Archive | November, 2015

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.

Peace

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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.

Peace

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.

Peace