Children of God — from all over the world

Matthew’s story intrigues me. When we first meet him, he’s one of the hated tax collectors. He responds to Jesus’ invitation to become a follower, and apparently introduces Jesus to a lot of his friends and colleagues — a social association for which Jesus was criticized. These people were all “scum.” It’s at this point that Jesus says, “That’s who I’m here for. The sick. Those who know they need me.”

As we read Matthew’s Gospel, then, we read knowing that these are the words of an “outsider.” Technically, a Jew. But looked upon as someone who was less than “acceptable.” He was making his wealth by acting as the government’s agent against his own people. When Matthew writes the story of his own calling and Jesus’ response to the critics, the account is very, very personal. He was one of those scum.

I’m sure Matthew’s ears picked up every time Jesus spoke about coming to rescue the outcasts and the sick. That was his own history. And so it is Matthew also who records Jesus’ words that even the Gentiles — all those who were NOT part of God’s chosen people — were going to be included in God’s promises and blessing.

“And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 8:11, Jesus speaking)

Jesus opens the invitation to everyone. No racial, social, cultural, or economic restrictions. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ, declares John the Apostle, has become a child of God. (1 John 5:1)

It’s a new thing, this becoming a child of God. A new identity that puts you in the place of heir to all His promises. We go forward into the unknown and unseen future, over this bridge we can be sure of — we belong to the Father and He has big plans for His children!

*

Psalm Prayer:

Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house;
   I will worship at your Temple with deepest awe.
(Psalm 5:7)

*

More promises that you are a child of God:

Deuteronomy 4:20; Matthew 8:11; John 1:10-13; John 11:51-52; Romans 8:14-16; Romans 8:29-30; Galatians 3:26-29; Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:5-6; Ephesians 2:19-22; Ephesians 3:6; Hebrews 2:10-11; James 1:18; 1 John 3:1-2; 1 John 5:19; Revelation 21:7

*

© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credit: Paul Stutzman

It’s time to live in our new identity…

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. (1 John 3:1)

You may know the first part of this verse well, may even have it tucked away in your memory. But this week, it’s the second statement that keeps coming back to me — the world will not recognize the children of God, John says — and that statement keeps nudging me, raising questions.

I wonder, Do we recognize ourselves as the children of the Father?

Are we catching the vision of how our lives have changed because He has adopted us, given us this new identity, a new connection to Himself, new purpose, a new inheritance?

Are we asking the Holy Spirit to show us that new identity and to teach us how to walk in it?

It’s time for the children of God to be living as the children of God!

 

*

Psalm Prayer:

Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house;
   I will worship at your Temple with deepest awe.
(Psalm 5:7)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credit: Paul Stutzman

Two things too big for my mind …

I wonder if someday, living in a world filled with peace and justice, with all of nature renewed, and new bodies of our own and new perspectives on our earthly lives, we will look back and say, If only I had known, had understood more fully what God meant…

Probably not. I don’t think we’ll have regrets in our new life.

But I believe we understand so little of what God intends for our lives when He names us His children. This study has been an ongoing quest for me for almost five years now — what does this really mean for my life today? What is the inheritance God speaks of? What is the “glory” to which He brings His sons and daughters? What is the real substance of this covenant relationship I now have with God?

And still, I feel as if I’ve only just begun to understand.

So I give you today’s Scriptures, and I tell you — there are things here that are beyond my imagination and understanding. Is it all too big for earthly minds to grasp? Or is it that, for some reason, the Spirit has just not yet spelled it out for me? Whatever the reason, these verses intrigue me, pull me in, and make me want to know more.

God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.

So now, Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. (Hebrews 2:10-11)

Wow. There’s so much in these two verses, but here are the two things in particular that my mind tries to peer into, to understand the length and breadth and depth—

God is bringing many children into glory. Through what Christ has done, He rescues us and … don’t you wonder what this glory is that He brings us into? I believe it’s so much more than “glory” referring only to a home in heaven someday.

Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters. Again, wow. Do you ever think of Jesus Christ as a sibling? Jesus sees you in that way! I have no words to express my amazement over this …

Ponder those two things today.

And you see why I ask — how can we plumb the depths of what all this means?

Teach us, Holy Spirit. We want to know. 

 

*

Psalm Prayer:

Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house;
   I will worship at your Temple with deepest awe.
(Psalm 5:7)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credit: Paul Stutzman

“What He wanted to do”

I’ve caught a glimpse of the fierce desire that motivates adoption. I have not been an adoptive parent myself, but members of my family longed for and persistently pursued adoptions. The deep desire to gather a child into their family has made me reflect on what great lengths God went to in order to adopt me: How much He wants me as His child!

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (Ephesians 1:5)

He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. (James 1:18)

It gave God great pleasure to adopt us and declare us His children! The Almighty owns the universe—the sun and moon and stars, the seas and mountains, every tree and bird and creature —and yet it is me and you that He treasures me more than anything else.

Our Psalm prayer this week reflects on that: Because of your unfailing love, Lord God, I am part of your household. I will worship you in awe.

It’s been a long, cold winter here where I live. Even those of us who love the brilliant, brittle winter days are beginning to hunger for longer hours of warm sunshine. When you seem to be in a cold, hard season of winter in life, bask in this sunshine: Claiming you as His child gives God great pleasure. His love treasures you.

*

Psalm Prayer:

Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house;
   I will worship at your Temple with deepest awe.
(Psalm 5:7)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credit: Paul Stutzman

Moving into the palace

Last year, for the very first time and in a condensed period of time, I read through the Bible chronologically. That intensive and sequential reading gave me a perspective on the complete story that I never quite grasped before.

The history of this world is the story of the struggle between the Creator’s good and His enemy’s evil. And somewhere in measured time, each one of us plays their part in that battle.

The Old Testament stories are the same stories we live, only set in different cultures and eras. In every time period, God rescues people from their slavery to move them out of the darkness and into His kingdom of light.

But He does not do this simply to claim trophies against the enemy. No, His purpose goes far deeper than that (much deeper than we understand now!) Moses told the children of Israel, as they were about to enter the Promised Land:

Remember that the LORD rescued you from the iron-smelting furnace of Egypt in order to make you his very own people and his special possession, which is what you are today. (Deuteronomy 4:20)

And then, thousands of years later, Paul wrote:

God sent [Christ] to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. (Galatians 4:5)

He rescues us not only to free us, but to make us a part of Himself! To bring us back to Him and re-establish that perfect bond for which we were first created.

We are not His slaves or His soldiers. We are not accepted on a probationary basis. He creates between Himself and us a bond much more intimate, based not on the laws He gave but on His love and mercy. We belong to Him irrevocably, for all time.

There is great peace in knowing this. But in the last few years as I’ve tried to make living as God’s child a real part of my day-to-day life and thinking, I’ve realized that I had been living like a homeless child on the street, hungry, cold, and unaware of what life as the daughter of the King could actually be like.

But I’ve decided to move to the palace, and I’m trying to—I want to—learn how to live as the King’s daughter!

The battle between God’s justice and goodness and Satan’s darkness and corruption goes on—every day. It rages both within us and around us. But the final outcome is already settled.

The question before each of us today, this moment, is who we will be in the midst of this battle—
God’s enemy?
His child, who persists in wandering the streets like an orphan, with no idea of the life I could have?
Or His child, living as heir to the kingdom?

 

*

For more background on what prompted this journey for me, read Living on the Streets.

*

Psalm Prayer:

Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house;
   I will worship at your Temple with deepest awe.
(Psalm 5:7)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credit: Paul Stutzman