Romans: On Approaching the “Greatest” Letter Ever Written

There is no single greater letter in Scripture than the apostle Paul’s letter to Romans. There may not be a greater letter written given its ability to change lives. It was Romans that was responsible for the conversion of St. Augustine to Christianity. It was Romans that was responsible for the transformation of Martin Luther. It was Romans that was responsible for the turnaround of John Wesley.  

Preparing to communicate Romans to the beautiful community that chooses to allow me to be their pastor, I have been reflecting on how to approach Romans. Here are my conclusions with three weeks to go before the first sermon from  Romans:

1) I now see that one does not master Romans; one is mastered by Romans.  This letter is not just to be read; this letter will read you.

2) One cannot rush through Romans anymore than one can rush a feast. Romans is to be eaten, bite by bite, taking time to savor the savory aromas and nuances of thengospel meal that is Romans. Martin Lloyd-Jones, arguably the greatest expositor of the last century, preached for 13 years from Romans. I have been studying Romans for two years to get ready for this series. This slow marination process has convinced me Romans is to great to rush.

3) I intend to do all I can to get Romans into the bones, brain cells, muscles and bloodstream of the beautiful community I get to pastor. Karl Barth is associated with Romans more than any person other than Paul. He believed that the church had blended faith and culture to the detriment of faith. Romans challenges that blending and calls for a faith formed more and more by scripture and less and less by culture. I am approaching this document as if the only goal is to come under the influence of Romans so as to be genuinely full of the faith that Paul so comprehsively outlines. 

 

Staring Out a Window after Reading Romans

I have been getting ready to teach and preach Romans for the benefit of Upper Room Community Church, the beautiful community I get to pastor. To help me get ready for a November 12 “first sermon” date, I have been exegeting the text of Romans so as to communicate its meaning for the benefit of others in the church. Here is what I found over and over as I read and exegeted Romans:

I was often myself so overcome by the power of the Word that I was brought to tears, to joy, to prayer, to praise. Characteristic for me, I found myself standing for long moments staring out a window, not seeing anything in front of me because the focus of my own gaze was a scene in Romans that had suddenly come alive. I was seeing Paul writing some word to some specific person. Sometimes the object of my focus was my own soul and interior life as a pregnant Word in Romans birthed a fresh awareness about the condition of my own life.

This first-century document written by the apostle Paul to the church in Rome is so powerful! I am not the first to realize this, but I am now among the fortunate to see this. The Word of God is so powerful, so honest, so alive! The more I read it the more it reads me. The more I study it the more grace I receive. The more I look into it, the more I find the Presence of Living God. The longer I read it, the more I find myself standing and staring out a window.

Esther: A New Sermon Series

Excited about starting this Sunday a genuine dig into the Old Testament story of Esther. This dip into an ancient story will take four months, more like an immersion than a dip.

 

In spite of the fact that the story is about 2,500 years old, Esther has grown in popularity. Part of the reason has to be how exciting the story reads, like a movie plot with a beautiful queen risking everything to save people from genocide. You walk away from the story admiring courage, wondering what you are being asked to do in your life.

Some of the reason for the popularity of Esther has to be the always relevant story of struggle between good and evil, justice and injustice. For much of the story it appears that evil and injustice will prevail. But the last chapter of the story is not the victory of evil over good. You close the story with hope and hopefulness replacing cynicism.

Another reason is the presence and activity of God in the story of Esther. On the surface, God seems absent, not mentioned once in Esther. But as the story unfolds you you become aware God is everywhere present, sovereignly orchestrating Deliverance. You walk away with growing faith in a God who is never seen but is always delivering.

Dust off your Bible and dig into an ancient story that seems as if it was written "for a time like this."