This Changes Everything – The Three Keys

Caution: You are about to enter uncharted territory that can change your very understanding of the meaning of your life on earth. If you read on, you may be captured in the adventure of discovering who you really are and what you are doing here.

The departure point for this adventure is contained in two sentences in a 2,100-year-old document written in everyday Greek to a Jewish sect gathered in Rome. The sentences were penned by a Jewish tent maker name Paul, who we know now, was on the path to prison for his beliefs. Here’s what the tent maker wrote:

For I am not ashamed of the good news, for it is the power of God to save everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

These two sentences contain 3 keys. Each key is coded to unlock a treasure that can change everything. I know I don’t have the power to fully turn the keys — but I believe I can turn the key far enough to reveal a glimpe of what is within. And even a glimpse is enough. Each time I look I am captured anew.

Let’s begin.

Paul starts by saying he is “unashamed of the good news.” Paul isn’t talking here about being embarrased the way we think of it. When Paul wrote this letter, Rome had subjugated the western world – from England to Egypt, and from Spain to Syria – under military totalitarianism. The religion of the day was the Cult of Caesar. The Emperor of Rome was acclaimed to be the son of god, with absolute rule over all and whom all must acknowledge as divine. Whatever other faith a person might have had, they must acknowledge Caesar’s divinity first. In the face of this, Paul is declaring that there actually is a Son of God, and it isn’t Caesar, who is the rightful ruler and object of humanity’s obedience and worship. Not a small confrontation! It is akin to Christians and Jews today, living in Muslim lands, who keep their faith at risk of life. This is not the “ashamed” of those of us whose greatest faith challenge is speaking up in a society that says there is no God, or that you cannot claim your truth about God is better than someone else’s – because of course, all paths lead to god (Which is like saying that all travel plans lead to Hoboken or all means of study lead to a doctorate, or all diets lead to good weight, or all uses of time lead to success, or all behaviors lead to happy relationships. That weak thinking doesn’t even work in Scrabble or Clash of Clans or Zelda, let alone in real life! Real life shows us no instances where all choices lead to the same end. Why would it then be true of the God who created life?). The point is that Paul had the integrity to stand on what he believed, in the face of the power of Rome. The reason he had that strength is because he had used the keys and looked at the treasures.

What then, are these treasures?

Here is the first key to the first treasure: the “good news” is the power of God for salvation.

The lock to this treasure is very rusty. These words hardly make sense to us today. “Save everyone?” “Save from what?” What is the danger we need to be saved from? I can’t get too enthused about being saved if see no danger. Before he encountered the iceberg that would sink his ship, Edward Smith would have laughed in derision at anyone crying “your ship is in danger! We must alert the passengers and prepare to abandon ship!” The captain of the Titanic completely trusted in a ship that was only a few hours away from sinking and ending the lives of 1,513 passengers and crew. So the crew worked away their last hours on earth, and the passengers gamed and danced and dined, and died.

We are all like Captain Smith to some degree. We are moving toward the end of our lives. But we hide that thought behind activity, behind business and pleasure. When our lives end we won’t get another try for a better score. “Now” is the only time I have to live well. But as soon as we wake up to this truth, we find we don’t have the power to live “now” well. We are distracted by worry. We want things that don’t help us live better. We break rather than build. We say and do things that hurt others. We denigrate ourselves. We invest few of our gifts in relieving suffering. Few of us spend any part of our everyday working to make our part of the world better.

But we are responsible for how we use the life we have been given. And we will be called to account for how we’ve spent the gift of life. There is a God to whom we must answer as to whether we lived to our purpose or not. In ancient times, people understood that life wasn’t accidental – that we were put here. We didn’t make ourselves. And so we should live according to purpose. Modern man has nurtured the idea that life is just an accident, so I can pursue whatever personal dream I like. We moderns are all in terrible danger of coming to the end of our lives with deep regret that we spent so much of our time on ourselves and on the unimportant, and so little of our time on doing good and living for purpose. And yet as soon as we try to live to a higher purpose we find we are crippled by a host of ills arising from within our very selves. Made to spend our lives giving away love, we find that instead, we live exceedingly selfishly. What will save us from the bitter regret of seeing that we poorly spent our one life? How will we respond when we are called on to explain how we lived?

Ah, that all sounds so gloomy! Where is this brilliant treasure I spoke of?

Look at the question from this perspective. What if you were created to walk around talking as friend-to-friend with the God who created everything? What if your life were designed to be filled with joy that is beyond description? What if your heritage was to walk through life continually receiving a love from God that was so great it stunned your imagination? What if you were gifted to give away that love and joy to heal a wounded and dying planet? What if all that were your destiny, and you missed it?


It is this. There is something in God’s good news that unlocks the power to change everything. It is ultimate power, for it is God’s power, and it can change us and unlock for us our destiny. This power can save us from the waste we live and the harm we do and from living a life of missed opportunity. My life doesn’t have to be limited by my faults and flaws. It doesn’t have to be slavery to existence without purpose! It doesn’t have to lead to standing before God trying to give account for the waste of the greatest of all gifts. No, this great good news from God contains the power to save us from living uselessly and dying in vain! God offers us the power to live! This is our great and only hope. The good news from God holds the power to rescue us. This is the first treasure. God offers the power for life to be full to overflowing. Power to live the life he created us for. Power to be saved from all that binds and dooms us. Power to live as God envisioned life in the beginning. Good news! There is a power great enough to rescue so we can live out our destiny! Good News!

Who Do You Owe?

This post starts with an odd question: Not “WHAT do you owe?” But “WHO do you owe?” Let me explain.

Paul wrote to the Roman church that he is under obligation to them, and to essentially to everyone in the non-Jewish world.

“I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.” Romans 1:14

What does he mean? He’s never even met these people! How could he have any obligation to them? And what does Paul mean that he is obligated to them?

Every English language version translates the Greek word as either “obligation” or “debt”. Matthew uses the word when he translates Jesus teaching the disciples how to pray, “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Wherever the word it used it comes out the same – to owe someone something. So the question remains, how could Paul owe the Romans anything if he’s never received anything from them? And the follow-on question is, “does Paul’s sense of debt have any implication for my life?”

To discover the answer to the first question we can try explorining other letters of Paul’s. He wrote, for example to the church in Corinth.

“For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 9:16

Paul says he is under compulsion to tell people God’s good news. He feels as though he is in debt and what he owes is to spread the good news of what God has done. This sense of debt was stirred in the town of Antioch at a prayer meeting. Paul and some others were meeting to fast and pray and the Holy Spirit revealed this message to one of those in the meeting.

“While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Acts 13:2


I can see how Paul would have a deep sense of obligation to God, who revealed Himself and rescued Paul. But how did that sense of debt expand from something owed to the God of the Good News to something owed to all people? I can’t explain it, but I think perhaps I can help us begin to feel it.

Picture this: you are at the beach.

One of the girls posing as a lifeguard

It is a beautiful sunshiny day. Earlier you were in the water and had been caught by a powerful rip tide. With mounting terror you realized the water was too powerful. You weren’t going make it back to shore. You were really going to die. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, the lifeguard was there. He grasped you and pulled you into his boat and rowed you to shore. As you lie on the sand, taking great lungfulls of delicious, safe air, you are full of thanks for being rescued. And the lifeguard tells you he needs your help. Will you stay and warn others of the danger?

While you recover on the shore, still marvelling at how close to death you had come and how fabulous it is to be rescued, you watch a group of people haul their chairs and umbrellas onto the beach. Then, all unaware of the terrible danger, they head down to the surf and begin to wade out to play. “Stop!!,” you cry! You run to them and urgently tell them of the danger. With every part of you radiating concern, you tell them your story and urge each one to safety.

In that picture, don’t you feel that you owe something, not just to the lifeguard, but also to those unaware of the danger? Don’t you feel that obligation to urgently and forcefully warn them? They are in walking into danger, oblivious, thinking they are just out for a good time. You see the danger. You know the terror. You know you must tell them.

All humanity is sliding down a slope of destruction, but God had reached down and saved us and shown us how good He is. We see so many around us continuing to slide down, all unaware, to destruction. Don’t you feel that debt to them? “I must warn them? I must tell them that they have been fooled, that God intends goodness and life for them but they are sliding toward loss and regret and death.”

Paul felt his whole life was under debt to God. Paul’s heart translated that as debt to others to rescue them as he himself had been mercifully rescued. The risk to others was so great, and the reward so wonderful that Paul’s every breath was now service to God and to those around him. God had set him apart for this work.

What has Jesus called you to and set you apart for? Does that go so deep that you know his rescue of you puts you in debt to all around you?

“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8

So who do we owe? Are we aware of the debt? Have we given our lives to it as Jesus commanded us? What what could our workplaces, streets, houses, communities and marketplaces look like if all us, rescued and now obligated, were paying this debt with all our might – to love one another – to warn an unaware world of the great risk and, if they will have it, the very great reward?

What Does Your Imprint Look Like?

My family got to spend a week at Long Beach Island this past Summer. At Barnegat Light the beach is deep and the sand is sugar-fine. That sand takes a picture of everthing that crosses it. You can read the story of life on the beach in that sand. The waves show the mark of high tide…

Wind-sculpted sand

…on windy days the sand becomes a Lilliputian Sahara…and everywhere you see the Lewis-and-Clark trails of sand crabs, pet dogs, and seagulls questing for a tasty lost morsel. On the sand, everything leaves an imprint of its journey. The imprints tell who was there, what they were like, where they came from, and where they were headed. Imprints can be accidental or intentional. Mid-way through our stay there was an eruption of activity right in front of our chosen wave-watching location as an annual sand-sculpting

Joey-sculpted sand (click to view)

Joey-sculpted sand
(click to view)

competition got underway. Charity’s boyfriend, Joey, contributed an amazing 17-foot alligator eating a lobster. People stopped and stared all day long at that imprint. That was a seriously impressive intentional imprint. It took vision, planning, and dedicated effort.

But intentional or not, you can’t be on the beach without leaving some kind of imprint. Just by being there you will leave an imprint and that imprint will say things about you. In life we leave an imprint too. Everyone does. I’m not thinking of physical legacies like buildings or sand alligators. I’m thinking of the imprint we leave in those we cross paths with. I think we leave both intentional and unintentional imprints on everyone we touch in life – in every relationship. So the questions are, “what does the imprint you are leaving look like?” and “are you investing vision, planning, and dedicated effort in some of those imprints?”

Romans 1:12

” that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.”

Paul intended to leave an imprint. And he intended to receive one. He had a vision for his visit with the Roman Christians. From spending time with them he expected to be changed in the encounter. Think about that! He expected to leave more encouraged than when he arrived. And he expected that he would encourage them too. Is that our clear expectation when we come together? That we will all be encouraged from coming together? But the picture is actually bigger than that. “Encourage” does not fully capture what was in Paul’s heart, and does not fully reveal what we believers can and should be to each other.

What does Paul mean by “encourage?” Looking at Greek opens up a door of exciting possibilities. Paul uses the word sumparakaleo. If we were all Greek speakers we would say, “hey, doesn’t that look like the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit!?” John records Jesus as saying:

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;” (John 14:16)

Various versions translate the word here as Comforter, Advocate, Counsellor, Defender, and Helper. These are all flavors of the meaning of the word. “Helper” is “parakleto”. “Encourage” is “parakaleo”. The Holy Spirit is the one who embodies this very thing that we are supposed to imprint on one another! Imagine!

What is this imprint? What is this thing in which we are to do for each other the very thing the Holy Spirit does for us? When you look at the 105 times some form of parakaleo is used in the NT you will see that the general sense is this:

to call someone close so as to move their thinking and so, to change their course of action.

That’s what the Holy Spirit does. He comes close to us and calls us close to the Father and changes how we see and feel, and gives us vision and hope for living on earth in God’s presence. And that is the very imprint we are to have on each other! We are to come close to one another and change how we all see and feel, and give each other expanded vision and hope for living on earth in God’s presence. That is what it is to be like when two or more believers gather. Wow! I want to do that! I want to leave that kind of imprint. I want you to leave that kind of imprint in me!

Ester has been quoting one of the Hillsong pastors sayings, “Criticism is not the language of Heaven. Encouragement is”. Yes! How about we expand our vision of what happens we we are together? How about we purpose very intentionalaly to come alongside each other to encourage, strengthen, help, and counsel for something higher? How about we become those who embody all that the way the Holy Spirit embodies it for us?

I am calling of us all to leave behind the ordinary and instead set our direction to become, together, the extraordinary. Let us purpose that in our encounters with each other we embody all the flavors of parakaleo – encourage, help, comfort, defend, counsel. Let us call each other to a higher purpose. Let us leave an impression on each other that changes the temperature of our hearts, the thoughts in our heads, and the actions of our lives. Let us be to each other those who continually lift up! Let us make life bright for each other! Let us be to each other, in all its meanings and flavors, parakaleo.

A Body Check-Up



When she was younger, my daughter Ashley hated – and I mean hated – to go get a physical. Why? It came down to this single aweful thing: the doctor made her wear one of those ugly paper gowns that make you look like an ill-grown potato. She hated that gown. But though she resisted we insisted. Because periodic check-ups are important to our well-being

I find in the Word, lots of truths that we can use to check up and see how healthy we are in the Kingdom of Heaven. Signs that can help us understand where we are weak and may need some evaluation and focus of prayer and effort.

Today’s verses are like that. They are part of Paul’s introductory remarks in his letter to the church at Rome. But since they are written from a heart that beat Heaven, they open a window to what spiritual health can look like.

Paul writes to the Romans, “I long to see you so that i may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established. To me, the Holy Spirit emphasizes two things here:

  1. Paul longed to see these believers
  2. Paul deeply desire to give to them

Ok. Check-up time. Paul says he “longed” to see them. He writes this with an intensity you can see in the Greek. Literally it reads, “Strongly I yearn, therefore, to see you…” For the first part of my own check up, I ask myself, do I long to see my brothers and sisters in Jesus? Is it a passion, as Paul expressed it? Would an observer be able to see my desire to gather together, whether casually, or at church or small group meetings? “How could they?”, you might ask. Well, is my longing telegraphed by my arriving on time? Or by showing up late do I telegraph that gathering is of secondary importance to other things that keep me busy? Is my longing shown in my clear desire to see my brothers and sisters? Or does it look like I am more focused on getting to my seat? The question I must ask myself is this: do my actions express that gatherings are more just one more duty, or habit, or something I know I should do? Or do my actions show that coming together is something I eagerly look forward to? Do I long to gather? Am I hot about it, or just lukewarm? Does this check-up question reveal something here Jesus would like me to change?

And if I do long to come together, why is that?

For me the answer to that “why” is the second check-up truth. Why do I want to meet with other believers? For Paul it was primarily because he wanted to give a gift that would encourage, and secondarily that he could be encouraged as well. Oh wow. Are we prepared to look at this? “I long to meet with you because I want to give a spiritual gift to you.” Can you feel the investment? This says that I am deeply invested in you, that I think about you when we are not together, that I prepare for our meetings so that when we do come together I can bless you. Stop for a moment. Is that what your coming together looks like? Have you thought about it, prayed about it, and even prepared a spiritual gift to share?

At our small group meeting recently I said that I had often heard a version of this story – “I had a horrid week and was tired and harried and almost didn’t come tonight. But I forced myself and now that I’ve come I am so encouraged. God met my need and refreshed me.” That is a wonderful story because it says we do encourage each other. But imagine if the account went this way – “I had a horrid week and was tired and harried and almost didn’t come tonight. But I forced myself because I had prepared myself to share my faith because I wanted to be an encouragement to you.”

Brothers and sisters, most of us are long past the spiritual milk stage. We should be eating meat. We should be exhibiting this kind of community, eager, longing, and prepared to come together that we might be a blessing! This is one of the ways Jesus has prepared for us to love each other and show the world how excellent He is.

Let me encourage us all, wherever we are in this part of the journey, to stir ourselves up to better. Let’s refresh our reason for coming together, our passion for doing so, and our preparation. By how we meet, let’s show off Jesus as the Beautiful One who is making this many people truly into One Body knitted together in love. Let us intensify our longing to be together and our preparation to bless others when we do gather together!

I Dreamed of a People Who Must Have Heaven Now


At 2:30 this morning I woke from a dream that was so moving all I could do was pray, “yes Father.” I wish you could have been there, but let me attempt to recreate it for you.

I was in an auditorium in Manhatten somewhere. There were about 500 people at a conference that our church staff was leading. It came my turn at the mic. I was to wrap up the meeting. So (all unprepared) I asked the people to get into small groups and begin to pray as God lead.

And this came to me, and in my dream I began to share it as they prayed.

“I have always imagined that at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit recorded for us in the book of Acts, that the followers of Jesus were dilligently gathering together day-by-day, reviewing what Jesus had done and joining in agreement in a prayer something like, ‘Father, Jesus told us to wait and here we are, waiting as instructed.’ It was active praying and passive waiting.

“But what if it wasn’t like that at all? What if that prayer meeting sounded more like this. ‘Father, outside this room is a city full of people who don’t know the truth that will set them free. We want to tell that people that we have seen Jesus, alive! We want to tell them that He is risen and is Your Son. We want to tell them this best of good news that will change them forever. Father, we’ve been gathered here in obedience seeking and praying and waiting. But isn’t it time Father? Isn’t the time now? Can you make it now Father!? Can you make the time NOW!!??

“And suddenly, BOOM!. There came the perfect marriage of the passion of Heaven with passion on earth. And through that conduit, “whoosh”, fire came down on each one. “Whoosh”, they spilled out onto the streets of a lost city. “Whoosh”, speech was Heaven-powered. “Whoosh”, power of conviction went out and the harvest of people set free came in.

“What if that prayer meeting in Jerusalem was a rising passion in the people of God until Heaven smiled and said, ‘NOW they are ready! Open that door!!!’

“What if we were that people? What if we stirred ourselves and gave the Father no rest until He favored us with such an outpouring. What if we were so captured by the desire to see the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, so captured by Jesus’ command to pray, ‘LET YOUR KINGDOM COME!’ that we joined together to say, ‘Isn’t the time now Father?!’ ‘Father, our cities are dying. Our nations are lost. My neighbors are floundering. We must have the power to pour the love of Heaven into the streets of earth! Isn’t it NOW!?’

In the dream I raised my arms and my voice and cried out, “Let us take all the equipping we’ve received, all the impartation, all the prayer, all the truth and begin together to cry out to Heaven, ‘Father! We cannot sit! We must GO and DO SOMETHING in Your name. Can you make the time be NOW!?”

And I woke in tears. And I cannot escape this sense that the only thing holding Heaven back may be us. Oh, can we change that? What would happen if many of us would begin to come together with the purpose of crying out together, “Father, isn’t the time now?!”

What Does Your Prayer Time Look Like?

As he opens his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul tells them how he “unceasingly” makes mention of them in his prayer.

I’ve heard some people say they don’t really like the letters of Paul because they feel he is harsh. Perhaps that’s because he is so absolute in telling us how we ought to believe and to behave. But it wasn’t severity that drove him to write these letters. Instead, they were written (or dictated) in tears and compassion and longing and joy. (As an aside, if you find yourself troubled by a stern or difficult saying in these letters, try reading it out loud with a voice of deep love and you will be closer to the heart of Paul).

Paul’s heart was overflowing with love and concern for these fellow believers in Rome. He wanted to be close to them but couldn’t be. Paul wasn’t in Rome and couldn’t be there to help guide them and support them through all their challenges. What do you do when you care for someone and want to help them through their challenges but you can’t be with them? “Pray for them constantly” was Paul’s answer! Love and concern for others filled Paul’s thoughts and so prayer to the Father for them filled his time. Paul carried his fellow believers close to his heart (like this selfie of me holding my daughter Ashley close to my heart) by pouring out his heart in constant prayer for them.


Having others constantly in his thoughts, and turning those thoughts to prayer for their good, is a character trait of Paul. Elsewhere he tells the Ephesians that he doesn’t cease to give thanks for them, while including them in his prayers. He tells Philemon that he continuously prays for him. To the Philippians he says that he always offers prayers with joy in his every prayer for them. It builds a picture doesn’t it. Here was this great theologian, church-building, world-traveling evangelist who chiefly supported his work for Jesus through hard manual labor. And somehow it seems he was alway praying. Because he stayed in communion with the Jesus who had changed everything for him. Because he was overflowing with love for others. Because he believed everything on earth hinged on God’s friends asking God to work. What a pattern for us!

How much of Paul’s great success in telling the good news and establishing churches – bearing fruit that remains – was the result of his focus on prayer? How should the answer to that affect my habits?

Here’s my encouraging word from this. Let’s become a people who are constantly asking Father God to bless those we love. And let’s love one another: many “one-anothers”. Can you imagine what our churches might look like if we all had others constantly on our thoughts and constantly in our prayers? What would the world think of the church if this were a defining characteristic – that we loved each other enough to constantly come to God in prayer for each other. How much more blessing might we all see? How much more fruit? How pleased might our Father be to see His children constantly calling out “Father would you bless him more, her more, them more?”

How about we give it a try?


Sometimes tools can help! Some people have used index cards to “remember” who to pray for. Check these out, for example:

There are also an abundance of apps:

Whatever tools you decide to use, be sure to keep the prayer an outpouring of love and compassion, rather than ticking off items in a checklist. Ok! Enough talk! Let’s try it!



Good News Road Trip

When Ester and I take Felicity down to school or bring her back we are usually just trying to get there, or get home. It is a long drive and we all have so many demands on our time. But on one of our recent trips we were able to travel at a more relaxed pace. We found some really cool places along the way. At one scenic overview we discovered that you could navigate down a bluff by carefully picking your way through a crevice between two cliff faces. At the bottom was a little mini-wonderland of rock and tree and moss and leaf and sky and the whole Shenandoah valley right in front of you. It was so worth the stop.


So there are two ways to take a road trip, right? The first is to pick your destination, pack the car, and make the best time you can to get to your destination. The second is to pick your destination but just take it slow, relax and be available to stop and see what you discover along the way. The first approach works fine, but you will never know what wonders you may have missed along the way. I’m taking the second approach to reading through Romans. I’m reading with my sight-seeing attitude active. Whatever catches my attention, I’m stopping to investigate. Who knows what I will discover?

Just now I was stopped in at verse 9 of Romans chapter 1 by a curious statement of Paul’s. He says that he serves God “…in the good news of His Son…”. Now this isn’t the main focus of what he is saying to the Romans. But it is a curious aside. It makes me want to “pull over” and take a closer look at this oddity. Whatever does he mean? How does one serve God in the good news of His Son?

Looking around I see that 3 of the 4 most popular English translations try to make sense of it by adding information. They translate something like “serve God…in preaching the good news…”. Here’s the whole verse in NAS: ” For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you,”. And here you can see an assortment of translations.

Literally, the sentence reads,”For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the good news of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you”. Here’s what I want to know: what is it to serve in the spirit in the good news of Jesus? Commenters have almost universally applied themselves to the “unceasingly I make mention of you” part of the verse, so we won’t get much guidance from them.

So let’s just stop and look and see what the Holy Spirit wants to share. To start, I think we have to look at the 3 key elements:

  1. Serve
  2. In my spirit
  3. In the good news



The Greek word behind “serve” is used 22 times in the new testament. 19 times it is translated as a form of “serve”. Three times it is translated as “worship”. How can it mean both serve and worship? Because all our service to God is voluntary and is done as an offering. Both service and worship are presented out of our love back to Him, and our declaration of His worthiness of being served. True service to God is true worship (God is seeking “worshippers in spirit and in truth”). Any service that is not in this context isn’t serving God, it is serving something else. Service is worship. Worship is service. As the author of Precept Austin puts it, “His [Paul’s] worship was an act of service, and his service was an act of worship.” (

In my spirit

Paul is here addressing the motivation of his worship/service. It is from the heart. It is done from the center of his being. He has been changed and has now only one agenda – to please God. The driving reason for all he did was a response to a revelation of who God is. And that takes us to…

In the good news of His Son

Paul had been completely transformed by the revelation that Jesus is alive and is the Son of God. Everything changed for him. No more service out of duty. No more trying to win his way to holiness. God was newly revealed to Paul as the one who would sacrifice all to win us back to Himself! In response, Paul marched through his world shouting “I have good news! Life has meaning! God loves us! He loves us! Actually loves us! And He has rescued us if we will let Him!”

The good news had become the context of Paul’s life. It was the driver. It filled everything Paul was doing. His life was filled with joy in who God really was and Paul just had to respond by giving all back in living the rest of his life to serve and worship. This is living/serving/worshipping “in the good news”. It fills every niche of life. It should be the same for you and me. This good news of what God has spoken/done toward us through Jesus changes everything if we will let it. Suddenly everything is service/worship from an overflowing heart/spirit in a life changed and infused by the good news of God’s Son! Amen!



Praying From Psalm 66

I started my day with Psalm 66 this morning, to look for truth and make that truth the substance of my morning prayer.

It is wonderful to think that Jesus read these same Psalms, was nourished by them in His soul, and, I believe, made them His prayer. I asked to see what He saw and make it my prayer. 

God is involved in our lives to keep us.

Psalms 66:9 Who keeps us in life And does not allow our feet to slip.

My prayer is this: “Thank you that You are not far off, unconcerned, or powerless. But You are active and at work in my circumstances, to guide me to life. I welcome and trust Your guidance.”

God is at work through life events to refine us.

Psalms 66:10 For You have tried us, O God: You have refined us as silver is refined.

God is at work to keep us safe by keeping our focus on Him as the source of our trust and desire. “Thank You Father that You will not leave me as I am. But you are making me better – more fit for your kingdom and presence. The enemy works to pull me down, but You work to make me right. Thank You. I need You to work this way. I trust You.”

God hears our prayers.

Psalms 66:19 But certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.

“How can it be that You, God of the universe, are concerned with my thoughts, my needs and desires, my requests? But You are. Impossible to understand but wonderful to accept. Thank You that You hear. You hear my prayer! What a gift to walk in that confidence! Bless You, God who hears even me.”

God will not turn His lovingkindness away from us. v20.

Psalms 66:20 Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, nor His lovingkindness from me.

That “lovingkindness” is His promise never to abandon me. It is the promise of God Himself to always be at work for my good and always have my good at heart and to never give up on me. “Thank you Father that you could feel that way toward me. Let this truth come alive in my thoughts today: that You have declared You will never let me go. You are altogether wonderful and I position myself to accept this truth about You and in response to be altogether Yours.”

Are People Talking About You? They Should Be!

Ok. let’s admit it. We probably all want to know what people are saying about us. And we feel really good if they are saying good things. And not so good otherwise.

People talk about other people all the time. Are people talking about you? If so, how much are they talking? And what are they saying?

Paul tells us about a group of people that everybody was talking about. He says that the whole world was talking about the body of believers in Jesus who lived in Rome. Now that’s fame, if you are being talked about everywhere! Here’s the quote:

” First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.” Romans 1:8

It makes me wonder. How was their faith being proclaimed through all the world? There were no TVs, no newspapers, no Twitter, YouTube, blogs, or internet. No ad campaigns. No book-publishing system. So why were they being talked about? And how was it everyone had heard about them? I think we need to understand the answer to these questions.

It must be that this people were generating a stir because they were so different. Right? They were so dramatically different from those around them that it was causing comments that spread everywhere. “Have you heard about those Christians in Rome?” would have been a topic of the day. Rome, it seems, had become a melting pot for all that was “vile and abominable” (Tacitus). In the middle of this something different was happening in the community of believers. They looked different. Good things were alive there and the contrast between them and the rest of the city was so stark that people saw and gossiped about it.

I want to be like that. I want to be so clearly “good” and so full of life and love and faith and Jesus that I am starkly different and people can’t but see it and talk about it. Each believer has been given the seed of this kind of living faith, but the cares of this world may have dimmed its light. Let’s stir ourselves up again and be so alive in the middle of our own Romes – whatever town or city that is – that we create a stir, a buzz of people talking about these followers of Jesus.




Called Holy

My next stop in Paul’s letter to the Romans is with two little words that would be so easy to pass by, almost without notice. But I see them and something in them arrests my attention. Paul says the Roman believers are “called saints”.

Romans 1:7 ” to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

What does “called saints” mean? Is it important? Is the translation clear to us? It isn’t to me. And I want too know if some treasure is possibly hidden here for us. The phrase seems simple to translate, but hard to understand. The Greek κλητοῖς ἁγίοις “kletois hagiois” is translated in various ways:

  • Called as saints (New American Standard)
  • Called to be his holy people (New International Version)
  • Called to be his own holy people (New Living Translation)
  • Called to be saints (New English Version)
  • Called to be holy (International Standard Version)
  • Called and holy (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
  • Called saints (Young’s Literal Translation)

How two short words have so many translations? What does this little phrase mean? What are we to do with it?

The first word “kletos” means “called”. There are two basic uses of the word translated “call” or “called” in the New Testament: it can mean appointed as in “you shall call [appoint] his name Jesus” (Matt 1:21) or Paul was called [appointed] an apostle). And it can mean invited, as in “many are called [invited] but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14).

The second word “hagios” means holy. Holy is an adjective, so it describes something or someone. And what it describes is the “all in Rome” to whom Paul is writing. They are called holy by the same One that calls them beloved.

But what is it to be called holy by God? The word is so foreign to our modern minds that there are no appropriate synonyms in English. We have nothing to compare it to. Our whole thought is that it has something to do with perfection or saintliness. But even with these words we seem to have the meanings all mixed up.

Here is a potential help. One of the English words from which the word holy is derived, is the word “whole”. So Holy carries the idea of wholly – completely. This means that “called holy” means to be “appointed” to and “invited” to full, complete, total, absolute, and entire separation to God’s uses. This is what called holy means. We are invited and designated to be absolutely reserved for God’s purpose. We are “completely set aside from our own use and completely given to God’s use.” To be called holy means our purpose is now God’s purpose, no reservations, nothing excluded. Stop and let the Holy Spirit penetrate your soul with this truth. It is one of those truths that changes everything. We are not called to religion, to church, to duties, to bible study, to cessation from certain acts and thoughts. We are called to be completely and only alive to God’s purpose

What does that look like? And how can it possibly work in a world where most of our time must be spent providing for the necessities of life? To answer that I think we need to remember first that God is the one who made the world and put us here. He knows what we must be about to maintain the life he gave us in the world we live in. So it seems it must be possible to live “wholly” for God while in the middle of the duties of life – like working, fixing the house, paying bills, and so on. So here is the adventure we are in, we can do all we must do for life, and yet do it all wholly to God. It comes less to what we do and more why we do it. When we work or rest or talk or be silent or save or spend or whatever we do, if we do it to achieve our own agenda (even if that agenda is something good like earning our keep) then we are not living fully as we are appointed and invited – wholly for God. But what God invites us to, He makes possible. So let’s seek God to favor us that we might make His agenda be our agenda in all the minutiae of life. That old saint Brother Lawrence made loving God his agenda while peeling potatoes in his kitchen, and he walked in a fellowship with God that filled him with unending joy. I can say from experience that seeing the goodness of God can be our prime agenda in the midst of a diffucult corporate meeting. And it can yield fruit that remains. I’ve seen as a result, for example, Jesus set an executive free from a burden in the conference room of a major New York advertising firm while all the hubbub of business went on around us. And I’m sure you have similar stories. Why not post them as a response to this for all to read and be encouraged by?

Let’s be the kletois hagiois – called holy – appointed and invited to walk wholly for God in absolute abandon to Him – that our Good Father dreams for us.