Friday, July 30, 2010

Acts 2:1-21

First the drummer lays down the beat and then the music begins. As it builds, joy fills the room, in the form of song and dance. It feels like a current, a wave washing over me; as we join in praising God. I’m in church actually and Vacation Bible School has started for 2010. The energy makes the building seem to vibrate.

Why do we love VBS? Maybe it’s because anyone can join us. All ages come. Newcomers and long-time members get to know each other as we serve and help each other, in the name of reaching out to children. It feels like a big reunion and kids literally dance for joy.

Well, I guess it’s a taste of heaven when I think about it. Acts 2 tells us the history of these tastes of heaven; the Holy Spirit came and changed every gathering of Christians. The Holy Spirit, once experienced in bits at a time, now is poured out. Acts 2, VBS, mission trips all give us the chance to stand under the fountain together, and reach out to others and to say, “everyone come. Come meet Jesus.” Just think what our gathering in heaven will be like!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Romans 15: 14-24

I think my attitude about being a Christian has really changed over the last ten years. I was brought up believing that if you kneel at the right time, stand at the right time and memorize the right prayers, you were pretty much guaranteed a spot in heaven. I don’t think my early Christian training was really as bad as I’m making it sound, but that is what I got out of it anyway. Of course, I loved VBS also.

But, now, that could not be farther from my thinking. Now, I am almost desperate to share the love of God with everyone I meet. (I’m really not that evangelical, but that’s for a different devotional.) I am further reminded about my growth as a Christian, as well as how far I still need to go, in today’s reading. In Paul’s first line, he states that he is confident that his Roman brothers and sisters are “full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.” I don’t know too many groups of humans who are able to do that. In fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t know of any who are so full of the love of God and who get along so well as to be able to instruct one another. Actually, most folks I know are pretty good at giving the instruction; it’s the taking that seems to be difficult.
So, Paul is far away from these new Roman Christians and he has been far away from them for a long time. He has not seen them and his only news of this new church plant is via letters that take a long time en route. Yet, he is confident of their ability to live a communal, Christian life. This makes me want to have Paul’s confidence in me as well. Would he be that confident in me as a Christian? Was he telling the Romans this just to be nice? Is he manipulating them? Does he really believe what he is writing?

What I believe this comes down to is my (and your own) confidence about our own ability to live a truly Christian life. Can you imagine what life would be like if everyone loved one another the way that Jesus loved? No more jealousies or pettiness. To truly live with the peace of God which passes all understanding? To live as, apparently, the Roman Christians did?

By the way, just to show that my early Christian development was not all that bad, ever since I was a little girl I wanted to have “the peace of God which passes (actually we said passeth) all understanding”. I’m still working on that.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Romans 13:8-14

I love today's reading. Perhaps it is because it speaks about love.

Verse 8 really spoke to me. It reiterates a common theme in the Bible; perhaps it is Paul’s use of a debt analogy. "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." (v. 8)

There is a certain paradox in Paul's words. In order to get out of debt to the law, we have to get into debt to love. To me this is extremely liberating. Instead of being in debt to something to which we can never fully comply (perfectly keeping all of the laws of the Old Testament), we are free to focus on what we can do (love our neighbor as ourselves).

Why is loving others called a debt by Paul? Simple. We are permanently in debt to Christ for the love he poured out on us and the freedom he bought for us. The way Jesus asks us to repay this debt is to love others the way we love ourselves.

Loving our neighbor as ourselves is a simple way to say take care of others with the same natural motivation that we care for ourselves. Each of us tries not to let ourselves go hungry. We each try to clothe ourselves. We try to make sure there is a roof over our head. We try to make sure we are not cheated or injured. This is the way we love ourselves and thus this is the way we are called to love our neighbor.

Finally Paul points out that with each day the time for our judgment is that much closer. What will be the final balance of our debt when that time comes?

Wishing you the best in your walk with Christ,

Friday, July 16, 2010

Romans 12:9-21

Families come in all types and the word “family” means different things to different people. My father died when I was twelve years old but many people helped me along the way when I was young. Now, I live in a “typical” family (children, spouse and two cats). It’s nice to all be together. We cherish time together, as our children are away at college during the school year.

How does a family work? Hopefully , we encourage each other. We share chores. We talk things out and try to be patient with each other. We hope for the best for each other and especially as a parent, I pray, pray, pray.

Please read this entire wonderful passage. These verses make me think of how the love of God can fill a church body. Verse 10 says, “love each other with brotherly love” and I have seen many examples of God’s love in my St. Matthew’s family. This passage calls us to LOVE; by serving, helping the needy, helping strangers. It also calls us to love all people equally and be people of peace (sometimes hard in families). Our love is not to be confined to our family, but rather we are to reach out beyond our comfort zone with the love of Christ.

Please pray for those who will be leaving Sunday for the St. Matt’s mission trip to Nashville, that they will grow together as a family in Christ, and share God’s love with many.

These days I cherish this time when my family is complete. Likewise, I cherish spiritual brothers and sisters. Each help me experience God the Father.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Romans 11:1-12

In today’s reading, I am drawn to verse 6. The concept of grace has always been a mystery to me. I mean it is really that easy to be saved. Come on, one must have to do more than just accept this gift. Let’s take a look.

Verse 6 from today’s reading says, “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” Paul clearly says we are saved by grace; and grace alone. Grace is a gift given to us by a loving God.

I often think it is easier to love someone when they are good – when they love us back. Don’t you? But God loves us no matter if we love him or not. No matter how we act towards him. In the past, I fell into the trap of believing that some people’s behavior was so bad that God couldn’t possibly save them. However, I realized that by taking this attitude, I did not fully understand that salvation is by grace. And grace is a free gift. All any of us have to do is to accept the gift.

If God chose who would be saved based on our works or obedience to the law, then grace would not be free and undeserved. As Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, “God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Thank God for his gift of grace.

Wishing you the best in your walk with Christ,

Friday, July 09, 2010

Romans 10:1-13

I was taken with a verse from this passage from The Message. Eugene Peterson paraphrases Paul and says "It's the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us...That's it. You're not doing anything; you're simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That's salvation." I had never thought of trust in God to meet your needs as salvation. I have always concentrated on salvation happening when you believe that Christ died for your sins and rose again.

My problem is that I'm really a control freak. I have a hard time turning everything over to God. Plus, I really wonder at what point does God want us to abdicate our decision-making over our lives and turn everything over to Him? Surely He doesn't want us to irresponsibly wait for Him to take action in our lives. So what is the right amount of independence and abdication?

Perhaps it's in the asking for God's help to begin with. To do that, you really have to take some responsibility. You have to know that there is a problem and you have to know that it is bigger than your capability to fix it, right? You reach a point with a problem when it's time to turn it over and I think we all know when that moment arrives. Turning it over feels right. That's not abdication at all, but rather taking responsibility for finding the means to resolution.

Perhaps, too, turning it over does not mean no longer being responsible for the issue and the fix. Perhaps turning it over is just the beginning and that salvation is the road you walk as you solve life's issues along side of God.

I would love to hear any comments you may have about this. How do you allow God to help you?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Romans 8:26-30

Today's reading is just five verses. Yet these verses have troubled Christians for centuries. The troubling subject is predestination - did God predestine who would be saved? I do not think so, but let's take a look.

Verses 29 & 30 seem to be the most troubling to some. "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, ... And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." The words foreknew and predestined have generated much heated discussion over the years. However, God is not limited by time as we know it. Thus, I feel these words have to do with God's ability to see past, present, and future at the same time and not some predetermination before we were even born. God's foreknowledge means that God knows who will accept the offer of salvation not that any one of us is predetermined to be saved.

Furthermore, as far as predestination goes, this begins when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. When we truly do this, God knows we will become more Christ-like and, eventually, live with him for all eternity in heaven. Thus, if we accept Christ into our lives and allow him to be the leader of our life, then we are predestined to an eternal afterlife with God. An analogy, albeit a poor one, of this is buying an airline ticket. If one buys an airline ticket to Pittsburgh, then one is predestined to arrive in Pittsburgh.

Wishing you the best in your walk with Christ,