave, once they became adults, and seek employment elsewhere.

That seems understandable to me.

However, the majority of these people would quickly leave their jobs and return to the area where the odds of finding another job were nearly nonexistent.

Why?

Because it was HOME. It was what they were conditioned to accept as normal.

Paul is making his argument that “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin.”

This is a sudden and radical identity change that Paul is talking about.

And Paul knows something about radical identity change,

Remember Saul the Jewish zealot who hunted down the Christian believers.

This Paul, who was knocked to his knees and blinded by the light of Jesus Christ, is arguing that once we are baptized into Christ, we are dead to sin. That is, that sin no longer lives in us.

The death Christ died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Here he is exhorting us to “live the change” that has occurred in us. He recognizes how easy it is for us, who have been freed from sin, to willfully return to it.

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness,

Don’t put yourself in harms way. As an example: If you have a weakness for drink, stay away from places where you find drink. If you have lust in your heart, avoid the things that trigger the lust.

Whatever your weakness is, let the Spirit heal you and then don’t pick at the scab!

Then “present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.

Take those areas of weakness and give them to God and He will turn them into tools for His kingdom.

Notice here that he is saying that Christ has done His part.

Now it is time for us to do our part.

Avoid the things we used to do.

And not just avoid the OLD but embrace the NEW, to become obedient to the will of God.

As he puts it, ”You are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”

Here he gives thanks to God “that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”

Paul now asks us to consider our two paths – the old and the new – and what lay at the end of each of those paths.

“When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

That means that when we were living in sin we could do anything we wanted without regard for the law – because we were already “law breakers”

So, he asks, “So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death.

Have you ever had someone say is essence that “I’ll live this life the way I want and then when I come near death, I’ll repent and be saved?”

Why?

Why would you want to continue down the path of destruction when you could be in fellowship with God?

Do people really think that the Devil throws better parties than God?

He doesn’t!

The Devil’s parties are just slow ways of destroying your body, your mind and of course your soul!

Here is the good news,now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.”

Once my heart was heavy with a load of sin. Jesus took my burdens and gave me peace and joy within my heart and now I’m singing as the days go by. Jesus took my burdens all away.”

I don’t have to walk this road alone.

I don’t have to carry these burdens alone.

His yoke is easy because He does most of the work.

I no longer need to fear the future. Because even when hard times come, my savior is near.

Yes, the road of righteousness is hard at times.

But so is the road to destruction and there is no help on that road,

just the Devil goading you on while he laughs at you.

Paul says,For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”

Paul makes it very clear that the our choices are to go back to our old sinful ways and be dead to God, or to live the new life, purchased for us by Jesus Christ and given as a free gift of God, and be in eternal fellowship with God.

Which identity we choose is up to us.

Life or death.

Which path will you follow?

Let us join together in this version of the Lord’s Prayer.

THE LORD’S PRAYER Matthew 6:9-13

from “The Message”

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

The affirmation of saying Yes Yes Yes. Seemed strange to me. But that is what Amen is – an affirmation. As a child I thought it meant “over and out – end of transmission” But it more closely means “Make it So” Where ever He leads me Make it So!

DISMISSAL WITH BLESSING

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
Amen.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
Amen.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
Amen.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
Amen.

And the Blessing of God, who Creates, Redeems and Sanctifies, be upon you and all you love and pray for this day, and forever more.
Amen.

FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION

Paul’s Letter to the Romans is “Christian Theology and Ecclesiology, 101”

Romans 6:12-23 leads those of us influenced by American Reformed Evangelicalism to familiar territory, part of what’s been called in some evangelistic tracts, The Roman Road. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

This is a true and powerful text in its own right, even extracted from its proper context as most “Roman Road” presentations use it. But what Paul has offered us in these words in the context of Romans 6 is a much richer description of life in the body of Christ.

And an important part of the context of these words is not just the words on the page, but the religious and cultural assumptions that come with them. In Paul’s day, any notion of a sharp separation between ritual actions in community and the life of that community was unthinkable. Ritual life was not virtual life; it was real life in its most basic forms expressed ritually.

That is why Christians and Jews objected so heartily to idolatry and the worship of other people or gods, because for them, the ritual itself declared either non-reality (there are no other gods) or reality distorted (the god portrayed is a false one). This also meant that if there were a disconnect between what was expressed in a community’s ritual and how the people who celebrated it actually lived, the ritual was not the problem. The problem was failure to live the reality the ritual declared and embodied.

The ritual in question in this section of Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome is baptism. Baptism happens to us and changes us. We have been buried with Christ in baptism, and raised with Christ in baptism to walk in newness of life, Paul says earlier (verse 4). If indeed we have been buried with Christ in baptism, we are actually dead to and freed from sin. If indeed we have been raised with Christ in baptism, we are actually freed from the power of death.

The key word here is “freed.” Just as a captive is set free from bondage, so we have been set free from sin and death. The captive set free is not thereby authorized to do whatever he or she wants, but rather to live lawfully, as a dutiful servant to the law among the people once again. Likewise, those freed from sin and death are not thereby authorized to live any way they please, but rather to live righteously as dutiful servants to righteousness in the communion of God and the saints on earth and in heaven.

Here’s the heart of Paul’s analogy in these verses. What former captive in his or her right mind would attempt to live lawlessly after being freed from captivity, unless the condition of captivity has become “home”? Likewise, given that we have been freed in baptism from sin and death, why would we give ourselves to the ways of sin and death again, rather than submitting to the righteousness of God in which we now stand?

Given the baptismal vows that have developed from the earliest centuries we might ask some more pointed questions. If we have been given grace and power to renounce the forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, repent from sin, resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves, why do we seem so timid and powerless in the face of these things around us? Is not our timidity a sign that we have resubmitted ourselves to sin and death, rather than, as the vows continue, to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in union with his living body, the church?

Trouble! You Will Have Some

Trouble! You Will Have Some

1st Scripture Reading:

Jeremiah 20:7-13

“O LORD, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, “Violence and destruction!”

For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.”

But the LORD is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.

O LORD of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers

Responsive reading: Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18

It is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face.

I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children.

It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.

When I humbled my soul with fasting, they insulted me for doing so.

When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.

I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.

With your faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress–make haste to answer me.

Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies.”

Gospel Reading:

Matthew 10:24-39

A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Message:

Trouble! You Will Have Some!

Many non-christians think that by being a Christian you have no troubles. Unfortunately, many Christians seem to think that, by being a Christian, they should have no troubles. Their voices raise to God, “Why me, Lord? I’ve been good and faithful to you. Why am I attacked, day and night?”

Why are we made to suffer through (insert your own trouble here.) I’m going to stop talking for a moment. During this silence, look into your own life a see the things that are troubling you.

  • Death past,present, or impending death

  • Sickness and injuries

  • Financial worries

  • Social issues, both personal and global

  • Marital turmoil

  • Unconfessed or hidden sin

It is important to remember that this is no longer the perfect world that God created for us. That world became broken with the first sin.

Also remember:

1 Corinthians 10:13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”

Saint Paul knew something of pain and suffering. He was beaten, run out of town, cursed, lied about, and thrown into prison. And yet, he was not broken. For he knew, “those who lose their life for (Jesus’s) sake will find it.

Just as some Christian believe that their life in the faith should provide them a trouble free life, there are far to many Christian who do not like the militaristic tone of Jesus’s message here. They are quite willing to accept Jesus saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

However,they are disturbed when they read Jesus saying, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Jesus, the man of love and peace, wielding a sword? I can’t quite imagine it. The same teacher that taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43-45)

The same teacher that taught, “Love your enemy,” now says, “one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”

And why are our enemies in our own family? Jesus said, “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Please, friends, don’t tell me that you are unaware that we are in a war. Since the garden of Eden a battle has been raging. God and his angels have been working to repair that which was caused by that Old Deceiver when he tempted Eve to eat of the one tree that God had expressly forbidden.

In the letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 12, we read, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Jesus knew where the true battle was being waged, in the heart, mind, and soul of every human being, past, present, and future. As a consequence of this struggle, in and for the very souls of humanity, families will be torn apart. Jesus knew that not everyone was ready to accept the gift he was about to provide.

The law and the prophets had provided a bridge over the chasm that mankind created between themselves and God.

Jesus knew that his sacrifice was about to fill and seal that void. He also knew that not all would accept the gift, indeed they would fight believing and accepting that gift. He knew that those who carried the Good News of freedom from sin would be reviled, beaten, and abused by family and friends. This was his warning to his followers.

He knew that, just as he was to suffer and die at the hands of those who hardened their hearts against the eternal life saving miracle of freedom from sin, … just as he suffered, his followers would also.

We live in a time and place where we will likely never be beaten or killed for our belief. Do not be fooled into thinking that the battle has been won. Lack of outward resistance should never be considered as acceptance.

Ask yourselves:

  • Do I daily immerse myself in the word of God?

  • Do I praise Him daily?

  • Do I pray open, honest, heartfelt prayers?

  • Do I listen and look for God’s guidance?

  • Have I :

  1. Fed the hungry?
  2. Given. drink to the thirsty?
  3. Welcomed a stranger
  4. Clothed the naked
  5. Comforted the sick?
  6. Visited the imprisoned?

In short, have you caused trouble for the devil today?

Is the Spirit of the Lord prompting, pushing, demanding that you speak his message? Can you, along with the prophet Jeremiah, say, For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”

If there is no burning fire within you, then you need to fan those God given embers into flame.

Look again at Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18

It is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face.

I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children.

It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.

When I humbled my soul with fasting, they insulted me for doing so.

When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.

I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.

Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies.”

David knew, Jeremiah knew, and Jesus knew, when you earnestly seek to do the will of God, troubles will follow you. I would go so far as to suggest that, if the evil one isn’t causing troubles in your life, it may be because you aren’t troubling him.

Don’t go out breathing hellfire and brimstone. Go into all the world sharing the Good News of the victory in Jesus with everyone.

Go forth, Christian, not to give them hell, but to give them heaven.

Here ends the message.

Also visit my other blogs

  • Tom and Ella’s Daily Journal of Our Lives

http://TomAndEllaJournal.com

  • Visit my devotions blog new devotions every day (nearly)

“His Eye is on the Sparrow”

“His Eye is on the Sparrow”

Guest Minister

Rev. Caesar J. David of Union Park United Methodist Church, Des Moines, Iowa

Scripture Lessons:

  • Genesis 21:8-21

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac.

<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-523a” data-link=”[So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-523a” data-link=”[ <sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-523a” data-link=”[The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son.<sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-523a” data-link=”[ <sup class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NRSV-523a” data-link=”[But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt

  • Matthew 10:24-39

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master;it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

  • Introduction

As we read the story of Abraham in the Bible, it’s like an intricately woven drama. I don’t know what kind of drama you might enjoy on television, but the one that unfolds here is of the kind that keeps you glued and instructed.

Just to give you a recap of what happened in Abraham’s life in the period we’re studying, here’s what happened.

Abraham’s story began with his call, when his name was Abram. God told Abram, “Now Yahweh said to Abram, “Get out of your country, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you” (12:1-3). God’s promise to make of Abram a great nation implies that Abram will have a legitimate heir.

Abram (later Abraham) was 75 years old at the time of his departure from Haran (12:4). He was married to Sarai (later Sarah), but they had no children—and at their age they had no reason (except God’s promise that he would make of Abram a great nation) to believe that they would ever have a child.

Later, God said, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” But Abram said, “Lord, what will you give me, since I go childless, and he who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” (15:1-2). God responded, “This man will not be your heir, but he who will come out of your own body will be your heir. Look now toward the sky, and count the stars, if you are able to count them. So shall your seed be” (15:4-5). This promise is very specific. Abram will have a child—a legitimate heir.

But Sarai, in anguish because she had been unable to bear children for Abram, told him to go in to her slave-girl, Hagar, so that Hagar might bear a child for him (16:2). (This is where Hagar enters the picture). She had grown weary of waiting for God to keep his promise to Abram, and felt a need to take matters in her own hands. Abram did as she asked, and Hagar conceived a child.

Hagar then began to look with contempt on Sarai, who complained bitterly to Abram (16:5). Abram told Sarai to do as she would with Hagar, and Sarai acted so harshly that Hagar ran away into the wilderness (16:6). An angel found her there and told her that she would bear a son who would have so many descendants that they could not be counted. The angel told her to name her son Ishmael (Hebrew: yismael -”God hears”).

Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born to him, and 100 years old when Isaac was born. This means that Ishmael was 14 years old when Isaac was born.
Sarah is angry that they were playing (as equals). Some scholars say that the teenager Ishmael was mocking or taunting or teasing toddler Isaac.
Whether provoked by innocent play or spiteful mocking, Sarah demands that Abraham do something about it. What is her idea? To cast out Hagar and Ishmael. Yes, to throw them out of the house. They’re left to face a harsh wilderness environment. At best, they will suffer deprivation. At worst, they will die.

I want to focus on 3 characters here – Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael. I see these things happening to these characters. They happen to us even today. And we can look at them to draw our strength and comfort that God loves us even though people can’t or won’t.

1. A man (Abraham) who is unable to provide for or take care of his child.
2. A woman (Hagar) who felt used and was cast aside.
3. A child (Ishmael) who felt rejected and unloved.

1. Abraham – A man who is unable to provide for or take care of his child.

Let’s look at Abraham first. Abraham loves Ishmael, and does not want to dismiss him and his mother. He also has a responsibility to his son—and to Hagar, for that matter. “The thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight on account of his son” (v. 11).

Like Abraham who had to drive out Hagar, there are some amongst us who aren’t able to take care of their families for several reasons. There’s no denying that some may not be taking their responsibilities as fathers seriously because they just don’t care, or are selfish, but there are several that are also victims of circumstances. In many cases, others have stepped in to play the role of fathers (by adoption or other ways of caring and love) in our lives and we should be grateful for God’s provision – like God Himself provided for Hagar and Ishmael

God assures Abraham that God will make a nation of the son of the handmaid Hagar also. (“I will also make a nation of the son of the handmaid, because he is your seed” – v. 13).

2. Hagar – A woman who felt used and was cast aside.

Let’s look at Hagar next.

Hagar who is an Egyptian slave girl who is unwittingly brought into the drama of the story. When Hagar is thrown out into the wilderness to fend for herself and her child, I want you to imagine how she must have felt.

• Alone
• Helpless
• Directionaless
• Wanting to die but needing to live for her boy
• Useless-
• Rejected
• Unloved

• Used

Have you felt like that? Used and cast aside?
It’s more prevalent than we’d like to admit: Fathers working hard and providing for their families can feel unappreciated and used when their family only looks to him for the provision but doesn’t care for what he has to get through to keep the bread on the table. He may wonder if the family even cares for him as long as he brings home the bacon.

Today is father’s day. With a special focus on fathers, please spare a thought for the fathers who have, and who do even now, sacrifice so much for the family with no concern for themselves, hiding their own desires or pains and being satisfied to see a smile on the family members’ faces. If you’re fortunate to have your father with you, spare a thought for your father, spare some time to let your father know how much you love him and appreciate what he does.

It’s not only the men folk. Sometimes, the woman of the house is busy taking care of the house – husband and children – caring for their needs and the needs of the home to the exclusion of her own and gets taken for granted, and she may feel used.

Don’t let your loved ones feel used! Express your love and appreciation!

Hagar was cast out by people that used her. She must be feeling worthless and insignificant. She’s sitting in the wilderness away from her son because she knows that they’re both going to die, and she cannot bear to see her son die. At that time, when no one cared for Hagar, when no one cared whether she and her son lived or died, when no help was available, God answers her helpless cry!

Genesis 21:17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.

God provided water for Hagar and her son. He didn’t let them perish in the wilderness. God especially loves those that are cast out and cast aside – The Bible mentions these categories of people very often – widows, orphans, strangers, foreigners. Even in the ministry of Jesus we clearly see that God has a special concern for those that are used and/or tossed aside by society.

3. Ishmael – The child who was felt unwanted and rejected.
Thirdly we take a look at Ishmael who must have felt so unloved, unwanted and rejected. What a horrible feeling! He was, from his own perspective and experience, rejected by his father and driven out of a place he called home for more than 15 years. For what fault of Ishmael, was he thrown out to die?

I think he is like millions of people today who seem to have no exceptional beauty or skill or all those things that the world loves to glorify and admire. I wonder if sometimes our children have these feelings of self-doubt when, because of parental and societal pressure to perform, they may find that they don’t seem to measure up to expectations of them, and may experience rejection or even conditional love. I’m also wondering about the many categories of people who face such violent attitudes and made to feel like they don’t belong, like they’re not wanted, like they’re not fit to live, and no one would care if they do or don’t.

People may not care for us, but God does. God saved Ishmael and his mother that day and blessed him also. (Genesis 21:18 “Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.”). Ishmael grows up under divine protection, becomes an
expert bowman, marries an Egyptian woman, has twelve children and becomes the father of a great nation himself just as God promised.

Conclusion
From all of this we must feel comforted and assured that God cares for us. God loves us. Say: “God loves me”. That’s the affirmation we need to keep making because we all go through these times when we feel that the world is a cruel place. People’s love, no matter how close we are, even within the family, has limitations. Sometimes, people may love us, want to help us, but may not be able to, for many reasons.

Our New Testament reading from Matthew 10, although relating mainly to the context of persecution, gives us this important indication of Gods’ love: that we are valuable, we are precious in His sight. That passage says that God values even the sparrows that are sold five for a penny, how much more must God value us! Like that beautiful song says:

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
for his eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.

There is another beautiful expression to prove how intimately God knows us and cares for us. Matthew 10:30 says, “Even the hairs on your head” are counted!

The message is not just about nations and tribes; it’s about people, about individuals, about us. We need to know that God sees the limitations of a father, the tears of an outcast woman and an abandoned child. We need to know that God hears us when we feel forsaken, forgotten, confined, unloved, unwanted and rejected.

People may use us or disappoint us, but God will always love you.

Let me end with this beautiful verse from Isaiah 49:15 which shows how much God loves you. It says “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

________

Also visit my other blogs

  • Tom and Ella’s Daily Journal of Our Lives

http://TomAndEllaJournal.com

Good Man or Godly Man?

First Scripture: Joshua 1:7-8
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.

  • Sermon “Good Man or Godly Man?”

For those who may not know me. Or know me only as Santa, My other name is Tom Williams. I’ll be your sermonizer today.

So, thanks for letting me lead a conversation with you.

Let us pray

Lord, I invite you into this service. Take control. Open my mouth to speak your words.

Open their ears so that, no matter what I say, they will hear you speaking to them. Amen.

Hear these words from

Philippians 3:5-11

(I, Paul, was) circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ,

the righteousness from God based on faith.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,

if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

I have a problem y’all. If you have attended church for a while you have heard this section of scripture read and preached on before … several times.

But, if each of you promise to pay attention to the sermon, I’ll do my best, with the Spirit’s guidance, to give you something new to chew on. Okay?

As Jesus often did,

I’ll start with a story:

A man, tattered and torn, enters the church doors. He’s dirty and disheveled with a back bent under with the weight of the world.

His eyes and cheeks sunken from the years of abuse of alcohol, drugs, and fleshly desires. He hasn’t eaten in days. The money, for which he has panhandled, has been spent on his last fix.

Those drugs are now decaying in his system and he is sick beyond imagination.

This wretched man, holding himself upright by leaning along the wall, makes his way past the glares and stares of the neatly dressed people gathered in the foyer and enters the sanctuary.

Not wanting to be more of a spectacle than he already is, he looks for a spot near the back.

But since this was a normal church, on a normal Sunday…

… all the rear pews were already filled,

so he just slides down the back wall, to sit crosslegged on the floor, stooped over, and head in hands.

(You still with me?

Good!)

Another man enters the church. His head is held high. He strides purposefully into the foyer. He greets people by name, shaking their hands and clapping them on the back.

He is smartly dressed, as befitting his station in the community. He is a business man with income in the mid to upper brackets.

He was raised in the church and is on several of its committees. He is faithful with his donations. He is happy to push a mower, pound a nail, or paint a wall in and around the church.

He is a good husband and father who habitually attends worship service, most Sundays, unless away on vacation or business.

He enters the sanctuary and sees the man slumped to the floor. He looks around and sees all eyes are upon him.

(Big drum roll here … we are nearing the BIG FINISH. I hope y’all haven’t jumped ahead in the story)

He walks to the man on the floor and extends his hands to help him to his feet. Then he guides him to his pew, … the same pew where he and his family have sat for years.

Y’all got the picture in your head?

Can you imagine this happening in this church?

I can.

Now, What do you think,

which of these two men is to be pitied the most?

Some might say the man, who has been called “a waste of skin.”

Certainly it couldn’t be the church goer, for he clearly is a good man. Right?

Now, which is most in need of salvation?

Okay, Okay, that was a trick question. Both of them

… and all of us are in need of salvation.

But here comes the twist … Jesus’s parables all had a twist … and so does this one.

Though the tattered man is so far down that he can sink no lower, he stumbled into this holy place knowing he needs God.

Whereas the good man has never felt the need for God’s salvation. He has always been a good man.

He pays his dues to the church and works joyfully for the church.

There is a problem here, he does it for the church … not for the Lord he does it for the recognition of his fellow church goers.

Having been raised in the church, he has adopted the language, customs, and world view of the church.

He thinks he has become a Christian by being a good man.

Though he calls himself a Christian, he has never felt the need to face his own sinfulness and ask for forgiveness.

Nor has he given the control his life over to God. To make Jesus both Savior and Lord of his life.

This is were Saul found himself. Let’s hear what he wrote.

As Paul’s mostly Jewish Christian listeners heard the letter read to the congregation in Philippi, I can almost see them smiling and nodding in agreement with what this good Jewish man had just said.

  • circumcised on the eighth day (circumcision was a token of the covenant made by God with Abraham and his descendants an “everlasting covenant”(Genesis 17:13 “))

  • Descendant of Israel (the patriarch also know as Jacob, who wrestled with God)

  • From the tribe of Benjamin (Benjamin was the last-born of Jacob’s twelve sons. He was the progenitor of the Israelite Tribe of Benjamin.)

  • Paul was a pure-blooded Hebrew (The Talmud holds that a marriage between a Jew and a non Jew is both prohibited and also does not constitute a marriage under Jewish law. However, Paul’s lineage was pure)

  • He was a Pharisee (The Pharisees were a strict social and religious movement in Judaism which asserted that God could and should be worshipped even away from the Temple and outside Jerusalem. To the Pharisees, worship consisted not in bloody sacrifices — the practice of the Temple priests — but in prayer and in the study of and adherence to God’s law.)

  • Enthusiasticly he followed the strictest laws (The Pharisees’ ultra strict interpretation of the law is one of the things that Jesus railed against, calling them blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. He also accused them of giving a tenth of their spices (as a tithe), but of neglecting the more important matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness)

  • Saul was perfect in keeping Jewish laws (he had done as the prophet Joshua had said to do in the scripture that we read a few moments ago, “be careful to do according to … all the law . Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”) (Joshua 1:7-15 ESV)

Paul, when he was still called Saul, was assured of the promise of the Law. Obey the Law “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Notice that the only thing that the Law can promise is,

if … do not let that tiny word IF go un-noticed.

The promise of the Law was conditional IF you do ALL that the Law commands, THEN life on this world will be great for you.

So Saul was perfect, when it came to winning God’s approval by keeping Jewish laws and expected to profit and succeed as promised.

It wasn’t until he had a very personal, dramatic, life-changing encounter with the risen Jesus, that he learned that whatever rewards he might treasure on earth, paled in compairence with rewards he could expect in heaven.

Perhaps in some of his attacks on Christians, he came across the teaching of Jesus “Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal.

Though Paul had done all that he … humanly … could to win God’s approval, by keeping Jewish laws, he realized that it was all … I can’t say that word in church, S.H.I.T. Yes, that is the literal translation of what he wrote.

To not offend modern readers, nicer words were used to translate: loss, trash, garbage, refuse, worthless or dung.

I’m sorry, but by “cleaning” the language, we lose the power of Paul’s intent. He intended his readers to be shocked by his comparison.

Paul wrote, reminding his readers how perfect he was under the law.

And then … and then, he wrote the most unimaginable thing, his whole life and accomplishments were all … all … EXCREMENT compared to life in Jesus the Christ. He was glad to give it all away.

As a pure-blood Hebrew and as a zealous follower of the strictest interpretation of the Jewish laws, Saul had sought to win God’s approval. But it didn’t work. It couldn’t work.

Saul, now going by his Greek (gentile) name, Paul, wrote to his fellow Jews, so that they might also understand the futility of the Law.

The Law can not save. It can only condemn. It can only shine a light on our failure to be righteous before God.

But Jesus came to us, while we were still law breakers and at war with God.

God was trying to bring us into his perfect will, while we were still willfully going our own way.

That was when Jesus came and bought our eternal life through his death. His Holy blood covers our sins and purifies them in God’s sight.

Before I gave my life to Jesus, I was a good man, as the world judges men. I abided by the laws of man … most of the time. And as far as the laws of God, I hadn’t broken any of the BIG ones.

But that’s the problem, you see, there aren’t big laws and small laws. There is only THE Law. To have broken one law is to be guilty of them all.

Yes, I was a good man, but I wasn’t a godly man. I may have been upright but I was far from righteous. My own goodness kept me from seeing my need for salvation.

God’s truth reveals that all need saving, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Saul also knew that he was a good man, as the world judges men.

He was firm in his conviction that he was right in judgement.

He was so assured of his righteousness that he actively sought to punish those who believed differently.

And then … and then … he meet Jesus and discovered his righteousness was a foul and disgusting thing in God’s sight. His only hope lay in the grace offered by Jesus Christ.

And, friends, my only hope, and your only hope lies in the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

This is the life application part of the service. Thinking back to the parable, where did you see yourself?

  1. The world weary man who came to church seeking God’s forgiveness?

  2. The man so good that he never felt the need for God’s forgiveness?

  3. Or were you part of the congregation who sat in judgement over these two men and found one welcome in the church and one not?

  4. Or have you acknowledged to God that all your earthly achievements are nothing but … well, you know.

Or have you said to God, “I am no longer my own. I am yours, Lord, to do with as you please. All I have called my own are now yours. All I may ever have, will ever and always belong to you Lord.”?

Pray with me now.

God be merciful to me a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see, that if his righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away.

Lord, I have heard that you are a merciful God, and have designated that your Son Jesus Christ should be the Savior of the world;

and moreover, that you are willing to give him even to such a poor sinner as I am—and I am a sinner indeed. Lord, take therefore this opportunity, and magnify your grace in the salvation of my soul, through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  • “Apostle’s Creed”

I believe in God the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead and buried;

The third day he rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,

And sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

The holy catholic church,

The communion of saints,

The forgiveness of sins,

The resurrection of the body,

And the life everlasting. Amen.

  • Prayers of the People

Tom

Father, in this time of social unrest I ask your prayers for peace; for goodwill among people and nations.

That our leaders be your followers.

I pray for your true justice and the peace which can only come from you.

I pray for the poor, the sick (of whom there are many), the hungry, the

oppressed, and those in prison (whether of stone and steal, or of their own making through sin or bad life choices).

I pray for those in any need or trouble, that they may be lead to your path.

I ask your prayers for all who seek God, for a deeper knowledge of him. I pray that they may find and be found by you.

I ask prayers for the departed, for those who have died, that their loved ones may find comfort in your loving arms.

These things we ask in the name of Jesus who taught his followers to pray in this manner …

  • Lord’s prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom com,

Thy will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, Forever. Amen.

  • Benediction.

In the wesleyan tradition, I will dismiss us with prayer for you and for me.

Lord, we are no longer our own, but Yours.

Put us to what you will, rank us with whom you will.

Put us to doing, put us to suffering.

Let us be employed by you

or laid aside for you,

Exalted for you or brought low for you.

Let us be full, let us be empty.

Let us have all things, let us have nothing.

We freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, O Glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

You are ours, and we are yours. So be it.

And the covenant which we have made on earth,

Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen. Go in peace.

Good Man or Godly Man?

Good Man or Godly Man?

Philippians 3:5-11

(Paul wrote) I was circumcised on the eighth day. I’m a descendant of Israel. I’m from the tribe of Benjamin. I’m a pure-blooded Hebrew. When it comes to living up to standards, I was a Pharisee. When it comes to being enthusiastic, I was a persecutor of the church. When it comes to winning God’s approval by keeping Jewish laws, I was perfect. These things that I once considered valuable, I now consider worthless for Christ. It’s far more than that! I consider everything else worthless because I’m much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It’s because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain Christ and to have a relationship with him. This means that I didn’t receive God’s approval by obeying his laws. The opposite is true! I have God’s approval through faith in Christ. This is the approval that comes from God and is based on faith 10. that knows Christ. Faith knows the power that his coming back to life gives and what it means to share his suffering. In this way I’m becoming like him in his death, with the confidence that I’ll come back to life from the dead.

A modern parable:

A man, tattered and torn, enters the church doors. He’s dirty and disheveled with a back bent under with the weight of the world. His eyes and cheeks sunken from the years of abuse of alcohol, drugs, and fleshly desires. He hasn’t eaten in days. The money, for which he has panhandled,, has been spent on his last fix.

Those drugs are now decaying in his system and he is sick beyond imagination. Holding himself upright by sliding along the wall, he makes his way past the glares and stares of the neatly dressed people congregated in the foyer and enters the sanctuary. All the rear pews are already filled, so he he just slides down the back wall, to sit crosslegged and stooped over, head in hands.

Another man enters the church. His head is held high. He strides purposefully into the foyer. He greets people by name, shaking their hands and clapping them on the back. He is smartly dressed, as befitting his station in the community. He is a business man with income in the mid to upper brackets. He was raised in the church and is on several of its committees. He is a good husband and father who habitually attends worship service most Sundays, unless away on vacation or business.

He enters the sanctuary and sees the man slumped to the floor. He looks around and sees all eyes are upon him. He walks to the man on the floor and extends his hands to help him to his feet. The He guides him to his pew, the same pew where he and his family has sat for years.

What do you think, which of these two men is to be pitied the most?

Some might say the man, who has been called ” a waste of human flesh.” Certainly not the church goer, for he clearly is a good man.

Though the tattered man is so far down that he can sink no lower, he stumbled into this holy place knowing he needs God.

The good man’s downfall is that has never felt the need for God’s salvation. Having been raised in the church, the has adopted the language, customs, and world view of the church. Though he calls himself a Christian, he has never accepted his own sinfulness and asked for forgiveness. He has never given the control his life over to God making him truly Lord of his life.

(Disclaimer: I am going to repeat a word here that Saint Paul used and for the same reason … the shock value.)

As Paul’s Jewish listeners heard the letter to the congregation in Philippi, I can almost see them smiling and nodding in agreement with what this good Jewish man had just said.

  • circumcised on the eighth day (circumcision was a token of the covenant made by God with Abraham and his descendants an “everlasting covenant”(Genesis 17:13 “))

  • Descendant of Israel (the patriarch also know as Jacob, who wrestled with God)

  • From the tribe of Benjamin (Benjamin was the last-born of Jacob’s twelve sons. He was the progenitor of the Israelite Tribe of Benjamin.)

  • A pure-blooded Hebrew (The Talmud holds that a marriage between a Jew and a non Jew is both prohibited and also does not constitute a marriage under Jewish law. However, Paul’s lineage was pure)

  • A Pharisee (The Pharisees were a strict social and religious movement in Judaism which asserted that God could and should be worshipped even away from the Temple and outside Jerusalem. To the Pharisees, worship consisted not in bloody sacrifices — the practice of the Temple priests — but in prayer and in the study of God’s law.)

  • Enthusiastic followed the strictest laws (Their ultra strict interpretation of the law is one of the things that Jesus railed against , calling them blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. He also accused them of giving a tenth of their spices (as a tithe), but of neglecting the more important matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness)

  • Perfect in keeping Jewish laws (Saul had done as the prophet Joshua had said to do, “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to … all the law … that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”) (Joshua 1:7-15 ESV)

Saul was assured of the promise of the Law. Obey the Law “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Notice that all the Law can promised is that if … do not let that tiny word IF go un-noticed. The promise of the Law was conditional IF you do ALL that the Law commands, THEN life on this world will be great for you.

So Saul was perfect, when it came to winning God’s approval by keeping Jewish laws and expected to profit and succeed as promised.

It wasn’t until he had a very personal, dramatic, life-changing encounter with the risen Jesus, that he learned that whatever rewards he might treasure on earth, paled in comparisons with rewards he could expect in heaven.

Perhaps in some of his attacks on Christians, he came across the teaching of Jesus “Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal. but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal;

Though Saul had done all that he humanly could to win God’s approval, by keeping Jewish laws, he realized that it was all shit. Yes, that is the literal translation of what he wrote, shit. To not offend modern readers, nicer words were used: loss, trash, garbage, refuse, worthless or dung.

I’m sorry, but by “cleaning” the language, we lose the power of Paul’s intent. He intended his readers to be shocked by his comparison.

Paul wrote, reminding his Jewish readers how perfect he was under the law. And then … and then, he wrote the most unimaginable thing, his whole life and accomplishments were all shit compared to life in Jesus the Christ. He was glad to give it all away.

As a pure-blood Hebrew and as a zealous follower of the strictest interpretation of the Jewish laws, Saul had sought to win God’s approval. But it didn’t work. It couldn’t work.

Saul, now going by his Greek (gentile) name, Paul wrote to his fellow Jews, so that they might also understand the futility of the Law. The Law can not save. It can only condemn. It can only shine a light on our failure to be righteous before God.

But Jesus came to us, while we were still law breakers and at war with God. God was trying to bring us into his perfect will, while we were still willfully going our own way. That was when Jesus came and bought our eternal life through his death. His Holy blood covers our sins and purifies them in God’s sight.

Before I gave my life to Jesus, I was a good man, as the world judges men. I abided by the laws of man … most of the time. And as far as the laws of God, I hadn’t broken any of the BIG ones.

But that’s the problem, you see, there aren’t big laws and small laws. There is only THE Law. To have broken one law is to be guilty of them all.

Yes, I was a good man, but I wasn’t a godly man. I may have been upright but I was far from righteous. My own goodness kept me from seeing my need for salvation.

God’s truth reveals that all need saving, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Paul knew that he was a good man, as the world judges men. And he felt no need for salvation. He was firm in his conviction that he was right in the sight of God. He was so assured of his righteousness that he actively sought to punish those who believed differently.

And then he meet Jesus and discovered his righteousness was a foul and disgusting thing in God’s sight. His only hope lay in the grace offered by Jesus Christ.

And, friends, my only hope, and your only hope lies in the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Pray with me now.

God be merciful to me a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see, that if his righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away.

Lord, I have heard that you are a merciful God, and have designated that your Son Jesus Christ should be the Savior of the world;

and moreover, that you are willing to give him even to such a poor sinner as I am—and I am a sinner indeed. Lord, take therefore this opportunity, and magnify your grace in the salvation of my soul, through your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

Also visit my other blogs

  • Tom and Ella’s Daily Journal of Our Lives

http://TomAndEllaJournal.com

  • Visit my devotions blog new devotions every day (nearly)

“The Family of God”

The Family of God” | June 7, 2020

(Minister – Rev. Caesar J. David) Union Park UMC, Des Moines, Iowa

Scripture Lessons:

Psalms 8

Unto the end. For the oil and wine presses. A Psalm of David. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth! For your magnificence is elevated above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have perfected praise, because of your enemies, so that you may destroy the enemy and the revenger. For I will behold your heavens, the works of your fingers: the moon and the stars, which you have founded. What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you visit him? You reduced him to a little less than the Angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, and you have set him over the works of your hands. You have subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and in addition: the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, which pass through the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth!

O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth! For your magnificence is elevated above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have perfected praise, because of your enemies, so that you may destroy the enemy and the revenger. For I will behold your heavens, the works of your fingers: the moon and the stars, which you have founded. What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you visit him? You reduced him to a little less than the Angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, and you have set him over the works of your hands. You have subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and in addition: the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, which pass through the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth!

Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went on to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And, seeing him, they worshipped him, but certain ones doubted. And Jesus, drawing near, spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have ever commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, even to the consummation of the age.”

Today is Trinity Sunday. It brings us face to face with a mystery of God which makes us realize really how finite our understanding is. We have stretched our minds to the fullest to understand the Trinity. We have several examples and analogies, but they all fall short of explaining exactly how the Three Persons of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God. Three in One and One in Three – The One Triune God.

“To meditate on the three Persons of the Godhead is to walk in thought through the garden eastward in Eden and to tread on holy ground. Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption.” –A.W. Tozer.

Indeed, we must realize that, with our finite little understanding, we cannot understand all things. That is where faith comes in. Like Augustine said, “The limits of our reason make faith a necessity”. If we presume to know or understand all the mysteries of God, it may be almost arrogant of us as human beings – too presumptuous for our own good. We have to be humble enough to realize and accept that we are too small to understand God and His vastness – the vastness and depth of His Love, His Mind, His Plans, His Ways. We have to let God be God. (Read Romans 9:13ff). We have already read Psalm 8 as one of our Scripture lessons. Verse 4 says, “What is man (human being) that you are mindful of him?”. We are nothing in front of the vastness and beauty of God’s awesome creation.

While we may not have a clear understanding of some doctrines, we must not despair because we can know, and do know, what is sufficient for us to understand His Love, to respond to His Love, to care for His creation which includes us all, and so on.

Some things however, have been clearly revealed and spelled out for us. Like the Great Commission that we’re studying this morning. As we focus on this passage, I want to look at 2 important principles or concepts that emerge from here that are important to understand as we seek to ‘do mission’.

1. Disciple -making presumes love for God and love for people. This is basic. Disciple making is helping people to trust and follow Jesus. Why would we want people to have the benefit of God’s Love if we didn’t care for them and also want them to be saved? If you didn’t love God, why would you want His Kingdom to grow? These are indicative of our love for God and for people that is at the very root of disciple-making.

The imperative command of Jesus is “Make disciples”. How we do it is by going, baptizing (joining the family of God) and teaching (not just academic or intellectual instruction, but taught to the point of responding to God in obedience).

Sometimes, an ‘empire’ or ‘colonial’ mindset that has shaped our environment and us, or continues to influence us, gives us an understanding of doing things by way of an ‘imperial conquest’.

History bears evidence of the failures of such wrong understanding of disciple making. Such efforts can result in people becoming Christians by religion, but not by relationship with Christ. And that would be proselytizing, not disciple-making.

That is why it is important to understand that disciple-making has within it the objective and method of love.

Before the Great Commission, Jesus gave his disciples (us) the Great Commandment “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27).

Love needs to be expressed through helping, caring, sharing, encouraging, protecting, forgiving, sacrificing, trusting and so on.

As we focus on the growth of God’s Kingdom, we could start with these simple acts of love and kindness that prepare the way for disciples to be made.

2. We are called to reach all people. The Great Commission clearly tells us to “Make disciples of all nations” (Italics mine).

We have already clarified what ‘making disciples’ entails. It is chiefly loving people and leading them to respond to God whereby they become part of God’s family (leading to other things in that relationship like discipleship, obedience, and so on).

The word translated ‘nations’ in Matthew 28:19 comes from the word ‘ethnos’ which means “a race (as of the same habit), that is, a tribe; specifically a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually by implication pagan): – Gentile, heathen, nation, people”.

Scholars say that, perhaps ‘people groups’ comes closest to describing what ‘nations’ is trying to convey. It means every people group, language group and so on.

The crux of the concept is inclusivity. Sometimes we tend to become exclusive, in -grown, cliquish, and unloving. We forget that we’re not alone, that there are other people around us who have needs too, sometimes greater than our own. And perhaps we shy away because we are afraid or just plain uncomfortable. We need to become intentional about reaching out to others.

There are always going to be differences amongst people – race, color, ethnicity, language and so on. We can keep slicing our society on the basis of differences and find that we have slices that are so thin that they cannot stand by themselves. We have to reach out across our differences – reaching out to share, to help, to love, to make disciples.

Have you heard the Disneyland song It’s a small world (listen to it on YouTube)? It was created for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The composer of the song, Richard Sherman composed this just after the Cuban missile crisis. It focuses on tolerance, empathy and kindness.

1. It’s a world of laughter A world of tears It’s a world of hopes And a world of fears

There’s so much that we share That it’s time we’re aware It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small, small world

2. T here is just one moon And one golden sun And a smile means Friendship to ev’ryone Though the mountains divide And the oceans are wide It’s a small world after all.

( Source: Musixmatch, Songwriters: Richard Sherman / Robert Sherman
Musixmatch, Songwriters: Richard Sherman / Robert Sherman
It’s a Small World (It’s a Small World) lyrics © Wonderland Music Co. Inc., Wonderland Music Co. Inc., Wonderland Music Company Inc., Wonderland Music Company Inc, Wonderland Music Co., Inc., Kobalt Music Pub America I Obo Hardmonic Music)

Yes, it’s a small world after all. And I might add, it’s a short life after all!

Have we been guilty of writing some people off? Do we presume for some people to not deserve God’s love? We’re given the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. We’re called to reach out, not in our own strength and authority but that of our Triune God. As we uphold and honor the mystery of God’s Being, let’s continue to do faithfully what we’re called to do – to go, to preach, to teach, to love, to bless and be blessed.

May God help us to see the opportunities we have in front of us for the growth of His Kingdom. May God strengthen us to reach out and touch the lives of all who come our way.