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Category Archives: Romans

Romans 12:1-5

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. 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. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Romans 12:1-5

Dear God, arrogance seems to be the operative word right now. I see it everywhere, and, on my Facebook feed, it seems to be coming more from the Christians than anyone else. I see it in the responses to COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, politics… So I think I’ll do a quick bulletin point list of what Paul is telling us here to see if I can extricate some truth and guidance from him/you.

  • Offer my body as a living sacrifice.
  • Do not conform to the patterns of the world.
  • Be transformed by renewing my mind.
  • Use my renewed mind to test and determine your will.
  • Look at myself humbly and realistically.
  • Realize that I have specific roles to play and I’m not intended to do it all.
  • I need others in the body (Christian community) to be complete.

Father, I guess it all starts with dying to myself, humbly asking for your grace and forgiveness and then carrying that true humility to others as your ambassador and laborer. Help me to do that. Help me to love others well on your behalf. Help me to represent you. And help me to love and worship you like I should.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2020 in Romans

 

Romans 15:4-13

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors. He also came so that the Gentiles might give glory to God for his mercies to them. That is what the psalmist meant when he wrote: “For this, I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing praises to your name.” And in another place it is written, “Rejoice with his people, you Gentiles.” And yet again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles. Praise him, all you people of the earth.” And in another place Isaiah said, “The heir to David’s throne will come, and he will rule over the Gentiles. They will place their hope on him.” I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:4-13

Dear God, patience. Patience, patience, patience. I measure time in days, weeks, months, and years while you measure it in decades, centuries, and millennia. Even after all of my prayers about dying to myself and waiting on you to work your plan out on your own timetable, I can get my feelings hurt and become completely selfish. But that good news is that you are teaching me. I did a little better this time than I’ve done before. I at least had the sense to keep my mouth shut. Then, after time, I was able to see beyond the surface and appreciate that there might be more at play than I realize.

I say all of this because Paul is talking here about patiently waiting on you. But I think waiting might mischaracterize it a little. I just have to adjust my eye to see what you are actually accomplishing. It might seem like a snail’s pace to me, but if I look closely I can see that you are working.

I also have no idea where you are going. Life is a little like a who dunnit? murder mystery. My wife and I saw Knives Out this week. It kept us guessing the entire time, but the final answer made perfect sense. In retrospect, I could see how all of the pieces fit. The same is true of life. It’s hard to figure out what you’re doing in real time, but I can often look back and see what your hand working.

Father, I’ll quote a Newsboys song here. “Lord, I don’t know where all this is going or how it all works out. Lead me to peace that’s past understanding. A peace beyond all doubt.”

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2019 in Romans

 

Romans 13:6-7

Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.
Romans 13:6-7

Dear God, I think one way to look at this whole set of verses from Paul, including the ones before it, is him telling us to lighten up, do what’s right, be part of society, and stop being so hostile out of selfishness.

Hostile. It’s actually Election Day in our town/state (and probably in most or all states around the country). I voted early last week. There were about 10 things to come on, and about half of them involved taxation. There was one to prohibit a state income tax ever. There was one about taxing the value gained on precious metals stored in a place where you store them (that one seemed weird). There is this constant push/pull in our society around taxes. And I understand the desire to pay as little in taxes as possible. I feel that way too. But there are times when I feel like we start holding onto our money so tightly (I start holding onto my money so tightly) that it steals our (my) joy. That’s why it’s important to be a generous giver to others. I think the more I turn loose of my money in that way the more I can let go of all of it.

Father, first, thank you for providing me taxable income. Thank you for generously giving my wife and me the resources to cover emergency needs (like a new appliance that just broke) as well as enough money to help those around us. Second, help me to continue to turn loose and consider it all joy so that the money I have is not my own, but all yours. If that means paying taxes to support the common good, so be it.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2019 in Romans

 

Romans 12:19-13:7

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.
Romans 12:19-13:7

Dear God, I’ve always found this passage fascinating. For a guy who ended up being killed for disobeying the authorities over him (in this case, the church and then the government), this is an interesting take on authority. How could he say this? Did he think that what he and the other apostles were doing was wrong? Did he just think it was worth getting in trouble?

I think the thing I’m learning to appreciate about Paul is that he never complained about how the church, the government, or even you treated him. Now, I might be forgetting some verses, but, for the most part, Paul accepted the consequences of his actions. He considered his life worth nothing to him.

In a modern day sense, I think of Martin Luther King, Jr. He would submit himself to the authorities while trying to let them know where he thought they had blinders. In the end, he changed a lot of hearts while working within the system (including imprisonment). I suppose Nelson Mandela is another example, although I don’t know his story as well as I should.

Father, help me to respect whomever I need to respect and to be your example. If I need to respect leaders of either party in Washington, help me to do that. If I need to object to anything they are doing, help me to do that in a way that honors you and accepts the consequences of my actions. And I pray for everyone in Washington right now. Whether they are prosecuting someone, defending someone, defending themselves, or testifying for or against others, I pray that you will be very present and provide for their safety. Make all of this pain count. Make it count for the individuals, the country, and the world. And reveal your truth and bring all of us into submission to you. Help us to be the United States of America.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2019 in Romans

 

Romans 11:30-32, 12:1

Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all…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.
Romans 11:30-32,12:1

Dear God, putting chapters and verses to scripture was obviously a very helpful thing, but it can sometimes artificially separates things that the author intended to be together. This mornings “verse of the day” from Bible Gateway was Romans 12:1, but it starts with the word “therefore.” Well, that told me if I am going to understand everything Paul means in that verse then I better go back into chapter 11 to see what point he’s making.

In this case, Paul was talking about our need for reconciliation with you. The need we have for you to apply mercy to our disobedience. And the need our friends and neighbors have for you to do the same. Because we need this mercy, our part is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices as our true and proper worship.

But why? Why should I try to tap into this mercy? Why do I need you? For me, I’ve learned that the more I pursue myself the more unsettled I am. If I indulge my whims, lethargy, self gratification, selfishness, and agenda for my own glorification then my spirit is destroyed. I pray about this all of the time. I guess it’s the foundation of my belief in you, but when Paul talked about the fruit of the flesh vs. the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 he described what the fruit of my own flesh looks like:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21

That’s who I am on my own. Why? Because Satan takes me there to destroy me. But when I offer my body as a living sacrifice to you in worship and offer the Holy Spirit good soil in my soul with which he can work I end up with different fruit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

Father, help me to remember throughout my day to offer myself as a living sacrifice to you. Help me to really know what that looks like. Speak to me in different moments in your still small voice and guide me through everything I do. Do it for your glory and my peace.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2019 in Galatians, Romans

 

Romans 4:20-22

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.
Romans 4:20-22

Dear God, this passage makes me think of something we discussed in our church group yesterday. We read the parable of the woman who petitioned the unjust judge until he finally relented. Jesus compared that with you and how much more just you will be with us because you are good. (Luke 18:1-8) so we talked about the effect our prayers have on you. Do they change your decisions? If I pray for someone’s health, does it move the needle for how or if you will intervene? What about praying for my children? It’s the age old question: Do I pray because it changes you or because it changes me?

I think that’s where this faith that Paul refers to with Abraham comes in. I’m going to bring my concerns to you. Yes, sometimes it will have to do with someone’s health or their life circumstances. Sometimes it will be around my work, my community, nation or world. But there’s something in the secret sauce of prayer that develops faith. It’s the part of prayer that changes me. Through these prayers you teach me to let go of my own agenda and, over the years, you hone them down into faith-developing experiences. It’s hard to explain, but I’ve certainly felt it in my life.

Father, I guess I’ll close with a paraphrase of this little chorus. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2019 in Romans

 

Romans 12:2

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.
Romans 12:2

Dear God, it can be hard to know how to stand out for you in a secular world while still not coming across as judgmental or holier than thou. I’m in a play at our community theater right now with 12 other men and I’ve had some opportunities to differentiate myself a little.

Mainly, I guess, there was one where I felt the need to stand up for you. The topic was the lines in the script that take your name in vain. Because we live in a conservative area, the theater director had already decided to take them out of the script and replace them with something else. The conversation among the cast was around whether that was a silly overreaction. My contribution to the conversation was that I can hear those words and not be offended, but if I were the actor assigned those lines I would ask that they be changed because I can’t say them.

Fast forward to Friday evening. Backstage, one of the older men in the cast asked me individually if he told a joke about a boy praying, would I be offended. My answer was, “I don’t know. Is the joke offensive?” I thought it was interesting though that he asked me that question. Did my “Lord’s name in vain” comment register that much or are there other things I’ve done to differentiate my world view from others? And the question that really concerns me is whether or not I’ve gone too far and, in the end, not represented you well.

Father, I want to be true to you and as salty in the world as I can be. Help me to do this. And on a side note, I have something tricky I have to do at work today. Help me to do it well.

In Jesus’s name (precious name) I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2019 in Romans

 

Romans 5:3-4

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
Romans 5:3-4

Dear God, I spoke to a home church last night and it struck me that there was this one part of our time together that we talked about parenting our adult children. Knowing when to help. Knowing when not to help. When to advise and when to remain silent and let you work.

Now that mine are both in their 20’s, I have taken a huge step back and my prayer every day is that you will do in their lives what you need to do to accomplish your will. You choose their significant others. You choose their struggles. You choose their circumstances. I will be here to love them and to give them the knowledge that their father loves them. I will reach out to them every once in a while to maintain that connection, but at this point, their lives are theirs. And my life is mine. I have my own struggles. I have my own challenges. I have my own path that you laid out for me. Their lives are not mine. They are yours. My life is not mine. It is yours.

Father, help me to embrace the trials before me. Redeem them into things that will bring you glory. Whether that be strengthening me or using me in the lives of others, please help me to glorify you in all that I do. Give me what you need me to have. Give to others what you need them to have through me. And please surround my wife and children. Guide them and love them.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2019 in Romans

 

Romans 12:3-8

Because of the privilege and authority 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. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Romans 12:3-8

Dear God, this is one of those lessons that bears repeating. You didn’t design us to be effective on our own. We need community. Adam needed community.

This is a little different take on this, but this morning I’m thinking of the widows I know. There’s a woman I know in town who is stubbornly hanging on to her independence even though her health is failing and her friends are trying to get her to move into an assisted living place in town. She needs what these friends and others are offering her, but she isn’t willing to accept it.

Accepting what others have to offer us can be so hard. For the person with dementia who needs to yield some amount of control. For the worker who tries to do everything themselves instead of enjoying the camaraderie of a team and sharing the load.

As for me, in some ways I’m getting better at this and in others I’m still stuck in the “get out of my way and just let me do it” mode. But I really am getting better.

Father, help me to 1.) continue to improve in becoming part of your body and 2.) help others to overcome their resistance to the help you might have called me to give them. Help me to accept help and to give help freely. Do it all for your glory and your kingdom’s progression on Earth.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2019 in Romans

 

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“No Insult Like the Truth” by Charlie Peacock – No lie like independence, no demon like control

“No Insult Like The Truth” By Charlie Peacock

I’ve run my ship aground
on the rocks of the soul
There’s no lie like independence
there’s no demon like control
I’ve fanned the burning embers
til my house was on fire
There’s no parody like power
There’s no fever like desire
I’ve drained the wine of darkness
to the dregs of deceit
There’s no drug as strong as pride
There’s no blindness like conceit
I’ve railed against the mountain
With a pickaxe and a file
There’s no minefield like presumption
There’s no death wish like denial

There’s no gunshot like conviction
There’s no conscience bulletproof
There’s no strength like utter weakness
There’s no insult like the truth

I’ve adjusted my prescription
til I couldn’t trust my vision
there’s no killer like convenience
there’s no sickness like omission
I’ve amended resolutions and resisted explanation
There’s no trap door like emotion
There’s no pit like reputation

There’s no gunshot like conviction
There’s no conscience bulletproof
There’s no strength like utter weakness
There’s no insult like the truth

There’s no cancer like ambition
There’s no cure like crucifixion
There’s no cancer like ambition
There’s no cure like crucifixion

There’s no gunshot like conviction
There’s no conscience bulletproof
There’s no strength like utter weakness
There’s no insult like the truth

This is part of a series dissecting the song “No Insult Like the Truth” by Charlie Peacock. In the series, I am taking two of the statements he makes and exploring the depth of meaning behind them and what I can learn about myself in the process.

Dear God, it’s time to dig in and spend some time with that.

Part 1: There’s no like like independence.

I looked up the definition of independence today. Of course, there were many. The basic idea, however, is that you are able to do it. Yourself. No accountability. No help. No need for help.

My first thought is to think of a child becoming an adult. Becoming independent. Of course, they want that independence long before they are ready for it. It’s probably the root of most of the conflicts that teen children have with their parents. Okay, children of all ages, including toddlers.

But here’s the secret. We are never independent. Unless we move to the woods, forage for our own food and build our own shelter with our bare hands (no tools made by someone else), we will always be in need of something that someone else does. Business people need customers and staff. They need suppliers and deals. Consumers need home builders/apartments, grocery stores, banks, etc. Just to live, we need community.

But on a deeper level, we all benefit from people who reach out and help us, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. My dad is very accomplished, but he is quick to tell anyone the long list of people who impacted his life and helped him achieve what he did. He didn’t do it “on his own” even though he would be considered a “self-made man.” For me in my life, beyond my parents, I have had several people who have blessed me and helped me over the years. As the director of a nonprofit, we depend on literally hundreds (actually over 1,000) of people every year to do what we do.

Then there’s you. I need you. I need the forgiveness and love that you give to me. I need the accountability. I need it for peace. I need it because a truly independent life is a lonely life.

Yes, I think it is fair to say that there is no lie like independence.

Part 2: There’s no demon like control.

What are the things I try to control? I try to control myself. In fact, one of the “fruits of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23 is self-control. But good self-control is something that flows from being in right relationship with you and the Holy Spirit living in me. It isn’t something that I can will. Paul makes that clear in Romans 7:15-20.

What about controlling others. As I think about it this morning, I wonder if this is what is behind a lot of our current national angst. Is the reason a lot of us feel the need to put our opinions up so freely on social media because we are needing to feel like we can control something that we want to control. Do I want to control what is happening politically? Religiously? Socially? Is that Satan’s primary tool that he uses to divide us? Control?

I’m about to head out on vacation today. What kind of control will I try to exercise in the name of leisure? Will I try to dictate our schedule? Our driving route? Our menu and meals? What we listen to? Our conversation? And if I do, what kind of division will it cause between my wife and me and how much will Satan enjoy that?

That example can be applied to a lot of things. Control is selfishness–the root sin. Independence is it’s cousin.

Father, help me to die to myself enough to recognize that I am completely dependent upon you and others. Let my pride go by the wayside so that I might be a blessing to others instead. And help me to be part of building them up as well. Help me to go through the next week thinking about giving up control and enjoying the freedom you offer.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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