Theme for 2023: Faith Forward – The Year of Extraordinary Faith!
I was always one of the last kiddos to get picked to be on a team. What can I say – I was short, skinny, and not very athletically inclined. I probably wouldn’t have picked me either! That is, if I were being competitive. But if I were being loving, well that’s a different choice, isn’t it?
One of the most loving things you can do is to include someone, to give them a sense of belonging. I’ve heard adoptive parents say that parenthood is so much sweeter because I chose them to be my child. I wanted them, I couldn’t see my life without them.
And it’s so sweet to see those videos of a child whose parent is getting married, and they ask their new stepparent to be their Mom or their Dad. They chose them to be their parent. It’s so precious to be chosen! And you know who had the idea first? God!
4 Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. 5 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 1:4-5, NLT
Before God created the world, YOU were on His mind! That’s so incredible to think about. The God of the universe had us on His mind even before the world was formed. Before the team was picked, God had already chosen you to be on His team! To be part of God’s family.
The Israelites were a chosen people. God chose Abram to be the father of many people, the nation of Israel. And if we move to the New Testament, the first thing we see Jesus doing in His ministry is choosing twelve Jewish men to follow Him.
And as children so often do, Israel strayed away from God. Turned their backs, went their own way, however you want to look at it. They were disobedient. But God had already chosen Israel. There was no changing the team now. So, God added to it!
In biblical times there were Jews and everyone else was considered a Gentile, a non-Jew. God’s awesome plan was to form a dream team of Jew and Gentile, reconciled and united in Jesus Christ. But not all of the Jews believed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. So, God did something pretty amazing. He took Israel’s disobedience and used it as an opportunity to bring the Gentiles onto the team.
11 Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They [the Jews] were disobedient, so God made salvation
available to the Gentiles.
Romans 11:11, NLT
God wasn’t shaken or even surprised. Being the omniscient God that He is (all knowing), the plan of salvation simply proceeded as planned. Since some of Israel rejected the message of salvation through Jesus Christ, God opened the door to the Gentiles to be grafted in. They were included, chosen by God, adopted into His family, and made a part of God’s glorious plan of salvation! Paul gives us a beautiful example of God’s grafting process…
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He is our peace; in His flesh He has made both into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us, 15 abolishing the law with its commandments and ordinances, that He might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.
And just as God had chosen Israel, and Jesus chose the twelve, He now extends his choice to us, those who believe in Christ Jesus. You’ve been chosen! Grafted into the True Vine, Jesus…
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
The grafting process is described as two things fusing together into one. You can take a piece of a plant and graft it onto another one. That’s how we get beautiful, variegated plants. Doctors take human tissue and graft it where needed to bring about healing. The thing about grafting is that something new is created by the uniting of the two things! I know what you’re thinking…
So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; look, new things have come into being!
2 Cor 5:17
Somebody needs to know that it’s not by chance, not by luck, not your looks or your money that got you here, but you are here today because you were chosen by God! You’ve been grafted into the family. And because you’ve been grafted in, you are not who you used to be, you are not what folks used to call you. No, you are made new by the power of the Holy Spirit at work IN you! So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to stay connected to the True Vine. Stay connected to Jesus and you will bear much fruit! You were chosen for this!
Join us for worship this 4th Sunday of Lent, as we continue our Lenten sermon series: You Are…I AM. The sermon title: You Are Chosen…I AM the True Vine. You can worship in-person or you can also join us online at 10:00am. For online worship go to www.umcgt.org.
In Prayer You are invited to leave a confidential email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Add this email to your contacts for your convenience. The Prayer Team and I will be in prayer for you. If you wish for me or the Prayer Team to contact you, please leave a telephone number in the email and let us know if that is your desire.
In Sympathy Ron Edwards, a faithful GT member, passed on March 13. His family will have a memorial service at the school that Ron dedicated his life to for so many years. We will pass on details when received.
African Schoolhouse No. 4 Dedication! On Saturday, March 25, at 1:00 pm the schoolhouse we worked on will have its grand opening celebration! All are invited to be there. History in the making!
Faith Forward Challenge: We’re halfway through Lent, and I hope that you’ve taken part in the Faith Forward Challenge in some way. Spend the First 15 minutes of the day in prayer and devotion. Spend the First Day of the week in worship. Give the First Fruits of your time, talent, and treasure to the Lord. And Fast as you are able. Push, church! We’re almost there!
Holy Week Observances:
Maundy Thursday, April 6, we will celebrate at Union Memorial, 1141 Belt Ave., 6:30 pm. Our praise team will minister in song, and Pastor Antonio Settles will do a Last Supper interactive presentation.
Good Friday, April 7, the 7 Last Words of Jesus from the Cross will be at Green Trails Church, at Noon. This year we will be blessed to hear 7 Words from 7 women! Union Memorial’s praise team will minister in song.