Personal Devotional – Romans 9

You can find this letter from Paul to the Church in Rome in any Bible.

Recently I have started going to the Convergence House of Prayer and doing personal devotional Bible study in the prayer room. I’m there right now. My method is simply to look up a passage on my ipod using the YouVersion app, read it slowly, ask God to teach me and transform me by these words, and write my thoughts in my personal prayer journal as I go verse by verse. I’ve been looking at the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome for the last week or two, particularly chapters 9-11, one of the most difficult and most violently debated passages in the Bible.

As I sat here, it occurred to me that what I am writing in my journal may be helpful to one or two other people who may read this, or perhaps to my children and grandchildren. So here is my meditation on Romans 9 today.

Tuesday, August 21 – 4:38pm, at CHOP

“Father, give me wisdom and revelation as I seek to learn from your word today. O, give me a fresh outpouring of your Spirit! For Jesus’ sake, hold back nothing good from me! I am poor and undeserving. I pour myself out as a drink offering at your feet. I have nothing you have not given me. Teach me to receive more! Let me not fear your indwelling! I want to lay down my pride completely, abide fully in you, to do only your work, and not stand in your way. I want to be fully flexible and malleable as your instrument, fully in your will to control as your hands and feet, as a member of your body.

In Romans 9, Paul has unceasing anguish for his brothers in Israel, that they might be saved. I do not have such a burden. O Father, give me a full burden, that I might be put to good use! Give me your strength to carry it.

But what is this mystery of your hardening of hearts by your will, your choice, in order to make your might known? Your sovereignty over all! This is a fearful thing, Lord! How can we stand before you? O, Give me mercy! Don’t turn from me, don’t harden me! And give me a heart that can accept your will. Yet let my heart be holy and righteous, reflecting your heart. How your are full of compassion while hardening some is a great mystery, yet I know that it is your compassion I must seek to own; because you alone rule the hearts of men, I can only imitate your mercy. But we are all but lumps of clay in your hands, and this is a fearful thing! Oh let me be put to honorable use! And give me faith to believe you answer my prayers, that you truly love me. I wish I wasn’t such a pathetic son! I do believe, yet I doubt! Help my unbelief!

And I want to intercede for al my brothers and sisters! So many! So many! Only you know! All at WPC, IPC, GCC, CHOP, FRCC, IHS, UMA, SJSU, SJYS, IVCF, and more! Have mercy! Harden not their hearts! Yet give me a heart that will rejoice in your justice as well as your mercy. You are greater than I can handle, too big, too powerful, too scary.

Yet you are good to me. I know it full well. I have seen your mercies to me daily. Why are you merciful to me but not to others? Surely it is not because of my amazing awesome beauty, for I am but a poor sinful man. Surely you ought to hide your face from me, spit upon a wretch like me. But you saved a wretch like me. Are you unjust? No, because you punished Jesus in my place. You are not unjust, but it is easy to see why so many object to this idea. It is truly a stumbling block, foolishness, that you would punish the innocent for the guilty. Yet it is my only hope. If I were you, I surely would not punish my only begotten Son, who was my pride and joy, perfect in beauty and holiness, the pure shining representation of my glory. Would I love my wretched fallen creations like you do? What is Man, that you are mindful of him? Yet you have lifted him up. You did not spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all. And it is when we take by faith His flesh and blood, broken and shed in just and righteous propitiation for our sins, that we are healed. You will put no one to shame who trusts in you.

Love and flowers splitting rocks.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)

20120703-174012.jpg

This is a flower in a rock. I saw it at Donner Pass last week on my way back from Utah. And it struck me as something particularly beautiful. I am sorry my iPod camera is so poor.

In time, such flowers can break such lifeless, uninhabitable stones, creating fertile soil after many generations of compiling compost. A barren rock, like the moon or Mars, can become a garden through the persistent indwelling of the life of God that is in his light.

This is who I’m supposed to be. But I’m not. I’m more like a rock than a living flower, although I am slowly being broken and replaced with life. I am becoming a living stone.

But love as we are told of in the scripture, this is how Jesus loved. He was able to do this on earth, as he did always and will continue always. He is the creator, lover, sustainer, and redeemer of all that has been made. Our God appeared to us as one of us, in our lowly mortal form – yet only for a short time. And he loved us into death, even death on a cross. Greater love has no man than this.

It is my calling. It is your calling. We can be healed, we can be healers. We can love also, because he gives us His Spirit from On High to give us this new life, new mind, new desires, new and right spirit within us. I believe it. We can change. And through His Word dwelling in us, we can be agents of change. We have the power to choose the more excellent way, the way of Love.

It is better for these few words to enter us and transform us, than to be full of all the knowledge in heaven and earth.

My God, my Savior, I do not love you like you love me. I do not love my neighbor as you love them. In your mercy, fill me with your spirit freshly, open my heart and mind to see what you see, feel what you feel. Break stony hearts, plant living seed. What value has all my striving and study unless you fill me with your light, your love, that I might shine in every dark corner that hides from your goodness. Here I am, send me. Reveal your light to people who are lost in their darkness, who grope for a way, finding none, full of bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor.

Shall your children be known by how they love one another? Gather your children, Father, give us the life of your spirit, let all we do be done in love!

This is not a completely cohesive post because I went back and added thoughts without really rewriting other portions. Nevertheless, God’s love creates life, and his love has been shown to us in Jesus, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And we can live this kind of love in the world, and bring somehow the power of God to break mountains and plant gardens in deserts.

Self-hatred vs. Jesus

Sometimes I hate myself. For example, today.

I was already late for rehearsal with my worship band at church in Fremont, and as I was texting them this information, I was pulled over and cited for texting while driving. Now I was missing my rehearsal and also soon-to-be hundreds of dollars poorer.

Self-hatred. Why? They were expecting me and I wasn’t there. Their respect for me surely decreased. And it is apparent that my pride requires success in maintaining the respect of others for me in order to allow me to respect myself.

This is the second time in two months being ticketed. The first was due to speeding, again when I was going to be late to worship rehearsal in Fremont. $415 fine. I am planning to attend traffic school on Monday to take it off my driving record, but this second citation is too soon. Now my insurance will go up. And I’m even poorer.

Self-hatred. Why? Because my pride says I must not make financially significant mistakes, I must not allow myself to have any self-respect when I screw up.

I thought to myself: I hate driving. I need a motorcycle to get through the traffic. I need a new iPhone with Siri and a headset so I can text without texting.

But no, these are not the true solutions. I don’t hate driving. I hate myself. Why? Because I am a law breaker. I screwed up, but then I willfully broke the law to attempt to cover my errors. And the error compounded.

It is a curious thing about humans that we want to break laws. Computers don’t break laws. They do what they are programmed to do. But even if we understand the law, and believe in its rightfulness, its helpfulness to us as a society, we perceive that we could better our own personal situation by breaking the law, without regard to how we may hurt ourselves of anyone else. We don’t let ourselves simply obey good laws. In fact, we fear the consequences of obedience.

Sometimes we feel bad about getting caught, and we make plans to continue lawbreaking in ways that circumvent law enforcement. But sometimes we feel bad about being the kind of person who is willing to be a lawbreaker. When we set a law in our hearts, and we believe it, and we break it despite our convictions, counting ourselves above the law. When we realize what we have done, and how corrupt our thinking is, then we hate ourselves. This is true remorse and sorrow. We try to fix ourselves, but we remain broken.

Jesus was murdered. Yet while he hung, bleeding, gasping, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!”

We are truly confused people; we truly do not know what we are doing.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

Jesus doesn’t hate us, even when we hate him. He wants to show us the way to life. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. Whoever believes in me will live and never die.”

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved.”

Yes, Lord. Save me from myself. Save me from the death that my lawbreaking deserves. I have broken your laws, O God! And my self-hatred is right and just. But you, O Lord, do not hate me. You cover me with your love and protection, you make your righteousness and your mercy known by punishing my sins as they deserve, not in my own body, but in Your Only Begotten Son’s body.

And every day is a day of new grace. The sun shines, the breeze blows, the birds chirp, the grass greens, the flowers blossom, the trees give shade. There are new foods to try every day, new beauties to see and enjoy. This is because You are Good. Blessed are all who put there trust in you.

So I do not hate myself. My every sin and error is covered by the Blood of Jesus. And there is more and more grace, every day, into resurrection and eternity. Your mercies are new every morning, Lord. In your presence are pleasures forevermore! My soul delights in you, O my God. I could sing of your love forever. Great is Thy faithfulness. It is well with my soul.

All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing, Halellujah!

Look, a flower! God is good.

20120601-185151.jpg

God is Absurdly Ridiculously Good

God is crazy.

Look at this weather! The sun is bright, breeze is blowing, flowers are blooming, green covers every hill, beautiful blue sky, a few white puffy things hanging out up there for no apparent reason, birds are chirping, (they’re getting twitterpated you know), and the breeze is so beautiful as I stand in the shade of this great pine tree.

20120422-140128.jpg

The people of God gathered together, they washed there faces clean, clothed themselves with fine garments, the children’s eyes are bright with joy, their teeth are brushed and their hair is tamed.

And so many colors! Every shade of green, brown, blue, pink, purple, red, yellow! Large plants and small plants, trees, grasses, shrubs, flowers; insects in the ground, birds and squirrels in the trees, and so much I have no names for, but which I know true lovers and observers of nature do know how to taxonomize.

It’s all just too good! God, do you not know what we did last night? Why did you let the sun rise on such a people?

Last night I was angry. I hated my parents, I hated myself, I hated my life, I hated everything. I ate a lot of chocolate.

God is too good. He has filled my heart again with gladness, because of the great glories he shows by the works of his fingers. Truly the heavens declare the glory of God.

My beloved is like a mighty cedar; birds make nests in his shade. I too will rest in his presence.

My beloved says to me, “Arise, my love, and come away with me! Behold, the winter is past, the rains have come and gone! Flowers are blooming and the air is full of singing!”

I will hide in my beloved. He is a mighty mountain, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who put their hope in Him will never be put to shame. He covers his children with his wings, and we rest without fear, though evil surrounds us on every side. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hands have made – I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed – when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze – then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee: “HOW GREAT THOU ART!”

My heart will sing no other name. Jesus. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and honor and strength forever and ever. Alleluia. Amen.

I wish I could just sit here under this tree forever. Why would I want to do anything else? God is so absurdly ridiculously good to me. I don’t deserve any of this.

I just want to say: “I love you God! Thank you! I love you Jesus! You are so beautiful!”

If this is what heaven will be like, then maybe it won’t be so bad.

You can’t run away from Jesus, my dear brothers and sisters and friends! He will chase you down and be good to you no matter how much you know he shouldn’t love you. He loves you anyway.

O Lord, reveal yourself to a stiff-necked, hard-hearted, rebellious people! Have mercy upon us, O God! Save us from our foolishness!

What a good father you are. You are too good. And your love never fails. When we are faithless, you are faithful. I could sing of your love forever. I will open up my heart and let the Healer set me free. I’m happy to be in the truth, and I will daily lift my hands and sing of when your love came down!

Oh friends! How I yearn for you to know Him! How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure, that he would give his only Son – to make a wretch His treasure!

I will not boast in anything: no gifts, no power, no wisdom. But I WILL boast on Jesus Christ: his death and resurrection! Why should I gain from his reward? I cannot give an answer. But this I know, with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom.

Friends, believe in him! Trust in him! Hope in him! Don’t fight your creator, your Father who only loves you, who made you for perfect joy and peace in his presence, to enjoy everything he has done, everything he has made out of his unrestrainable creative joy!

My dear friends! Accept who you are! You are more evil and pathetic and worthy of death than you are willing to admit. But you are also loved so much more than you could possibly ever deserve, or even imagine. Your Father loves you! Your brother and king and savior, who substituted his life willingly for you, who absorbed all the destruction you had coming to you, like a great big spongy shield. He literally became a man just so he could literally die in the way you deserve, in your place, to set you free from death! Friends, let us now live on him! He literally came out of that grave with a resurrected body that would never again die, and he will give the same to us, if only we are willing to suffer like he did in defense of his good name! Let us not be ashamed of the one who loved us most! To live is Christ! To die is gain!

The day is coming when he will come back in power and glory, and all nations will tremble and hide themselves in the mountains. But even the mountains will not be able to hide them from The Father’s fury and wrath, because they despised and rejected his Son. So why fight God? Why mock his son? Rest in him. Let the world crucify you if it will. Sigh. Even so. Come Lord Jesus.

The Confessions of Saint Alishan

I loveee the ‘Confessions’ of Saint Augustine, even to the point of unashamedly spelling ‘love’ with extra ‘e’s.

It is nothing but a book of reflective prayer to God, but written so that others may listen in and perhaps be helped. God answered his prayer, and many have been helped by his book, including myself.

I want to be honest too. I feel a great pressure, whenever I write, to be interesting. I want people to like me and consider me as smart and funny. This people-pleasing attitude is debilitating, as it causes me to excessively censor my writing, to the point where it disappears, failing to exist before it comes into full being. It is rather like a mental abortion, as I am afraid of the responsibility of owning my words, which can never be truly retracted.

I am afraid of being judged by you. “He is ridiculous! He is wrong! He is foolish! He is arrogant! He is pathetic! He is needy! He is immature! How cute! But not really! Why would he post that? Does he really think anyone cares enough to read it?”

I am afraid of this because I know it is what I do to you, as I stalk my Facebook feed, reading so many postings and ramblings of so many people. I judge you. I hope you can forgive me.

Lord, give me honesty like Augustine, but let my honesty be true and helpful to someone. Guard my words so that I will not speak foolishness into the world; let that kind of talk stay between you and I. You, Lord, put up with much foolishness, but your patience is infinite. This is not true of these beautiful people you have made, these who are reading. Our lives are short, and we must find truth and life before then end!

Show us the way, Jesus. You say you are the way. You will bring us to your Father, to dwell in his house forever. So indeed our hearts must be restless until we find our rest in you.

And may my pretentiousness in quoting Augustine without attribution be overlooked. Amen.

Depression

Sometimes when I’m depressed I remember all the other depressed people in the world and how terrible it must be for them. It’s truly a terrible state of being. I feel that there is no joy and hope and all I want to do is stick my head into a meat grinder to make it all stop.

But there is joy for me on the other side. And I tell you the truth, there is one way I know best to get out of the pit. I cry to the lord, and he hears my cry. I remember his past faithfulness, I tell the stories of the things he has done for me. Then my heart rejoices in God, my savior. When the storytelling ends, the physical sense of despondency returns, but I wait in hope for god my savior to give me joy again.

And thus I battle through this life, when I remember to fight. Lord, let me not forget to turn to you quickly! Let me turn quickly to recount your deeds in my times of sorrow and self-hatred! You are good, and your love never fails, even for a wretched sinner like me. Thank you. How can I repay the one who has given me everything? I can only lift up my cup again, to be filled again by your grace. I will drink again from your living water, I will eat your daily bread of life.

Passivity = Death

Passivity = Death.

What’s the difference?

Notice how boring this blog is if I do not actively write anything interesting. It is as if the blog dies before it starts.

The nice thing about blog posts like this vs. facebook posts is that I can edit them as I feel so inclined. So someday there may be only cogent thoughts refined here in this repository of randomness. In the meantime I am content to write even my babblings.

The novel Gilead is written as though it were an extended letter written by an old and terminally ill father to his 7yr old son. This father wants to put into this letter everything he would have wished he could tell the boy, if he could have lived to see the boy’s maturity. And so he writes from his heart about himself, his thoughts, feelings, convictions, observations, and wisdom of many years, all in the context of attempting to write a meaningful family history for the boy.

These are the kind of things I want to write here. Meaningful, significant things that are worth reading. Things that I would want my children to read, to know me better as 25-yr-old-me with all my struggles and adventures and spiritual journeying.

Lord, give me wisdom not to waste my words. Let me speak truth from my inmost parts. Fill me with truth and wisdom, with bravest fire, but with love and grace, lest I run this race in vain. Let me continue till the end, faithful and active. Let not my soul die and in its passivity be carried along by the currents of this world which have no end but to fade into vapid entropy, a vast nothingness of self-dissolution. For this life is truly but a breath, and all the vain pursuits of this life are but a chasing after the wind.

I love you, O Lord, my strength. Though enemies encamp on all sides, I will not be moved, for you are my rock and my fortress. I will be passive in you. I will die to myself daily. I will crucify the old man in me, I will take up my cross and follow you to death. I will live in the new life you give; I will not walk in my strength. So if I do anything, it is not I, but your spirit working in me and through me. I surrender myself and all my passions to your will, O my God, my Savior and Lord. Amen.

I wonder.

I wonder many things. Perhaps I should write about them. I have many thoughts. Perhaps I should share them.

I had a Xanga blog in high school. That was fun. I have not done any regular blogging since then. 7 years is a long time. Every cell of my body has replaced itself. I am a completely renewed person in that sense. But also spiritually I am a very different person in my soul. In what ways am I the same, yet different? What is the thread of my identity? I wonder.

I would like to write interesting and life changing things. I would like to see God face to face also. I would like to read more great literature so that my soul and my writing would be enriched.

Gilead is a great novel. I am being enriched by it. But still I am poor and needy. Lord, come to me.

I have a friend whose blog is entitled my love is loud. It’s a good name. Her love is loud. I think that is very special and beautiful. I want my love to be loud too.

Lord, I want to see. Give me this water, that I may thirst no more. Let there bubble out of my heart springs of living water for eternal life.

I’m just me. God is God. I am but a man. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I want to be real. Thoughts are messy. Disjunct. Free flowing. They don’t always make sense or follow a structure. But I think there is a meaning behind it all.

God is God. God is Good. I love you God. I do.

I used to look down on people who spoke in this way. I did not understand. How can you love God whom you have not seen? But I love you God. I do. And now you have made me into a very peculiar person indeed. But no matter. I am yours, and you are mine, and nothing can separate me from this love. This love is a flaming fire, jealous and consuming. And many waters cannot quench this love. It is the way of lovers to act most peculiarly. And so here I am. Here I stand, I can do no other.

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life.

Brothers and sisters, hear and believe the good news. In Christ, we are God’s forgiven people. This is truth. This is life. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. In Christ you’re secure, you’re loved and accepted.

O Lord, open our eyes that we may see wonders in your word! May these words not be foolishness to those who hear!