Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
There was a fire alarm at a retirement community. Residents did their best to hurry outside, in case the threat was real – in some cases with the aid of canes, walkers, wheelchairs or neighbors.
One woman, who was experiencing the early stages of dementia, came out long after the rest, clutching several photographs – some framed, some unframed. A neighbor asked, “why did you bring those?” The answer was honest and insightful. She said, “because without these, I couldn’t remember who I am!”
Who would you think yourself to be without the words of scripture, the teachings of Jesus and the church, and the reminders of weekly worship? Many have never discovered their true identity as children of God. They don’t realize who their family is, and don’t have a relationship with the heavenly Parent of us all. Thank God we have all these signs and signals around us – and the Holy Spirit’s confirmation in our hearts – that we are the children of God.
Prayer: God who knows us and claims us as your own, I pray for the many who do not know who they truly are, because they are not living in relationship with you. Thank you that Jesus told us to “go, teach and baptize” in his name, and that I’m part of a congregation that is trying to reach more of your children, that they may come home to you, too. Amen.
…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
We all have regrets. But the extent to which they keep us down or hold us back is a matter of choice, and of faith. No wonder the Bible talks so much about forgiveness, renewal, and new life in Christ – we need it!
Yes, you have made mistakes, just like everyone else. The question is, can you let it go, learn from it, and “strain forward to what lies ahead?” If so, you’ll join the Apostle Paul and the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12) in running the race of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Thank you, forgiving God, for offering me what I so often need – release from the bondage of my past failures and mistakes. Help me believe what your word says is true – that “as far as the east is from the west,” you have removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103). Amen.
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. “Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Mrs. Baughman was my 6th grade Sunday School teacher. One morning, she brought a pan of brownies to our class. As the goodies sat over by her chair, she gave each child a slip of paper marked with a household expense: house payment, utility bill, phone bill, entertainment, etc.
My slip had a car payment. Before long, Mrs. Baughman picked up the tray of brownies and began naming the expenses written on the papers. As we gave her our expenses, she redeemed each one for a brownie. "Car payment" she announced. I jumped up to get my brownie from the pan.
Finally the last brownie had disappeared. But one boy named Donald still held his unredeemed slip. "God!" called Mrs. Baughman. Donald came forward hoping the teacher had one more brownie hidden somewhere. With a knife Mrs. Baughman scraped the crumbs from the bottom of the pan into Donald's napkin. He got a pretty raw deal, I thought - just crumbs.
"The brownies represent your money," the teacher explained to us. "If you don't give God his share right away, He probably won't get anything except maybe the crumbs."
I never forgot that illustration. The day my friend Donald got only the brownie crumbs, even as a child I learned that God should have the first right to everything I have.
In the years since Mrs. Baughman’s class I have struggled with giving and priorities, but whenever I recall the "Crummy Sunday School Lesson," I know who should and must always come first in my life!
Prayer: Lord, forgive us for the times when we have given you less than you deserved. We aren’t going to make excuses; because you’ve already heard them and you know what is in our hearts anyway. Help us to examine our priorities so that we live, give, love, and share according to what we believe to be of most and most lasting importance…. and help our list of priorities resemble yours. Through Christ we pray, Amen.
And this is the secret plan: The Gentiles have an equal share with the Jews in all the riches inherited by God’s children.
There is a hand-written note in my Bible telling me to replace the word Gentile with any word for underdog (i.e. sinner, unbeliever, etc). I guess we could also replace the word Jews with our own names. “The murders, rapists, child abusers, slave makers have an equal share with me in all the riches inherited by God’s children.” Or, just as challenging to the way I often think: “The people who think/believe differently than I do have an equal share with the me in all the riches inherited by God’s children.” In think that substituting these terms is a great practice. It reminds me that God’s love is for all of us. It reminds me that I’m nothing special, except for what God has done in and through me. It reminds me of who I was and where I’ve been and where I would be still, except that God loved me. It reminds me that if God loved me that much, God loves each of those God created that much. It reminds me never to judge another’s journey. What an important thing to remember!
Prayer: Thank you Lord, that at one time my name had been in the first blank when someone exchanged the words Gentile and Jew. By your love and grace I now have the opportunity to occupy the second blank, not as a form of judgment, but as a way to remember from where you have rescued me. Keep me from focusing on the differences between myself and others, and instead remembering that you have come to save us all. Help me to love others as my brothers and sisters, equally redeemed by your love. Amen.
Suddenly, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane.Too much study has made you crazy!”
Paul had been sharing his conversion experience when Festus told him he was crazy. We are all sometimes worried about sharing what God has done in our life, and being considered a little “off”. “I can’t say that, people will think I’m nuts!” But what would be crazy or insane or nuts is to have good news and to be too afraid or timid to share it. People are starving for good news. Just look for 10 minutes at the nightly news, we need something good to give us hope, to inspire us, to keep us from giving up. We have news, life changing news. Let’s risk people’s opinions of us. Let’s take a walk on the wild side, like Paul did.
Prayer: Amazing God, some things are too good to keep to ourself. To some the story of Jesus and the story of our changed life is craziness. Often something seems crazy just because we don’t understand or have experience. Paul’s prayer was that all those who heard him speak would choose Christ. Let there be none who we meet who aren’t given that same crazy, wonderful opportunity. Give us Paul like boldness. Amen.