Posts Tagged ‘child of God’

Ash Wednesday, 2018

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. 

Day One of Brave Faith hits home right away, “As a middle-aged woman, my days of being daring seem to be slowly waning.” She’s got that right. What could be next? Retired from full time work, the last thing I expected six months ago, would be me sitting here in Zambia, Africa at the Villages of Hope. It doesn’t feel particularly brave or courageous to travel here and spend six weeks. Not now, but it did at first.

I am seeing a change from within. It’s not me being more spiritual or praying more or hearing the voice of God speaking of great things to happen. It’s a kind of walking, step by step. It’s being present with the Presence of God. Here or at home. Here. Now.

Being afraid is a mental box in which we can choose to live . . . or not.

A pastor friend of mine once told an allegory of a man (or woman, of course) who was confined in a cage for some long time. At one point, the cage door swung wide open and the prisoner was free to go, but did not. The cage was safe and familiar, though confining. Outside, anything could happen. Wild animals might eat you. The wind might blow and the storms could come. Lightning might strike. And yet, what was really there? A meadow, as far as the eye could see.

Fear keeps us in the cage.

I am no longer young, but I am saying this today : I do not want to live in a self-imposed cage or box of fear or disappointment or “if only’s.” I am a child of God.


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Art by Joseph Liner

Thirty two years ago, I responded to a nation-wide call to Christians around the country to fast and pray in Washington, D.C. II Chronicles 7:14 was the keystone verse to that call and that day became known as Washington for Jesus. I arrived with national hope for healing but left with disappointment.

II Chronicles 7:14
“. . . if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

I had taken the call seriously. I traveled a long way, prepared myself to fast, and meditated on the scriptures. In my imagination, the Mall would be filled with prayer like in the days of David and Solomon and the Shekinah glory would fall. Instead, there was amplified praise music and prayer from the stage area, political rhetoric, picnics, vendors selling “Jesus Junk,” street proselytizing, and tracts, tracts, tracts. Hope was being directed to a political agenda and not to the instruction and promises God had given to Solomon.

Granted, it is much more difficult to turn a country’s focus. Change begins at the grass roots level, it begins with the individual.

So, here are the steps to healing that I have gleaned from this scripture. This is where I must begin:

  1. Know who you are. God is speaking to the “people called by my name.” Am I a child of God? I am. I have accepted God’s authority over my life.
  2. Humble yourself. As long as I believe my way is the best way, I can interfere with the divine plan. Humility with others is tough; with God, moreso.
  3. Pray. There are thousands of ways to pray, from casual chat to ritualized liturgy. They are all useful as long as the heart is bent toward God.
  4. Seek God’s face. A little different from prayer, but certainly an aspect of prayer, this seeking implies expectation. If I am told to seek then I am expected to find. The key is understanding that God’s face is reflected in a myriad of ways including the faces of human beings.
  5. Turn aside from the old ways and habits. This is probably the most difficult step if it’s done out of order. It’s not just a quarter turn, it’s a 180. It’s a decision. I don’t even have to walk in that new direction, just turn, and God will show up.

These are steps that will bring healing to any situation. And physical healing? I don’t know, perhaps that too. Perhaps, as the heart and soul are healed, the body follows. But I can’t speak with any authority about that, I have not yet grappled with serious illness.

The promises are threefold if we follow the five steps: God will hear, God will forgive, and God will heal.

I am reminded of the four friends who broke through a ceiling to lower their paralyzed friend down to Jesus [Mark 2:3-5] and it’s revealing to me that Jesus forgave his sins first.

I don’t know how to bring a nation around, but I believe we could start with our own lives. The “land” is basic, it’s the foundation of our Earth. What is foundational in our daily lives?

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The locust attack from the Abyss comes after the sounding of the 5th trumpet. The first four are equally devastating, from “hail & fire mixed with blood” to a huge blazing meteoric object as big as a mountain to comet-like star (or person?) that turns water to Wormword and a consuming darkness to follow. Not a good time to be hanging out on Earth.

Revelation 9:4
They [the locusts from the “shaft of the Abyss”] were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

Of course, no one really knows what any of these images or trumpet blasts really mean. It could be representative of things to come, things that have already happened, or things happening now. I do think it’s a little amusing to read the various interpretations that specifically write with great sounding authority. But really, these are just ideas and “plausible” explanations. I don’t really believe anyone today has the inside track on these symbols and images.

And yet, I am intrigued by the idea of the seal of God. This, too, has many interpretations, some believe it’s an actual mark on a person’s forehead while others claim it’s a mark of obedience to the laws and words of God in the mind. Some view it as the antithesis to the “mark of the beast” which is described in some detail in Revelation 13.

But here’s all that matters to me: the seal of God is a mark of ownership. No one (and I believe this wholeheartedly) can “earn” the seal of God. It’s a gift. It’s a grace.

I have that. Now. Whether I will suffer or not suffer in some time of trial and tribulation, I don’t know. But I know I am God’s own, a follower of the Christ, in communion with the Holy Spirit within. There is no 666, no barcode, no QR code, no tattoo, no other mark that will change the God-mark on my heart. Amen. So be it.

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Go ahead. I dare you. What criteria will you use? There are lots to choose from: kindness, selflessness, sacrifice, humility, and so on. Who do you know? Who’s on the list? Am I? Are you?

I John 3:10
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

All right, I admit it, I’m being cantankerous. I keep thinking about all the times people say, “Remember who you are, remember that you are a Child of God.” And I wonder, am I only this child positionally (that is, as a result of my belief in the Christ) or is there evidence of my family affiliation? Is there a family resemblance?

Standing in a line-up, do I look any different than I did before Christ?

I am a follower of Christ but have I embraced being a child of God, or as the Amplified translation states, “…by this it is made clear who take their nature from God and are His children. . .”? Am I assimilating the very nature of God?

Or, am I still in the “terrible two’s,”? Investigative three’s? Adventuresome school years? Rebellious teens?

A child, in a happy and secure family, trusts the parent, looks up to the parent, finds comfort in those arms, and is encouraged by the looks and words from the parent. But a child must also grow up. A child must learn to walk in the world and become a parent as well. What is the relationship of an adult child to a healthy parent: respect, appreciation, admiration even, and thankfulness for the gifts of life, love, and wisdom.

I want to grow up.

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Every endeavor has rules. I hate that. Maybe it’s because I’m a child of the sixties [age-alert] but there’s some part of me that wants to rebel just at the whiff of rules. But why? Why have they become limitations instead of opportunities for excellence?

II Timothy 2:5
Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.

In reality, it’s the rules or the finiteness of the task and the subsequent precision and commitment to working within that framework that separates the good from the great.

When Paul uses a sports analogy, the first sport that comes to my mind is diving. It’s so terribly precise. All those Olympic dives look wonderful to me until it’s replayed in slow motion and the announcer breaks down the movements and compares them to perfect.

I also think of ice skating, skiing, even ballet. The individual, in order to reach excellence, must ascribe to a certain set of standards. Ultimately, it is only after reaching the highest benchmark that rules can be broken or bent for the sake of creativity or experimentation or invention.

I remember, as a child, watching a clown on a high wire and I thought he was crazy to be on a high wire with so little experience. He always looked like he might fall off the wire at any moment. It was funny and scary at the same time. Only later, as an adult, did I learn that the clown must have the most precise technique and confidence in order to “play” on the wire. In the same vein, the jazz artist (whether dance or music) must know the fundamentals thoroughly or the modern artist classic proficiency before improvising.

So, in a way, it’s true, the rules are to be broken, but only after understanding and mastering the space between the rules. Once we learn to color inside the lines, then we can venture out.

Now, what has this to do with my faith in the Christ or serving God? What are the basics or rules of my faith? Isn’t it Christ crucified, resurrected, and engaged in human life thereafter through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to reestablish communion with God? And thereby I can walk out in love, light, truth, justice, and faithfulness because God is forever in our midst: Emmanuel. Yes, and so essentially, to live is Christ (the greatest mystery of all).

If Christ is exalted (manifest) in/through me [Philippians 1:20-21], then I am living loved and loving others, I am a light in dark places [Matthew 5;15], I am faith-filled and faithful [Luke 17:5-6], I am a spokesperson for truth [John 17:17], and, best of all, I can know, recognize and collaborate with the Holy Spirit [I Corinthians 6;19].

From here, I can improvise. I can be the clown for Christ. I can be a fool. I can be martyr. I can be a change agent. I can be human as God always intended.

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