July 24, 2022 (Seventh Sunday after Pentecost)

Readings: Hosea 1:2-10; Colossians 2:6-15

Children of the Living God

There are some might think that these two passages have really nothing in common. At face value you might be correct but look deeper into the Scripture and will you find commonality, but also complete story for us. I was invited to attend The Gideon’s International Convention in 2016. The Messages that were delivered had revelations that struck me. It is my hope to tie the two together in what I discovered with the passages of today, what it means for us here at Hope UMC and possibly add a little more sustenance to our faith. First off believe it or not there were roughly 3000+ people at the convention in Indianapolis from literally all over the world. I wish to bring out the thoughts of the then Gideon President Dr. William E. G. Thomas made that resonated in my heart and mind. He had three points that he made during the night that were summed up by three words: vital, vision and victory.

So, what is vital to our Christian beliefs? The story that Dr. Thomas told was very humorous, however it does bring out a very strong dilemma facing us today that we as Christians need to figure out how to deal with that is congruent with God. Now mind you I will be paraphrasing what he said because I can’t tell it as good as he did. The understanding in the world today is that all roads lead to God. He also pointed out that with everything that we are seeing; we are living in a very broken world. We as individuals are left to a large extent, make up our own rules. I personally think we’ve done a very poor job at it, even in the church. As Christians we do believe and profess as it states in the Gospel of John, that Jesus is the truth, the light, and the way, and no one comes to him, the father, but through Jesus. Some state that if you simply believe in Jesus you can get to heaven. In a sense that is true, but even Satan believes in Jesus. Getting back to Dr. Thomas’ statement about all roads leading to heaven. Dr. Thomas, a surgeon by trade from across the pond in the United Kingdom. People come to see him in hopes that he can cure their problems through surgical procedures. It is his profession to diagnose correctly which surgical procedure to perform that will cure the patient’s problem. He then went on to say that if the worldly perception of Christianity played an influence on the medical field, people could come to him for surgery with the idea that any surgery would work. He could give them a pamphlet of the different surgeries and let them decide which surgery would make them feel better and good about themselves. Because any surgery would cure the problem, right? I personally thought that was the best analogy for Christianity that anyone could come up with. Think about it, you go to the doctor and asked them for help to cure the problem, yet you can look it up on the Internet, listen to our friend’s advice, thus already decided what the course of action needs to be, refusing the physicians advice. So why go and see them to begin with? But with people of today it’s all about self and making self feel good, there are really no absolutes, no real right or wrong, correct? It’s all relevant right? The same holds true with Christianity, we go to God, ask for his help in understanding the meaning of our life, yet when we read the answers in the Bible, we refuse to accept the written Word. So, you see it is vital that we understand that there are some absolutes. It is vital for us to understand what it takes to have the right relationship with God our father because we are children of God.

He also talked about churches are a dying breed. Churches nowadays host such a small percentage of the population. He was quite envious of the colonies because they have a larger percentage attending church then in the UK. I listened to other churches state that their average attendance was 40, 70 and even 100, back then I became envious because the church I was charged leading was 16. He noted that the biggest problem with churches of today is their lack of vision. From the King James translation, Proverbs 29:18 says, “where there is no vision, the people will perish”, the NIV version states this “where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.” That does not mean that we go in and condemn everyone who does not follow the law, but it does mean that we as individuals and a Christian community must follow the law. By living the law in our own lives, we show others what that means and what visions God will give us. People need a vision; churches need a vision. It gives us a purpose to be here, a mission that we have been called to do. It gives us a meaning to life as King Solomon is struggles with in Ecclesiastes. As a nation our visions go no further than what is good for self.

That’s where it resonated with me most of all. Back then I was struggling for months, wondering, being questioned and flat-out perplexed why things had not turned around there. It dawned on me that we didn’t have a vision! That church needed a vision, and we need a vision, a purpose to thrive. We’re looking into doing a kitchen renovation, we had a vision of Stephen Ministry. COVID made some changes to that vision to reach out to the people in our community. Some could argue where has that vision gotten us today? That would be a justified question because of our in-person numbers haven’t rebound all that much. But on the other hand, no one has expressed an interest in getting involved. I have prayed for you but how much have you grown in your relationship with God due to the visions we have done since 2017? Have failed to give you one that resonates with you? As children of God, we’re given visions of what his plans are for us. When we lose sight of the laws of God and what it takes to reach him, we then start losing the visions and slowly die as a people.

In the book of Hosea today, the Israelites are in this dilemma. They have lost sight of what is vital for their relationship with God and thus he is cut off from them in visions. Hosea is delivering pretty much the same message Amos had told them, that we read last week. Hosea takes the vision God has given him for the people of Israel a step further to show his devotion to God. He takes a prostitute for his wife, as God commanded him, symbolizing that Israel has prostituted themselves in their own lives and they have not been faithful to God. Gomer is not faithful to Hosea and as a result, the children are not his. Yet Hosea remains faithful to her and loves her just as God had told him in the vision. The children are given names that reflect the deterioration of life of Israel toward God and him. Jezreel reflects the horrendous battle that happened in the valley of Jezreel that Israel tries to forget. Lo-Ruhamah reflects that there is no pity to come upon Israel and Lo-Ammi means that you are not my people. Yet in this grim passage we see a glimmer of hope, for there will be children of the living God. There is a tremendous battle going on around us and admit it or not it is a spiritual battle. As Christians we do not like to speak of it because it’s not politically correct. However, a pastor of the second Baptist Church in Shelbyville stated, I would rather be biblically correct [BC] then politically correct [PC]. We cannot forget about it or leave it up to someone else to state what it takes to be a child of the living God. With the sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ, God has taken pity upon us and shown us Grace. That does make us His people, and we need to act like it, or we will see the same punishment that God gave his chosen people come upon his adopted people.

The New Testament passage shows the victory for us as the adopted children of the living God. The church at that time, wanted to pose restrictions and requirements for anyone to join the church. Paul in his mission to reach the Gentiles quickly pointed out that Christ had paid the price. There were no further restrictions or requirements needed to be called a child of the living God. We are so quick to pass judgment on others and yet we forget we too make mistakes; we too do not live up to the requirements of the law. It does not make us any less saved for eternal life we simply need to make an honest effort to change our flaws. We are called to share that victory that has been given to us to those who are lost and searching for answers. We do that by being a living example of children belonging to God for them to see. We cannot forget to love them as Jesus loved us with all our mistakes. How is God calling you to be an example of a child of the living God? What visions do you have? Do you have questions! you struggle with? Ask God for a new vision