Tuesday, August 14, 2012

One hope / for all the world to see...

I just have to share this song this morning. My heart echoes every word...

There's a fight between my heart and soul
When my pride tries to take control
It's hard to see what I was meant to be

And we are living in the world without a cause
And there's a need that seems impossible
But I can hear, I hear You calling me

To raise a banner of love up high in these city streets
One hope for all the world to see
Be my banner of love
This love is a burning flame
One voice crying out Your name
You're my banner of love
You're my banner of love

And only You can see my destiny
Only You can be the strength I need
Cause my life is Yours now

So goodbye to pride and bitterness
I'm going to live out my purpose
Cause Your life has showed me how

To raise a banner of love up high in these city streets
One hope for all the world to see
Be my banner of love
This love is a burning flame
One voice crying out Your name
You're my banner of love
You're my banner of love

I want to be Your love
I want to lift You higher
I want to reach out and touch this world
I'm gonna reach out and love Your world
We want to show Your love
We want to lift You higher
We're gonna reach out and change this world

We're raising the banner of love up high in these streets
One hope for all the world to see
Be my banner of love
This love is a burning flame
One voice crying out Your name
You're my banner of love
You're my banner of love

Up high in these city streets
One hope for all the world to see
Be my banner of love
This love is a burning flame
One voice crying out Your name
You're my banner of love
You're my banner of love

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Hard questions...

(Advance notice: This post is NOT about homosexuality or free speech.)

The whole Chik-fil-A thing last week has had me asking myself some hard questions, as well as asking some questions of God that I've never asked before.

I didn't get involved in it. The nearest restaurant is over an hour away, and...well, I just stayed out of it.

But I did read some news articles, blog posts, and comments... enough to realize that that there was a vast difference between the reason many people went to Chik-fil-A on August 1st and the message that went out to certain parts of that world we're supposed to love.

And that sent me on my knees (figuratively) before God.

Lord? How much responsibility should we take for how our message is received...regardless of how it's meant?  How do You view this thing that's going on?

I don't know that I got any answers, but I did find Him reminding me of a few things that we, American Christians, like to forget.

I found a question echoing through my spirit. Why did tens of thousands of Christians go to Chik-Fil-A on the 1st? Not what reason did people think they have, or accuse them of having, or even what reason they really had.  But simply, when they were asked, what reason did they say they had? Taking it at face value.

The answer was almost universal... even for those who weren't Christians but went anyway.

People said they are tired of being discriminated against because they say they believe the Bible.  Whether we are discriminated against or not has nothing to do with my point. That's what they say they are feeling.

And immediately after that came the words of Jesus:
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Is that what we Christians (as a whole) were doing that day? 

Is that what we do here in America when we are persecuted oh-so-mildly?

Does the Christian church know how to rejoice while we're in the midst of persecution?

Do I?

Monday, August 06, 2012

Romans - Before and after circumcision...

[Bible study on Romans - post 6]

The Bible talks a lot about circumcision. In Romans 4, the term circumcision stood for the covenant that God made with Abraham, because that was the sign of the covenant. (Genesis 17)

To the Jews, that covenant was everything. It was the foundation of who they were, and it was what set them apart from everybody else. No, they weren't the only nationality that practiced circumcision, but they were the the only people that were decedents of the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That promise said that Abraham's descendants would be as numerous at the stars, and that they would be blessed. For them, circumcision was a symbol of that all-important covenant of blessing.

So when Peter and Paul began saying that "the uncircumcised" could be saved, and that salvation was not only for the Jews, many of them found that extremely difficult to comprehend and accept. Why would God have set them apart if, in the end, anyone could be saved? Why would God have given the law if anyone could be saved by grace through faith instead?

In Romans 4:9, Paul asks that question, "So... can only we Jews be saved because of our faith, now? Or can those who aren't Jews be saved this way?"

He reminds them of the point he'd just made... that God called Abraham righteous because he believed Him. And then, in verse 10, he asks, "So tell me, did all of this happen after Abraham entered into the covenant with God and was circumcised?  Nope! It happened before he was circumcised!"

And then he went on to say something even more shocking... that circumcision was a seal of the righteousness by faith that he already had!  It wasn't just the sign of the covenant. Both the sign and the covenant were because he was already righteous.

You see, they'd been putting the cart before the horse. They thought that their righteousness was because of the law, and the law was part of the covenant.  Paul was saying, "Nope. The righteousness came first. God entered into that covenant because Abraham was righteous. And he was righteous before the law was given."

I'm sure there were quite a few Jews who were having a hard time wrapping their minds around this one. After all, this was not what they'd been taught for centuries.  But the thing was... Paul was among the foremost scholars of the law at that time. He had the degrees and had passed the bar.

And he was using their own scriptures to prove everything he said.

Perhaps at this point, some of the Jews were thinking, "Okay. So we had the law, but we can also believe like our father Abraham. I guess it's okay if God lets other people in on the good news."  But then Paul takes it one step farther.

He said God did all of that so that Abraham might be the father of everyone who believes like he did... even without being circumcised.  He says that this was God's intent all along. Verse 16 says it again.
For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.
Paul finishes up the chapter by saying that these truths were made plain to Abraham, not only for Abraham's sake. All this was written down for our sake, too. And then he ties Abraham's faith in God's promise to our faith in what Jesus did.
23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
Whoah now! What is justification? That's what Paul explains next.

Go to the index of posts on Romans.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Where joy comes...

For You have been my help
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. 
That's Psalm 63:7 -- one of my favorite Psalms -- and this little verse points to one perspective-changing truth.

Whether or not we have joy is dependent upon my proximity to God, relationship with God, and reliance upon God.  Not upon where I am at in this thing called life.

A few days ago, I used a snippet from a story to illustrate how true peace rests within us... how it's it dependent on outward circumstances. Joy is no different.

Neither comes because of blessings or success and work their way in.

Both come from Him to our heart and work their way out.

              Psalm 63:1-8
1 O God,  You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
   My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
   In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
   To see Your power and Your glory.
3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
   My lips will praise You.
4 So I will bless You as long as I live;
   I will lift up my hands in Your name.
5 My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
   And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
6 When I remember You on my bed,
   I meditate on You in the night watches,
7 For You have been my help,
   And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to You;
   Your right hand upholds me.
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