Correction in Love

1 Corinthians 4

Paul spent the previous chapter basically saying to the Corinthians don’t put me, or Apollos, or Peter on a pedestal. In this chapter he is basically saying look on us as servants of Christ, or better yet as stewards. 

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2)

A steward would be the master servant of the house. Think Mr. Carson on Downton Abbey. He was the master servant of the house. He was the one who knew all about the house, knew what the master of the house would want. Yet his purpose and his role was still to serve the Master of the house. Paul is saying I am a servant to God. My purpose is to fulfill service that God chooses for me. He goes on in verses 3 – 5 saying to them, “don’t pass judgment on me, that is for God alone.” Paul is saying here that he is doing the best he can to live rightly in the eyes of God and it will be up to God to judge him. 

In verses 6 – 13, Paul is being somewhat sarcastic to the Corinthians. He is letting them know that he and Apollos do not intend to be “puffed up” against each other. He asks them 3 questions. 

“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

In other words, who makes us different from each other? God is the one who has made us all different from each other and called us to different tasks. What do you have that you did not receive? Everything you have, everything you are, is a gift from God. Why do you boast as if you did not receive it? If everything you are and everything you have is a gift from God why are you boasting as if you are self made? You have no glory in it. The glory is God’s. We’ve already talked about the Corinthians being a very worldly people. They were apparently struggling with pride too. And while they were in one breath putting the men in front of them on a pedestal they were also looking down their spiritual noses at them. Maybe because of the way they lived. The didn’t have a home, they didn’t have a lot of material possessions. They were missionaries living place to place. 

“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless, when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13)

Be sure to note the sarcasm in Paul’s text. He is telling them, I know some of you think I am “scum”. Lowly and that you are better than me. Some of the people had been talking and while some were putting them on a pedestal apparently there were also those who were talking down about them and Paul is pointing it out. 

In what I am beginning to see as a pattern though Paul is leaving them in this chapter with a positive. 

“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” (1 Corinthians 4:14)

Just like as parents we will correct our children if we see something in their character that we do not like, Paul wants them to know, I am correcting you out of love. He is recognizing that they may have many teachers in front of them, but he, Paul looks on them as a Father. Which means he comes at them lovingly. He tells them that this is why he sent Timothy ahead to correct and teach in love not as a judge. That their correction, his and Timothy’s is not just talk. 

“For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Corinthians 4:20-21)

Don’t we all want to be corrected in love and not just with rules and regulations? 

Oh Lord, may we always come at each other in love and gentleness and not with the list of rules in our hands and our minds. May we not look down our spiritual noses at those we deem as less than, nor put on a pedestal the teachers we have in front of us. Oh Lord show us your love that we may show it to others.

Working on the Building

1 Corinthians 3

“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos’ are you not merely being human?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

By addressing the Corinthian christians as brothers, Paul is acknowledging that they have received Christ. In the previous chapter he talked of the “natural man” which would be someone who had not received Christ. In this chapter he begins by calling them brothers. This was his way of saying I know you believe in Christ. But then he jumps in to the fact that the Corinthian christians are not growing in Christ. They are not actively pursuing relationship with Christ, but instead they are still sustaining themselves on the basics of christianity. They are still trying to live in their old ways and they are behaving in only a human way. And if any of them are trying to even “do the right thing” they are trying to follow men (Paul and Apollos) and not Christ. 

In verses 5 – 9 Paul explains the roles that he and Apollos had in their life. That Paul planted the seed for them. Paul was the one who had come and started the Corinthian church. Apollos watered, he was the one who was with them to minister to them and to help them grow but God is the one who actually gives the growth. It seems the people were trying to decide which of the men were more important and they wanted to follow the more important one. But Paul tells them plainly. 

“He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:8-9)

My spiritual life grew by leaps and bounds when I found Beth Moore bible studies. I feasted on them for a long time and I have learned so much from her studies. But about the same time I was diving into Beth Moore studies, I had friends who were feasting on Kay Arthur studies. Both of these women have huge impactful ministries and have paved the way for other women, who create these studies. I have done more Beth Moore studies than probably any other bible teacher out there, however, I am so grateful that I have heard her say over and over in her studies not to stop with her, but to go out and find other studies by other bible teachers. She in no way wanted me or any other woman to put her on a pedestal in my mind. Jesus is the only one who belongs on our pedestal. Should we learn from the mere men or women? Absolutely! But if they are putting themself on a pedestal or if you are putting them on a pedestal in your own mind you can be certain they will fall off eventually. We are all fellow workers. We have fields and buildings to build. 

The next verses (10-15) are in some ways a warning to the one who is building. We must be sure we are building in Christ. First the foundation has to be there. There has to be Jesus. There are people who are gifted in leading others to Christ. And as christians we are all supposed to be ready to lead others to Christ at any given time. Let me tell you, it is one of the greatest privileges of my life to have led someone to Christ. A lady who was in my bible study started asking some very hard questions of me. I assumed, she was coming to bible study she must have been a christian. However, as she began emailing me questions it became evident she had not accepted Christ as her personal savior. I would get an email from her and I would pray over my response before I hit send with fear and trembling. Then finally after several emails she and I met face to face. We met at a Barnes and Noble and sat in two chairs in a corner of the store for hours until she accepted Christ. She and I have lost touch but I pray for her. My job in her story was to plant seeds, I pray and I believe that God has put other people in her life to do the watering. If the foundation of our life is not Jesus it is just like building a building with straw and hay. The building will not stand in bad weather. Building a life on the foundation of Jesus is like building a building with stone, gold and silver. That building, that life will stand when the storms of life come at you. 

“If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15) 

This verse is basically saying our “work” will be tested by fire. We will be saved if we have the foundation of Christ in our life. But if we have not built on that foundation when we walk through the fires our “work” will be burned up. I truly do not know how people walk through this life without Christ. But even with Christ, life can be hard if we aren’t working on our buildings. 

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) 

Our lives and our churches are God’s temple. The commentary says that because of the context of this passage that Paul here is referring more to the church. That the Corinthian christians in their arguing over who to follow and their human ways were destroying the temple. Paul was giving them a warning. The temple is holy. We should always be careful that we are not destroying the temple with our arguing and human ways within the temple. 

Paul again addresses wisdom and folly in the last verses of this chapter. He is telling them, again, not to pursue worldly wisdom but to pursue God. 

“For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’ (1 Corinthians 3:19-20) 

You can be sure that if you are putting more importance on the wisdom of the world than the wisdom of God, He will not leave you there and allow your building to stand on that. 

“So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23) 

Let’s make sure that our boasting is done in Christ and not in our pastors, or our churches or our bible teachers. As long as they are building on the foundation of Christ they are all there for us to feast on! 

Oh Lord, may we not follow men but Lord may the Bible teachers and pastors and scholars in our life only point us to You. Lord I pray that no one is on a pedestal in my mind that You belong on. Lord I pray that my building would be strong. I pray that all of our buildings would be strong

Wisdom of God

1 Corinthians 2 

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2) 

Paul was an educated man. He could have sat with any educated person of his day and spoken with them. And probably could have spoken above most men. Yet he is telling the Corinthians that he didn’t come to them to impress them with his words. But he came to proclaim the name of Jesus and to tell them of Jesus’ death on a cross and what that would mean to those that believe.  

“And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:3-5)

I love how Paul puts this. He is letting them know that yes he was fearful to come to them but not because he may not be smart enough or that he might not be able to find the words to impress them. But he knew that the importance of his task was to point them to Jesus. He wanted to speak to them displaying the Spirit and power in his life so that they would not be impressed with him but that they would be impressed by God!

Words and wisdom were apparently very important to the Corinthians. Paul is telling them in verses 6-9 that the wisdom of God is different from the wisdom of the times. In verse 6 he says “Yet, among the mature we do impart wisdom”. The commentary I read said that there are two thoughts here, Paul could be talking about saved vs. unsaved, or mature Christian vs. new Christian. At any rate, Paul says the wisdom that he comes to impart upon them is the wisdom of God. It is not the wisdom of the world. There is a difference. 

“None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:8)

The rulers of this age did not understand the wisdom of God. We also are surrounded by people who do not understand the wisdom of God. We wonder at times why people don’t just get it. Why are christians persecuted, why our conservative values seem to remain under attack? Well this would be a big part of the why? The people who are persecuting christian values simply do not understand because they have wisdom of this world and not the wisdom of God. If the rulers back in Paul’s day had understood, they never would have crucified Jesus. If the people of this day who are attacking Christian values understood they would not be persecuting and attacking our values. But we shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that they do not understand. 

“But as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

This is the good news of this chapter. God has plans for us, big plans that even our hearts cannot imagine. Our main job, our main purpose here is to love him. 

What is really cool here is the that the Spirit that is God is also the Spirit that lives in us. God reveals the things He wants for us and our purposes and our plans by the Spirit that is living in us. We can’t comprehend what God purposes for us or what God plans for us without the Spirit living in us. 

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13)

We will be able to comprehend what God plans for us as we learn to comprehend the Spirit that lives in us. 

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. …… For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14, 16)

We have to stop being offended by the people who do not “get it”, the ones who do not understand what we have because they can’t understand what we have. We can only understand what we have, because He has given us the mind of Christ so that we can. 

Oh Lord, thank you for the wisdom that You impart to us only through your Spirit. Help us to know when we encounter the “natural man” that we have a wisdom that they do not have so that we will come back at them in love. Help us to show them Christ crucified in us and not to come at them with lofty words. 

Folly and Wisdom

Continuing right along in Paul’s letters we now come to his first letter to the Corinthians. This will also take a little over 3 weeks as there are 16 chapters. I am learning so much by reading them slowly and unpacking them. I hope you will come along, and again, I welcome comments if ever you see I may not have interpreted correctly. As I have said before I am no scholar!! Please read the chapter in the Bible before you read my words. Then comment if you like something that speaks to you. 

1 Corinthians 1

At the beginning of this letter, Paul starts with telling the Corinthians who he is and also mentions his companion, Sosthenes. 

“Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes” (1 Corinthians 1:1)

Sosthenes may have been his scribe, but apparently he was someone whom the Corinthians would have recognized. In Acts 18:17 there is a Sosthenes mentioned who was the head of the Corinthian synagogue who was beaten, actually for trying to persecute Paul. This may be the same person. This wouldn’t be too much of a stretch since Paul, himself needed forgiveness for the way he had persecuted Christians in his past, I can imagine he would be forgiving of one who may have persecuted him. Paul also, as he did many times in his letter to the Romans mentions his credentials. 

Next he tells who the letter is to:

“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

Corinth was considered one of the great cities of the ancient world. It had an up and coming society, it was prosperous, it was busy, it was growing and it had a reputation for being a place where one could pursue his own pleasure. Paul is writing this letter to the “church of God” in Corinth, to the people who were to be following Jesus. Not to the citizens of the city who had no knowledge of Jesus. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine that a church in such a city, may have a hard time with being sure that they were the ones influencing their city rather than the other way around. 

In verses 4 – 9 Paul gives thanks for the church in Corinth and, in Paul fashion, he is building them up. He tells them he thanks God for them, he commends them for their knowledge and their speech. Apparently they talked a good game in their testimony. They were a gifted people and they were eagerly anticipating Christ’s return. 

However, it had gotten back to Paul that the church had started arguing among themselves. (vv 10-17)  Apparently, there were dividing lines among the people with some saying they were followers of Paul, some Apollos, some Peter and then some Christ. I have seen and heard many churches who will get divided over the color of the carpet, or drums in the church. Or some other such nonsense. Paul is seeing dividing lines beginning to form and he is trying here to point It out to the people. In verse 13 “Is Christ divided?” Paul points out that he (Paul) was not crucified for them, that while he baptized a few men, he did not do it for the people to become followers of him, but his mission was always to preach the gospel. 

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Paul goes on to explain to the Corinthians that the word of God is going to look like foolishness to the world. Hmm does that sound familiar? This day and time, there are people of the world who think that the cross is folly. We get so offended when we hear them make fun of us, or negate us, or persecute us for our Christian values. But this was happening back in Paul’s days as well. Paul is telling the Christians in Corinth that while they live among this society, who will look at them as foolish because of where they have put their faith that rather than letting those facts divide them and quarrel among themselves, that they had to let their faith be what joined them together and that would strengthen them. There was no place for the arguing. 

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29) 

The people in the church at Corinth were just that, ordinary people. They were not the elite of the society, they were not the most educated, they were not the “up and coming”. They were just plain, ordinary people, like you and me that God put a calling on their lives, just like He does for us. Think on David, God looked at his heart, not what the world sees when He chose David to be a King. 

“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) 

Friends if we are going to argue or boast about anything, let it not be in the numbers of our church, or what we may be doing, or the color of the carpet, or if we like the drums or whatever else, let us be unified in following Jesus in our churches. Let the world look on us as foolish. It is the folly of what we preach that will save those who will believe. (v 21)

Sweet Lord, please help us to put aside arguing in our churches, amongst ourselves, and help us to keep our eyes on You only Lord Jesus. 

Greetings and Warnings

Romans 16

The last chapter. 

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. (Romans 16:1-2 ESV) 

Phoebe was the deliverer of the letter that Paul has written to the Romans. However, Paul points out here that Phoebe is not just delivering the letter she is a servant of the Lord as well. She has apparently served Paul and others well and is now going to Rome and Paul wants to give her the recommendation so that she will be received well by the Romans. 

In verses 3-15 Paul is sending his greetings to people he knows are serving the Lord in Rome. He mentions them by name and gives an accolade to many of them. One of the things to notice here is that Paul is calling out women and men here as servants to the church. Nowadays in most churches women are considered in the work of the church. However, you do still find some circles where that is not the case. All of us have a place of service in the local church and in God’s kingdom. But back in Paul’s day that was pretty significant.

Verses 17 – 20 are warnings to the Romans. 

“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” (Romans 16:17-18) 

Every church is going to have those who cause division and create obstacles. We have the doctrine in front of us, and we are to avoid such people. Be careful who you give a place of service to in your church. Servants of the church should not be causing division, nor should they only be considering their own agendas in their service. People who are stirring division in the church are doing the work of Satan not of Christ. However, if we keep bringing it back to Jesus and get His direction on the matter and be obedient and wise to what is good and innocent to evil, then: 

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (Romans 16:20) 

Now we know that Satan will always slither back out from under our feet and continue to wreak havoc wherever He can at least until Jesus returns and takes us all home. However, with God’s help we can crush Satan and have these small victories over him. 

Paul ends this section with sending the greetings of the people around him. 

“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made down to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Romans 16:25 -27)

Paul’s final well wishes. He is in essence saying in this final word to the Romans don’t forget who gives you strength, don’t forget where it comes from, don’t forget the history of where it came from, be obedient to your faith and only to God! 

Sweet Lord, we thank you for these words of Paul’s to the Romans. We thank you that these words are still as relevant to us today as they were back in Paul’s day. May we never forget where our strength comes from, may we never forget our history and may we always be obedient to our faith in the only wise God! 

Service with One Goal

Romans 15 

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1 ESV)

We talked in the last chapter of how we are not be a stumbling block for our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we feel the freedom to exercise certain freedoms in Christ but a brother may look on what you are doing as sin, we should exercise caution in our practices so as not to cause them to sin. Paul is taking this a step further. We are not to just not cause our brother to sin, but we are to use our strength in Christ in order to serve our brother or sister in Christ. We don’t use our Christian walk to serve ourselves only. However, we should use our strength in order to support our brothers and sisters. When we are serving it is not just to please ourselves but to serve with the common good in mind. It is meant to build up the body of believers. 

“For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’” (Romans 15:3) 

Jesus is our ultimate example and Jesus never did anything to put himself first. We are to do the same thing when we are in a place of service in the church or serving our neighbors or friends and family. We are to always bear in mind others and especially if the others we are serving are not as mature in their faith. 

Paul gives the Romans (and us) a little prayer: 

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6) 

The goals of the church and the goal of ours as Christians is to glorify God with one voice. 

In verses 7-13, Paul is emphasizing his point. We are to “welcome” one another or receive one another just as Christ received us, “for the glory of God”. Jesus earthly ministry was to confirm the promises given in the old testament and Gentiles (we) were brought in so that we could glorify God. Our offerings of service are acceptable to God when the purpose of them is to glorify Him and not to glorify ourselves. Another prayer and blessing ends this section. 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

When we are filled with His joy and peace and serve in a way that is only to glorify Him then we will be serving with a common bond. 

The next section (verses 14-21) kind of tickled me just a little. Paul has spent the last 14 chapters laying a lot of tough thoughts down to the Romans. He has given them instruction on how to walk this path of the Christian life, but in this section, he wants to complete his words to them by building them up. Paul is preparing to bring his letters to a close so he wants to remind them. Although he has “written very boldly” to them, he also knows that they are good and they are knowledgeable and that they can instruct each other in these ways. Paul is letting them know his ministerial credentials again and that he is proud to be called by God and that he is a minister to the Gentiles. Paul lets them know that his calling and his desire is to preach the gospel in new places. All ministers and all of us have a calling put on our lives. And it will be different for each of us. Paul makes it clear many times over and over in his letters that his calling was to the Gentiles. 

The last verses of this chapter Paul is simply letting the Romans know of his plans. Paul had plans to visit Rome. But first he had a trip planned to Jerusalem. Paul also asks them to pray for him on his journey. 

“I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” (Romans 15:30-33) 

Lord, I pray that as we serve You that You will show us the best way to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ. Lord may we never be stumbling blocks, may we only be of service to each other in one thought and one mind with the Spirit so that we will glorify You!

Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Romans 14 

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. (Romans 14:1 ESV)

Paul is actually talking about the legalist here when he is talking about one who is weak in the faith. The legalist may not think of himself as weak in the faith because in his mind he is keeping all of the law so he is the most religious person in the room. But Paul has, all this time been talking about the legalist. The legalist has their rules and “the law” and their rituals and they may be keeping their list probably mentally and checking it off with what they do that makes them the superior Christian. However, we have seen through this whole book of Romans that Paul is trying to point the Romans to a relationship with Christ and not just a list of rules to keep. Paul talks in the first part of this chapter about food. Which may not mean much to us this day and time but to the Christians and the Jewish people of Paul’s day there were lots of rules regarding food and what was clean and what was unclean and what you should eat when and what you couldn’t eat. And while Paul is trying to let the Roman Christian know that there is nothing off limits to him, if he is causing his brother to stumble who may still be struggling with those rules and regulations then that is sin. And to me it also appears that not only were they partaking of It but they were arguing over it.  Paul wants them and us to realize that we should live in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. And that leaves no place for arguments and judgment. 

The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. (Romans 14:6-7)

In other words, we are walking this Christian path and while we are all on the same path, we are all at a different place on our path. For the person who has been walking their path for a long time, they may have way more freedom in Christ than the person who has not been walking very long at all. For instance for some people when they first become a Christian they have so many things that they may be worried about that they have to become so tight in their walk with the Lord so as to keep temptations at bay.  Whatever works for them is what is right for them. While the one who has walked in freedom for a long time may have lain down some of the struggles of their early walk. However, it is the job of the more mature Christian to make sure that their freedom in Christ does not become a stumbling block to the one younger in the faith. 

In the same vein, It appears some of the Romans were passing judgment on each other because of the different journeys they were each on. It is not our place to pass judgment on each other as Christians, however it is our job when we see people young in their faith to make sure we are pointing them toward faith and not just rules. But in the end: 

“So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12) 

Recapping along with Paul in verses 13 – 16 Paul is telling them there is nothing unclean for them unless it is causing their brother to stumble. While Paul is talking about food here there are any number of things that we could put in the place of food. Let’s not forget that. Paul is stating here if what you are doing brings doubts and questions to your brother in Christ then yes, it does become sin for you. 

“So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:16-17).

Paul is saying stop arguing about the food. Just consider your brother in Christ! The goal here is to serve Christ. We should regard our fellow man in all that we do, whether it be eating or drinking or what we may watch or whatever else. If someone young in the faith has a struggle with something, mature Christians are supposed to consider their struggles more than their own desires. This is the way we serve Christ. 

“For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” 

Paul ends with this blanket statement. If there is doubt, if you are troubled by something and questioning it in your heart then likely it isn’t faith, and likely it is sin. And the struggle taking place is, by the way, the Holy Spirit guiding. 

Oh Lord help us to hear you when you are letting us know if something is sin. Quicken our hearts and minds to hear your voice. 

Love does no Harm

Romans 13

Paul told us in Romans 12 that we were not to seek personal revenge. This chapter tells us that it is the job of the authorities who are in control to bring judgment. God places people in control and God ordains that there be governing authorities to be in control. Therefore it is our job as Christians to submit to authority.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)

Ouch! There are a lot of people in our world today who do not agree with this concept. If they do not like the way the governing authorities act, they think that they can just denounce the governing authority. We truly must not mistake though that sometimes the governing authorities are put in place for blessing and sometimes it is to bring about judgment. When Paul wrote this letter to the Romans they were not under a democracy and the government there was not necessarily a friend to Christians. However, Paul still wanted the Romans to recognize that their job when it came to government was to submit to government and that not submitting brings judgment on themselves. Paul also says in this passage if you do what is right and you should be good.

“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 you will be commended.” (Romans 13:3)

This is not to say that there are not crooked people in authority or that everyone who has authority is handling things right. But what it is to say is that it is our jobs to handle ourselves. God can bring his own kind of judgment down on the one who is doing wrong and don’t you doubt for a minute that he certainly will.

So what do we do with all the unrest and the hate and the rhetoric of today. The same thing Paul told the Romans to do.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)

We are supposed to love others. No matter if we agree with everything they say or not. We are to love. Even when we can’t understand their side of the story. We are to love. Even when we don’t like their side of the story. We are to love. If we love our fellow man and woman, then the rest will fall into place. You can’t do wrong to your neighbor if and when you are operating out of love.

Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10)

Paul is ending this chapter stating that he believes the hour is nearer for salvation than “when we first believed.” And while thousands of years has passed since he wrote this it definitely still holds true simply because of the passage of time. I keep hearing people prophesying that we are in the end times and it is drawing near. Make no mistake every breath you take gets us one breath closer to end times. Every breath we take gets us one breath closer to death. But while God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one and they share the same thoughts and the same actions. Jesus told us himself that only God knows when that time will happen. (Matt. 24:36)

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. (Romans 13:14)

I just want to live as close to Jesus as I possibly can every single day so that He is as close to me as the clothes on my body so that I will walk in the right. That is my desire.

Oh lord, teach us the way we should walk. When we get frustrated with the governing authorities in our life, remind us that you put them there and that you will handle that. Show me how to love my neighbor so as to not even consider doing wrong to him. Clothe me in your love today Lord Jesus and I will let you worry about tomorrow!

Live Peaceably

Romans 12

I love worship! It is my favorite thing about being in church! I love being with God’s people and singing to God and raising my hands to Him. In praise, in prayer, even in desperation sometimes. My soul finds healing when I worship! Paul takes worship a step further in the first verse of this chapter. 

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Paul is appealing to the Romans to give of themselves and he tells them that in the giving of themselves that it is an act of worship. Have you ever thought of it that way? I think I have but then I forget to continue to think that way. What I think Paul is saying here is that when we give ourselves fully to God, pursuing righteousness and holiness the best way we know how that is when we are presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice. That is when we are holy and acceptable. I think it also means doing the things God has called us to do. In other words, when we are trying our level best that we know how to live completely for God, that it is holy and acceptable and that God will see that as our spiritual worship. It’s not just about singing songs and/or lifting our hands. It is our day to day. Paul went on to say: 

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

This is another favorite verse of mine and it is again so fitting and relevant for today’s times. There is a whole lot going on in the world today. Quite truthfully, I think it would be exhausting to even try to be conformed to the world today. You have a new and different belief and opinion on every street corner. That is one reason I think the renewal of our mind and the discernment of the will of God is so important for us. We must all get with God and see how He wants us to live and believe and how we can move forward with everything that is happening. How does He want me to stand in these strange times. 

Verses 3 – 8 address the gifts of grace given to each of us. Paul is telling us not to think too highly of ourselves. He is telling us that everyone has a place and a role in this Christian body. Just like all the parts of your body have a job to do, the same with the body of Christ. We all have a job to do and the gifts we have to offer back to the body of Christ will differ according to the grace that is given to us. God will gift us each differently, but He will expect us to use those gifts accordingly. 

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10)

Our love for others must be genuine. One thing I notice here is many times Paul may say to the Romans and to others in his letters, “I appeal to you”. In those cases it is almost like Paul is making a request but here he just tells them “let love be genuine”. There is no other option. We must love others with a brotherly love. But what about the person that is not living right or has been ugly or has persecuted you in some way or another? 

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (Romans 12:14)

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)

Paul has told us, we don’t just love those who are loveable or good to us, we also must love our enemies and those who persecute us. Make no mistake here if someone is evil to God’s children, then God will avenge His children. Our job is to love them. You’ve often heard “kill em with kindness”. That is what we are supposed to do. Leave the wrath and the vengeance to God and we love them. Sounds so simple right? I know it’s not. Believe me I know it’s not. Which is why I have to meet with Him daily to do my best to handle things in a way that will be holy and acceptable to Him. 

Oh Lord, please help us to love others, even, especially the unloveable. Lord help us to overcome evil with good and to leave the vengeance up to You! I love you so dear Lord and I want to live in a way that is holy and acceptable to you! 

Grafted in!

Romans 11

In this chapter Paul will continue to enlighten the Romans (and us) on his feelings for the Israelites. First he clarifies that he is not saying that God has rejected the Israelites. “By no means! (v1) He gives his own credentials as an Israelite. Then he goes back in scripture to Elijah and how he appealed to God against Israel. And God’s reply. 

“But what is God’s reply to him? ‘I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal’ So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. (Romans 11:4-5)

Back in the days of Elijah, God worked through a remnant. Paul is pointing out when he says “at the present time” that in his days God was working through a remnant of people of which Paul was one of them. This makes me think that God can work through a remnant of people today as well. I know He can, you know He can but oh how comforting it is to see that He has in the past through scripture. At least to me it is, it deepens my faith to look back and see that He has in the past so that I know He will do it again. 

“What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but he rest were hardened, as it is written, ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day’ And David says ‘Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see and bend their backs forever.’ (Romans 11:7-10)

My commentary stated that a “spirit of stupor” could be translated as “an attitude of deadness towards spiritual things”. Do we see that attitude in our world today? I think so. It seems that people in general do not want to look at things spiritually. There are so many movements against conservative values and christians that you could certainly say there is an attitude of deadness. I had never thought of the fact that God could be giving them this attitude. It feels like persecution to us, and it is. It seems there is a world feasting on their own ideas and their own abundance. The commentary pointed out that the Israelites were so secure in being God’s chosen people that they were blind to their salvation standing right in front of them. Their blindness was what ruined them. Just a thought, is the security that some people feel in their own abilities and the ridicule that they have and feel toward the christian faith going to be their ruin? 

“So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles how much more will their full inclusion mean!” (Romans 11:11-12)

Salvation was brought to the Gentiles because of Israel’s rebellion. Paul says here we gained our salvation so as to make Israel jealous for it. A thought here, are we living and walking in faith in such a way as to make someone jealous for what we have? That is what we are supposed to be doing. We should be walking in the way that will make Israel and anyone that doesn’t know God jealous for what we have. Not jealous in a bad way, but jealous in a “wow I want what she has!!!” 

We as Gentiles were grafted into the vine. Paul gives the example that the olive tree had some of it’s branches broken off and the wild olive shoot was grafted in among the others. In other words some of God’s chosen people were “broken off”. They did not believe and therefore God’s word was brought to the Gentiles so that we could be grafted into the fellowship of believers. Paul is also stating how God has worked through this remnant to bring salvation to us but how much more when they do come to belief will be done! We must not get haughty and arrogant about these facts. 

“do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root the supports you. Then you will say, “branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in, That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. (Romans 11:18-20)

We have to remember it is not our place to stand in our christian faith as if we are superior to others of this world. As said before, we are to live in such a way that makes others want what we have. (Ouch) Do we do that? Or are we guilty of looking down our spiritual noses at those who don’t have the faith as if we are better than they. We have to remember a tree without deep roots will fall when the winds get tough. It is the roots that support our christian faith not the other way around. 

“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob’; ‘and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’” (Romans 11:25-27)

Make no mistake God has a plan for Israel. Paul is explaining it in the last part of this chapter. Paul tells the Romans that even though it seems the Israelites are enemies of God because they were against Jesus yet they are still the beloved of God. God has not given up on Israel. We received mercy from God because of their disobedience but they will also receive mercy from God. Paul is basically in the last few verses stating that we can’t and never will be able to understand God’s plan for His chosen people fully. 

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)

Lord we praise you and we thank you for grafting us into the vine. Oh Lord, help me to live in such a way that will make others jealous for what I have in you.