Monday, May 28, 2012

Pentecost Sunday: Joint Heirs with Jesus Christ

A woman had just returned to her home from an evening worship service and was startled to find an intruder in her house.

Catching the man in the act of burglarizing her home, she decided to rely on Scripture for her defense and get the fear of God in the young burglar so she yelled, "STOP! Acts 2:38! Acts 2:38" ("Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven.")

As the burglar stopped dead in his tracks, the woman calmly called the police and explained what she had done. Shortly, several officers arrived and took the man into custody.

As he was placing the handcuffs on the burglar, one of the officers asked, "Why did you just stand there? All the lady did was mention a scripture verse."

"Scripture?" replied the burglar.

"I though she said she had an axe and two 38's!"

You know a lot of people have a misunderstanding as how the Bible uses the phrase “fear of God”. Does God want us to fear Him? Are we to be afraid of God? Some Christians actually believe that. They have a fear that God is looking over them with a baseball bat ready to hit them if they ever do anything wrong. I have a friend who grew up believing this and to this day she has problems praying. Every time she goes before the throne of grace she feels condemned, bad and filled with self loathing. It is so bad, she can’t seem to pray most of the time, she is in bondage..trapped by the fear of God.  While as Christians we are to have a healthy respect for God, of course, but to many fear means punishment and condemnation.

Today’s scripture talks about the fear of God. Romans 8:14-17 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together

Today as we celebrate Pentecost, the day we commemorate the pouring out of God’s Spirit to empower the church, our scripture tells us of one of the chief ministries of the Holy Spirit to the church. The Holy Spirit lets us know that we are children of God. We did not receive a spirit of fear to be enslaved. We have received the Holy Spirit. We have received grace bought by the very blood of Jesus Christ himself. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. We have been forgiven and we have been adopted into the family of God. So can praise and thank God, He has forgiven us and showered His grace and love upon us. What else can we feel but thanks! Thank you father! Abba Father!
Thank you so much!

We are the adopted Children of God. The heirs of God and join heirs with Jesus Christ. It is interesting,  in the original greek the word in verses 15 and 23 for  “of adoption” or “adoption to sonship” in some versions is huiothesias. This is a term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture. The heir has all the rights and legal standing as a naturally born son. It is legal, it is binding. We are fully adopted into God’s family, no matter what we have done or who we are. The struggles we might have or the personality we have. We are adopted.

I am a big comic book fan. When I was a kid, I had boxes and boxes of comic books. I collected Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and the Avengers. So with all these superhero movies coming out lately, I am in my heyday.  Brinton and I saw the Avengers when it came out and we loved it. It was dramatic, action packed and funny, a great movie. Now the villain of the movie is Loki the Norse god of mischief, in the movie the Norse gods are just aliens and Loki is the hero Thor’s adopted half brother. Well Loki is a bad guy, he kills innocent people and wants to destroy the earth. In one scene in the movie Thor and the other super heroes are gathered around a table discussing how they are going to stop Loki, and some of them talk about killing Loki, which makes Thor upset. Thor says very forcefully, “But we cannot do that he is my brother” And throughout the whole movie no matter how bad it gets, Thor still has hope for his brother.
It’s the same for us. We are God’s adopted children, legal fully binding. No matter what happens with us, no matter how far a child of God falls God still has hope. God believes in His children and loves His children no matter what.

I remember sitting through a sermon in a very legalistic church and the pastor was speaking on Romans 8:35-39 which tells us that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ, Paul says in verses 38-39. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” and the preacher said, “You see there is one thing that Paul left out, what can really separate us from the love of God. That is sin. Sin separates you from the love of God”
Now I have real problems with that. Paul tells us nothing will separate us from the love of God. Nothing. Sin might separate us from fellowship with God because we have guilt, but that does not stop God from loving us. If you have a child who does something bad, even something horrible , you don’t stop loving that child. You might grieve or not understand. But stop loving? That would be a cold and inhuman family indeed. A parent always hopes and loves deep down inside.

Today as we celebrate Pentecost, let’s thank God for our adoption into the kingdom and family of God. Let us thank God for the Holy Spirit who dwells in our heart. And let us thank god for His steadfast and undying love.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Memories of Mother

Today’s scripture from Ephesians tells us how to serve one another. It all starts in Ephesians 5:21, Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Some translations say submit, the root meaning is to put others above yourself. Thinking of others before yourself. Wives, to the husbands, and husbands, submit by loving your wives. As Christ loved the church, by offering himself. Notice, there is just a single line for the wives, but Paul writes almost a whole paragraph for the husbands.

Let’s face it, it’s because men and women are different. Most of the time women are pretty in touch with their emotional side, and men are often clueless. Sometimes its hard to share.
Usually a man comes home from his job and tells his wife he had a frustrating day at work.
His wife often will say something like, "Ahhhhh, tell me all about your day honey,".
The husband looks at her and says, "Well.. I just did."
Sometimes men are a little thick, so Paul tells husbands here in an intimate way how to a husband is to love his wife. Look at Ephesians 5:29. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church. How are husbands to show their love to their wives? By nourishing and cherishing them.  Now the original Greek words here are really interesting. Nourishing comes from the Greek word Ektrepho, which means to nurture, to bring up with loving care to maturity. It doesn’t mean to nourish in a physical sense with food or drink, it means to do those things which helps your partner to grow and be well in their inner life. Their emotional life, their spiritual life. It means to be their emotional and spiritual partner in the struggles and joys of life. To take care of them, to nurture. It means not to tear them down emotionally when they make a mistake. Or point out their flaws on a continual basis. No, just the opposite. It’s telling them how beautiful they are, even when they did not have time to put on their make up. It’s letting them know how amazing they are as a loving mother to their children.
Next is the word cherish, which is translated from the Greek word Thalpo. Thalpo means literally to warm up, to keep warm. Here it means to cherish with tender love, to foster tender loving care.  Paul is saying, keep the love in your relationship. Warm it up, keep it warm. Often times in the day to day work and problems of life we tend to become complacent. We often take for granted those who mean the most to us. Love can often grow cold. Many times, if you ask someone going through a divorce the thing that started it is, they just were not in love anymore. They grew apart. But real love, lasting love is a verb. True lasting love is not just a feeling; it’s an act of the will.  In a long lasting relationship, you can’t just expect the oozy feelings to be there without some work. So Paul tells us men, Warm it up! Keep it warm. Foster tender loving care. Tell her that you love her. Be romantic. Hug. Cuddle. Do the things that foster the feelings. Show your appreciation and love by action, and you’ll once again be feeling the attraction. Unresolved and hidden resentment destroy your connection and chilling a relationship only lead to isolation and loneliness.
Barbara Walters, did a story on gender roles in Kabul, Afghanistan several years before the Afghan conflict. She noted that women customarily walked five paces behind their husbands.

She recently returned to
Kabul and observed that women still walk behind their husbands. From Ms.Walters' vantage point, despite the overthrow of the oppressive Taliban regime, the women now seem to walk even further back behind their husbands, and are happy to maintain the old custom.

Ms. Walters approached one of the Afghani women and asked, 'Why do you now seem happy with an old custom that you once tried so desperately to change?'
The woman looked Miss Walters straight in the eyes, and without hesitation said, 'Land Mines.'
Husbands, love your wife with the verb, love. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church.

Paul also talks to children, Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.". How do you honor your father and mother? Obedience?  Because having a rebellious child, breaks the heart of a mother. I was a rebellious youth. One of the worst memories I ever had was telling my mother I had got in trouble with the law when I was a teenager. To see her face, just drop in sadness. It’s that way with all mothers, they want the best for their children. And when they rebel, even if its not that serious, It brings them so much sorrow. Sorrow of concern, out of love.

Lastly there is another way to honor our mother. By honoring their memory.
Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia  started Mother's Day celebration On May 12, 1907, two years after her mother's death, Anna held a memorial to her mother and thereafter embarked upon a campaign to make "Mother's Day" a recognized holiday. She succeeded in making this nationally recognized in 1914. But it is little known that Anna Jarvis also filed a lawsuit in an effort to stop the over- commercialization of Mother's Day. She and her sister Ellsinore spent their family inheritance campaigning against what the holiday had become. She lost her fight. Anna had hoped for a day of reflection and quiet prayer by families, thanking God for all that mothers had done.

Today, let’s not forget our mother’s who have gone as well. Take time to reflect.
 You know my mom used to make this horrid soup, that I hated as a child. Salmon soup. It was a chowder, really made of salmon and milk or cream. Boy I hated it. I used to sit there and just stare at the little pieces of salmon with the skin still on it bobbing in the bowl. Mom died in the 80s of cancer. And after all these years, boy what I would give, just to have one more bowl of her salmon soup.
Today is a day to celebrate and to honor our mothers. And a day to make love a verb. Let’s Pray.