Monday, August 30, 2010

Romans 12:3-21; Faith Response

All of life is a faith act. Our self view is to be an act of faith. The way we respond in good times and in bad is to be an act of faith. Faith involves every aspect of life.

Evil, suffering, the needs of others, persecution, social structure and injustice are all mentioned in this passage. Rather than expound on any one of these, Paul was led to clump them together. In each case, his concern is responding in faith to the grace given us. Rather than react to pain and evil, I am to respond to grace. Rather than get angry or attack, I am to respond to grace. Every situation in life is to be a response to grace.

If all Christians lived every minute of every day as a response to grace rather than limiting Christianity to a Sunday assembly, I wonder what our society would think of Christians and how different our world would be?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Romans 12:1-2; Courageous Meditation

I continue to be amazed at how there is very little new in the New Testament. Throughout the Torah God called his people to meditate on the law and be different. When he commissioned Joshua he called him to be courageous and hold to the law. Now in Romans 12 Paul says to be different and renew our minds. Nothing new. Yet, nothing easy.

Both actions take effort. Expending effort in order to be different is not what we are continuously told be your society that we should do. We are called to think and act differently from the masses. Constant bombardment from media tells us to look like everyone else, to not be spiritual and to follow the icons of Hollywood.

God knew that only constant bombardment from his word can counter this type of attack on the mind and soul. Yet it will always take courage to step out of the crowd and march to a different drum.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Romans 11:25-36; Serve Somebody

I think Paul and Bob Dylan are in agreement. Dylan once wrote "You may be an ambassador . . . you may like to gamble . . . you may like to dance . . . but your gonna have to serve somebody". As I read Paul, I think of those words. Who am I to think that I, a mere human who can't take care of himself, can direct my own affairs and independently maneuver through spiritual, everlasting decisions.

God has a plan that I will not derail. His purposes move forward despite human errors and the evil around us. Why do we as North Americans believe we are independent actors who have control of our own lives? Surely we do have areas that we can affect but in the grand scheme, we end up serving good or evil. No independence is allowed in the final analysis.

So today, I will try to be aware of how the stories of the people around me flow into the big picture of God at work. And I will work to make sure my story benefits the efforts of good . . . since my story will eventually be part of the greater story of God at work, whether it be contributing to advancing the story of God or whether it be one of the stories that God overcame in order to demonstrate his purpose. "You're gonna have to serve somebody."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Romans 11:1-24; Kind and Stern

"Consider the kindness and sternness of God." I don't know if I've ever heard that from a pulpit. Perhaps its because we don't believe it.

Our society teaches tolerance and anti-sternness. To look at the stern acts of God and hold them up is to invite scorn and be called bigoted, backwards and uneducated. How can a society steeped in tolerating everything but standing for nothing comprehend the mercy that comes from boundaries? God's sternness is part of his boundary drawing around his kingdom.

As a dad, I want to be both kind and stern. I want my kids to remember me as loving, caring and patient. I also want them to be blessed by my stern drawing of limits that protect and guide them.

Kindness and sternness; they seem to be two sides of the same coin. If I don't have one, then do I really have the other? If I am not stern in demarcating boundaries, then am I truly kind? If I am not both stern and kind, then am I truly a follower of God?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Romans 10:16-21; Listen

Did they not hear? What a question. It is a sad commentary couched in question format. Although the textual response is "yes, they heard" it is followed by "no, they did not listen." They are called disobedient and obstinate.

What a sad picture this text paints. Holding out hands to an obstinate people who do not respond, who do not listen. Yet in the moment I seriously doubt that the people of Israel saw themselves as obstinate and not listening. They were, after all, the people of God and had his words with them.

So what comment would God make about me? Today I will make it my focus to listen -- not to the noise and activity around me but to the gentle voice in the background. I will work to listen to the one who is guiding the orchestra rather than to the individual pieces around me. I will work to control my pride so that I surrender to his lead rather than be labeled obstinate. I will strive to not only hear, but to listen.