Thursday, September 29, 2005

Christian Carnival is Up!

This week's Christian Carnival is up at In the Spirit of Grace. The theme for this week is a little deeper than it appears at first glance...looking at mind, body, and spirit in a variety of contexts.

The Carnival this week includes my earlier post, A Eulogy for the Fallen, which includes reflections from Sandberg, King David, and Shakespeare. We march, each of us, through the endless pendulum swings of eternity, here to mark the time for such a brief moment.

Lots of other reflections on mind, body, and spirit over at In the Spirit of Grace.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Christian Carnival #88 is Up!

Christian Carnival #88 is up over at Digitus, Finger & Co. Lots of good carnival entries this week, including my recent The War Within post.

Check out the Carnival, and be blessed!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Faith and Adversity (Part One)

Many non-believers, and perhaps, many a new Christian, are very curious about how some Christians seem to maintain such stoicism in the face of adversity, crisis, or catastrophe. Those of us who believe, and yet struggle with doubt sometimes over God’s purposes in tribulations, can take courage and comfort from Chapter 5 of Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Faith Triumphs in Trouble

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
Faith in Jesus Christ is our pathway to peace, for Jesus is that ultimate Righteousness asked of Man by God. God spoke through the Prophet Isaiah, in promising that our reward for Righteousness would be peace, quietness (the absence of inner turmoil or contention), and assurance for eternity: This is the “peace that surpasses all understanding,” that so fascinates yet confounds those who have not found Him:
17 The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. (Isaiah 32:17)
Yet we can’t achieve this in our own selves, when competing without a Champion with our own sinful natures. “There is none righteous, no not one,” and in our own strength without faith we cannot achieve that perfect Righteousness that would bring the peace of the Lord. But in faith, our belief in Jesus, the Son of God, cloaks us in His perfect righteousness and gives us access to that peace.

Accepting Jesus as Savior and asking that our sins be forgiven allows us to approach the throne of grace without fault or blemish. Not that we are pure, but that the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, of his sacrifice on the cross, presents us as pure before the throne of judgment. We can this have hope in the future, precisely because we can stand in His presence forgiven, and be accounted as righteous.

The promise of our redemption is about our eternal future, but dwelling in the hope of God can bring us joy and contentment today, a peace that God is our guide, a quietness of mind and heart, not that we may not be troubled, but that the concerns of each day will not eat away at our insides, that we may maintain a quietness of soul. “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine,” goes the hymn, “O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.” (Blessed Assurance, words by Fanny Crosby.)

He’s broken down the wall of separation between Creator and created; He has torn the curtain asunder to allow us entrance to the Holy of Holies, and usher us into His presence:
14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. (Ephesians 2:14-16)

6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:6)
This is the meaning of being Heirs of Salvation and partakers in the inheritance. Jesus has made it possible for us to be first fruits too, and join Him as new creations.

And this assurance then gives us courage and strength to endure tribulations, even find glory in them, as God lifts us up, protects and sustains us, and brings us out the other side. We persevere; we stand on God’s promise. As we endure and persevere, we grow stronger, perhaps wiser too, and more knowing of the way in which we can keep God ever-present throughout our struggles, that we might remain hopeful and not despair.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11, 12)

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (James 1:2-3)
God thus works with our character, He makes us more than we would have been, without the tribulation, and without His love, and His Holy Spirit He gives to us, which dwells in us as believers. We become born of His spirit, as it indwells; we are washed in His redeeming blood, which is the start and finish of our faith and the author of our peace in Him.
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)
We are forgiven in Christ once for all; we are purchased at the greatest price possible, the sacrifice of His own Son Jesus. As we all learn eventually when we come to faith, God’s promise does not mean our lives will be all sweetness and light ever after; but He does assure us, and we can experience, that He is with us in every trial and tribulation, and like silver or gold in a refiners fire, can be made better than what we were. God has placed His seal upon us:
21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
Jesus said, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

That is what the disciples did, and they were to be anointed with the Holy Spirit of God, the Promise that Jesus spoke of. And so might all of us receive that Promise upon us, if we but put our faith in the Lord our God, and believe on His Son Jesus.

It is the indwelling Holy Spirit in us that is God’s guarantee that He will be with always, “even to the end of the Age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Coming in Part Two: Death and Rebirth

Thursday, September 15, 2005

God's Promises (Part Three)

This is a continuation from Part Two, in Which God instructed Israel that it was God who raised up Cyrus to rule them, so that he would rebuild God’s Temple, and in Which God warned of the folly of Man’s Hubris (Isaiah 45:9-16)

Part 3: In Which God brings a warning and a promise to His people, that In the Lord Alone Are Righteousness and Strength.

Now God, speaking through Isaiah, speaks directly to His chosen people, the Children of Israel.
17 But Israel shall be saved by the LORD
With an everlasting salvation;
You shall not be ashamed or disgraced
Forever and ever.
18 For thus says the LORD,
Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who has established it,
Who did not create it in vain,
Who formed it to be inhabited:
“ I am the LORD, and there is no other.
19 I have not spoken in secret,
In a dark place of the earth;
I did not say to the seed of Jacob,
‘ Seek Me in vain’;
I, the LORD, speak righteousness,
I declare things that are right.
God announces His pre-eminence to His people, people He called out to, people He encouraged to seek Him while He yet may be found. This God, this potter, this Artist but more than an artist who formed and established the earth so that Man might dwell on it. And He called the seed of Jacob as those who would carry His banner on the earth, despite travails and long captivity, despite cruelties and severe indignities, yet God said they would not be ashamed or disgraced forever, but would emerge from the darkness of the host nations to which they were carried.

Through Isaiah, God offers Israel this encouragement:
20 “ Assemble yourselves and come;
Draw near together,
You who have escaped from the nations.
They have no knowledge,
Who carry the wood of their carved image,
And pray to a god that cannot save.
21 Tell and bring forth your case;
Yes, let them take counsel together.
Who has declared this from ancient time?
Who has told it from that time?
Have not I, the LORD?
And there is no other God besides Me,
A just God and a Savior;
There is none besides Me.
God yet again calls Israel out of bondage, out from among the heathen people who craft their own gods and pray to craven images. He fulfills His promise as Savior, and suggests the way of His promise that will be fully fulfilled when His Son would walk the earth as Man, die for the sins of mankind, and be risen triumphant in glory as a resurrected new creation to take His place at the right hand of God.

Isaiah foretells the promise of God’s Messiah:
22 “ Look to Me, and be saved,
All you ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
23 I have sworn by Myself;
The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness,
And shall not return,
That to Me every knee shall bow,
Every tongue shall take an oath.[a]
24 He shall say,
‘ Surely in the LORD I have righteousness and strength.
To Him men shall come,
And all shall be ashamed
Who are incensed against Him.
25 In the LORD all the descendants of Israel
Shall be justified, and shall glory.’”

[a] In Paul’s letter to the Romans, as translated Paul renders this as “And every tongue shall confess to God.”
God promises all the descendants of Israel this inheritance. They may look to Him with assurance, and so may we. God speaks through Isaiah here, declaring the promise of the day when “every knee shall bow and every tongue will cry out His name, repent and affirm His Lordship.

Paul writes, in his letter to the believers in Philippi:
Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth. (Philippians 2:9-10)
It starts with the movement of God upon the earth. He rises men and women up as part of His purpose. He rises servants up, to follow Him in obedience, and teach all who would come to Him through the promise of His Son Jesus. And this is His Kingdom established, the Kingdom of God.

God's Hands On (Part One)

Clay Nations (Part Two)

Christian Carnival #87 is Up!

The 87th Christian Carnival is up over at PseudoPolymath.

There's a post from Gladmanly this week, and lots of other great reads as well.

UPDATE: Having had the time to visit the Carnival, I'd like to recommend the following posts:

Jeremy at Parable Man observes:
There's almost nothing in the gospels about circumcision. Jesus was circumcised. There's one appearance besides that, I believe, and it's almost a side issue to a much more specific discussion about something else. Jesus didn't seem very interested in it. That's interesting for a number of reasons, but I want to suggest one thing that we should conclude that may not be as obvious.
David at All Kinds of Time quotes from 1 Sam 8:6-22a, and concludes:
But the church at large, especially in America, has failed at the very least to be socially active in crying out against a nation that would settle for a government that would attempt (and so blatantly fail) to care for said nation's poor.
Rev-ed at Attention Span describes the painful experience of losing a friend to a heart attack, and it tears him up. “Frankly, I'm still in shock. I'm typing this as some kind of catharsis -- a way to process all this -- because this really rips at me.”

Mark Olson, this week’s host at Pseudo-Polymath, laments that “The past had myth and magical stories in abundance,” and asks “What do we hold in that place today?”

Weekend Fisher of Heart Mind Soul & Strength believes that “the Quality Control branch of Christianity is out of control itself. It doesn't know when to stop pruning.”

Pastor Mark at Runalong with Pastor Mark uses the example of a man who is determined to visit every Starbucks store on the Planet:
There are two ways to go wrong in life and only one way to get it right. You can live without purpose or passion- if that is your life you need to wake up and live ("if I should wake before I die..."). You can live passionately for the wrong things, or even for good things that aren't the best things. No one ever said on his deathbed, "I wish I'd spent more time at the office." Or you can live passionately for that which is most valuable and meaningful in life.
Check them out, and be blessed!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Clay Nations (Part Two)

This is a continuation from God's Hands On (Part One), in Which God warned Cyrus he was being used of God, but because the Lord God chose to, not due to the righteousness of Cyrus. (Isaiah 45:1-8)

Part 2: In Which God instructs Israel that it is God who raises up Cyrus to rule them, so that he may rebuild God’s Temple, and in Which God warns of the folly of Man’s Hubris (Isaiah 45:9-16)
9 “ Woe to him who strives with his Maker!
Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth!
Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’?
10 Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’
Or to the woman, ‘What have you brought forth?’”
11 Thus says the LORD,
The Holy One of Israel, and his Maker:

“ Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons;
And concerning the work of My hands, you command Me.
12 I have made the earth,
And created man on it.
I—My hands—stretched out the heavens,
And all their host I have commanded.
13 I have raised him up in righteousness,
And I will direct all his ways;
He shall build My city
And let My exiles go free,
Not for price nor reward,”
Says the LORD of hosts. (Isaiah 45:9-13)
An ancient in the time of Isaiah would have understood the image of the clay somewhat differently than we do today. An ancient Hebrew in Isaiah’s day would have understood the clay to be the source from which God created Man. Clay was made from the dust of the earth, and scripture frequently uses clay and dust in similar descriptions. Beginning in Genesis, the Bible states:
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
In Job, the text describes the houses of Israel, made of clay, “whose foundations are in the dust,” referring to the very fleeting time they exist, their temporal impermanence compared to the Eternal God and His creations. “They perish forever, with no one regarding.” (Job 4:19, 20) Such are the works of man, his works are like himself, destined to pass into obscurity without the intervention of God. Men of clay, in creations of clay, all to return to dust. Job laments to God, later in the account:
Remember, I pray, that you have made me like clay. And will you turn me into dust again? (Job 10:9)
To speak of clay in scriptures, we speak of the works of God as He fashions His will upon the physical world. Isaiah, in fervent prayer to God His creator:
But now, Oh Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and you are the potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.
Today, we think of the modern image of an artist with a hunk of modeler’s clay, molding shapes, or of a potter with a potter’s wheel, spinning and spinning with water and constant caress shaping the object gradually. There are times that God creates this way, too.

But here, in this passage of Isaiah, man is described as potter’s clay to remind man of his very temporary existence on earth. He has fashioned all principalities, the hosts (armies) they command. He guides the movements, commands, and utterances of the kings of this ancient world, and in Cyrus’s day, causes Cyrus to rebuild the city of the Temple, Jerusalem, and free the hostages of the Children of Israel.

The Lord God also spoke through His prophet Jeremiah, in speaking of Israel as the clay in the potter’s hands:
6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! 7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it. (Jeremiah 18:6-10)
In the days of the Prophets, God influenced the rise and fall of nations on the earth, their leaders and forms of government. He directed their steps, he rewarded the faithful and obedient and punished the evil. He led the Children of Israel as a powerful witness, not only to their generations to come, but the generations of the Gentiles to come.
The LORD, the Only Savior

14 Thus says the LORD:

“ The labor of Egypt and merchandise of Cush
And of the Sabeans, men of stature,
Shall come over to you, and they shall be yours;
They shall walk behind you,
They shall come over in chains;
And they shall bow down to you.
They will make supplication to you, saying, ‘Surely God is in you,
And there is no other;
There is no other God.’”
15 Truly You are God, who hide Yourself,
O God of Israel, the Savior!
16 They shall be ashamed
And also disgraced, all of them;
They shall go in confusion together,
Who are makers of idols. (Isaiah 45:14-16)
God reveals Himself to the Prophet, and the Prophet explains to the people, and the people stand as witness to the wonderful Mercy and Grace of God, to spare and restore this stiff necked people.

Coming in God's Promises (Part Three): In Which God brings a warning and a promise to His people, that In the Lord Alone Are Righteousness and Strength.

God's Hands On (Part One)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

God's Hands On (Part One)

I've been hanging on to a scripture passage for several months, and I can’t say I even know why. But I'm led to share the following, perhaps it's for someone out there to read.

Isaiah is one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, who foretold great events in the history of Israel, and prophesized as well about the coming of Messiah in great detail, fully confirmed in the gospels of Jesus and his ministry.

Cyrus was one of the great kings of his age, and God, speaking through Isaiah, makes it clear that it is by God and His purposes that Cyrus holds the fate of the Hebrews in his hands.

Part 1: In Which God warns Cyrus he is being used of God, but because the Lord God chooses to, not due to the righteousness of Cyrus. (Isaiah 45:1-8)

Cyrus, God’s Instrument

1 “Thus says the LORD to His anointed,
To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—
To subdue nations before him
And loose the armor of kings,
To open before him the double doors,
So that the gates will not be shut:
2 ‘ I will go before you
And make the crooked places straight;
I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron.
3 I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the LORD,
Who call you by your name,
Am the God of Israel.
4 For Jacob My servant’s sake,
And Israel My elect,
I have even called you by your name;
I have named you, though you have not known Me.
5 I am the LORD, and there is no other;
There is no God besides Me.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me,
6 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
That there is none besides Me.
I am the LORD, and there is no other;
7 I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the LORD, do all these things.’
8 “ Rain down, you heavens, from above,
And let the skies pour down righteousness;
Let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation,
And let righteousness spring up together.
I, the LORD, have created it.
God used Cyrus as His instrument. There’s no mention of any quality of Cyrus’s that warranted God’s favor, and indeed, Cyrus may simply be the most ambitious or best suited man to rise to the throne of Empire. In those days, the Man was the Empire, perhaps difficult to a modern mind to fully comprehend unless one has lived under the toke of a total Tyrant. Just as He used Babylon during the days of captivity, God chose to use Persia to effect a rebuilding of the Temple in Israel.

God’s purpose in so doing could easily have been mistaken for favor. But note how God speaks about Cyrus and Persia in terms almost entirely about what God will do in power and might, and how little actually refers to the Persians, their power or lack thereof. They are passive recipients of God’s favor, and the benefits that accrue to Persia are only meant to underscore how thoroughly God will “make the crooked places straight,” “break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron.”

God through Isaiah himself confirms that he calls Cyrus by name, and girds him for his battles with his neighbors. God does a mighty work, and He uses Cyrus, but only as He might be exalted for Jacob His servant’s sake.

Cyrus has been lifted up as an instrument in God’s purpose, and equipped and fortified by God to ensure he can achieve what God has given his hand for his children Israel. God intends Cyrus to demonstrate His power. He seeks to demonstrate that “There is no God besides Me.” Cyrus will be God’s wrath and vengeance upon the people’s he vanquishes, and God will preserve His people under the protection of Cyrus.

We can know that God will oftentimes use worldly men and women, people who have not known the Lord, to achieve His purposes. We can be assured that God moves in this world, and while with our limited perspective, we may see the evil succeed and the good falter, yet He will make all things work for good.

When Cyrus ruled his empire, it might not have seemed to the Hebrews that God was in control, or that God still looked out for them. They saw His calamity, but not His peace. Thus Isaiah carried the message, to both Persian and Jew, that God was working through this earthly king, and Israel would come to know His favor through Cyrus.

As David proclaims in Psalm 102:
12 But You, O LORD, shall endure forever,
And the remembrance of Your name to all generations.
13 You will arise and have mercy on Zion;
For the time to favor her,
Yes, the set time, has come.
14 For Your servants take pleasure in her stones,
And show favor to her dust.
15 So the nations shall fear the name of the LORD,
And all the kings of the earth Your glory. (Psalm 102:12-15)
God has been working His purposes on earth since time began. He has used the kingdoms and principalities of the earth as His instruments, always so that the Nations might come to know the God of Israel, and His glory. And more than that, as a witness to those future generations such as we, who look upon the unfolding of history, in the plan of salvation revealed in the fullness of time. The story of Exodus, the story of Israel’s captivity, the story of their release, the rebuilding of the Temple, all these stories resonate with the love of God for His people, not a timid love that spares correction, but a fierce and determined love, and unconditional Love that yet demands obedience, discipline, and repentance of sin and departures from His ways.

David continues in Psalm 102:
18 This will be written for the generation to come,
That a people yet to be created may praise the LORD.
19 For He looked down from the height of His sanctuary;
From heaven the LORD viewed the earth,
20 To hear the groaning of the prisoner,
To release those appointed to death,
21 To declare the name of the LORD in Zion,
And His praise in Jerusalem,
22 When the peoples are gathered together,
And the kingdoms, to serve the LORD. (Psalm 102:18-22)
God carried the Israelites through their heroic journey in history, and His perfect legacy carried throughout the Nations in reputation and honor and fear of the Lord of the Jews. The Prophet Malachi declares how completely God affirmed His glory through His people:
11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down,
My name shall be great among the Gentiles;
In every place incense shall be offered to My name,
And a pure offering;
For My name shall be great among the nations,”
Says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 1:11)
And His name has been great among the Nations, and ever shall be.

Coming next in Part 2: In Which God instructs Israel that it is God who raises up Cyrus to rule them, so that he may rebuild God’s Temple, and in Which God warns of the folly of Man’s Hubris (Isaiah 45:9-16)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Christian Carnival is Up!

The Christian Carnival is up over at TechnoGypsy. This week's Carnival includes posts from both Gladmanly and Dadmanly sites.

Stop by the Carnival, and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

When God Can Work With Us

Romans 4

Paul’s contribution to the early church was of immense importance, so much so that God, working through the early church, ensured that his extant letters to believers throughout the known ancient world would be preserved as Canon.

Paul’s letter to the church in Rome stands as a treatise on the justifications for, and recommended practice of this new faith for both Jews and Gentiles. And central to the Divine Doctrine he taught, was the expansive discussion on Faith for the Christian, which continues in Chapter 4.
Abraham Justified by Faith

1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
Thus Paul begins the great argument of the necessary (and wholly sufficient) faith. God had come to Abraham in a vision, and in this vision he was shown great things. In this vision, he was told that even at his advanced age, he would have an heir. He was told to count the stars in the heavens, and told, “So shall your descendants be.” (Genesis 15:5) That is the promise, that was the vision, those were the words of prophesy that Abraham believed were truly from God, and that specific belief was what was accounted as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

If we believe what we see with our eyes and what we know from experience, how much faith does that require? If we count on those truths that we have already proven in count or by touch or from direct observation, we give but passive assent to that which is evident, that stands as solid as anything in the world.

But to believe a vision? Some imaginary flourish, that, as Scrooge would say, was some undigested bit of porridge, some fit of fancy?

If we then have faith in that which is unseen, as the letter to the Hebrews has it, faith being the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), then it follows that any work that we perform is in response to our feeling of indebtedness to Him, not as work in exchange for some future earning. And in that sense, are not engaged ion some kind of worldly exchange of value: as in the example, when we offer our labor as effort in some manner of exchange, we rightly expect that payment due, a transfer of some agreed upon equivalent in value.

As Paul says, such efforts, such works as are performed “for hire” may very well be subject of some pride, but only in the ways of men. God has not engaged us as journeymen for hire, nor do we earn anything by way of recompense that God now owes to us. And Paul goes on to underscore that exact point by reference to The Psalmist King David.
David Celebrates the Same Truth

5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
7 “ Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.”
Men will ever sin, and there is surely time and place for repentance and a call to obedience. But here Paul use’s the words of David to underscore the vital correlation between faith and righteousness. By our deeds, we know “there are none righteous, no not one.” It is faith, pure and unmediated faith that is what God sees and acknowledges in His children that brings His blessing.

It is when we seek out God, that we trust in His word, that we believe what He says, and are willing to see Him at work around us and believe in the reality of His presence and work, that He can work with us. We are all imperfect vessels, and He knows that. But He can do nothing with us until we are ready to humbly accept that fact, but humbly seek him despite knowing our own weaknesses and unworthiness. That’s when He can work with us, that’s when we are as malleable as clay.

What of Abraham, what of circumcision? Oh, you can almost put yourself in the middle of the quarrels. This aspect of Jewish law, that aspect, the traditions of Jerusalem, the practices of Roman believers, and oh those heathen Gentiles! Here is where Paul points his argument directly at the schism of Jew and Gentile.
Abraham Justified Before Circumcision

9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.
Paul makes the rather simple argument that Abraham was justified by faith quite a time before he was called upon to circumcise himself and his tribe. And yet, uncircumcised as he was, Abraham was accounted as righteous. Faith is altogether different than God’s instruction for the children of the Law to circumcise themselves in obedience to him, and as covenant that they would uphold his laws and ordinances.

God promised Abraham the rich abundance of His blessing not because of Abraham’s obedience under some law, but because Abraham was righteous in His faith in God and what God said. Abraham later obeyed God because he first had faith that whatever God wanted for Abraham was what Abraham would or should want too. He knew that God’s way was the best way, and thus later obeyed when called by God to do so.
The Promise Granted Through Faith

13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, 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 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”
Paul declares that heirs are heirs by sharing Abraham’s faith, not by sharing in his circumcision. If heirs are heirs only if they obey the law, then as Paul says, faith is of no account, heirs achieve God’s blessing only through works under law. Again, this comes back to earning the promise as a wage slave for works. We put in the time, we do the job, we get the reward. What we think about the job, or our Master, is entirely beside the point. Otherwise, it’s, “You owe us our due, God.” And that would mean God is obligated to us, not showing us mercy in blessing us on the virtue of our faith, alone.

That is God’s amazing grace, that while we were yet sinners and not obedient to Him, came to believe, and God showed us mercy and offered forgiveness of sin by belief in His Son Jesus. Being an heir in a human sense can be precarious, you might be in competition with the other heirs in the eyes of the Lord of the Estate, promises can be made, but broken, earthly riches can evaporate.

As Paul said, God gives life to the dead and can speak that which does not exist as though they do, and thus speaks things into being that were not. He has promised Abraham heirs among many nations, not just one nation, and not just one people.
19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
Faith comes first. We believe all these things are possible. God gives our hearts and minds this absolutely incredible, impossible-to-believe-idea, that the God of all creation has a heart that beats specifically for each of us. This promise to all who would believe had been prepared long before Abraham knew God, long before Abraham himself, and stands so today for all of his spiritual heirs. But it comes first. We believe, and that draws us. It compels us. It grows obedience in us, as we test His yoke and find the burden light. We test His promises and find them true.

God looks for that attentiveness in us. For it is then that He can work with us.

May He find you in a clayful mood.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has complete coverage of where to offer assistance to victims of Katrina.

N.Z. Bear has a community set up, and Terry Teachout has comprehensive links to up-to-the-minute reporting.

As has been remarked by Austin Bay, the only America that's prepared to help out with this one is America herself. And that would be us.

Technorati tags: flood aid, Hurricane Katrina

Christian Carnival #85 is Up!

Christian Carnival #85 is now ready for your pleasure and inspection, up at Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet.

I recommend you stop by the Carnival, where I enjoyed the following:
A Penitent Blogger reflects on the fragility of life and the security of Christ in I thought it was safe.

Donna-Jean at LibertyandLily has some thoughts on forgiveness - and unforgiveness - and how vital it is that we get it all right. This topic is a hard one for me so I really appreciated this post:
Something to Think About.
Lots more, but that's all I have time for tonight, I am overdue for bed!