Chapter-a-Day Romans 10

The Resurrection from Grünewald's Isenheim Alt...
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Say the welcoming word to God—”Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. Romans 10:9-10 (MSG)

I’m often intimidated by do-it-yourself projects. Convinced that it’s got to be infinitely complex, and further convinced I’m in no way good enough or qualified to do it, I shy away from starting the project in the first place. When I finally take the step of faith to launch into the project, I usually find that it was a lot simpler than I believed.

I find others response to God is a similar thing. Convinced that getting their lives right with God is a terribly complex process frought with all sorts of personal hardship, self-sacrifice and a religious to-do list for which they are not good enough – they simply avoid the issue altogether.

But, God’s Message makes it clear. Salvation is as simple as taking the step of faith to say “Jesus is my Lord & Master,” and believing in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.

 Painting by Mattias Grunwald (part of the Isenheim Altarpiece)
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Chapter-a-Day Romans 9

All we’re saying is that God has the first word, initiating the action in which we play our part for good or ill. Romans 9:18 (MSG)

One of our friends is a talented actor with a marvelous voice. She has often found herself cast in smaller “bit” parts when I suspect her heart truly desired a leading role. Yet, time and time again she turns her handful of lines and precious few minutes on stage into memorable moments that steal the show. It’s her “bit” performance that I hear audiences talking about as they leave the auditorium.

As I’ve helped countless times with the audition process, I’m struck by those individuals who feel that bit parts are beneath them. I get it. My pride leads me to want the spotlight, too. Nevertheless, some of the smaller parts have been the most fun, and are the ones people continue to remember and talk to me about years later.

God is a great casting director. He chooses just the right players for the roles he needs to move the action the way He intends. I don’t always get it. His choices sometimes leave me scratching my head. Nevertheless, I have learned not to worry so much about the other roles. My joy is to be found in pouring all that I am into the role that I’m given – even if the part is a “supporting” role and not a “starring” one.

Loveable, Valuable, and Capable

From the moment my daughters were born, I wanted to imprint a truth on their soul:

You are so loveable,  that God gave his one, and only, son for you.

You are so valuable,  that you were bought with a price.

You are so capable, that with God nothing is impossible for you.

“You are loveable, valuable, and capable,” I told my girls over and over again. I reminded them over breakfast in the morning. It was the last thing I said to them at night after bedtime prayers. I wrote it on Post-it notes and put it in their sack lunch. I gave them key chains with bead letters: LVC. I wrote it on letters, on postcards,  text messages and emails.

“Hey, Taylor. Hey, Madison. Guess what?!!”


“You’re loveable, valuable, and capable!”

When they were toddlers they giggled.
When they were tweens they smiled.
When they were teens they humored me, but I sensed the rolling of their eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, dad. I know, I know. Loveable, valuable, capable. Whatever.”

They’re grown now. They are adults. I haven’t stopped reminding them. As I mentioned, I wanted the truth imprinted indelibly on their souls.

I never imagined that the truth would end up indelibly imprinted, in my handwriting, on my daughter, Taylor’s, back.

I think I’ll still remind her from time to time. After all, the tattoo is on her back where she can’t see it. I wouldn’t want her to forget what’s written there :-)

Chapter-a-Day Romans 8

The embalming process includes the use of spec...
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So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go.

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. Romans 8:12-15 (MSG)

I often glance back over my shoulder to view the road behind me. Not to dwell, for there’s no value in dwelling on what can’t be undone. A quick glance, however, reminds me of lessons learned and short cuts gone awry that made for long, painful delays. I need the occasional perspective. It helps me gauge my current position, and often provides wisdom for choosing my next steps.

Today, as I read, I glanced back and remembered long stretches of time tending to things dead. It’s tragic how we try to breathe life into a rotting corpse; how we hoist a decomposing cadaver onto our back and carry it around with us. We can’t really go anywhere, because the weight and responsibility of a dead man around our neck. You can’t really travel with the dead man. He requires constant tending. It takes a lot of time and energy to hide the stench. And, sometimes you just have to keep him out of sight. So, pulling him in and out of the closet requires that you stick pretty close to the closet.

Tending the dead and the grave pretty much robs you of the opportunity to travel.

Lord, I’ll follow you. But first, let me bury…”

Follow me,” Jesus said,  “Let the dead bury their own dead.”

I glance back at a lesson learned in time. When I finally walk away from the corpse and the grave tending that goes with it, all sorts of new places and possibilities open up on the horizon. With the burden lifted and clean, crisp wind of fresh air filling my lungs, I become giddy with child-like anticipation. “What’s next, Papa?” I asked God.

“Walk with me,” He said with a smile and a wink as He pulled out a tattered, well-worn copy of a Dr. Seuss’ book from His coat. He reads as we walk away from the grave:

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

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Capter-a-Day Romans 7

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 The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. Romans 7:10-11 (MSG)

There was a drawer in the kitchen when I was a kid. It was a big drawer. The bottom drawer of the pennensuila to the left of the stove. It was the drawer. In that drawer were potato chips, Oreo cookies, Little Debbie snack cakes, and the occasional gold mine of cream-filled Hostess treats. To a young kid, it was junk food Nirvana.

When I got home from school, it was snack time. A Coke and a snack. One snack. Only one snack. That was the law. Thus speaketh almighty mom. “You don’t want to ruin supper,” she said.

So, I would wolf down my coke and cookies before heading downstairs to turn on after-school television: The Brady Bunch followed by Hogan’s Heroes. It always happened somewhere half-way through the Brady Bunch, right when Peter or Jan found themselves in the midst of a polyester, bell-bottomed predicament.

I really wanted another snack.

But mom said, “It would ruin my supper.”

“So what,” I said to myself. “It’s chicken and noodles. I hate chicken and noodles.”

Listen for the footsteps upstairs. Mom’s in the living room. Quietly make your way up stairs. Watch that third step; It creaks. Tip-toe down the hallway. Peek around the corner. Where’s mom sitting? Good! She’s on the couch facing the other way. Just a few more quiet steps to the drawer of forbidden fruit pies! You gotta love that dad made these drawers so quiet. Grab the stash, then quietly dash back downstairs.

I don’t know how many times I successfully made a sneaky snack run.  Sure, I got caught a few times, just like the Brady kids. But I was successful more often than not, which prompted me to do it again and again.

I thought about the snack drawer when I read today’s chapter. It perfectly illustrates for me the sin nature that Romans explains. That sinful nature in me takes the command that was meant for my good, and turns it into a lustful desire to disobediently appease my out-of-control appetites.

Unfortunately, the older you get, the commands are more important and the disobedience yields more disastrous consequences.

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Chapter-a-Day Romans 6

So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. Romans 6:15 (MSG)

While I was in college, my roommate and I were asked to read a couple of patriotic pieces at a Veteran’s Day event. We arrived that morning at the VFW Hall. There was still plenty of time before the bus was to take us to the event and we were invited to sit down and enjoy the company of the many old soldiers who packed the hall.

I’ll never forget that morning as I listened to these grandfathers share their experiences of war. I will always remember the look in their eyes as they spoke of their brothers-in-arms who never made it back. Etched in my memory forever are the tears of one elderly soldier who sat on the bus and silently wept as his mind relived some distant memory.

That morning, this snot-nosed college boy put faces to my freedom. As I sat in the VFW hall and on that bus with those men and heard their stories, it finally clicked in a way it never had before. My freedom wasn’t free. It was bought with lives of men and women who sacrificed their lives so that I could enjoy mine in freedom and peace.

I find it an apt parallel to the Kingdom of God.  We are no longer shackled to our sinful appetites. We are graciously forgiven of the sin that had us on death row, and have been freed from our imprisonment. But our freedom wasn’t free. It cost God the life of His Son, Jesus, who gave Himself up for execution on our behalf.

Every time I use my freedom as a license to act disgracefully, I dishonor the One who died for that freedom.

Lord, have mercy on me.

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Chapter-a-Day Romans 5

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. Romans 5:3-4 (MSG)

There are stretches of the journey when everything seems to go wrong. I’ve been feeling empathy for my youngest who recently, in the process of a few weeks, dropped her new phone in the toilet, cracked the LCD screen on her new laptop, then backed into someone pulling out of the parking lot from getting her car serviced. Sure, not one of these events is a tragic in a life and death context, but taken together they make for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

The verses I pulled from today’s chapter have been a constant source of encouragement to me along particularly trying legs of life’s journey. Even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances, there is reason to shout our praise to God. There is progress in our pain. God is at work, growing us up. Maturity doesn’t come with comfort and ease. Wisdom is born in the midst of trial. Character is honed in refining fire.

Today, I’m reminded that God allows terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days for a bearable, wonderful, profitable, very good reason.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and jek-a-go-go