A Disciple Walks the Roman Road

Part One

In my years as a Christian I have lost track of the number of times I’ve heard the Roman Road referenced as an evangelistic tool. It’s said that the method is simple; point out the shortcomings in a person’s life (3:23), lead them to see the penalty of continuing in that state (6:23), invite them to partake of the glorious promise (5:8) and tell them how this promise can become theirs (10:9). It seems as though it could be effective presented to a heart that the Spirit is engaging. It also seems to leave out much of the glory of the Gospel, pulling out a verse here and there and often using them incomplete to form a logical argument, while failing to engage the soul. This is a shame, because the richness of Paul’s letter to the Roman church contains such a depth of truth that, when shared in greater detail, can answer the arguments of modern man and connect with the souls that are seeking something they’re missing but can’t identify.

A disciple that comes to Romans finds a treasure that far outweighs the application of memory verses. One can examine their definition of faith and have it challenged or affirmed. We can discover and meditate on what it means to fall short of the glory of God. The disciple can find an assurance–a rock solid assurance–in understanding why it is so important to be both justified and reconciled. The disciple can find a new way to examine their attitude towards sin and know the power of freedom rather than constantly operating under the threat of death.

A shallowness of faith grips the modern Church. Too many are satisfied to allow their lives to pass by un-examined. And although this leads to many things, one of the symptoms of this lack of depth is the desire to take the shortest possible route to any goal. Not all things can be explained in four laws or a handful of proof texts. Sometimes, especially with the things of God, the longer, slower more arduous route often brings the greatest benefit.

Over the course of this series of posts I will explore the depths of Paul’s letter as it was intended to be read. There is a clear progression of thought and extraordinary value in taking our time walking with the apostle as he shares the inspired message that God gave him in the middle of the first century so that we could enjoy it in the 21st century. I pray that you’ll join me.

Psalm 96–A New Song

imageFor great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.

For all the Gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord mad the heavens. Psalm 96:4-5

The psalm demands an allegiance as stunning today as it was in the day it was written. Praise the God of Israel as the God of peoples and lands. Dispense with all other gods as they are simply idols, powerless and without meaning. Though we may not carve idols, our age certainly replaces God with other objects of devotion. Observer the lines pouring out of Verizon stores this week to possess and iPhone, the people believing that ownership of this phone would be transformative enough to queue up for hours in the winter cold.

Three calls to action follow the psalmist’s establishment of the authority and omnipresence of God:

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.

Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. (vv 7-9)

To what do we ascribe glory and strength, really? To whom do our offerings go? Do we tremble before anything?

Grace and peace to you.

image Truth Will Set You Free

Psalm 87–I Will Record Rahab and Babylon as Acknowledging Me

imageHe has set his foundation on the holy mountain;

the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. ( Ps 87:1-2)

In the enormity of the Psalter, like the whole of the Bible, small sections are easily overlooked by the casual reader in an effort to comprehend the span of God’s story. Only when we devote ourselves to directed and purposeful study or on our fifth or sixth time through the scriptures do the small, powerful truths come to the surface. Such are the seven verses of Psalm 87. 

Two visions of the world are in view here. The Lord loves Zion, where He has chosen to make His home in the temple and become the centerpiece of their lives. His people would move toward Him in this arrangement. His Presence stayed in the Temple and worship required immediacy to that location. The psalm looks forward, however, to a time when His Presence would touch those far beyond Zion. It points to a time when Gentiles would we welcomed into the family, brothers and sisters who would acknowledge Him and cease their hostility toward Him. So it was written and so it has become.

 

Grace and peace to you..

image andrew mace–

Psalm 86–You Are Great and Do Marvelous Deeds

imageThe arrogant are attacking me, O God;

a band of ruthless men seeks my life—men without regard for you. (Psalm 86:14)

While our lives may not be at risk from our enemies, each of us can still identify with the feeling of being vulnerable to threats by others. If our faith is strong, we call out to our Father for relief. If not, we often seek our own retribution, without a thought to how the attacks fit in the grand plan of God’s history. Do we miss an opportunity to turn the other cheek?

As we read through the Psalms we are struck by how deeply rooted in ancient culture and Jewish belief this poetry is. That is, we recognize the provenance of the literature and its history but we struggle to apply the thoughts to our life. The passages that praise God and exemplify total faith in Him are not difficult to seize hold of, but in the light of our current covenant, we are ashamed to admit that we still see our enemies in the same fashion. Publicly we advocate love for them but our private musings are made up of rambling imprecatory thoughts.

The psalmist fills this prayer with stanzas of praise as he seeks relief:

You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. (v5)

He is also cognizant of the ultimate outcome of history:

All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord;

They will bring glory to your name.

For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. (vv 9-10)

Christians have and advantage that the psalmist did not; we live in the time of Jesus Christ and the new covenant. We have the end of history written for us in John’s apocalypse. We can live sacrificially toward our enemies, moving toward them rather than seeking the Lord’s hand to snatch us away from trouble. Like policeman and firefighters, we can run toward danger while others run away.

Grace and peace to you..

image klynslis

Psalm 85 – Will You Be Angry with Us Forever?

imageLove and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.

Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.

The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.

Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps. (Psalm 85:10-13)

To speak of the Lord’s blessings in this language can only come from a heart that has know their absence. To live in the bliss of constant blessings is to come to see this as the normal state of things, the way it should be. Our corrupted souls begin to take it for granted and even begin to look for greater expressions of the love; ‘Manna again?!’

Restore us again, O God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us.

Will you be angry with us forever?

Will you prolong your anger through all generations? (vv 4-5)

At the other end of belief is to see God as perpetually angry and unwilling to forgive our iniquities. Many among us believe that God remains angry at them for something that they’ve done, said, thought, etc. and that their sin is so far beyond the pale that there is no forgiveness. We must find a way to convey the message of love and faithfulness expressed in the sacrifice of our precious Lord and Savior. God is anything but angry, His love is an invitation back into His arms. It is to know what a life of blessing looks and feels like.

Grace and peace to you.

 

image by perfesser

Psalm 84 – Better is One Day in Your Courts

imageEven the sparrow has found a home,

and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young–

a place near you altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.

(Psalm 84:3-4)

The effusive praise of God is condensed and made sweeter by this imagery. The swallow finds the tiniest niche in the joinery of the temple, perhaps a shelf before the Holy of Holies or a forgotten corner of the courts. She will build her nest in which her most valued things—still yet to come—will live and have their being. She is unconcerned with comfort or position, she only wants to be in proximity to the place of her creator.

The psalmist extends this same willingness to praise from the lowest place, just to be near to Him. In this familiar refrain, he cries out that he would mind the door of the house of God just to be in the house:

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. (v10)

Life in Christ requires the choice, to dwell ever closer to the Holy God or wallow in muck and mire. He leaves the choice to us.

 

Grace and peace to you..

image by kvjrkrao

Psalm 83 – That the Name of Israel Be Remembered No More

imageMay they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace.

Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord —

that you alone are the Most High over all the earth. (Ps 83:17-18)

An imprecatory psalm is not a rare find as you pore over the pages of the Psalter. Again and again, Israel cries out to Yahweh to destroy the enemies arrayed against her, for His own good! In 83 as elsewhere, the Israelites look out at their borders and see, what to them must have been, the entire world turn enemy. They find no hope within and raise prayers of violent redemption to God. Save us, they intone. Save us so that the world will see that You are God!

Wasn’t that supposed to be the witness of Israel herself?

In covenant relationship, Israel was to stand as an example of the good that comes from being the chosen of the Most High over all the earth. They’re repeated failures to do so are found in the same pages of the Old Testament that continue their pleas for the destruction of others. To read both Ezekiel and the Psalms at the same time is to read the same story from two different perspectives. The words of God who directs the punishment of Israel by her enemies go unheeded.

Is it possible we do the same today? Do we ask the Lord to remove the consequence of sin from our lives while continuing to ignore the demand for holiness that the Spirit reminds us of regularly? We fail to see the corrections that come into our lives as being delivered by the same One from whom we seek relief. We might do better to review the history before us in the pages of Scripture, and learn more about the way God works. Rather than prayers for relief, we should pray for insight into that in our lives that is displeasing to our Lord.

 

Grace and peace to you..

image by xdop

Psalm 82 – Defend the Cause of the Weak and Fatherless

image“They know nothing, they understand nothing.

They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.”

Psalm 82:5

At the heart of this psalm lies a truth that has not changed since the first human leader stepped up and began to exercise control over others. All leaders, whether they believe in Him or accept His hand in control of their ascension. God is intentional in placing specific people in particular positions of authority to arrange His course for history.

Israel cries out to God for justice, asking why He does this. They ask “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?” (v2). The demand justice from Him, “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (vv 3-4) Israel wants to know why God allows those He has placed in authority to abuse that position and injure His people.

Why indeed? Is there consequence for godlessness? Is God the only one who can reach out and lift up the weak and fatherless?

Grace and peace to you..

 

image by Stuck In Customs

Psalm 81 – If You Would But Listen to Me

image

Hear, O my people, and I will warn you—If you would but listen to me, O Israel!

You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to an alien god.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt.

Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.  (Ps 81:8-9)

When we encounter verses such as this in the Bible, two things occur. We wonder how it is possible that Israel could waver in their loyalty to Yahweh. After all, they were in such immediate contact with His miraculous redemption and knew His power intimately. How does one turn away from that?

As we read in the Old Testament, apparently very easily.

“But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me.

So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. (vv 11-12)

The second that occurs is that the Spirit within speaks to us and reminds us of our own stiff neck. The fact that the Spirit speaks to you in moments of temptation to disobedience or disloyalty puts you in the same immediacy. You have within yourself the intimacy with God that Israel shared through words and common experience. All you have to do is listen.

You know the transformation that God has wrought in you. He has released you from bondage to your Enemy, freed you from the constraints of a corrupted heart. All He asks is that you listen, that you follow His ways.

That’s not so hard, is it?

Grace and peace to you..

 

image by b rosen