Romans: Unnoticed Grace

“…through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,…”    – Romans 1:5

Our worship staff gathered this morning to discuss the first two chapters, and I must admit we were unsuccessful.  We only made it through the first 15 verses of chapter 1.  I, for one, was grateful because that was exactly how much I had made it through on my own.  We  had a beautiful honest time discussing many things that will probably appear in future blogs here.  But I wanted to take a moment and share what we ran into in the ideas of grace, faith, and obedience.

I began to share about how much of God’s grace I overlook.  I see where I fall short and wonder why I did not have enough grace to succeed, not that it is God’s fault.  I wonder what I have done that has denied me access to that grace.  Where  does my faith fall short and hence my obedience as well?  I am consumed with these ideas.  But in focusing here, I have missed the grace that I have received.  I never notice the grace that carried me through every act of obedience that day.  I minimize the good, and focus on the bad.  I never get to the end of a day, and thank God for the grace He gave me that allowed me not to murder anyone that day.

I know that may sound silly to you.  Of course, I didn’t murder anyone today.  But if I fail to notice God’s hand in that, then I am assuming I am capable of that good on my own.  And I am quite sure that it not true.  I believe that God is the source of every single good thing.  And I am not capable of even one good thing without Him.  Which means that every time I tell the truth, God is showing me grace.  Every time I don’t commit adultery, grace.  Every time I make it through a day without stealing, grace.

My friend Drake said it like this, “Our scorecard is only as long as our struggles.”  We are only keeping track of our failures.  Or as Hartmann said, “We’re only counting our losses, so we look at our lives, and see the score as zero to a million.”  I don’t know that I’ve had a  better picture drawn of how I look at life than the understanding my friends came to today.

So I’m going to take a little time today and thank God that I didn’t give my wife away to another man (Abraham, Genesis 20).  That I didn’t worship a cow made of gold (Israel, Exodus 32).  That I didn’t gather sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15). That I didn’t take a cloak and some money and hide it in my tent (Achan, Joshua 7).  That I didn’t let a pretty girl cut my hair (Samson, Judges 16).  That I didn’t sell my brother into slavery (Joseph’s brothers, Genesis 37).  Okay, so I don’t even have a brother.  But even that is a grace.  Like so many other things, I don’t even have the opportunity to commit this sin.  And that is the grace of God.  Every kindness today, grace.  Every faithfulness, grace.  Every truth, grace.  Every single good thing I accomplish from working hard to making dinner to praying for my kids as they go to bed is God’s grace alive in me.

I want to be thankful for that today.  I want to see the whole scorecard.  I think God and his plan for righteousness in my life is probably farther ahead than I think we are.



Thoughts on a Quote: Barth on Romans

Okay, so among other resources, I’m reading Karl Barth’s commentary, The Epistle to the Romans. Romans 1:1 says, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,” (ESV). Here are Barth’s comments on the importance of the phrase “gospel of God”.

“The Gospel is not a religious message to inform mankind of their divinity or to tell them how they may become divine. The Gospel proclaims a God utterly distinct from men. Salvation comes to them from Him, because they are, as men, incapable of knowing Him, and because they have no right to claim anything from Him. The Gospel is not one thing in the midst of other things, to be directly apprehended and comprehended. The Gospel is the Word of the Primal Origin of all things, the Word which, since it is ever new, must ever be received with renewed fear and trembling. The Gospel is therefore not an event, nor an experience, nor an emotion — however delicate! Rather, it is the clear and objective perception of what eye hath not seen nor ear heard. Moreover, what it demands of men is more than notice, or understanding, or sympathy. It demands participation, comprehension, co-operation; for it is a communication which presumes faith in the living God, and which creates that which it presumes.”

That is amazing. I had to share it.



A Summer of Romans

Okay, well, I feel better having done Sports Week. And now I know most of you don’t care about sports at all. Or at least those who do don’t like to comment. And that’s cool. Lesson learned. So let’s go back to another thing I like… the Bible.

So this summer our worship staff will be going through Romans, so I’ll probably write one blog a week about what I’m learning. We’re starting with Romans 1 & 2 this week, and will be doing two chapters a week for the rest of the summer. So I’m inviting you to come along. Rather than just waiting for my blog, you can go ahead and study with us. Then when I post my blog, you can comment with what God has been teaching you. I’m really looking forward to hearing from you. Blog #1 coming soon.


Sports Week: and the others

Even Sports Week needs a Sabbath, so today we must cover everything else.

I love to play tennis.  I wish I had started when I was a kid so I would be good.  But I’m all right with being terrible and having fun.  And yes, my favorite is Rafael Nadal.  I appreciate Federer’s complete game and grace and Djokovic’s game and humor.  And I always hope Andy Murray will finally win something for Great Britain, but Nadal’s my guy.  Oh and the Bryan brothers.

I also love to play volleyball.  I really need to get back in playing shape so I can actually do something.  But it’s probably my favorite sport to play.  I enjoy watching indoor and outdoor.  But I don’t really have favorite teams anymore.  I grew up watching Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos, and then the emergence of Karch Kiraly.  No one really has that feel anymore and that’s okay I guess.  Todd Rogers is probably the closest.  And he’s named Todd, so I cheer for him.

Cricket is my newest sport.  I found it when we took the trip to Zimbabwe.  The World Cup was on the TV there all the time, so I watched it.  And it’s actually really fun.

I also enjoy ping pong, although I don’t think I could watch it on television.

Golf and NASCAR, can’t stand them.  It’s totally fine if you love them.  I just don’t.  So I don’t have an opinion on them.

Did I leave anything out?



Sports Week: Hockey

All right, it’s hockey day here at Sports Week.  And it’s probably going to be fairly short.  I really enjoy the sport but don’t know a lot about it.  Right as I was getting into it, I moved to places where hockey is unknown (Houston, Memphis and Austin).  Okay, so it’s not completely unknown, but it is far in the background.  All that to say, I’m a Dallas Stars fan.  I found hockey when the Stars moved to Dallas.  And they were good.  So it was fun.  I enjoyed learning the sport, and it turned out to be a high-speed version of soccer, which I also liked.  My favorite player was Jere Lehtinen.  Because he worked hard and didn’t get most of the star attention.  Oh and I was a big fan of Brett Hull.  I wish he had played in Dallas longer.  I still remember the goal to win the Stanley Cup, controversial or not.  I was the only one awake in the house, trying to keep myself from screaming as I ran around the TV room.  During my fantasy sports phase (when I played had teams in fantasy leagues for just about anything you can imagine, and yes that includes the stock market), I had a hockey team that was always built around Mats Sundin from the Toronto Maple Leafs, so he will always have a special place as well.

I enjoyed playing a concert after the Phoenix Coyotes game this season as they were making a playoff push.  So I cheered for them as they made a great run through the playoffs.  But the Kings were not to be denied.  Oh well.

And honestly, my favorite hockey memory was the early days of AreaOne camp where we would play hockey on the basketball court in tennis shoes.  So maybe it’s not real hockey, but it was a lot of fun.



Sports Week: Baseball

It’s baseball day.  Which is fitting since it’s actually baseball season.  I’m a Rangers fan.  I have been a little up and down over the years, from casual to avid fan.  Never a rabid fan.  But I have definitely followed and cheered many generations of the Rangers.  When I was a kid, I loved Jim Sundberg.  He was definitely my favorite.  It’s funny; I never considered myself a fan of the catcher position.  But from Sundberg to Pudge Rodriguez, now to Mike Napoli, they are consistently some of my favorite Rangers.

The early 90’s were big years for me as a fan, because I would gather up my reading/homework at college and drive down to the ballpark, buy a cheap outfield seat, and do my work and watch the game.  I would cheer for Nolan Ryan and Kenny Rogers.  No, not that Kenny Rogers.  Although I would cheer for him, too, now that I think about it.  I enjoyed our team of hitters: Pudge, Rafael Palmiero, Julio Franco, Juan Gonzales, Jose Canseco, Dean Palmer.  But my favorite was Rusty Greer.  Always loved Rusty Greer.  He played hard.  I liked that.

And of course, it’s actually easy to be a Rangers fan now.   Two World Series in a row and off to a great start this year.  We have a great team.  Proud of how Josh Hamilton handled the fiasco in the offseason to come back and have a great year.  He’s an alcoholic who went out and got drunk.  And then confessed and turned it around.  Put safeguards in place to keep himself from falling again.  It actually sounds like a great job of handling a sin problem.  And now he’s playing great, as well.  It’s awesome to see Nolan Ryan and Jim Sundberg in the office guiding the team.  And I’m excited about what Yu Darvish brings to the team.  Should be another good year.

College baseball is a little harder to follow.  Mainly because by the time I remember about it, it is half over.  But I still try to step it up and cheer for the Longhorns.  Fortunately we’re usually really good, and they don’t miss my cheering.  This year, I was a little bit late and they needed more help than usual.  But I’m sure we’ll turn it around next year.  I also usually cheer for Rice.  Just because it’s a school of smart people and baseball is the one sport I know they’re good at.




Sports Week: Soccer

I know you may not be a fan, but soccer is my sport of choice.  It’s what I played growing up and what I still love.  Obviously, the World Cup is the best known soccer moment, and it only occurs every four years.  So in national teams I root for Brazil and the US.  I have always loved the way Brazil plays soccer.  The flowing runs, the great passing, the high skill level.  And you’ve got to cheer for the home team.  We’re still getting better.

I loved to watch France back when Platini roamed the midfield with Giresse, Fernandez, and Tigana.  But I haven’t enjoyed much of their soccer of late.  Until Ribery.  But he has little help.  And West Germany used to be the enemy.  But I have enjoyed some of the ball the Germans have played in the last few years.  Argentina and England should be good; they have the players.  But you still have to play the game.  Which they often don’t.

In club ball, England, it’s Manchester United.  Loved them long time.  Keane, Giggs, Schmeichel, Cantona, Beckham.  And now, too.  In Italy, I grew up as a fan of Juventus, but they have lost some of their character and some of their flair.  I usually cheer for Inter Milan now.  Could never switch over to AC.  And in the US, it’s FC Dallas.  I loved going to see them play in the Cotton Bowl.  And my Alain Sutter #66 Dallas Burn jersey is still one of my favorite presents I ever received.




Sports Week: Basketball

All right, welcome back to sports week.  If you missed yesterday, then we’re talking sports all week.  If you’re not interested, that’s okay.  Next week we will be returning to our regularly scheduled programming.

So today is basketball.  Basketball is awesome.  To watch.  I prefer to watch college over pro.  And March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year.  But out of due diligence, let’s still start with pro.  They’ve been at it longer and deserve our attention.

I’m a Mavs fan.  What did you expect?  I live in Texas and I’m originally from Dallas.  I grew up with Mark Aguirre and Rolando Blackman.  I remember when Jason Kidd played for us the first time.  I’m a huge Dirk fan.  And so of course I was thrilled last year.  We were driving to camp in New Mexico, with the ESPNradio app on my phone plugged into the radio in the van, as the Mavericks won the NBA championship.  Brian, Cody, and I driving down the road, screaming in the van, hoping to find a truck stop where we could see the end of the game.  Great time.  Not so great this year.  But that is a good segue to…

My second team is the OKC Thunder.  And before you cry “bandwagon”, you need to know 2 things.  1) Kevin Durant played for the Texas Longhorns.  And 2) I was a Seattle Sonics fan before they moved to Oklahoma.  I have my old Gary Payton Sonics jersey hanging in the closet right now.  And since I wasn’t from Seattle, it didn’t hurt my feelings that they moved.  In fact, they came closer.  And I even went to college in Oklahoma.  Well, for one year.  But still it is a small connection.  Anyway, I loved the Sonics.  Payton, Shawn Kemp, Nate McMillan, Hersey Hawkins, Sam Perkins.  Loved those guys.  They are also some of my first basketball videogame memories, playing NBA Live and NBA Jam in the early 90’s.  So I’m glad they moved south.  I’m glad they turned into the Thunder.  I had my doubts both about Oklahoma and the name, but it seems to have worked out.  They’re young.  They play hard.  I like them.

Now I told you, I’m a college fan first.  I cheer for four teams: Texas, Arizona, Memphis, and whoever is playing Duke.  Seriously, I pick Duke to go out in the second round of the tournament every year.  No matter what.  It’s just on principle.  Now I don’t have any problem with Duke fan.  Whoever you are.  I’m glad you enjoy the team.  I just enjoy cheering against them.

Texas again is pretty obvious.  Home team.  Good basketball.  Coach Barnes goes to my church.  Didn’t have a great year this year, but I’m hoping with all our young players that we will be much more solid next year.

Arizona is a different story.  I have been an Arizona fan for a long time.  I loved Lute Olsen.  I loved how he coached, fundamentals and defense, and I loved how his teams played.  I think Sean Miller has done a great job stepping into this program.  They have a great recruiting class this year and should be really good.

Memphis is another hometown team.  I lived there for 7 years, and so I like to cheer for them.  That’s it.  Oh and they gave me an old Memphis State Basketball shirt from the old days.  Very cool.

I also like to play basketball.  Unfortunately I’m terrible.  No really, terrible.  But we have fun as long as we don’t have any angry serious players on the court.




Sports Week: Intro & Football

Everyone who is not into sports is probably going to want to skip this week of blogs.  Just wanted you to know.  I’ve been looking at what I post on here and realizing that it really is only a part of who I am.  And so in between the serious questions, the searching posts, I thought I would also talk about a few things that I like that, well, aren’t quite as spiritually deep.  We have a bunch of folks that participate in March Madness but don’t comment on other things.  And seeing how many of you commented on the dog post, maybe I’ll connect with some of you on these as well.

So we’re going to do a week of sports blogs.  Because I like them.  If you don’t, that’s totally okay.  You just might want to check back next week.  But every day this week, we’ll hit one or more sports.  We’ll start with the most popular here in the US: football.

I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan.  Legitimately.  I grew up 10 minutes from Texas Stadium.  I grew up under Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Tony Hill, Drew Pearson, Randy White, Too Tall Jones, Harvey Martin, and Charlie Waters.  I loved those guys.  It probably started with my grandmother who was a huge fan.  She had a friend who was a barber for some of these guys.  So he would bring me a signed picture or football every once in a while.  I, like most Cowboys fans, struggled through the transition to Jerry Jones.  Because he didn’t embody a lot of what had been Cowboy football in the earlier years.  Of course, I still enjoyed the three Super Bowl Championships in the 90’s.  I just didn’t and don’t always agree with how he does business.  But I won’t leave my team just because of that.  I think a lot of the time he makes moves (especially in the draft) because of what is cool or exciting, and not necessarily because of what we need as a football team.  However, I am excited that we drafted Morris Claiborne this year.  I think that could really help.

Now in most sports I am primarily a college fan.  The home team in the college ranks is obviously the Texas Longhorns.  If you don’t know, I live in Austin TX, so again it is a legitimate fandom.  We’ve had good years recently and then a rough one last year.  But I think we’ll be better this year.  The defense is going to be great.  I think Manny Diaz has done a great job stepping in and reshaping that unit.  And I think the offense will start to come together as well.  I know we have to have a starting quarterback.  But I think this year we’ll run the ball a lot better and whichever QB it is won’t be required to carry as much of the load.  And I’ll cheer them on anyway.

I also usually cheer for Notre Dame.  Now they have been struggling recently as well.  But like I said, I won’t bail because of a few difficulties.

Now we’ll need to have a few guidelines in the comment section since sports fans are a little more diehard than theology fans.  Okay, that’s actually probably not true, it’s just we don’t get into a lot of arguments here.  I’d actually like to see the battle between Ohio State fan and the 5 point Calvinist.  Could be entertaining.

All that to say, please be kind.  I’d love to know who you like and who you cheer for.  I don’t need to know who you dislike.  I don’t want you to get after anyone else because of who they like.  So we’ll refrain from any negative comments (at least until we get to college basketball, and then it’s open season on Duke.)  I know this goes against a lot of normal sports commentary but let’s try to keep it positive.  Maybe even positive and encouraging.  Thanks.