"God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him in the midst of loss, not prosperity." --John Piper

Monday, January 31, 2011

Wash behind your ears

"For a lifetime of growth, continual learning is an essential." (Page 101) As an educator, this is a truth for all types of growth, not just Spiritual growth.

"Consistently make your learning greater than your experience by defining each occurence and setback biblically." (Page 101) Great advice

He gives an acrostic for journaling, S.O.A.P. Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer (Page 102) While I am not one for formulas or one-size-fits-all type of answers, I find that this could be very helpful to many who are starting a journaling type of activity.

"The question is never, 'Does God speak?' but rather 'Am I listening?'" (Page 104)I think of my classroom experience. My teaching is of little value if I cannot get my students to actively listen. And so, we must actively listen to God.

"The Pharisees had extensive knowledge of and intimate familiarity with the details of God's word . . .while missing the whole point!" (Page 106) Do we really think that the religious majority today are exempt from such error? Do we think that we are exempt? He speaks of a pastor friend who had an affair. The friend admitted that he was only studying the Bible for sermon material, and not for personal growth. I love the line, "it left me starving even though I was overseeing an orchard." Active listening is a must.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Giddy up Horsey

I am in Chapter 6 of "The Divine Mentor" by Wayne Cordiero. I feel like I am on a slow moving horse. While that are some good statements in the chapter, the reading seems tedious because perhaps the horse I am on has been beat to death by now. Follow his perscription for daily devotions, and all will be well with God.

Some nuggets along the way....

"Busyness is often equated with success." This is especially true in ministry, isn't it?

"The Bible is the predominant way God speaks to us." Is it? I agree that God sometimes chooses tospeak to us through the Bible, but I am not willing to limit God in this area.
"Don't leave Scripture's lesser-visited mentors feeling alone and abandoned." I like that thought, that there are some books of the Bible that get less attention than others, but shouldn't. But we could almost break that down on a by-verse basis as well. Some verses "speak" to us, while others don't seem to say as much. Is that God, or is it selective hearing?

That's all for Chapter 6. At least for me. Yee Haw!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Missing the Mark?

Chapter 5 focuses on Mary and Martha. He states that "One who apparently 'got' this lesson was the apostle Paul." (Page 68)

Yes he did. He got that Jesus was everything. No matter what the circumstance, Paul handled it in such an amazing way. Paul walked with God. His life's goal was to know Jesus more. For Paul, I don't think it was a matter of reading "X" number of verses or chapters, but a living and breathing day-to-day relation with Christ. Paul had spent years in the Scriptures but until he had a run in with Christ on the road to Damascus, it did not mean much. But once he met Jesus, he was changed forever. Mary sat at Jesus' feet while Martha got busy with the tasks that "had to be done," but didn't really. Was Jesus going to put on a white glove and look for dust over the doorway? I think that one of the greatest illustrations of modern Christian thought is found right there, that before we come to Jesus, everything in our life has to be squeaky clean. Mary knew different. She got it right. Personal devotions, church attendance, tithing, prayer, forgiveness for others, and the list goes on. Without a love for God it is meaningless, merely a clangning gong or noisy cymbol. "There is no greater thing than to listen to the sound of you voice." (Sound of Your Voice, Third Day - just happen to be listening to it now...powerful!)

Which leads me into a second thought from this chapter. "A basic logical theorem says that if your starting premise is incorrect, then every subsequent conclusion will have a high percentage of also being incorrect." He later says, "In the Christian life, the Bible is your basic premise." But what if, just like the Pharisees and teachers of the law, you approach the Bible with a flawed premise? It is my humble opinion that many in America have done just that, we have made it all about us, what God does for us, how wonderful we are, what we can bring to God, etc. Romans 12:3 warns us not to "think of (ourselves) more highly than (we) ought to think, but to think with sober judgment." But how often do we blow by the real meaning of such verses because of the discomfort we find there?

He wraps up the chapter by saying that "the Bible is not a safe book." Agreed. If we look at it from the worlds point of view, following Jesus is not a safe thing at all, but we certainly don't preach that. Come and join our church, we all love each other here, and there are no problems here. This is the greatest, safest place on earth, with some of the most wonderful people on earth. But is that what Jesus called people to, safety and comfort? Is that the example that He gave? Is that what it means to pick up our cross? Remember, "if your starting premise is incorrect, then every subsequent conclusion will have a high percentage of also being incorrect."

Friday, January 28, 2011

I have read Chapter 4, but am not sure what to say about it. It seems to be pressing the same point, just with different illustrations. Which, by the way, I have already heard many of because our preacher has read this book.

I do appreciate that he clarifies on page 55 that personal Bible reading alone is not the end all, but that in order to gain from it one must meditate on what was read. This, I think, is the hard part for many. Some people just have a hard time recalling things they have read.

He concludes the chapter by quoting a friend who once told him, "The secret of growing in divine wisdom is to come to God stupid. Tell him you don't know a thing. Tell him you need to know how to think, how to tie your shoes, how to win friends and influence anybody!" (Page 63) As a public school teacher, I would love to take that quote, take out the the word divine, replace the word God with class, and plaster it all over my room. And as a parent, well, you get the idea. I think the closest I get to understanding God sometimes is when I am put in roles that He has over me. He certainly is a patient and incredible God.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Two for Thursday

I had a little extra time on my hands today, a rarity, so I read another chapter. For this post, I have decided to look at some positives and negatives. We will start with the positives.

  • Boldness. "The refusal of this responsibility (to self-feed on the Word as opposed to relying on being spoon fed through other sources) opens the floodgates for a codependency of sorts - one that requires others to don the responsibilities God intends for every person." (Page 40) I agree. I think that too many people depend on their understanding of God and belief systems on someone or something else. Do you ever think it funny how preachers of a particular denomination tend to agree on so many key doctrinal issues? I think that sometimes our dependancy goes beyond just depending on the preacher. I think that preachers can also be codependent on denominations, books, particular authors, etc.
  • Truth. "knowledge is never an end in itself. It must be converted into a higher form - wisdom - for it to become useful and beneficial to us. To that end, God sends us the Holy Spirit" (Page 43) So reading the Bible is not and end in itself. That requires humility, because I do believe that there are those who approach the reading of the Word with the idea that they can find answers hidden in there, sometimes answers which were never intended. If we do not approach the Word with a great deal of humility, I don't believe that blessing will follow. And to assume that all who read it do it with humility would be a grave error.
  • Wisdom. "Your inheritance is what God has in store for you" (Page 48) Call me silly, but I just love it when the realization that God is in complete control come through.
  • I really just have one thought here as I read this book. This book is about what has worked for this man. And I get a little leary when someone has success in an area and then writes a book about it. What works for this man may and probably will work for others, but faith is never a one size fits all. I think of it like a diet book. How many people will run to the bookstores when they see what has worked for this person or that celebrity, only to find that it does not work for them. I am not saying that the book should not have been written, only that as we read it, we understand that there are some great principles that are presented which may or may not play out as they did for the author.
  • Okay, one more thought. He begn the chapter by telling about a time when one of his staff members came and told him that he was leaving. Now I don't know all of the details, just those presented by the author. He states that he "asked the staff member if he was doing his daily devotions." When this was confirmed, he accepted his resignation. I was kinda hoping for a happy ending here, a bit of mentoring or grace, but instead he just accepted the resignation. I found this especially disappointing since the author mentions similar struggles in his ministry. But, I don't know the whole situation.

Wisdom verses Consequences

In Chapter 2 of Wayne Cordiero's book, "The Divine Mentor," he begins with the statement, "I didn't have what it took, and I knew it. But what was I to do?" He is speaking of his first ministry. This is a bold and honest statement. None of us really have it within us to do what we are doing, but few will admit it. I think that is especially true in ministry, where the minister is often expected to have all the right answers, and have them now. I have seldom heard a minister say, "I don't know."

He then talks about two choices of instructors, wisdom and consequences. In one you learn from others and in the other you learn from your mistakes. He goes on to talk about a pastor who preached before him who had great success. He hunted down a copy of a book he had written, which was out of date. He allowed this pastor, who had long since died, to mentor him.

I really don't have a lot to say about this chapter, as I feel that what was said could have been said much sooner, but like many pastors, sometimes the illustrations overwhelm the message. But it was a good message. We need to understand our short-comings. We need to rely on more than just ourselves. Ultimately, we rely on God to provide what we need. Don't we?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

If a tree falls in the forest...

Chapter one begins with an illustration of a Sequoias tree that fell out in California. The tree has been around for years, and they wondered what caused its demise. Turns out it was foot traffic damaging the root system. So the park officials came up with a policy of fencing in some of the oldest, largest, and most historically significant trees. He uses this illustration to show how we too, can become overwhelmed and worn out by the daily cares of life. "It was a sacred enclosure around my roots that saved me from falling." (Page 19)

My first impression in reading this was, just what we need to do as Christians, put up more fences between us and the world around us. But I don't think that is what he means. "Foot traffic wears on us. We can't evade most of it, and that's not really the solution anyway." (Page 19) So the fence isn't necessarily there to keep life out, as much as it is to keep us connected to God.

I guess it all becomes a means and end situation for me. Reading the Bible is a means to an end, but sometimes we make it an end in itself, like we do with so many other things in Christianity. Just like the law was a means to an end, but the teachers of the law made it an end in itself.

The author closes with a promise: "If you will develop a daily self-feeding program from the Bible and allow yourself to be daily, hourly mentored by God's Holy Spirit, your life will undergo an unprecedented change for the better." (Page 22) Is that a money-back guarantee?

That, in my opinion, is a huge promise. One that the author has no right to make. The end is God, and God can open hearts who don't read his book, as well as He can leave closed those who do. God's word is living and active, but let's leave the results in God's hands.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I am doing this because I said I would

I am reading the book, "The Divine Mentor" by Wayne Cordeiro. I borrowed it from a friend, and since I assume that he assumes I borrowed it to read it, that is what I will do. Like it or not.

I have somewhat of a negative attitude as I start. Only because I know my church. I liken them to the church at Galatia, though I doubt they would see it that way. But they preach a lot of moralism, doused with just enough Jesus (at least in their own opinion) to avoid damnation. (Did I just write that? It sounds a bit strong.)

I went to the men's meeting yesterday. There, the need to study Scripture was presented like a hammer to a nail. Bam! Now if you are a reader of this blog, you know that I love and read Scripture. But then, so did the Pharisees. So I know that that in itself will not bring about life change. My fear is that there are those who think it will. An entire night devoted to reading the Bible, but little said about the one to whom the Bible points. (In case you haven't read it lately, its Jesus. Hope I didn't spoil the ending for you.)

"Life will only yield its best fruit to diligent farmers and its treasures to industrious pilrims." (page 10) Sounds like a great statement. But is it truth? Does God only give his best to those who are diligent and industrious? Or, does God take the lowly and humble and exalt them? I think of David here. He loved God, and I believe that he loved God from the start, even as a shepherd boy in a field prior to being called. But God did not choose him because of his diligence or industriousness. Even David's own father did not think it necessary for David to be there when Samuel came to annoint one of his sons as king. Samuel had to ask Jesse if he was sure that all of his sons were present. Jesse's response? Well, there is David, who is out tending the sheep. It seems as if Jesse did not think David the right or even a possible choice. But God did. And I love what God does in Judges 7:2. "The Lord said to Gideon, "The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel boast over me saying, 'My own had has saved me.'" Then, God tells Gideon to start sending people home. 22,000 paired down to 300. Solomon pleased God by asking for wisdom, but that later became his downfall. Truth is, as I see it in Scripture, life yields its best fruit to whomever God chooses. And God tends to choose those who are humble in heart, although there are even examples where this does not seem the case (Jonah and Peter come to mind here).

"God has given an assignment to certain men and women who, though dead, "still speak." (pages 10-11) Amen! God did it! He chose who would be recorded in the pages of His story, the Bible. He is an awesome and a Sovereign God! These men and women are to be our mentors as they reveal GOD to us. That is their purpose, just as it is our purpose to reveal Him to those around us today. And just as in our own lives, there will be good times and bad times. And in all times, there is God.

Monday, January 24, 2011

That's just how I feel.

Psalm 63:1

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; My soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Why is it I feel this way? I listened to our preacher's sermon tonight, and what I heard was a message about how to grow the church. Nice thought, but that is not our responsibility, is it? I heard thoughts about how our love must be sincere, that we should hate evil, cling to the good. All of this stuff is good stuff. But something is missing. Could it be Jesus?

And I feel like I am the only one who feels this way. But I believe it is strong and that it is from God. I want God, not church growth. I want Him, not moralistic lessons meant to draw in people from across town, so they can drive by other churches to attend ours because they feel loved, regardless of what we believe. (Yeah, he said that.)

I am so thirsty, yet I believe that God has placed me here for a reason. Maybe it is to be an agent of change. That would be nice. But I fear that is not the reason. Maybe it is just so that I will appreciate Him more. I can say that is happening. I am thirsty. All I want is a cup of water, but there is none to be found.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Romans 12:2

Romans 12:2

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.

In my last post, I put forth the thought that God's mercy is what enables us to live the life of a living sacrifice. Paul continues this thought here, letting us know how we can follow through with this monumental task.

I have to stop there for a second, because I do not think that some think being a follower of Christ should not be a burden. After all, didn't Jesus say that his yoke was easy and his burden light? (Matthew 11:30) Yes, he did. But this should be taken in the context of the yoke of the other rabbis of the time, who placed huge lawkeeping rules and regulations on their followers. In comparison to them, Jesus load was much lighter, because it centered on loving God, and did not burden his followers with man-made rules and regulations.

Being a Christian is not easy. We are told in Philippians 2:12, "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling" In Matthew 7, he warns that not all those who say, "Lord, Lord" will enter into his kingdom. I could go on, but I hope you get the idea, being a true follower of Jesus is not all fun and games.

Paul gives 2 things that we should do in order to endure. The first is not to conform to the pattern of this world. It is my opinion that what he is saying is that we live in a world that is broken, and where sin is rampant. How easy it would be to just go with the flow. And it is not just the world we live in that is broken, it is the church as well. We are an organism made up of broken individuals. We have lived broken lives, and continue to be confronted by patterns of brokenness. A friend of mine often quotes Proverbs 26:11, and it illustrates the point, "As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly." We must break that old, broken pattern of living that we are so familiar with. Paul continually deals with the imperfections of the church in his letters to them. So not conforming to the patterns of this world is a continual battle that we must meet head on.

The second thing Paul says is that we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind. The picture that is painted here is one of a complete renovation. When you renovate, you take out the old, throw it away and replace it with new. We must develop a new pattern of thinking. It is only through this renewal process that true change can take place. The old way was to think of ourselves first. That way is out. The new way is to focus on God. It is not just putting Him first, it is recognizing His place in the universe, His place in our lives, His place in history. It is seeing Him as the Sovereign God that He is, and then seeing our place as only having any hope or meaning that is imparted by God. A way of thinking that appreciates whatever it is that He as to give, just as the Caananite women in Matthew 15, who was content with the crumbs that would fall from the table. To truly understand the meaning of Psalm 84:10, "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked."

The end result is found in the end of the verse. "Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." If our thinking is transformed, and this can only happen by the mercy of God (Romans 12:1), from the way of this world to a way that understands that whatever we have or whatever is is because of the Sovereign goodness of God, then we can know that we are safe and secure in His hands both for the present and for eternity.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Is it WHY or HOW?

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. (NIV)

I recently heard a sermon on this verse. In it, the preacher spoke of our motivation to become a living sacrifice, God's mercy. Something about that statement bothered me, so I did some digging into the passage and found it to be quite enlightening.

Prior to this verse, Paul has a section of Scripture (Romans 11:33-36) where he just bursts out in praise to God, talking about His wisdom and glory, and the fact that we cannot even begin to fathom Him. Then he goes into verse 1 of chapter 12, beginning with the word therefore, which leads me to believe that he is connecting one thought to the other. You could almost replace the word "Therefore" with "Because of God's unbelievable greatness."

The next phrase, "I urge you," is interesting because it has some possible other interpretations. It could be "urge," "admonish," "instruct," or even "to call to one's side." I really love that last one, because that is how I see Paul, as one who wanted his readers to join him.

It is the phrase "in view of" that I struggle with, because it seems to lead me in a direction that I do not want to go. Is our motivation for serving God really that fact that He is merciful? What about those who do not, for a variety of reasons, see Him as merciful? How would they get past such a thought? I believe that Paul saw God as merciful in all situations, but I don't know that he would put this our as our motivation for serving God, nor do I think it was his motivation. But that is how we think in America. You give me something and I will give you something in return. God gives me mercy, so I will serve him. Looking at Paul's previous verses, I don't think he is about to go into such a huge shift of thinking, from saying how wonderful, awesome, and beyond our understanding God is to saying that we should serve Him because of His mercy. So I did some more digging. It seems that the phrase "in view of" is based on the Greek word "dia," which simply means "by" or "through." So the thought occurred to me that perhaps instead of saying "why" we might become a living sacrifice, Paul was stating "how" we can do it, which is only by or through God's mercy.

So I did a little more digging. I found that the word "mercy" in this verse is not the usual word that is translated mercy in the New Testament. Instead of using either of the Greek words "eleeo" or "eleos," which both carry the idea of granting mercy or kindness, he uses the Greek word "oiktirmos." This word has a meaning "the bowels of compassion," or what we might today call "a heart of compassion" or even "pity." So is Paul really saying our motivation for serving God is that He pities us? Or, is Paul saying that because the Almighty God of the Universe takes pity on us, we can serve Him as a living sacrifice? I have to believe the second choice not only fits the text, but also the overalll message of the Bible.

Perhaps I seem to be splitting hairs here, but I think the implications are huge. Under scenario 1, I see God's mercy as my motivation for serving Him, my service is a repayment, an obligation. But Paul has just stated in Chapter 11, "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?" (Verse 35) It is as if God gives us a gift, and then is so enthralled when we give Him back what was His in the first placde. Besides, who likes repaying debts? I don't. If my bank called today and told me all of my debts were cancelled, I would be thankful. I might even want to do something to show my appreciation. But I would eventually get over it. This is not the basis of a live change. Should we really base our response or relationship with God on this kind of thinking?

But under scenario 2, things change. Our lives as living sacrifices are not viewed as an obligation, but rather as a priviledge that is granted each and every moment by a God who has compassion on us and takes great pity on us. This is another reason I see Paul calling us to join him in this rather than commanding or urging us to do this. Look back at Romans 11:33-36, and the incredible picture Paul paints of God. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to serve such a God? But how could we ever hope to do so, when God is so beyond us? And the answer lies in God's great compassion for us. So now I can live each day as a living sacrifice, I can be holy and acceptable to God only because of what He has done for me in Christ. And this is true and proper worship.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Romans 5:1

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore  So Paul is using this word to tell us to look back at what has been written for a cause, and then, just to make sure, he gives it to us.

we have been justified To be justified means to be shown innocent, or for us to be righteous. What is it that we really want out of life? Not what do we want now, but what do we really want? I think that one thing that would become ultimate, if we knew for sure there was a judgment day, would be to be found righteous. To know that heaven was our destiny. Paul is sure. Sure there is a heaven, and sure of his being found righteous. Not because he is perfect or sinless, he even thought of himself as the greatest of sinners. No, it is his faith that justifies him. So now, Paul can have peace with God and with himself because of that faith.

peace In order for peace to exist, its opposite must also exist.

with God  Peace is not easy or in all circumstance. Peace with God means emnity with the world. We have to make a choice.

through our Lord Jesus Christ  No other way. I had an interesting experience this week. I was doing a 20 minute persentation for a class I am taking. During the presentation, which was to other teachers on the use of manipulatives in the classroom, I mentioned Jesus as an example of someone who taught by making connections to what people already know. The class was critiquing each person. One person wrote, "Keep Jesus out of the public schools!" I thought, "You can't do that, because He is everywhere." Just because some will not acknowledge Him does not take away from who He is. And He is the way.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Romans 3:21-23

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Is therer anyone out there who honestly believes that they have the right to stand in the presence of God? Is there someone who thinks that they are good enough to have favor with God? What about for even just one day? Can we say that even for one day? Can we stand before God and say, "Surely You remember that day I took that mission trip and worked on that home for that poor family?" Even on a day like that can we say that we totally gave ourselves to the Lord, with no thought of malice or self? That we did not argue about how things need to be done, or our mind wander about the cute person next to us, or just that self-righteous idea of, "Okay God, you owe me one now."

We are wicked, and the Law and the Prophets testify to this. If you don't believe me, just read the 10 commandments. How many have you kept? If your score is not 10 out of 10, you have failed. How many have you kept when you extend that idea that even looking lustfully at a woman is adultery? Forget about murder, when Jesus says that even calling someone a fool puts us in danger of the fires of Hell? Not only does the Law show God's righteousness and perfection, it reveals our unrighteousness and imperfection. (Not a wildly popular sermon topic, but a topic the Bible does not shy away from.)

So what a wonderful gft and revelation when we discover that the righteousness we do not have is given to us through Christ! Given. As in we don't deserve it, we did not earn it, but we can possess it. We all fall short, but through faith can be justified freely though the redemption that came by Jesus.

And if that were all that there were to it, it would be a great ending. But it isn't. You see, the word faith does not just imply a head knowledge, but also conveys the meaning of "a conviction." So it is not just believing that saves us, but the change that takes place because of the conviction of our hearts when we see what He has done for us in giving us His righteousness.

That is what I want and need to see more of each and every day.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Romans 2:16

on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secret hearts of men.

Paul uses a simple little pronoun, but I think it speaks with a loud voice. He says, "according to my gospel." What I don't think he means here is that the Gospel is his, that he owns it or created it. What I do think he means is that there is the Gospel that he preaches, and the gospel that others preach.

Paul's Gospel is what he received from Jesus Christ himself. Who better to explain the Gospel to than someone who was so knowledgeable of the Old Testament? Paul was a perfect choice for this assignment, but not a perfect choice for a disciple of Jesus' ministry.

Can you see how that might have played out? Eleven of the disciples walking with Jesus through the fields with Jesus on the Sabbath, plucking the heads of grain and eating them (Matthew 12:1-8), and Paul, lagging behind admonishing the others, "You shouldn't be harvesting on the Sabbath, guys!"

But after it was finished, Jesus taking Paul and showing him how it all fit together, how the Old Testament was fulfilled in Himself. No wonder Paul was so strong in the faith! Oh the wisdom and the sovereignty of God.

So according to Paul's Gospel, God judges the secrets of men. In other words, God knows our hearts. There are those who preach a gospel different from Paul. Preachers who, either for bad motives or because they just don't get it, preach a weak, impotent gospel message. And he is saying God knows! He knows men's hearts. He knows if you are passionate about Christ or just going through the motions.

I was listening to a podcast recently where the preacher was using Romans 12:1 as his text. He was preaching about the life-change that one should pursue as a follower of Christ. Good stuff. Until he said, "We don't need to beat ourselves up, we don't need to pretend we haven't done anything good for the Lord, because most of us have. We don't need to go on a guilt trip. We all know that nobody's perfect."

So close...and perhaps so far. Just as men were perhaps getting "cut to the heart," (Acts 2:37) we soften the blow. Rather than encourage people to "work out their salvation with fear and trembling," (Phil. 2:12) we let them off the hook. Maybe because such words might not be the way to grow the church. Whatever the case, such words are not a part of Paul's Gospel nor mine.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Romans 2:6-11

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

Did Paul just say that God will "render" (also translated "reward," "pay," "give") according to our works? What about sola fida, by faith alone? But you have to keep reading...

Yes, we are rewarded by our works, but not by the work itself, but by the motivation behind that work. Those whose works seek to honor and glorify God get eternal life. Those who are self-seeking and obey unrighteousness, get wrath and fury.

My mind immediately goes to the story of the Pharisee and the tax-collector. (Luke 18:9-14) Both men prayed. Prayer is good, so does this mean that both men get rewarded the same? Jesus says no. The Pharisee's prayer was self-seeking and unrighteous. He was praying to God, but he was also prayig to the audience at hand, and his prayer only sought to glorify himself. Reward: He was not justified. The tax-collector, who wouldn't even look up, who was not playing to an audience, and simply asked for mercy, according to Jesus, was the one who went away justified. Both men prayed, both had the same work, but they were judged differently because of their motives.

It is the same thought that Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, where he says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Righteous living is not so much about what you do as why you do it. That is why some can count one day as holy, and others count everyday the same. The key is to be fully convinced (Romans 14), and do it to the Lord.

This blessing is not just in the eternal reward either, because the peace that comes as a result of this attitude is one that is given now. Like the peace that Paul felt while being in prison, fastened in stocks, that still enabled him to sing praises to God (Acts 16).

There is no peace in exaulting yourself. There is no honor in placing yourself at the top.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Romans 2:5

But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

In order to have salvation, we need to be saved from something. So what is it that we are saved from? The obvious, but I believe wrong answer, is sin. While God cannot stand sin, I believe that there is more to it than that, and this verse hits it hard.

But because of your hard and impenitent heart This is what we need salvation from, the heart that causes sin. The hardened and unrepentant heart that says, I will not, I cannot yield to God and His ways. The word "hardened" carries with it the image of calluses. We are somewhat hardened by our constant exposure to the world that we live in, especially when we don't stop to view things from God's perspective. When we see others who have more or don't suffer as we do, it can create feelings of hurt. These feelings, if not dealt with, can and will create a toughening of our protective shells.

Two illustrations quickly come to mind. One shows what an idiot I can be, so I will share that one.

I was working in the garage on a project and got my thumb too close to the blade on the table saw. My first response was to say, "It is merely a flesh wound." A throbbing, painful, bloody flesh wound. So I go in the house, clean it up and bandage it. My wife thinks I should go to the emergency room, but it don't. 24 hours later, I am in the med center getting stitches. By now the wound has begun to heal, and the doctor tells me that I should have come in sooner. He goes on to state that I will probably have a permanent numbness in the tip of my thumb, which I now do. The tip of my thumb has no feeling, which is dog-gone irritating when trying to play video games. Not to mention, the rest of my thumb feels sensitive around that area when I am out in the cold. 

My thumb was cut, and because I did not treat it correctly, the inside has a permanent callus that has no feeling. Because our heats have lost their feeling, we do not repent. Why change when there is no feeling of wrongdoing? And what a better picture of our current world than to say they feel no wrong! Not only do they feel no wrong, but they berate those who do. Christians who stand for something (and not always in the best ways, I will admit) are viewed as intolerant. Abortion, homosexuality, lying, and all of the rest of the commandments are viewed as outdated.

Even within the church, and that is to whom Paul is writing, there is this intolerance of others who do not see things as we do. So just like the Pharisees, we put heavy burdens on them that we ourselves are unwilling to carry. We pressure people to tithe, stop drinking any alcohol, don't go to R rated movies, dress a certain way (especially on Sunday), etc. Not that these things are bad, but they do not ensure salvation.

So what is it we need to be saved from? The answer is ourselves. Our hard and impenitent hearts that get between us and who God would have us to be. And the church-goer needs this every bit as much as anyone. It is because of this that we are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

When God's righteous judgment is revealed, what will that look like?

Here is what it won't look like: You, come on it because you followed the commandments, you attended church and gave a tithe of your income. You, come in because you stayed away from alcohol and drunks and people who sin.

Here is what it will look like: You, come on in because you gave me drink when I was thirsty. You fed me when I was hungry. You clothed me when I was naked. In all that you said, and in all that you did, you sought only to show your love for me. Enter into my kingdom.

God's kindness should lead us toward repentance. Toward a change. To where I no longer value the things that I valued, but now I value God, and in all I do, I show that to the world. So now, when I give a cup of water, it is not to earn God's favor (hand him a filthy rag), but it is because for me there is no other choice. I love others because of His great love for me. I serve others because of my great love for Him.