Reviewing Romans

I posted yesterday that I’m moving on with my Bible reading, and using my Bible Jar to let God direct my reading. His pick?  Ezekiel!

Ezekiel AGAIN, I should say!

This is my SECOND time reading Ezekiel in three months’ time.  Believe me, left to my own devices, I would not have picked this book to read even once, let alone TWO times, but I’m sure there is a message in there for me somewhere; one especially relevant to where I am in my faith journey right now.  I suspect it has to do with speaking boldly about the other side of grace.  You know it, right? That side of grace that is not gold-plated or fun to experience, or anything we could call human success.

THE OTHER SIDE OF GRACE

The other side of grace is punishment, and while we might do all we can to mitigate it or down right avoid it, the truth is that there are things to learn in the wood shed we cannot learn anywhere else.  Valuable things.  Timely things.  God-things!

I will be sharing some of my impressions from the book of Ezekiel once I’ve gotten into it a little further.  For now, I want to share some of what struck me as important as I read through Romans, the last book of the Bible God directed me to read.

I LOVE/HATE PAUL’S EPISTLES

I love Romans. I love Acts. I love/hate the Apostle Paul’s writings!

I love how Paul says what he thinks—exactly what he thinks–but I hate that he seems like a chauvinist sometimes.  I can say that here, because this is my blog, and it’s how I’ve honestly felt in the past when reading Paul’s work.  Today, I’m okay with who he was and what he wrote, because I can see what he says in greater context and so I don’t get so offended as I once did.  I don’t have time for all the drama involved in fighting Paul on the subject of women and how he chooses to address them in Scripture. His opinions are his (and sometimes God’s), and I’m okay with Paul being Paul at this juncture in life.  Why not?  We all add something different to the faith recipe, right?  And Paul has added a lot of spice, so I’m more likely to applaud him than dis him these days.

BUT I DIGRESS

What I really wanted to share here today is my thoughts, my significant thoughts, on the book of Romans. Here goes. I think…

Sin is awful and uncontrollable in/by us, but thankfully Jesus can handle it.

Anyone absorbed in self, ignores God.

Ignoring God causes a hobbling in my spirit, even as it displeases him.  A lose/lose proposition.

We need to give our old life a decent burial, and get on with the adventure!

Mercy is God’s thing! He grants grace to us, and not the other way ‘round.

God sets everything right between Him and us when we 1. Call upon Him for help. 2. Trust in Him to provide help. 3.  Release and relinquish those things we’d previously been holding on to that get between God and us. 4.  Practice intimacy with Him.

God will not walk away from Israel, even though she walks away from Him.  There still exists a fierce minority in Israel that trusts God, and they will be the agents of peace that partner with God when the broken olive branch (broke through disobedience), gets grafted back in.  If their break meant a grafting for the Gentiles, just imagine what their being grafted back onto the trunk [God], will mean for the world.  An explosion of power unseen before!

Placing your everyday life in God’s hands makes it possible for amazing things to happen in your life.

We should run from evil as fast as we can.

We don’t bring goodness to God, that He should be grateful to us. He brings it to us—and we SHOULD be grateful to Him!

We serve God best when we do so authentically.

Problems with being authentic begin with human pride, and are not the work of God.

We need to practice being second fiddle until we get really, really good at it!

[side note: a friend recently said something to the effect of, “I love people who race others to get to the bottom of the pile.”  I think she’s onto something there.  God first, others next, us last—always.]

Others need to be loved by us as well as we love ourselves.

It profits us nothing to be greedy—we will all kneel at the same place and time in the end.

Welcome those who don’t see things as you do, and don’t let something as temporary as food divide you.

If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you teach, then the way you’re living (or teaching), is wrong.

Jesus took on the troubles of the troubled, and stayed true to God’s purpose. Do likewise.

Hospitality is important, don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Love on others, complimenting those who deserve it [and I would add, need it].

What is your favorite passage from Romans?  Why do you love it so??

 

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Ezekiel!

Happy Monday, everyone!

I’m beginning my week with writing about my quiet time once again, and the prayer jar I’ve talked about in the past.  Last Friday I finished up my reading in Romans, and was jones-in’ for my next pick from the prayer jar, but wanted to wait until another busy weekend had passed before I drew a new tab.

Can I say I’m loving the way this thing is going?  I’m loving how God is directing my Bible reading!!

I rubbed my eyes awake this morning with one thought on my mind, picking another tab from the jar.  I was so excited.

I prayed, then picked, and do you know what my finger found?

Ezekiel! 

Again!

This will be my SECOND reading from the book of Ezekiel in three months-time.  I think God must have a message for me in this peculiar book of prophecy.

Such an odd little book, but here I go…

Do you have a systematic way for reading through God’s Word?  What is your favorite passage from the book of Ezekiel?

What if strength is my only option?

Because change is on my mind, and I know with it comes adversity, I wanted to share a blog post I read this morning that spoke to both, borrowed from The Seeds of Life website.

I’ve often felt like others weren’t as thrilled with the changes I’ve made as I was, but I’ve learned that I can’t let that stop me from changing.  Change is inevitable. Adversity, too.  Best we learn how to make of them the best that we can, because change is a constant, and adversity isn’t going away anytime soon.  Right?!

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.  

Let me hear your thoughts on the subject: Change or Adversity, either one, and how you rose above your circumstances to find a new you that you liked better than the old one.

I’m all ears, so share freely….

Now, this, from The Seeds 4 Life website

When have you made a planned change in your life? What made you decide THEN was the right time to change?

 

Change Challenge

Some of you know I’ve joined a CHANGE CHALLENGE this month. Actually, this challenge will last through July and August of 2017.  What it amounts to is a daily challenge to CHANGE up my habits and try new things. I love it, because I get to decide where the challenge will take me over the next two months.

I get to decide what I want to change-up in my life each day.

I get to decide what is important enough to me to be changed.

I get to have a hand in creating a new Lori by the time autumnal tones take over northeastern PA this year.

I’m excited about the challenge and the changes/chances I’m expecting to take over the next six weeks, so naturally I wanted to share a few of the more significant ones with my readers.

Today is July 12th 2017, but really only Day 7 of the challenge, because we started this thing after the July 4th holiday.

My change made last night has me feeling pretty special and needed, and loved this morning.  Here’s what I experienced when I decided to do a new things last night:

Day 12 Change Challenge:

My life changed when I went to VBS and served as a helper last night.

I have not helped out during VBS in decades. Little kids on hectic schedules is not my thing.

I like organization. structure. thoughtful processes. adult conversation.

Still, I “think” I did okay with the kiddos last night. I will share that I was delighted by some of the kids in the group to which I was assigned. One little boy in particular…so cute, so tired, so distracted, and so I-can’t-keep-my-hands-off-others-adorable sticks out in my mind as my reason for being at VBS last night.

Isn’t it grand that God calls us to the ones that need us most?

Or do we need them?  Hmmmm, there’s some food for thought.

Either way, I was undone by that lil cutie. I probably won’t be able to help out with VBS again this week (that scheduled organization thing that rules my life is happening), but last night…yeah, last night was nice.

As an aside to all the talk about my feelings, this:  One little glamour girl decided to decorate her hard hat with a load of bling.  It caught my eye and my camera lens, so I’m going to share a picture of that hat and the line up I found it in last night.

So. Much. Bedazzling.  I love it!!!

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Do you help out with VBS at your church in the summer time? What is your favorite all-time memory of VBS from childhood?

The Real jesus

Lately, I’ve been feeling the need to talk about the real Jesus with my readers and friends.

I’ve felt like the world is giving people a different impression of Jesus than what the Bible says about him.

I’ve felt like revisionist history has taken over, and fake news is everywhere, and that it is impacting the work of the church as we try to make lives better.

Jesus makes lives better.

I heard a quote concerning Polycarp yesterday. He was a noble saint of God, a disciple of the Apostle John, and an early church leader and bridge to early Christianity who at some point was asked to puff some incense into the air and repeat the phrase, “Caesar is Lord.” He refused.

Polycarp was a threat to his world and government, so he had to die.

The government of Polycarp’s day told him it he didn’t honor Caesar above Christ, he would be first tortured, then killed by being burned at the stake.  His response:  “Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” He then prayed a prayer that accepted his fate, requested he be found worthy to die among the martyrs, and praised God for bringing him to this place in life.

He praised God, people. Praised Him!!!!

Eusebiau adds: “When he had offered up his amen and had finished his prayer, the firemen lighted the fire.”

I’m impressed with how Polycarp could rise to a place of gratefulness when facing his torturer’s flame.  I believe he was able to face his fate with confidence and be counted among the martyrs for two reasons: 1. The courage the Holy Spirit gives upon our conversion is no joke. We are able to do, while in Christ, things we could never do before He came to reign in our lives.  2.  Polycarp had been looking for a way to honor his Savior his whole life, and knew this way would be the way that would be remembered.  He was right. This act of love outlived any other sacrifice he might have made in the past, and it led others to follow his example in the future.

I’m struck by the way Jesus coming into our lives has the power to completely change who we are as people.  Those who once served out of duty, after being saved, have a whole new heart and way of behaving in this world.  I only hope that I can have the courage of Polycarp when Jesus asks me to do something noble and requiring bravery.

The real Jesus gives us opportunities to serve him in powerful ways.  What will you do with yours?

Do you feel like the world is trying to hide the truth about the real Jesus from us?  Do you know who is behind that kind of masqu

Owe nothing but love

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8 KJV

Is it a good thing that the Good Book says to owe no man any thing, except your love?

It is if you are inclined to love.  If you seek out love and you’re willing to impart it to others, then a commandment to love one another comes as an easy guideline to follow.  If, however, you’re one taken to pride, or loving yourself more than others, or being miserly with your material belongs, you will find a commandment to love others a heavy burden…maybe too heavy to bear.

Oh, Christian, I hope you are among the former and not the later with regards to this command to love.   

Love works no ill to his neighbor… (vs 10).

The Bible is full of hints on how to love, how to encourage, and how to effectively display love in a community setting.  Life gives us plenty of opportunities to practice love too…to show love, share love, and embrace the love that comes back to us from others.  While some folks might be hesitant to love without restraint, others have this amazing capacity for love that baffles the mind, almost.  Would that we all spent more time praying for that love gift—for the Bible says love covers over a multitude of sins, and who wouldn’t profit from having their sins covered over more often?

This morning, would you be willing to pray for God to make you a more loving person?

Would you be willing to take a chance on love once more?

Would you be willing to put yourself in a position where others could depend on your love to be gentle with their hearts?

If you would, God can use you in mighty ways: exciting, wonderful, compassionate, and mighty ways!  It all begins with intentional living.  Today, let’s love on one another and see what happens.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another. -Jesus

Who do you find it hard to love?  What is your love language?

Bible Sass

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I’ve shared this in the past, but again, I love reading The Message translation of the Bible for my quiet time with God.  It has a sort of sass to it that I like.  Is that wrong for me to admit? Well, I’ll admit it anyway.  I love the “realness” that comes off this translation of God’s Holy Word. Like the passage, for instance:

Remind the people to [be]…always ready to lend a helping hand. No insults, no fights. God’s people should be bighearted and courteous.  It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.  Titus 3:1-7 MSG

Where else can you hear the term “dupes of sin?”  Come on, that alone is worth the read!

We are presented with countless chances each day to help one another in the faith, aren’t we?  Endless opportunities to show love and loyalty…and we get to choose whether we’ll respond in words or deed–hopefully, both!

One is moving and asks for a helping hand.

Another is sick and in need of assistance to feed a growing brood of kids.

Yet another wants to build a new habit that will produce increased spiritual awareness. They are looking for a study buddy to go through the Scriptures with them, and help them better understand the story God shares with humanity in the Bible.

In all these ways and countless others, we are encouraged by the Spirit to build a substantial and sustaining community with one another until Jesus returns.

Building community means everything to Jesus!

As God points out those Saints and sinners in need of help in your circle of influence today, would you consider what you could do to make their lives easier?

Many hands make light work, and hands that are motivated by God’s Spirit cause blessings to flow.  Today, let’s pray, considering what we can do to make another’s day easier.

Together we get better, and better, and better at meeting the call to minister through service.

Hallelujah, Praise God—May His house be a busy one, as we are about His work! 

When have you needed help and found believers willing?  Who do you know that could use a helping hand today?

 

I loved you, Samuel!

Today I pulled another tab from my Bible reading jar, cuz yeah, I was ready to explore once more.

ROMANS!

Before I scamper off to read about the early church though, I wanted to write a little about what I learned while reading my way through 1 Samuel.

As you may know, 1 Samuel records Samuel’s life and the times of Saul and David that butt up against the Prophets story.  Murder, intrigue, spiritual death, physical death, the death of a king, the anointing of another, and exciting times throughout, that’s what I found in 1 Samuel.

THINGS I LEARNED IN 1 SAMUEL

Obeying God, especially when it isn’t easy, is totally the way to go. So. Many. Blessings.

Not obeying God is a bad, bad thing and results in striking consequences.

Being humble means a lot to Papa.

Being proud may satisfy the flesh, but it doesn’t prove all that helpful in finding God.

God speaks a word to us when we obey and do what he says…no matter what.

God remains silent once He has established that we wouldn’t obey, even if he did tell us what to do.

Living in caves and hideouts—not that bad when a blood-thirsty king is hunting you down.

Giants don’t get to say who will win the day—God does!

One smooth stone in the hand of an expert is enough.

Women of honor are honored, and given riches, and crowns, and love, and a place in God’s story.

Even rabble-rousers and riff raff come in handy when you’re building an army.

Playing the harp can be a manly pursuit.  Yes, it can!!!

God tells a compelling story; one we miss out on when we don’t read the Bible regularly.

All hope depends on God, who uses lil guys and misfits every step of the way to victory.

Having a seer nearby helps, a lot.

Hiding from God won’t work. He sees us, even behind the baggage carts of life.

There were not Motel 6s in the ancient Arabah.

Sometimes the victory shout IS: Kill ‘em all!  We hear that often on basketball courts these days, don’t we?

The hand that rocks the cradle really does rule the world.

Prayer Changes Things!

Ancient mysticism fascinates me. I wonder how/why it works.

Kings should avoid witches at all costs.

Falling on your sword isn’t always noble.

Old Testament teaching isn’t for everyone, or so I hear, but I absolutely love it.  I love the simplicity of the OT. I love the fervor. I love the commitment to righteousness, and the stories that speak to the failings of those who try to skirt God’s commands.  I love the grace I see. I love the retribution that is fair, and just, and metered out by a Holy God, so we don’t have to wonder if it’s fair or not.

I love that the majority of what I find in the OT is unveiled and easy to understand. Who among us doesn’t understand betrayal, or the vulnerability of sinful men, or the blood lust and fear that accompanies war?  I get it.  I see it happening all over the globe today. I can look at what happens in 1 Samuel and compare it to my world and say with confidence that people don’t change without God’s intervention in their lives. They just don’t.

WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO AVOID, AND WHAT MAKES GOD UNCHANGING.

It’s all there in the Bible, but to get it you have to read both the Old Testament, and the New Testament.  They are both important for understanding who our God really is—who we are vowing allegiance to–and how He expects us to behave.

I loved reading 1 Samuel, but I must say I’m also ready to dive into Romans.  The early church. The struggles, and the blessings. The foundation and the continuing, never ending story of faith, forgiveness, and beginning again.  The picture of divine justice, set alongside the obvious failings of men is also fascinating to me.  Paul, in all his glory.  I love him, even as I despise him.  Intrigue, fighting, victory, defeats…  I can’t wait!  This is going to be sooooo good.

What book of the Bible is your favorite?  What did you recently learn from reading it, that you did not know before?

 

 

 

Disobedience & Disappointment

Then God spoke to Samuel: “I’m sorry I ever made Saul king. He’s turned his back on me. He refuses to do what I tell him.”  1 Samuel 15:10-11

Could there be any sadder words than those spoken by God shortly after having Saul anointed king?  Read the prayer prompt for this morning once again, slowly.  Can you hear the disappointment in God’s voice?  Can you tell how heartsick He is that the one he chose to favor above all the Hebrew nation turned out to be a betrayer?

Are we refusing to do what God tells us to do?

Sometimes we wander through this adventure we’re having with God with little conscious care for the things that matter to Him: Time with us. Intimacy with Him. A love that is proven through obedience. We miss out on divine blessings because of our careless attitudes, and we get God miffed when we “forget” what he told us to do, or worse yet, outright refuse.

1 Samuel 15, reminds us how angry the king’s response to God made the Prophet.  The Bible says Samuel prayed his anger and disappointment all through the night, before going to hunt the king down (vs 11-12 MSG).

Yikes!  I can’t imagine how those prayers must have energized Samuel’s resolve.  How they must have fueled every word he spoke later, when he finally caught up with the king and rebuked him publicly.  I hope I’m never the focus of those kinds of prayers, and I hope you never are either.

Today as we spend some time with God, let’s reaffirm to Him our willingness to do what he asks us to do. Easy, hard, or seemingly impossible, it doesn’t matter.  Where God’s finger points, his hand always makes a way! We have no excuses.  We can obey him! All we need to do it is a little bit of prayer to embolden us and a heart ready to faithfully serve.  Today, let’s exercise both.

When have you been disappointed by a good friend? When have you disobeyed God?