Monday, February 25, 2013

I press on toward the goal to win the prize





The great preacher John Wesley was riding along on his horse one day when he realized that three days had passed, and he had not been persecuted in any way. Not a single brick had been thrown in his direction. He had not been hit by an egg. So he actually stopped his horse and said out loud, "Could it be that I am backslidden or I have sinned?" Slipping down from his horse, he knelt on one knee and asked the Lord to show him if there was anything wrong with him spiritually.

A man who disliked Wesley saw him kneeling in prayer, so he picked up a brick and threw it at him, barely missing the preacher. When Wesley saw the brick fly by, he said, "Thank you, Lord! I know I still have Your presence."

No wonder he was such a powerful preacher.

When the apostle Paul was in prison, he took the time to evaluate his own life. Before Paul became a Christian, he was a Pharisee with prestige, power, and wealth. After he began His ministry for Christ, Paul endured frequent attacks, imprisonments, and hunger as he traveled from town to town. Yet because Paul kept his focus on Christ, he found a joy that gave him a heavenly perspective on life and priorities:

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Philippians 3:7-9).

As Paul discovered, the things we consider assets in this life often turn out to be our liabilities because they keep us from depending on God. What is the object of your confidence? Is it your intelligence, your financial security, your social network? None of these things will bring us indescribable joy—only dependence on Christ's strength can bring us joy. We must value our relationship with Christ and treasure our gift of joy in order to experience joy at its fullest.

Reverend Samuel looked down at his hands and shook his head. He was so tired, and he just didn't feel he had anything left in him that people ought to hear. He couldn't understand it. He'd always tried to do the lord's work and lead people to Jesus. He had preached the Gospel every chance he got. He had even achieved a certain level of fame. No one could deny what a powerful soldier for Christ he had been. Reverend Samuel just couldn't make sense out of the fact that God wasn't helping him now, when he needed it most. At least God owed him that.
Too often we fall into the trap of believing that we do God's work for Him. That's not true. The most we can do is open ourselves to let the Lord do His own work through us. When we try to do it for Him, we can only expect to grow weary. However, when God works through us, we will find a new energy and vitality that we have never experienced before. The Lord is exalted through His own strength, not ours. Open yourself to Him now, and let the true power begin to flow.
No one in the Bible gets a five-year plan. Paul thought he should go east when he was called west (Acts 16:6-10). The Bible says of the first patriarch, "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going" (Hebrews 11:8).

God is always calling us forward by faith. However, change comes at a cost. The reason we have not taken our next step with God is that the price of change is greater than the price of staying where we are.

Only Christ's resurrection power can satisfy our empty hearts. Only His power can defeat our temptations and turn our trials into triumphs. Only His power can exchange our weaknesses for His strength. Any earthly assets that we draw on are rubbish compared to Christ's power.

Quite recently  I have heard about Cuba, where more than a million people have come to Christ in the last decade. Ministers in the People's Republic of China report that 100,000 people come to Christ every day in their country. God's Spirit is advancing awakening across the nations of our day, because he loves the entire world (John 3:16).

Do you? When last did you pray for a great global awakening to continue across the nations? When last did you pray for Muslims to come to Christ? For Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews to make Jesus their Lord? For atheists and agnostics to turn to faith?

As King Solomon continued his dedication of the temple, he prayed:

As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name (2 Chronicles 6:32-33).

Finally, Paul encouraged the Philippians, "But one thing I'd Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13, 14). While we may have to strain our spiritual muscles in order to grow, we will find joy in the midst of our struggles if we focus on Christ.



Blessings,
 
Raj Kosaraju


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Say No To Same-Sex Marriage








The Obama administration outlined its argument yesterday why the US Supreme Court should strike down a federal law that defines marriage as between a man and woman.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli filed a brief with the court saying that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, expanding on the administration's approach to the controversial 1996 law, which it has formally opposed since February 2011.

Section 3 defines marriage under federal law as being between a man and a woman.

The law denies federal benefits to same-sex married couples that are granted to married heterosexuals.

The administration's position is that the law violates the guarantee of equal protection under the law. In the brief, Verrilli said there was a history of discrimination against gays and lesbians that required the Supreme Court to take a careful look at any law that specifically targets them as a group.


Chick-fil-A seemingly doubled down on its anti-gay marriage stance yet again after the company's president re-iterated the restaurant chain's support of "Biblical" families.

"Families are very important to our country," Dan Cathy told NBC affiliate 11 Alive. "And they're very important to those of us who are concerned about being able to hang on to our heritage. We support Biblical families, and they've always been a part of that."

A second statement was issued on Chick-fil-A's official website, in which officials defended their corporate giving as having been "mischaracterized." The statement noted:
"And while our sincere intent has been to remain out of this political and social debate, events from Chicago this week have once again resulted in questions around our giving. A part of our corporate commitment is to be responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. Because of this commitment, Chick-fil-A's giving heritage is focused on programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriages, and support communities. We will continue to focus our giving in those areas. Our intent is not to support political or social agendas."
Many conservative religious leaders have, at some point, spoken out against the gay community and warned of the danger they supposedly pose to America. 700 Club television host Pat Robertson said that, "Many of those people involved in Adolf Hitler were Satanists, many of them were homosexuals - the two things seem to go together." Former Congressman William Dannemeyer also compared homosexuals to Nazis when he wrote that "the homosexual blitzkrieg has been better planned than Hitler's…" Clearly, it is ridiculous to compare homosexuals in America to Germany's Nazi government which believed in warfare and mass murder as a means for taking over the world.

Discrimination against homosexuals comes in many forms. At times homophobic beliefs lead people toward prejudiced actions at work, at schools, at clubs and in many other areas as well. Many researchers claim that homosexuals still find themselves the target of bias within institutions like churches and professional organizations. Many church and religious groups maintain that homosexual behavior is a sin and runs counter to the will of God as expressed in certain Biblical passages. Up until 1980, many psychiatrists still looked upon homosexuality as a mental disorder.

Apart from these views, many violent extremist groups also hold homophobic beliefs. The neo-Nazi National Alliance has allegedly been involved in anti-gay violence, while racist skinheads around the country have attacked and beaten homosexuals. 

Here is what the Bible says..

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). There is a tendency to declare homosexuality as the worst of all sins. While it is undeniable, biblically speaking, that homosexuality is immoral and unnatural (Romans 1:26-27), in no sense does the Bible describe homosexuality as an unforgivable sin. Nor does the Bible teach that homosexuality is a sin Christians will never struggle against.

Leviticus 18:22 identifies homosexual sex as an abomination, a detestable sin. Romans 1:26-27 declares homosexual desires and actions to be shameful, unnatural, lustful, and indecent. First Corinthians 6:9 states that homosexuals are unrighteous and will not inherit the kingdom of God. Since both homosexual desires and actions are condemned in the Bible, it is clear that homosexuals “marrying” is not God’s will, and would be, in fact, sinful.

Whenever the Bible mentions marriage, it is between a male and a female. The first mention of marriage, Genesis 2:24, describes it as a man leaving his parents and being united to his wife. In passages that contain instructions regarding marriage, such as 1 Corinthians 7:2-16 and Ephesians 5:23-33, the Bible clearly identifies marriage as being between a man and a woman. Biblically speaking, marriage is the lifetime union of a man and a woman, primarily for the purpose of building a family and providing a stable environment for that family.

According to the Bible, marriage is ordained by God to be between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 19:4-6). Gay marriage/same-sex marriage is a perversion of the institution of marriage and an offense to the God who created marriage. As Christians, we are not to condone or ignore sin. Rather, we are to share the love of God and the forgiveness of sins that is available to all, including homosexuals, through Jesus Christ. We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and contend for truth with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). As Christians, when we make a stand for truth and the result is personal attacks, insults, and persecution, we should remember the words of Jesus: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

To give sanction to gay marriage/same-sex marriage would be to give approval to the homosexual lifestyle, which the Bible clearly and consistently condemns as sinful. Christians should stand firmly against the idea of gay marriage/same-sex marriage. Further, there are strong and logical arguments against gay marriage/same-sex marriage from contexts completely separated from the Bible. One does not have to be an evangelical Christian to recognize that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Perhaps that is the key phrase in the question of whether it is possible to be a gay Christian: “struggle against.” It is possible for a Christian to struggle with homosexual temptations. Many homosexuals who become Christians have ongoing struggles with homosexual feelings and desires. Some strongly heterosexual men and women have experienced a “spark” of homosexual interest at some point in their lives. Whether or not these desires and temptations exist does not determine whether a person is a Christian. The Bible is clear that no Christian is sinless (1 John 1:8,10). While the specific sin / temptation varies from one Christian to another, all Christians have struggles with sin, and all Christians sometimes fail in those struggles (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Romans 1:26-27 puts this invalid assumption to rest: “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” Clearly, this passage puts lesbianism on equal ground with male homosexuality. Lesbianism is described as women exchanging natural relations (with men) for unnatural relations (with women). According to the Bible, being a lesbian is just as sinful as being a homosexual male.

There’s an implication in Romans 1:26 that lesbianism is even worse than male homosexuality. Notice the phrase “even their women.” The text seems to suggest that it is more common for men to engage in sexual depravity, and when women begin to do it, that is a sign things are getting really bad. Men usually have much stronger sex drives than women, and so are more prone to sexual deviancy. When women commit unnatural sexual acts, then the degree of immorality has truly become shameful. Lesbianism is evidence of people being given over to “the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another” (Romans 1:24).

Does God approve of homosexuality? Absolutely not. Can a person truly be a Christian and at the same time a practicing homosexual? No (1 Corinthians 6:9). While the "God hates fags" group is correct in proclaiming that homosexuality is sin, it fails miserably in the tone of its proclamation. Ephesians 4:15 instructs us to "speak the truth...in love." First Peter 3:15 teaches us to proclaim the truth, but to do so with "gentleness and respect." We must uphold the truth of God's Word in proclaiming the sinfulness of homosexuality. However, we must uphold this truth in a loving, gentle, and respectful manner. We must warn homosexuals about the eternal dangers of continued rebellion against God. At the same time, our message should be focused on the forgiveness and freedom from sin that are available through the Lord Jesus Christ.

First Corinthians 6:9-10 lists sins that, if indulged in continuously, identify a person as not being redeemed—not being a Christian. Often, homosexuality is singled out from this list. If a person struggles with homosexual temptations, that person is presumed to be unsaved. If a person actually engages in homosexual acts, that person is definitely thought to be unsaved. However, the same assumptions are not made, at least not with the same emphasis, regarding other sins in the list: fornication (pre-marital sex), idolatry, adultery, thievery, covetousness, alcoholism, slander, and deceit. It is inconsistent, for example, to declare those guilty of pre-marital sex as “disobedient Christians,” while declaring homosexuals definitively non-Christians.

What differentiates a Christian’s life from a non-Christian’s life is the struggle against sin. The Christian life is a progressive journey of overcoming the “acts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21) and allowing God’s Spirit to produce the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23). Yes, Christians sin, sometimes horribly. Sadly, sometimes Christians are indistinguishable from non-Christians. However, a true Christian will always repent, will always eventually return to God, and will always resume the struggle against sin. But the Bible gives no support for the idea that a person who perpetually and unrepentantly engages in sin can indeed be a Christian. Notice 1 Corinthians 6:11, "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju