Freedom from heritage: It’s complicated

Whose son or daughter are you?

Consider your answer in the space here for a moment or jot it down in your Bible study notebook.

 

You may be like me and write some names with, “It’s complicated” in the margin. 😉

Your storyline might look slightly simpler, but life is rarely without complication.

Paul accuses the Galatians, at the beginning of Galatians 3, of foolishness, not because of their history, or their life circumstances, but because of their definitions of all of it.

Read Galatians 3:6-9 and look for the answer to this question:

In what did the Judaizers want the Galatians to find their justification, their ground for inclusion in the community of faith?

… just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:6-9)

Abraham, sons of Abraham, along with Abraham…

Abraham was the heritage of the Jews, the father, the great-great-great to beat all great-grandfathers. He represented the seed of faith for them. Without his legacy, I think they felt unmoored, unsure where to turn, unsure what they would point at in order to say, “I’m ok. You’re ok. We’re justified. Safe.”

We can experience this too when we look to our parents, our grandparents, or our heritage for mooring, for identity and certainty. When broken marriages and families are part of our history, we don’t know where to put that. When national oppression, the Crusades, the Holocaust are in the lineup of our family or faith tree, ack, I don’t even know where to put that.

But God does.

Paul helps the Galatians, and even the Judaizers by redefining their heritage. Abraham made sense to them. The line of Abraham has been what they followed for generations. God, through Paul’s pen, offers a new way of defining their heritage in Abraham:

Abraham received the Gospel beforehand.

It wasn’t that Abraham received the law of circumcision that mattered. That wasn’t the heritage that God was passing down for generation to generation. It was that he received the Gospel to pass down from generation to generation.

I am not, and Paul is not, discounting the epic that is the nation of Israel, the people of Israel’s story. It’s that the law of circumcision, the heritage of Israel, is only as useful as what it points to – the Gospel.

This is what Abraham passed down:

And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.”  Genesis 15:6-7

This is what Paul points to in Galatians 3:6-7, as well.

God spoke and Abraham believed. It wasn’t his name that mattered to God or where he came from.

God spoke. Abraham believed. Abraham, in all his issues and complications (and there are many – see Genesis 16 or Genesis 20 for just two examples) was credited as righteous because of God’s Word spoken over Him, God’s Word passed down through Him.

Just as complications of families’ lines, heritage, and nationalities are passed down and threaded through our history- the good, the bad, and the ugly – so are God’s work and God’s Word.

God can work outside of us and in spite of us.

I’m complicated, you’re complicated, families are complicated, heritage is complicated.

Isn’t all of life?

There are no easy answers.

Through the Word, the Gospel spoken, Faith works in and around all of the complication.

Freedom doesn’t come dependent on where you came from or who you came from. God’s Word spoken brings freedom to our families. If your family passed that freedom on to you, great! If not, it’s your turn. You are passing on the faith now, in this time, to the next generation. From the time of Abraham, to the Gospels, to the Apostle Paul and the Galatians, and now to us, freedom comes in the Word of Life.

We are opening that Word together, now, as you read. That is a powerful thing. We share it with one another. We share it with the next generation – that is a powerful thing.

No matter what complications come our way or we put into our family line, when we have the Word, share the Word, live in the Word, there is freedom.


Discussion questions:

What complications in your family history can you identify?

What complications in Christian history can you identify? (The not so pretty times, decisions, and pieces of Christianity across time.)

What freedom have you seen God work in the midst of and through the complications?

Love the Sojourner

First of all, this is not a political post.

Second of all, this is a Jesus post.

Neighbors, brothers, sisters, friends, immigrants, refugees….

The truth is, we are all sojourners. We are strangers in a strange land.

Our land never quite feels right. We don’t quite fit in. We don’t know where to put things like loss, heartbreak, hate, anger, fear, doubt, pain, grief, war, shame.

Just like the children of Israel slugging it through slavery in the land of Egypt, we look around, we see sin and its consequences, and we know the truth – we are sojourners traveling through a land briefly. Our home is eternal. Our home is comfort in the arms of our Savior. Our home is the feast to come, the victory of heaven, not the blackening landscape of a home that passes away.

We get glimpses of this land through His Word, His sacraments, and through one another.

For this reason, Deuteronomy 10:19 speaks His Word of direction to us:

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 

God gently reminds Israel and us of all we’ve been given, of the freedom that has been won, of where we have been, of where we are headed, so that when we look in the eyes of our neighbor, we’ll see our own experience as the sojourner far off…the sojourner who was once a stranger to God, welcomed with open arms, by a neighbor named Jesus.

We GET to be part of all of that. We get to be welcomers into the Body of Christ and the kingdom, because we ourselves have been welcomed, not because we have lived in Haiti, or Germany, or Africa but because we have eternity. We have a home with no shame, a new home of grace that will one day be full and complete.

We have been brought out, so that others may be brought in.

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 

Who are these others? Look around you. Who is on the outskirts looking in? Who are those that do not know what we know of grace? We can reach across our lawns and we can reach across our oceans and love, love, and love some more.

God does not limit Himself to what is visible in providing for our needs. There is always more room, more trust, more mercy, more comfort, and more provision in the economy of Christ. Where do we doubt His ability to keep us safe, to provide resources for us, and to give us strength when we look at the sojourner in need?

Just as God answers the fears of the people of Israel proactively, He answers ours in the same Word.

Deuteronomy 10:20-22:

20 You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.

He is your praise. Look what He has done! Can He who raises the dead provide what we need to love? Why yes, I think He can.

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

A tiny little command, tucked inside a whole lot of promise.

We raise our hands in Praise to Him who can, and simply ask Him to point us in the direction of where to send all the love.

 

Free Love the Sojourner iPhone Wallpaper

Look for the Love the Sojourner line coming out in May 2017, on our Products with a Message page. #surroundme #starttheconversation #productswithamessage

 

Nations, constitutions, and things that pass away



Day Five – Nations, constitutions, and things that pass away

We, as people living and breathing, like to feel secure. It isn’t an American thing; it isn’t attributed to a specific heritage or culture. I have seen it in nations of poverty and nations of wealth, nations with expanse and nations that are tiny dots on the map, every race, every tribe, every tongue. We like to feel like our feet stand on solid ground, like our lifestyle is stable, our loved ones, our economic status, and our way of life tightly secure.
In fact, I think we prop security up like an idol. We place all our trust in things that appearthat they will not perish, that appear that they will not pass away. Strong armies, glamorous princes, a well spoken president, a bolstered reserve. In reality, history teaches us well that all of these will pass away.
In fact, they will not just pass away. They will in their time, be plucked up.
In Mark 13:1-8, Jesus teaches his disciples and those around Him:
And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
(This passage, or at least portions of it, also appear in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.)
           
Buildings have their time. Governments have their time. Nations have their time.
We know, as amillenialists, that we are in the end times. The Old Testament believers waited for the fulfillment of the promised Messiah and we, New Testament believers, await His coming again, when all things will be made new, when our way of life is plucked up by God for something better. Knowing this, knowing what is to come, and that it is all in God’s hands, we can rest our security soundly where it belongs, with Christ. We can pray for our nation. For its place and time in history and ask God to work in and through it, but we do not place our trust in it.
What does all this have to do with our study of Ecclesiastes? Context.
Matthew Henry brings up in his commentary of Ecclesiastes that the language of the Old Testament with uprooting, or plucking up, is almost always in relation to the nation of Israel.
Here’s on example in Jeremiah 12:12-15:
Upon all the bare heights in the desert
    destroyers have come,
for the sword of the Lord devours
    from one end of the land to the other;
    no flesh has peace.
They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns;
    they have tired themselves out but profit nothing.
They shall be ashamed of their
[a] harvests
    because of the fierce anger of the Lord.”
Thus says the Lord concerning all my evil neighbors who touch the heritage that I have given my people Israel to inherit: “Behold, I will pluck them up from their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them. And after I have plucked them up, I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land. 
God wanted his people to know that they were chosen people, they were for a place and time, because He had chosen them to bring His son to the world and thereby His saving Grace to every nation on earth. Every nation. His judgment of every nation, every ruler, every person, in their place and time, is perfected in God’s desire for all people to be saved. Thank goodness!
I have no opinions about the current political status of the nation of Israel or America, or any other nation for that matter. What I do care about is that God is secure. God is the solid rock. God is eternal, unshaken, our anchor.
 And so we wake up and we lie down. We live our lives. We pray for our leaders. We pray for our military. We pray for our first responders. We thank and praise God for each and every day He gives us safety, and wealth to be stewards of, and peace in our land.
But trust… our trust we put in Him and Him alone.
Our King of Kings our Prince of Peace. To Him be the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Discussion questions:
What is your national or cultural heritage? How does this influence you?
In what way can politics or national security be a stumbling block to our faith in God? How can it be a blessing to us?