Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Letter Full of Good News

View from Mt. Precipice in Nazareth by Lisa @ The Warming House

“Gospel” means "good news." So what's so good about the gospel message? In the book of Romans, Paul paints a comprehensive and pure picture of this good news. He starts with doctrine/theology then explains how those teachings should take root in a person and work their way out into behavior that impacts the world. If you read this post, you'll see why this news is so good.

Righteousness of God Revealed

Paul was not ashamed to preach the gospel because “it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” – both Jew and Gentile. (Gentiles were people who did not have Jewish parents.)

In Romans, Paul taught that in the gospel “a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written . . .”

Righteousness is the state or condition of perfectly conforming to God’s perfect law and holy character. The perfection of God has been revealed in Jesus Christ. As a result of faith in Christ, a person is declared “righteous” and given eternal life. (Romans 1:16-17)

Mankind’s Need of God’s Righteousness
Romans 1:18-3:20

Paul began his case by first establishing something that I know from my personal life to be very, very true. It’s the dilemma facing every human being who has ever lived on this planet called Earth:
  • We are all imperfect and unable to live life without any mistakes or sin.
  • We are absolutely helpless to do anything to make ourselves good enough to stand in the presence of a perfect and holy God whose invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature are clearly seen and understood through His creation. (Romans 1:20; Psalm 19:1-6) All men are accountable to God.
  • Because we are flawed, the wrath of God rests on us.
  • The consequence of our imperfection is death and permanent separation from God. In essence, sin is the kidnapper that holds us in bondage and separates us from the One who loves us. There is a ransom that needs to be paid or we will die apart from Him.

God's Compassion For Our Dilemma 
Romans 3:21-5:21  

In Romans 3:21-5:21, Paul goes on to explain that God was patient and longsuffering – refraining from enforcing punishment until he revealed His righteous One who could take away the sins of those who put their faith in him. So here’s His solution for our dilemma:
  • In great compassion, God's Son - Jesus Christ, stepped in to pay our ransom by taking the punishment we deserve.
  • He endured the brunt of God’s wrath on our behalf while we were still filthy and undeserving.
  • His actions removed God’s wrath from us once and for all.
  • Christ is able to do this for us because he is perfect and without sin.
  • In the process, Jesus places His righteousness on us. God now sees all who put their faith in Jesus Christ through the lens of Christ’s perfection. The guilty verdict is removed and we are declared innocent. This is called justification. I am a recipient of this justification and am eternally grateful for what He has done.

Paul hammers home the message that we are saved from condemnation solely because of what Christ has done for us. Thankfully, it isn’t about us and our efforts. It’s about God’s goodness and mercy. 

God’s Righteousness Within
Romans 6:1-8:39

After putting faith in Jesus Christ and receiving a verdict of innocence, God begins to live and work inside believers with the purpose of making them look like Christ from the inside out. (Romans 8:28-29) This is called sanctification. Pretty cool!

This is how it works:
  • Change comes when a believer turns away from their old way of living, lives in oneness with Christ, and allows God to reign freely and with complete authority over their life.
  • Believers still struggle against sin, but sin no longer controls them. (Yes, I sometimes feel as though I’ve “sweat blood” as I’ve strained against my humanness.) Through dependence on God, His Holy Spirit inside of them provides all the power they need to conquer temptation and sin. (God is so good!)
  • Failure happens – even in the lives of well-meaning Christians. In great compassion and grace, God forgives them then helps them to persevere and move forward.
  • Bottom line: God never lets go. Nothing can separate us from His love. (Romans 8:35-39) I praise God for His limitless mercy.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Israel’s Reception of God’s Righteousness
Romans 9:1-11:36

Paul urged the people of Israel (who he loved like crazy) to come to the understanding that the true “sons of Abraham” and “children of God” are those who are sons by faith – spiritual sons.

He explained that:
  • Gentiles received righteousness through faith while Israel pursued righteousness through the Law and works. Israel failed because it is impossible to achieve complete righteousness through works.
  • Righteousness/justification come only through Jesus Christ. The Jewish people could not accept that. They stumbled over Christ and missed him.
  • God used their rejection for a very good purpose – the adoption of the Gentiles into His family. (Christ came first to save the Jewish people, but when they rejected Him the door was opened to the Gentiles.)

“But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles . . .” Romans 11:11
“. . . a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in . . .” Romans 11:25
  • Paul wanted his people – the people of Israel – to wake up, recognize, and receive true righteousness through faith in Christ. He told them that God has not rejected Israel completely. Although they rejected Him, He will give them fulfillment and life through Christ when they believe.

“Now if their transgression is riches for the world, and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!” Romans 11:12
“And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” Romans 11:23

God’s Righteousness Works Its Way Out
Romans 12:1-15:13

Those who love Jesus Christ and have a relationship with Him, abandon all that they are (heart, soul, body, and mind) to all that He is. That abandonment of self and submission to Him affects:
  • Our bodies and what we do with them
  • Our spiritual gifts and talents - and how we use them
  • How we live out our daily lives (i.e., behavior)
  • Our respect for authority
  • Our convictions
  • Our interactions with others
  • Our worship
  • Our unity with other believers

God loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us that way. He works to change us into the image of His Son. Those changes are meant to work their way out into our behavior.

The believer’s desire is to glorify God for His incredible and unexplainable mercy.

In a nutshell:

“Once we too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled by others and became slaves to many wicked desires and evil pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy. We hated others, and they hated us. But then God our Savior showed us His kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did. He declares us not guilty because of His great kindness. And now we know that we will inherit eternal life.” Titus 3:4-5 (New Living Translation)

 Thanks for sharing your time with me here at The Warming House. Glad you stopped by!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Giveaway - Passion White Flag CD

The Passion 2012 Worship CD has been released!

I'm crazy about Passion worship! There's nothing quite like it so I'm spreadin' the joy by giving away three Passion White Flag CD's. If you want to be entered in the drawing for one of these CD's, just leave a comment telling me your favorite Passion song. If you already have one and love it, enter anyway so you can give one away to someone you love - or to someone who may not know Christ yet. Enter by noon on Friday - March 23rd.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Kony 2012 - Helpful or Hurtful?

When our family traveled to Uganda, Africa in 2005, we learned about the Lord's Resistance Army ("LRA") and their victimization of children in northern Uganda. What we heard tore at our hearts. Later that year, we watched a documentary: "Invisible Children - Rough Cut." That video communicated the crisis facing the children of northern Uganda who live in constant fear of Joseph Kony - leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.

I recently read the book, "Not For Sale" where David Batstone profiles abolitionists around the world who are leading the charge against human trafficking. In its pages, I was once again confronted with the travesty in northern Uganda. In 1986, Joseph Kony started a rebellion against the current government in Uganda. He  populates his army through the kidnapping and victimization of boys. Under torture and threat of death, these boys are forced to become murderers, mutilators, and child soldiers in the Lord's Resistance Army. Many are made to kill their own parents. Innocent girls are also kidnapped, abused (some mutilated), raped, and forced to become sex slaves. Some human rights groups estimate there may be as many as 66,000 youth who have been taken captive. Here are some facts from Batstone's book:

1) The LRA teaches males to view women as creatures that exist to serve their sexual pleasures. A commander may have four or five concubines. It has been reported that Joseph Kony has as many as 60 young sex slaves. Young men are taught to handle women violently when they do not submit to a male. One ex-slave watched Kony order the murder of two young commanders because they were too nice to their concubines.

2) Another segment of the book tells the story of three young girls who escaped the LRA during a raid by the national army. The girls walked into World Vision's children-of-war camp in Gulu with heads completely shaved, emaciated, and an empty gaze in their eyes.  One of the girls had been forced to carry a boiling pot on her head causing a severe burn that exposed part of her skull.  

3) A female victim named Mary recalls watching LRA soldiers viciously hack away at five of her friends with machetes. They spared Mary because she was pregnant and they feared it might bring them bad luck. So instead of killing her, two boys held her down while a third boy cut off her nose, lips, and ears - a signature torture of the LRA.

This week my oldest son called me from college to tell me about a video (and a movement) that's gone viral on the internet. 

 I put off watching it until I could set aside time to watch the full 30-minute video. Several days later, my youngest son told me about the same video. He'd just discovered it and passionately urged me to watch it. I did and it's powerful. "Kony 2012" is a movement that provides some very practical and doable ways to combat the evil of Joseph Kony. But the history of Uganda is complex and there have been some legitimate criticisms.  

And Invisible Children has responded.

Whether or not you believe the Kony 2012 movement is helpful or hurtful, one thing is certain. Joseph Kony's reign of terror is very real. He has damaged and terrorized far too many within Uganda and beyond. He needs to be brought to account - and precious children need to be rescued and rehabilitated. 

Lisa ~

Organizations like Watoto Child Care Ministries are working to rehabilitate former child soldiers. I'm sure they could use your support. :)