Saturday, February 28, 2009

1 Corinthians 10 -- Remeber

This section of 1 Corinthians could appear to be two completely unrelated thoughts. The challenge comes in one little word which links the two lines of thought, therefore. I have heard it said and have taught whenever we see a therefore in the text, we should as what is it there for.

In this case, Paul is reminding the people and us, of our story. Upon even a basic reading of the Scriptures we find the story of humanities journey is told over and over. We must remember our story, in hope that we will not repeat it. Unfortunately all too often we do lose touch with our story, not just our personal narrative, but our story as the created of God. When the story is forgotten, we forget who is writing the story, and what happens when humanity tries to take control of the story.

Paul encourages us to remember our story so we will not lose our freedom. That is how the two apparently unrelated pieces come together. When we lose sight of our story we lose sight of the freedom we have been given. Now this is not freedom to do whatever we please. This is freedom to experience the fullness of God. The truth is we can do whatever we want, yet not everything is beneficial, or helpful in experiencing the fullness God has called us to.

Participating in culture is not prohibited, that is the whole meat to idols conversation. What is prohibited is causing another person to stumble. We must remember this person could be ourselves. We are to live a life connected with the culture around us, as long as that culture does not become what shapes our values. It is God and God alone who should be shaping our values. This is why we must remember our story.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

1 Corinthians 9 -- Training

I have to start by saying I do not like chapter 9. I am probably not suppose to say that as a pastor, but I do not like it. The first reason is Paul comes off as whining to me in the beginning of the passage. Obviously he is answering some direct questions presented to him, and addressing them very directly. I am most uncomfortable when Paul says he would just assume die before giving up this boast of not being paid by the churches. All I have to say is Ewww. Those are the words of a man dripping with pride, not a good place.

The second reason I do not like the passage is found in the second half. It is almost as if Paul comes to his sense and decides to get back to the business of preaching and teach, not whining. He comes back with a great challenge. Paul states he has become all things to all men that he might save some (v22). That is hard work. It means a lot of time reading, preparing, studying, interacting, and being among people. It will mean being misunderstood, it will mean people calling you a universalist, it will mean running the risk of losing your identity. But it is for the sake of the gospel we are called to this.

Continuing the second part of the passage does not bring relief. We are called to enter into training, with our whole body. We live in a world of dualism, we disconnect parts of our lives. Some would say we have a spiritual life, a work life, a home life, our physical life and our personal life. Each its own compartment. This should not be. Our life should be lived as an integrated whole. To do this requires training. Training of the whole body and person. Not easy.

I wish Paul would have left this part out of his correspondence with the Corinthian church. Then I would not have to deal with it. However, there it is. Now I first have to choose if I will deal with it. Once I choose life and choose to deal with it, I must them make the difficult changes in my life that will lead to transformation. All of this sounds like hard work, and it is. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. Everyone is called to a full and whole life, yet only some choose, will you?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

1 Corinthians 8 -- Weaker

Of all the content of chapter 8 the discussion about the weaker and stronger has captured my attention. There is a great danger in our Western world when it comes to this issue of strength and weakness. Classically strength has been celebrated and weakness has been eliminated. In this we can see the basic premise of Natural Selection, thanks Chuck Darwin. Those who are strong are seen as the ones who survive, and those who are weak are the ones pushed to the margins.

I find it interesting Paul does not invest any effort in removing the labels of weak and strong. The fact of the matter is there is truth in these labels. As we are people on the journey, not everyone is at the same place on the journey. Some are learning the basics while others are wrestling with what might be called deeper issues of our journey. There are some who have a deep and strong faith, and there are others who have an emerging, untested or weaker faith. Paul is however, careful to not label as either one as better or worse. They are simply statements of truth.

The issue of the weaker brother or sister is proven more difficult when we look at how we live this out. More specifically the command to not cause another to stumble. I wonder how often I cause another to stumble? Which then leads to the thought, I have been the weaker brother. Connecting to another thought, I am the weaker brother. No matter where we are on the journey, there will always be people on either side of us. The challenge is when we are in the position of strength, to not be the oppressor. We are not to wield our strength against another person's weakness. Remember, there is someone else who could do the same to you.

In the end we are to encourage each other. Life is not a race. It is not a competition to see who can get ahead. Rather the measure of life is found in the journey, and the way you made your way through the journey. There is no such thing as better or worse. We are on this journey together, and the journey can only see fullness together.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

1 Corinthians 7 -- Marriage

I find it interesting that Paul would write about something like marriage. This is a passage where I think we need to have a pretty active filter toward Paul and his writing. So much so, that even Paul emphasizes some of the material is from him and not the Lord. Having said that, there are some things is this section of scripture that can be hard to get our minds around. To help generate some understanding there needs to be some background information.

The most important thing to remember has to do with belief about the return of Jesus. Paul and almost all followers of Christ believed Jesus would return in their lifetime. There was a heightened sense of being short-timers before the Kingdom of God would be fully realized. This informs the statements about staying in the situations you are in. Too, it informs the statements about issues of marriage, re-marriage, and other remaining single. To many in the time of Paul's writing there was no need to worry about such things because Christ was going to return any day now. Issues of marriage and life status just were unimportant.

We must also look at the bias Paul himself puts on the table. He is a single man, and thinks this is the preferable situation for a follower of Christ, to be single. It is clear Paul saw marriage as a distraction to following after God. No wonder he was not married. I think Paul's own feelings and context make it difficult for him to have a clear thought on the issue.

So what are we to do today? What about this issue of marriage, and remarriage, and staying single? What may seem like a non confrontation answer is, we must seek after God. The reality is just like in the first century Christ could return any day, we know not the hour or day. Yet, we must live our lives following after God, not matter our feelings about when Christ will return. Marriage is a great gift of God, and if I were single, I know I could not do what I do in ministry. It is clear God has given me a partner who completes some of the areas where I am lacking. There are others who are not any more or less complete, that God has called to be single.

The issue of divorce and remarriage is always a tricky one. Here in Corinthians Paul lays out some pieces, and Jesus himself addresses some of this. The common way of going about this issue is to look for the loopholes. How can I do this or that and still be okay with God. The way I see it, God would always have a bias toward those who are being married, staying married. However, I do think there are some times when exceptions are found, and there are times when things just do not work as the idea of God. The first goal is always to keep marriages together. In cases of abuse, things must change. In cases of infidelity, things must change. Change can be a healing reconciliation, change can be the end of a marriage.

All together it is important to be careful in such a discussion. Many people have been harmed greatly by a marriage relationship. Still others have walked away simply because it got difficult. Developing hard and fast rules is dangerous. Not because God is vague on the issues, our ability to understand is the challenge. Again, I think there is a bias toward marriage, yet there are times when that might not be the most honoring situation. Always, this area must be approached with great humility, caution, and a deep connection with God.

Monday, February 23, 2009

1 Corinthians 6 -- Immorality

I would like to thank Paul for once again bringing up the issue of sexual immorality and more specifically the issue of homosexuality. One of my great prayers is we would stop throwing all the money we do at this issue, from either side. Sure many of the English translations use the word homosexual, and relate it to not "getting in". Yes as a United Methodist pastor I understand the churches stance on homosexuality as incompatibly with Christian teaching. I also understand the pain and hurt which has been caused by the church around this issue. I understand people feel like they are not welcome to be a part of the body of Christ. So what are we to do. No one can be ignored, especially the scriptures.

First, we must strive for greater understanding of the scriptures. Instead of simply plucking a few of these verses out of context, they must be understood as a part of the whole. In 1 Corinthians 7, the context is how we interact with each other and how we treat that which is holy. It must be seen that homosexuality is listed among a list of sins here, sins that are often seen as more acceptable. The essence is not who gets in and who is not allowed, this issue at hand is are we honoring God in all we are doing? Not honoring God with all our life, any aspect is a big deal.

Second, we must see what Paul writes about next. "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial." This shows for us the great struggle of Christ. Because Christ has set us free, and the grace of God allows for that freedom to grow we do not live by a rule book of do's and don'ts. However, just because we can do something does not mean we should, and does not mean that would be honoring to God.

Third, we must display the grace shown to us. None of us lives perfectly. It is only through grace that we are made righteous. No human secures that grace, and therefore no human is allowed to say how that grace is metered out. God and God alone is the one who makes those decisions.

Finally, when issues like homosexuality come to the forefront, trouble always ensues. Division is highlighted and the mission of Jesus Christ is lost. Jesus was constantly in ministry with those who the religious establishment discarded. Would it be the people we brush aside that Jesus would be in ministry with?

Friday, February 20, 2009

1 Corinthians 5 -- Drastic Action?

For a good part of my journey I have struggled with this chapter of scripture. It seems like expelling a person from the fellowship of the church is not exactly showing the love of God through Jesus Christ. Further, it seems this would only serve to separate a child of God even more. So what gives?

First off, there was/is a problem with tolerating sin. Not only does the church in Corinth tolerate sin, apparently they were proud of it as Paul lets them have it for that. To some degree the church has to tolerate sin, as we all find ourselves in that place. Not one of us has displayed the capacity to live free of sin. Yet the problem comes when we do not confront sin in our own lives and in the life of the community to which we are connected. While the sin of this man in Corinth is a problem, the bigger problem is the church's unwillingness to confront that man.

Still there is a problem. Expelling this man from the fellowship seems like a rather drastic action. Confronting him would be hard enough, but kicking him out? This action flies in the face of everything we like to think the church has become about. We could not imagine expelling someone from the church. In fact we would rather allow ourselves to be held hostage by a person and their actions than confront for the health of the community. In our reading we often miss an important part, the expulsion was so that the man might be corrected of his sin. In our day and age we could take or leave community. In Paul's day the community was every thing, and to be kicked out was a major event. I think I would become bitter, angry and ready to fight. It seems in the first century the action was one of repentance.

Still to be addressed is the issue of judgment. Paul says we have not right to judge those who are outside of the church. They have not committed to following God and therefore they cannot be judged. However, is someone calls themselves a follower, it is the responsibility of the group to judge the actions of others. The key is to do this without being judgmental. How is this done? The focus point. Judgment is pointing people to God and the standard of God, then allowing the Holy Spirit to work in that persons life. When we are judgmental we focus on our actions to get that person on the right track, often functioning in that ever fun holier-than-thou mode. Holy conviction is not the work of humanity, it is the work of God. As we journey together we must constantly be looking at the standards of God together. We must also love each other enough to allow the work of the Holy Spirit to bring about repentance.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

1 Corinthians 4 -- Esteem Problem

1 Corinthians 4 could be read as seeing Paul with a self esteem problem. It can also be read as Paul having an extreme over confidence. At the outset of this section Paul bold proclaim that no human court is judging him. It is the Lord alone who judges. Later in the section Paul says he has become the scum of the earth, refuse of the world. Quite interesting extremes.

Most people I talk with tend to identify more with the Paul in the later section. It is amazing to me the number of people who struggle to feel worthy of God. The words of scum and refuse might not be chosen, yet the sentiment is there. The harm this has done to individuals and the church is immense. What is worse, the church has often unknowingly helped build that image. It is true there are some problems with humanity, yet we are still the creation of the Divine creator. Because of our point of origin, we have a deep and everlasting value, we are worthy. Our worthiness does not come from ourselves, rather it comes because of the One who calls us.

Now the part about judgment. I have always read that section as Paul being arrogant. The reality is, I read it that way so I can find an excuse to be arrogant. The statement about who sits in the judgment seat is not about arrogance or being better. It is about a reality. There is only One who can judge. It is not you, it is not me. ultimately we must leave to God the issues of judgment. Our role is to be the branch, producing fruit and doing our best to live a life deeply connected to the vine.

Paul did not have an esteem problem. Paul had the ability to look at life with stunning clarity. This was not a way to paralyze Paul in seeing his shortcomings, rather a way to see Christ as more powerful. I wonder if there is something in that for us?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

1 Corinthians 3 -- Grow Up

Paul continues to instruct the church in Corinth on the matter of division, but with a little different track. Never will it be said Paul is a man of great subtlety. The issue is taken on straight away, and exposed for what Paul believes is really happening. When there is division among God's people it is a sign of a shallow faith. That is not to say people who are maturing in their faith always agree and see things eye-to-eye.

No a shallow faith is one where disagreement leads to a breakdown of connection. The breakdown of connection leads to a division in the body of Christ. When we are grounded in our faith, and we know who we are according to our identity in Christ, the possibility for healthy disagreement is very high. Disagreement is never the problem. When disagreement becomes unhealthy and division results there is a problem. Paul is addressing the division end of it and places the roots of division in the lack of maturing faith and a poor foundation.

The foundation we are called to have is none other than Jesus Christ. This is so hard to pull off. We think it is our job to out in the foundation. Simply it is not. We must allow Jesus to be the foundation, and God to build the house. Our role be whatever it is God is building on the foundation of Jesus Christ. We do not get to decide what God is building, not our job. We are to be shaped, molded and adapted by God that we might mature into the person, place and object which is being created. All other attempts to build will be revealed over time.

The deeper we grow with God, the less likely division will result from disagreement.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

1 Corinthians 2 -- Knowledge

As I look back I am still at the point where I have spend more than half my life in a school setting. I have read many books and endured many lectures. I do not even want to contemplate the number of trees I claimed writing papers. I have pursued much in the world of academics, and enjoy it very much. My brain is filled with much knowledge. The question is, however, is it the right knowledge?

I could most likely bore myself silly with some of the detail regarding the book of Corinthians based on the knowledge stored in my brain. I might do this to the exclusion of God. Knowledge and god are not always the same thing. While they are not exclusive of each other, knowledge does not mean we know God, and lack of knowledge does not mean we do not know God. It all rests in the right knowledge.

So what is the right knowledge? It is not the stuff we learn from human origin. It is the knowledge made known to us through Spirit of God. Much of what I leaned in all my schooling was about God and who God is. This is good and important. Not more important than letting God teach me, or better said the Spirit of God speak truth to me. There is a great amount of knowledge from seminary which was presented as the knowledge of God, which in I have come to see as the knowledge of humanity. The knowledge of humanity changes as our journey with God continues. The knowledge given by the Spirit of God is always true, and often requires our catching up.

We are called to be people of knowledge. Only it must be the knowledge of God, not humanity.

Monday, February 16, 2009

1 Corinthians 1 -- Division?

We now make the transition from Romans to Corinthians. Paul begins by addressing the issue of division in the church. This theme will run throughout both letters to the church at Corinth. Here there is an amazing question which is beyond relevant for our day and age. Is the Christ divided? Some would say I follow Paul, others Apollos others Cephas(Peter), still others Christ.

We live in a day and age when charisma can win the day, and personality is what drives the organizations around us. The church is not different. In fact, many of our churches are build around the personality of a charismatic preacher, or the strong personality of one or more individuals. While it is true organizations take on the characteristics of their leaders, the church should have a hallmark difference. There is only one person who we should be following, and that is Jesus Christ.

Division takes place in the church when we begin to follow humanity more than divinity. The most tragic version of this is when the pastor thinks they are the one everyone is following. This will only lead to conflict and division. The church has always had as it's head, as it's senior leader Jesus Christ. Great men and women have provide temporal leadership to the church throughout the centuries, yet the times of solidarity have been founded in remembering we follow Jesus first then people, not people then Jesus.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Romans 16 --Beware

Paul concludes his letter to the church in Rome in a way we might think of beginning a letter. Greetings are sent to all the people whom Paul has a connection with in the city of Rome and he offers a reminder of their work and connection. Before completely signing off Paul has one last piece of teaching to remind the church in Rome of. Beware of divisions.

It seems as though division in the church is not something new to our times. In fact much of Paul's writing addresses division in the church. Easily lost is the fact that all of the writing to the church at Corinth is about preserving the unity of the church. The warning of Paul here is to not be lead astray. To remember who Jesus is, and that Jesus is the center of the church. People may come along a say nice things about the church, or about individuals within the church. What matters is we remember who the church belongs to.

Right now things at Cortland UMC are going fairly well. There is always room for growth and improvement. Still there is much work of the Kingdom of God happening. This is an exciting time as well as a dangerous time. This is where we as humans could lose sight of who is in charge of the church. This is the time when our humanity can cause a division in the God called church. First we must be aware of that possibility. Second, we must fall on our knees before God and remember this whole thing called life is from, through and to God.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Romans 15 -- Blessed For A Reason

Chapter 15 is a direct continuation of chapter 14. Paul continues to discuss the need for those who are farther along in the journey with God to be walk with those who are at another place in the journey. The language choice made sense for Paul, however, it does damage in our world today. Paul uses the image of weaker and stronger, these terms are amazingly charged in our society. In a time and place where Darwin has had such an influence the idea of being weaker brings with it inferiority and possible extinction, not a situation to be in ministry and discipleship.

Essentially mentoring and discipling another others is what Paul is talking about. Coming along side those who are not at the same place as you in their journey and engaging them on the journey. In the promise to Abraham the people of God, Israel, were told they would be blessed. This blessing was not for their own consumption, rather it was so they could be a blessing to others. The promise is the same for you and I today. We are blessed by God in ways we cannot even see. Even the blessings we can see are not intended for our sole consumption, our they might consume our soul.

It is not a matter of one person being a better follower than another, or even on person being smarter in the ways of God than another. The point is we are all on the journey together. There are people at different places of the journey. Some have not yet traveled some of the areas we have, and others have long ago covered the ground we are on. The key is not to mark the checklist of places we have been and eye the places we will be. Rather it is to join together will all the people on the journey and help all of us to move to the next place along the path. We are not on the journey for our own sake, but for the entire body of followers.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Romans 14 -- Careful Now

As I have noted before there are many who seem to enjoy deciding who is in and who is out when it comes to the righteousness of God. It is almost as if people are going around just looking for a reason to condemn someone. If that is the case, the chances of success are very high. As humanity we struggle greatly with this perfection thing, like we cannot seem to accomplish it.

In our struggle to accomplish perfection it seems natural to compare ourselves with those around us. When we find someone who acts in a way that appears to be less far in the journey than us, we like to highlight their lack of progress and emphasize our progress. In Romans 14 Paul warns against looking down on someone because of their place in the journey. Each person is going to have actions and thoughts in their life that might be unacceptable to others. The real challenge is found when we think someone is not as far along as we are. It is not that others are unacceptable, only they can be viewed as inferior.

Great care must be taken when we start the comparison game. A good rule of thumb is to compare ourselves by only two standards. First, what is it God is calling us to. Second, what is the progression on my own journey. Note, neither of these comparisons involve measuring against another person. The real measure of our faith is where we stand with God, and are we showing progression in our journey. We must be careful to not overstep our bounds and sit in the role of management. None of us is in the role of management in the Kingdom of God, we are all in the laborer part of the Kingdom.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Romans 13 -- The Hour Has Come

The first half of Romans 13 is kind of hard to swallow. We live in a country where it is not only acceptable, but it is almost expected people would display contempt for our governmental leaders. Paul's warning is to take care of how we go about challenging the governments, or we could find ourselves working against the appointment of God. Does that mean the person that becomes president of the USA is anointed by God? Not too fast. It means that God has that person in that position for a specific reason, it does not mean the person who is elected to a leadership position has the divine right of leadership. It means we should take great care in how we go about confronting the issues of leadership.

The portion of this passage which grabs my attention is the encouragement to wake up from our slumber. It might not be readily recognizable, but this is a call to live out the resurrected life. A call to wake up would have been understood to be a call to come back from death. Let's face it the church in America has become a pretty deadly place. People are more concerned with getting their needs met, and seeing things happen on their terms than seeing the Kingdom of God established on earth as it is in heaven.

The call to wake up is a call to action and living. The passage calls us to put aside all the things of darkness, the things that are not drawing us closer to God, and to put on the light of God. It is a call for all of us to live the life of the resurrection. For us as the people of God to get about the business of the Kingdom of God, not the kingdoms of this world.

Are you still asleep?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Romans 12 -- Live Differently

Romans 12 marks a shift in Paul's writing in the letter to the church in Rome. Previously Paul focused on what might be considered theological points. Now the focus is on how we live into those theological points. It is easy to live in the land of theory, or what I call the land of suppose to. The real challenge is when we begin to apply what we have theorized, and put it to work.

Paul's basic plea here rests in the first two verses. Essentially, the call is to live differently. To offer ourselves as a living sacrifice means that we put the concerns of God ahead of our own self importance. Something which seems to have troubled the church in Rome, and I know troubles the church in America. Oswald Chambers in his classic work, My Utmost For His Highest, says this, "Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence." Ouch, those are some tough words, but they are the same words Paul is challenging us with.

The rest of the chapter outlines how one is to go about living differently. First is to recognize how God has made you and do that. Not worrying about how God made someone else and playing the comparison game. No, take stock of how God has made you and live into the creation God has made you to be. The concluding verses bring back the practical ways we can live differently. All of the calls of how to live in verses 9-21 are offered over and against the way the world around us seems to function. However, it is not possible to live differently if we are not willing to offer ourselves before God. We cannot love well, we cannot be hope-filled and joyful, we cannot practice hospitality, we will have difficulty blessing others, we will be in the revenge business, all of it if we do not first offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice.

I long to be important and have my existence matter. I trust I am not alone in this longing. Still, I have to daily, sometimes minute by minute, attend the funeral of my own self-importance. More simply put, it is not about me.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Romans 11 -- God is God

In this chapter of Romans we find Paul explaining why the Gospel of Jesus Christ was opened to the Gentiles. He argues it is because the chosen people of God did not accept the message. So does that mean you and I, Gentiles by definition, are God's plan 'B'? By no means. We have to read more than just Romans 11 of Paul and we need to read all of Scripture to see how this plays out. Yes Jesus did come to redeem Israel first, however, it seems abundantly clear by the end of his ministry the doors of faith had been flung wide open for all who would enter in.

In Acts Peter is corrected by God regarding who and what is holy and acceptable. Paul himself is seen as the Apostle to the Gentiles. It seems there is a warning here in Romans 11 to remember that God is God and we are not. God makes the choices about his is invited and who is not. Another way I am fond of saying this is I am in sales not management. My job, our job, is to communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ with our words, actions and attitudes and leave the rest up to God.

The end of Romans 11 has nice words of benediction to remember God is God and we are not. The reminder that all things are from, through and to God. It is God who is at work in our world and that God has chosen to use you and I, a group of anybodies, to accomplish the great work of redemption. It is God who is leading the way, it is God who is in charge of the whole ball of wax. We are servant/friends of the most high, and God will be God.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Romans 10 -- Being Sent

There is much in chapter ten to focus on. I cannot seem to get away from the sending model Paul offers. It starts out with the reminder there is not really a difference between Jew and Gentile in the eyes of God, and that anyone who would call on the name of the Lord will be saved. This does mean anyone, Paul is challenging cultural, social, political, and economic stratification. Anybody and everybody has the grace of God available to them.

Then the first challenge hits. How can they call on the one who they have not believed? It is really hard to rely on someone who you do not believe in. At Christmas time some children write letters to Santa in hopes of getting their dream present. For the most part when we get older we stop sending letters to Santa because we know he is not real, sorry if that was breaking news. We do not call on Santa because we do not believe he is real. If people do not believe Christ is real, then they will not call on him for salvation and redemption.

The second challenge is how can they believe if they have not heard? If someone is never given the opportunity to believe in something, chances are they will not believe. If there never is a story of the tooth fairy offered to children, they will not believe there is a tooth fairy, quite a tragedy. It simple will not be a part of their life. The same is true with Christ, if people do not hear about Christ, it is very difficult to believe.

Next challenge, how can they hear unless someone is preaching? There needs to be someone proclaiming the message of Christ to those who have not heard. Please remember preaching takes on several forms, it is not only the person presenting at a worship service. Being engaged in missions for the sake of Jesus Christ is often the most effective way to preach.

Finally, how can their be preaching unless people are sent? Sitting around in little Jesus clubs is not going to get it done. All of us who are in Christ must go and tell the story of Christ with our actions, words with our very lives. And then it will be said of us, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news."

So, don't just read this and sit there, get up go tell.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Romans 9 -- Child of Promise

Reading through Romans 9 my attention is drawn to the discussion about who are the true people of Israel. In our lives today this might not seem like a major discussion point, yet in the days of Jesus, and even in the Middle East now, the topic of who is a true child of God is a really big issue. The classic measure in the Jewish world is your ancestral connection to Abraham. From the blood line of Abraham comes all the people of God. Paul who can trace his heritage all the way back to Abraham challenges the qualification.

Paul offers that it is not through our ancestry we are connected to God, rather it is through the promise of God. Abraham was given a promise, and that promise was to be the father of a great nation. When the promise was delivered to Abraham he was childless, and the prospects of having a child were not real high. So how is it that Abraham would be the father of a great nation? Not through natural birth, rather by spiritual birth. All those who would follow after the promise of God would be a part of the people of God.

Before the Christ engaged his earthly pilgrimage the way you were identified as being a part of the promise was to be connected to the family of God through a bloodline. Once Christ journeyed to earth, lived, died and rose, the connection point changed. It was no longer the law and family bloodline, it was the position of the heart, and connection to the promise of God in Christ. In all actuality it never was through the law and human bloodline, it has always been through the promise of God. In Christ the promise of God was seen in its fullness as a foretaste of things to come.

All that to say, any of us can be a child of promise. It matters not who our ancestors are. It matters not if they were faithful or not. Each of us can be a child of promise by holding to the promise of God as seen in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Romans 8 -- The Good Life

I like many am on a life long quest to live a 'good life'. As many people you ask you will get descriptions of the good life, yet there are some common themes. Most of us are looking for a life that is not overly complicated, stress is low, and we do not experience pain. Many are looking for a life where all they could ever imagine would be reality to them. When we turn to God, that expectation is often transferred. There is often an unsaid expectation that life will get better, or easier because we have realized our connection with God.

There is not shortage of people who would testify to the contrary. People who are deeply following after God, but their life is far from what would be considered the 'good life'. So has God let us down? Not in the least. The promise of Scripture is not the good life now, rather the good life comes when the ultimate renew happens. It is clear that in this life there will be struggle and strife. There will be pain and suffering. It will not be a easy life. Ah, but the struggle and suffering here will seem tiny compared to the glory revealed when Christ returns and renews all of creation.

That's right, delayed gratification. It hurts to even type those words. I am always hoping and looking for something a lot more immediate. If God is God, why can't I simply be given the good life now? I think it is because God is God that we are not simply given the good life. Not that we must earn it, or that we can even possibly earn it. No, we must experience the struggles and suffering as a refining tool in the hand of God.

No matter what level of struggle we face, God assures us through Paul, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing! That does not mean ever moment will be easy. What it does mean, is the good life is available to all people, it just looks different from God's view.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Romans 7 -- Every Persons Battle

Contained within Romans seven is one of the more noted rants of Paul. The classic I know what I should be doing, but I cannot seem to do it. Additionally, I know what I should not be doing, yet I seem to do it anyway. I am pretty sure that sums up the battle that almost every person faces. I often question God to reveal to me how I should live. I know that has already been revealed in Jesus Christ. I am hoping that God will give me some new information so I can justify my past failings. If God were to give me new info, I could simply claim I didn't know before. The reality, I know how I am to conduct my life and the things I am to stay away from. Still the battle rages.

Honestly, this battle causes me to get discouraged often. I fight to live as I feel called to live, yet I often come up short of the mark. When I feel like I am not measuring up in a series of events I start to reduce my own worth as a follower of Jesus and teacher of people. I then identify with Paul's words, "Oh what a wretched person am I!" If I were to stop reading there the discouragement would build. There is more to the story, thank God for the work of Jesus Christ. Through the grace of God through Jesus Christ we can find victory in the battle.

This victory won't mean we will always live how we want to live. It means we have at least a fighting chance because we have one who will fight for us if we will allow. Left to our own we will never overcome this battle, only through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, send of Jesus by the grace of God, will we overcome.