Tag Archives: Bible study

Promises!

From The Simpsons
Lisa: You promised to take us to the lake.
Homer: I promise you kids lots of things, and that’s what makes me such a good father.
Lisa: Actually, keeping promises would make you a good father.
Homer: No, that would make me a great father.

God is a great Father. God makes lots of promises, and He keeps them all – 100.00% of the time. Try flipping open your Bible and seeing how many you find.

I did a test once to show how this and other Bible study techniques work. I had someone pick numbers at random without telling them the purpose. I used the first number to pick a book of the Bible and the second to pick the chapter. The first choice was 1 John 5. I had people search for what stood out to them, what commands they saw, and if there were any promises to claim. And there just happened to be some big time promises. Check these out:

  • 1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
  • 1 John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
  • 1 John 5:14-15 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Try looking for promises when you study your Bible — but be sure to read them in context.  For example, the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 is not for any reader or even for Christians today.  It was part of a very particular promise made to the exiled Jews.  God kept that promise, of course, but it wasn’t aimed at us.

God is the most trustworthy being in the universe. He always keeps his promises. No one has ever regretted putting their trust in Jesus.

False teacher claims others abuse scripture but never proves it

Race-baiting false teacher Chuck “Jesus is not the only way” Currie claims that Focus on the Family misinterprets Bible verses about homosexuality and that it is hateful (see Pacific University Community Stands Up To Hate @pacificu #pacificu).

But he never even tries to prove what Focus gets wrong.  And even IF they were wrong that doesn’t mean they are hateful.  It just means they misunderstood the verses.

Keep in mind that Chuck made it through seminary without realizing that the Bible teaches that Jesus is the only way to salvation even though there are over 100 passages teaching that. So you want Bible lessons from Chuck like you want parenting tips from pedophiles.  Oh, and he’s a serial, unrepentant liar.

The truth sounds like hate to those that hate the truth.  And here’s the truth:

  • 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the clearest and strongest possible terms.
  • 100% of the verses referring to God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
  • 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).
  • 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions.

Ironically, Chuck missed the point that this hate speech comes straight from the Left:

One of them, Holden said, included the phrase “abortion is green,” suggested that the 9/11 terrorists attacks were an inside job . . .

It is the Left that thinks abortion is good to cut down on the population.  Surely pro-abort Chuck doesn’t think that is hate speech!  Pro-abortion speech is the ultimate hate speech: It results in innocent human beings getting crushed and dismembered without anesthetic.  All with Chuck’s blessing.

More blather from Chuck:

On the Right, we see what feels like unprecedented hatred directed against women, Muslims and gays.  Just listen to Glenn Beck, Lars Larson, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich or GOP New York State gubernatorial nominee Carl P. Paladino.

Oh, like Jerry Brown calling Meg Whitman a bitch?  Oh, wait, he’s a Democrat, so that’s OK!

The post also notes where Chuck will be preaching next.  And you have to know what a great preacher he is: He can’t even convert his atheist wife to his Hindu beliefs!

Some quick Christian Q&A

Some youth at church submitted these questions to be discussed at youth group and I was asked to weigh in.  Each could result in a lengthy blog post so I tried to provide just a few bullets.  You are welcome to offer what your pithy responses would be!

1. How am I supposed to spread the word to my friends? Most of them are very smart Atheists.

· That is great that he/she wants to spread the word.  Atheists can be a big challenge.

· Use diagnostic questions to see if they are really interested in a conversation or are just wanting to spout one objection after another from the “Big Book O’ Atheist Sound Bites” (not a real book, just an illustration I use to describe the behavior of people who have no interest in pursuing the truth).  If they don’t want to learn more, heed Matthew 7:6 (ESV) “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”  You are under no obligation to share the Good News with people who are continually hostile to it.  Just pray for them and perhaps try again another time.

· If they are interested in real discussions, then answer what you can but never fake it.  If you get stumped, admit it and tell them you’ll get back to them.  Seven important words: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”  Then go ask one of us or look it up online and get back with them.  You’ll learn and strengthen your faith in the process.

· Just because they are smart doesn’t mean they are wise.  J. Budziszewski, former atheist and UT Philosophy professor says it well: “Though it always comes as a surprise to intellectuals, there are some forms of stupidity that you must be highly intelligent and educated to commit. God keeps them in His arsenal to pull down mulish pride, and I discovered them all.”

· At its core the atheist worldview is ridiculous (though I wouldn’t put it that way to them right away): They have zero evidence for how the universe came into existence.  They have zero evidence for how life came from non-life.  They have distorted one part (Darwinian evolution) out of one branch (biology) out of the dozens of branches of science and they pretend that we are anti-science.

· All people, including atheists, rely on all kinds of non-scientific evidence everyday – historical, eye witness, etc.  We have lots of evidence for our views.  For example, consider these “minimal facts” agreed to by virtually all historians (Christian or not) of the biblical time period.

Summary of the “minimal facts” approach: Nearly 100% of historical scholars from 1975 – present agree with the following statements (more here — http://tinyurl.com/ykzpu42).  I submit that the physical resurrection of Jesus best accounts for these facts.

o Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.

o Jesus’ disciples believed He appeared to them.

o Jesus’ brother, James, went from being a pre-crucifixion skeptic to a post-crucifixion church leader.

o The Apostle Paul believed Jesus appeared to him and he wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philemon and others.

o 75% of the same scholars agree that the tomb was empty.

2. Why do we have bible study?

· What else would we do?  Entertainment, fellowship and service are important, but the word of God is our foundation.

· Parents have the primary responsibility for their children’s Christian education, but the church now has a role.  Check out the recent articles on religious surveys. It is embarrassing how little professing Christians know about the Bible.  We make lousy witnesses when atheists know more about the Bible than we do.

· More importantly, the Bible is the primary way God speaks to us.  It contains every important spiritual truth.  If you aren’t reading it you aren’t growing.

3. How do you go about bringing up religion to other people? No one really ever wants to listen to people talk about it at school.

· Try using “faith flags,” such as comments about church or church activities.  If people show any interest it might lead to further discussions.

· Be a good listener.  Ask about their religious views.  You may hear all sorts of bizarre things.  Don’t pretend that false views are true, but make it a conversation and not a bludgeoning.

· Pray that God will show you where He is working in the lives of others and where you can fit in.

4. Is it wrong to evangelize if you believe in the things that make your faith, but are having rough times in your life?

· Great question.  If we wait to evangelize until we have everything working perfectly then we’ll never evangelize.  Being authentic about your struggles and how your faith impacts them can be a good witness.

· At the other end of the spectrum, you can’t live a careless lifestyle and expect people to take you seriously as a Christian.

5. If people are “going with the crowd” towards a bad thing, how do you lead them on the right path?

· Try to find others who agree with you (safety in numbers).

· Set a good example by not going along with the bad thing.

· Ask questions.  Why are they doing it?

6. How do you handle Christians who don’t act so ‘Christ-like” towards you?

· Most of the time, shrug it off and give the person the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe they are having a bad day.

· If it is a little more serious, pray about it and them.

· If it is somewhat or very serious, get other Christians involved (see Matthew 18 – Jesus anticipated this problem and gave guidance).

7. Why do bad things happen for no reason? i understand that obstacles are put in front of us to see if we can get through and to test our strength but sometimes i feel it’s just too much too handle, and it wont end. How is it that God will forgive us all for our sins, but some ppl will choose to do wrong and God will forgive them of everything in the end, while other that do right get nothing but the same in the end. Pretty much how is it that bad ppl and good ppl are both given forgiveness when the bad ppl have done so much more wrong.

· Jesus promised problems for believers: John 16:33 (ESV)I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

· We’re all “bad people” in the sense that we sin against God.  Some people are better fakes than others.

· God only forgives those who repent and believe, so not everyone is ultimately forgiven.

· Don’t begrudge God for offering more grace to others — See Matthew 20:1-16.  We should rejoice that He offers us grace at all.

Romans 16

rom-16.jpgGreetings!

Paul ends his powerful and thorough masterpiece with greetings to many friends and co-workers in the Lord.

Personal Greetings

16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

5 Greet also the church that meets at their house.

I know we need well-educated leaders, but I often wonder what would happen if we had more house churches in the U.S.  We need an authority structure but the bureaucracy and seemingly inevitable bad teaching that comes from larger organizations is disappointing.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

8 Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

10 Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ.

Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.

11 Greet Herodion, my relative.

Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.

Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them.

15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them.

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

All the churches of Christ send greetings.

Consider how many women Paul greeted and how he acknowledged their hard work in the Lord.  He is falsely considered a chauvinist but if you study all of what he said and the context of the culture in which he said it, Paul is quite the feminist (in the good sense).

17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

21 Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives.

22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.

23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.

Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.

Paul wrote this from Corinth.  Archaeologists found a block of stone that may refer to this man.  It said, “Erastus, commissioner of public works, bore the expense of this pavement.”

25 Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Note how Paul desired that all nations would believe in and obey Jesus and that God is the only wise God.  There is a good reason you’ll rarely, if ever, hear false Christian teachers preach from Romans.

What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?

Romans 15

Greetings!

15 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Paul affirms the value of the Old Testament teachings, just as Jesus did.

It is never fun to be insulted for being Christians, but we need to remember who is really being insulted: Jesus.

5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is one of the great disappointments with U.S. churches today – the lack of unity.  Sadly, some churches put unity over doctrine.  That is not a Biblical theme.  But we should aim at unity on the essentials.  The lack of church discipline has caused much of the problem.  We didn’t weed out enough false teachers when we had the chance.  Now they are in leadership positions in many denominations.

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs 9 so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.”

10 Again, it says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.”

12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul quotes several Old Testament passages that the Jews may have overlooked.  God set them apart, but not because of anything special they had done to deserve it.  In fact, He did it in spite of things they did.  But they were meant to be a light to all the nations.  They were blessed to be a blessing to others.

V. 13 is a great one to memorize.  How often do I overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit?  Sometimes, but not as much as I would like.

Paul the Minister to the Gentiles

14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— 19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21 Rather, as it is written:

“Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”

22 This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.

Paul wanted to meet the Romans in person, but he was detained for a time to share the Gospel with those who hadn’t heard it.

Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome

23 But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, 24 I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. 28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.

It is unclear whether Paul made it to Spain.  He did make it to Rome (see the book of Acts) and was imprisoned there at least once and probably twice.

30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?

Romans 14

rom-14.jpgGreetings!

The Weak and the Strong

14 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Romans 14 and other passages address how we are to handle disputable matters. From this we can immediately infer two things:

  1. God knew we’d have disputed matters.
  2. He gave guidance on how to handle them.

Some beliefs are essential if one is to call himself a Christian – e.g., Jesus is the only way to salvation (mentioned directly or indirectly in 100 passages), Jesus is God, etc.

Other things have guidance but not absolutes.  I think a contemporary example would be alcohol.  The Bible doesn’t expressly forbid alcohol, but it does say not to get drunk, don’t tempt others with it, obey laws and not to be a slave to it.  But we shouldn’t make our own denominational rule that says, “Don’t drink alcohol – ever!” and exclude people based on that.  There are enough stumbling blocks to reach people with the Gospel.  Let’s not add any more.  Having said that, I have no use for alcohol and have about one drink per year.

Contrary to many myths, we have a lot of freedom in Christ.  Christianity contains many principles and some specific rules, but we can exercise our personal preferences in many ways, such as worship styles.

5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Paul hadn’t gone soft on sin.  We have preferences or things we aren’t sure about, but we shouldn’t put our demands on top of what scripture requires.

Note that we shouldn’t violate our consciences.  This is a reason that denominations are good.  We must agree on the essentials or we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  But it is better to be in different denominations if differences on non-essential issues would violate our consciences.  For example, if I couldn’t in good conscience baptize an infant then I should go to a denomination that doesn’t require that practice, even though I wouldn’t say those that do require it aren’t Christians.

9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’”

12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

That is a sobering thought!  We’ll give an account everything we did, said and thought that we shouldn’t have and everything we didn’t do, say and think but should have.  Thanks be to Jesus for taking the punishment for our sins already!

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. 14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Paul was not a moral relativist (the line of thinking that “there is no truth.”)  Paul was quick to say what was right and wrong.  But he pointed out that on issues of preference we shouldn’t judge others.

His closing was a bit of a surprise, though: If we aren’t sure if we should do something – even if it isn’t truly a sin – then it is a sin to do it!  We are to act in confidence and faith.

What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?

Romans 13

Greetings!

Submission to the Authorities

13 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

God delegates some of his authority to governments.  I have written about ineffective arguments against capital punishment and somewhat effective arguments against capital punishment.  People often ignore that the Bible says that the government “does not bear the sword for nothing.”  I don’t point that out as a blanket endorsement of capital punishment under any circumstances, but just to say that the Bible does not prohibit it.

Of course, there are corrupt governments.  I won’t expand on the Biblical view of the concept of civil disobedience other than to say that if God’s laws conflict with man’s laws we need to obey God.  Otherwise, we need to obey the laws even if we think they are unfair.  Christians should pay taxes, obey traffic laws, etc.

God has set up an authority structure and we all benefit when it runs better and people use it properly.  If your neighbor is beating his wife, I think the Biblical model is to bring in the authorities (the police, in this case).  To overlook the crime is to put ourselves in the place of God’s designated authority.  The church leaders are the authorities for many issues, and we need them to do their jobs as well.

Love, for the Day Is Near

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

This is another way of stating how Jesus summarized the Commandments in Matthew 22:37-40: Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

But the summaries of Jesus and Paul don’t make the law easier to follow, as Jesus’ questioner had apparently hoped.

What are practical applications of “love your neighbor as yourself?”  I don’t like people stealing from me, telling lies about me, distorting my views, being jealous of me, killing me in my mother’s womb, encouraging me to commit sinful acts, etc., so I ought not do that to others.

11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

We quickly and properly seize on the commands against the “big” sins like orgies and drunkenness.  No problem there.  But these lists usually include “lesser” sins like jealousy.  What are we to make of that?

If I covet what other people have – and I often do – what message am I sending to God?  I’m indirectly saying that He didn’t order the universe properly and that someone else has something I should have.  When I put it in that perspective it works as a reset button for me, because I really don’t want to send him that message.

What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?

Romans 12

rom-12.jpgGreetings!  I did a laity Sunday sermon on verses 1-13 a couple years ago — notes and 25 minute audio here.  It was interesting to re-listen to it — I forgot just how much I worked in there!

Living Sacrifices

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

V. 1-2 are two of my all-time favorites.  We are to sacrifice our lives to God even as we live.  It is part of our worship of him.

It is a constant challenge not to conform to the patterns of this world.  There are hundreds of things per day trying to pull you towards Satan’s kindgom and not God’s.

How do we transform ourselves?  By renewing our minds with Scripture.  Jesus prayed in John 17:17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  That is the primary way God changes us.  Do you want to become more like Jesus?  Then read the Bible.  If you are happy where you are and don’t want to get closer to God, then don’t read it.

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

God gives us many gifts but in different proportions.  We shouldn’t be prideful, because these are gifts from him.  We didn’t earn them.  Neither should we be overly humble about them.  He gave them to us to use for his glory.

Love

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Each simple phrase is a sermon unto itself.  It isn’t wrong to hate what is evil!  Zeal is good!  It is interesting that he specifically mentions sharing with God’s people.  Of course we should share with others, but when God’s people take care of each other it sends a great message to the world.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

V. 14 is really hard to do, but it is possible because we are commanded to do it.  I have heard of martyrs who suffered more than I probably ever will who did an incredible job of blessing those who persecuted them.  It is very humbling to read about them.

Are you willing to associate with people of low position?  I don’t know if this counts, but I have found Kairos Prison Ministry to be one of the most enjoyable things I have done.  At work I try to be friends with people at any levels.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

I’m probably missing the point here, but when you feel like taking revenge remember that God can repay with his wrath much more thoroughly and fairly than you can.

This is a radical teaching.  It is completely contrary to the typical view of the world and of other religions.  Being kind to your enemies really disarms them.

What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?

Romans 11

rom-11.jpgGreetings!

The Remnant of Israel

11 I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? 4 And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

It is important to weave the theme of grace in periodically so we don’t start thinking that we have done anything to earn our salvation.  Grace is the thing that separates Christianity from all other religions and cults, and we shouldn’t forget that for a moment.

7 What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, 8 as it is written:

“God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.”

9 And David says:

“May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them.

10 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.”

Ingrafted Branches

11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!

13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

This passage reminds me of John 15 where Jesus teaches how He is the vine and we are the branches.  Should we feel smug that some Jews were cut off and we were grafted in?  Of course not.  Our attitude should be one of eternal gratitude.

Paul is clear that not all Jews were saved by the Old Covenant.  Salvation has always been by faith.

All Israel Will Be Saved

25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

27 And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Doxology

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”

35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Verses 33-36 make important points about God’s omnipotence (all knowing nature).  I find many people who dismiss Bible verses as not being from God just because it offends their sensibilities.  Of course, we need to seek to properly understand the verses in context, but once that is done we shouldn’t pick and choose those we like or those we think were inspired.  The Bible claims to speak for God ~3,000 times and that the whole work is his Word.  So it is either right or it isn’t.  We don’t get to pick and choose which parts are inspired (That is called Dalmatian Theology).

What comments or questions do you have on this passage?

What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?

Romans 10

Greetings!

10 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Zeal is actually a good thing if expressed properly, but verse 2 is another example of how being zealous without knowledge is not good.  Also see Christians and open mindedness.   It is a myth that Christianity isn’t grounded in reason and knowledge.

5 Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

V. 9-10 are profoundly simple, but we typically want to make them more complicated than that.  Jesus has done all the work.  There is nothing magical about saying the words.  The key is that you really believe that Jesus is the Lord of your life.

11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Now there is good news!  If people want the one true God, He will be there for them.  But note how they must call on him.  V. 12 is another of those “Jesus is the only way” passages.

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

This shows how important evangelism is.  If you are a Christian and aren’t equipped or interested in sharing your faith, that is a problem.  You need to change that right away.

16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. 18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:

“Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

I think that v. 17 is primarily about evangelism, but I think it also applies to strengthening our faith.  the more I get into the Bible the stronger my faith becomes.

19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”

20 And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”

21 But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?