Wanting all included

20 Nov

The last blog ended Romans 8, one of the most incredible affirmations in scripture.  As we move to Romans 9, Paul resets his emotional dial.  Even though their is assurance in the Christ life, there is still struggle in our daily life.

Chapter 9 begins with the sorrow of those who have not found the Christ life.  He mourns for those who have not receive the gift that God has given in Jesus Christ.  I have felt this way often – it is painful to want those you love to realize just how much God loves them and the incredible life they could enjoy in the Divine Presence.

1-5 At the same time, you need to know that I carry with me at all times a huge sorrow. It’s an enormous pain deep within me, and I’m never free of it. I’m not exaggerating—Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witnesses. It’s the Israelites . . . If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I’d do it in a minute. They’re my family. I grew up with them. They had everything going for them—family, glory, covenants, revelation, worship, promises, to say nothing of being the race that produced the Messiah, the Christ, who is God over everything, always. Oh, yes!

The majority of these verses are an explanation of how God’s gift is not dependent on our behavior, but is a power the burst through all the bounds of human existence.

6-9 Don’t suppose for a moment, though, that God’s Word has malfunctioned in some way or other. The problem goes back a long way. From the outset, not all Israelites of the flesh were Israelites of the spirit. It wasn’t Abraham’s sperm that gave identity here, but God’s promise. Remember how it was put: “Your family will be defined by Isaac”? That means that Israelite identity was never racially determined by sexual transmission, but it was God-determined by promise. Remember that promise, “When I come back next year at this time, Sarah will have a son”?

10-13 And that’s not the only time. To Rebecca, also, a promise was made that took priority over genetics. When she became pregnant by our one-of-a-kind ancestor, Isaac, and her babies were still innocent in the womb—incapable of good or bad—she received a special assurance from God. What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don’t do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative. God told Rebecca, “The firstborn of your twins will take second place.” Later that was turned into a stark epigram: “I loved Jacob; I hated Esau.”

Any reading of the scripture will find God lifting up those the world thought unimportant and those who believe themselves important never finding the strength of God.  It truly is one long David and Goliath story.

14-18 Is that grounds for complaining that God is unfair? Not so fast, please. God told Moses, “I’m in charge of mercy. I’m in charge of compassion.” Compassion doesn’t originate in our bleeding hearts or moral sweat, but in God’s mercy. The same point was made when God said to Pharaoh, “I picked you as a bit player in this drama of my salvation power.” All we’re saying is that God has the first word, initiating the action in which we play our part for good or ill.

God is the first word – it is God’s world – we are the people God has created for God’s pleasure.   I wonder when that will start to get straight in our heads.  We are not to use the Divine Presence for our pleasure, but rather the other way around.

I believe that in each moment of our lives God’s Presence is there.  If I can ask, “what will honor and bring glory to God in this moment,” then my life is full, being given the meaning through the source of my life – God.  Alpha and Omega – beginning and end.


Power of the Christ life

9 Nov

Good Morning Friends,

This weekend I went to my High School Reunion and the church I grew up in.  Both were interesting experiences are interesting to reflect within the context of my current life.  I rejoice again that I surrendered by life to Jesus Christ when I was 16 and have been surrendering the parts I take back every day.

My home church now has a traditional service at 9:30 and a contemporary service at 11:15.  I was planning to go to both services, but life did not work out that way.  The first service the preacher did not use the lectionary; he ‘preached’ on Matthew 6:25-34, which was barely mention during the sermon.  Now this is the text saying not to worry and I love it, but the preacher said it is OK to worry, because we all do it anyway.  You would be very proud of me that I did not jump out of my sit and challenge him.  The service was structure that after the preacher said it is OK to worry, because it is just our human nature and we could make small changes about what we worry about and that was all we were capable of, we stand up to say The Apostle Creed which speaks of the incredible inbreaking of God – the power of God to transform the reality of our world – but apparently we are not suppose to take the seriously or personally.  When I found out that the contemporary service was the same scripture text and sermon title with just a praise band added, I left.

We CAN take the promises of God seriously and personally.  The end of the 8th chapter of Romans is used so often by Christian as words of assurance.  I hope we can also use them as words of power for our lives. First I put the text in the blog as New Revised Standard Version, but I realized I usually use The Message.  Once again the text popped out at me in a new way.

31-39 So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

If this statement of Paul’s was true for his life and we can believe it is true for our life, then what do we have to worry about???  I believe in working hard, approaching life intelligently, thinking through the probabilities of a situation; but worry about it is useless AND I believe it denies the power of God for our life.

You have been redeemed, you have been resurrected with Christ, you are a child of God and precious to the Divine in the Eternal Now.  Enjoy the ride -no worries.


God, who began a good work in you.

3 Nov

Good Morning Friends,

Did you complete the line of the song. . .”will be faithful to complete it.”  This is the scripture on which the song is based.  Paul’s writing brings us into intimate contact with work of God in the world; in our lives; throughout history.

I think Paul’s personal experience of waiting for the Messiah plays out in these text.  When he is tired of waiting, when he is in prison, when he thought Christ would put things right long before he needed to write this letter; he says it’s OK because the Divine is right along side of us giving us strength, giving us words for our prayers that have no words.

26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

29-30 God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.

The New Revised Standard Version of verse 28 is: We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  This is a difficult verse for other who have lost loved ones too soon, through tragic circumstances, so I like Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase better.  That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.  

It is God who brings meaning to our lives when events are tragic or wonderful, when days are long or when they fly by, when we are surrounded by those we love or when we sit alone.  God brings meaning to all of it.  It is why I love my faith, why this faith journey is life-giving to me; it has brought me through a the incredible, unexpected, diverse experiences of my life AND brought them meaning in the Presence of the Divine.

It is God who has called us by name and infused it with meaning and hope and the eternal now.

So for this today, enjoy each moment – God is present.  Live each pain – God is healer. Live each adventure – God resounds with the novelty of each moment.


Personal Perspective

24 Oct

Good Morning,

Have you ever notice when someone mention something/anything, we immediately look at it through our own lens.  Someone says, “I’m tired”; our response, “You’re tired, let me tell you how tired I am” or someone says, “you wouldn’t believe what happened today” and proceed with the story of the days events; then we counter with and unbelievable story of our own.  I think it is human nature – at least it is true for me.

So, with this profound dispensation to tell about the world from our own perspective, somehow people have exempted the Bible from this truth.  As if the people who wrote the text didn’t have a particular viewpoint or maybe even an ax to grind.

In this passage Paul talks about Jesus coming back, which he thought would be next week.  It is interesting that really this was just Paul’s opinion, and an incorrect one at that; yet people have treated this idea as fact. . . 2000 years is just a blimp on the screen.

What really works in this passage from the letter to the Romans is Paul’s passion.

18-21 That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

22-25 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

The big event has not occurred. The ‘we don’t have to worry about the mess the world is in because God will take care of it’ event is not here.  And yet, and yet God’s spirit is changing and guiding and transforming people everyday and those people are making a difference in our world to reveal more of the Divine Presence each day.  Sometimes it is hard to see, in the midst of the violence, the poverty, the self-involved consumption of goods, but I know that it is there.  I look for it and I find it, everyday.  So, we return again to personal perspective.  I think so long as we know that we are viewing the world through a very particular lens and that even the ‘Bible-writers’ had a distinctive perspective, we can handle ourselves and those around us with God’s gentle grace.

So, that is my wisdom for the day.  Be gentle with yourself and others, you look at the world and events through a unique set of eyes; and the Divine is loving us and them and those through it all.  Peace

Real Life-Resurrection Life

19 Oct

Good Morning,

I just want to say, I love Eugene Peterson.  This paraphrase of Romans 8:12-17 is vibrant, and life-giving.  So often the Bible sounds old and dry and nothing to do with our current lives.  I know that understanding has driven many a biblical scholar to make the text real and living.  Well, Eugene Peterson’s, The Message, does it for me.

12-14 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

15-17 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

I will confess that this past week has been difficult for me for several reasons.  I have tried, as best I can, to look the emotional pain right in the eye and see it for what it is – old brokenness that needs to be surrendered and released.  However, caught in the feelings, I just want to curl up under the ‘blanket of woe’ and stay there. . . there is little energy to move on.   That’s the bad news.

The good news is, I read Eugene Peterson and smile.  I know that his paraphrase of Paul’s words is true.  This resurrection life is an adventure and I don’t owe the old sadness one red cent.  It is a place to begin anew today.

Now, because I am old, I know that those feelings of pain will return, but I don’t have to give the any attention – they belong to life that I have no power over.  Yet, God has the power to heal the brokenness – and I need to ‘work the program’.

So. . .

Once again, this morning, I commit my life to Christ.  I surrender all that is to his love and rise again with his power.  It is only by the grace of the Divine that my life is rescued again today.  This is the dailiness that St. Benedict understood.  It is the dailiness that bring hope and peace and adventure to my life again.  Peace.

The Proof is in the Living

16 Oct

Good Morning,

Yeah, we are up to chapter 8 in Romans.  The words of Paul are amazing!  Martin Luther, the Catholic reformer who ended up with a new church, said that the reform of the church comes through a carefully, insightful reading of Romans.

As I read this letter, 2000 year old letter, I am struck again with the understanding that this letter only has power because people have found it meaningful in living out their faith.  The belief in The Divine Presence that created all things and that Jesus of Nazareth was the human incarnation of that power, and that it is still active in our world today.  That is a huge affirmation of the nature of our world and our role within the world.

So, half way through the letter Paul goes for the big reveal.  It is Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of God, that has solved the issues created by the God-given law that it could not solve.  [Human beings are so hard to deal with!]

1-2 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

3-4 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

Human beings are a complex and different species to train.  I think the law given to Moses was effective to form community when there were good leaders and when the community was small enough to be somewhat homogeneous.  However, when the powers of Roman came in to rule the land of the Israelite, and the priest became corrupted by the wealth to be had through Roman, and the population became diverse because of the ability to travel on Roman roads – the world changed.  The Law of God became a tool to be used for personal piety and not to draw people into relationship with God.  As Eugene Peterson paraphrases, it had become a Band-Aid, and the healing power of God had been watered down and useless.

Then a human being, in all his confidence and humility, changed the world by walking with barely educated people around and across lakes.  The story of Jesus changing our world really has to be about God’s power working through his life and his death.  It could not continue with the vitality and dynamic power to change lives it is was anything less.

5-8 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.

9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster talks about walking on the edge of a cliff.  On one side is legalism, a sense of ‘moral muscle’ that we create our own righteousness.  On the other side is free flowing spirituality where we wait to be ‘moved by the spirit’.  The path along the edge is the discipline of Christ.  It is Christ’s power, alive within us, that enables us to be transform and it is our willingness to surrender to the discipline of placing our lives before God that enables us to be ready to live out the transformation of Christ.

This new life, this God breath life is an amazing one.  We have seen examples of it lived; Jesus of Nazareth, the author, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, and countless others that bring Paul’s letter to life, that show that the Divine Presence is in-breaking into our world.



14 Oct

Good morning,

I think the power of Paul’s writing is not only in his analytical mind, but he is totally honesty about who we are as human beings.

As I have said, this part of the book of Romans is written to people who understand faith in God means following prescribed rules through each part of the day and through each event in our lives.  Paul is saying that the law is not helpful, because when we just follow the letter of the law, it leads us into destruction.

13 I can already hear your next question: “Does that mean I can’t even trust what is good [that is, the law]? Is good just as dangerous as evil?” No again! Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God’s good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own.

14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

This next section may be familiar to you.  In the New Revised Standard Version, Paul writes that the good he wants to do, he doesn’t and the evil he want to avoid, he ends up doing.  It text is often quoted because it is so true about who we are in our humanness.  It is why we need something more than the law, something more than a superficial relationship with the Divine Presence.

17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

It is the relationship, the person of Jesus Christ, that changes everything from a “have to” to a “want to”.  I have known so many people in my life who have said that ‘religion’ is useless, a panacea for weak or slow; but have never surrender to a relationship with the Eternal Presence.  Their’s is a ‘prove it to me at arms length’ approach, which I have never seen work for the faith adventure that is Christianity.

There is a old story of a debate between a Christian and an atheist.  After a long, logical, articulate speech by the atheist he looks smugly at the Christian.  The Christian produces a beautiful orange and begins to peel and then eat it.  The says, “this orange tastes wonderful, but you can only prove it by tasting it yourself; so it is with faith in Jesus Christ.”

Our journey is about relationship, surrender, love, and grace.  Paul tells of this astounding truth in profound ways.  Peace


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