It’s Personal…

Our small group just finished up a study of Romans. On our last night of study together I asked the group how they would have ended a letter that was filled with God’s grace, righteousness, power, and all those things that make up Romans. They (and I) had the normal answers, “God’s grace will cover you”, “Love your fellow disciples like Christ loved you”, “be unified”, etc.. But as the study progressed and we did our normal Read and Discuss, I realized that Paul had actually closed out his letter a bit differently than I had been expecting.

Paul had just finished up in Chapter 15 telling the church to be accepting of each other, Gentiles and Jews are just labels that really didn’t matter and by the way, they already know the right thing to do. Then Paul went on to tell them of his travel plans and how he was going to Jerusalem with an offering for the poor in the church (Rom 15:23). Then he says a strange thing, in verse 30 he says “Pray that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem”.  Wait a minute, what is Paul saying! He just told them to be unified and then he says that the poor members of the church in Jerusalem may not accept a gift because it came from GENTILES!

As I read that I am struck by how much has not changed. We label and don’t accept each others practices or ways of speaking or any number of other differences. Sometimes we refuse to accept anything from another group of people because of a label we have attached to them. Paul has really laid it on the line again and it looks like it is confusing message time once again. But then he really finishes the book and you know how he does it?

“Say hello to Sam and Sally for me.”

“Tell John that my feet are better, I know he has been worried.”

Have I told you about Sherrie? She is just like a mother to me, you have never met a more loving person.

Jill and Tanisha send their love and they hope to visit  you soon.

Hey, about visiting, Carlos is going to be there next month, be sure to make him feel welcome.

Do you see what he is doing? He takes us from labels to people. He makes it personal. And that is how he ends the letter. This is how we really go from the theoretical aspects of “not eating meat offered to idols” and worries about “if your gifts will be accepted or not” to how we actually defeat labeling and lets give it its proper name, Racism. Because that is what it is.

If you want to put Romans into practice, act like Paul did when he closed out his letter. Get to know each other and put those labels and fear behind you.

Image result for handshake

Expanding like Ripples….

Last Sunday morning in our Bible class, Chris May gave us a thought of expanding as we move to God. Thinking of our salvation and growth as a linear progression of learning going from point A (not saved) to point B (being like God) we have the possibility of leaving someone out as you focus on God. Instead we could view our learning as an expanding circle that encompasses each other and still become more like God. (Chris, forgive me if I have totally botched your example).

ripple.jpg (385×305)That triggered another picture to me, I thought of ripples in water. The effects of our life ripple through the world and as we reach and grow in God the ripples change. They can get deeper (or less deep) at times. They can be released from us a different frequencies. By making God the center of our lives we can allow positive ripples to be released. The impulses that cause these ripples can flow from our relationship with God.

But something else also happens with ripples. They interact with each other. We don’t exist in this world alone. When a ripple from our life intersects a ripple froCIRCLES+OF+GIVE+TAKE+Rain+Ripples.jpg (1250×1000)m someone else’s life they must interact. There is no choice, each impacts the other. Some ridges in the ripple are reinforced. Some are damped down. Each interaction is unique and determined by many factors.  If we think of these ripples as our growth and learning to be like God we can see how interactions with others that are also growing and learning to be like God can cause some of our thoughts to be reinforced and others to be damped down. This can lead us to interactions with others in glorious new ways that we have not thought of before. We can think together and achieve new patterns of thought and understanding that would not have been possible by ourselves alone.

Image result for ripplesAs more and more ripples interact we begin to lose the separateness that characterized the single ripple. We become immersed in a sea of sharing with others that does not stop us from growing but enhances that growth. The movement still surges back and forth and up and down but now we aren’t limited to interacting at the edges of a ripple but with a much deeper contact as our understanding of God continues to expand.

This thought didn’t just stop there. Up to this point I had been thinking about believers interacting with other believers. But we are not alone with each other either. Ripples still must interact with non-believers. We can’t avoid that interaction. But think of the influence that multiple ripples can have as they reinforce each other. Something that may come across as naïve or boring when viewed in a single person can have a new life and meaning when shared. The impacts from the ripples are intensified and not through any additional work on our part. Just the fact that we are interacting and sharing with other believers causes an increase in the power of the message that we are living.

That is where my thought ended on Sunday morning. My prayer is that by sharing this thought it might become a prophecy and that we will expand and interact with each other and allow God to power us even higher than we could dream.

Proverbs 27:17, Hebrews 10:25, Ecclesiastes 4:12

 

 

 

About that guilt…

thFIKRUAP9I was cleaning out some old notes and found one I had written to myself quite a while ago. It was a stray thought about Guilt. The thought struck a chord with all the happenings in the world today and I feel raises some valid questions. The thoughts (which I will share in just a bit) centered around the question ‘When is it appropriate to feel guilty?’. After all in Hebrews chapter 10, the writer goes to great lengths to assure us that we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place because we have a great priest on our side, our hearts have been cleansed of guilty conscience and we are washed with pure water. What more could we possible need or want?

Why is it so hard for me to accept mercy and get rid of guilt?  Why do I make such a big deal of it? The numbers are not on my side either. Guilt is mentioned over 170 times in the Old Testament and a whopping 15 in the New Testament (search the NIV for this little fact).  God obviously doesn’t want us obsessing over guilt any more. In fact, we are told (in James 2) that we have freedom from that guilt because of God’s mercy towards us.

So, on to my thought. Why such a big deal about guilt?

“We get addicted to guilt because it makes it about us.”

Think about that a second. Making it “about me” pretty much sums up my life. I’m not proud of that, but it is truth and I have been putting it out there. If I don’t make it about Him then I am missing the mark. And ‘missing the mark’ just happens to be the literal definition of sin. So that should make me feel guilty since I am sinning and not measuring up, right?

Wow, talk about the definition of a vicious circle! How can I ever break out of that?  The short answer is “you can’t”. Romans 9:16 says, “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”.  So the answer is both simple and terrifyingly difficult at the same time.

Simple –> Just throw myself on God’s mercy.

Terrifying–> What! Put my trust outside myself? In God? Why would he show mercy to me?

(Just FYI, This one of those times that my writing did not go in the direction I anticipated. I am just going with the flow at this point. )

The message I have recently been receiving from God is really simple: It is not about me. God loves and cares for me and has already shown me mercy.  My job (if it is really a job) is to trust God (Romans 4:5).  That’s all. Just trust God. He has promised me a lot of things and hasn’t failed on any of them. All I have to do is trust that he will never fail on his promises.

Does that make it any less terrifying for me? Yes and No. It is hard for me to not trust in myself and have that utter dependence and trust in God. What makes it less terrifying is the deeper relationship with God that he has been developing in me.

Just for a minute, think of it as trusting a person to act in a way that is consistent with their nature. If you don’t know their nature then it is hard to know (or trust) how they will act. The more you get to know them, the more you understand their nature and can see how their actions are consistent with that nature (you trust them to act a certain way). Now with people, this can be inaccurate and difficult because they try to hide their nature or their nature is inconsistent. God, however, doesn’t try to hide his nature from us and his nature doesn’t change. He wants us to trust him so he reveals himself to those that are searching. The more you know God, the less terrifying the trust becomes.  I John 4:16-18 – “God is love…perfect love drives out fear…”

So today, I am still throwing off the chains of addiction to guilt. Still putting my trust in God. Still being terrified, but doing it anyway.  Still searching for God and still seeing new and wonderful ways He is revealing himself to me.

 

 

 

Even the most boring parts…

I used to think that there were parts of the Bible that were , to be blunt, just plain boring. Parts that didn’t serve any useful purpose I could see. Or any purpose that was relevant to me in this day and age. For example,  starting off the New Testament with this:

Matthew 1 New International Version (NIV)

The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah  the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,  10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, 15 Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

So we establish the lineage of Jesus. There are some lessons in here (like the inclusion of people with poor choices), but for the most part the names were there for me to skim over like Abraham… blah…blah…David….blah…blah Joseph, Jesus.

Then one day we were doing a daily bible reading and I started wondering what the early church would have thought of this genealogy. Would it be just as boring to them as soon as they got through it once and established the lineage of Jesus? What about the 2nd or 3rd or any subsequent reading? Would they start going blah…blah…blah as well?  Then it occurred to me that these Hebrew names all had meanings and that to a Hebrew speaker/listener they may have some meaning that I am missing in English. So I compiled a list of the meanings of the names in Hebrew and plugged them in.  Here is what happened:

This is the genealogy of ‘Yahweh Saves’ the Messiah the son of ‘Beloved’, the son of the ‘Father of Nations’:

The ‘Father of Nations’ was the father of ‘Laughter/Rejoicing’, ‘Laughter/Rejoicing’ the father of ‘Supplanter’, ‘Supplanter’ the father of ‘The Praise of Yahweh’ and his brothers, ‘The Praise of Yahweh’ the father of ‘Burst Forth’ and ‘Sunrise’, whose mother was ‘A Palm’, ‘Burst Forth’ the father of ‘Walled/Protection’, ‘Walled/Protection’ the father of ‘High/Lofty’, ‘High/Lofty’ the father of ‘Kindred of the Prince’, ‘Kindred of the Prince’ the father of ‘Fortelling’, ‘Foretelling’ the father of ‘Clothing/Perfect/Peace’, ‘Clothing/Perfect/Peace’ the father of ‘Swiftness’, whose mother was ‘Large/Great’, ‘Swiftness’ the father of ‘Servant/Worshipper’, whose mother was ‘Companion/Friend’, ‘Servant/Worshipper’ the father of ‘Gift’ and ‘Gift’ the father of King ‘Beloved’.

‘Beloved’ was the father of ‘Peace’, whose mother had been ‘The Lord is my Light’s’ wife, ‘Peace’ the father of ‘Yahweh has Judged’, ‘Yahweh has Judged’ the father of ‘My Father is Yahweh’, ‘My Father is Yahweh’ the father of ‘Physician’, ‘Physician’ the father of ‘Yahweh has Judged’, ‘Yahweh has Judged’ the father of ‘Exalted by Yahweh’, ‘Exalted by Yahweh’ the father of ‘My Power is Yahweh’, ‘My Power is Yahweh’ the father of ‘Yahweh is Upright/Perfect’, ‘Yahweh is Upright/Perfect’ the father of ‘Yahweh Has Held’, ‘Yahweh Has Held’ the father of ‘Yahweh Strengthens’, ‘Yahweh Strengthens’ the father of ‘Cause to Forget’, ‘Cause to Forget’ the father of ‘Faithful/Roaring Stream’, ‘Faithful/Roaring Stream’ the father of ‘Yahweh Heals’, and ‘Yahweh Heals’ the father of ‘Yahweh Prepares’ and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

After the exile to Babylon: ‘Yahweh Prepares’ was the father of ‘Lent of God’, ‘Lent of God’ the father of ‘Offspring/Seed’, ‘Offspring/Seed’ the father of ‘Renowned’, ‘Renowned’ the father of ‘Raised Up By God’, ‘Raised Up By God’ the father of ‘A Court In Israel’, ‘A Court in Israel’ the father of ‘Righteous’, ‘Righteous’ the father of ‘God Will Establish in Israel’, ‘God Will Establish in Israel’ the father of ‘My God Is Majestic’, ‘My God is Majestic’ the father of ‘God is my Help’, ‘God is My Help’ the father of ‘Gift of God’, ‘Gift of God’ the father of ‘Supplanter’, and ‘Supplanter’ the father of ‘God will Add’ the husband of ‘Bitter’, and ‘Bitter’ was the mother of ‘Yahweh Saves’ who is called the Messiah.

Thus there were fourteen generations in all from ‘Father of Nations’ to ‘Beloved’, fourteen from ‘Beloved’ to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from thexile to the Messiah.

Suddenly, something that had been boring and dreary was filled with imagery and meaning. It was like I could see a grand, sweeping vista of the nature of God and his plan from Abraham to Jesus. He had put these gems in here to tell us about Himself and let us have a taste of his glory. Reading through this account now is not boring at all but instead practically forces me to stop and think about the meaning and symbolism of each intersection of God with man. It is as if God’s word was like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons (wah wah wah wawawah) and I was tuning it out. Once more this went back to my own pride (see previous post on Indescribable) and my “knowing” what this passage was for and assuming that it didn’t apply to me that much.

As a visual I took all the definitions I had made (I will include them below) and did a word cloud. As you can see God leaps! off the page. You can’t avoid it when you look at it like this.

Cloud 1 [50249]

God has this wonderful way of taking the blah and making it fresh and exciting. I hope and pray that I never put God in that ‘boring’ box again.


 

Here are the definitions I used.

Note: some definitions are indeterminate and could be one of several choices. And remember that some may not have 1 to 1 counterparts in English.

  • Abraham – Father of nations (Their Strength, Their Protection)
  • Isaac – he will laugh, he will rejoice
  • Jacob/Israel – supplanter / prevails with God (God Contended)
  • Judah – Praised (the praise of Yawheh, confession)
  • Tamar – Palm
  • Perez – Break through, burst forth
  • Zerah – Sunrise
  • Hezron – Enclosed (walled)
  • Ram – High, lofty (Exalted)
  • Amminadab – Kindred of the prince (my people are generous)
  • Nahshon – That foretells
  • Salmon – Garment (peaceable, perfect, he that rewards)
  • Rahab – Largeo
  • Boaz – Swiftness
  • Ruth – Companion, Friend
  • Obed – Servant, worshipper
  • Jesse – Wealthy, Jehovah exists (Gift)
  • David – Beloved
  • Uriah – The Lord is my light
  • Solomon -Peace
  • Rehoboam – He enlarges the people
  • Abijah – The Lord is my father (my father is Yahweh)
  • Asa – Physician (Doctor)
  • Jehosaphat – Jehovah has judged (Yahweh has judged)
  • Jehoram – Jehovah is exalted (exalted by Yahweh)
  • Uzziah – my power is Jehovah (my power is Yahweh)
  • Jotham – Jehovah is perfect (Yahweh is upright)
  • Ahaz – Has held (Yahweh has held)
  • Hezekiah – God is my strength (yahweh strengthens)
  • Manasseh – Cause to forget
  • Amon – secret, faithful, roaring stream (the hidden one)
  • Josiah – Jehovah has healed (Yahweh supports)
  • Jeconiah – Preparation of the Lord (who Yahweh establishes, preparation)
  • Shealtiel – asked of God (lent of God)
  • Zerubabbel – seed, offspring
  • Abihud – possesor of renown
  • Eliakim – God rises (raised up by God)
  • Azor – helper, a court in Israel
  • Zadok – Righteous
  • Akim – God will establish in Israel
  • Elihud – my God is majestic
  • Eleazar – My God has helped (God is my help)
  • Matthan – Gift of God (gift)
  • Jacob – supplanter
  • Joseph – He will add (increase)
  • Mary – Bitter
  • Jesus – Jehovah saves (Yahweh saves)

 

The Joys of Interruption

The irony and dirty little secret of this entry is that I started the draft for this post 8 years ago.  Yes, I said 8 years. So what interrupted 8 years ago that kept this from being finished?

Life. Nothing more, nothing less.

I could make excuses about that time. Maybe say that it was foot surgery that stopped me. But the reality is that I could have finished this post because I had a lot of sitting time.

No, there was no real reason that it didn’t get done except that other things pushed it out.

 

And you know what? That’s ok.

I don’t have to feel guilty about it, I don’t have to scramble to make up for lost time, I don’t have to kid myself about maybe finishing it later. I don’t even have to make this a life lesson sermon on letting things crowd out other things.

For me, It is fine to put some things on the back burner. Life has seasons and this season of my life was full of other things. Important things like playing games and talking and singing and reading. I sometimes thought I would get back and finish this post a lot sooner but it just flat wasn’t the right time.

Even now, I don’t have any pressure to finish this post or do another. I could leave it another 8 years or I could finish it tonight. I have decided to finish it tonight. And that is ok too.

 

 

Indescribable

Just so you know, this is going to wind up being a confession. One of my favorite sayings is “Don’t put God in a box”. That statement came back on me hard a few days ago.

We were doing an assigned reading in Isaiah and were looking at how things God had told Isaiah to say applied to our lives. After reading through it I saw that Isaiah was telling Israel not to be afraid. Starting in chapter 40 there was a long litany of reasons for not being afraid. Isaiah was giving us these reasons straight from God. The list runs like this:

  • God has not forgotten us
  • God will comfort us
  • God will lead and rule us
  • God is coming in power
  • God will care for his sheep
  • No one can be as powerful as God
  • He summons each generation from the beginning of time
  • He has chosen us
  • He will fight for us
  • He will help us
  • He will send his Servant
  • He will bring justice
  • He will not falter
  • He will take us by the hand and guard us
  • He will give us a covenant
  • He will prophesy truly
  • He will lead us on a new path
  • He will brighten the darkness
  • He will smooth the road
  • He will not forsake us
  • He has exalted his law
  • He ransomed us
  • He will be with us
  • He predicted our rescue
  • He rescued us
  • We cannot be snatched from his hand

Pretty cool list right? Reading this long list I was filled with a sense of awe at the power of God. He is doing all these things and cares for me.

There was a problem with my thinking and it was about to hit me like a ton of bricks.

I came to Isaiah 43:18 and God says that ALL those things I had just listed didn’t count as anything to what God is! I was suddenly struck by the realization that I had put God in a box. Even a  list as long as this one was something that I could wrap my head around and it sort of made sense. I was shocked speechless at the size of the arrogance and pride that I didn’t even realize I had. It was like my eyes were opened and the sense of the size of God literally exploded by mind and made all my understanding like the merest speck of dust. As if to underscore this lesson, in the days that followed there came repeated references to the power, majesty and strength of God by many people in my life.

Today’s lesson from Terry was on how God was “Indescribable’. It was like the icing on the cake of the lesson that God was trying to teach me. It occurs to me that even that saying that I have learned the lesson can lead to pride and arrogance.  The depth of God’s love for us CANNOT be described, our attempts to  describe it is like trying to describe a brilliant color that our eyes can’t even see! We can understand that God’s love for us exists, but we cannot fully realize the totality of what it represents.

God, you are worthy of more praise, honor and glory than the entire world can produce. Let me continue to grow and bask in your love and continue learning the lesson of your Indescribability.