All posts by Robert Shaw

Groaning with Creation

We like to believe that we we are basically good. We might have our moments when we don’t measure up and have our issues, but I have yet to meet anyone who thinks that he or she deserves the suffering experienced in life. Thus one of the great theological questions is:

If God is good, why is there suffering in the world?

In a few sentences Paul throws this question aside. First, you are not the only person suffering, and second, not even only humanity that suffers.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning
as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. — Romans 8:22

But most importantly, looking at suffering is looking in the wrong direction. We should instead look at the grandeur and glory about to be revealed by God who calls us heirs.

I will have more to say about Romans 8:12-25 on Sunday, July 23rd at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor


FireworksEaster, and each Sunday as a little Easter, should be celebrated with fireworks, brass bands, ticker-tape parades, loud cheering, combined choirs, and a celebratory dinner.

Independence Day merely celebrates our collective rights for self-government, an occasion worthy of celebration in the grandest of style. Yet the resurrection of Jesus Christ proves our release from our well deserved punishment under the law.

The Apostle Paul began his letter to the Church in Rome with a long list of sins demonstrating:

There is no one who is righteous,
not even one;

— Romans 3:10b

Paul himself also struggled with sin:

So then with my mind I am a slave to the law of God,
but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

— Romans 7:25b

Then he makes a most amazing statement:

There is therefore now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus.

— Romans 8:1

Although the law was intended to guide us from sin, it is unable to do so. Yet God, in Christ Jesus does the impossible! This is worthy of celebration in the most grand style, not merely once a year but every Sunday. Ring all the bells! Pull out all of the stops!

I will have more to say about Romans 8:1-11 on Sunday, July 16th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

What Shall We Do?

I once loved “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum. The tune is catchy and the words are inspiring. At least until he gets to the line:

Never been a sinner. I never sinned.

I believe the Apostle Paul would have argued with him against that line as well.

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. — Romans 7:19 (NRSV)

Great comedy also makes use of this human propensity to think that we can do what is right, only to do what is wrong. When a character does something obviously wrong audiences will roar with laughter, relieved that someone else makes a foolish mistake as they may have once made.

The good news of Jesus Christ is that we need not remain stuck in our past failures, but may dare to go out into the world striving to do our best, confident that Christ has rescued us.

I will have more to say about Romans 7:14-25 on Sunday, July 9th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

The Skirl for July 2017

BagpiperClick here to read about:

  • Praying with art
  • Photos from Vacation Bible School
  • Community BBQ
  • Half-way update from the Church Finance Office
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Notes from the Session
  • Beth-El Back to School wish list
  • Calendar

Freedom for …

20 mph on wet winding wayImagine if you could drive however fast you wanted without any consequence. No speed limits. No radar traps. And no speeding fines.

Of course a few people would use our freeways as their personal race tracks: treating other drivers, especially slower ones, as if they were competitors to be beaten, even run off the road. And others would drive so slowly as to become hazards, rolling barricades that without any warning suddenly choke traffic to squeeze around them if not to an inexplicable standstill.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans he supposes his opponents might ask: Since believers are free from the law, why not take full advantage of the freedom Christ won for us and enjoy life to the fullest as we understand it?

Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace?
— from Romans 6:15

In Paul’s time people believed everyone was a slave to some person or to some principal. If not  a literal slave, owned by someone, one might be a family member obedient to the head of the household who was in turn obedient to both to the principle of efficiently managing that household and to the local government. Thus to be freed from slavery to the law, might mean freedom from all owners.

In our time, instead of slavery, we might talk about being signed by a particular team, for example the Tampa Bay Rays of the New York Yankees. In Paul’s mind there are only two teams: Sin or God. One cannot be truly loyal to both.

If then we are freed from the law, can we consider ourselves free agents, able to discern for ourselves how we should act? Most certainly not, for to do so would make us equals to God, who alone sets the limits of good and evil.

Instead Paul challenges us to ask: What we have been freed for?

Consider the speeding example above again. Since we have been freed from the law we are thus freed for the kingdom of heaven. The speed we drive would consider the impact of our driving on every other driver on the road, on those living near the road, on the environmental impact of fuel consumed, and so forth. If traffic laws were perfectly efficient, speed limits would balance all of those factors with our personal needs to efficiently get from one place to the next to transact business. In such an ideal community, speed limits and traffic fines would control drivers by fear to drive at the same rate as those motivated by living for one another, that is living to advance the Kingdom of Heaven.

No longer present your members to sin as armaments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as armaments of righteousness.
— from Romans 6:13

I will have more to say about Romans 6:12-23 on Sunday, June 26th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Not Dead, Alive!

Everyone should at least watch a baptism by immersion. While I affirm infant baptism by sprinkling water on a child’s head, as it places the emphasis for salvation on the work of God, only baptism by immersion fully expresses the ideal of becoming dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

I did not experience my first baptism by immersion until I found myself standing waist deep in a mucky pond about to baptize a man who had insisted on immersion. Having been trained as a lifeguard, I had inklings of what could go wrong. At worst the candidate for baptism would panic, slip off the narrow ledge we stood on, and pull me under as well. Physical death was a real possibility, for both of us.

Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
— Romans 6:4

The challenges come after baptism, when followers of Jesus must turn from sin and walk in the newness of life.

This Sunday, June 25th, I will focus on Romans 6:1-11, providing a brief note for context, so that we might better understanding being dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Robert Shaw
Pastor, Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church

Character Building

Chocolate PieWhenever we went to a restaurant, my father would immediately flip the menu over and study the deserts. Once he knew which desert he wanted, he would plan his meal around that dessert. Then with desert in mind, he would suffer through eating his vegetables.

But Paul boasted of an even greater gift to look forward to in his letter to the Romans.

Therefore, since we were justified from faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

As if a guarantee of divine access to grace and hope in sharing in God’s glory were not enough, Paul continues to boast about the impact of boasting of God’s grace in this life. Usually we boast about what we have accomplished, but Paul urges us to boast about what God will accomplish through our sufferings.

Not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

I am convinced that my father lived his whole life the same way he ate dinners; knowing where he wanted to end up, he sought opportunities that would get him closer to his goal.

I will have more to say about Romans 5:1-8 and building character on Sunday, June 18th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

Credit Check

Some people think of church as a store where they can acquire faith, or at least the trappings of faith: marriage, baptism, prayers during crises, funerals.

Instead believers come to church week after week because they have recognized God, the giver of faith, acting in through their lives every day! We come to say thank you and to hear stories of how other people have experienced God in their lives, affirming our experiences.

Credit CardsBelievers come not to be justified, but because have seen the justifier at work in us. We know that God has checked our credit, how well we have obeyed the law, and found too many deficiencies to even list, yet has blessed us as righteous through our trust in Christ Jesus.

For this reason justification depends on faith,
in order that the promise may rest on grace
and be guaranteed to all Abraham’s descendants,
– Romans 4:16

I will have more to say about Romans 4:13-25 and God’s gift of faith on Sunday, June 11th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

The Skirl for June 2017

Click here to read about:

  • Praying with your whole body.
  • Photographs from our May BBQ.
  • Healthy plants.
  • Thank you from Alpha House.
  • Exciting news from our Weekday School.


Confessing “Jesus is Lord” has implications for how we observe our daily lives.

Two-thousand years ago, confessing “Jesus is Lord” was akin to committing treason, especially in a culture that regularly confessed that Caesar was Lord.1 A modern analogy would be to confess: “Jesus is my President.” But this pales in comparison as Caesar considered himself not answerable to any human establishment (e.g. the Senate) nor even answerable to God.

Nonetheless confessing Jesus is Lord of all has real implications for how Christians must live our lives:

  • If we really believe in one God, then the whole of creation, the entire universe belongs to God and people are God’s creations, answerable to God to whom we owe our respect for the privilege of the gifts for creation. A prayer of thanksgiving at the beginning of a meal is a nice beginning, but our actions after getting up from the table are much more significant.
  • Gift boxesIf we really believe in one Spirit, then all talents are divine and in God’s eye, all people are equally gifted. Early Christians may have argued over the which gifts were more significant or which indicated that a person had truly received the Holy Spirit as evidenced by their gifts. If we claim that Jesus is Lord, then the question becomes how will we use the gifts or charisma that we have received to advance the Kingdom of Heaven?
  • If we really accept Jesus as Lord, then Jesus is Lord always and everywhere! Not merely on Sunday morning during worship is Jesus Lord, but especially on Monday morning and Friday night. Not merely in Church, but especially at work, at play, and in the voting booth. For if Jesus really is Lord advancing the Kingdom of Heaven must take precedence over advancing one’s nation, and especially over advancing one’s own career even over the laws enacted by earthly governments.

How do you use your gifts to advance the Kingdom of Heaven?

I will have more to say about 1 Corinthians 12:1-13 and gifts of the Spirit on Sunday, June 4th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church. Please wear red for Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit divided as tongues of fire among the disciples.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

1. For additional background on “Jesus is Lord” verses “Caesar is Lord” see: 
N.T. Wright, “Paul and Caesar: A new reading of Romans”