Category Archives: Romans

Sunday with John — After

John 13:21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
After… the example of service He’s given them, Jesus is troubled in His spirit because of what He knows; “one of you will betray me.” The disciples look at one another, “uncertain of whom he spoke.”  The whispered interchange between “one of His disciples” and Jesus must have been only one of the hushed conversations happening around that table.  Only Jesus and that one disciple know the deadly meaning of that small piece of bread Jesus gives to Judas.  But after taking what looked like a common offering  of friendship to most of his brothers, Judas knows what Jesus knows.   Satan has identified him as the betrayer but Jesus has offered him mercy, not disgrace. “So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out” into the darkness.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus was troubled in His spirit.  Jesus chose to let Judas know Satan had identified him as the betrayer but with an act of mercy rather than disgrace.

What does it say about people?
The disciples first response was to identify the betrayer.  They clearly did not hear the exchange between the one disciple and Jesus that would connect Judas leaving to the betrayal. 

Is there truth here for me?
I saw truth about mercy in reading and pondering this whole sad story of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus.  Jesus has the power to accomplish His Father’s purposes through mercy, not the public disgrace of exposed sin.   Satan is the one who who relishes that job.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:35-36 ESV

Wednesday with John – Your Position

John 10:22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The Pharisees faithfully celebrate the history of what they already believe.  They have dedicated their lives to the structure of their past.  They have set themselves apart to determine and define every detail of what being chosen looks like in life, faith and politics. Jesus is using miracles and truth, the same evidence God used to secure their past, to confront their present and their future.  They perceive the simple truth Jesus is telling them as a rejection of what they already believe rather than a completion of what God has already shown them.  That’s what makes Jesus hard for them to accept.  “When the pharisees in front of the temple heard Jesus saying that they were not his sheep, they have probably heard it as a complete rejection of their status as elect. But the Jews have not lost their election. In regards to the gospel they are enemies, but in regards to election they are beloved.”a

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus is confronting the position of these “chosen” men with their history, not the security of their history.  He’s asking them is it their history that validates their security OR is it their security that validates their history? 

What does it say about people?
Jesus still asks that same question today in a slightly different way: Is it your life and behavior that validates your position with God OR is it your position with God that validates your life and behavior?

Is there truth here for me?
I am dedicated to defining the details of what being chosen looks like in my life, faith and politics.  Is my security my history with Jesus OR is my history with Jesus my security?  While I may struggle with the role of semantics in answering those three positioning questions because I am a Pharisee, I am also smart enough to know I am “beloved” because Jesus has completed my past and that is why I am among His sheep.   

“Now many of the Jews are enemies of the Gospel. They hate it. But this has been a benefit to you, for it has resulted in God’s giving his gifts to you Gentiles. Yet the Jews are still beloved of God because of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn; he will never go back on his promises.”  Rom. 11:28-29TLB

ahttps://www.mercyuponall.org/2018/08/02/2763

Wednesday with John + Decreed

John 9:27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The confrontational debate continues between the ex-blind man and the Pharisees. The healed man confronts these authorities with his own questions. “Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”  We know so little about this man but he has some extraordinary knowledge about God, sinners, and worship the Pharisees find irritating.  “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him… If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”  His words identify what his heart has experienced just as the words of the Pharisees identify the experience of theirs; “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us? And they cast him out.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
How odd that this passage points out such a controversial truth.  God reveals Himself more in the man who responded to Jesus but has not yet “seen” Him face to face than from the response of his accusers who claim to be God’s experts.

What does it say about people?
The Pharisees have responded to this man’s restored sight with disbelief as a way to discredit Jesus…and therefore God.  Who is more in need of “sight” now: the man who was blind but now sees what he doesn’t know OR the Pharisees who think they already know what they really don’t see?

Is there truth here for me?
I understand the imagery in this passage and those Pharisees because, God forgive me, I was born to love the rules more than the people who break them.a

† Original sin has decreed we are all truly born blind.
† Life has decreed we teeter between two options; sin and salvation.
† Jesus has decreed He came so we might see.
† I have decreed “I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!
Ω The Word has decreed
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
Amen!

a https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-making-of-a-modern-pharisee

Sunday with John – Purity

John 7:53 – 8:1-11
7:53 [[They went each to his own house,
1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5  Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]
[[The earliest manuscripts do not include 7:53–8:11.]

What is the general theme of the passage?
One guilty woman, a crowd of male accusers and Jesus — all facing the reality and consequence of sin!  Jesus must distill the broad brush of the situation into something personal for both the guilty woman and her accusers.  The woman caught in the act of adultery must see that disgrace and guilt are not what Jesus has in mind for her even though she is far from innocent.  Jesus with so few words and such an underwhelming physical display of His presence has reminded the accusers they are not innocent either.  Both the guilty woman and the guilty accusers must recognize the consequence of sin is lost innocence and once lost, innocence can never be recovered.  Whatever Jesus wrote on the ground, twice, has convinced the accusers of that. They go away with only their guilty memories never acknowledging what Jesus wants them to see. While the law cannot restore their innocence, the experience of the law through His grace offers something more lasting for those accused by their own sin…a pathway to purity, “go, and from now on sin no more.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground… once more he bent down and wrote… Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him.  

What does it say about people?
Here are a couple ideas to consider about what Jesus might have written before those men.  Maybe Jesus wrote the scripturesa that spoke about adultery and guilt. “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel” and “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” Were there guilty men there? Or maybe it was the names of the two required eyewitnesses needed to bring this charge.  The standard for bringing such a rare charge was extremely detailed; the witnesses must see the actual sexual act with their own eyes.  Were those men there? Jesus clearly identified “something” the accusers recognized with their own eyes in those words or marks He made on the ground …and “they went away one by one.”
a Deuteronomy 22:22 and Leviticus 20:10 ESV

Is there truth here for me?
Jesus was left alone with the woman, not to reveal her obvious guilt, but to offer her His guiltless righteousness to replace the condemnation of her lost innocence.  “Therefore there is now no condemnation at all for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh…” Ro 8:1-3 NASB

Exodus [The Road Out] – Jesus

Exodus 32:7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down; for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves; RSV

It’s easy to see how obvious the idolatry of THOSE people is.  How in the world could they miss that the golden calf looked just like the idol the Egyptians worshipped? These are the same people who’d repeatedly sworn to Moses that whatever God told them to do, they would do.  These are the people who knew they were to serve God on this mountain.  These are the people who were willing to settle for making the Glory of God into their own image.

Imagine the heartbreak Moses must have felt as he began his journey down the mountain after being told by the Lord “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.”    Therein lies the lesson of how waiting, suspicion and impatience can so easily become the sin that corrupts the mind first and then the heart.  This golden calf was made from the willing offering of the people’s treasure.  Their treasure was what they chose to worship as the god that brought them out of Egypt even though only one day before that idol hadn’t even existed.  

The challenge of my mind and heart as a descendant of THOSE people, who’s inherited this sad and shameful moment as part of my history, is to find the thread that connects those truths to the truth of the Sovereign and Eternal Glory of God revealed in Jesus for believers today. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[as a sin offering] he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8

“Fallen people are capable of great sacrifices,
but not out of love for God.”
 John Piper

Something More!

Romans 8:37 In everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us. 38 I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, 39 and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!  CEV

Have you noticed there are times in life when a phrase or a topic of faith just “pops” up from enough different sources that you know you’re being taught something new?  For some time now I’ve been pondering something I wouldn’t necessarily want more of; weakness.  But not weakness as inadequacy, mind you, but the conversion of weakness to need and dependence.  God has been introducing me to the “odd couple” I wrote about in last Sunday’s blog; weakness and prayer.  I can be satisfied with my weakness because “not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate [me] from God’s love for [me] in Christ Jesus our Lord!”  

I began this exploration of weakness some time ago by asking God to protect my mind and my heart.  Now that’s become the basis of most of my prayers for anyone else. Please remember even the “other” faithful disciples of Jesus had to experience the conversion of their own weakness into faith too.  They were so confident of their faith in the best of times but in the crisis moments their reactions were painfully different.  James, Thomas and Peter are a few of those “others” who come to mind.  God has answered my prayers by revealing His purpose for my faith is to build His strength into my weakness through His Word for me and my words to Him.

“Something more?”  There have been several of them lately.  I knew when I read this quote before I landed at this part of Romans 8, it was one of them: “When the longing of one’s heart is inked into words and offered as a prayer, that’s when it springs to life in God’s mind.a  That seems very different from the more familiar “thy will be done.”  This IS God’s will; that our hearts are converted by our words to, and our need for, Him.  It really has felt like “something more than a victory.”  It has felt like a gift.  After all, my salvation is God’s victory, not mine.  I just cling to the hope that by recognizing the conversion of my own weakness into need and dependence on Christ, I might be able to make Him look good.

“Because of Christ who loves us” there’s a second “something “more than a victory!”  This week I read that in the final year of Henri Nouwen’s 40+ years of determined faithfulness, he was still dealing with the realities of his own flaws. It wasn’t victory he wrote about in those last months, but of “the constant need of conversion that we have in life. Conversion from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh.” and “What an enormous, important spiritual journey it is when we discover that where our healing begins is where joy is rooted.“ ‘The conversion [Nouwen] maps is from self-rejection to self-acceptance, from competition to compassion, from productivity to fruitfulness. b’ “

There is yet another “something more” that came my way. This article from Desiring God by Jon Bloom about weakness and this quote. “Someday, when our Master returns, he will ask us to give an account of the talents he’s entrusted to us. Some of those talents will be our weaknesses. We don’t want to tell him we buried any of them.”

Our weakness is not converted to strength  because of our determination.  Our weakness is converted to strength knowing it is Jesus who could calm the stormy sea with a word.  Our weakness is converted to strength by Jesus who  revealed his wounds to heal us and it’s Jesus ‘s strength that converts our weaknesses into “something more!”

a From the novel, Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
b Excerpted from the book Community compiled posthumously from Henri Nouwen’s writings.

The Big Answer

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose…31 What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ESV

I would guess most of us read and ponder the Bible for answers so it seemed like a remarkable thing that there was a question to be answered in every single verse of this passage.  I had planned to skip right over the familiar verse 28 and get right to the “What shall we say to these things?”  But what things?  Turns out these simple questions are related to some very big things from verses 28 -30.  Things I wish I knew more about so I had better answers for them. Things like love, foreknew, predestined, conformed to the image of his Son, called, justified, and glorified.  Impossible things, really.   

Then I spotted the footnote [h] to Verse 28 [Some manuscripts; God works all things together for good, OR God works in all things for the good] for those who are called according to his purpose.  Both of those footnoted translations made a simple change that drew my attention away from those “things” I don’t know to the BIG answer to “What then shall we say to these things?”  God works! 

Odd Couple

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ESV

Sometimes the impact of a few words in the Word can become a lightbulb moment.  That happened with those few highlighted words from Romans 8:26.  The Lord has been using the Word and my own words each time I write a blog post to refine me during this time while the entirety of my life has been re-defined.  I am no longer part of a couple, I am a widow. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness” has become my new awareness that in the faith the Lord has given me there is a powerful relationship between weakness and prayer. 

My concept of praying as a strength has been revealed for the flawed idea it is.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought.”  I know my prayers have changed because what my heart needs to pray in this time has coincided with the awareness of my own weakness.  For the first time I emotionally understand Paul’s comment about his weakness being his strength.  I’ve experienced “groanings too deep for words.  My own words of prayer have mostly seemed weak to my ears.  But somehow the “mind of the Spirit” heard those words that were spilled out in tear-filled broken phrases and translated that weakness “according to the will of God” into a different reality for me.

I’ve become aware that the power of prayer doesn’t depend on the strength of my words to provide the answers I need to endure anything more than confessing my own weakness.  Just a couple nights ago I found myself needing to confess I had once again flunked trusting the faith I write and speak of.   That’s when I realized weakness and prayer ARE the “odd couple” the Spirit of God uses to remind me the reality of Jesus’s strength IS my faith.  What I am able to ask of Him in weakness, the Spirit of God can use to reveal deep truth to me: a broken and fearful heart still has life.  Life is good because Jesus said so.   His promises still hold true as long as His life is in my body. “He who searches hearts knows” my weakness and my fumbling prayers are the gift of my heart and He responds “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in [your] weakness.a  That’s a passing grade I can live with.

a 2 Corinthians 12:9

Definitions

Romans 8:22-25 RSV
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail [painful or laborious effort] together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits [the first installment of our future glory], groan inwardly as we wait for adoption [taking another’s child and bringing it up as one’s own] as sons, the redemption [the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil] of our bodies.  For in this hope [feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.] we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience [to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.]

Still

Romans 8:18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.

Suffering in a fallen world is what came to my mind as I read these verses. I thought I understood that relationship pretty clearly until my husband was killed.  The world was a wreck and suffering was the result!  Grief has become my faithful teacher and my repeated prayer is now “Lord, help me to honor you, and my husband in my grief.”  Grief has shown me a new bottom line; suffering in a fallen world reveals new strengths and glaring weaknesses. They are both gifts from God.  The benefits of the strengths are obvious, but it’s in the awareness of my weakness that I recognize God’s reminder to me, in a brand new way, how great my need for Him still is, and that His desire is still to be my strength.

“If there were no afflictions and difficulties and troubles and pain, our fallen hearts would fall ever more deeply in love with the comforts and securities and pleasures of this world instead of falling more deeply in love with our inheritance beyond this world, namely, God himself.” John Piper