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Romans 8 – The Heart of God

If you’re Roman Catholic and went to Mass today – October 30 –  you heard this incredible statement;

“All things work together for good for those who are called by God according to his purposes.”   – Romans  8:28

Acting the part of St. Paul, I have proclaimed this verse in my performance, “A Visit With St. Paul,” for over ten years.  It’s a great joy to dramatize the earthquake at Philippi, and the divine rescue of Paul and Silas from prison(Acts of the Apostles 16:16-34) .  Using dramatic license, I connect the above verse from Romans to the powerful escape that St. Luke presents in “Acts.”

Paul and Silas in prison
Paul and Silas in prison

 

I emphasize in my performance that it’s “not many things,  not most things, but all things work together for good for those who are called by God.”  Despite a severe beating and ensuing incarceration, the Holy Spirit literally set the apostles free and orchestrated the baptism of their jailer and his entire family(Acts 16:33-34).  This is not just an interesting Bible story.  To us believers in Jesus, this remarkable promise of freedom is our birthright!

If you go to Mass tomorrow, you’ll hear this proclaimed from the pulpit;

“If God is for us, who can be against us?  He did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not give us everything else along with him?”    -Romans 8:31

"...He did not spare his own Son..." -Romans 8:31
“…He did not spare his own Son…” -Romans 8:31

 

This moving passage continues until verse 8:39, and is well worth reading.  In fact, I urge you to take the time to read the entire eighth chapter of Romans, because it’s easily the heart of Paul’s great Letter to the Romans.  I’d venture to say that Chapter 8 is not only the heart of Romans, but it just may be the heart of the whole New Testament!

Throughout Romans, St. Paul teaches, exhorts, encourages, warns, reprimands, but ultimately consoles Christians with words that are the fruit of his thirty years of serving as an apostle of the Lord Jesus.  At the very beginning of the epistle, Paul describes himself as;

“… an apostle set apart for the gospel of God… the gospel about his Son… established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”   -Romans 1:3-4

Have you been set apart for the gospel of God?

If you can answer “yes,” how blessed you are!  If you aren’t sure, or simply answer “no,” then I urge you to ask the Father for the grace to ‘unwrap’ the gift of the Holy Spirit given in Baptism.  Then, you can assume an identity similar to that of the Great Apostle and receive the same promise that he received;

“If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in  you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.”

 -Romans 8:11

"If the Spirit of thethe one who raised Christ from the dead dwells in you..."  -Rom 8:11
“If the Spirit of the one who raised Christ from the dead dwells in you…” -Rom 8:11

 

Of course, there is more involved in walking in the footsteps of Christ.  Paul knew this better than anybody.  There is a critical need for authentic humility and ongoing repentance, for inner healing from the wounds that life inflicts, and for the grace of perseverance to “carry the cross.”  Some of this pain is a direct result of living as a Christian in a world that has become increasingly hostile to faith in Jesus. (For what Paul has to say about suffering, go to Romans 8:18).

Here is some great news;  if you take the time to read and re-read Romans 8, to ponder and to pray with this Word of God, to let its wisdom and strength seep into you (if not knock you over the head), then you’ll receive the precious gift of the Holy Spirit.  In turn, you’ll obtain the spiritual gifts that are necessary to living a life of vibrant faith and authentic love.  It is grace alone (a huge theme of Romans) that fully equips a life that is “set apart for the gospel of God.”

Let me put it another way and with less words;

If you open your heart and mind to what God wants to say to you as a beloved child of His, which is what you are, then in turn you will discover in His Word, with all its promises, nothing less than…

…the heart of God!

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Marching Joyfully For Jesus

Photo by Paul Grover
Photo by Paul

You can rub your eyes if you want.

The image will remain.  One car rests upside-down on another and the message is clear.  Our lives can be upside-down, but Jesus fixes them!

“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.” -Luke 5:31               ( and us “upside-down folks” need Him)

The church that sponsors this unusual vehicle (it is registered and motors around town), was one of many that helped coordinate the annual, July “Schenectady March for Jesus.”   Our friend, Paul, joined us for what was our third year.  He clearly loved marching and received many graces.

Maeve and I always look forward to joining our brothers and sisters in praising the name of Jesus.  We sing boldly, as we walk miles through the city streets!

The umbrellas shade some of us from the hot sun
The umbrellas shade some of us from the hot sun

Christians from around the city, and beyond,  joined in the enthusiastic two-hour, prayer-and-praise-filled procession.  It wound its way through neighborhoods as well as commercial areas.  Residents and shop-owners alike had various reactions, as you can imagine.  Like…  “Who are these people and why are they so happy?” 

The diversity of the Body of Christ is evident, with people of many races and denominations “letting their light shine.” (Luke 8:16);

JOY in the Lord is contagious
JOY in the Lord is contagious!

“Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous. Praise befits the upright.”     -Psalm 33:1

As the March progressed under a hot summer sun, there were several stops along the way.  Marchers listened as local ministers preached on different aspects of the Gospel.  Every message was solidly based in Scripture and exhorted, challenged, and consoled the faithful, just as God desires for His Word.  (see Isaiah 55:11)

Our fearless leader in praise - God bless Chris!
Our fearless leader in praise – God bless Chris!

As you can see, Chris, the March leader is sometimes mobile. For the most part, however, he walks ahead of us, using his God-given gifts to praise the name of the Lord and help lift our spirits to the heights.

The musicians who led us in praise
The musicians who led us in praise – Psalm 149

A talented ensemble of music ministers were carted around in what looked like a remnant from an old circus train.  They worked incredibly hard and never seemed to tire.  King David would have loved these people… and probably would have joined them!

The “March for Jesus” is something you can read about here, but you’ll never know how wonderful it is, unless you take the time to join us.  So, we will re-post this blog next June, and anyone who wants to share our joy can plan on coming.

This sign says it all
This sign says it all

Never mind “Need Milk?”!

How about “Need Hope?”!!!