The Family of God

1st Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: Romans 8:12-17

Upon our adoption into the Christian church by the action of our faith, we become a new creature. In Paul's words in our text today, he describes the laws for an adoption by Roman culture at that time. In that adoption, a person’s life changes completely.

We need to refresh ourselves on that process of Roman adoption. The birth father would symbolically sell his son three times. He would then buy him back twice, but the third time he would not buy him back. The new father would go to the magistrate who had the power to accept or reject the action of the birth father. All the rights of the boy being adopted, his birthrights, were transferred to his new father, and the lad gained a complete new identity.

If another male child was born in his new family, that child did not become heir to his father’s wealth. Adoption at that time in history was a serious and long process.

There were four major steps in an adoption.

  1. The adopted person lost all rights with his birth family.
  2. He gained all birthrights with his new family.
  3. In the eyes of the law, the adoption wiped out all of his records and previous life before he was adopted. It was a clean slate.
  4. A father had total control over his children, including the power of life or death, at his fingertips.

This is what the Apostle Paul was thinking about when he was talking about Roman adoption. What Paul says is that God’s Spirit witnessed with our spirit and that we are all children of God. Paul is saying that it is the Holy Spirit who witnesses the adoption into the family of God.

Once we were an absolutely powerless over sin, but God in His mercy has bought us back into His possession through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. All of our past is canceled. Our sin debts are paid in full. The slate is wiped clean and we begin a new life with our God. We become heirs of all of God’s possessions. If Christ had to suffer, then we too inherit that suffering. But if Christ was raised to life and glory, we also will inherit that life and glory.

This is the picture Paul is painting of a man or woman who becomes a Christian. They enter into a new life and family with God. We have done nothing to deserve it, and it cannot be earned.

It is a gift from our Lord and Savior. God the great Father, in His loving mercy and amazing love, has taken away our lost and helpless lives in poverty and strife. God had adopted each and every one of us into His holy family.

We are debt-free and our sins are canceled. They have removed as far as the east is from the west, never to be recorded by God again. We enter the glory of God through the shadow of Jesus. Amen!

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost Sunday
Scripture: Acts 2:1-21                                    

In the first 13 chapters of Acts, there are more than 40 references to the Holy Spirit. Now the early church was a Spirit-filled church. That was precisely where the church’s power supply came from.

What actually happened at Pentecost we really don’t know.  Yet, we are certain that something greatly changed the disciples and us today.  It was far, far more than just speaking in tongues.

The disciples were huddled together in the upper room, behind locked doors, in fear of their lives. The Lord appeared unto them and breathed the Holy Spirit in them. They emerged from the upper room and walked the streets and by-ways, preaching that the Lord\has arrived.

They were proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of God, whom the people crucified and sealed in a tomb. They shared that Jesus arose, offering all of God's gracious love.

The Old Testament speaks of this great event in Acts 2, starting in verse 16:

“No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

In our day and age, less and less focus has been on the fulfillment of this great prophecy. It’s high time – past time – that we allow these words of God to be watered down. We need a rebirth!

  • of that first Pentecostal day
  • of the in-filling of the Holy Spirit in the world
  • of our nation, 
  • in each one of our hearts and lives.

We have slowly programmed out the loving Spirit of God out of our lives and even out of His church. Christ is not the main thrust in our lives any more. Instead of being Christ-centered and Spirit-filled, we give Him the leftovers of our time.

Until we wake up, Spirit-filled and motivated, He will decline in our world and our individual lives.

God, please awaken each of us to the Holy Spirit who seeks to reign supreme in our lives. Amen!

Jesus' Ascension

7th Sunday after Easter
Scripture: Acts 1:9-11

It is important that we have a firsthand account of Jesus’ ascension. We discover this in Acts 1:9-11. “After He said this, He was taken up before the very eyes of the disciples in a cloud that hid Him from the disciples.” Two men dressed in white stood beside them.

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?” they asked. “This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into Heaven will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into the heavens.”

There are two reasons for firsthand accounts of Jesus’ ascension.
  1. It was necessary that there should be an eyewitness.
  2. We know that for someone to be a credible witness in a court of law, he or she should be an eyewitness.
If Christianity were but a think-so-too, it would have died off many years ago.
  1. A real witness is not the witness with words, but with deeds. 
  2. One of the most suggestive facts is that in Greek the word for “witness” and the word for “martyr” come from the same word.
  3. An eyewitness must be loyal no matter what the outcome. Thus the disciples did become martyrs.
Jesus spent 40 days after His resurrection from the dead as an eyewitness to the power of God to win the victory over sin and death. Thus, it is absolutely correct to say that we do not regard Heaven as just someplace beyond the sky.  A place of Heaven is a place of blessedness where we will one day and forever be inseparable from God.

If Jesus was to give His followers irreversible proof that He was going to His Heavenly glory, wherein one day His faithful followers will go to be with Him, one day His followers would go with Him.

But we don’t need to worry about when the second coming will transpire.  But it will happen. But it is foolish and useless for us to speculate on how it will happen, for Jesus told us His Father in Heaven has fixed the time and date, and not even Jesus knows the hour or the day.

Jesus’ second coming means that Christianity is not stationary. Rather, it’s going somewhere. God the Father has a plan for each one of us, so history is not a haphazardous conglomeration of events. It also is going somewhere.

God so loved His creation and mankind that when mankind stumbled and fell from grace and glory He sent His beloved Son Jesus, the Christ, to redeem us. Even when mankind murdered Him, God did not forsake His creature, man, but once again gave mankind another chance for the blessed eternal life.

We need to realize, with all that’s going on in our world today, that God is still in control. While Satan seems to be in control at this moment, when the final battle between Satan and God happens, God and His creature man win the battle.

In the meantime, we must forge ahead as the battle rages on, offering our small bits of spiritual energy toward the final goal, aiding the winning of the battle along with and for God. Let us pray!

Jesus Loves

6th Sunday of Easter, Mothers Day
Scripture: St. John 15:9-17

Our scripture text speaks of a Father God’s love for all His precious children, showing us that love through His Son Jesus, our Savior.

While Christ's love is offered to each of us, He does not force his love upon us. We encounter His love as we except His Son, Jesus’ love. Loving all others as we are instructed does not mean we accept them as Christ accepts us. Rather we acknowledge them as God acknowledges us and cares for them as He care for us, wherein we seek to treat them as full brothers and sisters by the blood of Jesus Christ.

One type of human love that I know that imitates Christ’s love for us is the mother’s love for her child.

The Greek called it "Storge" (ฯƒฯ„ฮฟฯฮณฮฎ storgฤ“) which means "love" or "affection" and especially of parents and children.  It is a natural affection, like that felt by parents for their children. In so many ways, her love is sacrificial... as Christ loves us.

I know many such mothers who sacrifice themselves for their children, and today I’m lifting up two…

My wife Judy and daughter Renรฉ are these 2 women.

Judy’s love is so much in giving totally. She refuses to eat or place anything on her plate before my plate if filled and I often have to take the first bite. She goes out of the way making others happy and giving to them first over herself.

Other examples of a loving, selfless mother mother:

  1. a mother who dies giving birth to a child
  2. a mother who’s birth mother is unable to do it herself
  3. a mother who is really a child/teenager herself
  4. a mother who adopts a child who’s birth mother could not raise the child (such as Renรฉ)
  5. a mother who take on the role with a special needs child

Plus there is an army of ladies who never give birth to a child but step up to the plate when the need arises to love a child. And let's not forget the aunts and grandmothers. All of these situations mentioned offer Motherhood and reflects God’s eternal love for all the little ones.

Recall from the scriptures in Matthew 18:6,  when a disciple told Jesus to send all the children away…

Jesus said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

For many today, we have only precious memories of our mothers who gave us life but now is in the fullness of God’s heavenly Kingdom. We thank You, oh God, for loving mothers, who loved us. And thank You for sharing Your divine love for us also. For those of us who've lost a mother, we know they wait with You in the heaven now for our reunion when we pass. Amen!

Pruning for Growth

5th Sunday of Easter
Scripture: St. John 15:1-8

John is telling us that our lives are much like that of a fruit tree.

The fruit tree has many branches that do not bear fruit, and the fruitless branches take nourishment from the tree, robbing the tree of a larger crop of fruit.

Our spiritual activities that do not bring new disciples for the kingdom of God ae much like the non-fruit-bearing branches of the tree. Yes, we are spiritually filled persons, children of God, but are we producing new life for the kingdom of God, or just holding onto the status quo?

There are many ways that the church becomes fruitless in bringing new life into the congregation. So much of our energy and resources are spent on maintaining ourselves; so little is spent on making new disciples.

Self-maintenance on our church budget, as an example, includes all our utilities, wages, supplies. All these items are needed; don’t misunderstand me.  But some of these are for our comfort, while many have the idea that everything we spend is for outreach ministries and growth.

If we were focusing more on outreach, the church would be overflowing with humanity. Imagine and dream with me a moment or two. What would be the results of spending on outreach as much as we spend on ourselves?

There are quite a few ways in which we might become fruitless in making converts for the Lord, but here are two:

  1. We can refuse to list to the message and voice of the Lord as He calls us to be His disciples.
  2. We can listen to the Lord and then give Him only lip service.

While we can accept Him as our teacher and guide, we also need to move out of the church structure doing His business wherever we can and whenever we can in our lives. There is one thing we must remember, a principal of the New Testament: uselessness invites devastation.

As I look at the church in our nation today, I see that it is in a downward spiral. We have allowed society and the business world to take priority in our lives. Today the church has lost some of its priority. How about Sunday evenings and Wednesday Prayer meetings?

Activities start 7:30 - 8:00 am even on Sunday mornings, including sporting events and games. Work schedules have done a number on church attendance. For instance, some jobs now require 12-hour shifts with 4 days on and 3 off continually.

It has been stated that the Christian church will no longer be the largest church in the United States within 20-25 years. All these things I mentioned are harmful for church and personal spiritual growth.

Thus we must revamp ourselves and use what every time we have seeking to make new disciples. Time is short!

We need to be a living church or we will not be THE church of Jesus Christ.

Let the Lord guide us in new ways to spread His Gospel of Love and Life, and let the Lord guide us away from distractions. Amen!

Laying Down Our Lives

4th Sunday of Easter
Scripture: 1 John 3:16-24

God created us in His image and loved us as His own children while giving us the ability to love Him or rejecting Him. When man fell from God’s grace, we were ejected from the Garden of Eden.  From that point on, mankind has struggled to encounter God’s love.

Into the human heart there are bound to come doubts of God’s love.  Anyone with a sinister mind and heart must some time wonder if he or she really is Christian at all.

John’s heart is quite simple yet very far-reaching. If we feel love for our fellow human being welling up with our heart then we can be sure that the heart of God is in us. We are conscious of many sins if we are conscious of God’s love to some degree.

John would have said that a so-called heretic whose heart was overflowing with love and whose life was beautiful with service is far nearer Christ than someone who is impeccably orthodox. What is the meaning of that last statement?

While our hearts condemn, God heart is infinitely greater.

  • God is all Holy.
  • God is all knowing. 
  • God is all pure.
  • God is all powerful.

Therefore we should fear God! He has the right to condemn us, yet through Jesus and His grace we are saved, with hearts crying out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”

While our hearts condemn us, God’s love is greater. It is our knowledge of the Gospel that gives us hope. While mankind judges us by our actions and deeds, the God of all love and grace is the final judge and jury.

Let us look into the scriptures. 1 Kings 8:17-18 tells us that David said “I live in a fine palace, while God has no earthly temple to dwell in. I will build Him a palace.” But God said “You shall never build me a house on earth.” That’s because David had blood on his hands with the killing of Uriah. In verse 19, God continued... “But because it was in your heart to build me a temple, your son Solomon, who is your own flesh and blood, will build a Temple for me.”

The devil seeks to destroy the love of God in our lives by continually reminding us of the things we wish we had done for our Lord but we did not do them.

Mathew Chapter 25:37 says, “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Therefore we are God’s hands actively living in the world today. Use whatever He places in your hands and you shall be blessed.

Walking in Faith

3rd Sunday of Easter April 19, 2015
Scripture: I John 3:1-7

We often overlook the letters of John only because of their small size, but they have tremendous gifts to offer us in our struggles, to remain faithful to our Lord.

What a tremendous gift to be called "the children of God!"

The reason so many don’t know us as His children is because they don’t know HIM.

The world does not recognize us because they don't see us as agents of God's divine love.

There is a Scottish paraphrase of our scripture for today:
"Behold the amazing gift of love
The Father hath bestowed
On us, the sinful sons of men,
To call us sons of God!

"Concealed as yet this honour lies,
By this dark world unknown,
A world that knew not when he came,
Even God’s eternal Son.

"High is the rank we now possess;
But higher we shall rise;
Through what we shall hereafter be
Is hid from mortal eyes.

"Our souls, we know, when he appears,
Shall bear his image bright;
For all his glory, full disclosed,
Shall open to our sight.

"A hope so great, and so divine,
May trials well endure;
And purge the soul from sense and sin,
As Christ Himself is pure."

John begins this letter demanding that His people should remember their privileges.

Just belonging to a great school, a great regiment, a great church, and great household is an inspiration to fine living. It's even more to bear the name of the Family of God. This in itself ought to keep us on the right pathway, seeking to climb higher and higher towards the Lord.
But John points out, we are not merely CALLED "the children of God;" we ARE the children of God.

There is something here that is noteworthy: We are the children of God by the greatest and wonderful gift of God’s Son, Jesus the Christ!
By nature, man is a creature of God because God is his creator, but it is by grace that mankind becomes the children of God.
The Old Testament tells of our covenant relationship with God. The New Testament shares with us our adoption as God’s children, because of the blood sacrifice of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. By the deliberate act of God, all Christians enter into the Family of God.

Immediately the question arises: if man has that great honor, why are so many downtrodden, displaced, and unrecognized by the world? The answer is quite simple. When Jesus came into the world, the world did not recognize him as God’s son, nor has it recognized the Christian as a child of God.

Therefore, some are bound by their faith in the eyes of a sinful world, yet God promised he would not leave us or forsake us, if we remain faithful to His promises.

“I will be your God if you will be my people.”

Let us pray.