Category: Romans (Page 1 of 24)

Put On Your Simla

When Boaz starts taking an interest in Ruth, the meddling mother-in-law hatches a brilliant plan. She recognizes the reality of their conditions and she moves to seize the opportunity in front of them. Naomi instructs her widowed daughter-in-law to “wash and perfume yourself, and put on your simla” (Ruth 3:3). My NIV translates the Hebrew word simla as “…put on your best clothes.” But the word simla just means a regular robe. Your normal everyday clothes. Simla is just a generic robe by both men and women. It’s not a special dress. It’s not a special anything. And that’s the point.

Remember, Ruth is a recent widow. Her husband died like four or five months ago. And Ruth has probably been wearing special grieving clothes. She’d been wearing something that designated her as a grieving widow and Naomi’s telling her to change into an outfit that would send a different message.

The exact same wording is used in 2 Samuel 12 when David is grieving over the illness of his newborn son. For seven days, David was in a state of mourning, fasting, and praying for his son. When the child died, the Bible says David got up, washed, put on his lotions, and his simla, his normal everyday attire (2 Samuel 12:20). He’s signaling that his grieving is over now. I’m back to business.

That’s what Ruth is doing here. She’s changing into another set of clothes that say she’s available for marriage. She’s not grieving anymore. She’s not focusing on what she’s lost. She’s moving forward. She’s prepared and ready to seize the opportunity in front of her.

As children of God and followers of Jesus, we need to put on the right clothes that signal to the whole world that we are ready and prepared to seize the opportunities around us.

“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” ~Colossians 3:12-14

The people around you are seeking what’s really important. They’re searching for something trustworthy and true. The people you’re running into every day are disappointed, disillusioned, and divided. But they’re open to something different. They want something or someone that’s real and solid and dependable. They want an answer to everything that’s gone wrong, they’re looking for a solution to everything that’s broken. That way, that truth, that life is our Lord Jesus Christ and the time is right now to make him known to a desperate world.

Clothe yourselves with Christ!

Your life, your words, your actions, your attitude can be living proof to everyone around you that good overcomes evil. You can show people by how you behave that love is greater than hate, that unity is more fun than division, that forgiveness always beats revenge, and that peace is far more effective than violence.

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” ~1 Peter 2:9

Not just the things you engage in and the ways you act, but also the things you refuse to associate with and the things you say “no” to are a powerful witness to the only One who can truly fix what’s wrong.

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.” ~1 Peter 2:12

Peter didn’t come up with that. He’s quoting our Lord from the opening lines of his Sermon on the Mount.

“Let your light shine before all people that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:16

Think about it. What if you and I remained calm when the other people around us are anxious and frantic and demanding? Everything is turned up so loud right now. What would it mean to others if you were quiet and calm?

What if you and I spoke with humility and grace? Instead of saying things and forwarding things and reposting things that insult and disparage whole groups of other people so the people like me know exactly where I stand, what if we only said thing that were encouraging to others and the only thing that came out of our mouths was intended to build those other people up? I believe that kind of language would really stick out as special.

What if you and I tried to love everybody? What if you and I were known for how kind and graciously we treated others, even when we disagree? Especially when we disagree! I really think that would get noticed. And what if we committed to that right now instead of later?

“[All the commandments] are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ …Do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here… Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ!” ~Romans 13:11-14

Put on the clothes that signal to the world you take very seriously your vows to the Lord. Wear the simla that communicates a deep commitment to the ways and means of our King.

Peace,

Allan

Normal Discipleship

You’ve seen NFL quarterbacks doing that on the field during a game. What are they doing?

The quarterback has a tiny little receiver (there’s a Wes Welker joke right here, but I’m letting it go) in his helmet so the offensive coordinator up in the pressbox can talk to him. The quarterback is trying to block out all the noise from the crowd in the stadium so he can hear the only voice he really needs to hear. He’s trying to block out the distractions so he can hear his coach who has a broader view of the field and a bigger picture understanding of what’s happening in the game. He needs to hear the voice from above, the voice of the one who wrote the playbook and developed the game plan, the voice he most needs to hear.

You’re never going to move in your discipleship unless you know that our God is dynamic and personal and active in his communicating with you. You’ve got to intentionally listen for his voice and it’s got to be more than just the Bible.

Now, hold on. Before you get all tuned up, let me explain.

The Bible is the voice of God. I believe that with all my heart. I believe and I preach and teach and live by my belief in the inspiration and authority of the Bible as the Word of God. The Bible is the voice of God. But the voice of God is not limited to the Bible.

What about Christians who never owned a Bible? What about the tens of millions of Christians over the past two-thousand years who have never even seen a Bible? Can they not have a relationship with God? Why does God’s Holy Spirit live inside us if everything we need is in the Bible? Being guided directly and personally by God’s Spirit within us is normal for a disciple of Christ.

“Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” ~Romans 8:14

The book of Acts is OUR book and finding a pattern in Scripture is OUR thing. And in Acts, it’s normal for Christians to get God’s Word both from Scripture and outside of Scripture.

In Acts 8, an angel of the Lord speaks to Philip and tells him to  take the Gaza Road. The Spirit, it says, tells Philip to jump in the chariot.

In Acts 9, the Lord calls to Ananias in a vision. Ananias answers, “Yes, Lord.” He knows who’s talking to him. The Lord told Ananias to find Saul, another guy he’s been talking to in a vision.

In Acts 10, an angel of God speaks to Cornelius. This non-Christian answers, “What is it, Lord?” He knows what’s happening. The angel tells him to find Peter. Later on, Peter is being addressed by the voice. Twice, it says, the voice speaks to Peter. And Peter acknowledges it as the voice of the Lord.

In Acts 16, the Holy Spirit tells Paul and his companions not to preach in Asia. The Spirit of Jesus, it says, would not allow them to go to Bithynia. During the night in Troas, Paul has a vision of the guy in Macedonia which caused them to leave immediately, “concluding that God had called¬† us to preach the Gospel to them” (Acts 16:10).

The way Luke gives it to us in Acts, it’s normal. He doesn’t write, “By the way, this was really weird.” It reads like the standard operating procedure for followers of Jesus to be led by the voice of God. So is the book of Acts a collection of exceptions or a collection of examples? Is hearing the voice of God no longer relevant for life in Christ, or is it the way life in Christ is supposed to be?

I was raised in and by the Pleasant Grove Church of Christ in Dallas, a medium-sized and very conservative congregation of God’s people. But we articulated these very things in our worship together every Sunday. We would pray for the preacher to have a ready recollection. We would ask God to bring us back at the next appointed time. We would pray for the Lord to guide, guard, and direct us (for the longest time, I thought that was one long word, like a theological word in Greek, like guidguardandirectus). It was normal for us to pray for God’s daily direction.

We would sing it, too. Guide me, O thou great Jehovah. He leadeth me, O blessed thought! Break, thou, the bread of life; beyond the sacred page. He walks with me and he talks with me. My God and I, we walk and talk as good friends should and do. We would pray it and we would sing it, but we would never preach it or teach it – that two-way communication with God is normal.

There are several reasons you might not be hearing God. One might be that you don’t expect to. If you’re not expecting to hear God’s voice, then you’re not listening for it. Maybe people told you that you can’t hear God or that God doesn’t talk anymore. Maybe no one ever taught you how to hear God. Or maybe you don’t want to hear God. Maybe you prefer a silent God. A non-talking God is a lot easier to deal with. If you hear the voice of the Lord, it might change your agenda, it might blow up your whole life.

In John 5, Jesus tells the religious experts, you diligently study the Scriptures, but you’ve never heard the Father’s voice. It’s possible to be an expert in the Bible and be lousy about hearing God.

How will Jesus know his disciples? They hear my voice, he says.

Peace,

Allan

Each Member Belongs

“In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” ~Romans 12:5

Plenty of studies have been conducted over the years that prove the importance of strong relationships. You’ll be in better health, you’ll be happier, and you’ll live longer if you have close friends. Even if you have poor health habits, the effects are mitigated by having a group of good friends. According to all the research, it’s healthier to eat donuts together than to eat broccoli by yourself!

That’s a theology I can embrace!

When God gathers us together in Christ, we belong to each other. All of us. Almost all the commands in the Bible are “one another” commands: love one another, build one another up, encourage one another, pray for one another, be devoted to one another, honor one another, live in harmony with one another, accept one another, instruct one another, greet one another, agree with one another. serve one another, be patient with one another, be kind and compassionate to one another, submit to one another, forgive one another. These commands can only be obeyed in community. We can only follow these instructions if we’re together, if we live and worship and serve together, and if we really belong to each other.

I think you can get to heaven without good close Christian friends. Probably. But you’re not going to be changed by God to become all he intends for you to be without other disciples of Christ pushing you, challenging you, lifting you up, helping you, and worshiping and serving with you.

That’s church. At least, that’s the intent of church. We know that’s how and why it started. From the very first day, the church is built on and functions through intimate Christian relationships.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” ~Acts 2:42-46

All these people from all different walks of life gathered by God to live together in community with Christ. Every day. In each other’s homes. Loving each other, serving each other, ministering to each other, taking care of each other, eating together, singing and praying together. They devoted themselves to the communion, it says, the koinonia, this sharing of life together in Christ.

As a whole, generally speaking, we don’t do this very well anymore. Over the centuries, the church, the community, has moved from smaller intimate groups who share life together in Christ to larger more impersonal groups who share a weekly meeting. We’ve moved from encouraging one another and building each other up to, “Hey, you got a problem? Go talk to the preacher.” “You’re dealing with some issue? Call the elders.”

We’ve moved away from the priesthood of all believers where everybody meets the needs of the ones in their community to specialized programs.

“Dan’s in the hospital? I don’t do that. That’s not my ministry.”

“Trudy’s lawnmower broke? That’s not my program. But somebody at the church does stuff like that.”

“We haven’t seen John in three months? The church should have a visitation team.”

“George and Jane’s teenage son is in trouble? Don’t we have a youth minister?”

Over the decades and centuries, we’ve lost community in church. We’ve turned the church’s weekly community thanksgiving meal together into the most individual and solitary, leave-me-alone time imaginable. We’ve gone from doing life together in Christ around the kitchen table to a solemn ceremony in an auditorium. Don’t distract me!

We’re trying to shift some of that here at the Golf Course Road Church in Midland. We’re starting twelve new small groups as a step toward formational Christian community. These groups are going to eat together and study the Bible. But they’re also going to practice spiritual disciplines together and serve on mission together in our city.

We’re also doing more interactive things when we’re together in the worship center on Sunday mornings. We’re doing more participatory things, more getting up and moving around, more eye contact, more talking to each other. We’re attempting to shift the Lord’s Meal to be more about communion, more about fellowship and sharing, and less about individual meditation.

There are plenty of things our churches can program and plan to cultivate an environment for tighter Christian community. But maybe you could start by grabbing a dozen donuts in the morning with some future friends.

Peace,

Allan

Slow to Anger

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger…” ~Exodus 34:6

Patience is tough. Boy, it is for me. I believe it is for all of us. Especially today. We don’t just have cars and TVs and microwave ovens, we’ve got cell phones and computers and AI and 5G, we’ve got drive-thrus for everything and online for everything else. And it’s making us a much less patient people.

Our God reveals his name to us in Exodus 34, he tells us exactly who he is. This is God’s nature, his character, his eternal will. Slow to anger. Long-suffering. Patient. Oh, my, is he patient.

God does not experience time the same way we do. He has a much different perspective on clocks and calendars. What seems like ages to us is just a blink to our Lord. If my computer doesn’t load my Google search in three seconds, I get impatient. I get upset in line at the grocery store. My garage door goes up too slowly. But God is patient. God is willing to let entire centuries go by, he lets whole millennia pass as he carefully works out his eternal purposes. He waits. He delays. He is patient.

Romans 2 says it’s this patience of God that leads to repentance. God’s patience is a big part of what saves us. 1 Timothy 2 tells us God wants everybody to be saved and that’s why he waits.

“Our Lord’s patience means salvation.” ~2 Peter 3:15

The world needs us to reflect God’s patience. To practice it. To demonstrate it consistently. We live in a harsh world. This world is not slow to anger, it is quick to anger. It is fast to judge. It is in a hurry to criticize and condemn. This world needs a shock absorber. We need to show our God’s patience to everyone we’re around because our God has been so incredibly patient with us.

Peace,

Allan

If Not You…

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God.” ~Hebrews 12:15
As children of God and disciples of Christ Jesus, we demonstrate his grace to the people around us. We make sure all the people we contact every day know the truth about our God because they experience it in us. They encounter his grace in us. They see it and feel it in you.

This is as practical and tangible and as real as the Christian life gets. Whatever you have received from the Lord, you generously pass it on to others.

“Forgive each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” ~Ephesians 4:32
Forgive the person in your life who doesn’t deserve it. Forgive the person who’s never apologized. We’ve got more than enough people out there accusing and condemning. Who’s going to forgive? Christians who, by God’s grace, have been forgiven.

“Accept one another just as Christ accepted you.” ~Romans 15:7
Invite somebody over to your house who is 30 years older or 30 years younger than you. Take somebody to lunch who’s a different race or speaks a different language. Have a conversation with somebody from a different culture than yours and learn something. We’ve got lots of people out there dividing us and categorizing us and drawing lines and excluding others. Who’s going to accept others? Christians who, by God’s grace, have been accepted.

“Love one another as I have loved you.” ~John 15:34
Take a Sonic drink to your grouchy next door neighbor. Say something kind and encouraging to the customer service agent. Compliment the cashier at the gas station. Give up your own rights and give in to the demands of someone else. There’s enough hate out there, there’s enough haters – more than enough. Who’s going to show love? Christians who, by God’s grace, have been eternally loved.

Peace,

Allan

Putting Away and Taking On

“Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” ~Romans 13:14

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, the 40-day period of fasting and prayer that precedes Good Friday and Easter Sunday on the Church calendar. Going back to the early years of Church history, Lent has traditionally been a time for personal abstinence and self-discipline. In the Middle Ages, it became particularly associated with a fast from eating meat. It developed into a teaching tool for the Church and a reminder for all Christians: In your hunger, be reminded of all that Jesus suffered and sacrificed to win your salvation.

As you enter this season of Lent on your own or together with your family or community of faith, allow me to suggest that it’s not just about giving something up. It’s not only about sacrificing a certain type or amount of food or some other regular pleasure in order to participate in the sufferings of Christ or to remember his selfless preparation for the cross. At least as important is the idea and practice of taking something on, adding something new to your life in Christ.

Not only the surrender of material things, but the taking on of spiritual things, eternal things that draw us closer to Christ and, by the power of the Spirit, transform us more into his image is the best way to prepare for Easter. A new ministry. A new discipline. A new work for the benefit of others. A new prayer. A new friend. A new passage of Scripture. While you’re cleaning out your house over the next six weeks, pay attention to what you’re moving in to the empty spaces. Add something important. Commit to something Spirit-filled.

Our church at GCR is observing Ash Wednesday tonight with our brothers and sisters in Christ at First Presbyterian here in Midland. The joint worship service begins at 630pm. There will be corporate confession and repentance. There will be an imposition of ashes. For most of us Church of Christ’ers, it will be brand new, mildly uncomfortable, and sort of strange. And powerful and beautiful and holy.

Peace,

Allan

« Older posts