Thursday, January 29, 2009

Romans 7-8

I spent the last 2 weeks or so reading and re-reading Romans 7, trying to latch on to something in there that I could relate to my life. There are some things I just don’t understand – all this business about being alive before the law and sin using the law but the law is still holy although it brought death? I just keep asking, why do we have the law if it brought only death and knowledge of sin? I do understand this verse (7:15):

I do not understand the things I do. I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate

I didn’t exercise on Monday even though I am sick on my clothes not fitting and I sleep much better when I do work out. I didn’t take the time to call my husband and tell him how thankful I am that he cleaned out the garage to make room for my car, although I was so happy all the way to work that I did not have to scrape ice of my windshield this morning.

What I DID do this week was yell at my kids and eat chocolate chips out of the bag.

Since I took too so long on chapter 7 and didn’t really say anything, I thought I’d better throw in chapter 8. BONUS!!

I have worked in a ministry for people grieving the death of loved ones for about 5 years, and I think there is no verse more often given to and misunderstood by grieving people than Romans 8:28:

We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. They are the people he called, because that was his plan

I know it sounds like it would bring great comfort to someone to tell them that God is working some good out of their loss, but most people don’t take it that way. They tend to think that you are telling them that the death of their loved one was “for the best” in some way, and it makes them either angry at you or at God.

In 2004, my husband’s best friend was killed in a random mugging. We were both devastated. In our moments of total honesty, the most difficult thing about it is that our faith cannot tell us that he is in heaven with God. I take Jesus at His word that “No one comes to the Father except through me.” I know that my friend was not a church-goer, not a Bible-reader, and not a professed Christian, but I still have a great hope that he is with God. I just can’t know, based on my faith. What I do know is that God is making something good out of something that is decidedly not good. I don't think God wanted my friend to die any more than I did, and that is where I can find comfort.

The Truth is that God didn’t want anyone to die, but this is the point in my winding thought trail (thanks for staying with me) where all that Romans 7 stuff started to make more sense. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Isn’t the law the “fruit” of that knowledge? [I’m not trying to say that the Garden of Eden was allegorical.] God’s plan was for us to live forever, but once we knew good and evil for ourselves, everything was turned on its head and sin and death got control. The Law is holy; God created it to order the world, but it was not God’s plan for us to ever be under the Law. It was our free-will choice to take on the knowledge of good and evil, and through that knowledge sin took over the world. Yet even in that bad turn of events, God is/was/will be working for the good of those who love Him. (Rom 8:35-39)

Can anything separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can troubles or problems or sufferings or hunger or nakedness or danger or violent death? … But in all these things we are completely victorious through God who showed his love for us. Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing. Not even me?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Romans 6

Paul is addressing the inevitable question: “If all your sins are forgiven, why do you need to ‘be good?’”

His answer is, (in part and channeling a friend of mine who kindly fixed up my new computer last night,) “That would be like running Windows on your new iMac.” You could do it, but you would be undermining the greatness of the work of Christ and ultimately cheating yourself out of the gift He has given you.

Paul addresses Christ’s resurrection, the work which grants us eternal life, in verses 8-10 in order to draw a parallel between victory over death and victory over sin.
in verses 5-7, he makes this point:

Christ died, and we have been joined with him by dying too. So we will also be joined with him by rising from the dead as he did. We know that our old life died with Christ on the cross so that our sinful selves would have no power over us and we would not be slaves to sin. Anyone who has died is made free from sin’s control.

The gift is of Christ is not only freedom from death, but also freedom from sin. It is only in freedom from sin that we can be free from death, but I don’t want to overlook the magnitude of that second freedom in and of itself.

Looking at this from another direction, if someone is asking, “Why should I be good if I am forgiven for being bad?” what they are really fighting against is letting go of something they enjoy in life that is contrary to God’s will as they understand it. As a twenty-something (admittedly barely hanging on to that title,) the people in my life are usually talking about “partying” in some form. Whether that is alcohol, drugs, sex, or just plain irresponsibility doesn’t make any difference. Why would these people, or anyone, want “freedom” from the lifestyle they are enjoying so much? Paul’s answer is easy to refute and impossible to deny:

Surely you know that when you give yourselves like slaves to obey someone [or something], then you really are slaves of that person [or thing.]

The mouth says: I’m not a slave to drinking. I’m not a slave to smoking. The heart echoes the truth: Why is it that sometimes I just don’t feel right until I have that drink?Why did I spend more on cigarettes this month than I paid on my credit card debt, even though that debt is keeping me up at night?

The specifics of my own don’t matter, because the cycle is familiar to anyone who has wrestled their own demons. I felt bad- depressed, bored, insignificant, stressed- I turned to my self-help of choice, I felt “better.” The next day, I was about as glad to be done with the cure as with the sickness, and I was haunted with the knowledge that the next time I felt bad, I would most likely find myself going down the same path. The truth is that even as they brought pleasure, those dark little things brought pain because I knew in my heart I was enslaved. If I really faced the truth, I knew that without them, there would be a hole in my life that I couldn’t fill. It is torment to know that you are not complete without some ugly thing that must be bought, made, done, added- over and over again- that is not you but less than you.

It’s not like that with God. God fills that void with Himself - something not you but greater than you, something that is not made or bought or done, but given. That is what freedom from sin is all about. It’s about the power to overcome that which makes us less than what we desire to be, because ultimately, we desire to be beautiful, pure, and wonderful, and that is what God desires from us as well.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Where I've Been

If anyone out there is wondering where I've been, the answer is long and complicated or short and easy, depending on how you want to look at it.

The short and easy answer is that my one-year-old has been in such a state with ear infections that he hadn't gained a full pound since his six-month checkup. He doesn't sleep, he doesn't really eat, and he cries. ALOT. Throw in vomit and other messy bodily functions brought on by antibiotics and you have a recipe for an unhappy baby and an unrested, unhappy family. We did get tubes put in his ears about 3 weeks ago, after several delays due to him being too sick for the surgery. Since then, he has already gained almost 2 pounds and started saying several "words," including "teetee" (kitty,) "mama," and "tay too," an imitation of "thank you" that he seems to think means "you take this and then give it back to me." While he is doing better, he has already had another infection and sleep is still an issue. We have a long road in front of us to get him to unlearn the bad habits that came with all the drama, but there's a light at the end of this tunnel, and I'm glad and thankful to be getting back to our family routine with the start of the new year.

The long and complicated is....well, more complicated. I am neurotic about schedules. I need structure and goals to feel "right," but it is a self-defeating cylce. Once I start feeling "not right," my tendency is to want to "give myself a break," and let go of some of my commitments. Then I get behind on my plans and goals, see where this is going. Like everyone else on the planet, I am my own worst enemy.

So what is the plan? Resolved: I will try to write an entry in this blog once a week, hopefully on the same day each week, but not about a set amount of sripture. I will cover whatever my study and quiet time has been on that week. Don't worry, though. It will still probably be some sort of sequential path through the New Testament because that is still where I am reading on my own.

I am also going to get back to writing in my other blog on a weekly basis, so you can find me there, too.

Happy New Year!