PLEASE! JUST TELL US HOW WE SHOULD LIVE IN THIS WORLD!

You asked for it; and Paul delivers!  

A bunch of us are listening our way through the Book of Romans on a daily basis, and we  have stumbled across the answers to these nagging and persistent questions that go  something like this: Look Pastor Bob, I get it about the church going and the Bible reading and  all that other stuff; but I just can’t make it work with my schedule – but, instead, can we just  grab a cup of coffee and you can tell me exactly how Jesus wants us to live?  

 Actually, I love those kinds of questions. So, keep them coming! But way before my  time, the Apostle Paul, who was also in the preaching business, developed a perfect answer to  these kinds of questions. It’s called Chapter 12 of his Letter to the Romans. It’s Paul’s own  sermon about placing your life before God; what that consists of and what that looks like. 

Even better is the “The Message” version of Paul’s letters. Eugene Peterson was a  master at the craft of turning the language of the Bible into language that we could hear any  day in our life today. So, with all that going for it, let’s get to Paul’s sermon, with the answers 

we’ve all been looking for! This is like finding GOLD, people! Treat it well, and it will treat you  back.  

Pause; Take a little “me” time; and absorb these words into your own heart; and that’s  where God will meet you. Enjoy!  

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We are like the various parts of a human body. The body we’re talking about is  Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his  body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we?  So, since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously  functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be,  without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be  something we aren’t.  

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else;  

if you help, just help, don’t take over;  

if you teach, stick to your teaching;  

if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy;  if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate;  

if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be  quick to respond;  

if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with  them or depressed by them.  

Keep a smile on your face.  

 * * *  

FIVE SPIRITUAL HABITS YOU CAN START TODAY!  

  1. Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on  for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.  II. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master,  cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy  Christians; be inventive in hospitality.  

III. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when  they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be  stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.  

  1. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with  everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,”  says God. “I’ll take care of it.” 
  2. Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if  he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let  evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.  

I hope you enjoyed these words from an ancient follower of Jesus Christ and a master at  teaching “The Way” and how to live it. Have a blessed week, and hope to see you on Sunday – either in-person or online. <><  

Peace, Pastor Bob


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NEWS FROM THE RED FOX TRAIL

MUSHROOMS HAVE ARRIVED!

The mushrooms have arrived on the Red Fox Trail at Wolf Creek State Park. This Monday I went for an afternoon hike, looking to see what changes nature had brought since my last hike a few weeks ago with the VSSC Prayer Hikers. The biggest change was obvious from the very beginning – mushrooms! 

Below I share some of my amateur photographs of my favorite “shrooms” from Monday’s hike, interspersing it with the amazing poem about the struggle for women’s rights by Sylvia Plath titled “Mushrooms.” 

Hope you enjoy – the harmony we seek within is found outside in the amazing workings of nature. Pastor Bob <>< 
 

MUSHROOMS by Sylvia Plath 

Overnight, very

Whitely, discreetly,

Very quietly                  

                                           

Our toes, our noses  

Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.  

 

Nobody sees us,

Stops us, betrays us;

The small grains make room. 

           

Soft fists insist on

Heaving the needles,

The leafy bedding,

                        
Even the paving.

Our hammers, our rams,

Earless and eyeless,

 
Perfectly voiceless,  
Widen the crannies, 
Shoulder through holes.
 

We Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

 

Little or nothing.

So many of us!
So many of us!                           
 

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.


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RE-READING PAUL: “LETTER TO A LITTLE CHURCH ON VINE STREET”

What if the Apostle Paul was alive today? Would he be writing to us at Vine Street Christian Church trying to correct us; would he be thinking about what to say to you and me about our faith lives; and, would he try to explain the difference between our public religious life and our private relationship with Jesus? 

Here are 2 “annotated excerpts” from Romans, Chapter 2, (The Message) of what Paul might have to say to us today, if he only had the chance! 

God Is Kind, but Not Soft

Just because some people are on a dark spiral downward, doesn’t mean that you are on such high ground where you can point your finger at others. Think again! Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. After all, it takes one to know one. Judging and criticizing others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.

You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.

So, you see, you’re not getting by with anything. Every refusal and avoidance of God adds fuel to the fire. The day is coming when it’s going to blaze hot and high, God’s fiery and righteous judgment. Make no mistake: In the end you get what’s coming to you—Real Life for those who work on God’s side, but to those who insist on getting their own way and take the path of least resistance, Fire!

If you go against the grain of God’s ways, you will get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended. But, if you embrace the way God does things, there are wonderful payoffs, again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up. Being a Christian won’t give you an automatic stamp of approval. God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind.

If you sin without knowing what you’re doing, God takes that into account. But if you sin knowing full well what you’re doing, that’s a different story entirely. Merely hearing God’s law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what he commands. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with God.

When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within all of us that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. Each person’s response to God’s yes and no in known only by God, and will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman. The Message from God that I proclaim through Jesus Christ takes into account all these differences.

Religion Can’t Save You

If you’re brought up Christian, don’t assume that you can lean back in the arms of your religion and take it easy, feeling smug because you’re an insider to God’s revelation, a connoisseur of the best things of God, informed on the latest doctrines! 

I have a special word of caution for all of you who are sure that you have it all together yourselves and, because you know God’s revealed Word inside and out, feel qualified to guide others through their blind alleys and dark nights and confused emotions to God. While you are guiding others, who is going to guide you? I’m quite serious. While preaching “Don’t steal!” are you going to rob people blind? Who would suspect you? The same with adultery. The same with idolatry. 

You can get by with almost anything if you front it with eloquent talk about God and his law. The line from Scripture, “It’s because of you (Christians) that the outsiders frown on God,” shows it’s an old problem that isn’t going to go away.

Baptism, the sacred ritual that marks you as a Christian, is great if you live in accord with God’s law. But if you don’t, it’s worse than not being baptized. The reverse is also true: The non-baptized who keep God’s ways are as good as the baptized — in fact, better. Better to keep God’s law unbaptized than break it baptized. 

Don’t you see: It’s not the dunk in the water that makes someone a Christian. You become a Christian by who you are. It’s the mark of God on your heart, not of water on your skin that makes you a Christian. And your recognition – your identity as a child of God — comes straight from God; not from any religious order, denomination, or church.

Meet me on the road to Damascus,                                                                                               Pastor Bob <><


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