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Romans 11

In Paul's world the Jews were the the insiders and the Gentiles were the outsiders. Rather than put ourselves in with the Gentiles automatically, I believe if you have been going to church for some time then you need to consider yourself an insider. So as we look at this passage as one written about the insiders, we should be mindful of the ways in which we might not see God working in the lives of the outsiders. We may find that we limit God and box God into working in the world in the way in which we are comfortable. Paul reminds us that we all have areas in our lives that need pruning and God's help.

Romans 10

Paul reminds us of the power of prayer in our lives. Not so that we can change the circumstances of our life by having God grant us our requests, but so that we can change the circumstances of our life by giving our lives over to God. There is a distinction here. When we pray we give to God the things that are joyful and the things that weigh us down. We give to God the things that are joyful in our friends and family's life and the things that weigh our friends and family down. The hope is then that we can be open to God's movement in our lives and in the lives of the people we know (and do not know). We pray trusting that God will take care of what God needs to take care of. We pray out of faithfulness to God's presence in our lives. We pray trusting that God will set right in our lives what needs to be set right.

Romans 9

Ahh, Abraham's family! What I love about his family's stories are how real and honest they are. The writers did not leave out all of the dysfunctional and deceptive stories. Yet we see through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and even Paul that God chooses to use them (and dare I say us) despite our short comings, despite our failures and equips us for ministry. God molds us into new creations so that we can boldly say that who we are is a direct result of God's action in our lives!

Romans 8

I simply love verse 14 of this passage: "God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!" It reminds me of a Dr. Seuss book and brings a smile to my face. While Paul is speaking to a community that is under the threat of violence for following Jesus, Paul gives them words to encourage them so that they are not dragged down by those who persecute them.

God calls us beloved and worthy of a life lived in freedom and grace and forgiveness. We do not have to live in the past, or relive our past mistakes, we can take a different path in life and have a new focus.

Verses 26-28 are powerful. Even if we do not know how to pray, God will help us! Nothing can separate us from the love we find in Jesus. The relationship we have with Jesus is not something that can be taken away.

Romans 7

Do you see rules and boundaries as healthy guides in your life?

Left to our own devices, Paul warns us, we will ultimately sin. Do you agree with this? Do we need God's guidance and instruction in our lives?

Romans 6

I can remember as a kid thinking that if God forgives then why not continue to do wrong, knowing that forgiveness is just around the corner. I was not wise enough to fully understand the complete implications of making bad choices, that in those actions and words I end up hurting not only myself but also others. It can become a vicious cycle. As an adult I came to more fully understand what Paul is talking about in this chapter. We can become slaves to sin. Yet God offers us a better path in life. We have another choice, one that brings about healing and wholeness, that helps us to feel more at peace in our lives. I really like this part of the passage as interpreted in The Message, from around verses 10-11 "From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God."

Romans 5

It can be so hard to be patient, but when we trust that God will walk with us and be present with us during our hardships, waiting can actually be a time of growth. God did not call us to follow because we have everything together, God calls us despite the fact that we don't have everything together.

Romans 4

Hands down The Message interpretation of the scripture is the one to read for this chapter! You can read it online at www.biblegateway.com. Paul tells us that this is not an Abraham-story it is a God-story. The blessings are for everyone not just for the Jewish people. Abraham is the father of all people, people outside the faith and people inside the faith. It is all about trusting that God can and will work through your life, not because of something you have done but because God has a plan for you. Abraham believed in the impossible. I wonder if we limit God and God's power in our lives.

Romans 3

If you have not figured out already, the book of Romans it complex and deep.
Paul begins with this thought, when we lack faith with our words and with our actions God does not lack faith. The Message interpretation of the Bible reads "God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth." God remains faithful! Paul here is addressing the reality that we cannot save ourselves. We all fall short, we all make mistakes, we all say things we regret. Paul's solution to this dilemma is Jesus Christ. Paul then puts forward his theology of atonement. He believes that the sacrifice of Jesus has brought us all grace and redemption ... Do you agree?
The second question is ... do you believe we are justified by faith? Remembering that faith is more than belief it is a matter of falling in love with God.
Paul finishes with his understanding of the universality of God. God is not only the God of the Jews but also of the Gentiles.

Romans 2

We are instructed not to judge one another. God alone is judge. I am not sure how well we live this advice. I am not sure that those outside of the church believe that we live this.
When we develop a relationship with God, one that is built upon trust, we then can see each other as God sees us, with compassion, with grace, with forgiveness, as God's children.

Romans 1

Paul begins his letter to the church in Rome with powerful words. He names himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. I normally think of myself as a follower of Jesus, the word servant, or slave in the original Greek brings about a subtle change in meaning. To be a slave means to be owned by another. Paul is in essence claiming to be owned by Jesus. Rather than this being a point a lose of freedom it becomes a point of liberation. And we will find throughout Paul's writings, how he takes the language of power (i.e. the political powers) and flips it to have new meaning in God's Kingdom.

In verse 11 he then speaks about mutually encouraging each other. This still applies today! We need the support and mutual encouragement of our faith family and of other believers. Following or serving Jesus is not something that we can do by ourselves.

In verse 16 Paul writes "For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith ..." …

Onto Romans

I have finished reading Acts, so now I am onto the book of Romans, written by Paul and thought to be his final letter written. I invite you to read along with me!

Acts 21

In the beginning of Acts we read about the Spirit of God moving through the gathered believers and it is what pushes them forward. Now in the 21st chapter I am struck by the movement of Paul, like the Holy Spirit, he is traveling. While we might not be traveling right now, how are we in our daily lives being driven by God's Spirit to move forward?

Acts 20

Paul knowing that he must leave in the morning and wanting to share all he knows about Jesus, stays awake teaching late into the night. This makes me wonder how often do we take the time to share about Jesus, putting even sleep aside? It is said that they talked all night long. This conveys a deep love for Jesus and for his companions.

Acts 17

"To an unknown god." Paul finds this inscription in Athens and teaches that the God we worship can be known and He is the God of everything! God does not depend upon our mortals, God made mortals. I like this chapter.

Acts 16

Even when being persecuted Paul and Silas do not have a pity party, instead they praise God!

Acts 15

I appreciate the honesty of the author in his sharing of the struggles in the emerging community. He speaks about how they discuss issues, pray about it and take into consideration the people involved. Rather than pretending that everything is always smooth sailing when we believe there is a genuine feeling to this chapter in Acts.

Acts 5-8

In chapter 5 beginning with verse 33, Gamaliel explains that there have been other leaders who have had followers but after their death the movement died down. He cautions the leaders about persecuting the followers of Jesus because he may really be from God. He reminds them that if this is God's doing, it cannot be stopped. We then read about how Jesus' followers with the help of the Holy Spirit will not be stopped. God even goes as far as stopping one of the major persecutors of the church, Saul who later becomes Paul. Saul had tried to stop of the message of Jesus and he is literally stopped in his tracks and then begins spreading the Good News about Jesus!

Acts chapters 1-7

You are invited to join me to read through the book of Acts. We'll start out by reading seven chapters a week. Please write your comments, thoughts, insights, questions you may have about the first seven chapters during this week and we'll see where this goes!

Acts is the only book in the Bible that is a narrative about the life of early Christians. We get a glimpse into the lives of those who followed Jesus just after his resurrection.

40

My family and I recently went on vacation to St. Louis, Missouri. We spent 40 hours in the car driving there and back to El Paso, Texas. 40 hours was a long time to be in the car, I can't imagine what it was like for Noah and his family to be on the ark for 40 days and nights as it rained. He was actually on the ark for even longer than that, over a year. Come on Sunday and hear about what it means to endure storms in our lives with God as our guide.

Lent

Lent is not the most exciting time in our church year. It is often dark and offers us a time to look inward. The 40 days prior to Easter can be a hard time but it is also can be a very rewarding and fruitful time. We often think about giving something up for Lent, so that we can open ourselves to the possibility of God filling us with something we need.
At our silent retreat I encouraged our participants to think about something in their life that is no longer producing fruit. It could be an activity or an attitude. God is continually forming and molding us and what once might have been useful and helpful now is a hindrance. So in that regard Lent can be seen as a time to clean house, to get rid of the things we no longer need and to make more room in our lives for the presence of God to be known.
Journeying with you, Pastor Leslie

Expect the Unexpected

That has become my mantra during the past few weeks. I suppose it doesn't really surprise me, however I had started to feel that I had some control over my new surroundings. I know how to get around town, and even know some short cuts, or more than one way home. My kids are adjusting to their new schools. It seems just when we become comfortable, something unexpected happens. Life does not always go as we hope for it to or plan for it to. While that happens more often than not, lately in my life, I thank God for His constant presence in my life. God surprises me when the unexpected happens and graces me with me with understanding, patience, and a reminder that I am not really in control at all, God is.

blessings, Leslie

A New Year

I had a wonderful holiday with my family. Christmas Eve was amazing, Eva my 7 year old was about to jump out of her skin because she was so excited about the next day. Every year it seems that I appreciate more and more the simple gift of being with family on Christmas day. My dad and step-mom came into town a few days after Christmas. We hadn't seen them for over a year and we had a lot of fun touring around El Paso and parts of New Mexico. Being with my dad reminds me to cherish the time I have with him and with my own kids and husband.

I am not big on making resolutions but I think this year I will resolved to make more time to be with my heavenly Father through prayer and scripture reading and to thank God each and every day for the people in my life.