Friday, March 30, 2012

In Christ Alone

I had never heard of this song until a few months ago.  I was driving to work listening to Rhema, my local Christian radio station, when this song came on the radio.  It just about bought me to tears.  I would say it sums up my Christian walk.  I've heard a few versions of this song but this is by far the version that still moves me the most.

The lyrics follow the video clip.

In Christ Alone
written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.

In Christ alone, my hope is found

He is my light, my strength, my song

This cornerstone, this solid ground

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease

My comforter, my all-in-all

Here in the love of Christ I stand

There in the ground His body lay

Light of the world by darkness slain

Then bursting forth in glorious day

Up from the grave He rose again!

And as He stands in victory

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me

For I am His and He is mine

Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death

This is the power of Christ in me

From life’s first cry to final breath

Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man

Can ever pluck me from His hand

Till He returns or calls me home

Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Love the Sinner; Hate the Sin.

How many times have I heard the phrase "Love the sinner, hate the sin"?  It sounds so biblical, holy, righteous, Christian and rolls off the tongue easily. 

According to Reverend Dr Cheri DiNovo, Love the sinner, hate the sin' is not Christian.

Did you know that the saying, "Love the sinner, hate the sin" has absolutely nothing to do with our faith? It is not to be found anywhere in the Bible. It was said by Mahatma Gandhi on one of his not so good days and it has been used to beat people up. It has been used to do violence to people ever since. Something Gandhi would never ever have wished.

What is sin exactly?  Is it stealing the stationery supplies from work?  Is it getting so drunk you throw up?  Is it not going to church on Sundays?  Is it swearing?  Is it looking at a man or woman with lust? 

What does ‘sin’ mean biblically? It doesn’t mean ‘bad’. It doesn’t mean ‘bad things’. Sin means, and there are two main words for it, a Hebraic word for it, ‘chatta’t’ and there’s a Greek word, ‘hamartia’. Hamartia and chatta’t mean, approximately, separation from God. Hamartia is an archery word. It means that you let the arrow go and you miss the mark. The arrow goes astray. Somehow all of us have taken a wrong turn, a wrong path. We’ve taken a wrong road. We’ve turned our gaze from the divine, the source of all love and become embroiled in all sorts of other ‘stuff’. That’s sin.

The opposite of sin is not purity or goodness. The opposite of sin is faithfulness. When we turn toward the divine we are saved.

That alone is a radical thought.   How about an even more radical thought?  Loving the sinner and forgiving the sin.

Candace Chellew writes in Whosover Magazine... Time after time we see Jesus forgiving the people around him -- even those who finally persecuted and killed him. How much clearer could Jesus make his call to us to exercise our God-given power to forgive? Nowhere in the gospels do we find Jesus hating anyone for anything -- instead, we find him forgiving everyone, even his executioners. This is not a model of "loving the sinner and hating the sin." Indeed, this is a model of "loving the sinner and forgiving the sin."

In the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples forgiveness is key. In the Lord's Prayer we ask God to "forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). If the phrase isn't clear enough, Jesus expounds upon the directive in verses 14-15: "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Parent will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Parent forgive your trespasses." 

How could Jesus be clearer on our purpose? Our goal is to forgive, not once but "seventy times seven," (Matthew 18:22) if necessary. 

Can we do that?  In my experience it can be easy to forgive and love someone who is your friend or who does things the same way as you do but its much harder to forgive or love some one who behaves different to you.

You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you." Matthew 5: 43-48 TM

We are called to live generously and graciously towards other, because that is how God lives towards us.  I don't know if we can live that way without the daily help of our loving Father and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. 

If we hold onto the 'Love the sinner and hate the sin' philosophy, we haven't truly heard Jesus' call to love your enemies and His call to forgive.

And another Gandhi quote comes to mind right now.."The weak can never forgive because forgiveness is the attribute of the strong".

May the strength of the Lord be with us.  And may we all walk in love and forgiveness.  Amen

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Does God Love or Hate Gays??

This is a very controversial blog post and you may or may not agree with me.  If you want to post comments, you are welcome but I ask for you to be respectful to me and I will be respectful to you.  I have never said I was a theologian but I am speaking from my heart.

I used to be very homophobic.  I would agree with anti gay sermons, books and news letter articles.  Then one day I had a revelation.  God loves all people, even if they don't know it yet.  And if God loves all people, He also loves gay people.  And if God wants to change someone's sexual orientation, then that's up to Him.  Its not up to me.  I needed to stop judging people and I needed to stop rejecting people.  It was my choice to love people or not to love people, to judge people or not to judge people, to reject people or not to reject people.  

In light of the revelation from God about gay people, I realised that I had to change my mind about gay people.   God didn't stop part way in His lesson so took me on a bit more of a journey.  He didn't want my lesson to stop at theory but gave me a practical one as well be putting me in direct contact with homosexual people whom I feared and judged.

I was in my 40's at the time and after being a stay at home mum I decided to go to TAFE to get a  Certificate in office administration in an attempt to get back into the workforce. It was at TAFE that I met a gay man and a gay woman who happened to be in my class.   I probably had met lots of gay people over the years but that was in passing. The man was 20 years old and was lots of fun.  I became very fond of this young man as we shared coffee at morning tea and lunch time each week.  The woman was closer to my age and sat next to me in class.  We also had lunch together every school day.  This woman had been in an abusive heterosexual marriage and when she could take no more of the violence, she left.  She had never been happy in her marriage, even before the violence started but when she married him, she did what was expected of her.  She is now in a relationship with a woman, her adult children love her partner and she couldn't be happier.

The next revelation I had was that most of the gay people in this world think that God hates them.  This actually made me sad to the point of tears but I totally understood their feelings.  The reason they believe this is because for the last 50 yrs or so, Christians have been very vocal about being anti gay.  There are churches in the US that picket funerals and protest gay marches with signs that read "God Hates Fags" and create websites dedicated to how much God hates gay people and their enablers.    

Jesus in the New Testament only spoke against the Pharisees, that is the religious teachers of the day...the ones who life work was telling people how to live, burdening them with rules and regulations and pretty basically they lorded it over the common folk. Jesus told them they were "white washed tombs"  Pretty on the outside but nothing but full of darkness, rotten flesh and death inside.  Not a pretty description at all!  Jesus never said one single word against homosexuality but surely gay people were around when He walked the earth. 

Now, I really really really really doubt God hates gays. In fact, I really believe He loves them and I also believe His heart breaks when we tear into each other.  When we make it our goal in life to beat the homosexuality out of people are we any better than one of the Pharisees that Jesus rebuked?

When you take time to think about it, how will gay people ever know that God loves them and Jesus went to the cross for them if all they hear from us is hate?
People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish,  but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.  And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?  Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.   James 3:7-12 NLT

Since I finished TAFE, I have met many many gay people in many walks of life.  Gay people are not always funny or friendly like the characters on television or in films, because that's just the stereotype.  Gay people don't all march half naked in street parades because that is also the stereotype.  I have met gay people who happen to be lawyers, nurses, accountants, bookkeepers, bar men, salesmen, truck drivers, dentists, writers, factory workers, radio announcers, PR people, Uni students, baristas, cooks and a couple of singers, dancers and only one or two actors.   I may not have close friendships with all of these people and quite honestly, there are some I have little or no communication with but that is how it goes with people everywhere. 

I never make a secret of my Christianity.  Because of the history and bad publicity church folk have generated, gay people are naturally wary of me.  You can almost hear them waiting for me to give them a lecture and when that doesn't happen the surprise can be palpable.   I think its a sad situation but we Christians have no one to blame but ourselves.   

I wont pray for God to change someone's sexuality but I will pray that the veil will be removed from their eyes and they will know God loves them with so much passion that he went to the cross for them.

God loves each of us so much that used an rough hewn iron nail to tattoo their name each of our names on the hand of Jesus. 

See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.  Isaiah 49:15

As I said, its Gods job to change people, not mine, so its pointless and painful for me to try to change someone myself.   However, we can ask God to change us and our hearts and mind.  Repentance means to change your mind and we are told to do that.

 The word in the New Testament usually translated “repent” is the Greek word “metanoeo,” and the word translated “repentance” is “metanoia.” Both of these Greek words have the same basic meaning: “to change your mind; reconsider; or, to think differently.”  

I think we should be actively out there embracing people of all walks of life, whether they are gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, transsexual or anywhere in between.  How will anyone ever know that God loves and accepts them if we keep rejecting them?

If someone is having a problem, I tell them that I will pray for them and then I do it.  

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?  Romans 10:14

The next time you meet a gay person, show them how much you love them by not judging them and then they will want to know why you as a Christian can love them when all they have been taught by media is that Christians hate them with a passion.  It makes sense, doesn't it?   You may even have the opportunity to speak into their lives and to pray for them.
To love people is a way of life for me.  I don't make friends with anyone whilst having an ulterior motive or preaching to them.  I just want to love people because that is who I am and what I have been called to do. However, I believe God has given me a job description for my life and that description is found in Micah 6:8...

O people, the LORD has told you what is good,
      and this is what he requires of you:
   to do what is right, to love mercy,
      and to walk humbly with your God. 

I may never have the chance to verbally share the Gospel with one of my gay friends but I do have an opportunity everyday to share the Gospel through my actions.  And if I get the opportunity to pray for someone, I seize it with both hands.  

At the moment, I'm praying for a guy who is hoping for a co-worker who will swap a shift so he can go see Kylie Minogue in Sydney.   He thinks its impossible but we all know that nothing is impossible for God.   So please, if you see this before March 20. please join me in prayer for my friend and that someone will give him a ticket as the show is only in two days.  

To sum it up, we each have to answer this question of ourselves "What are you choosing?"  And we need to take this question seriously and think for ourselves.  We need to examine our hearts and minds.  The Bible is called food, so we need to feast on it and learn the truth. Read a few different translations of that Bible, listen to different points of views and be prepared to find out that everything we have believed for our Christian lives could be wrong or that there is a real basis for everything you believe.  Its a scary and somewhat painful journey but the reason you want to walk in the light is you can see clearly what is ahead.  By letting others tell you what to think, then you may as well be walking in the light but wearing a blind fold over your eyes.   

As I said at the beginning, this post can be somewhat controversial.  God has given us brains and minds and the ability to reason, to think and to actually know what we believe. Each of us should know what we stand for if  asked, what we would hang on to if our life or death depended upon it and what we can let go because it gets in the way of our focus of God.  

EDIT: My friend who thought he was going to work when he wanted to see Kylie Minogue has just informed me he has the shift off and is going to the concert I just want to praise God and give the glory all to Him!!!  Nothing is impossible for our God!  My friend knew I was praying and this will speak volumes to him.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Quote on Faith & prayer

I've read a few quotes lately that speak to me.  <--- see what I did there?  It was a funny punny.

"Faith is to the soul what life is to the body. Prayer is to faith what breath is to the body." J. C. Ryle

What is prayer?  Is it simply talking to God? Is it also a form of worship? 

Some people think of prayer as ask a way to ask God for things.  But shouldn't we do more than treat God as a Heavenly Vending Machine?  By saying the right words, you get what you want...

Others only ever talk to God when they are in dire straits.  Its a verbal or psychological form of tying a knot when you are at the end of your rope and you hang onto it. 

Do I look at God as a vending machine or my rope?  Or do I want to just talk to Him about my life?  Or is my prayer life a bit of everything?  

Zeal for your house consumes Him

The Ten Commandments

vs7 The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. 
vs9 The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree. 
vs13  Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work.

vs23 Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God's ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one.

vs17 "Zeal for your house consumes me." 

Jesus put the cleaners through the temple.  Our bodies are the temple (1Corinthians 6:19) so we all need Jesus to put the cleaners through our bodies, our hearts and our minds

Jesus said "In my Father's house..." Does that mean my body is my Father's House? This is an interesting thought.

The guys selling stuff in the temple were just following tradition - Bob Royal (paraphrased by me)

Do we get caught up in traditions that clutter up our minds and our bodies?

Should we go out of our way to break traditions because Jesus is sick of traditions?  Are we stuck in traditions?  If so, what are our traditions?  And what do we do because it is a tradition and what do we do because we truly want to honour and love our Lord Jesus?  

"Zeal for your house consumes me"  If  I am the temple, the house of God, does that mean his zeal for me consumes Him?

If Jesus is zealous for me, then I should be zealous for Him, not zealous for the things for Him, not zealous for things that are about Him, not zealous for traditions or things that make me comfortable but zealous for Jesus.

Do we seek comfort in our traditions because not doing things in a certain was can be uncomfortable?   Does Jesus want me to be  comfortable or does He want me to be so uncomfortable that it drives me to Him for my comfort?

He wants to be my comforter.  It is something we say all the time but do we mean it? He is our comforter.  Jesus alone should be our comfort. Not songs.  Not traditions. Not certain prayers. Not knowing when to stand and when to sit.  Not the right style of music.  Not a certain way of praying.  Not gifts.  Just Jesus is our comforter.