Monthly Archives: September 2009

Romans 7

My Debt

I have a debt I can’t pay. The debt is solely mine. Even if I could borrow and beg from every one of my friends, even dare to steal from those not so friendly, I can’t come up with enough. The bill is gathering interest continually. There is seemingly no way out, and Lex, the collection man is getting closer each day.

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?  – Romans 7:24

There is an answer. If I die there is nobody to collect from. Since this debt is mine alone, the only thing that can be done with it is to write it off as uncollectible after my demise.

So this is the point: The law no longer holds you in its power, because you died to its power when you died with Christ on the cross. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, you can produce good fruit, that is, good deeds for God. – Romans 7:4

Yes, I’m refering to my debt of sin. And when I willingly chose to die with Christ Jesus on his cross, accepting his payment, in full, for my sin-debt. It immediately became uncollectible.

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 7:25a

And now as a result of having the unpayable debt lifted from me, I am free to produce fruit that goes toward Christ and his kingdom, not toward a creditor – the law – that I could never hope to pay off.

Father, thank you for the gift of new life, a fresh start. In Jesus’ wonderfilled name, Amen.

Paid in full. Jan

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Romans 6

Live for the Glory

St. Ireneus said that, “The glory of God is a man fully alive”.

In light of that statement I found the following verses of particular interest.

He died once to defeat sin, and now he lives for the glory of God. So you should consider yourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus. – Romans 6:10-11

What an unique way of looking at how the glory is revealed. I suppose we are like a seed planted in the ground. The seed, while fascinating, is not something glorious to behold. However, let it germinate and then flower; what glory bursts out! We too, are dark crusty seeds. Only when planted in the death of Christ, can the resurrection of our souls happen. Only then is the husk of our sinful nature shed to fully reveal the glory concealed within, a glory that was placed there at our creation.

You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well. You saw my bones being formed as I took shape in my mother’s body. When I was put together there, you saw my body as it was formed. All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old. – Psalm 139:13-17

God made you and me to reveal his workmanship, his glory to the world. He knew exactly what type of unique flower would burst from the dead husk of my sin to grace a dying world with his beauty and fragrance. He made me come alive for his glory.

Father, may I reveal your glory in the way you intended. Please give me deep roots and plenty of nutrients – your word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Push deep roots into his word and push high toward the son. Jan

Romans 5

Triumph in the Air

Many years ago, when Christian Rock was still somewhat of a novelty, I discovered an artist who had a unique operatic, epic quality to her vocals. Her band members were all accomplished in their own right, and together they made for an amazing presentation. They even had lights, lasers, and smoke generators! For a teenager it was all very exciting.

Now days most people know this person because of her involvement with Women of Faith or possibly with her past involvement with the 700 club on Christian TV.

As I read the following passage I was reminded of her.

The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God’s wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:17

What specifically brought her to mind were the words “triumph over sin”. One of her songs was entitled “Triumph in the Air”.

Yes, it is Sheila Walsh. And she is still living in the triumph that Jesus provided for her. It is because of another item that stuck out in that same passage of scripture, the word righteousness.

You see, righteousness in the context above, is a gift; it is not something that we work toward, or somehow arrive at. No, God gave us righteousness.

That means that when he looks at you and me he see us as right in his sight.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brought condemnation upon everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness makes all people right in God’s sight and gives them life.  – Romans 5:18

And since we are right in God’s sight – righteous – we have eternal life.

So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:21

Because we know that we will have triumph in the air, we can rejoice in all hardships. We can endure all scorn, shame, and deprivation. For we are friends of God.

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God. – Romans 5:11

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus and his reconciling of us to you. Thank you for your kindness, for making this possible. May I never cease to be amazed by this gift. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Triumph indeed. Jan

Romans 4

I can’t break it

Just yesterday I went home for lunch and was informed that our “precious” puppy had torn a huge hole in my pool screen-enclosure, and had munched down on one of my hats. Aargh!

It reminded me of the joke, “If you want to see if something is truly unbreakable, give it to a 6 year old boy.” I don’t know of much that we creations of God cannot find a way to break. In the computer industry we have a saying that states, “If you make something foolproof, the world will simply invent a bigger fool.”

Today as I was reading in the book of Romans I came across the following passage in The Message version of the Bible.

If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. – Romans 4:14

My bundle-of-joy puppy doesn’t know anything about contracts or business deals. He simply knows that I provide for his needs, discipline him when needed, and give him affection. If there was a contract outlining expected behavior and consequences for infractions, he would be living somewhere other than my home by now. But, when we brought him home, he became a member of the family not of a corporation. We promised to care for him for the term of his natural life.

A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise–and God’s promise at that–you can’t break it. – Romans 4:15

So, since no contract full of fine print exists, merely our promise; Tanner, our puppy cannot break it.

Likewise, no contract exists between me and God. His love letter to me – the Bible – is not a book of fine print. It is a promise.  And since God has accepted me into his family, I know that he will never break his promise to care for me for the term of my eternal life.

Father, thank you for loving me despite the fact that I keep breaking things. Thank you that I cannot break a promise that you made. It is not mine to break. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

You can’t break God’s promise. Jan

Romans 3

An Unpayable Debt

When I was about ten years old my brother and I had way too much time on our hands. My mother worked a late shift at a factory, and my father, exhausted from a long day of work gave us boys freedom – too much freedom.

Wherever they go, destruction and misery follow them.
They do not know what true peace is.
They have no fear of God to restrain them. – Romans 3:16-18

One evening we found ourselves in a condominium project that had apparently run out of money to complete the construction. Something is hard-wired in a boy to where they love to see things break and blow up… We found some chunks of concrete and started breaking things. To make a long story short; the event involved police, a ride in the back of a cruiser, humiliated and mortified parents, angry construction project owners, and two very guilty boys.

For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. – Romans 3:23

It was clear that my brother and I had sinned, sinned against the owners of the condominium, our parents, and against God. We had broken laws and hearts. Our parents could never afford to replace or fix the damage that my brother and I had caused…

Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. – Romans 3:24

I do not remember his name and I don’t know the exact details, but the owner had mercy on my parents. He worked out an arrangement whereby my brother and I would spend every day after school, and all day during summer, working in and around that condominium complex cleaning, doing whatever grunt work was required. We were forgiven a debt we could never repay and in its place asked to do, what now in retrospect was, light, easy work.

Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.  – Romans 3:27-28

There was nothing we could have done to make up for our sins, but we were forgiven. In comparison to our mountain of crime, our “good deeds” didn’t amount to a feather-pillow. Yet by the time our term of service was over we were free. We had faith that when the man in charge told us not to return that we would never face punishment for that crime again. The unpayable debt had been forgiven.

Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.  – Romans 3:31

Likewise, when we come to Christ Jesus we have a mountain of sin piled up that we could never remove ourselves. We must trust the man in charge who states, “I forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” By believing, accepting his words as true – that the sin is indeed paid-in-full – it is. And thereby the law and its need for retribution is fulfilled.

Father, thank you for sending your sinless son to do what I couldn’t. He took the weight of my sin and set me free. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Go and sin no more. – Jan

Romans 2

Revealed Truth

Ouch! Paul pulls no punches in this second chapter of Romans. He started out in chapter one by praising the Roman Christians, and then spoke about how sinful the world is. Now he lowers the boom on the Roman Christians.

You may be saying, “What terrible people you have been talking about!” But you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Do you think that God will judge and condemn others for doing them and not judge you when you do them, too? Don’t you realize how kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see how kind he has been in giving you time to turn from your sin? – Romans 2:1-4

I have to wonder, does he know about something specific, or is he simply laying out a foundation for more later?

As further chapters will reveal, that is exactly what he is doing – establishing groundwork for a discussion.

But, what about the Romans reading this letter. Would they have known nothing of Jewish laws and customs that Paul would write to them as if they were wholly ignorant?

In his Antiquities of the Jews, Flavius Josephus mentioned that in about 40AD 8,000 Roman Jews had sided with someone in a lawsuit. Since women and children were not permitted to take part in a lawsuit, that would mean that there were upwards of 40,000 Jews living in Rome around the time Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome. From inscriptions on ancient tombstones in the Jewish catacombs it can be determined that there were at least 12 different synagogues in and around the city of Rome. So it is not like there was no knowledge or awareness of Jewish laws and customs among the Roman Christians. Further, statistical probability would indicate that not all of the new converts were of non-Jewish origin.

From this evidence it is clear that there certainly should have been knowledge of Jewish laws among the Roman believers.

I think the following verse supports my thought that Jews were part of the Roman church.

If you are a Jew, you are relying on God’s law for your special relationship with him. You boast that all is well between yourself and God. – Romans 2:17

Paul is clearly working on ensuring that the foundation of the Roman Christians’ belief system is one that conforms to what he understands to be the truth as revealed to him personally by the Holy Spirit.

Dear brothers and sisters, I solemnly assure you that the Good News of salvation which I preach is not based on mere human reasoning or logic. For my message came by a direct revelation from Jesus Christ himself. No one else taught me. – Galatians 1:11-12

Therefore, since Paul knew exactly what it was to be a Christ-follower, he wanted to ensure that these converts, that he had no personal involvement with, would receive the truth as it was revealed to him; not as Jewish converts would have them believe.

For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the Jewish ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not a cutting of the body but a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. Whoever has that kind of change seeks praise from God, not from people. – Romans 2:28-29

The truth is that an inward change, a change of heart produced by God’s Holy Spirit is the mark of being a believer.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Paul’s tenacity. It is because of his determination to ensure the complete truth was shared that we know what it really means to believe in your son Jesus. In his name, Amen.

Shalom, Jan

Romans 1

Miracle Grow

The first chapter of Romans is such an interesting chapter of the bible. Paul is writing to a church of non-Jewish believers that he personally had not started. He was somewhat pleasantly surprised to learn of their existence. He writes about hearing of their faith, praying for them, being proud of them. Then he writes the following:

One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. For I long to visit you so I can share a spiritual blessing with you that will help you grow strong in the Lord. – Romans 1:10-11

Miracle_Grow

I find it fascinating that he assumes, no he knows, that he possesses some spiritual blessing, some spiritual gift as other translations state, that they have not already received. This gift, when delivered will help them “grow strong in the Lord”.

I’m definitely curious as to what this miracle grow that Paul has to deliver is all about. What about you?

Well, hopefully as I continue reading in the book of Romans it will come into clearer focus.

Father, thank you for spreading your gifts among your people as you see fit. Please help us to willingly share them so that we can help others grow strong in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Do you have a delivery to make? Jan