Archive for category Uncategorized
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. [NRSA: John 15:1-8]
Who owns the vineyard?
God is the owner of the vineyard, the plants, the soil, pays the taxes, cares for the property, cares for the vine. We are called to be fruit of God’s labor.
Who is the Vine?
Who are the branches that bear fruit?
Us, the church, the people of God, Christians, Disciples, folks in this room and watching this stream.
When someone takes your hard work and uses you’re your idea, your product, our your effort to produce work for themselves? What if they not only use your labor, but do so in a way that brings harm to others? Even more so, they take credit that is yours, blame you for the harm and shame, and they become justified by the law of the land by discrediting your work but sticking you with the blame for their theft and abuse? How does that reflect on you? How is this different from God’s perspective when we claim what is our property, our ideas, our value, wealth, power, or the like?
To God belongs all things, all people, all the history and future.
We are the branches… we already established that, but our question is about fruit production.
Imagine you and I are watermelons in the field. We are connected to the vine, the source, of God’s love in Jesus Christ, fed the nutrients of the Holy Spirit, nurtured by those in the faith and body of Christ. Know, we are not of the seedless variety. We are connected to God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit and the church, to be more than a plump specimen of survival, we are to produce seed that become other vines and branches.
What is the expectation of branches in the parable that do not produce fruit? Do they remain part of the vine system? Do they continue to thrive and mature? No, they are pruned. They are cut off. They are not helping to extend, reproduce, expand, and branch outward and they are no longer useful to God.
This is such a harsh statement? Where is the grace? Where is the loving God?
It’s in the call upon each disciples to use the spiritual seeds that you are designed, born, and already have in your spiritual DNA.
Reality of Fruitfulness
Frankly, we are in a season of pruning, no control over the global pandemic, no control over the decisions of our denomination, no reason to trust our political leaders, no reason to believe in justice when the system is broken. We are hopeless, depressed, and afraid. And in these times of uncertainly we tend to be withdrawn, hunker down, and retreat.
In these times we are not planting seeds and not sharing the faith, assurance, love, grace, truth, and power that has been given us through Christ, the Holy Spirit, nor the church.
We can busy ourselves with finding the appropriate person, system, institution, or corporation to blame, or we can recognize that none of these are charge with the same power, tools, gifts, blessings, and authority to scatter the seeds: some on the path, some in the poor soil, and some in the good soil. But the task is to be planting, sharing, and scattering the seed we already have been given.
Blame and Shame never plant seeds of life.
Where there is no fruit, there are no seeds, no future, no life, no hope. What is the reverse of that story? IF we have hope, we have faith, if we trust the life given to us, we see the future God has for us, and it begins in the tools, stories, adventures, suffering, and life God has already given us, and will give us.
The vine and branches are connected:
If, and only when, we are connected to God through Christ do we KNOW we are receiving life, Jesus’s question to disciples like us and the world, are you just getting plump or are to preparing seeds?
The power is conveyed through our connection with Christ, but our goal is not simple to live, rather we live to share God’s story. It is fruit we have been prepared and saved to share.
Two Months Ago
This returns us to our invitation, of now 8 weeks ago, 2 months, of responding to the call to bear fruit. We need to be checking to see how our seed supply is doing for reaching beyond ourselves to the world around us.
What are our Seeds to Share?
What are our seeds? From the Bible are both stories of faith, examples of love and forgiveness, rules and commandment of boundaries, examples of living connected to the vine of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The seeds are
- in the scripture we live,
- songs we sing,
- the stories we tell,
- the lessons we study,
- the sermons we preach,
- the experiences we share,
- the struggles we persevere.
Tell the person next to you: I already have the seeds for sharing my faith!
Where and When to plan the seeds?
- Brothers fighting for approval.
- Sisters working for appreciation.
- Neighbors divided over politics, members splitting hairs over theology,
- the sick, forgotten, and excluded long to be included and overcome their brokenness.
- The weary seek rest,
- Those grieving, seek hope and life.
Remember Zacheus: He is the tax collector who has oppressed everyone in town, no one welcomes him at their door, he is seeking Jesus and Jesus invited himself to the man’s home and table. Zach encounters Jesus, and leaves knowing that every evil deed can be mended through Christ. He new business is to work justly and personally makes right what he himself has done to harm others. Jesus does not give him a law or commandment, he plants love and grace in a sinner’s heart and the vine transforms the branches. He begins bearing fruit of grace. Zack, sees the power of his sin and selfishness, and forsakes that lifestyle for a life of restoring connections that once were broken and dead.
Hear the Good News
Did you know that God desires for us to be whole more than to be guilty? Confess our sins and be free and made new in Christ. Zach, already had the seeds to bring justice and to restore what was stolen and extorted.
Jesus knows our Struggle in this World
Did you know God gives us these bodies in this broken and sinful world so that it truly means something when we give away all that we could have to have everything we truly need in Christ.
The seeds of faith that are already part of who we are, are NOT ours alone
The Alternative to growing, spreading, sharing, and bearing fruit, is simply existing, biding our time, or even more harmful, using God’s connects for our power, our success, our glory, our prize, our will.
Lord Have Mercy on Me a Sinner.
This the best prayer to start and finish the day… The context is that as long as we are in this world, with the temptations and freedom to choose our life is an ongoing choice to stay connected AND bear fruit.
Are we bearing fruit? If not, then wake up people.
We are preparing for fruit we might never see: But if we never see any fruitfulness then we are dying on the vine, in the heat of the day. Question from the parable: What happens to the melons that are beginning to rot, or have stopped growing before they mature? They are removed to make room for the branches that will bear fruit.
The Seeds in our Pocket.
One of the early sermon illustrations from 37 years ago came from William Barclay’s commentaries, and he recalled an old English rhymn: “It’s not what I would do if millions were my lot, its what I WILL do with the pence I’ve got. “What are the seeds. Seeds are the miracles of potential. Given the opportunity seeds, as pieces of God’s work, planted through out hands, become the new generation of livelihood for the vineyard.
Just about the same time I started preaching the GA Satellites wrote a song:
Georgia Satellites: “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”
[Verse 1] I got a little change in my pocket going jing-a-ling-a-ling; Wanna call you on the telephone, baby, I give you a ring; But each time we talk, I get the same old thing; Always, “No huggee, no kissee until I get a wedding ring” [Chorus] My honey, my baby; Don’t put my love upon no shelf, She said,”Don’t hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourself”
[Verse 2] Ooh, baby, baby, baby; Why you gonna treat me this way? You know I’m still your loverboy I still feel the same way; That’s when she told me a story ’bout free milk and a cow; And said “No huggee, no kissee until I get a wedding vow” [Chorus].
Verse 3] You see, I wanted her real bad and I was about to give in; That’s when she started talking about true love; Started talking about sin; I said, “Honey, I’ll live with you for the rest of my life”; She said, No huggee, no kissee until you make me a wife”
There is much talk about loving our neighbor, but it is a combination of loving our neighbor who happens difficult to love. This is the work to which we are called and connected to Christ to live.
How do we plant seeds when someone eats them for their dinner?
Watermelon is not on my list of food to reach my healthy weight, but once I reach that goal, it will be choice on my plate, what is already on all our plates, is to get access to the seeds that are within us and put them to work.
I chose the watermelon as the image for today because we tend to forget that its not just about our own sweetness, and goodness, it is the seeds that are produced in our lives that enable and empower others to be connected to Christ.
A Hands on Opportunity
If you don’t know where to start sharing your faith, start with a seed or small tomato plant or other fruit bearing plant and go and offer it to a neighbor, help them plant it in their yard, for find a place to keep the pot on their porch, deck or patio, and show them how and when to water and nurture, advise them on what problems to anticipate and how you might avoid them, and check back in when it time to see the fruit. And you have the model of what to share with someone about their faith…
The Journey of Discipleship is like that of gardening:
- We share what we have known as a gift to others,
- We invite them to work in northing faith in their own life,
- We give them tools, knowledge, and experience of what it good and evil,
- We hold them accountable and celebrate the journey with them.
The Power of a Lawn Mower
God gives each of us the details to fill in the blanks… but if we secretly planted a watermelon seed in someone’s backyard, and it happen to spring up, they might cut it down with the mower thinking it was a weed. And the effort is wasted.
- Share what you know, God will fill in the rest.
- Stay with the growth and God will give you words and build the relationship.
- Hold accountable as support, just as God holds us accountable in judgement!
- And the vine will thrive through us, and through others, and others, and more until Christ returns for the harvest.
Are you ready to plant seeds of faith, love, grace, hope, joy and life? Then let’s get busy!
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. [NRSA]
You are witnesses of these things.
This is a helpful story of repetition to strengthen our faith. This is yet another time that Jesus appears after the resurrection. And his purpose is the same as before.
He greets them with the breath of the Holy Spirit and the presence of a Holy Peace. And again they were terrified.
Why are you still frightened? Why are you still afraid? Why do you continue to have fear and doubts?
It is here that we can join with those disciples as disciples today and Jesus asks the very same of us!
Again Jesus offers the signs of his crucifixion, his side, his hands and his feet.
The next verse nails the point we know too well: “While in their joy, they were disbelieving and still wondering.”
We gather in the good news of the power and truth of the resurrection. We celebrate, we sing, we rejoice, we find comfort in our gathering to worship and praise, and in 30 mins we will hesitate in making a faithful choice or decision. We will ignore someone we should have reached out to help. We will have talked through when we should have listened. When challenged we will justify our thoughts and behaviors are just, kind, and righteousness, and not listen to our neighbors.
To further prove Jesus was not a ghost, a vision, or the collective fruit of their imaginations and hopes, he asks for something to eat.
Those who have died have no need to eat.
Those who are spirit only do not hunger or thirst. Here. Jesus is spiritually filled AND yet hungry. And asks for food!
David Brennet, The good Jewish, Italian, or even Southern mother we force anyone who comes in the house to eat, even if they have eaten, say they are not hungry, get a plate of food, if you say you are hungry get a feast.
Jesus says he is hungry.
Proof that he is alive and in full human/Divine form. This is the foundation of the covered dish dinner Jesus asks for food and the bring what they know best, fish.
This appearance Jesus not only gives assurance and proof he reminds us of the
Then he said to them,
1. Let’s knit the lessons of the Old Testament and the promises of prophets and laws of Moses to see the fulfillment of God’s word and messengers.
2. He opened their minds to the scriptures, this is not our understanding of being “open minded” as much as it is to read and heard Gods work with both fresh ear and deep faith, to see Gods new message is not actually new,
3. Hear the Good News in the Hard Truth. Explaining the cross and the debt for sinus’s been paid.
4. Go call for repentance and forgiveness in Christ name.
5. To all nations, starting at home.
What verses of the Bible do you turn to when you are teaching someone who is becoming a disciple they explain who Jesus is, what Jesus has done for us, and what God is expecting us to do as the living presence of Christ?
Shout them out loud! What are you shy or don’t know where to start? We have one job and we have clouded it with what entertains and pleases us in worship? We worry about light bills and building maintenance. We focus on what time we ga5er at the church…. none of which in itself teaches discipleship, none of it completes the assignment.
Church is calling a sinful world what it is and inviting us all to become what God has intended from the beginning. What God makes possible when we have messed things up in our lives, when we have handed authority of life anywhere other than to God…
We start in the closest circle and head for the ends of the earth.
Where to start
Below are ten passage I invite you to study, learn, memorize them or memorize where to find them when you need them. Feel free to add more, but start here as a set of tools for the work of disciplining
Dad bought me a socket set to work on my first car. A car that I paid $300, drove 100,000 miles and sold for $300. I’d love to have that Impala back for $300. 8 miles to the gallon, no air, and ugliest green you have ever seen. But I could work on it. I had the tools, now my Tahoe is in the shop 9 days and has a team of folks stumped.
I need someone with the right tools and experience. When it come to discipleship we have the tools, and we have the presence of The Holy Spirit, the power of Christ, and all it take is making the experience possible for our neighbors, and then the rest of the world. It won’t happen sitting in worship. We’ve got to get busy, cause Jesus is coming and what are we going to show when he gets back.
Key verses for Discipling
John 8:31–38: So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
Matthew 28:16-20: Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
2 Timothy 2:1-2: You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
Luke 9:23-24: And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
John 13:34-35: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
Read: Jonah 3.4 (NRSV)
Jonah shows us that God can change an entire city in forty days. God can change an entire nation and God can change just one heart. Wearing sackcloth and ashes on our face reminds us, and the community, of our act of repentance and the inward cleansing of our spirits and clearing the way for the Lord to work through us.
The sackcloth was scratchy and uncomfortable. The ashes were from the sacrifice of burnt offerings. Both were signs of a real change. We hear people say they are sorry or that they have changed. We want to measure the words by a change in the actions that follow.
Action Plan: What might you wear in public that would communicate that you are a work in progress for God? Try it and be ready to explain to those who ask why you are wearing your “ashes and sackcloth.”
Prayer: God help me show the world how you are at work changing my life. Amen.
Read: Ezekiel 4.6 (NRSV)
What is a just punishment for a crime? If it were up to us would we punish someone one day for every year of suffering? This is what God says will be the punishment of the house of Judah. If God can make right in one day what it takes a year to do wrong, then why can’t we try when we feel that there is no point?
You have the power to set people free from guilt, fear, and pain. One day of forgiveness can add years to someone’s life. One day of love can open doors of trust for generations to come. One day of honesty before God can set your heart right for eternity.
There is never a time to say, “there is no use in trying to repair that relationship,” to undo that injustice. And just because it may take forty years to help promote a change in society or one single heart, we should not be discouraged from taking that first step.
Action Plan: Identify a need no matter how great or small in our local community that you have been concerned about. Pray about how God can use you to bring about a change in the matter.
Prayer: Lord, help me to see what I can do every day that will make a difference for you in years to come. Amen.
Read: Psalm 95.10 (NRSV)
Does God want us to despise an entire generation? Are we to be a witness of grace? Does he want us to hate anyone? Some of us hold onto hurt and hate for a lifetime. We think we are holding harm over them or protecting ourselves.
Think of the energy and personal resources that are required to maintain prejudice, pride, blame, and leverage over others. The psalm writer beckons us to look in the mirror and do more than talk about what we don’t like. It is time to return to God’s ways for our daily living.
When we keep the fires of discontent and hatred burning long after the perceived wrong, we are hurt far more than anyone. Blame is neither a cure nor an answer. We carve out a place in our hearts to carry this burden. Why not fill our hearts with mercy?
Action Plan: Pray about a wrong you have suffered that no matter how much time passes continues to fester like a wound in your spirit. Practice true forgiveness.
Prayer: Teach me forgiveness and let me repent that I may start this day new in your will. Amen.
Read: Nehemiah 5.15 (NRSV)
As a prophet, Nehemiah helps the king hear the cry of the people. Can you imagine a king raising taxes in a time of famine in the land? People were losing their homes, farms, and vineyards in exchange for food on the table today. We have had a glimpse of this firsthand in the pandemic.
The king has a change of heart, after thinking it over, he found people to blame and charge with the injustice. He had people who were sold into slavery returned and he established lending without interest.
A leader that loses sight of the needs of the people should fear what justice God will bring upon them. Reform to help the king is different from reform that helps the people.
Action Plan: Write letters to our local and national leaders so that they might hear the cries of the oppressed.
Prayer: Help me do more than talk about injustice. Let me be an agent of change and a prophetic voice for you. Amen.
Read: 2 Kings 8.9 (NRSV)
Hazael took forty camel loads of gifts to the prophet Elisha in hopes that he would foretell if King Aram would recover from his illness. Elisha reports that the king will recover but will surely die. Elisha also tells of the king’s unjust treatment of God’s people and weeps for the harm that will come under his leadership until the king’s death. Hazael goes home, reports the good news regarding his recovery. Hazael also suffocates the king and takes his place.
It is hard to see justice during such corruption. Sometimes evil must be stopped even through war and violence. People might be doing harm to themselves and others and not make the connection. We are called to live up to those who harm or act unjustly. (Do not go suffocating anyone, please.) Speak the truth that people may choose faith when given the opportunity.
Action Plan: They might be annoyed, but if you see someone smoking ask them if you can help them kick the habit. Pray for them and encourage them, as you are able.
Prayer: Lord, help me to hear the cries of the helpless and be their prophetic voice. Amen.
Read: Matthew 4.2 (NRSV)
Our journey begins and ends in God’s presence, walking with us through each day. We have been on a journey this Lenten season of study, prayer, fasting, and witnessing the hope of Easter. For it is Easter that drives us into the wilderness and what also drives us back out.
Christ’s journey has led us through our own personal journey. In these weeks we have seen how much we need Christ who can withstand all temptation to stand with us.
The end is in sight. We can now rest from our journey for tomorrow we enter the gates with thanksgiving in our hearts! Yet, be on guard that temptation not take you over.
Action Plan: Lay out what you plan to wear to church and get plenty of rest, but never forget where you would be if we had not made the trip.
Prayer: Thank you for standing with me, all the way to the end. Amen.
Read: Numbers 32.7-17 (NRSV)
Some restaurants require reservations. One way to always avoid needing a reservation is never eat at a place that requires them. That is a drastic choice that will also require us to miss out on some special occasions and experiences. Maybe those who choose to take an easier route don’t like to wait or think the practice is not fair, or they just have a poor attitude and fell out of control. Make the reservation and enjoy the fellowship.
In our spiritual journey, neither should we avoid making time to experience spiritual growth opportunities before having tasted it. The passage from Numbers 32 recounts a time that some of the family of God were discouraging others from entering the promised land because it would involve further difficulty, inconvenience, and struggle. This leading of others away from the mission of God is like those who discourage our faithfulness in doing what is necessary to experience God’s promises and ministries. God was angry when they were discouraging the faithfulness of others then and is now with us when we become barriers to change, sticks-in-the-mud, and those who encourage others to take spiritual short-cuts thinking we have a better plan than God’s.
It is Caleb and Joshua who are the exception to God’s judgment. Unlike the majority, these two, can enter the land promised by God because they had trusted God, without reservations. When we listen to the fears and pressures of others that call us away from God, and yet we stay close to God, we find God with us, and that is the reward of the Promised Land for us.
Today is your opportunity to make certain this day is a day lived for Christ and a day filled with the Holy Spirit. Go out of your way to encourage others and when you hear someone holding someone back from growing in spirit, call them out. Remind them they are missing a visit to God’s Promised presence.
Action Plan: List the relationships, emotions, and attitudes that might be keeping us from knowing Christ’s joy. Make a reservation with a friend to share your list and listen to their feedback. Break bread as you are able and enjoy the fellowship with the People of God and a little milk and honey!
Prayer: Today, O God, I give you my life anew. Put me to doing or lay me aside. Allow me to be with you always, no matter what you and I do today.
For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason, it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore, his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. [NRSA: Romans 4:13-25]
God’s covenant with Abraham and the family of God to follow, was the God would multiply the family’s numbers to be a numerous as the stars.
With “B”illion stars in the Milky Way, and 1022 to 1024 in the viewable universe would be billions of billions [100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000] of stars. God works with exceptionally large numbers. God’s perspective is greater than our lifetime and even greater than our time on earth. God is about the business of making and keeping promises.
The fulfillment of a promise is not designed to be fulfilled at our demand, and yet, God desires to be present with us through the Holy Spirit, as close as the breath in our lungs and the wind in our face.
A promise is experiment in faith. God is not a contractual god who operates on fairness,
- God’s core-denominator is love.
- God so loves the world that God is revealed in the context of the human family, as our brother.
- The relation of Jesus is our brother, offering equal access to the father as a joint heir,
- reveals God does not show up to boss us around.
- God shows up with us, to show us how to love, how to love requires sacrifice, love is a promise, tested in a relationship.
Abraham receives from God, a promise that will be fulfilled beyond Abraham’s lifetime. Does that mean that God has not kept God’s promise? No, it means that God is concerned about us individually and collectively, in God’s perspective.
Paul is sharing this lesson about promises to people he would meet to weave together the promise of through Abraham and the promises revealed in Jesus and promise that extends to the church, which all three are the same promise of God.
The old hymn, standing on the promises of Christ my
Standing On The Promises by Russell Kelso Carter
Standing on the promises of Christ my king, through eternal ages let his praises ring; Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, standing on the promises of God. Refrain: Standing, standing, standing on the promises of God my Savior; standing, standing, I’m standing on the promises of God. 2 Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living Word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God. [Refrain] 3 Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord, bound to him eternally by love’s strong cord, overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword, standing on the promises of God. [Refrain] 4 Standing on the promises I cannot fall, listening every moment to the Spirit’s call, resting in my Savior as my all in all, standing on the promises of God. [Refrain]
Russell Kelso Carter (1849-1928) https://healingandrevival.com/BioRKCarter.htm
Russell grew up in the church and moved from his parent’s church when he was inspired by a Methodist youth camp, and from this point, he became focused on Divine Healing. As a young adult began writing hymns including his most famous, “Standing on the Promises” shortly after he had two bad health events that were not cured through prayer. Like Job’s friends, they told him he must have some unforgiven sin or shortcoming. He moved to the west coast, divorce his wife who was declared insane, and became a ‘quack’ healer, and basically renounces his faith. Some years later he remarried, and his second wife encouraged him to write about his struggle. In the process, he was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and was given a revolutionary new medicine that cured him in months in what was expected to a death sentence. In his reflections of God’s work in his own life, he realized that God was to be trusted in “prayer AND medicine”, saying both are necessary and God-filled healing.
Carter’s story is a witness to the struggle of having faith that God is willing to work through all things to redeem God’s people. His faith was restored and lived for many years as a trained physician and writer.
“Standing on the Promises” was composed in 1886 while Carter taught at the military academy. He was a member of the first graduating class in 1867 and had a powerful affection for the school. Author Phil Kerr makes a correlation between the music and the military academy in his book, Music in Evangelism, saying that Carter’s military experience was reflected in the martial musical style of the hymn.
Promise and Fulfillment: Believing the Promises of God, Victor Knowles, of Pepperdine University, writes:
“Herbert Lockyer, in his volume All the Promises of the Bible,’ tells the story of Everett R. Storms, a schoolteacher in Canada, who made a detailed study of promises. According to Time,’ Storms, of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, reckoned the figure of 30,000 to be too high (since it is roughly the number of verses making up the Bible31,173). During his twenty-seventh reading of the Bible, a task which took him a year and a half, Storms came up with a grand total of 8,810 promises (7,487 of them being promises made by God to humankind).
Of the 31,173 verses in the Bible, 7,487 about promises God makes to humanity. The 24%, one quarter of the bible is about promises.
The Dad who would not give up.
(1989), an 8.2 earthquake almost flattened Armenia, killing over 30,000 people in less than four minutes. During chaos and destruction, a father rushed to his son’s school, whom he had promised to pick up from school. But instead of a school, he found a heap of rubble. He ran to the back corner of the building where his son’s classroom used to be and began to dig.
As he began to dig, well-meaning parents tried to pull him out of the rubble saying: “It’s too late!” “They’re dead!” “You can’t help!” “Go home!” “There’s nothing you can do!” The fire chief tried to pull him off the rubble by saying, “Fires and explosions are happening everywhere. You’re in danger. Go home!” Finally, the police came and said, “You’re angry, distraught, but it’s over. Go home.” But this father had made a promise, and he was going to keep it!
This father had in his heart that he would search for his son no matter how he found his son, He kept digging for 8, 12, 24, 36 hours. Then, in the 38th hour, he pulled back a boulder and heard his sons’ voice crying for help. Immediately, he screamed, “ARMAND!” Back came the words, “Dad!? I told them! I told the other kids that if you were still alive, you’d save me.
This is the love of a father who rolls away the stone, to save us.
So what is it that God has promised each of us?
- God promises to give us life, eternal life, to be nurtured, blessed, and lived, now and forever.
- God promises to prepare a place for us in heaven.
- God promises to love us even though we are not worthy, because of our sin, doubts, fears, failures.
- God promises to guide us through the Holy Spirit. He will not forsake us.
- God promises to present in us, as Christ’s body for the world to experience.
- God promises to forgive us if we will trust his way for our lives.
- God promises to return to fulfill our lives IN God’s purposes.
- And there are others that are individual and personal to each of our lives…
So why do we question? Doubt? Fear? Sin?
We are surrounded by those who have based every part of their lives on themselves, on the world, on society, on wealth, earthly power, all that is temporary and founded in all that is not God’s will, not in relationship to God.
This spiritual journey is our wake-up call to review where we place our trust? Whose promises are we seeking to fulfill?
So, understand and experience God’s promises being kept, requires us to seek God’s perspective. The heart of the Abraham experiment, that Paul is highlighting, reveals God is willing to trust when we do not have the perspective to trust. God is, therefore, as the author of love, able to extend love, trust, grace, to those who “have faith” in God’s time, love, and perspective.
We are living in a season of human history, and a culture that uses faith, trust, and love to serve social and political ends. This is not loving, this is not trustworthy; this is not the truth, and it is not God’s perspective.
Let us step back and look at what a promise from God is:
- God is promising Abraham to trust God to provide what Abram cannot fulfill.
- God is promising what Abram cannot prove.
- God is promising What Abram cannot fully explain, and yet.
- Abraham knows ‘by faith’ God is able, based on who God is.
The modern views of God as a made-up creation of a human’s need for meaning and a way to explain what has not yet been otherwise explained. The implied nature of that God is that we can shape God to answer anything or nothing. In that vacuum, others will say they have the greater promise of freedom FROM God, freedom to be our FULL SELF, freedom to be SELF DETERMINED. Each of these goes against the very nature of our being and the nature of God’s vision for us.
God, having created us in love, already knows how we struggle, fear, fail, as well as explore, expand, and experience our current reality.
- Abraham has seen God of the universe desire a personal relationship and extends a covenant relationship between them.
- A Covenant is a promise from God, that God promises to keep even when we do not.
Covenant: A God Promise.
A Covenant is a bad business model. Businesses, power, finance, and control operate on contracts, fairness, and a twisting of what is good, and therefore, Godly.
The Covenant with Abram is not only to become numerous people but to inherit the earth. God is entrusting the future of the earth into the hands of those who have faith, but that also means if the faithful become unfaithful, God is willing to risk the sacrifice. This is the proof of love, this is the meaning of the crucifixion, this is the hope of the Resurrection, this is the Good News of a God that operates on love and faith.
Abraham meets God one-on-one and is stepping out as one person, standing face-to-face with God and offers his faith. God is not looking for contacts satisfied, God is looking for those who will trust God’s plan and perspective.
So for us, at this point in the journey: We are ourselves and one another,
- who do I trust with my life? My past, my present, and future?
- Who can save me?
- Who loves me?
- Who has claimed me?
- Who will forgive me? God.
- This is the story we retell, sing, shout, teach, and give witness to each other to the world.
- So let us not be quiet until God has fulfilled God’s purposes in our lives.