Tag Archives: Romans

Halloween or Reformation Day?

romans-1-16-not-ashamed2It seems that our world is head over heels in love with Halloween to the point that you can go to almost any store and find all kinds of paraphernalia. Halloween has become big business and the merchants are using their “trick or treat” to drain our pocketbooks and fill theirs. If you have looked closely these days the merchants are also promoting the death culture with the ghouls and goblins dripping with blood. Our public schools spend the month of October in preparation for the party centered around Halloween, costumes, candy and spooky music!

Have we become so enamored with Halloween that we have forgotten about what happened on Oct 31, 1517? We as Christians should know that this is a day not just about “fun” but about what happened in a German Monk’s life that would ultimately alter not only his life but the life of the church from that point forward. So let’s step away from Halloween and learn about the courage of one German Monk named Martin Luther.
Luther had been searching for peace and digesting the book of Romans in preparation for his class he was teaching. He read “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes,” [Rom 1:16] It was his “light bulb” moment. He realized that salvation could not be purchased; indulgences sold by the church were not a “get out of hell card free.” He gathered his courage and wrote about this transformation that had changed his life forever! He wanted the world to know this marvelous truth as well as the church’s wrong teaching about salvation. After writing his 95 points/theses he nailed them to the Wittenberg Castle Door. Soon, because of Gutenberg’s printing press invention, these 95 points soon found their way across the Roman Empire. Martin Luther’s boldness changed not only his life but the life of the church from that time forward.
We too should be as bold and courageous as Martin Luther to tell the world of this marvelous news. Stop and use this opportunity to share the gospel with those who do not know. So although Halloween trick or treat is a fun activity there is something far more significant that we should be talking and sharing about.

Here’s some ideas you could use with anyone, child or adult. Google Martin Luther and learn about his life. Then choose one of these activities to do with your family or neighbors. Let’s teach our culture about Reformation Day, the day the world changed forever.

Sing “A Mighty Fortress is our God” written by Martin Luther

Print out a picture of Martin Luther for little ones to color as you explain this day

 

To Whom or to What Do I Conform?

romans 12 inside out2In today’s world we see the youth conforming to their culture in dress, word and actions. Mid-life adults are conforming to the ways of their culture which includes their employment and their social structure. In light of all of this we come to Romans 12 and Paul earnestly implores us to not be a conformer. What is he saying to all of us?

Paul appeals to the believer to take a step outside their comfort zone and walk the Via Delorosa with Christ for as he offered himself willingly so should we. This is not a command but an appeal: present ourselves as a gift offering; not as a dead sacrifice with the blood poured out but rather as alive so that we might be of service in His kingdom here until He calls us home. This is how we offer ourselves back to Him in thankfulness and gratitude. In addition to we are to be holy, set apart, devoted and consecrated for we are sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit. And this Beloved is pleasing to God. The effect of the burnt offering was to atone but Paul is earnestly imploring us to be a living sacrifice consumed not by fire but by the love of God, totally transformed from what we were to what He would have us to become.

So practically how do we accomplish this—this sacrifice, non-conformity to our culture and the ways of the world  and how are we transformed so that we are only conforming to God’s ways? It all begins here Beloved: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” [Mt 5]We must make a choice and that choice determines if we follow the world or we follow Christ. What will it be?

There is Bad News and Then There is Good News

romans 11aNow we enter Romans 11 and Paul continues his argument to draw the Jew into realizing that Jesus was the Messiah and this is why they should believe. He would be willing if he could to offer his own salvation for them. His heart was not only broken but soft as he saw them dying and entering a Christ-less eternity. In Rom 11 he continues his argument reminding them that God has not abandoned them “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”   But, because they are still wandering in the wilderness as their ancestors, God has opened wide the door to salvation for the Gentiles and will continue to let the unbelieving Jew sadly harden their hearts until the fullness of the Gentiles is complete.

Can we find any promises in all of this? First there was and always will be a remnant who have bowed the knee and called Jesus Lord of all! Second God is faithful to the end because he is a promise keeper. Thirdly we cannot even begin to understand the plan of God and must trust in this truth: the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those that are revealed belong to us and our descendants.”  And here is the reason why: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways!”

The question before us is this: Will we believe that Jesus was the Messiah? Romans is a classic legal argument as to why.

Piper’s series on  Romans is a must to read and know more. You can find him at http://www.desiringgod.org/

Is it True that It is About Me First?

In Romans 9  we saw the broken heart of Paul but today we want to focus in on the heart of those, that is you and me,  who bear the message of salvation and we stand at a crossroads in  Romans 10.

romans 10 1a2The question is this: is it all about me first? I think it is and here is why I think that. It begins with a soft heart of the messenger, you and me, to share the overwhelming evidence of the love of God and it first begins in chapter 1 “ For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made.” Then you and I must recall the challenge that Jesus left us: You should go, make disciples, baptize them and teach them. [Matt 28 paraphrased] And lastly we must also think outside our comfort zone and ask these questions:  “How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”

Are our hearts soft so we are aware of those who still need to hear? Are we being obedient to go or are we waiting on the “call”? The call has been given and here is the promise: As it is written, “so faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.” and “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” They hear what we proclaim: Christ came, Christ died, Christ rose again so that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

So in the end it really is about “you and me” first because until our heart is as burdened as Paul’s we will not move out of our comfort zones into the lost realm where Satan has a hold on the souls of those lost.

Your thoughts?

Dead People Don’t Sin

rom 6 dead to sin2Jeremiah  noted  that  we  have  lived  so  long  in  our  sinful  state  that  we  don’t  even  blush  at  sin!  Yet  as  he  reminded  the  people  they  were  standing  at  a  crossroads  and  they  should  consider  their  path.[Jer  6]  Paul  is  giving  us  similar  advice  by  saying  that  we  are  not  to  remain  in  sin  for  we  are  now  alive  in  Christ  not  because  “works  of  righteousness  that  we  have  done  but  on  the  basis  of  his  mercy,  through  the  washing  of  the  new  birth  and  the  renewing  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  “  [Titus  3]  Sin  now  has  no  mastery  over  us  UNLESS  we  purposefully  yield  to  it.  Beloved we are to “not  let  sin  reign…do not  present  your  members  to  sin  as  instruments  to  be  used  for  unrighteousness!”

If we do the words of John should echo in our ears: “The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person.” So  the  test  is  really  this:  if  we  are  living,  moving,  and  enjoying  sin  we  might  want  to  check  our  status  and  see  if  we  are  living  a  life  that  is  merely  a  charade  because  he  who  is  alive  in  Christ    “is  a  new  creation;  what  is  old  has  passed  away  –“  [2Co  5]  and dead people do not sin.

You Know it is True!

Hebrews 13 all about J+2Over the past few weeks we have been inundated with photos, news articles and then the shooting in Charleston. The latter showed us truly: One can only face a tragedy like this when you know this principle: It is ALL ABOUT JESUS!  And that has been whole purpose of the letter titled simply:  Hebrews.

The author has spent 13 chapters exhorting the believers to stand strong and firm in their faith. It is choosing to abandon the world’s standards to live and walk by faith. Part of that is knowing how to forgive when the unforgivable happens, when your loved ones are no longer with you and you cannot touch them, speak to them, and hear their responses. The heartache is deep and only through the forgiving power of Jesus can one get through it.

The author exhorts them to remember this: It is all about Jesus and that He alone be glorified. Our external works, what we say and what we do are mere pictures of our love for Him; for His sacrifice; for His work of grace; for His example. But, all that we do is mere rubbish if we do it for our glory and not for His. The whole reason that God prepared a body for him was so that he might be the perfect Lamb of God. He is superior to angels, Moses and anyone else and it is because of His sacrifice that we can draw near to the throne of God. His sacrifice cleanses our consciences because He endured the cross. And this is the reason we can cling to this promise: as our Good Shepherd He will never leave us nor abandon us. And this is the point of the entire letter to the Hebrews: it is all about Jesus and His glory.

John Piper sums up Hebrews this way: “Christ has revealed himself to us again and again for our encouragement and our hope and our perseverance, so that we might have strength and love to meet together and stir each other up to live well and to die well by faith, which is the assurance of things hoped for.”

I don’t know about you but my heart aches for those 9 families in Charleston and their church. But, I am also trusting that Romans 8 is also true:  we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, That young man had listened so long to hate speech that he thought he had the last word but God alone has the last word. The world is watching …are we forgiving enough to let God perform His good work?

“With God there is No Fear”

ImageKing David seemed to always be on the run from King Saul’s army. David often found refuge in the Judean wilderness and in its many caves which were deep and cavernous. We read of one such time while hiding in a cave that Saul entered to relieve himself. What an opportune moment! David secretly cut off the edge of Saul’s robe but afterward his conscience bothered him and he restrained his men from rising up against Saul saying he is the “Lord’s chosen one.” This may or may not be the backdrop of this psalm but we can learn a principle from this psalm he authored: David was confident of the Lord God Almighty’s protection until God saw fit to remove Saul according to His time frame and in His way.  Today, we all may be facing the foes, the stumbling blocks that the enemy has placed in our path just as David did. Can we like David echo these words: The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?

The prophet Nahum knew this truth as David did. Listen to what he wrote: “The LORD is good,  A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him.” Thus Nahum as David knew this truth: God is “is a more secure hiding place than any mountain, hill, or great city, like Nineveh, when people face trouble.” As we have been reading the life of Paul we have come to know him personally in his struggles, his commitment to the Lord. Thus when Paul penned the book of Romans he shared with this group of believers this same truth of why he had no fear of men or governments or any other foe that the enemy would place before him and why he was safe in the arms of the God he served: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Beloved, where has the enemy come to distract you through the avenue of fear? Will you like David, Nahum and Paul quote this verse as your defense against him and his forces that they may flee your very presence? “The Lord delivers and vindicates me! I fear no one! The Lord protects my life! I am afraid of no one!”

 

October 31st. Pumpkins, Halloween, ghosts, goblins or???

ImageI wanted to post this ahead for any who will be thinking about Halloween.

It seems that our world is head over heels in love with Halloween to the point of whole big box stores with all kinds of paraphernalia to be purchased for all ages. I can remember dressing up as a painter’s man using some of my dad’s painter’s garb. Carrying paint pails and paint brushes, my sister and I won first place and the prize was a silver dollar. What has happened to creativity? Halloween has become big business and the merchants are using their “trick or treat” to drain our pocketbooks and fill theirs. But, what is noticed more than that is the death culture it is promoting with the ghouls and goblins dripping with blood. Today public schools spend the month of October in preparation for the party centered around Halloween, costumes, candy and spooky music! The next day at school the children arrive on sugar load and teaching children is as if they were hanging from the chandeliers! I garner that trick or treating is fun and I must admit I love doling out the candy to the little ones as they come knocking. But, I also have to ask what about the spiritual significance of this day? Have we become so enamored with Halloween that we have forgotten about what really happened in 1517 on this date?

Here’s my dilemma. I will bet you 9 out of ten do not know that Oct 31st is not only Halloween but there is a significant historical event that we as Christians should know about and even celebrate. Yet sadly many, and that was me as well, have no idea about the significance of what else Oct 31st represents. For as many years as I had been a believing Christian, the church I attended never once mentioned this date and its spiritual significance. In fact like many churches today it was all about Harvest Parties, all about “fun.” We never even mentioned that something so significant happened that we should stop and take note. It was not until I was privileged to teach in a Reformed Christian Day School that I was awakened to what this day symbolized for me as a Protestant. What an awakening I was about to experience which would forever alter my view of this day!  Familiar with All Saints Day? I never heard of it but in passing and never knew the significance of that date. Did you know that it was the date on which the Reformation began? Let me give you a mini history lesson.  It all began on Oct 31, 1517 when one young German monk named Martin Luther in great boldness and courage nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenburg Castle door. After years as a monk searching for his peace and digesting the book of Romans, he had come to the conclusion that only through faith is one justified. He could not be quiet when the Holy Spirit had so altered his thinking and his heart. Why did I not know about this?  

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I began to question my own church hierarchy but came up against a blank slate. Why was this a new idea to me? Why didn’t my church celebrate this day? When I began to question I was politely told that we did not discuss this, but why? Once again it seemed that denominations were the leading divisive tool that the enemy had used to keep us in the dark. I was not satisfied and so went searching on my own. What I found was not only revealing but life altering.  I found that this young German Monk, chose All Saints Day, Oct 31, 1517 to step out from his clerical collar and with great courage challenge the sale of indulgences to earn salvation. What Martin had learned in his quest for truth was this: salvation is a gift not to be purchased or sold. Not only did he learn that but he also learned that his church, his very denomination was selling indulgences to gain this coveted salvation. Yet in the first chapter of Romans he also learned this: 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes,” Martin could not be silent. He gathered his courage and wrote about this transformation that had changed his life forever! So emboldened he stepped up and told the world this marvelous news: the just shall live by faith not by works!

The question then before me is this: why am I not as bold as Martin Luther? Why am I not using this opportunity to tell the world of this marvelous news that I too have found?  Is that not a significant opportunity to share the gospel with those who do not know? So although Halloween trick or treat is a fun activity there is something far more significant that we should be talking and sharing about. Are we telling the world?

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So as a parent, grandparent or even a school aged child how might this day be celebrated?  Here’s some ideas I found cruising through the web: http://www.lovetolearnplace.com/SpecialDays/Reformation/ReformersWordSearch.pdf 

Have a Reformation Day Faire: http://www.lovetolearnplace.com/SpecialDays/Reformation/activities.html#anchor58776

Sing  “A Mighty Fortress is our God” written by Martin Luther: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/m/i/g/mightyfo.htm

Print out this picture for little ones to color as you explain this day: http://www.teacherhelp.org/images/Martin%20Luther.pdf

Excellent ideas for teaching about this special day; activities, books etc.

http://www.lovetolearnplace.com/SpecialDays/Reformation/#anchor22952

Are You Ready?

ImageFinishing up the Book of Romans with this post:

September is here once again and with it many new Bible Studies are beginning. One of the details of being a leader in this arena is getting people to know one another and what better way than to give them a nametag. We might think of Romans 16 as Paul’s collection of nametags.

Some trivia to get us started:  “This sixteenth chapter is neglected by many to their own loss. It is by far the most extensive, intimate and particular of all the words of loving greeting in Paul’s marvelous letters. No one can afford to miss this wonderful outpouring of the heart of our apostle toward the saints whom he so loved—which means all the real Church of God!”[Newell] In other words; don’t skip this chapter!

 Paul’s requests: Ten times Paul uses the phrase “in the Lord” or “in Christ.”  One time he uses the phrase “commend and receive” regarding Phoebe. Fifteen times he uses the word greet in regards to the many he has met on his journeys throughout Asia.

Paul’s purpose: Paul wants this church to know who these people are and we are the recipients of this information as well. [Imagine heaven here!] Paul wants each one recognized for who they are and their contribution to the kingdom work. Secondly, that the Roman Church may praise and pray for how the Lord has used each one. Although we do not know these people personally, they are imprinted upon our memory as we ponder the descriptions of each. Take note of the descriptions he uses for them and struggle to pronounce their names for they were real people, thus honor them in this way. They are “in the Lord,” or they are “in Christ.” They are fellow workers or laborers, hard workers, compatriots (fellow countrymen), dear friends, good friends, approved in Christ, and one is the first convert in Asia! Two were fellow prisoners with him and well known among the apostles. 

As Paul closes this precious letter to the Romans he thinks he is coming soon but we know from the book of Acts that God will change that timetable. As Paul began so he ends: Rom 1: 7 “Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom 16:25 “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,…” [Rom 1:16 “ For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”]… through Jesus Christ, be glory forever! Amen.”

Three questions: Are you ready to greet, commend and receive new people into your fellowship? Are you ready to proclaim the truths of Romans to those who will visit this week? What is one truth you carry away from this study in Romans? Are you ready to dive into 1Corinthians? Follow me as we journey to the most heathen city in Asia at the time of Paul. Come and learn how to live in a society much like our own. It will be relevant! Are you ready? Image

Living Righteously in the Body of Christ.

ImageRomans 14 always brings to forefront tears for me as I see the Body of Christ being torn asunder with differing opinions. I have to step aside and ask is there a grain of truth in this ounce of criticism and if so in light of eternity is this something I need to alter in my life so that the enemy will not use as his tool to divide the fellowship of my church/fellowship of believers? Maybe that is the question we must all ask ourselves as there are many in the church and outside the church that cry: Hypocrite! Hypocrite! We could all share from our experiences family members, friends, co-workers, etc. that have said this to us and it causes us to cringe. Could it be that in some respects they are right? Let’s dig in and see what we are to learn and then more practically what we are to apply.

Paul addresses this full head on in chapter 14 but does not use the word hypocrite but rather bluntly says “do not condemn” and “do not judge.” Yesterday we talked about how to live righteously in an unrighteous world. Today Paul asks us the same question but in regards to how we live in the Body of Christ. Again we need to come back to our premise of yesterday: we are to love our neighbor and sometimes loving comes at a price, comes when we are face to face with those who differ with us. How do we do that lovingly? That is the question.

First off, Paul addressed two situations that the church in Rome was experiencing and which we find are the same two that are still with us today: food/drink and days on which we worship. Some say it is ok to eat certain foods, another says no. Some say it is ok to drink alcohol and another says no. Some say you must worship only on Saturday and others say not so, worship on Sunday or any other day is ok. Oh the tools that Satan uses to divide and he will use whatever he can to destroy the Body of Christ.  We must remember that our enemy, Satan, is wily, and he knows where we are weak and where we are strong. (2Co 2:11 Satan… (for we are not ignorant of his schemes); and in fact he often disguises himself as an angel of light (2Cor 11:4). He will seek to divide and cause disunity and what better place than within the Body of Christ? Let’s get practical here and see what the Word of God says.  

Paul uses very strong language in this situation: vs 4 “Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant?” Then he also reminds us that we are “not to condemn” nor are we to “judge.” And if we didn’t get those phrases he adds another: DO NOT to be a stumbling block for another. So if we are not to do that, then what key elements should be a part of our life?

Beloved, the key is found in vs 7: “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

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14:19 “So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another.” Did you note that the word peace seems to be cropping up over and over from chapter 12 to 14? Did you also note that he inserts peace between righteousness and joy? If you do a search you will find that Paul used that word 13 times in this book.

Today may we seek peace above all else. May this be our mandate for today, Rom 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people. And if we disagree on the points of food/drink and days–remember that Satan is lurking, waiting and looking for ways to divide us. Ecc 4:12 Although an assailant may overpower one person, two can withstand him. Moreover, a three-stranded cord is not quickly broken. Let’s keep the three strand:

          J – Jesus O- Others Y- Yourself = Jesus righteousness, peace, joy