Tag Archives: Golden Rule

Yesterday is today while old is new—and vice versa

No, this is no riddle I propose. Rather, it is a reality when studying literature; and for me, the literature I have been focusing on is Biblical as I continue the year-long Bible study.

I know I have shared before about my personal study, and it is not always easy.  I just completed reading the two books of Samuel.  To be honest, I should have read them after completing a course in ancient history that included the sociology and the geography of the Middle East.  These books were not easy.

Add to the historical, geographical, and the social-political intricacies of these books, the filter of Christianity that has been my upbringing and continued adult life.  The content seemed so distant, until I stopped and realized the above truth that I know is literature:  Yesterday is today; old is new.  This then translates as Today is yesterday; new is old.

While studying literature in college, the emphasis that any story, poem, essay that can withstand the test of time can be defined as classic literature.  The themes, regardless of the style, the plot, the setting, and the characters (aka the elements of literature), are as time-appropriate today as they were when first written—and anywhere along the timeline of humanity.

Therefore, the books of Samuel, continue to be literature which teaches today’s generations the themes of how to live within our earthly, human context.  The book is filled with human drama, political battles, jealousy, adultery, and more.  These are the very same conflicts that exist in our world today.

So what does one learn?  Over and over again, the lesson is to follow the Golden Rule:  Love one another as you want to be loved.  And love being an attitude between one and any other human (and dare I add, species).

But there is one other commandment that all need to remember.  We are to love God.  Not only that, we are to love God above all else. 

Remaining in a long-term relationship with God is not easy, especially with all the temptations that humanity has created throughout history.  And we all tend to be weak in the face of temptation or in the face of peril.

This week my thoughts have focused on the health needs of close friends.  One had bypass surgery and the other has been in chemo treatment for a rare cancer.  Recovery is not easy for either of them, and what can I do?

Pray.  I can on holy conversation with God.  The prayers are for them to have the strength and the resolve to do whatever they, their medical team and primary care providers can do to battle the health issues.

But maybe the most important prayers is that God uses these trials to reach into their own lives and let them experience his loving presence. 

Over and over the Old Testament stories share that bad things happen to good people.  We cannot explain this as humans, but there are the words in scripture that can advise us.

Today, the reading was Habakkuk, not a common book and one of prophecy.  But today, I heard God’s message that helps me to manage the earthly experience.

In the first chapter, Habakkuk asks two questions:

–v. 3 “Why do you make me see wrong doing and look at trouble?”

–v. 13 “. . . why do you look on the treacherous and are silent when the wicked swallowed those more righteous than they?”

Habakkuk has four more sections:  

  • “God’s Reply to the Prophet’s Complaint”
  • “The Prophet’s Prayer”
  • “The Woes of the Wicked”
  • “Trust and Obey in the Midst of Trouble”. 

It takes reading through them and the study notes to make God’s answer clearer:

Under “God’s Reply to the Prophet’s Complaint” is verse 2:5: “Moreover, wealth is treacherous, the arrogant do not endure.”

Under the section” The Woes of the Wicked”, there are a series of ‘alas’ statements, but hear v. 20:  But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!”  What a reminder to have no other god before him.

Then Habakkuk prays in v. 3:16:  

“I hear, and I tremble within;

   my lips quiver at the sound.

Rottenness enters into my bones,

   and my steps tremble beneath me.”

Even the prophet speaks honestly to God.  We can do the same.  Go to God in prayer to defend yourself from despair.  

Habakkuk ends with these words from v. 3:18-19:

     “. . . yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

       I will exalt in the God of my salvation.

   God, the Lord, is my strength;

      He makes me feel like the feet of a deer,

      and makes me tread upon the heights.”

In the introductory notes for Habakkuk, there is more clarification in understanding why bad things can and do happen.  In referring to Habakkuk 2:4 “. . . the righteous live by their faith”.  The notes continue, “The prophet’s vision emphasizes trust in God despite circumstances.”

John Wesley spoke to the same them in Sermon 119, as referenced in the introductory notes:

“. . .  judgments concerning good and evil, not to visible and temporal things, but to things invisible and eternal.  . . .hope [is] based not on visible circumstances but in God.”

These words from the Old Testament and the Wesley Study Bible are guiding me to fuller understanding and appreciation of how valuable my faith is in managing life in our earthly world.  And with that, I pray:

Dearly God,

Guide me along my journey.

Speak to me through scripture.

Teach me by the words of your faithful.

Then, let my words be your words

Sharing your grace, your promises

    and your love with others so they, too,

    feel your love and live to love others.  –Amen

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A few personal notes in lieu of holiday-focused rhetoric

Plowing on through the year-long Bible study, I am now into Deuteronomy and Acts.  I am struggling with remaining open-minded enough not to get bogged down by the minutia of the Old Testament laws.

But I also admit that I am doing everything I can not to frame the current national status within the context of the Old Testament laws.  I do not understand why we have to make our lives so complicated by complex legislation.

You see, the New Testament law of loving one another supersedes everything else.  As I read through the detailed explanations of the Old Testament Law, I see how even that one commandment encompasses all the initial ten commandments. 

Therefore, I again implore all to use the Golden Rule as a litmus test for all decisions.  Does the decision show love for one another?  Is the decision something I want applied to myself?  Can I apply this decision in my own life that I chose to love one another?

As I listen to the nightly news, I have a tendency to analyze what is going on along the rubric of the Golden Rule.  How could the event or the person been different if the individuals involved really did use the Golden Rule.

I even find myself reviewing the personalities and wondering if they have stopped to consider whether or not they reflect the Golden Rule.

Needless to say that this is an over-simplification of any event I am sure, but if only we could live the Golden Rule as the one and only law that needed to be applied.

And this over-simplification probably will make many snicker, especially when our country is celebrating its independence. But, I fear that our founding fathers would not be impressed by the way our democracy is NOT using the Golden Rule.

Therefore, I invite all to join in prayer for the country, the leaders, and the people. . . 

Dear all-knowing, all-powerful Lord, our God,

Forgive us for our narrow-minded thinking.

Open our minds that we honestly see and hear

     what we say and do to one another.

Guide us to rethink our decisions and actions

     using the Golden Rule as our guideline.

Move us to action to love one another in any way 

     that we can, whenever we can, at all the times

     we can so your love reaches all.  –Amen

[P.S.  The holiday week has been gilled with grandkids, anniversary, and holiday—not to mention excessive rain.  Next week will be busy, too, as I step away for a few days.  I will see you after then.]

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Why is simple complicated?

given on Sunday, July 16, 2017

Scripture connections:

Opening: Romans 5:10-11, NLT

10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

 Sermon scriptures:

Romans 11:3-6, NLT

Elijah the prophet complained to God about the people of Israel and said, “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”[a]

And do you remember God’s reply? He said, “No, I have 7,000 others who have never bowed down to Baal!”[b]

It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel[c] have remained faithful because of God’s grace—his undeserved kindness in choosing them. And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.

Romans 12:1-2, NLT

And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.[b] Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:9-18, NLT

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection,[a] and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.[b]12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Closing: Romans 16:17-20, NLT

17 And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. 19 But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus[a] be with you.

 Reflection: Why is simple complicated?

One of my favorite cookies is a ‘no-bake’ cookie. Not only does it have all the chocolate one could possibly want, but also it does not include the extra work of baking them, especially on hot summer days. The no-bake cookie is simple, right? Well, the name of the cookie may be somewhat misleading.

In a similar manner being a Christian is really simple, too. How difficult is it to remember the new law versus the Ten Commandments of the old law? Surely being Christian is simple. Love God. Love one another.

When God decided to send Jesus with a much less complicated law, those who were faithful may have understood the Ten Commandments; but religious leaders had continued to add layers of rules to their lifestyle that complicated faithful living and could have lead one to breaking a law that they may not have even known existed.

Being faithful was not simple.

Jesus delivered a simple way to be faithful: Love God first, then love one another as you want to be loved. How simple can it get? Yet we tend to complicate even the new law. Paul knew the complicated law of the Jewish faith, so when he began his work sharing the new law delivered by Jesus, he wrote letters to keep encouraging the young churches.

Paul referred back to the ancient prophet Elijah about how God had not forgotten his people even though it may have felt like it. God does not forget the faithful Jewish people; he just tried to simplify their laws by sending Jesus to demonstrate how to live a faithful life. Paul’s letter goes into detail about the personal responsibility of all new disciples—whether Jew or Gentile:

  • 12:1 give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.
  • 12:2 let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
  • 12:3 Don’t think you are better than you really are.

 

Being a Christian should be simple, but we tend to complicate lives by what we do and do not do.

Paul continues to explain to the Roman church that God has given us each gifts to use: prophecy to speak out with faith; gift of serving; the gift of teaching, gifts of encouraging, giving, and showing kindness. The list is not complete, it simply lists a few of the skills God gives us to use in our lives, but we tend to complicate our lives with some very negative behaviors as Paul goes on to explain:

  • 12:9 Don’t just pretend to love others.. . . Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.
  • 12:10 Love. . with genuine affection and . . .honor each other.
  • 12:11 Never be lazy. . .
  • 12:12 . . . be ready to help . . . eager to practice hospitality.

 

The list details the simple law of loving one another. Sadly, though we can be criticized for what we do, but living simply means ignoring those who “persecute you” and as Paul says in 12:16-17:

 

Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

 

Just like no-bake cookies. The name makes the cookie sound easy, but the instructions do not always include the difficult tweaks that good cooks know make the cookie so scrumptious or how to make them extra special with secret ingredients.

Paul listed the special instructions so the Gentiles could live in community with the Jews who had generations of instruction in living faithfully. The Jewish faithful had to have the special instructions so they could adjust to a simpler lifestyle and not judge the Gentiles. We, too, need to read through Paul’s letters to remember how to live faithfully, also.

Ask the best cooks you know what the secret is to their no-bake cookies and you will get a list of suggestions just as Paul’s letters provide a range of suggestions to the various churches. In Romans, he begins wrapping up his letters with a few other points:

  • Chapter 13: “Respect for authority”
  • Chapter 14: “The Danger of Criticism”
  • Chapter 15: “Living to Please Others

 

And then he concludes the letter with personal notes and plans. These last chapters are like the special notes the experienced cooks write in the margins of their recipes—some even dating when they made the recipe and for whom it was made.

My no-bake cookies are seldom the same any two times. Why? I tweak the recipe based on what ingredients I have available, who the eaters are, and even the time I spend on making them. And what are the notes along my recipe card? The most critical one is to let it boil at least 3 minutes. My favorite tweak is peanut butter added to the recipe. I have even changed it to a non-chocolate no-bake cookie, but it is not greeted as favorably as a dark chocolate version is.

Being a faithful Christian should be easy with God’s new law delivered by Jesus Christ. Why, then, do we seem to make it so difficult? Paul knew personally the extent of the law’s change, and he did whatever he could to encourage the new church to live simply. In our personal lives, we must spend some time evaluating our own practices. Are we living faithfully? Are we respecting each other? Are we demonstrating our gifts in all the ways that we can to love one another?

The recipe may sound easy since it says “no-bake cookies,” but the more we develop our discipleship as Christians, we learn how to tweak the law to make the best Christians we can of ourselves. We need to work to be better. We also need to work together to be the church God asks us to be. When we fail, then we need to reread the recipe and try again. The result will be worth the reward.

Closing prayer

Dear God,

You have delivered us a message, a recipe for faithfulness.

Generations have preserved the simple instructions,

But we look for ways to make them even easier to follow.

 

Just like excellent cooks know, the simplest recipes

Need practice to reach perfection.

Guide us in following your words so we too may reach perfection.

 

Help us to toss out what has not worked

And to try again to find the best ways to love one another

And to carry your message to others in our community.

 

Open our hearts so we can love freely.

Open our minds so we can learn from our mistakes.

Open our doors to all your children who seek

life now and life eternal

with you, our father,

with Jesus Christ your son,

and with the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

 

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Faith Is Freedom

given on Sunday, July 2, 2017

Scripture connections:

 Opening: Psalm 68:19-20, NLT

19 Praise the Lord; praise God our savior!
For each day he carries us in his arms. Interlude
20 Our God is a God who saves!
The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death.

 

Sermon:

Romans 5:20-21, NLT

20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Romans 6:3-4, 10-12 & 14, NLT

Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. . . .

 

10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. 12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. . . .   14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

 

Romans 7:4-6, NLT

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God.  When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.  But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

 

Closing: Ephesians 1:6-7, NLT

So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.

 

Reflection: Faith Is Freedom

 

I picked up the latest copy of Reader’s Digest the other day and began absent mindedly flipping through the pages starting at the back. The first thing that caught my attention was a series of pages with colorful maps on them. I slowed to figure out what was being shared—“Who Knew? You say tomato. . .” was the article title and each map simply showed the differences in terminology Americans use. For instance, the western 1/3 of the country uses ‘fireflies’ while the rest of the country, primarily the Midwest and South, uses ‘lightning bugs.”

Interesting, but what else was in the magazine?

In a world that the print media is struggling to survive, the Reader’s Digest holds a special place in my life. We grew up with it and it resided in the bathroom. By the end of the month, it was well dog-eared. I loved the humor sections, the drama in real life, and who knew what else would capture me. This month’s edition is a special issue, “Your America,” and is filled with features about all facets of our lives.

The brief story, “Sergeant Turner’s Ride Home,” caught my attention. A veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder committed suicide in California, but his family was in George and could not afford to claim his ashes. The Marines stepped in and tried to figure out the best way to get him home.

We live in a country that has struggled to understand how to live with God and country while not infringing on anybody’s individual freedoms. Yet, God works in mysterious ways and this holiday weekend we are graphically reminded how important freedom is. Sometimes we forget that freedom is not a political platform of any one party—Democrat, Republican, Independent, etc. Freedom is living in a manner that allows for free decisions about how we live.

All too often, the simplest solution to a problem is forgotten by all the legalistic hoops that humans have created in an effort to live in an orderly, independent, free society. The answer is so simple: love one another as you want to be loved. God’s Golden Rule solves all the complications that one might encounter in daily life, yet it is ignored as our elected officials try to find ways to spell out the specifics and include all the different exceptions to a rule it can.

Faith is freedom. God is. God loves. And we mess things up over and over because we are human. We have the ability to make decisions on our own. The gift of free will has caused the downfall of humanity over and over. Paul, himself, experienced the rigidity of the Jewish faith, the legal structure of the Roman government, and God’s attention-getting blindness. He knew free will, he knew the Jewish laws, and as a Roman citizen he experienced unique privileges. Yet he had to be blinded to see that true freedom comes from faith in God.

Do we have to be blinded in order to see, too? Paul wrote to the Romans in order to introduce himself, but also to outline what faith means in the lives of the new Christians whether they were Jews or Gentiles. He knew the complex Jewish rules. He was a Roman citizen, too, so he knew the civic laws under which he had to live. But when he was blinded and learned the extent of God’s forgiveness, he was freed of all the restrictive laws of the Pharisees and the Romans.

In his letter, he outlines the connection of the sinfulness of humanity to God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ:

21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

The life and teaching of Jesus was designed to free us from all the sins of our own choosing and from all the evil outside forces that could enslave us too. Choosing to accept God’s grace and the forgiveness provided through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus provides us with freedom:

Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?

 

Once we have accepted Jesus Christ as the means of salvation, we are choosing to live by the simplest laws possible. First, we chose to love God above all else; and then we chose to make daily decisions based on the Golden Rule. The freedom we experience from our faith provides unlimited joy. It guides our decisions, our relationships, and our perspective in life:

11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. 12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.

 

As Americans, we celebrate the birthday of this country this week; but sadly, we have failed to celebrate the fact that we are Christians first who are free from sin and all earthly constraints because God loved us so much that Jesus Christ was sent to demonstrate how to live the very freedom that faith in God provides.

As Americans who are Christian first, the decisions we make are to fulfill the commandment to love one another as we want to be loved. Christian freedom is the foundation to live freely loving one another without fear that we are breaking any law that humanity can design

Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

 

Paul’s letter may have been written to the Romans back 2,000 years ago, but the words apply to us here in America right now, too. We are to live our faith freely to do all that we can in all the ways that we can for all that we can.

The Marines freely did what they were called to do. They could not allow Sergeant Turner’s ashes to be simply boxed up and sent via FedEx or any other delivery service to his family. The Patriot Guard Riders, American Legion motorcyclists who provide escort services to the veterans, organized the return, “. . . a caravan—or as they described it, a ‘pony express of iron horses’”:

“On August 5, 2015, dozens of Patriot Guard Riders, many veterans themselves, accompanied Turner from Ontario, California to a Love’s truck stop in Lake Havasu, Arizona, on the California border. A veteran wearing white gloves somberly handed off the wooden box containing Turner’s ashes to the PGR captain from Arizona. Then the Arizona chapter drove the ashes 388 miles to the New Mexico border. The handing-off ceremony was repeated, and then the New Mexico Patriot Guard Riders transported the ashes to Texas, and so on until the ashes reached Georgia five days and some 2,000 miles after leaving California.

“The great state of Georgia proudly accepts this man on the final leg of his return home,” the captain of the Georgia PGR told his Alabama counterpart. “Thank you, Alabama, for bringing him home.” (Simmons 2017)

 

Faith is freedom, but freedom does come with a responsibility and that is to live your life in relationship with God. Accepting Jesus Christ as your savior, being baptized, and participating in a faith community provides the means to live a Christ-centered life with others to assure that we continue to grow in faith, be accountable to God, and to serve one another in love.

Members of the Patriot Guard demonstrated the very principles that God asks of us to love one another as we want to be loved. The riders did not know Turner personally, but they demonstrated their love for a fellow patriot by escorting his ashes across the country. Do we live our lives demonstrating love of one another?

As we step to the table to share in the bread and the cup, we can celebrate our freedom from sin. Faith is freedom. God loves us so much he sent Jesus Christ to demonstrate how to live our faith freely. He assures us that we are saved from our sins by our faith. We accept that gift of salvation at our baptism, we remember it through communion, and we live it freely as we love one another in the same manner that Jesus Christ showed us.

Closing prayer

Dear almighty and loving God,

 

We celebrate the freedom

that you have designed for us.

Even when we stumble and stray,

You continue to love us:

Loving us so much

that you forgive us when we ask.

 

During the week ahead,

May the freedom of our country

Protect all those who seek

To live the freedom you provide.

 

Guide us to live responsibly

Protecting the freedom you provide.

Help our faith be beacons of hope

To those still seeking freedom from sin.

 

May our actions of love for one another

Provide evidence of your love

In your name

and of the Son

and of the Holy Ghost, amen.

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How does God’s law fit into our American community?

given on Sunday, July 3, 2026

Scripture references:

According to the Gospel: John 15:11-15, MSG

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

 

Guiding scriptures: (esp. when talking freedom)

 

  • Galatians 3: 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[a] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

  • Galatians 5: 13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

 

Guiding scripture: Galatians 6:7-10, NLT

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

 

Reflection:

 

Americans are celebrating this weekend—at least as much as the weather will allow—but the celebration marks the country’s 240th year since its declaration of independence from the British. Consider that time span. What has this country experienced? Why has it survived? What will the future be—another 240 years?

These questions cannot be answered, but reviewing history we can trace the changes that the nation has experienced. Not all the stories are happy, not all turned out as citizens expected, yet the country has existed for 240 years and that is worthy of a celebration.

The question for today’s Christians, though, is challenging: How does God’s law fit into our American community? Certainly this is not a unique or even novel question to ask, but for this 2016 year, the question seems to spring up in the midst of mudslinging, verbal attacks, and sometimes even worse behaviors as the country braces for the election season this fall.

God has seen it all before, I am sure. We have the stories of the Old Testament that share similar human behaviors just not on the global video screens we have sharing every bit of it in real time in full color right in our own homes. There seems no escape from the unethical, un-Christian behaviors playing out before us.

The negative behaviors are exhausting. We add to that the continual news feeds of the horrible atrocities whether nature inflicted or human inflicted. The world needs God as much, if not more, than it ever has needed him, especially since God is love.

God’s creation is losing the battle with evil and Christians cannot give up. God created the Old Law in order to assure that humanity could live in harmony with each other but also with the rest of God’s creation. A set of ten laws was all God thought was needed. He gave them to Moses to implement and the ancient Israelites were to follow them.

For thousands of years, regardless of the geographical location of the Israelites or the political powers that were ruling the lands, the Israelites were held accountable to the Ten Commandments. Still more laws were added to the original ten; judgments were made, punishments metered out, and the Old Law became unmanageable.

To shorten the recap of God’s faithful and the complications that developed during those ancient times, 21st century Christians can jump ahead knowing that God decided to make a change. Out with the Old Law and in with the New Law.

Certainly the Old Law could have worked, but God could not get the message to the faithful that the application of the Old Law became overly complicated. Action was needed and God did act. The answer to the 21st century question was answered over 2000 years ago when God arrived in the form of man, Jesus Christ.

There was no cataclysmic event destroying all the life on earth, rather there was the simple birth of a baby and a span of 33 years as that child grew up, became an adult, and began his ministry that ended in his death and miraculous resurrection. The simple New Law replaced the Old Law—Love one another, as you want to be loved.

How simple. One law. One rule to learn and to follow. One, not ten and not a thousand or more that had been created by the Pharisees trying to make sure the ten were followed.   One law is all God said we needed then and all we still need today.

The question that seems to confuse us is how do we live with just one law today, in the 21st century, in our community, in our nation, in our continent within the global community. The answer seems overly simple and that might be the problem. That one law should evaluate each action of each person. The rubric or the answer key is just one question: Does that action/word/behavior show that you love others as you love yourself?

For instance, driving down the highway and needing to move into another lane does the action show that you have put the others safety first or does the action put self first at the cost of others safety and comfort? Does calling up a friend with the latest scuttlebutt about a neighbor share love for that person or does it hurt that person? When God checks you on how well you are carrying out his law, do you pass the test or do your fail?

The New Law, the Golden Rule, is now over 2000 years old and the news reports are filled with the very behaviors God does not want to see. We are God’s hands on this earth, and we are responsible to apply the New Law in the best way we can. That is how we use God’s law in the 21st century.

Use God’s law daily. Find ways to treat family, friends, and neighbors, even strangers the same way you want to be treated. The more we use the New Law, the more we internalize God’s love.

Paul knew first handed the power of God’s love. It was strong enough to blind the Pharisee Saul persecuting the earliest Christians. God used that same love to heal Saul and to send him as a missionary sharing the message beyond Jesus’ own world.

As the Christian missionary, Paul used any means he could to share the story and he refused to let even the Galatians corrupt the New Law by scolding them and reminding them how to live under the new law. In his letter, he explained how to focus on living the law:

  • Galatians 3: 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[a] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

  • Galatians 5: 13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

 

These verses, as well as the entire letter, apply to us right now. The new Christians in Galalea were no different than we Christians here in our own American community nor any other global community.

God’s law frees us from all worldly restraints. Applying God’s law supersedes all laws. Living by the Golden Rule eliminates any risk of breaking any human rule. God’s law answers our question “How does God’s law fit into our American community?”

Live God’s law and we are free. Just remember that with that freedom comes a responsibility to love one another. Love is the method we use to operate in the home, in the neighborhood, in our country and even around this globe. The freedom we experience living God’s law also calls us to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

You are called to love one another. You are called to serve one another in love. You are commissioned by God to share his love in any way that you can. Use Paul’s words to check yourself.

  • Are you serving one another in love as you want to be served?
  • Are you willing to give up a few minutes or even hours to serve others in some way you might not typically do?
  • Are you able to open a door to someone new?
  • Are you sure that you reflect God’s love to all you meet?

This Independence Day is special for us as American Christians, but it is also a time to review what freedom is. Following God’s law truly frees us from all the worldly restraints and that gives us such joy that it explodes inside us like the fireworks sparkling above us as we celebrate our national American heritage. Let others find God sparkling in your life, lighting others up in love, too.

Closing prayer

Dear Loving Father,

Thank you for the freedom your New Law

gives each and every one of your faithful.

 

We acknowledge that we all too often

fail to serve one another in love.

 

We ask your forgiveness for our flaws,

our closed hearts, doors, and minds.

 

Thank you for the strength of Paul’s words

teaching us how to live by the Golden Rule.

 

We ask you to fill us with the Holy Spirit

so we may share your freedom with others.

 

We ask you to open the hearts, doors and minds

to others in our community so they are free, too.

 

And when our days seem gloomy and dreary,

let your Son shine in our lives so others find the way.

 

In the name of you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

grant us peace, now and forever. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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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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Do We Ever Grow Up in God’s Eyes?

–given on Sunday, January 10, 2016

Scripture base: Luke 3:15-22 (lectionary reference to Jesus’ baptism)

Luke 18:15-17

Biblegateway.com connections:

[ Jesus Blesses Little Children ] Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them;

[ Jesus Blesses Little Children ] People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.

[ Jesus Blesses Little Children ] People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it.

 

 

Have you ever noticed that you never feel grown up? One of life’s more embarrassing experiences is running into an old high school classmate and not even recognizing him or her, but then there is that voice. Suddenly a thousand memories rush over you and recognition is there!

The process of growing up does make physical changes in our appearance, but the process does not have the same effect on our brains.   The more we age, the more knowledge we gain; but does this mean we grow up in God’s eyes?

We often address God in our prayers as ‘Father’ and we ask him for guidance. We go to God to complain and to ask for help. The attitude we take is often the same as that we use with our earthly parents. Do we ever grow up in our parents’ eyes?   Do we ever see our own children as grown up?

In the commentary for this week’s lectionary, there is an interesting reference to Dominican Priest Jude Siciliano. He explains an old Southern saying that I have never heard before: “God has no grandchildren.”

The saying means that our faith is not handed on the way family heirlooms or family stories are handed on from one generation to the next. Although we honor our ancestors in the faith from Adam and Eve, through Abraham, Moses, and the apostles, our faith is not handed down from them. God has no grandchildren; God has only children. The Lord entered our lives directly through our baptism. Our parents and godparents certainly want to see us have the gift of faith they have received but they cannot give that gift; it is from the Lord.

 

Maybe the secret to growing up is not to grow up. If we are always, regardless of chronological age, a child of God it seems like we do not have to “grow up.”

But let’s back up this aging thing a bit. Aging is a process that begins on one’s birthday. There is no doubt that we have earthly, biological parents. Even Jesus was born with earthly parents, but it was during Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River that God’s presence became public when the Holy Spirit descended upon him.

Our baptism publically declares God as our father. As God’s child, we are never going to grow up. We can grow, but we are never going to outlive God. We are always his sons and daughters. We are never grandchildren. Nothing can forcibly separate us from our heavenly Father.

Can we ever grow up though? Certainly we can. We are organic beings who can physically develop from newborns to toddlers to school-aged kids to high school students, and even on to be parents.

Yet, through all these developmental phases, God is with us. As our heavenly parent, God is always present. He is available at any moment in time. He loves us even when we make mistakes.

In our closing hymn, Jesus Loves Me, we are reminded of how God loves us as his children. We might think the hymn refers to the youngsters, only, but if we are God’s children then age does not matter. Remember, we are God’s children even if we turn 5, 15, 55, 91, or 101.

Does this not make a huge difference when we consider birthday celebrations? If we never grow up in God’s eyes, then we never have to feel grown up. The opportunity to be forever young is a gift that we can accept.

How do we accept God’s gift? There is only one way. We accept Jesus in our lives, and publicly affirm the relationship through our baptism. Accepting God also means that we accept the responsibility to follow his teaching and to live according to his Golden Rule. If we do not unwrap God’s gift, then we will never discover the secrets of life everlasting.

As Christians, remembering our baptism can keep us young. Even though it is possible to never participate in a reaffirmation of faith service, reviewing the baptismal covenant is one way to celebrate being God’s child. [Turn to p. 32 in the UMH to read the statement concerning baptism and/or review of the covenant ceremony.]

The Baptismal Covenant is God’s word to us, proclaiming our adoption by grace, and our word to God promising our response of faith and love. Those within the covenant constitute the community we call the church .

Persons of any age are suitable candidates. Infants and others unable to take the vows for themselves are presented by parents and/or sponsors. . .

. . . Baptism is not administered to any person more than once, for while our baptismal vows are less than reliable, God’s promise to us in the sacrament is steadfast.

Baptism is an outward sign of one’s acceptance of God as our heavenly father. Baptism defines God’s relationship with us. We are responsible as sponsors and as independent adults to accept God’s gift.

Unwrap God’s gift by reading the Bible. We know that our earthly parents and grandparents have learned many secrets to life, but those who model reading the scripture, going to church, serving one another in love, will always be children in God’s eyes. They opened up God’s gift and used it. As you unwrap God’s gift to you, too, you will learn that the secret to never growing up is accepting God as your heavenly father.

  • Apostles’ Creed (UMH 881)
  • Invitation for baptism/church membership (UMH p.33)
  • Closing prayer (UMH 253)

 

 

 

 

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