Category Archives: Romans

Intimacy of Inadequacy

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

There’s a reassurance in being part of a church body and all the services that body offers.  We share a focus, we share some like beliefs, we meet together and sometimes we even share our innermost thoughts.  Church is a spot dedicated to “family” intimacy but learning obedience to our faith with that kind of intimacy is hard.  It’s not purposely hidden but in my experience it doesn’t happen frequently either. 

There are moments in life with God that may be so meaningful and intimate they are closely guarded because they’re soul-bearing revelations.  That kind of intimacy strips away all our pretensions of adequacy and sophistication. It’s that intimacy of inadequacy that reveals the real and absolute naked truth of our need for God. God bless and multiply those moments when that kind of intimacy makes it plan for us to see it’s how the “righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.”

The Prayer of AND

Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Definition:
AND – a conjunction used to connect words of the same part of speech, clauses, or sentences that are to be taken jointly.

There are some people who can thrive and grow together debating their significant differences on various topics.  I want to be one of them.  I’d rather talk about the things that we agree on even though I may think something different.  That’s not endurance or encouragement, that’s avoidance.  Mind and voice are not exclusive, they’re connected by divine design.  That’s how I happened to notice every “and” in these two verses of Romans. That one little word can make such a big difference in my “attitude of mind” if I pay attention to my need for it.

It’s become the basis of my simple prayer for today.  “May the God who gives…” give me endurance AND encouragement; one mind AND one voice so we can grow AND thrive together to glorify the God AND father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen

Romans 12:1 & 2 –

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV

Creatively writing about the Word and how it impacts my daily life has become a form of prayer for me. “Creativity” and “God’s mercy” are all I’ve got when I write.  There are no theological credits after my name.  My words feel like a sacrifice of worship.  When I see them in black and white I begin to recognize the challenges of the renewal and transformation of my own mind.  Writing becomes a metaphor for that process: pray, read, write, edit, rewrite, think, pray again and finally post what I’ve written knowing full well the moment I hit “Publish” there will be better words and further editing to come.  

“We let our mind descend into our heart and there stand in the presence of God.” Henri Nouwen in Spiritual Direction

Treasures God Creates our Blessings From

MSG Romans 12:1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Life is familiar, complicated and sometimes even confusing.  I want to honor God.  I want to be faithful.  I want to be obedient.  I want to do what’s right.  I want to be a good citizen.  I want to be a good wife. There’s nothing in that list I have’t failed at more than once.  There are just times when I need to hear: “So here’s what I want you to do…”  

As I thought about the rest of these two verses it reminded me of when our children were small [back in the olden days].  There were little handmade gifts often prompted by a teacher in school, maybe more a duty than the reality of their own hearts at the time.  Sometimes they were made of pieces of crumpled tissue paper in the shape of a heart glued to construction paper and decorated with their own shaky printing.  They were childish efforts meant to express some level of caring.  I saved them for many years and eventually some were returned to their “all grown-up” creators.  It was a way to let them know their simple gifts had been my treasures.

I think that must be how God deals with our offerings.  Ordinary life offerings may feel more like duty but they are the reality of our own heart right then.  They don’t have much material value but he saves them to be returned to you.  Our simple gifts are the treasures God creates our blessings from.

“So here’s what I want you to do…
• If the only way you honored God this week was to swallow some critical words rather than speak them…
•if the only way you were faithful was to open your Bible first even though you didn’t really feel the inspiration…
• if you did the right thing even when it wasn’t what you really wanted to do…
• if the whole political environment makes you want to gripe more than pray…
• if after decades of marriage you’re still in a slight period of adjustment…

Those are the crumpled pieces of tissue that are the shape of your heart at this moment.  Add your own shaky words of confession …”and place it before God as an offering…fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

That’s the blessing that will be returned to you [soorner rather than later I hope].  It’s your treasure “pressed down, shaken together, and running over” to remind you how priceless a childish gift really is to God.  Amen!

This Then…Forgive Us

4. Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

• debt: something that is owed or due, a feeling of gratitude for a service or favor, obligation
• obligation: an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound;

A dictionary definition can bring up a less commonly used word like “obligation” as part of “debt.”  It’s a tool that helps me think about what I’m reading in a broader way.  That one word “obligation” reminded me of Romans 8:12: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.” That’s truth, right?

The terms of a debt are usually not ours to set but once agreed upon they are a contract.  We owe…we pay…”we have an obligation.”  What I’m pondering is why that truth is obviously grace when we pray Jesus’s words “forgive US our debts” but becomes an obligation to repay it when we add “as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  

We recognize our indebtedness. We want his forgiveness.  Our debt is too big to pay without it, but it’s easy to forget we’ve agreed to all the clauses of that contact.  That obligation is where Jesus’s prayer model meshes together with Romans to become the confession he meant it to be for us.  Lord help us to recognize your forgiveness of our debt has such an important relationship to our struggle to recognize our obligation to forgive.

This Then…123 Thy Kingdom Come

2. Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…
10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

1. Kingdom: the spiritual reign or authority of God
2. Will: expressing God’s desire, consent, or willingnes
3. Heaven and Earth: used to indicate the whole universe. Genesis 1:1

It’s tempting to ask “what went wrong” instead of praying “thy kingdom come.”  It’s easy to forget two kingdoms were created by your will Father, heaven AND earth.  Earth is not an act of creation that went awry.  The reality is you are still in charge!  We are your act of creation that went awry. That’s an uncomfortable reality.

We pray your words not because we’re perfect but because as imperfect as we are, we’re expressions of your will right here on earth.  Romans 8:12 reminds us we have an obligation to be evidence of your desire to reunite those two kingdoms.  Many of us now find ourselves with one foot in your heavenly kingdom and the other planted firmly here on earth. Who else would know what it means to live with the separation of those kingdoms?  We persist.  We pray for your reality…“thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  

Assurance – Submission

cRomans 8:38 For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, 39 or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. TLB

“Nothing can ever separate us from his [Christ’s] love.” Nothing! “That’s a big promise, isn’t it? Of course I believe it. Do I live like I believe it? This is one of those big promises it’s easier to “believe” than to integrate into the patterns of real life. An odd turn of mind happened as I pondered these two verses. What if they require my submission in order to believe and accept their assurance?  I was surprised by that thought. That’s what made “nothing” something to think about.

Some time ago I discovered a one-word prayer to remind myself to face up to the reality God is organizing the fine points of my life according to his plan, not mine. There are times my greatest need is to pray that one word…”Whatever.” Praying “Whatever” is sometimes only resigned acceptance but sometimes it’s the one-word relief of accepting things that are too big to comprehend. That’s submission. Pray “Whatever” when you can’t figure out God’s plan but you’re convinced he has one.

That one word “nothing” in these verses is so all-encompassing it’s hard to comprehend too.  I’m going to add another one-word prayer of submission…”Nothing.” Submission is more complicated than I know how to live but I know offering God these two unlikely words of surrender and acceptance are a good place to begin. Remember “Nothing” is really everything. That makes “Nothing” a good one-word prayer to remind you of the vast scope and permanence of God’s love for you “demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. Pray it!