Monday, May 31, 2010

Romans 5:1-11; What drives me?

It seems that we as humans are motivated by different things. Wealth drives industry and Wall Street. Power is a driving force in areas like government, personal relationships, sports, and others. In the west it seems that sexual gratification either drives people or linked to the wealth and power. Others are driven by anger, fear, altruism or who knows what. Yet it seems safe to say that each of us is responds to our world out of our driving force. For Paul, that force was hope.

Hope of reconciliation and hope of an ongoing relationship with God gives us reason to rejoice in the good times and reason to endure in the bad. When put on trial by Jews and Gentiles alike, Paul defended himself saying he was on trial because of the hope of Israel.

When others look at me, I wonder what they conclude about the driving force in my life? Is it obvious that hope in a relationship with God motivates me or am I so North American that I don't stand out from anyone driven by money, sex or power? Is there so much fear or so much of the American dream in me that hope is not even a consideration when others try to figure me out?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Romans 4:18-25; Faith

Over time it seems we make being a follower of Christ something that is about our ability to perform. It becomes all about how good I am. Like it or not, I am just wired to focus on how I behave and, therefore, on how others behave also. Yet, everything in this passage is not about behave but rather about believe.

It was Abraham's belief that caused him to behave in ways totally incongruent with the facts. He knew his behavior could never result in a child at his age. Yet, he believed anyway. It seems to be a child-like trust he had in God. It was a trust that decided to believe even though every reason and behavior said otherwise.

We all act on faith; no matter who we are. We act on our faith in the laws of nature, or in our experience or in trusted people. Truly life comes down to faith in the right entity. Rather than have faith in his eyes and understanding of life, Abraham chose faith in an unseen God.

May I choose wisely and faithfully today.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Romans 4:9-17; Who is really "in"?

Paul struggled to help the "in group" (Jewish community) realize that they would never be "in" because of their Jewishness. He was preaching against nearly two millennium of different understanding. Yet his words are so timely for the hear and now. Here is what it sounds like to substitute the words "church / unchurched" for "circumcised / uncircumcised".

Romans 4: 9Is this blessedness only for the churched, or also for the unchurched? We have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was churched, or before? It was not after, but before! 11And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still unchurched. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been churched, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12And he is also the father of the churched who not only are churched but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was churched.

How hard it is to not think that we are acceptable because we are churched. We have the rules down, we know how we are supposed to act and we have confirmation from God that he established this community. Those are the exact same things that the Jews once said about themselves.

It produces a "we've got it right" attitude that is a turn-off to every unChristian person seeking God by faith. Perhaps when it is all said and done, God will have to demonstrate more mercy to the "in crowd" than we, the "in crowd", believe he must show to those who are outside.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Romans 4:1-8; Different accounting

For all of us who constantly scream that life is not fair, this section echos back "amen". And its a good thing too. If life were fair, we would all be in trouble. In fact, we are in spiritual trouble. So God came up with a new game that does not depend upon "fair treatment based upon behavior" but rather faith.

Now the system is that God gives us credit ahead of time and does not count errors. What a system, i.e., nothing negative and additional points to start.

I am amazed at how I tend to draw back into a rule based religion even when I know it is not best for me. Somehow we are programed to think that we must act perfectly rather than act lovingly. My prayer today is to walk in a relationship with God based onhim choosing me rather than walk as if I were trying to be good enough to obtain a relationship with God.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Romans 3:21-31; Faith only

My wife and I had a long conversation yesterday about church attendance. It was the "does this count" conversation. Is it church when you go to a devo, small group, house church, etc? It seems that most of us Christians have exchanged a focus on living out faith in Christi Monday through Saturday with showing up at a location on Sunday. Somehow being in a building on Sunday has become synonymous with being a Christian. In order to embrace that belief we prioritize one hour on Sunday over all other behavior. Perhaps worse we substitute one action over the internal work of the Holy Spirit in a believer's life. I think Paul would argue that we have gone back to observing law over holding to faith. We have reverted to evaluating each other based upon an unwritten rule rather than looking at the heart and soul of a person to see how shaped in the image of God they are.

How hard it is to not only live by faith but to use only the rule of faith to evaluate all of life.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Romans 3:9-20; Not-good-enough

It sounds so harsh, this section which concludes that we are all under sin. We are all lumped together as losers, failures and not-good-enough. As I read through I asked myself, "Are we really that bad?"

Then it hit me. I am exactly the kind of person this was written for. When I start to view my self as "almost-good-enough" rather than "not-good-enough", I start to move away from God and focus upon myself. When I think that I have it all together spiritually, then I am not together with God.

I am exactly the person this was written to. A person who prefers to think that most of the time I can handle life and even excel. Yet, all it really takes is one crisis or sometimes just a bump in the road to reveal that this is not true.

Hence my need to look at a standard, i.e., the revealed will of God. And at the same time a clear explanation of why I, like so many others, often avoid looking at a standard at all.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Romans 3:1-8; Entrusted

"You have been entrusted with the very words of God." Paul starts out the chapter with a perspective that it is an honor to be Jewish. Of all the nations, they had received special privilege. They had received the revelation of God.

Throughout the centuries people have died to preserve it, been tortured for putting it into the vernacular, and mistreated for mishandling it. Though many of those actions were unjust and did not represent the God who gave the revelation, it does indicate the value of the revelation itself. What other entity on earth has been held in such esteem?

As a young missionary I was placed my Bible under my chair while in a meeting. A visitor who was not a Christian regaled me for the action. How could the teach put the word of God on the ground? How could a missionary show such little respect for the revelation? I did not commit the error twice.

Yet I have to question if my attitude towards the revealed will of God looks any different from an unbelievers? Do my actions demonstrate that I cherish and esteem the revelation that God gave to humankind? Do my actions line up with my beliefs which I base upon this revelation? Or am I simply content to keep a book out of the dirt but not hold it in my heart?