Monday, April 26, 2010

Romans 2:25-29; Heart

How did we get so out of sync with the Biblical concept of the heart? Somehow we made serving God all about following a list of ideas. We have classes where we condemn the Jews in general and the Pharisees in particular; then we go out the door and do the same thing. We believe we can put together a list of proper behaviors that will make God happy with us. We don't believe that God really wants our heart.

In marriage we know this is a stupid idea. Even in business we give seminars to help improve the work environment via improved attitudes. Yet somehow we have a default drive in us that reduces a relationship with deity to a list of actions that we check off.

God told Solomon a long time ago that he looks at the heart and not the externals. Today my goal will be the same, i.e., to practice Godly vision by looking at the heart and not just the external appearance. I will try to be accepting of all who let their hearts be circumcised by God's spirit and sync my heart with God's.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Romans 2:17-24; Hard teachings

I wonder what this section would sound like to North American Christians today? Maybe it would like this.

"Now you, if you call yourself a Christian and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you grew up in Sunday school; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, a teacher of infants because you have in the Bible the embodiment of knowledge and truth -- you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you cheat on your taxes? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you lust after other people's spouses? You who abhor false religion, do you keep your own free from nationalism? You who brag about the Bible, do you actually try to live every aspect of your life by it? As it is written, "God's reputation is smeared among unbelievers because of you."

Rather than taking this as a rallying cry for preaching, I pray that I take it as a personal cry for repentance. May I live today so that God's reputation is honored among unbelievers because of me.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Romans 2:12-16; With or Without

"So what happens to the guy living in the deepest jungle that never hears about Jesus? What happens to him at judgment?"

How many times have I heard that question? How many times have I even asked it myself?

Paul doesn't get too bent out of shape about it. As a Jew converted to Christianity, that question had been discussed thousands of times. The Jews had the law and the Creator would judge them by that revelation. Those who did not have the blessing of the revealed law would be judged by their consciences, hearts and thoughts.

For Paul it was daily reality. He was dealing with the people about whom the question was asked. Yet most of the times that I have heard the question it was not dealing with reality. The poser of the question had no interaction with anyone in a jungle nor any concern about them. It usually is a question posed in order to accomplish the childish goal of screaming "not fair". When caught in the act, my kids always seemed to point at each other and ask "what about him?" It is simply a smokescreen tactic for most of us. It keeps us from feeling as guilty about our own failure to obey.

Yet for me today the question needs not be "what about him" but rather "what about me?" I know plenty. I not only have the revelation to which Paul referred but also the ongoing revelation of God through New Testament men, history and the world around me. So rather than project smokescreens I should ask "what about me? Am I obedient to what I know already?"

Friday, April 16, 2010

Romans 2:1-11; Seeking

The concept of wrath flows over into this section. Yet again, Paul does not paint God as being an angry divinity waiting to jump on us all. Rather, wrath comes only upon those who have rejected God and decided to be self-seeking.

I seems from the passage that Bob Dylan was right in his old song. "You're gonna have to serve somebody. Well it may be the devil or it may be the Lord but your gonna have to serve somebody." The scripture does not come out and say we would actually serve the devil; however, it does parallel serving self with seeking evil.

So when it is all said and done, everybody is a seeker, either of self (which results in evil) or of God. There are only two options at the end of the day. No doubt everyone wants the end of glory, honor and immortality. Yet the question is am I willing to seek God rather than self in order to get there?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Romans 1:18-32; Giving up

The section starts out talking about the wrath of God. Not a popular concept. Somewhere along the way, God followers accepted the cultural mandate that wrath is always bad. If wrath is bad and God has it, then God is bad or so goes the logic. Yet I raise two questions.

First, is it always bad? Is it appropriate in the right circumstances? Is it appropriate for a father to be wrathful when he learns that his child has been molested? Is it appropriate for a mother to express wrath when she learns that her son was killed by a drunk driver? Is it proper for anyone to feel wrath when they are robbed of years of work and savings? I think we would all agree that it is appropriate; so why do we believe a God who has been wronged should never experience or express the same?

Second, I raise the question of what is God's wrath anyway? We envision the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah or tidal waves and lightning bolts. Yet, that is not what is said in these verses. Here, the wrath of God is pulling back his aid to let humanity do what it wanted anyway. It is "giving them over" or "giving up on" his creation. It is the father saying to his child, "OK, if that's what you want, I'll let you go do it but the consequences are all yours."

I think C. S. Lewis was write in the Great Divorce when he said, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Romans 1:8-17; By Faith

Two sections stand out to me. First, Paul calls God himself as a witness to Paul's faithfulness in prayer for the people of Rome that he has not yet met. What a conviction to pray. How often to I tell someone "I'll pray for you" and then forget? How easy it is to not be diligent in praying for even those I love.

Then Paul makes the statement that "in the gospels a righteousness from God is revealed; a righteousness that is by faith from first to last. Just as it is written the righteous will live by faith."

I grew up reading the gospels and hearing the story over and over. Yet somehow I heard it not as the revelation of a life of faith but as how to perfectly live in order to fulfill requirements. I heard it as the new law. It was still a law but it was a better one than the previous Old Testement. Yet Paul refers to it as revelation. The revelation of a new way to live that is totally unrelated to law.

Reading Paul's comment makes me want to repent. It makes me want to start over. To read and re-read the story until it is clearer to me that this in not a "how to" manual for perfect life before a lawmaking God but rather this is the revelation of the righteousness from God to us.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Romans 1:1-7; Called

Paul uses the word "call" four times in the introduction to his letter. He was called to be an apostle. He (and we) received a commissions to call others to obedience. His readers were called to belong to Jesus. All were called to be saints.

Often I wonder how did Paul maintain his focus. How did he stay so centered upon the mission ahead of him. I think these verses reveal his heart. He felt called to serve Jesus, evangelize others, belong to Jesus and be a saint. He clearly knew who he was and what that implied for his life. His purpose flowed from his identity in Christ. Since he knew who he was spiritually, his purpose was to call others to that same belonging. That same security of self in Christ.

In a world that seems to be more and more complicated, simple yet secure answers serve as cement pillars in a fast flowing river. There are only a few of them that we can really grasp onto in order to not be swept downstream like so many other people. Identity in Christ as a source of purpose seems to be one of those pillars.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Luke 24: Resurrection

After reading the text twice on Easter Sunday, a few things stood out to me.

> How hard must the Sabbath have been for those making preparation? Mourning could not continue, they could not address the body, everything seemed on hold.

> How confused must they have all felt. Where was the body, who were those guys, what is to happen now?

> What a visit on the road. What must it have been like to hear the Son of God explain all the prophecies from all of history. Surely that was one lesson that would never be forgotten.

> He opened up their minds. Maybe that is something I need to pray for more diligently myself.