Romans 7

Romans 7:1-4 – I hadn’t caught this reference to being freed, in this case from the law, through death. It’s inspiring to me to think of what a transformation this is. This participation in Christ’s death changes everything, do we really understand that? I mean, we understand it when someone does physically, right? We know that it’s all different for them now. We get that they’ve crossed over to a new dimension, where everything is changed. The rules are changed, their body is changed, everything. But do we as Christians, we who have died with Jesus, do we really understand the change that God has worked in us? Isn’t that the point Paul is making here to the Romans? They didn’t et it either. What kind of people would we be if we truly understood the radical, awe inspiring transformation that occurs in us when we contact Christ’s blood and participate in His death & resurrection in baptism? We could not blend in. We could not be the same. We should not.
Romans 7:9 – Is Paul here making a comment on his passage from the innocence of childhood to becoming accountable? That seems like a possibility, but I don’t know. Maybe I’m just projecting my own ideas on the verse. I’d love some other thoughts on this.
Romans 7:13-25 – This passage makes my head spin. Paul, you lost me in there somewhere. 😛

Four Things …

Pinakidion tagged me, so I’ve gotta fill out this list and then tag four more. Here we go:
Four Jobs I’ve Had

  • Pizza Delivery (High School and College)
  • Paper Boy (High School & as a second job between about 6-8 years ago)
  • Hotel Doorman and Valet (college)
  • Injection Mold Designer

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over
Hmm, I’m not big on movies, particularly on watching them repeatedly, but here goes …

Four Books I Could Read Over and Over
Ditto my comments on movies. I just don’t read that much. Somehow, as a Christian blogger, I feel guilty about that. Oh well.

NYC, 83rd and LexingtonFour Places I’ve Lived

  • Maumee, OH
  • Cincinnati, OH (mostly near UC)
  • Riverview, MI (our building is just above the pool in that link)
  • NYC, NY (If you check out that link, it will take you to a new map & search service from Amazon called In a few big cities, they’ve got street level photos to accompany the map. So, in the image at right, you can see my NYC apartment. It’s just past the ‘Park’ sign on the right side of the street, beyond the Subaru Outback Wagon.)

Four TV Shows I Watch

Four Places I’ve Been On Vacation
These aren’t necessarily my four favorites, but as I thought about it I realized I’ve kinda been to the four corners of the USA.

  • Lomita, CA (Near LA, my Uncle lives there)
  • Seattle, WA (With Mom and Dad as a kid)
  • Tampa, FL (Visiting my Great Aunt and Uncle and my Great Grandmother)
  • Hartford, CT (My last vacation with Mom and Dad in High School)

Four Websites I Visit daily
Well, the list is at the left, I visit at least the first set daily. If I could only visit four, it would be these:

Now I’ve offended the rest of them, sorry. 🙁
Four Favorite Foods

  • Pizza
  • Meijer brand chocolate chip cookies. Just like Chips Ahoy, only cheaper.
  • Red Robin’s Banzai Burger, medium
  • Oreos

Four Places I’d Like to Be Right Now

  • Driving the T’bird on a warm summer evening on a gently winding country road. Top down, natch’. Nothing is more relaxing than that.
  • Pelee Island in Lake Erie, sitting on the beach doin’ nothin’.
  • On a private weekend getaway with my wife.
  • Dinner with good friends, talking about important stuff – Kids, family, church, relationships.

Four Bloggers I’m Tagging

  • Clarke
  • Alan (welcome to the silly, time wasting side of blogging 🙂 )
  • Virusdoc (if he can pry himself away from the new baby)
  • Gary

Romans 6

Romans 6:1-11 – This is one of my favorite passages of scripture because it gives us insight into the process of salvation. I love knowing how things work, and this tells me, in part, how salvation works. By understanding that, I get a vision of what I should be where I should go and what I should do as a result.
When we are baptized, we die and are raised again, just as Jesus was. We go into the water and are buried in it, just as Jesus was buried in the ground and raised up our of it. Read the passage, that’s exactly what it says in verse 3-4:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:3-4, ESV

But the amazing part, to me anyway, is in verses 5-11. It is this death, our own actual death in baptism, that sets us free from sin. Dead men have no sin, they can sin no more and they can be held responsible no more. They are “set free from sin” as it says in verse 7.
But, usually, when one dies, their chances are over. Their turn is done, their time is up. That wasn’t true for Jesus, and it is not true for us. We die in baptism and return to life, free from sin and free from death’s dominion. Death is a line we all must cross one day, however, to the Christian, they’ve already crossed that line in baptism. They’ve willingly surrendered their life to God and willingly, under His terms, crossed the line of death.
You know those movies where the bad guy chases the hero. The bad guy has the faster car and more powerful weapons, but somehow the hero stay one step ahead. The chase goes on, over hills, crashing through fences, over rough terrain and through impossible circumstances. They round a bend and the bad guy knows it leads to the drawbridge, and it’s time for the ferry to cross. The bridge will be up, and our hero will be caught. As they near the bridge, the hero floors it in a last ditch attempt, one final hope. The hero jumps his car over the opening drawbridge and the bad guy is trapped on the other side, unable to cross. He can only watch as the hero escapes to freedom.
As I read this passage, I get his kind of chase in my mind. Sin has chased us all our lives, nipping at our heels, just waiting for our death so it can finally catch us and claim its victory. It is persistent, yet patient, for it knows that we will come to the line of death and at that line, it has won. What sin doesn’t expect is for us to floor it and veer suddenly right toward the line, trusting in God’s promise, jumping across to a new life in Christ. There sin stands, at that line of death, unable to cross and touch us and bring us death anymore. For the line we’ve crossed, it cannot. And because we crossed that line willingly, surrendering under God’s terms, we go on living after death, just as Jesus did. We are now free from sin to go on and live for God.
Call me a Church of Christ wacko, but this passage shows baptism to be an amazing, mysterious, powerful and absolutely crucial aspect of Christian life because it is the connection to the blood of Christ, to His death, to His resurrection, to His new life and it’s the portal from slavery to freedom, from death to life.

We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:9-11, ESV

How cool is that? And, more importantly, as the rest of the chapter implores us to think about, if this is true, how should we live then? In sin? No!

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Romans 6:13, ESV


I’ve been meaning to write this for a couple of weeks now. You may have noticed that my Quiet Time journal has been more active lately. I started the year wanting to be in my Bible more, but thanks to the genuine concern of two friends I am more determined, and more excited, to do so.
A couple of weeks ago my minister and another deacon asked if I was free for lunch that week, so we set up a time. After a bit of trivial chatter, they told me that they had some things they wanted to talk to me about, some concerns. I’ve shared with them, as I have here with you, about my ongoing struggle getting into my Bible. I’ve not kept that a secret at all. They’ve not been critical or judgmental about it in the least, but supportive of my struggle and encouraging. Well, I guess they felt a little concern that a deacon in the church was somewhat publicly casual about his Bible study. Their concern was not one of my salvation or of judgment or for the reputation of the church. Rather, they felt that as a deacon, I had a responsibility to the congregation. The congregation should be able to feel secure in their leader’s knowledge, respect and involvement in the scriptures. It is perhaps a bit difficult to put into words here, particularly since in our past this conversation would take a different tone, but I was encouraged by their concern. It was born of love for me and for the church, period, no old school control and judgment.
And they were absolutely right. What kind of Deacon and leader can I be if I can go 6 months at a stretch without a focused time in the scriptures, but rarely 6 days without blogging? As a ‘regular Christian’ that would fall into the category of ‘less than ideal’ or perhaps ‘unwise’, but as a leader it’s selfish and irresponsible. I am not simply living for my own relationship with God, people in my church are looking to me for guidance, leadership and knowledge. It may shake (and has) their confidence in me to know that I am sporadic at best in my Bible study for months at a time.
In their challenge they were pointed, encouraging and hopeful. Our minister expressed his gratitude for our friendship and for my perspective in our leadership. I frequently feel like an outsider with some of my thoughts and ideas, so it was encouraging to have him say how he felt my perspective was valuable and needed. They also expressed a vision for me becoming an elder in the congregation at some point. It was a good talk, and it renewed my conviction to get into my Bible. For that I am grateful.
They weren’t done however. They wanted to ask about my blog. Evidently someone had searched for info on Ed Anton’s book and came across my site. That was pretty cool, I thought, but they were disturbed by some of the things I had written about our minister. (I’m not going to get into why the minister had to be the one to challenge me on this when someone else found it. That’s a post for another day, maybe.) I was perhaps a little defensive on this one. I assured him, I generally run posts by someone else, usually my wife, if I feel uneasy about whether it’s appropriate. I did concede that there may be some things from months ago that were less than favorable and I’d check. I certainly meant no offense.
Back at the office I decided to take a quick look. I was shocked and embarrassed to find a pretty recent entry that painted our minister in a decidedly unfavorable light. I had actually intended to compliment, but had instead insulted. How could this happen! Pride. I had failed to have anyone else read it first. The post has been edited (before he read it, thankfully) and I have apologized, but I do so again here publicly. Doug, I never intended to malign your character, name or reputation and I am sorry.
To the two of them, this second thing was the lesser of the two. I understand why, and perhaps they are right in the grand scheme of things. For me, however, it was huge for a few reasons. First, I was embarrassed to have committed such a public sin. But more than that, I was humbled and convicted by our minister’s reaction. He has accepted my apology without hesitation and told me that he completely trusts me that I was not out to harm. Not a word of disappointment or correction after the fact. I only wish I had given him that kind of trust in the past. I’ve been hesitant, critical and slow to trust him at times over the past couple of years. He’s born the brunt of the wounds in my history and he shouldn’t have. Were there perhaps reasons to withhold my trust or be skeptical? Perhaps there were, but he certainly has had at least as many reasons not to trust me and he did not hesitate to give me the benefit of the doubt when I had clearly failed him.
That’s two lessons in grace today, do you think God’s trying to tell me something?

“I Pray for Your Movement Every Day”

ICOCinfo published yesterday a letter from an evangelist in the “mainline” Church of Chirst named David Yasko. His roots in the COC go back to the thriving campus ministry days which gave birth to my family of churches, th International Churches of Christ. Back in the 80’s he was a youth minister in Muncie, Indiana when the church split to form what would become the Indianapolis Church of Christ (later renamed the Indianapolis International Church of Christ, but that’s another story). in one day, his church went fro, 400 to 150. He descibed a feeling of disbelef and sadness.

… disbelief that on the Sunday before the call to leave, we were brothers and sisters in Christ and the Sunday after the call to leave, we were not.
The second feeling was sadness. Sadness at seeing people who had stood up and defended the work on the campus who were told they weren’t sold out enough, and mega sadness at those in the campus group who were not asked to accompany the main group to Indianapolis. When they asked why they weren’t invited to be a part of the new movement they were told, “you didn’t have what it takes to be a disciple.” To this day I have never seen a group of people as devastated as that particular group.

It hurts my heart to hear these words. I know that, indirectly, I was a part of some of that devastation. I never went through a church split, but I’ve been surrounded by them. I was baptized in the Cincinnati COC, which only months earlier had been the ‘Gateway’ COC before being reconstructed by folks out of Boston. I wonder how many couldn’t go along with that and left. How many friendships were severed? My wife was baptized in that Indianapolis COC, born from the split David describes. Later, years after she had left for Cincinnati, it too split when their leader decided he couldn’t go along with much of the ICOC doctrine anymore. More relationships broken. Good friends of ours hurt, some left never to return. Over the years two different churches in the Columbus area were split when a ‘remnant’ was called out of each of them to go to Boston, or Cincinnati or wherever because somebody determined that there wasn’t a ‘sold out’ group of ‘true disciples’ here in Columbus. Years later we marched into town to do what somebody decided – who am I kidding – we decided no one in Columbus was doing, save the city. Foolish, arrogant people we were. It makes me shudder to think of the devastation that paved the way for my arrival here.
But David Yasko didn’t write to ICOCinfo to remind us of what we’d done.

I’m writing to tell you not to lose heart.
It’s hard when somebody you look up to, or looked up to, starts viewing you and the movement you love as an enemy. It hurts when something you sacrificed so much for is called “dead and dying” by the man who drove the dream for so many years. When the movement you worked so hard to build has its unity threatened by someone you love and trust it rattles your heart. Because you want to say, “wait a minute, we’re on the same team, aren’t we?” And you want to think the answer to that is “yes” but stuff keeps happening that seems to suggest the other alternative. …
And through it all, we are still called to be the Body of Christ. We are still called to go about the business of teaching the lost about Jesus and baptizing them into the Kingdom. We are called to be soldiers of the cross and and belong to the army of God. We are called by Paul to share in the fellowship of sufferings. We are called by Jesus to take Christ to the culture and the Word to the world. We are told to run with endurance the race that is set before us. We are told there will be defectors. We are told there will be detractors. We are told there will be those who preach with impure motives. And still we are called to be ministers of the Gospel of Christ. We are told not to look to the right or to the left, but to keep our eyes on the goal and do our best to get to the finish line still running for Jesus. To get to heaven by God’s grace and with God’s grace take as many people to heaven with us as we can.

Thank you, David. Thank you for your grace to my fellowship and your continued prayers, even after it turned it’s back on you. But mostly, thank you for reminding me that we are all on the same team, even if some don’t want to play with us anymore. I had forgotten that. When they started telling me that I was the enemy, I had begun to believe it and had begun to act as if they were mine as well.

Romans 4-5

Romans 4 is a challenging passage, and encouraging too. It’s exciting to see how Abraham’s faith gained him the gift of righteousness from God, just as our faith in Jesus does today. Abraham was the beginning of what would become the Israelite nation. Paul’s point here was that all the law and the history and the prophets began, not with obedience and righteous living worthy of praise from God, but with simple faith and trust in him who “calls into existence the things that do not exist.” (Romans 4:17, ESV) It’s a powerful testimony of God’s amazing love, patience and grace that He has given first to a family based on his faith, then to a nation now to anyone who will call on His name in faith.
While that big picture is encouraging and amazing, I have this feeling that there are many nuances that I’m missing here. Do you ever read a passage and feel that there’s something in it that’s escaping you, that you just aren’t getting? That’s how I felt reading Romans 4 this time through. I’ve felt that before, with the entire book of Hebrews for example, and later on it’s clicked. Some of those passages are now my favorites (I love Hebrews now), perhaps because of all the head scratching that proceeded the ‘aha!’ moment.
Romans 5:2 – If the grace of God is a room we stand in, faith is the doorway we must pass through to get there. Or perhaps more accurately, Jesus is the doorway and our faith in him is our ‘backstage pass’ or ticket to get in. Perhaps that gives us too much credit.
Romans 5:10 – I wonder if ‘reconciled’ and ‘saved’ in this verse mean two different things. I used to think of them both as salvation, in the saved from Hell sense, but now I wonder. For it says “now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” We are saved through His life after we are reconciled. In other words, His death and sacrifice provide reconciliation that enables His life to save us form a world of hurt. For once we are reconciled, we begin to examine His life and emulate it. In doing so, we are saved from the pain of sin and its consequences. Things we would have done before without thought, and would have hurt us and others in the process,, we now run from. In that way, once we are reconciled, we are then saved.
Romans 5:19 – Some see in this verse, and the surrounding passages guilt that was placed upon everyone because of Adam’s sin. But Romans 5:12 says “death spread to all men because all sinned” and that is the context of verse 19. Also, if you look at verse 19 and say that Adam’s sin made everyone guilty, apart from any action on their own, it would be consistent to use the second part of the verse to say that Jesus’ obedience made everyone justified apart from any action on their own. Even those who take the view of original sin and the Calvinist position that we do absolutely nothing in our salvation (it’s all God’s doing, period) would not say that Jesus’ obedience justifies everyone, would they?

Romans 3

Romans 3:20 – Someone asked me recently what the purpose of the OT law (specifically the 10 Commandments) was, Well, here we learn that it was not for justification. God did not give the law to prove how righteous we were. If anything, it was the opposite, he gave the law to show us just how far we are from him.
This is a concept that was always a little hard for me as I read Romans before. It seemed a bit harsh of God to make up laws to prove us failures. But perhaps the law was not something ‘made up’ by God for any purpose, it sprung from who He was. He didn’t ‘make it up’ as we might think but instead simply recorded who He was and how He lived. By doing so, He illuminated the stark difference between He and us.
Romans 3:21-24 – On the surface the it appears that the law is a means to get to know God – God expect you to do this and that and avoid these and those if you would be like Him and follow Him. Instead of leading us to Him, it just becomes quickly clear, however, that we are not capable of following that road.
But wait – God, now that it is plain to all of humanity that we cannot be like him, has given us, not a way to be righteous, but given us righteousness. It’s not that Jesus offers us a way to be Godly he just offers us the Godliness. It’s like those get rich quick schemes “Here’s an easy way to millions!” except that God, thorough our faith in Jesus, just says “Here’s millions!” How cool is that?

This is Why I Love Honda

I’ve owned my 1999 Honda Odyssey EX for 4 years. It’s the first Honda I’ve owned and I think I’m hooked. I love the tight handling, power, solid design and the overall quality feel, even at 120,000+ miles.
We bought it in December of 2001 Certified. Honda’s Certified Used program is one of the best. They do a thorough inspection, repair anything broken and replace anything worn out. Then the factory warranty is extended 12 months or 12,000 miles. If the factory warranty is up (like ours was) they give you a 12 month 12,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty. Beyond that, the power train warranty is extended to 7 years form original purchase or 100,000 total miles.
When we bought ours it had just shy of 40,000 miles on it. The next day, it started stalling when we came to a stop. No dash lights or error codes, just stalling. Returning to the dealer it was diagnosed as needing a new transmission due to the torque converter lock up sticking. Ouch.
That’s not why I love Honda.
I considered returning it and buying a different vehicle, but knowing Honda’s reputation I figured it was a fluke. Later I learned that transmission issues with these Odysseys, while still relatively rare, are alarmingly frequent. In fact, Honda later voluntarily extended the warranty on all Odyssey transmissions of that era to 100,000 miles. I figured I’d been there and done that so I was ready for another 150,000 miles or so of trouble free motoring.
Fast forward nearly exactly 4 years and 80,000 miles. On our recent Christmas trip, the check engine light and the TCS (Traction Control System) lights came on. That’s not a good sign, those lights together usually mean transmission issues. We made it home, but the transmission began acting up, hanging in first gear too long and downshifting very hard when I went to pass on two lane roads. I had a bad feeling and sure enough, upon visiting the dealer last week it was diagnosed as needing another new transmission.
This time we were out of warranty at nearly 120,000 miles and the dealer said that the re-manufactured Honda transmission was $4,500 plus about $500 installation labor. He recommended a used transmission, which seemed silly considering how short the life of the first two were. Ouch.
That’s not why I love Honda.
I told the dealer that an average transmission life of 60,000 miles wasn’t acceptable, warranty or not. I wanted to know what could be done about this. The said they could do nothing and I needed to call Honda of America myself, that’s how Honda works. (That’s a disappointing statement that I refuse to believe. As their customer I think they should have gone to bat for me with Honda on this. I will take my Honda business to a different dealer in the future.)
So I called Honda. The woman took down my information, VIN and history including my disappointment with the dealer and said a case manger would contact the dealer and get back to me in a day or two. Twenty minutes later the case manager called back to say that Honda would cover the entire cost of the transmission replacements. I would be expected to pay the shipping on the transmission, however, about $180.
That’s why I love Honda.
My vehicle is clearly outside the warranty, yet they’re doing the right thing. It’s clear that they understand the value of their reputation that they’ve spent decades building. They understand that people like me pay a premium for a Honda vehicle because they expect more from it in terms of durability and reliability. They’ve acknowledged that this transmission isn’t up to what people thought they were buying by extending the warrany to almost 3 times the standard 36,000 miles. When it didn’t live up to their reputation even beyond that, they’ve made it right. I’m sure that they’ve calculated how many are likely to fail outside the warranty and how many of those people will even ask for help. Still, they took care of me, and for that I’m grateful. It’s got me thinking of maybe a Certified Civic instead of the Mazda3 or Protege5 to replace the Escort later this year. If the Civic was available in a 5 door …

Romans 1-2, Take 2

Since The Message isn’t really a good study version, I’ve decided to try something different. I’ve heard good things about the ESV, so I’m going to give that a whirl for a while. I will likely change the auto-linking to go to the ESV as well, although the old quotations will stay NIV. Since I’m changing translations again and I had only read the first Chapter of Romans, I figures I ought to just start over. To here we go.
Romans 1:17 – The footnote for verse 17 in the ESV reads “beginning and ending in faith”. I feel as though I forget how faith is the beginning of Christianity. I think of relationships and love, but it all rests on our faith.
Romans 2:1-3 – Being judgmental, like this describes, is not only sinful, but it’s hard. Not hard on the one you’ve judged, although it is that, but hard on yourself. I know, for that’s me. For years, for whatever reason, I’ve looked in judgment on nearly everyone around me. It has become such part of who I am that I scarcely notice it. If you are different or have a different view, even a different preference, you are wrong. I’m not entirely sure where this comes from in me, but it is prevalent. I wonder sometimes if I can escape it. What’s worse is I’ve begun to see how it has hurt me more than it’s hurt those I’ve judged. In many cases, they have no knowledge of what’s in my mind, thankfully. But because this is how I tend to think, it’s how I assume others think as well. So, any words of disappointment, frustration or anger I interpret as criticism of me personally. When my wife has a headache, I feel responsible. If her PC isn’t running right, I feel that I’m to blame. If someone expresses disappointment to me, I feel that it must mean that they think I’m to blame for it. I’ve found that I don’t know how to just hear someone express something negative without taking it personally. I hope that being able to see it will help me overcome it, but It’s hard to see how.
Romans 2:7 – “patience in well-doing”. Not persistence or perseverance but patience. Patience to me implies waiting, not “doing”. Does that mean we keep doing, even while wait on God for the results or the reward?
Romans 2:25-29 – I guess some use this passage to teach that those who are not baptized, but who live the heart of Christianity will still be saved. I do see the parallel here and I think it’s valid. But the point Paul was making here was not that circumcision was trivial or even optional. He was saying that it it not what made one a Jew. It was one’s heart that made one a Jew, circumcision was secondary to that. I think the same can be said of baptism. It is not a dunking that makes one a Christian. It’s a change of heart, repentance, metenoia, that make one a Christian, the baptism is secondary. Not that baptism is trivial or optional for salvation, but it is not what makes a man righteous before God. Jesus said something similar in Luke 11:37-41, did He not? Will the righteous, yet unbaptized be saved? It’s not my place to say for sure, but presuming such a man exists (and he was merely ignorant of the command of baptism, not defiant of it), I would think so. However, knowing as we do that God has promised us forgiveness in baptism, but has not promised anything out side of it, why chance it? This verse does not, as some might like, get us off the hook for teaching what baptism is to a religious world who doesn’t want to hear it, it merely reminds us if it’s proper place. Vital, but secondary.

Wow, SpamLookup Really Works!

When I first installed MT 3.2 about six wees ago, I wasn’t real impressed with the new anti-spam plugin bundled with it, SpamLookup. The instructions are very sparse and not clear at all and the keyword moderation had no keywords in it, I had to go to a WordPress site to get a list. I had to dig around the web to figure out how it works and how to configure it, this article at Learning Moveable Type helped a bunch. As the days went on it seemed like it wasn’t really doing it’s job as a few comments were getting through. Not too much trackback spam, though, but wait until the spam bots re-discovered my site now that the secret code was gone.
Little did I know that it was working hard without me even knowing it. There are two kinds of spam flags in SpamLookup, Moderation and Junk. If a comment or trackback is moderated, I get an email. If it’s junk, however, I get no notice. Checking my site today I found something like 250 junk comments and nearly 1,200 junked trackbacks. That’s over 30 pieces of spam silently junked every day for the past six weeks. In fact, between deeting them at lunch and typing this now, SpamLookup blocked 50 more trackbacks and one comment. Wow.
I had thought I was going to end up going back to the secret code thing (which was highly effective) but now I see no need.

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