Article XVII-Salvation-Adoption

Continuing on the series of the Free Methodist Church’s Articles of Religion (see here and here for an explanation of the series and format):

¶118 Salvation-Adoption

Adoption is a filial term full of warmth, love, and acceptance. It denotes that by a new relationship in Christ believers have become His wanted children freed from the mastery of both sin and Satan. Believers have the witness of the Spirit that they are children of God.

¶131 Scriptural References

The doctrines of the Free Methodist Church are based upon the Holy Scriptures and are derived from their total biblical context. The references below are appropriate passages related to the given articles. They are listed in their biblical sequence and are not intended to be exhaustive. Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:5-6; 1 John 3:1-3.

Salvation can mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people, but one of my personal favorites is that I am now a Child of God. In one sense, all human beings are children of God, yet when we enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we become more than a child of God because of physical birth. We become children of God because of an intentional choice on God’s part to redeem us and graft us into his family.

Joseph adopted Jesus as his own son when Mary conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. That was a type of prefiguring our adoption by God as children in a new and bigger family.

There are many people who resent the image of God as a father, mostly because of the poor example of fatherhood in this world. They do not wish to see God in any kind of parental role like this because the only example they have of of a father is one who was hurtful, harmful, abusive, or absent. It is precisely because of instances like this that we need God as Father. God is able to truly love us and give the kind of paternal affection that we miss in this life at times.

Of course for this to be true, that means that God must be actually involved in our lives. When we are adopted into the family of God and we have God as our Father, he is not an absentee Father. He is truly involved in our daily lives and does share his love with us. This may seem far-fetched, especially with all of the evil in the world, but thousands of years of personal experiences can show it to be true. No one will ever be able to quantifiably explain this in raw data. It is seen in the stories of Christians down through the ages and including today.

If you need a Father, if you need a family, God is willing to adopt you as well.

Judges 11:30-35 and Sacrificing Children for Success

Jephthahs-Daughter-DM2Of all of the stories in the Old Testament, I have found this one the most disturbing.  As is typical in Judges, the Israelites fall away from the Lord and a judge is raised up to deliver the people.  In this case it is Jephthah, a man of questionable scruples and a tendency to try and make deals with others.  Before he goes to battle to deliver Israel he even makes a deal with God–one that does not end well:

Jephthah made a solemn promise to the Lord: “If you will decisively hand over the Ammonites to me,  then whatever comes out the doors of my house to meet me when I return victorious from the Ammonites will be given over to the Lord. I will sacrifice it as an entirely burned offering.”  Jephthah crossed over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord handed them over to him.   It was an exceptionally great defeat; he defeated twenty towns from Aroer to the area of Minnith, and on as far as Abel-keramim. So the Ammonites were brought down before the Israelites.   But when Jephthah came to his house in Mizpah, it was his daughter who came out to meet him with tambourines and dancing! She was an only child; he had no other son or daughter except her. n When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Oh no! My daughter! You have brought me to my knees! You are my agony! For I opened my mouth to the Lord, and I can’t take it back.”   But she replied to him, “My father, you’ve opened your mouth to the Lord, so you should do to me just what you’ve promised. After all, the Lord has carried out just punishment for you on your enemies the Ammonites.”

Yes, Jephthah had victory over the Ammonites, but at the cost of his own next generation who should have benefited from the deliverance.  He sacrificed the one for whom the deliverance would have meant the most.  He destroyed the future that he helped secure.

How often do leaders in the Church (let alone any other profession!) sacrifice their children for success.  I have heard numerous stories of the children of ministers who have left the faith, and some even want nothing to do with their parents, because the minister sacrificed his or her family for the sake of the ministry.  Meetings and programs took precedence over family obligations.  Their children were held to a much higher standard of life than other people.  Law was meted out to the preacher’s kids because they had to look perfect in front of the congregation, but grace was offered to everyone else because no one is perfect.  Busyness for the Church took the place of genuine parental interest in children.

What does it profit a minister to gain a large congregation and grand reputation, but lose his family in the process?  Why would anyone want to sacrifice their children on the altar of success?  It may not be as obvious as Jephthah’s action, but every time our children feel as if they are lower class priorities in our lives, a little bit of them is sacrificed.

As Christians the single most important relationship we can have on this earth is with our spouses and children.  Even extended family falls beneath this level.  Even Church family falls beneath this level.  If we cannot show those closest to us the love of God, do we have that love at all?

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Teaching Children Well

playing church at homeChildren are the future of any group or organization, and the Church is no different.  If we want the Church to survive into the next generation, we have to teach children well.  Sure, there are plenty of conversions of people who were not raised in the Church and were not taught the faith as children, but along with those adult converts the Church needs people who were raised in a Christian environment and have the Christian faith permeate their being.  A healthy Church needs the zeal of new converts and the foundation of those who were raised in the faith.

Deuteronomy shows how important it is for the training of children in the faith:

Israel, listen! Our God is the Lord! Only the Lord!  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength.  These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds.  Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up.  Tie them on your hand as a sign. They should be on your forehead as a symbol.  Write them on your house’s doorframes and on your city’s gates.

It is so important to pass on the faith to our children that we are to constantly talk to them about our faith.  We are to have representations of the faith visible in our everyday lives so the children see that it is important to us.  And we are to do this because we love God and want our children to experience that love of God that we have.

Parents and guardians of children are the first and most important example of faith that children have.  If they see that it is important to us, that our relationship with God is something wonderful and good and holy to us, then it will have a much higher likelihood of being important to them.  If they see us give lip service to our faith–showing it only when we are expected to do so and living like the rest of the world at all other times–we should not be surprised if they turn their backs on something that obviously was not important to us.

In the West, we have the mistaken idea that our congregations, Sunday School classes, and youth groups have the responsibility for teaching our children the faith.  This is not true.  That mentality leads to people who believe religion and faith are for official church events only, and that faith does not impact everyday life.  In countries around the world where the Church is persecuted, they know that the home is the first Church children will ever see and experience, and it is up to the family to disciple the children.  There is a wonderful, if challenging book, called The Insanity of God that shows this much more clearly than I ever could.

It needs to be pointed out, though, that how we teach our children will greatly shape their understanding of God as well.  If we are harsh and demanding, showing judgment and withholding love, they will understand God as a divine tyrant who will not tolerate disobedience.  This is not the God of grace in the Bible.  If we are open and permissive, allowing any and all action and activity, they will understand God as never making any boundaries in life and everything is acceptable.  This is not the God of covenant in the Bible.  If we do not allow our children to wrestle with tough questions and encourage them to explore how Christianity measures up to the other various religions, beliefs, and theories in the world we show an immature faith in a God who is not able to handle doubts or questions.  This is not the God who is Truth.

Teaching children well is important and difficult.  May God give us the grace, wisdom, and discernment to know how to do it.

Yes, America, There is a Santa Claus

529711b7-21dc-431b-8e03-8c1c5a080b4bThis time of year the fat man in the red suit makes quite an appearance.  From Coke to malls to everything in between, Santa is ubiquitous.

For those who are interested, there is a great website that has collected all of the historical information we have on St. Nicholas and how this historic person has become the “Santa with a Coke” we have today.

There are plenty of crafts, stories, and ideas for celebrations this year that may be out of the ordinary for many people.  I strongly encourage you to check it out.

Merry Christmas!

St. Nicholas Research Centersaint-nicholas6

Raising Kids Without Doing More Harm Than Good

(c) Epworth Old Rectory; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationJohn Wesley was raised knowing that God had something important for him to do in the world.  I was reminded of this yesterday when, during my Bible readings I ran across Zechariah 3:2, “Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” (ESV).  Those who know Wesley’s life or Methodist history would know this is how John’s mother, Susanna, thought of John when he was rescued at the last minute from a fire in their home when John was a young boy.  Men stood on top of each other’s shoulders to make a human ladder to reach John and pulled him to safety right before the roof crashed down where he had been.  Susanna thought of this verse and decided that John needed extra attention because God had preserved him for something.

John grew up with this story.  He knew God had kept him alive for some reason, and he wanted to make sure he accomplished that purpose.  The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.  Wesley created a movement that has become one of the largest groups of Christians in the world (see this post for stats) and he is credited with preserving England from the radical revolutions that swept Continental Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries and for seriously contributing to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire due to his influence on the likes of William Wilberforce.

Sometimes parents overly praise their children to the extent that children are not prepared for the hurts and failures that real life can bring.  When kids think they are obviously the best at everything, and anything they attempt is perfect, they are being set up for failure in life quite simply because there will generally be someone else who is better at something than they are.

On the flip-side, there are parents that limit the praise and children grow up thinking that they cannot do anything well.  They may have success in life but never feel as if they are fulfilled because the voice in their heads tell them that it is not “good enough.”

John Wesley is a great case in the middle road.  This is how his parents treated him.  Susanna and Samuel Wesley raised John, telling him that he was there for a purpose (the brand from the fire) but they were also realistic about life and John’s abilities.  They encouraged him where he was gifted and did not overly admonish him where he was not.  To be sure, it took John a long time in adulthood to come to a balanced life (some might say he never quite arrived there), but the results of his life cannot be denied.

Perhaps one of the greatest things we can do for our children is to remind them every so often that they have a unique mission on this earth given to them by God.  It is a mission that only they can do, because if it was not then God would have created someone else for a different mission.  Every one of us, whether we have had an encounter with a blazing inferno of a home, are brands plucked from the fire.  We are all here by the grace of God and we all have something we are uniquely qualified to do.