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We’re a resort village church, relaxed and warm. Dress up, dress down, come as you are. We are located at 975 C Avenue, Coronado, California. Resident or tourist, you’ll be among friends who desire to know Christ and make Christ known.

 

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    9&1030

    Wednesday
    May172017

    Finally!

     

    Dear Theologians,

     

    And now we come to the finally paragraph of the letter. Very likely at this point, Paul took the pen and wrote the closing paragraph in his own hand (Paul notes in 2 Th 3:17 that this was his custom). He may have done this to protect his letters from forgery, for one thing, but certainly to extend a personal greeting to those to whom he was writing. I think almost all scholars agree that the apostle probably suffered from a serious eye problem; his letter to the Galatians suggests that. So Paul wrote these marvelous words in large letters with his own hand:

     

    Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him -- to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (16:25-27)


    Those remarkable words constitute a summary of the whole letter to the Romans – a beautiful finally to this great epistle. Notice that the goal the apostle has in view in writing this letter and summary is that we who read this letter may be established.


    Established. It’s a term borrowed from the building industry. It’s good to be established, yes? Many people think they are established when actually they are simply stuck in the mud. Most of us think that being established means that all progress ceases. We sit down, camp there, and that is it. In that sense, there are a lot of Christians who are established. But when Paul speaks of our being established, he means putting us on solid, stable ground. Ever been seated at a table in a restaurant where the four legs are not touching the ground at the same time? (Okay, not when you dine at Peohe’s or Sheerwater.) You discreetly fold a napkin several times and stick it under one leg in an attempt to try to establish it so that it will not rock, or become shaky, or uncertain. That is the idea that Paul has in mind in this word establish. God wants to bring us to a place where we are no longer rocking or shaky or unstable, but solid and secure. The idea is basically what all human beings look for – an inner security from which we can handle all the problems of life. We become dependable, and have a true sense of worth, so that nothing gets to us, or shakes us up, or throws us off balance.


    Notice the resource that the apostle counts on to make that happen. See it? No worries. We’ll find it together this Sunday during our Finally Survey Sunday.

     

    In Your Debt,

     

    R                     A                       L                       P                     H

    Monday
    May082017

    The Every Which Way What Won't Work

     

    Dear Theologians,

     

    After a relatively good snowfall, an uncle offered his nephew the opportunity to earn some extra pocket money for shoveling a path from the garage to the street – and the path only needed to be the width of a car. The nephew, eager for his pay, put on his uncle’s boots and coat, grabbed the shovel and began work. Shovelfuls of snow flew this way and that way and every other which way. He kept his head down, concentrating on making a good, complete job of it. Eventually he stood up, drew breath and looked with satisfaction down the length of the driveway. “Now that’s a good job,” he thought with pride. His uncle came out. “Well done,” he said. “Come in and have a cup of hot chocolate with me and get your pay.”

     

    But as they were going inside they heard a voice. “Then will you come and clear away all the extra snow you’ve put on my driveway?” It was the next-door neighbor, standing by his door, looking not only at his snowy front lawn, but all the snow that had been so energetically shoveled off one driveway and onto his. Uncle and nephew looked at each other. The neighbor wasn’t ticked or anything, actually he was amused, but clearly something had to be done. “I think this looks like a two-man job,” said Uncle Bob to Ralph…er, said Uncle Bob to his nephew.

     

    Paul’s supreme concern in chapter 14 is the danger of so clearing your own ‘driveway’ that you end up making it impossible for your neighbors to use theirs. It is all too easy, in sorting out our own lives and finding our way forward as apprentices of Jesus, to make things harder, not easier for those around us.

     

    In Your Debt,

     

    R                          A                         L                    P                   H

    Monday
    May012017

    Truth and Consequences

     

    Dear Theologians,

     

    Harry Blamires is an Englishman who has written an important book titled, The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think? He was a student of C. S. Lewis, and his book was first published in 1963 – the same year Professor Lewis died (22 November). Its main thesis, repeated over and over in chapter 1, is that “there is no longer a Christian mind.” Blamires meant by this that in our time there is no longer a distinctly Christian way of thinking. There is to some extent a Christian ethic and even a somewhat sort of kind of Christian way of life and piety (not God’s “ethic punctuated by grace” that Pastor David has taught us). But there is no distinctly Christian frame of reference, no uniquely Christian world view to guide our thinking in distinction from the thoughts of the secular world around us.

     

    And you think the situation has improved since 1963? Uh, no; it has grown worse. Today, not only is there little or no genuine Christian thinking, there is very little thinking of any kind and the world – the entire world – is well on its way to becoming a “mindless society.”

     

    So, here’s the challenge: We are called to think, even though the world around us doesn’t – or at best thinks in non-Christian categories. And as Pastor David reminded us last Sunday, “These are our times; embrace the challenges God draws up [for you].”  I’m thinking, “Time to think the way I should think, you think?” The apostle Paul writes the how-to: Welcome to Mind Renewal 110-A…starting at 12:1 & 2 and then from 12:3 to just short of his greeting to Rufus.  

     

    As announced during our first class, 1-11 are about what to believe; 12-16 are instructions for how to behave. We’ve explored a lot a lot of doctrine and theology – both of which are hugely practical. Now the apostle addresses the entire courtroom giving concrete practical application of the doctrines upon which his case is built.

     

    Or maybe an even better word is “consequences,” which is forefront in my brain browser after reading the slogan on the Hillsdale College newsletter, Imprimus: “Because Ideas Have Consequences.” We have reviewed many ideas in the first great sections of Romans – truthful ideas (fig tree not withstanding), compelling ideas, ideas that have come to us by means of an inerrant and authoritative revelation to a sinner saved by grace (Saul → Paul) – and now, my dear theologians, we explore their consequences.

     

    In Your Debt,

     

    R                             A                           L                            P                         H

    Monday
    Apr242017

    "Now, just stop it - all of you!"

     

    Dear Theologians,


    The routine was as predictable as where we each sit during the worship service Sunday after Sunday.

     

    On the way to church, the three boys would sit in the backseat of a ’59 Ford Galaxy picking fights over senseless things. “This is my side of the car!” “You’re breathing on my side of the car!” “Stop making faces at me!”

     

    Dad would grab the rearview mirror and give us “the Sunday morning look of love” – an unmistakable glare warning of the catastrophic consequences if the battle continued. That would be followed by a lecture peppered with questions that had no rational answers (dare I suggest, “stupid” questions?).

     

     “Do you want me to come back there?”

     

     “Do you know what will happen if I stop this car?”

     

    Swatting at us was not an option because we had been born with the innate knowledge of the few spots in the car dad’s arm could never reach.

     

    I don’t know who it was from the wide, wide world of wiser parents who finally pulled dad aside and gave him advice on disciplining children while driving: “A touch on the brakes brings them right into play.” And it always did – for the next six days.

     

    The Apostle Paul identifies some similarly senseless quibbling going on between Gentile believers and Jewish believers who are sitting in their ‘assigned seats’ in the church in Rome. And Paul knows that quibbling can escalate to disastrous results: church split, destroyed relationships, bitterness and revenge. As a result, he pumps hard on the brakes at 10:1 and then painstakingly through 11:36 makes his case for the importance of the remnant of believers in Israel to incorporate the Gentiles into their side of the backse………er, into their Christian community. And it worked – for the next……….

     

    In Your Debt,

     

    R                       A                  L                    P                  H

    Tuesday
    Apr182017

    Please answer me that. 

     

    Dear Theologians,

     

    The end of chapter eight marks the conclusion of the first major section of Romans. Paul has discussed the doctrines of justification, sanctification and glorification. But before Paul moves on to address practical concerns of local church life (12-15), he feels compelled to speak about God’s plan for the Gentiles and the Jews, Paul’s very own people.

     

    Had God abandoned the Jews? Paul had already resolutely answered ‘no’ to such a conclusion in chapter 3. Yet if the Jews were God’s chosen people, why did most of them oppose the gospel? If the gospel really is the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures, why don’t the Jews recognize it as such? And how does one make sense of God’s choice of Israel and his promise to bless the world through them when the Jews had rejected the gospel? Come on, Paul, please answer me that. 

     

    Paul completely understood the feelings of the Jews who refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah – he had once been so opposed to Christ that he had hunted down and imprisoned Christians. But then Paul was confronted by Christ and became a changed man. Though he was the “apostle to the Gentiles,” Paul was still so concerned for his people that he was willing to be “cursed” (9:3) to bring Jews to the Savior. Furthermore (or wherefore or therefore), Paul knew that the church at Rome had a unique opportunity to use the diverse personal backgrounds of its members to strengthen the cause of Christ. Paul tackled many of the issues in this letter for the sake of the unity of both Jewish and Gentile Christians.

     

    And, for Paul, every question sooner or later led the one asking the question to accept or reject God’s sovereignty. For those in the courtroom, it is now "sooner." The apostle faces the jury and asks a rhetorical question, answers it, gives a quick history lesson and then, wouldn’t you know it, offers another “therefore” to any juror thinking, “Okay, Paul, please answer me that.” Oh, how he masterfully drives home the answer to the “Is God really sovereign?” question. Brilliant! Next question?

     

    In Your Debt,

     

    R                           A                          L                           P                        H

     

     

    The Bonus Round: Fuzzywigs to the first few or so who email me the numbers assigned to the three verses referenced in that closing paragraph.