Monthly Archives: August 2017

Unopened Gift

Wrapped present with bowI like many Americans was brought up with the ideal that you get what you deserve and you deserve what you get. So you had better work hard and do the right thing. Or else!

But what about the Jews? Scripture tells us that Jesus came first to them and they rejected him, even crucified him to attempt to thwart God’s plan of redemption. If God should reject anyone, one might think the Jews would be long gone.

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! … God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. … for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
— Romans 11:1a, 2a, 29

And this is beautiful news for us! For since God has not rejected those who had attempted to thwart his plan of redemption, but instead God has used this attempt, the crucifixion of Jesus, to perfectly complete that plan. Thus we too can find mercy from our disobedience.

Thus God’s gift of mercy is like a gift irrevocably sitting on everyone’s door step, available to be open. The question for us who have opened the gift, bringing it into our lives, is how we might help other people to recognize and open God’s gift of mercy.

I will have more to say about Romans 11 on Sunday, August 20th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Shameless

Ticket to Admit OneI am amazed by the dedication of actors, actresses, directors, stage crew, and musicians who participate in community theater productions. They must learn their parts, faithfully attend practices, and reliably show up for performances for the entire company depends on each volunteer. Yes, volunteer! Most community theater productions are fully staffed by people who love to be on stage so much that they would labor intensely just to put on a show before a live audience. Tickets cover costs related to renting the hall, using the script, and other fees.

Which leaves me wondering how much people must love Jesus when they talk about why they attend worship, why they  make significant contributions to the church, and why they volunteer so many hours?

Unfortunately people who bubble over with joy about what Jesus has done in their lives are few and far between. Instead when I challenge people to invite their friends and family to a special worship service I often receive excuses or silent avoidance.

Paul had the same problem nearly 2,000 years ago and he replied:

“Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
— Romans 10:6-9

Apparently even in Paul’s day people worried about what others might say about them. But Paul has an answer for that too: “The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ ”

The big controversy in our day seems to be over evangelizing by deeds or by words. Street preachers are perhaps the worst example of the confessing only with one’s mouth. I firmly believe that the best evangelists take time to sit with and listen to people before speaking. On the other hand St Francis of Assisi answered the question about the value of what we do by saying: “Pray at all times; use words if necessary.”

How might you share God’s message of salvation?

I will have more to say about Romans 10:5-13 on Sunday, August 13th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

God Chooses

Is there salvation for God’s chosen people? What about our friends and family who have drifted away from the faith?

Since Chapter 8 of Romans ends:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Broken PotteryThen how come God’s own people at least appear to be “separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus”? What allowed those who were once faithful members of the Church seem to have drifted away?

Later in chapter 9 and in the opening verses of chapter 10 Paul warns against attempting to establish one’s own righteousness, and not fully relying on God. The problem is not being sufficiently religious, but with attempting to be so religious as to establish one’s own righteousness through diligent observance of the law, proper prayers, and fastidious worship.

What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.
— Romans 9:14-16

And this is the best news, that although we might wish God would consult with us on who should receive compassion, or at least give us an insight as to why some people at least appear to be separated from the love of God, ultimately we must recognize God’s sovereignty and appreciate that the Creator of all thing seen and unseen, who placed us on this amazing planet, to be trusted with how God chooses to show mercy.

I will have more to say about Romans 9:1-18 on Sunday, August 6th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor