Romans 8:34

Who then will condemn us? No one–for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. (Romans 8:34, NLT)

I remember third grade music class like I lost nineteen years in a day.

Our music teacher seemed to be having a difficult time in her life.  (Back then, I didn’t have any pity for her, but now I do, because I’ve gone through difficult times myself.)  Our music teacher did not seem to me to like her job very much and she especially did not seem to me to like children.  She gave us musical worksheets to do as homework and bring back for a completion grade.  She had us sit and I don’t remember singing much except for our yearly production, or ever playing a musical instrument.  Instead, we were supposed to memorize music as it appears on paper (if music can truly appear on paper).

Our teacher was explaining something to us on this fateful day, and then she asked the infamous, “Does anyone have any questions?”

I raised my hand.  I did not like her.  And I did not understand.  And both of those truths showed through as I said, “I don’t understand.”  She pressed me for more, and I said, somewhat out of frustration, and, in all fairness, very sarcastically, “everything.”  I think kids laughed, I don’t remember.  But I do know what happened next.

I expected the Does anyone have any questions invitation meant she was going to answer my question.  Instead, she angrily told me to go sit at the boys’ table.

I was devastated.  I felt so incredibly condemned.  I always (tried) to follow teachers directions, and the only time I had gotten in any kind of trouble was in kindergarten when I’d playfully been pulling on a boy’s arm.  So I was completely crushed.  I turned into condemned slushee.

I dragged myself up, tears in my eyes, and I somehow got my body over to the boys’ table.  Girls never sat at the boys’ table.  I could not imagine how my question had caused such terrible punishment to take place.  I felt humiliated, scorned, and worthless.

I glanced over at the girls’ table, and the girls glanced at me and then quickly turned back to look at the teacher!  Traitors!  I sat low in my seat, judged and angry and, most of all, really, really, really super hurt.  I was so hurt that I would remember this event at night for months when I was trying to go to sleep and be tormented by it.

It couldn’t have been fifteen seconds into my mortification when I heard whistling.  Whistling.  WHISTLING!  As in, whistling in class!  Audible–however low and getting louder–noteworthy whistling.  There was no way the teacher missed it, or was there?  I don’t know.

I looked up, and I saw a boy grinning at me.  He winked.

And everything changed.

A few more boys in the circle lit up with winks and, I’m not really sure what kind-of calls they were, something like, “Hey, girl, girl” meant to be encouraging.  And sitting right across from me was this tall boy who whistled and didn’t care in the least who knew about it!

The rest of music time was very happy for me.  The boys winked and called to me.  The teacher either didn’t hear anything or pretended she didn’t hear anything.

Right before class ended, the teacher said (I am sure anticipating my immediate exit from her room), “Class is ending, but,” turning to me, “you will stay after class.”

I sunk again, but I didn’t realize.  Even as the boys left with their grins and calls and whistles, I didn’t realize.

The teacher had utterly lost her power to condemn me.

That tall boy, who left last, had found that power in music of a different tune.  Music he’d turned into a whistle.

She sat down across from me, and in a very quiet, pleasant voice she proceeded to explain the lesson to me.  I didn’t hear a word of it.  I wanted to get away from her as fast as I could.  When she asked me if I understood, I absolutely lied and said, “yes”, so I could get away from her.  I was very honest as a child, but I figured this lie wasn’t so bad because I would tell my mom about it when I got home.  (Now, of course, I disagree with myself about that.)

I went as fast as I could out of her room.  I was free!  I was free not just because she’d released me, but more so because one boy had chosen to forgive me and restore me back to good fellowship with not only the class, but the teacher as well.

As soon as I got to p.e. class, that tall boy came up to me and asked, “Are you ok?”

Yes, yes I was.

Thank you, Daniel.

Thank you for showing me a little about Jesus.

Who then will condemn us? No one–for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. (Romans 8:34, NLT)

Romans 8:33

Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for His own? No one–for God Himself has given us right standing with Himself. (Romans 8:33, NLT)

As a kid of the 80’s and early 90’s, I remember watching a movie on my parent’s box TV that typified the bizzarrity of pop culture of my generation.  The movie was about a man who had a potted plant.  He found out the plant talked.  The plant became his friend.  Then, one day, the plant got run over by a truck.

This anthropomorphized plant stayed in my mind.  For years.

One day, I went outside when my mom was weeding our flowerbeds.  As I watched her weed, I saw a weed that looked very similar to the potted plant in the movie.  I stared at that weed, and then back at my mom, who was tossing weeds left and right.  I knew this weed’s time was almost up.  And somehow, someway, I bonded to that weed.

I immediately informed my mother of my friendship with the weed.  My mom, fully familiar with my frequent irrationality (but in my defense, look at the era I grew up in), agreed not to pull the weed.

I was happy . . . but only for a few moments.  I began to wonder what might happen to my weed while I was away.  Would someone else kill my weed?

My mom had a funny little garden ornament that said I don’t remember planting this.  I got it and stuck it in the ground beside my weed.  There.  Now it was safe.

Happily, my weed did not get run over by a truck.

When we believe in Jesus as our Savior, God Himself comes and puts a sign beside us that says Do not uproot.  It doesn’t matter how much of a weed we are—God cares about us, and He loves us because we have been rescued by His Son.  Who is going to point out that we’re a weed when we’re in His garden?

And what’s more, God has the power to change us into flowers.  And, by His Son’s sacrifice for us, He does.

Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for His own? No one–for God Himself has given us right standing with Himself. (Romans 8:33, NLT)

Animatronophobia

Animatronophobia is a fear of wax figures, mannequins, and robotic creatures.  I can handle wax figures.  I wouldn’t really want to put my arm around them, but they don’t bother me much.  And I’m ok with mannequins.  No problem.  Unless, like, I was locked in a room with a mannequin at night.  That would be creepy.

But robotic animals really, really bother me.

The first time I confronted this fear as a kid in a video store in 1980-something.  I walked back through the children’s room, browsing the movies, and, the way I remember it, I had completely missed, or not paid much mind, to what I had just walked past.  It was a 3-D cardboard cut-out of a dragon, advertising the movie Dragonworld.  It was made with a different cut-out for the head and a different cut-out for the eyes, and it was “prowling” with its head to the side, appearing as if to strike.

I was filled with terror of the 3-D image of the “animatron”[1].  I froze at the entrance of the kid’s room and wouldn’t leave until my mom literally pulled me out.  The dragon look like it was going to sneak up on me from behind, and in its eyes I saw deception and wickedness.  Its frozen smile, meant to be friendly, only made it more frightening to me.

After this, from time to time, I would be somewhere that would have animatrons.  Fortunately, there are not too many around.  One of the worst experiences I had was at an F.A.O. Schwartz.  Here, in this benign toy store, I heard this noise and coming from the ceiling was a brontosauruses’ head and neck.  What made this all the worse for me was knowing it had no body and the head and neck sticking out was all of it there was.

I never did understand why in the world I was so extremely afraid of animatronics.  In my head, I could tell you they were fake, but . . . if you asked me whether I would be in the water with a real shark or the Jaws animatronic shark at Universal Studios, I would pick the animatronic shark because my mind would tell me this was the better choice . . . but my body would protest mightily.

I tried to research a fear of animatrons but never came across much until the other day.  I found a brief comment that suddenly made the horror make so much sense to me, describing it as a fear of “near-living things that have no emotional capacity at all” [2].

A living shark has emotions.  It is possible—however highly improbable, that you could meet a shark who happened to like people.  But a robot shark cannot like or not like people.  Its course of action cannot be changed by anything other than unplugging the machine.  A real shark could become discouraged by being attacked by its victim.  An automatron could never become discouraged.

An automatron could never choose to have pity, change its mind, or change its behavior.  Locked into one path of movement, frozen with one expression on its face, and possessing metal and wires where there should be heartbeat, an automatron is truly a terrifying idea.

Only one thing stands in between humanity and automatronicity: choice.

We are not forced into any course of action.  We are not made to spend our lives following one habit over and over.  We are not designed to behave without intention.

But that is exactly what sin will do to us.

God is life, but sin is death.  With God, we make free choices to experience His love, joy, mercy, forgiveness, righteousness, friendship, and so on.  But with sin, we lose our choices as we experience hate, cruelty, grudge, wickedness, animosity, and so on.

I don’t know the exact quote or where I first heard it, but it goes something like this: “sin is the last free choice you make.”  If you choose to live in sin, you choose to lose more and more of yourself . . little by little, you become emotionally bankrupt, mentally locked-down, and spiritually empty.

To be human is to be created in the image of God.  As we give away the reflection of God in our lives . . . we lose our humanity.

Then we truly become automatrons: robots in Satan’s theme park, able only to sin.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, NIV)


[1] Technically, the dragon was portrayed with different mediums in the actual movie, though I never saw it.  At one point, he was like a big puppet head.   The photo I saw was not of a true animatronic, that is, a robot that moves on its own, but rather a “model” of a dragon.  You could call it a statue, I guess.

[2] Kevin C, http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090223222216AAKxdNi

 

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Romans 8:32

Since [God] did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else? (Romans 8:32, NLT)

What else is there?

Once we have the Son, what else is there?

There was a time when I thought coming to Jesus for salvation was the strategy to get the victory, the map to get to the treasure, the gate to get to Heaven.  It wasn’t until events in my life took me to a very dark and very scary place that I realized Jesus isn’t only our escape route.  He’s our Way for life!  Jesus is the victory.  Jesus is the treasure.  Jesus is Heaven.

We have God’s greatest assurance of His love: if He has given us His immeasurably precious Son, and we receive Him, how can we fear He will withhold anything good from us?

We also have God’s greatest assurance of His wrath: if He has given us His immeasurably precious Son, and we reject Him, how can we not fear He will withhold everything good from us?

Since [God] did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else? (Romans 8:32, NLT)

Romans 8:31

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? (Romans 8:31, NLT)

In Romans 8:28-30, we learn about the “wonderful things as these”.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.  For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, He called them to come to Him.  And having called them, He gave them right standing with Himself.  And having given them right standing, He gave them His glory. (Romans 8:28-30, NLT, 30 underlined)

This is wonderful.

This is WONDERFUL!

This is WONDERFUL!!!

How can it be that I can be such a bedraggled, defective, junk-burdened person, and yet God would want to give me such “wonderful things as these”?

And since this is true . . . “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”

Have you ever played one of those match-up games where you try to figure out who will win out against who?  Like, will Jigglypuff win or will Donkey Kong win?  Will a tyrannosaurus rex win or will a Samurai win?

Well, any match up against God . . . is no match up at all.  No one is a match for God.  No one can trick Him.  No one can bully Him.  And no one can ever, ever win against Him.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? (Romans 8:31, NLT)

Published in: on May 17, 2011 at 10:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Falling Off

On the edge. Trolltunga, Norway.

One of the most memorable games from The Price Is Right is the Yodeler game.  In this game, a mountain climber (a marionette on a stick) scales up a numbered mountain.  If he goes higher than the top step, he falls of the mountain.

The contestant has to guess the price of items.  For each dollar the contestant’s off, the mountain climber goes up a notch.  As he climbs, yodeling music plays in the background, so it’s not good to hear the yodeling music.

If the mountain climber falls off, the game is over.  The yodeling music abruptly ends and in its place is crashing sound effects.

Sometimes I’m afraid that I’m going to be so off in my walk with God that I’m going to fall off the edge of my salvation.  I’m going to be off the price of redemption by one too many sins, and I’m going to plunge off the mountain of grace . . . and smash on the rocks of judgment below.

Around 2,000 years ago, a man named Peter was about to go off the edge of everything he thought would save him: his integrity, his zeal, his bravery, his candidness, his upbringing, his achievements, and, most of all, his love.

He was about to become a person of no integrity, weary, cowardly, duplicitous.  He was about to shame his upbringing, wad up his list of achievements, and, most of all, he was about to reveal that his love could turn to hate when it mattered most.

Peter was a follower of Jesus, and Jesus knew what Peter was going to do.  During Jesus’ agonizing mock trial, Peter would spend his time trying to disguise himself.  Every time he was asked if he was a follower of Jesus, Peter would deny it.  And Peter would run away and cry bitterly while Jesus was tortured and crucified.

Peter was going to fall off the edge.  He was going to commit one sin too many.  He was going to cost far too great a price.

Hours before Peter’s horrible betrayal, Jesus said something that didn’t mean much to Peter at the time other than to upset him, but would mean everything to him before the next day’s dawn broke.

Jesus said, “Simon, listen to me!  Satan has demanded the right to test each one of you, as a farmer does when he separates wheat from the husks.  But Simon, I have prayed that your faith will be strong.  And when you have come back to Me, help the others.”  Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to jail and even to die with you.”

Jesus replied, “Peter, I tell you that before a rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will say three times that you don’t know me.” (Luke 22:31-34)

A lot of times it seems like we focus on the denial, but there is so much more to what Jesus said.

Jesus’ brilliance is beyond the brilliance of all humanity combined.  In this short dialogue He

  • Warns His followers they’re going to be tested.
  • Reveals Himself as a mediator between God the Father and His followers.
  • Foretells to His closest followers that Peter will fail.
  • Implies to His closest followers that they, far less confident and courageous than Peter, will fail, too.
  • Foretells to His closest followers that Peter will come back to Him.
  • Implies to His closest followers that He expects them to take Peter back.
  • Gives Peter a reason not to commit suicide after he betrays Him.
  • Gives Peter a purpose once he has come back to Him.

Peter was going to go off the edge, but Jesus wasn’t going to let him fall.

“And when you have come back to Me . . .” (Luke 22:32b, CEV)

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Pig Pong (Part 1)

When I was a kid, I played a game called Pig Pong.  You can’t even get the game anymore, unless you find it secondhand.  I don’t know why they stopped making it.  It was a blast.

The game was simple.  There was a plastic net, like a tennis net, only for the tabletop.  There were little red pigs that skimmed the top of the net which kept score.  There was a fluffy “ball” made out of something like Styrofoam.  And then there were the handheld plastic pigs.  When you squeezed them, they blew air.

All you had to do was puff your pig enough to get the ball to land on the other side of the net, using only the air from your pig.  Of course, the other person was fighting hard to puff the ball on your side of the net.

There was always this certain feeling when the ball was a few centimeters from falling on your side of the net.  The pigs were way too big to get under the ball, then.  It was too late.  The point was going to be lost.

Trying to get God’s favor through good works is kinda like playing a losing game of Pig Pong.  Like, I’ve got one pig puffing on my side of the net, and there are, oh, 6,000 or so pigs puffing on the other side of the net.  Pigs like temptation, accusation, and regret blow jet streams of air and the ball ends of flat on my side of the net every single time.

Point after point after point . . . I lose.  Over and over and over.  Because the enemy pigs are way, way, way stronger than my pig of sin nature, and they will win every single time.

They may tease me by waiting a few seconds while I puff madly at the ball, but they’re just teasing.  One gust and the ball is flat on my side of the net again.

Good works just don’t get you into Heaven if you can’t do them.

For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8, ESV)

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Romans 8:30

And having chosen them, He called them to come to Him.  And having called them, He gave them right standing with Himself.  And having given them right standing, He gave them His glory. (Romans 8:30, NLT)

In context:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.  For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And having chosen them, He called them to come to Him.  And having called them, He gave them right standing with Himself.  And having given them right standing, He gave them His glory. (Romans 8:28-30, NLT, 30 underlined)

There is a sequence of events:

  1. God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. (v. 28)
  2. God knew His people in advance. (v. 29)
  3. He chose them to become like His Son.  (v. 29)
  4. He called them to come to Him. (v. 30)
  5. He gave them right standing with Himself.  (v. 30)
  6. He gave them His glory.  (v. 30)

2-6 explain how 1 is possible.

God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. (v. 28)

How could He make sure everything worked for their good?

God knew His people in advance.  (v. 29)

Since God knew who would choose Him before He had even created the world, He could already plan so that all the bad that would happen because of sin could be worked out for good in their lives.

How did He work out His plan?

He chose them to become like His Son. (v. 29)

Merely having a willingness to believe in God does not guarantee an acceptance.  In fact, believing in God cannot get you closer to Him if there is no way to Him!  When Adam sinned, it was like boulders fell on the path that led to God, and all of humanity was blocked off from ever worshiping in His presence again.  No matter how bad Adam—or any other human—might want to believe in God, the way was obstructed by sin.

God could have looked out from His throne and done absolutely nothing to help the people who would want to choose Him if they knew such a way was possible.  After all, they had betrayed Him not only through their initial choice to turn away, but in every choice after.  These people didn’t know there was a way back to God—not without His divine intervention and revelation—and so no one was choosing God.  Everyone was doing evil.

But God did intervene and reveal.  Throughout the Old Testament, we have stories of God’s intervention and revelations.  He talked to Adam and Eve after the fall, and He revealed that salvation would one day come—through their very line.  He continued to reveal sacred and precious hints of His masterplan through His interventions with people like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joseph, Samuel, David, Daniel, and Esther.

He called them to come to Him. (v. 30)

God knew and knows who will come to Him and who will never make that choice—but we don’t!  We live inside of time, and we live in a very particular part of time: the present.  The past and future are inaccessible to us.  The past can be recalled; the future is entirely unknown, unless God intervenes.

This is the perfect setting for God’s plan.

Why?

The past is inaccessible.  This means Christ’s sacrifice can never be undone.

The past can be recalled.  This allows for eye witness accounts of Christ’s sacrifice and historical evidence of His death and resurrection.  Most vitally, this allows for the Bible to be written and past events to be recounted.

The future is entirely unknown, unless God intervenes.  One of the ways God showed Himself as God from the very beginning of life after the fall was to reveal hints of the future.  The first prophesy was given to Eve, that one day a child would be given to her line that would destroy the evil snake that had tricked Eve and ruined her relationship with God.

Prophets in the Old Testament proved themselves as real by foretelling events that would happen: sometimes soon, and sometimes far out into future.  The book of Revelation gives Christians assurance that we will be eternally protected by God and that God has the most brilliant, beautiful, righteous, merciful plan of all time to end the current suffering of the world and give His people eternal life with Him.

We live in the present.  We live in the present and so, as long as we are breathing, there is hope that we will come to God.  While God knows who will come to Him and who will reject Him for all eternity, we only know the choice we have made in past and the choice we commit to in the present.  Confining us to live in the present is God’s masterful and merciful way of giving us every opportunity to choose Him before we die.  If we lived in the past, we would be fated as who we are.  If we lived in the future, we would be suffering the consequences of our sin.  Only in the present can we make the choice to believe in Jesus Christ.   

He gave them right standing with Himself.  (v. 30)

God knew there was no way back to Him unless He offered Himself as atonement for the sins of the world.  It was meaningless as to whether people would want to go back to Him or not if there was no way back.

In Jesus’ beautiful parable of the prodigal son, it is only possible for the son to go home if the father is willing to take him back in.  Jesus told this parable in Jerusalem  Only Jesus, as He tells the story, understands the sacrifice the father must make to bring his prodigal back.  Only Jesus knew He was soon going to die on the cross to make that way possible[1].

He gave them His glory.  (v. 30)

The culmination of these three verses is enough to short-circuit your brain.  Here is God, creating a people He knows will fail Him because He loves them so much . . . working out a plan to save them so they can make the choice to come back to Him . . . revealing that plan is the greatest tragedy and suffering of all time, not just in human history, but in the history of all, this suffering brought upon the perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ . . . and that Jesus Christ brings those people He died for not only back as happy servants—although He certainly could have!—but as His own brothers and sisters, bringing them into His very own perfect and totally complete family.  There is no reason ever for Jesus to do this unless it is by a supernatural love, grace, and mercy beyond our wildest understanding.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.  For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, He called them to come to Him.  And having called them, He gave them right standing with Himself.  And having given them right standing, He gave them His glory. (Romans 8:28-30, NLT, 30 underlined)


[1] John MacArthur has a wonderful little book on the parable of the prodigal son called Grace For You: A Compelling story of God’s Redemption.

Published in: on May 15, 2011 at 3:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Romans 8:29

For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29, NLT)

Not so many people adopt.  While most two-parent houses in the United States, and most two-parent incomes, would allow for the addition of a child, most people either never even think about adopting or at least never go through with it.  People don’t want to be inconvenienced; they don’t want to deal with a child who may prove difficult; and they don’t want to create a situation that might cause disharmony in their family, or even split them up.

But God sends His Son to bring back to Him people who will absolutely be an inconvenience, will absolutely prove difficult, and will absolutely create disharmony.

God’s adoption cost Him what is most precious to Him: His Son.  How many of us would adopt a child knowing it would cost the life of our biological child?

Yet this adoption is even more amazing.  Not only does God know it will cost Him the life of His only begotten Son, but He knows that after His Son’s sacrifice, the people He adopts will still be difficult and will, at times, even create terrible disharmony.  These people will even sometimes disrespect, disregard, and devalue His Son.

Who would be willing to make this kind of sacrifice?  What kind of God would come and save people who will fail Him even after He has saved them?  What kind of God would love this adopted people even when they fight among themselves, even when they do really stupid things, even when they are obnoxious or half-hearted or defiant?

The Christian God is that God, and no other god.  For those of us who are Christians, God is our Father, He is the Son who came to save us, and He is the Holy Spirit who lives within us.

God is the ultimate adopter, through the work, sacrifice, and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29, NLT)

Romans 8:28

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.  (Romans 8:28, NLT)

When I read this verse, the word everything goes beyond my imagination.  Everything.  Other versions say all things (NIV, KJV, and ASB, for example).

All things.

Everything.

All things.

Everything.

Mathematically, 100%.

How can this be?  How can the worst human travesties work for good?  Let’s get precise: How can ugly words work for good?  What about murder?  Rape?  Disease?  Abuse?  Lies?  Accidents?  Regrets?  Debt?  Addictions?  Bad memories?  Agony?  Betrayal?

This verse doesn’t say evil sets out with a purpose of doing good.  And it doesn’t say God started with a plan to use bad and good as a ‘yin-and-yang’ of sorts.  No, what it actually says is that God goes behind evil and fixes the damage for the good of those who love Him and are called to follow Him.

Kind-of like that show Extreme Makeover.  But God isn’t in the restoration business of wood and brick.  He’s in the restoration business of the soul.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.  (Romans 8:28, NLT)