Pastor’s Bog – A Worship Guide for March 17, 2019
Scripture for this Week: Genesis 15:1–12, 17–18
Scripture for Next Week: Luke 13:1–9
What are you afraid of? No one is listening in, nobody else is here to judge. What are you afraid of? Christ would love to help eliminate that fear. But it will take your effort combined with God’s grace to make you fearless and whole. As I read Genesis 15, I can almost feel the anxiety of Abraham. He is getting old, way beyond the age in which his body could logically participate in the child making process. A long time ago he heard God make a promise, he dedicated his life to God based upon that promise, but now, Abraham is afraid. It has been a long time since he has heard God. Did God really speak to him at all? Did he imagine the whole thing? Has he played the fool? Abraham has been praying, pouring out his soul, longing to hear God’s word. Yet, for a long time now, the answer has been silence. Then, this morning, as Abraham faithfully kept up his prayer routine, God answered. “Do not be afraid Abraham. I am your shield. Your reward will be grand!” (Message Translation)
This morning I was meditating on psalm 119, and I sensed the fear of Abraham in the psalmist’s words:
145–152 I call out at the top of my lungs,
“God! Answer! I’ll do whatever you say.”
I called to you, “Save me
so I can carry out all your instructions.”
I was up before sunrise,
crying for help, hoping for a word from you.
I stayed awake all night,
prayerfully pondering your promise.
In your love, listen to me;
in your justice, God, keep me alive.
As those out to get me come closer and closer,
they go farther and farther from the truth you reveal;
But you’re the closest of all to me, God,
and all your judgments true.
I’ve known all along from the evidence of your words
that you meant them to last forever.
Abraham has been praying at dawn, praying in the middle of the night, seeking God at all times. And When God answers, it is with a covenant, a promise, a picture of what is to come, a realm of God filled with the children of Abraham, a kingdom of God filled with so many children Abraham will not be able to count them all. This covenant, this promise, this revelation is the culmination of decades of Abraham’s seeking a relationship with God. And at this point, Abraham still has a lot to learn. He has children to raise, more challenges to overcome, and a long way to go before he can sleep. He is in the midst of “sanctification.”
John Wesley described sanctification as the process of being shaped and formed into the image of Christ. It is grace, but it is grace that requires our response. The best book on the theology of John Wesley is named Responsible Grace (Author Randy L. Maddox), because taking responsibility to serve God is the core of what it means to be a Methodist. Once we have accepted the fact that God is real, that Jesus is the face of God in human form, and we can accept that we are good in God’s eyes, we move into a life long process of being transformed. We are transformed until we can see through the eyes of Jesus, and when people spend time with us, they can say they have experienced the presence of Christ. We are responsible for listening, learning, and participating in our lessons. God will teach us, but we have to do the homework.
A number of people probably just stopped reading when they saw the word “homework!” But for those of you still with me, the good news is that this homework is life-giving and will fill you with the experience of God. Yes, it takes effort, but we have been gifted with tremendous resources for the project.
The first step in the project is to evaluate where you are and where you want to be. God has given us the covenant vision of a family of brothers and sisters too large to count, living fearlessly. Jesus calls this the Kingdom of God and says it is among us or within us (Luke 17:21). That is the goal, to experience the Realm, Reign, or Kingdom of God in this life, and then eternally. To experience the end goal, we start with small goals. Use the questions below to form short term achievable goals, and over time, you will be transformed.
Questions for the Journey:
- How have you experienced God today, in the past week, the past year? How will you seek God tomorrow?
- How did you grown closer to God in the past year? What are specific examples? If this past year was a blur, and you feel like you have been stuck for a while that is OK. Because next year will be better! How would you like to be closer to God at this time next year?
- What are the specific steps you will take for growing closer to God in the next week, month, year? What efforts will you take to serve God in ways you have not done before? What effort will you take to study God in ways you have not done before?
Resources for the Journey:
- Lent Bible Study – Join me at the FUMC Gathering Room (Room 120) every Wednesday in Lent to discuss how to read and understand the Bible. We will be using Rob Bell’s What is the Bible as our resource.
- Self-Guided Study – at the back of Rob’s book, he gives us an appendix of dozens of books for further study.
- Pod Casts – Here are some of my favorites:
Start knocking! God is ready to answer!