Our God

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) 

                The words were simple really.  But simple words are often the manner in which God chooses to impress His point upon us.  It also happens that many times He uses other people to that end.  So what are the words I’m referring to?  To paraphrase, they were, “God is not for you in the sense of just being your cheerleader.  He is much more than that.”  Recently at choir practice, as we rehearsed Chris Tomlin’s song, Our God, of which this verse is contained in the lyrics, Dan took the occasion to emphasize the great truth of Romans 8:31.  Romans 8 is a great chapter.   In fact, some have called it the greatest chapter in the Bible.  It clearly affirms some of God’s greatest promises.  Specifically, Romans 8:31-39 have been referred to as “the highest plateau in the whole of divine revelation”.  That being said, it stands to reason that the full meaning of Romans 8:31 not only be appreciated, but imbedded within our hearts as we live in this present world.    

            “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  One of the primary themes of this section of Romans is the eternal security of the believer, the teaching that what God has done through Christ can never be undone.  Neither the context nor the Greek rendering of this verse leaves open even the possibility that salvation can be lost. Though the world may try to convince us otherwise, it is not so.  For nothing or no one is greater than God Himself and able to separate us from the love of Christ.   

            It has been six years since I last served in the music ministry.  It was a blessing to serve in that ministry and to have met so many wonderful people.  But as it does, life takes you in different directions and after some time, has once again brought me back here.  I find that it’s really not so much that these ministries need us as it is that we need them.  Both the privilege and the blessing of serving are ours.  For me, this first night back at choir practice was further evidence of that point.  We never outgrow the need for God’s Words of truth to be impressed upon our hearts.  He really is so much more than we imagine Him to be.  And He is certainly not just standing on the sidelines hoping in your victory.  He’s guaranteed it!  Christ’s perfect atonement was just that, perfect.  Never let anyone tell you that what you have “in Christ” can be taken away because it can’t be.  The love that God determined to show you before He created the world is the same love He’ll show you not only for all eternity, but at every point in between.  Now that’s total assurance.  That’s real security.  And that’s our God!  

Prayer

Father, thank you for the love you have shown me.  Thank you that when things come against me, that you are for me.  Thank you that when I am unlovable, you still love me.  We are incapable of imagining how deep your love is for us.  How crazy it is that you would give your own Son for our sin.  But that’s exactly what you did, and I know that because of Christ’ perfect sacrifice that love will always be with me.  You are a great and awesome God! 

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And Then He Met Jesus

“And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’” (Acts 9:5) 

            This was one intense encounter.  So intense was the light that flashed from heaven that it blinded Paul for three days.  Over time, being Christian in Jerusalem had increasingly become a dangerous proposition.  Persecution had become more intense and the stoning of Stephen was the pivotal event that led many Christians to flee Jerusalem and scatter throughout the region.  Paul was the one who approved Stephen’s execution.  Even as Stephen was being buried Paul continued to ravage the church, searching house to house in order to imprison anyone who followed Christ.  To understand Paul’s actions, we must understand his background.  Paul’s father was Jewish and from a very early age Paul was exposed to the Old Testament law.  Still in his teens, he began training under Gamaliel, a highly respected Jewish rabbi and member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body in Jerusalem.  In his day, Paul was one of the most educated men in Jewish theology.  He was of the tribe of Benjamin, “a Hebrew of Hebrews”.  He was advancing more rapidly than others in Judaism.  Paul was on his way.  There was no limit to what he might become in Judaism.  But then he met Jesus.    

            “And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’” We know him as Paul, but when he first appears in Scripture (Acts 8) he is called by his Jewish name, Saul.  It is not until midway through Acts in which he is referred to as Paul.  After his rampage in Jerusalem, on approval from the high priest, Paul continued his search, his sights set on Damascus.  He was headed there to do what he did best, arrest and persecute Christians.  Paul considered this his duty, seeing his attempt to preserve the Mosaic Law as a great service to the Lord. 

            Though we may be very earnest in our beliefs and behaviors, often we act in ignorance in our attempts to follow what we believe to be God’s will.  Paul was guilty of the same thing (1 Timothy 1:13).  His problem wasn’t that he worshipped the wrong God; he just attempted to worship Him in the wrong way.  He did so clothed in his own righteousness as opposed to the righteousness of Christ.  Not only is that not true worship, it’s damning.  Christ’s righteousness alone is what saves.  And after Paul met Jesus that day on the Damascus Road, it was His righteousness that he wore.  In an instant, he was transformed.  Paul didn’t lose the passion and zeal that he always had; it was just redirected.  Transformation happens when we really meet Jesus.  We see Jesus Christ as Paul saw and preached Him to others.  We see Him as our only need.  Is that how you see Christ?  Is He your only need?  Is your passion for His glory?  Paul’s was.  On that day, on that road, Paul had a supernatural encounter with Jesus that changed his life forever.  On that day, Paul met Jesus.  Have you?      

Prayer

Father, Paul is a testimony to both your sovereignty and your grace.  In your sovereignty, you set him apart for your purposes, and in your grace, you washed away his past.  Thank you for doing the same for me.  Just as Paul did, help me to live a worthy response to that grace and to be used for your glory.  As always, thank you for Christ whose righteousness it is that I wear.  It is only because of Him that I can call you Father.

9/11: The Part We Can Long For

            No one old enough has any problem remembering the events of September 11, 2001.  I would venture to say you know exactly where you were when you heard the news of the attack on our country.  I was returning home from taking my daughter to school.  That day is forever etched in most of our memories.  It was a clear demonstration of what evil looks like, perhaps boldest example of it in our nation’s history.  I’m not sure there’s much left to be said about that day that hasn’t already been said, but we should never forget it.  Neither should we forget the days that followed as they were also unique in their own way, quite different from before 9/11 and certainly different from where we seem to be today.  Maybe I’m naïve, but didn’t it seem that we had a different character to our nation for a time following 9/11?  There were those who from the very outset claimed that the United States got exactly it deserved, but their voices were few and little attention was paid to their ignorance.  Although the result of great tragedy, the days that followed September 11, 2001 were different.  Gone for the moment were all the things that seemingly divided us.  For a change, our media reported events instead of creating them.  For a change, our political parties worked together instead of apart.  Gone for the moment was the idea that unity within our nation was impossible.  For a moment in time, politics, race or social class didn’t seem to matter.  For the moment, no one cared about separation of church and state and if they did, it wasn’t voiced.  For the moment, prayer took on new meaning.  We didn’t need to be prodded to pray, we wanted to be on our knees.  For the moment, we welcomed God into every aspect of our lives.  For that brief moment, we humbled ourselves enough to admit that maybe we don’t have all the answers and should seek the only One who does.  What happened to those days?  Why does it take an event the magnitude of 9/11 for us to seek God?  My contention is that it’s not so much in these moments that we reach out to seek God as much as it is that in these moments He seeks us.         

            Think about where we are eleven years later.  Our country couldn’t be more divided.  Eleven years after 9/11, we would consider it progress if we were only in the same place as before that day.  The divisions within our society have intensified and our media and politicians seem only to serve in propagating them.  For a time following 9/11 it appeared we desired God’s intervention, but have since returned to our arrogant and evil ways.  We have this idea that our problems can be solved without God’s help.  In fact, He is often seen as the problem.  So unfortunately, it’s become pretty clear that this momentary seeking of God in the days that followed 9/11 was just that, momentary.  In years past, our nation had a determined resolve in dealing with adversity and in doing so unashamedly sought God for both guidance and comfort.  He would welcome our return now, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).  Comfort for what afflicts us as a nation or each of us individually will never be solved any other way than spiritually.  There are many who can testify to this truth, having relied solely on God for comfort in the midst of their trials.  And I’m convinced that through the evil acts of 9/11, many stand as witness to the fact that what may have been meant for evil, God used for good.  It may be a difficult reality to accept that God uses tragedy this way, but He does.  So though we should never desire days like September 11th, the tremendous loss of innocent life and the overwhelming grief that results, when they come, when evil is bold or subtle, though never its cause, be comforted knowing that God is both sovereign over it and with us in the midst of it.  Adversity and affliction are often the moments in which He reveals Himself most clearly.  These are many times the moment in which He saves.  Difficulty and tragedy are part of life.  Though we don’t long for a repeat of that day, we can long for a repeat of what happened in the days that followed.   For that brief moment in time, unity stood above division, our nation appeared to be one, and we sought the face of God.  And as always, our God stood ready to save.  Pray this will be the case again.