back in action!

I had a very hectic week and wasn’t able to keep up with my blogging, however, I did keep in the word most days, which is good! It needs to be better, but today is a new day and a fresh start.

Here we go, where we left off:

A Living Sacrifice to God (Romans 12)
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.[b] 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

3 Because of the privilege and authority[c] God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.[d] 4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

This weekend was the Women’s Get-Away and the theme was Transforming your Beauty. As cheesy as that may sound, it was really a cool theme because the keynote speaker talked extensively about being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. Being transformed into His likeness requires us spending time with Him and living as He did. Paul is telling the Romans to stop immitating this world because we are dead to this world, but to immitate Christ because we are alive in Him. In living Christ-like lives, we need to really have an accurate perspective on who we are – good and bad. We need to evaluate where we are gifted – and evaluate it honestly. God has made me uniquely and gifted me uniquely and given me a unique purpose. I need to understand that gifting and purpose and when i live it out – it is pleasing to God.

God’s Mercy Is for Everyone (Romans 11 cont'd)

God’s Mercy Is for Everyone
25 I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters,[g] so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. 26 And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say,
“The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem,[
h] and he will turn Israel[i] away from ungodliness. 27 And this is my covenant with them, that I will take away their sins.”[j]
28 Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 29 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. 30 Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against him, God was merciful to you instead. 31 Now they are the rebels, and God’s mercy has come to you so that they, too, will share[
k] in God’s mercy. 32 For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.
33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!
34 For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice?[
l] 35 And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?[m]
36 For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

Paul really spends a lot of time spelling things out for the Romans. I think that I take for granted that others have explained to me that God’s mercy is for everyone.

Vs. 32 mentions that “God imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.” This seems to be a little bit of a weird statement, but considering that the imprisonment was really the law, and the law is what shows us that we are sinners, then what Paul is saying makes sense.

Anyway, the big point is that God has mercy for everyone. None of us are deserving of that mercy and none of us are in a position of giving God advice on this one.

I am curious if anyone has any thoughts on what Paul says, “Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ” – does that mean that there is a quota? Does this mean the Jews are saved anyway? I’m a little lost on this one.

Romans 11;&version=51;

Romans 11 was a bit long, so if you want to read the passage, click on the above link.

After all the Paul has said, he wants to make it abundantly clear that he is not saying that God is going to leave the nation of Israel by the wayside. Even in the past, when many Israelites turned away from God and worshipped false idols, there were alwas a few Israelites that remained faithful. So those few that remained faithful were chosen by God and the remaining had their hearts hardened, according to the scriptures. According to scriptures, God turned his favor onto the Gentiles (non-Jews) and many of them were saved. Paul is one of the chief apostles to the Gentiles, sharing the Word with them and encouraging them on to having a relationship with Jesus. Paul is hopeful that the relationship that the Gentiles have with God will make the Jews jealous and push them over to accepting Jesus. He does not think the Jews are lost.

The last point is almost a scary point to me because Paul says that the Jews were pruned off of the vine to make room for new branches, metaphorically speaking. But just as easily as the non-believers were pruned off, this could also happen to believers who stop believing (this is at least how I am reading it and understanding it). The cool thing, though, is that if you believe in God and His kindness, you will receive His kindness. And if you turn away, you will receive His judgement.

Salvation Is for Everyone (Romans 10)

Salvation Is for Everyone

5 For Moses writes that the law’s way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands.[c] 6 But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven’ (to bring Christ down to earth). 7 And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead’ (to bring Christ back to life again).” 8 In fact, it says,
“The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.”[
And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: 9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”[
e] 12 Jew and Gentile[f] are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[g]
14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”[
16 But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “Lord, who has believed our message?”[
i] 17 So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. 18 But I ask, have the people of Israel actually heard the message? Yes, they have:
“The message has gone throughout the earth, and the words to all the world.”[
19 But I ask, did the people of Israel really understand? Yes, they did, for even in the time of Moses, God said,
“I will rouse your jealousy through people who are not even a nation. I will provoke your anger through the foolish Gentiles.”[
20 And later Isaiah spoke boldly for God, saying, “I was found by people who were not looking for me. I showed myself to those who were not asking for me.”[
21 But regarding Israel, God said, “All day long I opened my arms to them, but they were disobedient and rebellious.”

This is such a big section to bite off, so bear with me. Paul is putting together the argument for Jews that Jesus was not just for the Jews, but for all of the world. Salvation is for those who believe in their heart and share the good news of this belief with others. If we don’t share our lives and our stories with others, no one else will know of what God did for us. I think sometimes as a Christian, I think, “Well, I believe this with my heart so that’s all I need to do.” BUT NO! That is not the case. I need to share it with others – I need to say it outloud. That’s why baptism is so important both as an act of obedience to God, but also as a way of publicly proclaiming what is written on your heart.

Romans 10

Romans 10
1 Dear brothers and sisters,[
a] the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. 2 I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. 3 For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. 4 For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given.[b] As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.

Such a simple message: I want the best for you, but you keep going down the wrong path.

It makes me think of times when I continue down a road, even though I have directions for another route. Re-inventing the wheel comes to mind. What are the things that I am doing that God has already done? God already has a plan, God already has provided for me for today… why do I keep trying to do it better myself? See, the Jews (aka Isreal) were trying to keep to the law (but everyone falls short) in order to gain salvation – but they didn’t need to!!!

Romans 9, cont'd

One of the resources I was looking at kind of helped me understand Romans 9 a little better. The resource said, “Israel’s unbelief reflects the mystery of the divine election that is always operative within it. Mere natural descent from Abraham does not ensure the full possession of the divine gifts; it is God’s sovereign prerogative to bestow this fullness upon, or to withhold it from, whomsoever he wishes.” So ultimately, it is the faith that matters, not the luck of the draw (ie being born in Abraham’s lineage). The below scripture seems to illustrate the idea that the decision is up to God:

10 This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins.[f] 11 But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; 12 he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.”[g] 13 In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.”[h]
14 Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! 15 For God said to Moses,
“I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.”[
16 So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.
17 For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.”[
j] 18 So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen.

This just reminds me of how immature I really am. I can identify with the Jews who thought, “Well, I am in the line of Abraham, therefore… “or “I am the first born, therefore…” or whatever it was that they felt entitled to as a result of custom and tradition. That makes me think of the customs and traditions that I hold to in my own life that I somehow think (maybe I don’t articulate it) that these customs and traditions trump the mystery of God’s will. I need to find those traditions and discard them because ultimately, only God’s will matters.

Romans 9 – yikes!

Romans 9 is a bit complicated, so I am going to break it up into bite-size pieces (I hope).

1 With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. 2 My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief 3 for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters.[a] I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. 4 They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children.[b] God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. 5 Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.[c]

6 Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! 7 Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,”[d] though Abraham had other children, too. 8 This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children. 9 For God had promised, “I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”[e]

Paul is saying some stuff here that has to truly challenge his Jewish brothers and sisters. He is saying that even though they are Jews, they are not necessarily saved. Yikes! That would be quite the opposite of what the Jews believe!

See, what Paul is saying is that you do not need to be a blood relative of Abraham – you have to be a child of the promise. And what is that promise?? That Abraham’s descendents would be more numerous than the stars. This is where I get lost – can anyone help me with this??? Frank?

Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love (8)

Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love
31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[
n]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[
o] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I love these verses because there is so much hope in them. When Paul wants to make a point (in case you haven’t noticed) he likes to say the same thing over and over – but in slightly different ways. Well, in this entire section, he really goes to great lengths to explain that God loves and so we have nothing to fear, and even greater lengths to explain that NOTHING can come between us and God’s love. I think the important thing to point out is that Paul starts by explaining that because we are Christians, there is NOTHING that can come between us and Christ’s love. The extent that Paul goes to to make sure we all understand that once we are a child of God – that’s it, game over, we don’t need to fret and worry about whether or not we can be separated from God. NOTHING can separate us, and Paul spends a lot of time going through all kinds of examples just to make that point.

This is a powerful thing. If I lived my life every day, certain that God was on my side and that nothing could come between God and me – would my life look different? This is such a pep talk from Paul to go forward and be BOLD in the faith that I have. It’s the most logical way he could explain it: if the maker of the universe and creator of all things is on MY SIDE – what do I have to worry about??

The Future Glory (8)

The Future Glory
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. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children,[
j] including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope[k] for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers[
l] in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together[m] for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

In chapter 8, Paul dives into where this hope comes from for the future. Hope for the future is based on the promise that as God’s children, we will enjoy a future free of suffering and full of “glorious freedom.”

As I mentioned in my last reading, I thought it was really interesting that God is adopting us as his children – it really takes the relationship we have with God to an even deeper level than most people realize. The new twist is that God knows who his people are and He calls them to Him. This really opens up a lot of debates that I am not prepared to get into. From an application stand point, it makes me think differently about my place in the world. What does it look like when you are a child of God, not just a Christian? How do you live your life when God is truly your Father, and not a distant deity?

Life in the Spirit (8)

Life in the Spirit
1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power[
a] of the life-giving Spirit has freed you[b] from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.[c] So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life[
d] because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters,[
e] you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature,[f] you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children[g] of God.
15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.[
h] Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”[i] 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

Sometimes it seems like Paul is very repetitive – and he is. Paul is very, very carefully laying down the groundwork of Christianity and what it means, almost in the same way a lawyer would put his case before the people. Paul says, “We are sinners, all of us.” But it’s not just enough to say that, he lays down before the people all of the evidence of our sin. He talks about faith and what that looks like and uses examples to clearly spell it out. He systematically takes apart even the most trivial arguments that people knit together about why it is ok to continue sinning.

This section continues to be more of Paul’s discussion on sinful nature. He acknowledges that we struggle with it, but he reminds us that we can choose what we want to be captivated by. If we put ourselves fully in the world, we will be slaves to the world. But if we receive the Holy Spirit and believe in Jesus, we are not only FREED of the worldly things that hold us captive (greed, lust, anger, etc), but we are ADOPTED as God’s children. It’s not just that Jesus calls us His friend and let’s us hang out in His house – He makes us his CHILDREN so that we are heirs to God’s glory.

I think the idea of calling God Father can be terrifying to some people. Our own earthly and biological fathers can fall short of God’s glory, just like we do. Unfortunately that taints how we view God when we look through the lenses of our experience with our dads. I am learning more and more that I need to find ways to appropriately think of God based on what I know about Him in the BIble, and not attribute characteristics to God just because of my own experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I love my own dad, but I think my view of God can be wrongly tainted just through my experiences with all kinds of people I encounter.