meet & greet.

this is the final post in our study of romans. thanks for joining us!

Romans 16, nlt {emphasis mine}

Paul Greets His Friends

1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. 2 Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.

3 Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. 4 In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. 5 Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus. He was the first person from the province of Asia to become a follower of Christ. 6 Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit. 7Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

10 Greet Apelles, a good man whom Christ approves. And give my greetings to the believers from the household of Aristobulus.11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet the Lord’s people from the household of Narcissus. 12 Give my greetings to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and to dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me.

14 Give my greetings to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who meet with them. 15Give my greetings to Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and to Olympas and all the believers who meet with them. 16Greet each other in Christian love. All the churches of Christ send you their greetings.

{paul makes it clear that he has not forgotten, and in fact wants to honor, those who have paved his way through ministry. something important for each of us to remember, no?}

Paul’s Final Instructions

17 And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.19 But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

21 Timothy, my fellow worker, sends you his greetings, as do Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my fellow Jews.

22 I, Tertius, the one writing this letter for Paul, send my greetings, too, as one of the Lord’s followers.

23 Gaius says hello to you. He is my host and also serves as host to the whole church. Erastus, the city treasurer, sends you his greetings, and so does our brother Quartus.

25 Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. This message about Jesus Christ has revealed his plan for you Gentiles, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time26 But now as the prophets foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey him. 27 All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.

this is the why.

this post is part of a series the readers here in the beauty for ashes community suggested. every wednesday, my fellow sojourners and i study the book of romans. the first post states our heart and intention, which i encourage you to read if you’re just joining us. you will find the entire series listed in the categories on the right.

Romans: 15:14-33, nlt {emphasis mine}
Paul’s Reason for Writing

14 I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. 15 Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder. For by God’s grace, 16 I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit. 17 So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God. 18 Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. 19 They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.

20 My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. 21 I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says,

“Those who have never been told about him will see,
and those who have never heard of him will understand.”

22 In fact, my visit to you has been delayed so long because I have been preaching in these places. {even Paul had time management issues :)}

Paul’s Travel Plans

23 But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you. 24 I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey.

25 But before I come, I must go to Jerusalem to take a gift to the believers there. 26 For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. 27 They were glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the spiritual blessings of the Good News from the believers in Jerusalem, they feel the least they can do in return is to help them financially. 28 As soon as I have delivered this money and completed this good deed of theirs, I will come to see you on my way to Spain. 29 And I am sure that when I come, Christ will richly bless our time together.

30 Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit. 31 Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem. {that’s an earnest prayer, isn’t it? that others would be open to our ‘donation’ – of anything at all – but of finances. our pride gets in the way of receiving so often, doesn’t it?} 32Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other. {Paul was moved by helping and giving others; out of this overflow, he could enter into a mutually encouraging relationship with the Romans. He wasn’t only seeking, as a messenger of God, to build up others – he knew that he would also be inspired by them.}

33 And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen.

people pleasers.

this post is part of a series the readers here in the beauty for ashes community suggested. every wednesday, my fellow sojourners and i study the book of romans. the first post states our heart and intention, which i encourage you to read if you’re just joining us. you will find the entire series listed in the categories on the right.

Romans 15:1-13, nlt {emphasis mine}

Living to Please Others

1 We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. 2 We should help others do what is right {not do it for them} and build them up {ie, encourage – we didn’t know any better, either, at one point or another} in the Lord. 3 For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.” 4 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.

5 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. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice {don’t you wonder what that sounds like? i wonder if it’s like that old co’cola commercial…}, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7 Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. 8 Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors. 9 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.”

10 And in another place it is written,

“Rejoice with his people,
you Gentiles.”

11 And yet again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles.
Praise him, all you people of the earth.”

12 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.”

13 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.

i love that. confident hope. yes. let’s.
shall we?

the danger zone.

this post is part of a series the readers here in the beauty for ashes community suggested. every wednesday, my fellow sojourners and i study the book of romans. the first post states our heart and intention, which i encourage you to read if you’re just joining us. you will find the entire series listed in the categories on the right.

Romans 14, nlt {emphasis mine}

The Danger of Criticism

1 Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong2 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. 3 Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. 4Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive his approval.

5 In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. 6 Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 7 For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. 8 If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.

10 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say,

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
every knee will bend to me,
and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’”

12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. 13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

14 I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

20 Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. 22 You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. 23 But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.

i’m just curious: do you think it’s safe to insert any activity for the word ‘eat’? is paul speaking specifically about food we eat physically or could he also be talking about what we might feed our souls, too?

also, i really appreciate that paul points out that it’s not worth doing something if it will make someone else uncomfortable because of their own conviction.

but this also addresses the matter of the differences between each of our convictions. for example, i don’t drink because i can’t. (that is, not unless i want to end up in prison or dead or in a stranger’s bed.) but plenty of people can drink without incident; alcohol or addiction aren’t really issues for them. similarly, i have certain friends and i’m sure you do, too, who are like garbage disposals. whereas they can eat whatever they want without gaining a pound, i can’t even look at a bite of a cookie without gaining five.

god cares about and loves each of us so much that he has even uniquely tailored our convictions and struggles.

now, i’m all about being responsible for ourselves. if i chose to drink again, i could never hold someone else responsible for that.

but wouldn’t i want to help a friend who is struggling even if it means i have to say ‘no’ to something that may not be a struggle for me? it reminds of the aa-adage, ‘would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?’ as paul says, our goal is harmony and helping each other.

because it is, isn’t it?

the one & only thing.

Romans 13, nlt {emphasis mine}

Respect for Authority

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 3 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. 4 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. 5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do.7 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.

Love Fulfills God’s Requirements

8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” {never thought about it in this way – that all other commands are summed up in the one, but it’s so obvious and true, isn’t it?} 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

this post is part of a series the readers here in the beauty for ashes community suggested. every wednesday, my fellow sojourners and i study the book of romans. the first post states our heart and intention, which i encourage you to read if you’re just joining us. you will find the entire series listed in the categories on the right.

a living sacrifice.

this post is part of a series the readers here in the beauty for ashes community suggested. every wednesday, my fellow sojourners and i study the book of romans. the first post states our heart and intention, which i encourage you to read if you’re just joining us. you will find the entire series listed in the categories on the right.

Romans 12, nlt {emphasis mine}
A Living Sacrifice to God

1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrificethe kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 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. {He will do it, we just have to let Him.} Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. {ALWAYS.}

3 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. 4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. {This doesn’t mean that we don’t also have every other gift, just that we’re more attuned to certain ones.} So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 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.

9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! {Empathize with each other. Do life together!}

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

19 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.

20 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.”

21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

this mystery.

this post is part of a series the readers here in the beauty for ashes community suggested. every wednesday, my fellow sojourners and i study the book of romans. the first post states our heart and intention, which i encourage you to read if you’re just joining us. you will find the entire series listed in the categories on the right.

Romans 11: 25-36, nlt {emphasis mine}
God’s Mercy Is for Everyone

25 I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. 26 And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say,

“The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem,
and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness.
27 And this is my covenant with them,
that I will take away their sins.”

28 Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 29 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. {FACT} 30 Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against him, God was merciful to you instead. 31 Now they are the rebels, and God’s mercy has come to you so that they, too, will share in God’s mercy. 32 For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.

33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

34 For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to give him advice?
35 And who has given him so much
that he needs to pay it back?

36 For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

* * * * * * * * * *

congratulations, melissa! you won a copy of shawn smucker’s book, my amish roots. i hope you love it, friend. email me your addy and shawn will get a copy of it to you asap. xo

kind & severe.

this post is part of a series the readers here in the beauty for ashes community suggested. every wednesday, my fellow sojourners and i study the book of romans. the first post states our heart and intention, which i encourage you to read if you’re just joining us. you will find the entire series listed in the categories on the right.

Romans 11:1-24, nlt {emphasis mine}

God’s Mercy on Israel

1 I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel? Of course not! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin.

2 No, God has not rejected his own people, whom he chose from the very beginning. Do you realize what the Scriptures say about this? Elijah the prophet complained to God about the people of Israel and said, 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

4 And do you remember God’s reply? He said, “No, I have 7,000 others who have never bowed down to Baal!”

5 It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel have remained faithful because of God’s grace—his undeserved kindness in choosing them. 6 And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.

7 So this is the situation: Most of the people of Israel have not found the favor of God they are looking for so earnestly. A few have—the ones God has chosen—but the hearts of the rest were hardened. {this actually really gives me a greater understanding. you?} 8 As the Scriptures say,

“God has put them into a deep sleep.
To this day he has shut their eyes so they do not see,
and closed their ears so they do not hear.”

9 Likewise, David said,

“Let their bountiful table become a snare,
a trap that makes them think all is well.
Let their blessings cause them to stumble,
and let them get what they deserve.
10 Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see,
and let their backs be bent forever.”

11 Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. 12 Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it.

13 I am saying all this especially for you Gentiles. God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles. I stress this, 14 for I want somehow to make the people of Israel jealous of what you Gentiles have, so I might save some of them. 15 For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. It will be life for those who were dead! 16 And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be holy—just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy. For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be, too.

17 But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree. 18 But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root.

19 “Well,” you may say, “those branches were broken off to make room for me.” 20 Yes, but remember—those branches were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen. 21 For if God did not spare the original branches, he w spare you either.

22 Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. 23And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree. 24 You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into his cultivated tree, he will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong.

one thing i love about this passage is not how his heart is any less for the gentiles, but god’s desire is for the jewish people; rather, for all who believe, but not more for gentiles than jews.we as christians sometimes act like we are god’s chosen people, but he had already chosen his people. they just didn’t choose him back is all.

there is so much about this i don’t understand, so much about god’s characters and ways.

and i’m beginning to think these are the parts my brain isn’t meant to wrap around, my heart just isn’t meant to understand.

just to know that god is good and great and his mercy is both kind and severe…

this is all i need to know for today.

the good news.

this post is part of a series the readers here in the beauty for ashes community suggested. every wednesday, my fellow sojourners and i study the book of romans. the first post states our heart and intention, which i encourage you to read if you’re just joining us. you will find the entire series listed in the categories on the right.

Romans 10, nlt {emphasis mine}

1 Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. {is that also our prayer?} 2 I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal3For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. {and who hasn’t done that?} 4 For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. {paul tends to repeat this all throughout his letter to the romans. WONDER WHY. (hint: IT’S BECAUSE OF GRACE.} As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God. {some? no. a few? no. the people i like? no. definitely not the people i judge in my own self-righteousness, right? NOPE. ALL.}

Salvation Is for Everyone

 5 For Moses writes that the law’s way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands. 6 But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven’ (to bring Christ down to earth). 7 And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead’ (to bring Christ back to life again).” 8 In fact, it says,

   “The message is very close at hand;
it is on your lips and in your heart.”

{WHY DO I MAKE IT SO COMPLICATED WHAT HE MAKES SO PLAIN THAT IT’S SITTING RIGHT HERE ON THE TIP OF MY TONGUE AND IN THE WELL OF MY HEART?}

And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: 9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. {notice that he doesn’t say if we do enough good things. or shout the loudest in church. or pray the best. or sing worship songs the prettiest. or look the most fashionable on sunday.} 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. {2 steps, that’s all. nothing more, nothing less.} 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

{oh, you didn’t know? we’re the messengers. and we bring good news. not condemning news. not guilt-making news. not it’s my way or the highway so you best walk in it news. but good news. really, really good, good news. that one doesn’t have to live in the guilt and shame of their own poor choices anymore. that we can live in the freedom of knowing of every bad thing we’ve done, every wrong thought we’ve had, every horrible word we’ve ever said wasn’t enough to keep us out of heaven. every wrong we’ve ever committed was slung onto the cross where a carpenter named jesus was shred to pieces for that very reason and so we don’t have to. the good news that we are made enough in the very image of christ, just as we are.}

{which is VERY GOOD NEWS.}

 16 But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. {which means people are listening to your life} 18 But I ask, have the people of Israel actually heard the message? Yes, they have:

“The message has gone throughout the earth,
and the words to all the world.”

19 But I ask, did the people of Israel really understand? Yes, they did, for even in the time of Moses, God said,

“I will rouse your jealousy through people who are not even a nation.
I will provoke your anger through the foolish Gentiles.”

20 And later Isaiah spoke boldly for God, saying,

“I was found by people who were not looking for me.
I showed myself to those who were not asking for me.”

21 But regarding Israel, God said,

“All day long I opened my arms to them,
but they were disobedient and rebellious.”

to be honest with you, i’m one of those who shirks away from the israelite-discussion because i’m of the inclination that those are the people jesus loves since, you know, he was one. can anyone shed some light for me i mean…uh…us?

rolling boulders.

this post is part of a series the readers here in the beauty for ashes community suggested. every wednesday, my fellow sojourners and i study the book of romans. the first post states our heart and intention, which i encourage you to read if you’re just joining us. you will find the entire series listed in the categories on the right.

romans 9:19-33, msg (emphasis mine)

i normally prefer the nlt translation; however, since i started with the message last week with the beginning of this chapter, i want to be fair to the rest of the chapter.

19Are you going to object, “So how can God blame us for anything since he’s in charge of everything? If the big decisions are already made, what say do we have in it?”

20-33Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? Either or both happens to Jews, but it also happens to the other people. Hosea put it well:

   I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; 
      I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved. 
   In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!” 
      they’re calling you “God’s living children.”

Isaiah maintained this same emphasis:
If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered
and the sum labeled “chosen of God,”
They’d be numbers still, not names;
  salvation comes by personal selection. 
   God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name. 
      Arithmetic is not his focus.
Isaiah had looked ahead and spoken the truth:
If our powerful God
had not provided us a legacy of living children,
We would have ended up like ghost towns,
like Sodom and Gomorrah.
How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as HE straightened out their lives. {not ‘as they straightened out their own lives’ – they just had to embrace what god was doing and be available to the process.} And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together:

Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion,
 a stone you can’t get around. 
But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me,
you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.

welp. it has to be asked.

is there a ‘god-project’ in your life that’s keeping you from noticing god like a rock in the middle of your road?

no? uh. me neither.

p.s. sarcastic paul sure makes me feel better about myself.

xo

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 547 other followers