We were created to be God’s image-bearers. But what happens when we distort that image or, even worse, presume that we know the will of God? What lessons do we have to learn from the Garden of Eden and from Golgotha? What does it mean to be in relationship with God?
Creator God, with great intention, time and creativity, You gave form and light to an empty and dark world. Thank you. You’ve created the heavens and the earth, the great creatures of the sea and every living thing in it. You’ve formed humanity in Your image, in Your likeness, and You’ve blessed us with a timeless blessing. Thank you. By the power of Your Word, You’ve called us out of nothingness to become spiritual beings enclosed in flesh. You have called us to be bearers of Your Divine Image. Thank you. As we study, give us an understanding of the power and work that You require of us. Your infinite dignity blesses our finite humanity. Your grace meets us at the point of our need and equips us for this journey. Thank you, Holy One. Go deeper with us as we go deeper in love with You, ourselves, and one another. Center us with every breath in the fullness of time to be born anew. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen.
In the gift of this moment, we affirm that we are divinely loved and lovable.
We are the children of God.
Together, we will learn from the actions and words of one another.
Christ’s lessons on love are centered in how we treat others and in how we treat ourselves.
We will exercise courage in this study as we share stories of struggle and strength.
We will stay at the table and receive those stories with grace.
We will not be afraid to launch into the deep.
We will commit to the vulnerability necessary to allow God to break us open.
We will set and respect boundaries and honor confidentiality together.
When uncertainty arises, we will remember the Spirit of “peace that passes our own understanding” and can intercede for us.
We will remember that even when we don’t feel “United,”
The uniting love of Christ can reveal a pathway to greater
wisdom and mutual respect.
No matter what, there is a place for each one of us in this study together.
Let us hold each other up in prayer, hold each other accountable in love, and
trust that our God is making all things new.
Thank you for the gift of being present to one another in this holy time.
Genesis 1:26-31, 3:1-13 (14-19), 20-24, Romans 8:31-39
Rev. Dr. Valentín-Castañón, superintendent of the Frederick District, has taught theology at both Wesley Theological Seminary and at Perkins School of Theology.
HEAD & HEART DISCUSSION
PRAYER AND PATHWAY TO JOURNALING
Often, when we become reflexively resistant to what we’ve experienced through study, it is pointing towards an area worthy of more reflection and prayer. In this part of study, we invite you to examine your areas of resistance or struggle. Allow God to reveal how transformation can occur in those areas.
Use these open-ended questions to facilitate your introspection:
"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Gen. 6:5. “In his natural state, every person born into the world is a rank idolater. Perhaps, indeed, we may not be such in the vulgar sense of the word. We do not, like the idolatrous Heathens, worship molten or graven images. We do not bow down to the stock of a tree, to the work of our own hands. We do not pray to the angels or saints in heaven, any more than to the saints that are upon the earth. But what then? We have set up our idols in our hearts; and to these we bow down and worship them: We worship ourselves, when we pay that honor to ourselves which is due to God only. Therefore, all pride is idolatry; it is ascribing to ourselves what is due to God alone. And although pride was not made for man, yet where is the man that is born without it But hereby, we rob God of his unalienable right, and idolatrously usurp his glory.”
"The first advice I would give those who have been saved from sin by grace is to watch and pray continually against pride. For it is pride not only to ascribe what we have to ourselves, but also to think we have what we do not. One man, for instance, ascribed his knowledge to God and therefore was humble. But then he thought that he had more knowledge than everyone else which is dangerous pride. We often think we have no need of anyone's advice or reproof. Always remember, much grace does not imply much enlightenment. We may be wise but have little love, or we may have love with little wisdom. God has wisely joined us all together as parts of the body so that we cannot say to one another, 'I have no need of you.'
“Even to imagine that those who are unsaved cannot teach you is a very great and serious mistake. Dominion is not found in grace. Not observing this has led some into many mistakes and certainly into pride. Beware of even the appearance of pride. Let there be in you that lowly mind which was in Christ Jesus. Be clothed with humility. Let modesty appear in all your words and actions.
“One way to do this is to own any fault we have. If you have at any time thought, spoken, or acted wrong, do not refrain from acknowledging it. Never dream that this will hurt the cause of God--in fact, it will further it. Be open and honest when you are rebuked and do not seek to evade it or disguise it. Rather, let it appear just as it is and you will thereby not hinder but adorn the gospel."
This excerpt from the book comes from Devotional Classics
(edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith) pp. 258-259.