Monthly Archives: May 2017

Contrary

Romans 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

con·trar·y –
1. opposite in nature, direction, or meaning.
2. perversely inclined to disagree or to do the opposite of what is expected or desired.

The word “contrary” came to mind when I read these verses from chapter 12. They are so contrary to our human mindset of justice. It’s tempting to add “today” at the end of that last sentence but it seems the Bible would remind me to add “always” instead.

Romans 12 confronts our need to live by the grace of God that will enable us to express true and proper worship through a renewed life. Clearly the old laws of blame and punishment were intended to reveal sin and they worked. What seemed new to the Romans was the idea that God was in charge of renewal as well as justice and revenge.

We may pride ourselves as modern-day believers that we understand that kind of grace but it’s apparent to me those long-ago instructions from Paul are still a necessary reminder that our human nature has to struggle against the desire to repay evil with revenge.  That’s contrary!

Grafted In

NIV Romans 11:17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports

MSG Romans 11:16-18 Behind and underneath all this there is a holy, God-planted, God-tended root. If the primary root of the tree is holy, there’s bound to be some holy fruit. Some of the tree’s branches were pruned and you wild olive shoots were grafted in. Yet the fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root gives you no cause to crow over the pruned branches. Remember, you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.

Good grief! That was all I wrote as I read two different versions of Romans 11 this particular morning.  I am in so far over my head theologically that my only hope is this small portion to try to wrap my head around and hoping that will come tomorrow. It’s only later in the day that God gives me a real-life application.

My husband is on the phone with his brother reminiscing about their sister who died last month, sharing stories and memories. She’d entered their family as a teenager in the late 1930s. She was “the wild olive shoot” God chose to graft into their family as surely as any natural born sister could be. I’m listening to “good grief” between these brothers and that reminds me of my own morning comment and these words from Romans about how God chooses to prune…and to graft.

My father-in-law was in the ministry. They already had four sons and another daughter in a time when their annual income was about $1500 dollars…but there was that “primary root.” That turned out to be enough to feed and nourish one more branch. God planted this sister in their family, and then honored his word in all their lives, and now mine.

“If the primary root of the tree is holy, there’s bound to be some holy fruit” and then for all of us who are also grafted in to “Remember, you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.”

The Gap in Between

NIV Romans 10:6 & 7 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

MSG Romans 10:6 & 7 But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah.

There are two points of Romans 10 for me; seeking righteousness … and finding faith. Verses 6 & 7 fill the gap in-between these two important points. I’ve read them before but apparently only as a convenient bridge from one big idea to the other without giving much thought to them in particular. That’s my alert to re-read them in another version like the Message. I want it all to be important.

Seeking righteouseness … and finding faith are big commitments. Commitments take work, and work involves time and effort. It’s pretty easy to forget in the midst of trying to live those big commitments, you can’t cross that gap without that bridge in place. It’s important to pay tribute with my words to what I see as the big ideas but I don’t want to miss the “main” point.

I want righteousness that comes from God √. I want faith that comes from God √. No matter how much time and effort I commit to those two big ideas can bridge the gap between them. No words I write can give life to a Messiah that can save me or anyone else. Not even my best success at seeking righteousness … and finding faith could rescue Jesus from the death he endured on my behalf to fill that gap.. It just can’t happen without the bridge. Thanks God!

Pretty or Ugly?

NIV Romans 9:21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

NLT Romans 9:21 When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?

These two versions of the same verse from Romans 9 reminded me of a game our grandson used to play with us. He liked Pokémon trading cards and he would go through the images one by one asking us to decide if it was pretty or ugly. This verse make me feel the same way that I felt about those cards. I didn’t understand why my grandson wanted us to decide.  I didn’t want to look at the same cards over and over. I didn’t even like those cards but I loved the little boy so I did it.

I do know when I read these two verses I decided the NIV words about the clay pot “for special purposes and some for common use” was the “pretty” version and the NLT’s “for decoration and another to throw garbage into ” was the “ugly.” The theme of Romans 9 as a whole seems to be God does what he wants, when he wants and with whom he wants. It’s much easier to say I believe that than to understand it.

At lot of faith is based on understanding and I think maybe that’s what makes this chapter so important. It’s the challenge that God can use words to demand a human response like pretty or ugly.  Roman’s 9:21 forces me to “feel” and respond.  I don’t understand it but I love the one who says look again and decide… so I do it.

One Last Time…

NASB Romans 8:Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

The whole chapter of Romans 8 and especially these verses are part of the treasure of my life of faith. They are the reality of a very special dream I had. I don’t know how much credence you give to dreams but this one changed my life as a relatively new believer more than half a lifetime ago.

Jesus had come to take me to see something with him. I felt secure. I was with him and he held my hand as we looked together at a grotesque museum-like head and shoulders statue on a pedestal sitting alone in the room. It wasn’t until we were leaving and I turned to look again at that ugly thing…one last time…that I saw it was me.

I awakened from the dream with an actual physical feeling of love for Jesus. He loved me enough to hold my hand until I understood that ugly statue was no longer me. That dream became My Love Song for him. There are more lyrics and I hope I still have them written down…somewhere…but this verse and chorus are the response of a full heart I will always remember.

My Love Song
You came to me in a dream and showed me what I could be
You taught me that I could love myself because of your love for me
And now I’m ready to share what I’ve learned
Of how filling your love can be
Through the miracle of love set to music
Flowing from you through me.

This is my love song for you Lord.
I sing it for the joy of loving you.
The words and the music you have placed in my heart
Are the gift that I give now to you.
You are the beat and the rhythm.
You are the lyric and tune.
You are the music singing in my heart
You are the song.

Customer Service Agent

NLT [New Living Translation] Romans 7:9 At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, 10 and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. 11 Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. 12 But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good.

I bet you’ve had the experience of speaking with a customer service agent at some point. Hopefully you weren’t speaking to me all those years ago when I was supposed to be a helpful assistant to a frustrated caller. The law is like a good customer service agent. That’s what came to my mind when I read this passage from Romans 7. There’s help available whose purpose is to supposed to solve a problem but a successful outcome depends on who you talk to.

My story is a perfect example of v11 “Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me.” I answered the phone, I obeyed the rules of the job, I was concise and I was accurate in what I said. The end result having done everything that was required of me was I hung up from that call proud I had so politely put that caller in his place. “So I discovered [and so did that poor caller] that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead.”

The law is a really good customer service agent.  The right agent who gives concise and accurate help that’s all explained in the user manual [the Bible] can solve a lot of frustrating issues about operating a life in obedience to Christ.

“X” Marks the Spot

Romans 6:19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.

Sometimes when I’m reading Scripture I find myself going over or coming back to a particular spot. It’s like a mental STOP sign. It works just like in driving; come to a complete stop, don’t coast on through. I’m convinced that’s the very thing I’m supposed to look at carefully before proceeding. Consider this “example from everyday. life”

Impurity__________ X→__________Holiness

Have you ever thought about impurity as having the power to force you to obey wickedness? That’s slavery. Maybe you wonder how much holiness you need to offer yourself as a slave to righteousness? Let me set you mind at ease…none!

The line is life. X marks the spot in your life where Jesus became real to you and “righteousness leading to holiness” became your new direction. Spoiler Alert: there are going to be things that happen in your life when you find yourself on the wrong side of the “X” but here’s the thing: don’t miss that little arrow in my illustration, it really matters. That little arrow doesn’t ever change – because it’s Jesus holiness that is your righteousness and the destination is settled!