Being in a Relationship with the Lord
“Being in a Relationship with the Lord”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Second Sunday of Lent
February 21, 2016
Readings: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27:7-14
Lent is not meant to be a season of affliction but a time to pause from our busy lives to focus on God. The song we just sang, “Take Me to Calvary”, is a prayer for God to take us back to what He did for us – giving us His Son – to show us how much we mean to Him. “Lest I forget Gethsemane; lest I forget Thine agony; lest I forget Thy love for me, take me to Calvary.”
Strength and power come from relationships, specifically from a relationship with God. You can’t be a hermit and be a Christian. Christianity is based on relationship borne out of God’s love for us. After the fall of man in the Garden, He did not forsake us.
Genesis 15 is an account of a conversation between God and Abram. This happened after God led Abram and his family out of Haran, their country, to the land of Canaan and settled there. God does this to us also. At some points in our lives, He leads us to unfamiliar territory for a task. When this happens, we just have to trust God, lean on Him and not on our own strength or understanding, and obey Him.
Abram and Lot separated from each other, with Abram settling in Canaan while Lot chose the cities of the valley of Jordan and moved his tents as far as Sodom. There was a war of the kings after that, and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell and fled. The other kings took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and also took Lot with all his possessions. Abram and his men went in pursuit of the kings to save his nephew Lot; he defeated them. He brought back all the goods and Lot with all his possessions, as well as all the people. After his victory, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah came out to meet him. Melchizedek, a priest of the Most High God gave him a tenth of all, setting a pattern for us to follow in our lives. The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself”. But Abram declined, saying, “I have sworn to the God Most High….that I will not thread or sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich….’” (read Genesis 12-14). Abram defeated the kings and brought back the people of Sodom and Gomorrah without expecting to receive any reward because knew who his Source was. So God appeared to him in a vision saying, “Do not fear, Abram. I am a shield to you. Your reward shall be very great” (Genesis 15:1).
My question to you this morning is, do you hear God speaking to you?
Abram’s conversation with God reveals their relationship – how close they were to each other. God gave him a promise, but he had to wait for 30 years before that promise could be fulfilled. (The 30 years is symbolic of the years that Christ lived before He started His ministry and revealed who He was.) Abraham became a very wealthy man because he had a relationship with God. He could hear God speaking to him and he knew God because he kept a strong relationship with Him. A relationship with God is vital for strength, peace and confidence. Today, God is telling us the same thing He said to Abraham: “I am your shield. Be strong and let your heart take courage”. Fears come into our lives because our relationship with God is weak. The stronger that relationship is, the better able we are to kick fear out of our lives.
In Philippians 4:1, we are exhorted to stand firm in the Lord. In Philippians 3:18, St. Paul speaks of “enemies of the cross”. These are those who claim to be Christians – their sins wiped away, given authority over heaven and earth, seated with Christ in the heavenlies, not lacking in any gift (1 Corinthians 1:7) – yet mock the cross when they deny what God has given them; when they don’t use these gifts. God does not give us gifts that are unusable. To deny that we don’t have these gifts, including the gift of faith is to mock the cross.
Man lived in slavery and bondage for many generations and at the proper time, God sent His Son to set man free. Christ paid the price for man’s rebellion. “Lest I forget Thy love for me, lead me to Calvary.” This is what Lent is about – to shake us out of our comfort zones so we will always remember what God has done for us. We must stand firm in the Lord, in our relationship with Him. In the recent controversy surrounding Pacquiao, it is true that he shouldn’t have condemned gay people but he also has a right to his opinion, just as gay people stand for their rights. We have neglected to nurture our relationship with God, and this is why we don’t speak out what we believe as truth. In the US Presidential race, the leading Republican candidate speaks his mind and is unafraid of its consequence. He is leading in the race because people like this.
In the Gospel, the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked Him to leave because Herod wants to kill Him. They were not really concerned for the Lord, only by what would happen to them if Herod came and killed them, too. Jesus had a relationship with the Father. He spent hours praying. He understood His mission and nothing could stop Him from fulfilling it because He knew that God would protect Him. He told the Pharisees, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal….” (Luke 13:32). In those days, to call someone a fox was a slap on the face. A fox is sly and cunning. In calling Herod a fox, the Lord was not belittling him but identifying his character (Herod slaughtered many babies). Jesus told the Pharisees that He had work to do – casting out demons and healing the sick – and He couldn’t leave until His work is finished. What this is telling us today is that we, too, have a mission from God and we can’t leave until the work is finished. In the olden biblical days, some people lived till they were 900 years or even older. Several years ago, people only lived up to 60 years on average. Today, people live longer, some up to 100 years. Could this be because we haven’t been fulfilling our mission? Don’t worry about anything. God will protect us until we fulfill our task. He commanded us to be fruitful and multiply, and to fill the earth. The world today wants us to do the opposite and gives incentives when we do so.
We see the humanity and heart of Christ in the Gospel. He cried over Jerusalem. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem….how often I wanted to gather your children together….and you would not have it”. Jesus is speaking this way because He was in a relationship with Jerusalem. He was telling them that He is the Source of all things but they reject Him. Now He was coming to Jerusalem even if He knew that they were going to kill Him when He does. But He won’t hold back and even if the price He had to pay was to give His life, He will fulfill the work His Father gave Him.
The Fortune magazine says that 70% of the wealthiest Filipinos got their wealth, not from their own hard work but from inheritance. They are living off the hard-earned fortune of their forefathers while doing practically nothing themselves. I know of a wealthy family who, after their mother passed away, sold all their businesses because they didn’t want to work but just want to live in luxury from the hard-earned wealth of their parents and grandparents. We need to be willing to work and work hard to fulfill the work that God has given us. We can’t afford to be lazy and complacent.
All things are from God and He can make them work for us if our relationship with Him is right. God has given us everything, so why do we still struggle? He won’t fail us. “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the work of the devil” (1 John 3:8b). We should no longer be affected by anything that the enemy tries to throw our path.
Lent challenges us to set aside the other things so we can dwell and meditate on what Christ has done for us. Do we do this or do we go about like this is just any other time of the year? “Lead me to Calvary, to the place where God showed me how much He loves me.” We need to realize and experience this love so that we can share that love to others. We need a relationship with God. This is where the strength and power come from. We should hear God telling us, “If you walk with Me, I will take care of you”.