LentBlog Day 42: Waiting.

Not much to say tonight… I read Romans 16, which is mainly personal greetings and a really neat benediction. Paul again makes it pretty clear the Gospel is available to everyone, for which I am thankful. He names Pheobe as a leader in the church, which is another place that would perhaps silence the “women can’t preach” camp if they actually read it.

But while there are some things I could write about from Romans 16, on this Easter-Eve I’m feeling pretty subdued. Mostly I’m waiting. Waiting on tomorrow to come. waitingWaiting for Resurrection on a couple of different levels. Waiting for newness of life. Waiting for the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead to cut loose in our lives once again and raise us, too. Waiting for the purple and sack-cloth of Lent to give way to WHITE!

And most of the time I don’t do to well waiting.

Veni, veni, Emmanuel. Captivum solve Israel.

 

Blessings,

Mark

 

 

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LentBlog Day 31: The Word Is Always Near You.

Romans 101:1-13

I have had a blast looking at this passage tonight. As I read, I heard Paul taking folks down a notch or two, and it would do us well to hear him: This righteousness that comes from faith says, “Don’t try to elevate yourself too high, reaching for the heavens” (how many of our worship gatherings have as their sometimes-stated goal to “touch heaven” or “bring the glory down?”) and don’t go too low, perhaps in some sort of false humility. Instead, the righteousness that comes by faith says:

“The word is near you,
    on your lips and in your heart”

This is the phrase that jumped out at me. The Word is near. The Word of faith that Jesus is the Christ and has been raised.

The Word-become-flesh is near us. Emmanuel. God-with-us. We must simply look around.

Now, that verse intrigued me so, I decided to research it a little, even though it’s 10-something at night and I’m pretty tired. I had to hear what Karl Barth said about it, so I found my copy of Romans and found his work on Romans 10.  Here’s what he said, in part:

Far too transcendent, far too important, far too full of significance is the Word of God by which the Church is constituted! We cannot endure it– even though it be heard by human ears and proclaimed by human lips!– save when it is trumpeted forth in the final question and in the final answer. The Word is nigh unto us. Wherever we cast our eye, the dynamite is prepared to explode.

(Barth, Romans,  Oxford University Press, 1968, p 381)

piercing

The Word– the incarnate, in-breaking, invading Word of the Lord in Jesus through the Spirit– is near us. And that is not necessarily a safe thing. Aslan, says Mr. Beaver, is not a tame Lion.

Look around. The dynamite of the Kingdom is ready to explode. That is a scary, exciting, refreshing, wild, renewing thought for me tonight. The Kingdom is not safe. But “safe” is not what we’re called to. Movements that change the world are not safe. The Movement that will redeem the world is even less so. 

I wonder what would happen if some of that dynamite went off?

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog Day 26: An Undivided Heart.

Matthew 22:34-40.

Taking another break from Romans tonight… I read Chapter 9 devotionally, and there’s stuff to say, but I want to write about some stuff I’ve experienced these last couple days, particularly as it relates to the Great Commandment(s).

37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

NRSV

The last couple days, I’ve had a series of conversations with various people who are working through what God wants them to do with their lives. They seem to be feeling the tug of God on their lives. Now, I don’t know whether or not any one or all of them might be feeling a call to ordained, clergy ministry. What is obvious, though, is God is dealing with them, calling them deeper.

In each conversation, including teaching in a small group setting tonight, I shared what Dr. Jim Diehl told my pastor back in the day, who in-turn told me:

Step 1 to knowing God’s will for your life is this: Your answer to the Lord must be “yes” before God ever asks the question…

Our lives must become one big “yes” to the Lord. Our hearts must be undivided. You cannot serve both God and ____________. Fill in the blank— Self, Job, success, money, power, position… none of it. As Wesley says, it’s impossible to be half a Christian. I think that’s what Matthew 22, and so many passages like it, are saying. Love God with your WHOLE heart. NO other Gods before him, not even myself. Heart

This is what our tribe (Church of the Nazarene) means when it talks about Sanctification. It’s God doing a work in me whereby I love with my whole, undivided heart.

I am deeply thankful for the chances I’ve had this week to share some of this to Christian folks who are sensing God’s call to go deeper. They’re taking the red pill… and we’re all going down the rabbit hole together.

Wanna join us?

Blessings,

Mark

 

 

 

LentBlog Day 22: Too Deep for Words.

Romans 8:26-27: 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Drums

(NRSV)

This passage is really good news for me, because sometimes I feel like I say a lot of words but don’t really say anything. At the same time, there are times I sit down at my drums and pray through rhythm and wind up saying a whole bunch with no spoken words at all. I’m convinced that music is a theological language.  (So did Karl Barth, by the way.) There are moments in the sounds and pauses, the crescendos and the pianissimos that I know I’m expressing my core to the Lord, and He is speaking to and through me.

Again here it’s about interacting with the Trinity. When we pray, whether we use words or not, we’re invited into the very relationship of Father-Son-Spirit. Being in that dynamic is the point, not saying the right mantra or getting the words just right. We pray with our lives. We pray as ourselves. This isn’t to say we needn’t be careful about our words. What it might mean is using less words is not a bad thing. Extreme extroverts like me need to hear that.

It’s also encouraging that when the words simply aren’t there, God hears our prayer just the same.

And to that  I say cha-chudda-chudda chiggada chiggada buzzzzzzz….. tap.

LentBlog Day 18: “In” Is the Operative Word.

Romans 8:1-11

If you haven’t read this passage in a while (or even if you have) go and read it first before continuing on… (BTW, how cool is it that Biblegateway.com has the NRSV now?!). As you read this passage, pay attention to the number of times Paul uses the word “in.”

No condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Son in the likeness of sinful flesh

He condemned sin in the flesh

fulfilled in us.

those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You are not in the flesh; you are in the SpiritImage

The Spirit of God dwells in you.

But if Christ is in you…

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you…

Through his Spirit that dwells in you.

I think one of the big points here is that we are invited in as we invite God in. I’m reminded of John 17, where Jesus prays

20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

It’s almost as if God invades us in Christ, through the presence of the Spirit. And in that invasion, God brings no less than God’s own self to bear in our lives. God is the holy (and wholly) other. But in Christ, through the breathing of the Holy Spirit, he becomes one of us. I think I think that maybe living by the Spirit is something like getting caught up in the very being of God himself, believing with the faith of Abraham and Jesus that the same Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead can and will raise us, too.

If that’s true… if this is the fullness of God we’re dealing with here (or maybe who is dealing with us) then God cannot be relegated to the periphery of our lives. He’s not one of many compartments. We don’t worship on Sunday to get our God “fix” for the week. It’s much more all-encompassing than that. To quote the Wesley covenant service: God will be all, in all, or he will be nothing.

LentBlog Day 1: On being a Slave to the gospel.

So, here’s my attempt at adding something during the season of Lent. In addition to fasting a few things, I was thinking about adding a couple of disciplines as well. I’m going to be posting the fruits of my interactions with some devotional texts with the goal of engaging more deeply and consistently in my own bible study life.   I prayed and read this passage early this morning, and it’s now 9:15 at night. I want to see what the passage does after mulling it over all day.  I’m writing this steam-of-thought, with hardly any editing, so I retain the right to retract some theologically bogus stuff I might end up saying. So here goes.

paul1

Romans 1:1-7:  Paul, “Servant” of Jesus Christ.  Here’s another in a long list of passages where the NIV and even the NRSV get it wrong. The Greek word is δοῦλος, boys and girls… and there’s only one way to translate that accurately: slave. Not servant or even bond-servant. It’s slave. The same word Paul uses when he says stuff like, “Slaves, obey your masters.” And here he uses it to describe himself in the second word of the book of Romans. Paul: Slave of the gospel.  Normally “slave” has a negative context. “Slave” is the opposite of “free” (and we Americans sure do love our freedom…). Slave implies chains. Forced labor. No wages. Overseers. Whips. Little or no personal, individual identity. Someone ELSE owns you.

And Paul is a slave….

….of Jesus.

Set apart for the Good News of God. He’s a slave of the Good News. He cannot get away from it. It’s almost like he’s not his own anymore. It’s as if he’s been bought. And his life is now the property of Jesus, for Jesus to use as He pleases. It just so happens what Jesus is pleased to do is to appoint him to be an apostle of the Good News.

Then he says something that reminded me of the Ash Wednesday gathering last night: Jesus has been declared to be the Son of God according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead. Resurrection– Easter– was the confirmation of Jesus’ Lordship. And to get there, He had to go through death. Resurrection does not happen without death first.  Jesus had do die, stripped of his personhood, hung with criminals, dying where we are, for Resurrection to happen.

I think we want Resurrection without the death part.  I think we want the joys of Easter and all the blessings of the life it brings without first walking the way of the cross.  I think too many of us, if we go to church, want to be uplifted, entertained, affirmed,  patted on the back and sent out the door with a blessing… without ever dealing with the necessary death that precedes Resurrection.  We want to be buddies with Jesus. We might even try to follow some of His moral and ethical guidelines. We FOR SURE want Him around when the crud hits the fan.

But I don’t think we’re so sure about this slave thing.

We’re not so sure about dying to who we are, so we can be re-made, renewed, and… re-born. I think Lent is becoming my favorite season of the year because I think I need reminded that I can’thave it both ways.  I cannot be made alive in Christ until I die to myself. 

“Be Thou my vision, o Lord of my heart. Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.” Lord, this season, teach me what it means, even more, to be completely dead to myself. I want to be Yours. Only then can You really use me for my intended purpose.