Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bible Manipulation

The latest up at Inside Shalom. The bible isn't a tool to be "used". Its a story to be lived, a book to be eaten.

Bible Manipulating

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Be Convinced: Abraham, Paul and Us

As we look into the life of Abraham it is easy to think his life is something totally different than our own and that his story is separate from ours. He did live a long time ago in a world very very different from our own. Even with this huge historical gap, this man is important for our world. Abraham is known as the Father of faith, and not just Christian faith but Jewish and Muslim as well. In fact, as Pastor Heath pointed out a couple of weeks ago, all the millions and millions of people belonging to any of these major religions claim Abraham as their Patriarch. Abraham does mean, "Big daddy" and he lives up to this name!

Abraham is important not only because he is a major religious figure, but also because he believed God in some pretty enormous circumstances. We can connect with father Abraham in this, for we too have been called to believe God. There are many characters in the Bible since Abraham who have followed in his footsteps of faith. Joseph believed God would vindicate him and deliver his people even as he rotted away in an Egyptian dungeon. Daniel and his friends showed faith in standing against the multiple attempts of their Babylonian captors to deter them from worshiping the God of their fathers. This resulting in exposure to a lion's den and a fiery furnace. Moses had faith to obey God's voice from a burning bush to return to the kingdom he had fled for his life from just years before. This trend of faith is explained by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament as being the true children of Abraham- Galatians 3:7. Jesus believed that the true children of Abraham were not the ethnic Jews, but those who had the same faith as Abraham, Jew or Gentile -John 8:31-47. Abraham is indeed someone we can and should connect with.

Abraham was not perfect. As Pastor Heath demonstrated from Genesis 12 in this series, he, at this time still named Abram, was not always faithful. He was fearful of Egyptian power and lied to Pharaoh in order to preserve his own life. Abram was given a promise from God but that was forgotten when he was faced with danger. God still delivers Abraham. The next time we see Abraham, he is a different man. When Lot and him become too big to share land they split ways. Abraham does not express a fearful or anxious attitude in dealing with Lot. In fact his desire is solely for that of "peace between you and I" Gen.13:8. When Lot is a little later captured, Abraham shows no fear in leading his forces out to deliver him. Sometime between the chapters, Abraham comes to truly believe God, he has become convinced.

This same faith is seen in Paul. Romans has been called a "towering mountain" by some who have dared to scale its heights. This is not only because of the sheer immensity of its theology, but also because of the enormity of its beauty and consoling truths. Romans is for everyone, do not fear the mountain! With that said, another thing that makes it such a mountainous work is the whole of history that it surveys. Paul retells the story of Israel from the standpoint of Jesus as Messiah and his story stretches from Creation to the restoration of the Cosmos. Romans is a cosmic work and it is a very personal and faith building work. What is interesting, is in chapter 8, at the highest point on the mountain, the cosmic, Paul reveals something of his own faith and its plain to see why he has spent so much time connecting his story to Abraham. Paul stands on the peak of history, seemingly in the stars and even the throne room of the New Jerusalem and declares that suffering has come and will continue to come upon the cosmic people of God. Rather than being discouraged and without faith, Paul says that he is "convinced". There is no more question in Paul, as there was no more doubt in Abraham. God will restore this world and his humanity. He will put all that is wrong back to rights, this is his promise and his glory. And right before Paul begins the heart of Romans (chs. 9-11) dealing with the question of God's faithfulness despite Israel's faithlessness, he stands as a man convinced that nothing in all of evil, from the most powerful to even death itself, is able to thwart the Mission of God. He is convinced that nothing will ever separate the people of God from his love poured out upon them through the Messiah (see Romans 8:37-39).

I want to be convinced as well. This has been my prayer lately. Our world is very different from Abraham's and from that of Paul's. Our faith cannot be. Like them, we live in a world that is broken. Paul is not only describing evils in his day but in ours as well. Death, disease, oppressive powers, broken relationships and horrible atrocities are everywhere in our world as well as the ancient one. Technology has not been able to thwart these but has been used at times to increase them. Western philosophy despite its claims and promises has failed to correctly diagnose, much less heal us. We as a people need to be convinced that God has achieved victory in Jesus. We must know that our faith is not in vain. We must have faith of this even, or especially in, those times when we are called to stand in evil's way, when all is dark and seems hopeless.

So I am reforming my prayer. I pray we as a people demonstrate and find peace and joy in the same faith as that of Abraham. I pray that like Paul we can look out on a broken world being devoured by evil and see our Messiah taking the full weight of this terror on himself. And being filled with the same spirit that raised him from the clutches of death, declare that we are convinced. Nothing will stop the love of God from conquering and repairing all who are broken. God is faithful, he will do it.