Tag Archives: Christian foundation

The Legacy of Our Father

Scripture Foundation: Galatians 3:23-29 (NLT)

God’s Children through Faith

23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.

24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

26 For you are all children[a] of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.[b] 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[c] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children[d] of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.

Reflection: The Legacy of Our Father

Here it is Fathers Day, another special day filling our calendars. Ho hum? That depends on how you perceive the importance of celebrating the father’s role in your life. Sadly there are many who have no fathers actively involved in their lives or maybe there are those who never knew their fathers. Add to that the long list of those whose fathers have died, leaving just memories.

The memories may be filled with laughter and silliness, but consider the legacy our fathers do leave us. Christian fathers have provided us a faith foundation based on the foundation of their fathers. Today the foundation of our sons’ families is beginning to shake if not shatter.

God is our heavenly Father and 21st century Christian fathers are those who have a personal relationship with God. Sadly, though, when looking at the 21st century congregations, the absence of fathers is all too evident. Yes, there are some, but the majority of Sunday morning attendees are women and their pre-high school children.

In Galatians 3, Paul is explaining to the followers how different a Christian lifestyle is from the old lifestyle under the Law of Moses:

23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.

The choice of weighted words points out the negative attitude towards the Law of Moses. Paul reminds them that the law made the decisions, and the Pharisees were like guards keeping all the faithful under strict supervision. The Law of Moses originally was developed to protect the faithful, Paul adds the word “custody” to that word “protective.”

Protective custody in our 21st century world implies the loss of freedom, limiting who we hang out with, what we do, where we go—almost like being on house arrest with the ankle bracelet to track our every movement. The legacy of our American forefathers would not approve of “protective custody.” Today’s fathers—including the mothers—balance the challenges of home, work, and family. The old Law of Moses administered by the Pharisees would complicate that balance making protective custody more like imprisonment than freedom.

This Fathers Day we can celebrate the freedom God granted us by replacing the Old Law with the New Law. The New Covenant that was sealed with the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ freed fathers—and mothers—simpler and more expansive: Love God. Love your neighbor, as you want to be loved.

Paul explains to Galatians how the law worked: “24 . . . The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.” God demonstrated how fathers raise their children. As our children develop through childhood, the parents keep children in “protective custody.” The rules are firm, the boundaries are defined, and the parents model behaviors preparing the children for adult freedom.

Parents today need God to show them how to raise their kids. Looking at the Old Testament, we can analyze the stories. Those who followed God’s law in a balanced manner raised healthy, faithful families. Yet, some Old Testament stories tell us that making too many laws, demanding unreasonable expectations, and putting others in front of God separated the families from God and sometimes separated the families.

Of course a cautionary statement in this conversation is necessary. God gave humans free will and there is evil in the world. Parents exercising strict application of the law can discover that being legalistic separates them from their children. The Pharisee’s strict application of the law and the evil that crept in also combined to destroy the relationship of God and his children.

God’s law became the Pharisee’s law and through the strict application of the laws added to the original Ten Commandments. Understanding the Law of Moses became difficult for faithful families. Mistakes were made, distance developed, and evil’s influence grew. God, as the Heavenly Father, had to make a tough decision.

Despite the centuries of prophecies, God could not manage the Pharisee’s overly strict development of the Law of Moses, nor could he control evil influences that were luring the faithful away from the parent-child relationship God had with humanity. A change had to happen.

As parents, we all know that sickening feeling that comes when we have to administer an appropriate consequence or punishment. God must have had that same sick feeling, but he made the decision to do what was best for his children. He stepped in personally in the form of Jesus Christ, the man.

Fathers, and mothers, who experience the pain of wayward children know that they do try to do everything they can to keep them from self-destructing. Would not they make a decision to exchange places with the child to protect them from destruction?

God did just that. As a parent, he decided to make some changes personally rather than leave it up to the Pharisees and the prophets. A hands-on approach was the final parenting method that God chose to remove the “protective custody” and teach a better way to live as caretakers of this world. God chose love over law.

This week in particular (June 12-19, 2016) we have witnessed parents experience heart-wrenching pain as their children are destroyed. Evil lurks in some of the most surprising places. Every time newscasters, politicians, friends, or families talk over the events that have cost lives of somebody’s children, a question is posed: How come this evil keeps happening?

The question for Christians is really more about how come God’s New Covenant, the new law, of loving one is not more widely used. Do we raise our children knowing the immense value of applying God’s Golden Rule: Love one another, as you want to be loved. Parents faithful to God raise children to know how to love one another.

Sadly, though, the free will factor and evil can step in and destroy the loving child parents struggled to raise. Yet, knowing that all our best efforts may not provide the ‘protective custody’ needed to guarantee our sons and daughters live a Christ-like or Christ-filled life should not keep us from trying.

In answer to the cries heard on the news broadcasts this past week begging for an answer as to why all the evil keeps happening, one can only ask: Have you remained faithful to God, our Heavenly Father? Faith in God may not prevent the violence or tragic accidents, but with faith in God we are given the strength to manage the grief, the outrage, the sorrow, and the hate that can creep into our lives.

This Fathers Day can be the perfect day to reaffirm our faith in God. In the lectionary’s commentary the points out some truths we must remember:

  • It is time to let people know that being Christian does not mean that every day we “Put on a Happy Faith.” (p.171)
  • When we see how far we and the world (and also the church) fall short, we have reasons to grieve. But we also have reasons to hope that our holy grief will not have the last word. (p.172)
  • Christ really can step into the hurts of our lives and make us all new (p.172)

These truths remind each of us that God, our Heavenly Father, experiences the same parent emotions we do. When a world is shocked by evil’s actions such as we witnessed this past week, as God’s children we must reconfirm our own relationship with God.

We need to remember that evil is always close at hand. We need to remember that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. We need to remember that being Christian is not a one time agreement, it is a life-long commitment.

Do all that you can, with your children, the neighbors’ kids, the kids down the block; in any way that you can whether a friendly wave, a casual conversation, an invitation, a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies, or a hug when there are tears. We are God’s presence in our communities. We are the only way some will ever meet God. We, as faithful followers of God, the father, the son and the Holy Spirit, are the fathers and the mothers of the future.

Closing prayer

Our Father, who are in heaven,

Give us the nourishment of faith

Needed to protect our families from turmoil.

Grant us understanding of scripture’s wisdom

So we can continue to live in your protective custody.

Fill us with the Holy Spirit

In order to serve one another in love.

Thank you for the leadership of your Son

Showing us that the Golden Rule works.

May we revel in your unending love.

May we discover the strength faith provides.

May we use all the gifts you provide

So we may be Christ-like witnesses today. –Amen.

 

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1. Laying the foundation: Scripture, The Word

Building Our Christian Foundation: a sermon series on the basics of Christianity

  1. Laying the foundation: Scripture, The Word  given on Sunday, January 11, 2015

 

Over Christmas or on birthdays, I expect many discovered Legos or Mega blocks wrapped in the pretty packages. Or maybe it is a set of Lincoln Logs that trigger the imagination of building log cabins, houses, and forts. Kids love to create all kinds of structures with these blocks; and whenever kids begin playing with the pieces, the imaginations take off.

Just ask them to tell you what they are building. The stories show just what is going on in their minds while they pick the pieces up, lock them together and buildings, towns, or even cars, trucks or airplanes appear. Telling the story of what is being built can be as entertaining as simply watching the structures grow, shift, fall and rebuild.

Building Christian faith is very similar. The very foundation of our faith begins with the stories of the Bible. The characters and their stories are the very bricks and mortar that build that foundation of our faith.

The stories can be as entertaining as any high drama found on the television or in the movies. As we listen to the stories, we begin wondering how we would act if we were in those situations. Of course the settings can be very different than what we are experiencing now; but as in all literature, the stories are timeless because the message is the foundation, not the setting.

The verse from I Peter appeared on the opening screen when I clicked on Biblegateway.com, which is my primary source for scripture searches. I did not plan on using it, but I was on the search for today’s scripture and this was Saturday’s verse (January 10, 2015):

But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”1 Peter 1:15-16 NLT

 

Those words confirmed the very thought I was gelling into today’s message. The scripture is the direct link to God.

Scripture is the foundation for all Christians as they begin building their faith. Each book is included after very thorough review by theologians and educators. Some might wonder why the Old Testament is included since the New Testament is the story of Christ, but the foundation begins developing with those first words of Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.[a] The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

 

Before everything, God existed. Life is filled with mysteries, and it is easy to get trapped into the arguments concerning whether or not God is real. There is no evidence that science can provide to prove or to disprove that God is real and proof is simply not necessary. The scripture tells us that the “Spirit of God” was the creator, existing before everything.

Being Christian begins with the story shared in the Bible. The United Methodist Church has defined the Bible as “sacred text” and googling what Methodists believe, the website about.com makes this simple statement: “The Bible is considered inerrant and inspired in its original manuscripts, and it contains everything one needs for salvation.”

The Bible and all the stories provide the foundation of Christianity. As John Wesley continued his ministry, he also identified the value of the Bible as the very foundation of Christian faith. He included in his works of piety the study of Scripture. The same about.com website listed among the descriptors of Methodist doctrine this statement: “Close adherence to the teachings of Scripture is essential to the faith because Scripture is the Word of God.”

The opening words of John also makes the definitive statement:

In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,[a]
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.[b]

 

Scripture tells the story, it provides the lessons, and it speaks to us whenever we read and study it. The church began with the first Apostles that Jesus called to ministry, and the stories from the New Testament share how God wants us to live using the New Law rather than the Old Law found in the Old Testament.

Learning how to live a Christian lifestyle is not easy, but through the words of the Bible, we can. Wesley read and studied the Scripture daily and expected his followers to do so even holding them accountable during class meetings (now referred to as small groups). The essentials of the Methodist beliefs were stated in the website article in very clear words:

  1. Shun evil and avoid partaking in wicked deeds at all costs,
  2. Perform kind acts as much as possible, and
  3. Abide by the edicts of God the Almighty Father.

 

The scripture provides all the examples, the methods, and the authority needed for us to live by these three simple rules. The hard part is practicing it enough to get it right but most importantly that it becomes habit.

Practice, practice, and practice some more. Laying a foundation takes careful planning, using the best products, and making adjustments as needed in order to erect a building that can withstand all the storms that nature can slam into the outer walls. Creating a Christian foundation for our own lives takes the same care. If we do make the foundation strong, it will last throughout the generations yet to come.

Practice building your foundation. Share the secrets with your family and friends. Shun evil that surrounds you. Practice random and planned acts of kindness. And keep adding to your foundation by reading the scripture. The stronger your foundation, the more you can tell the story to others—whether in modeling the story, telling it in your own words, creating a piece of art, or even singing a song. God’s message is as strong as your Christian foundation.

Closing prayer

Dear God, the Word,

Speak to us through the scriptures,

Through the work of others,

Through the visual arts,

Through the melodies of music,

And through the models of faith.

We all want to build strong foundations

Of Christian faith.

Guide us to plan ways

To build our own foundations.

Keep us focused on the process

Of reading and studying scripture.

Then let us share the story

In all the ways that we can

So others may discover the Word

And how it creates a strong foundation

On which to build one’s life

And to bring others to know you, too.

Amen.

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