Archive for May, 2006

Doug said the following when talking about Romans 9:

Our all-powerful God could choose to harden someone unto damnation, but our all-merciful God has not chosen to do so. Does he sometimes harden people (such as Pharaoh) to accomplish his tasks on earth. Sure. Does he ever harden someone guaranteeing them a place in hell. No.

Now look at Romans 11:11, in which Paul says that “salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” Hmm…spurring activity?

Paul the Jew continues to speak to the Gentiles, using the illustration of an olive tree and new (Gentile) branches that have been grafted on to the (Jewish) olive tree. Yet we Gentiles are reminded not be get high and mighty over that; “Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.” (v20-21)

Paul then notes that the original (Jewish) branches could easily be grafted back in again, and that they (being natural branches) could flourish.

The chapter closes with a hymn that mentions the unsearchable judgments of God. Indeed.

19:14 Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers and read it. Then Hezekiah went up to the Lord’s temple and spread it out before the Lord. 19:15 Hezekiah prayed before the Lord: “Lord God of Israel, who is enthroned on the cherubs! You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You made the sky and the earth. 19:16 Pay attention, Lord, and hear! Open your eyes, Lord, and observe! Listen to the message Sennacherib sent and how he taunts the living God! 19:17 It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands. 19:18 They have burned the gods of the nations, for they are not really gods, but only the product of human hands manufactured from wood and stone. That is why the Assyrians could destroy them. 19:19 Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power, so that all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you, Lord, are the only God.” – 2 Kings 19:14-19

Hezekiah is one of my favorite kings of Judah. He is one of my favorite because he chose to follow the Lord God even though he did not have a good example to show him the way. His ancestor that sat on the throne did not serve the Lord. They were evil men who spit in God’s face. Yet, Hezekiah found his way to serving the one true God. I love these words in 2 Kings 19:14-19 because they show the Hezekiah truly understood that God was it. He understood that there was no other. It was common during that time (and it seems to be more common during our time) to believe that there were many ways to God or even many gods. He knew that there was only one God and that he was the God Jehovah.

I think we could use to learn from Hezekiah today. We are fortunate to serve a God who chooses to reveal himself to us as he sees fit. We are fortunate to serve a God who allows Messianic Jews, Messianic Muslims, Christians and others to call him God of God and Lord of Lord. I also believe we are fortunate to serve a God who lets us know when we are not actually serving him. God has revealed himself to us to let us know what it means to serve him. Not every path lead to God. But, God still gives us a wide open door. Don’t misinterpret “narrow is the way” to mean we have to follow legalistic steps to God. Instead those words need to be looked at as a condition of the heart. Unfortunately, not everyone who says they serve God has the same heart as Hezekiah. It does not matter if you call yourself a Christian, Messianic Jew, Messianic Muslim or my personal favorite, Christ-follower. What does matter is your heart truly leading you to be on mission with God.

Heavenly Father,

Thanks you for loving us so much that you provided a way to relationship and redemption with you. Thank you for forgetting about titles, legalism and human constructs and instead focusing on relationship and heart. Lord help me to serve you from the very core of my being. I love you Lord. Amen.

Romans 10

Sorry for the delay! The holiday weekend threw me off.

I happen to love this chapter. Paul’s deepest desire is that the Jewish people would be saved. But the only way for that to happen is for them to throw off their own man-made righteousness and submit to God’s righteousness alone. That righteousness is this:

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.

It’s really just that simple. It does not involve walking down an aisle during I Surrender All. It doesn’t involve sprinkling or dunking. It does not involve joining a church, owning a Bible, giving 10%, or anything else. Believe and confess. That’s it. Why do we make it so darn complicated?

Verses 14 -17 have been preached all my life as support for our need to send missionaries around the world. I don’t see it that way, particularly because those sermons have always left out verse 18, which changes the context of the message:

“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’.”

This is a direct quote from Psalm 19, in which David makes it clear that God’s message is revealed to us through natural creation. It is part of the reason I believe it is unnecessary, and dare I say, grievous, for us to go around the world imposing the culture of Christianity on other peoples.

As you all know, we discussed this subject at length on my blog, and I am aware that no one agrees with me. That’s okay! I still love you all. But that’s my belief, and I’m sticking to it. 🙂

This is a tough chapter because it opens by telling us that all of the wonderful things God has set forth for his people Israel. Paul says, “To them belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever! Amen.” He then goes on to say that true Israel is not the people who have the Jewish DNA. True Israel are the children of promise. This provides a wide open door for each of us. We can be the children of promise. We can be the ones who follow Christ.

However, then Paul seems to close the very same door he just opened. He goes on to say, “So then, God has mercy on whom he chooses to have mercy, and he hardens whom he chooses to harden.” I have to admit something right here. I am not a Calvinist. I don’t think Calvinism is scriptural. I would even go as far as to say that Calvinism is a lie from Satan. Then I read these words from Paul. They don’t make me change my mind. I believe the totality of scripture and the very nature of God reject predestination. However, I do find myself struggling with passages such as this.

The explanation I have come up with goes like this. Our all-powerful God could choose to harden someone unto damnation, but our all-merciful God has not chosen to do so. Does he sometimes harden people (such as Pharaoh) to accomplish his tasks on earth. Sure. Does he ever harden someone guaranteeing them a place in hell. No. In the end, God gives us free will and we chose to follow him or not. He will use his power to create his will on earth, but he will not use his power to damn someone. God’s love and mercy (his very nature) will not do such a thing.

How do you look at this?

(If anyone is a Calvinist, please forgive me, I do have very strong feeling on this particular issue.)

Under the law, none of us can stand; in Christ Jesus, we are all set free. We are free to live according to the Spirit, and we have an obligation to live according to the Spirit. I think that’s interesting – we’re free, but obligated.

God is working behind the scenes to make everything work out for us.. the ones who love him. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

Those He foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the likeness of the Son. Any Calvinists among us? “And those He predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” In light of this, we can handle anything …. trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness (which doesn’t seem so bad, by comparison), danger or sword. Through the one who loved us, we can conquer anything.
Nothing, nothing, NOTHING, can separate us from the this powerful love.

Romans 7

Romans chapter seven starts with a very interesting illustration. It illustrates our relationship to the law. If what Paul is saying is true, the law no longer controls us because we died with Christ. I don’t think Paul is saying just go and throw away the Law of Moses but I think he is saying to not allow are lives to be condemned by the law. We all struggle with sin, I think so often we know what the Bible has to say about our sin and we feel condemned. We instead, must allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin. Do you agree with that statement?

The last part of this section I am going to give you some information that I had written for an independent study course that I took in college on the book of Romans. I will begin with a paraphrase that I wrote on Romans 7:14-25. I am a slave to sin, my will continues to do what I don’t want to do because of my sinful nature. Since I still have this sinful nature, it is always lurking in the midst of me wanting to follow Christ. I don’t feel fit to serve. However, I do know that I can continue to put my trust in God and become his slave.

Some thoughts on these verses: Romans 7:14-25 reveals an inner struggle. There are two historical views concerning this passage of struggle, and great theologians can be found on both sides. One view is that this is the struggle of an unregenerate man trying to live a Christian life. The other view is that of a Christian attempting to live for God with an incomplete committal. Regardless of one’s view, one thing is certain–this is a picture of carnality attempting to live above sin, and the result is the same–FAILURE.

Let’s pick things up at the end of Romans 5, verse 20: “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” This results in the question at the beginning of chapter 6: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” Paul responds with a big emphatic no, proceeding to say that we are dead to sin, were baptized into Christ’s death, and can have a new life just as Christ was resurrected from the dead. We have been freed from sin, and sin should not be our master, since we are under grace rather than under law.

We are also slaves – slaves to something (as Bob Dylan put it, you gotta serve somebody). In verse 16, Paul says that we can be slaves to one, or to the other: “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”

This verse is tough for the American only child who is writing here – there’s a big part of me who would like to be completely independent. But Paul is saying that you have to choose whom you will serve. And there are benefits (verse 23): “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[b] Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Yet this chapter needs to be studied in the context of the rest of the Bible. There’s a common idea (promoted in part by some evangelists) that states that we can save ourselves by choosing God. Yet many verses (Matthew 11:27, John 15:16, others) make it clear that it is God who calls us. We do not call God. We cannot save ourselves.

17:7 This happened because the Israelites sinned against the Lord their God, who brought them up from the land of Egypt and freed them from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods; 17:8 they observed the practices of the nations whom the Lord had driven out from before Israel, and followed the example of the kings of Israel. 17:9 The Israelites said things about the Lord their God that were not right. They built high places in all their cities, from the watchtower to the fortress. 17:10 They set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree. 17:11 They burned incense on all the high places just like the nations whom the Lord had driven away from before them. Their evil practices made the Lord angry. 17:12 They worshiped the disgusting idols in blatant disregard of the Lord’s command.

17:13 The Lord solemnly warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and all the seers, “Turn back from your evil ways; obey my commandments and rules that are recorded in the law. I ordered your ancestors to keep this law and sent my servants the prophets to remind you of its demands.” 17:14 But they did not pay attention and were as stubborn as their ancestors, who had not trusted the Lord their God. 17:15 They rejected his rules, the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and the laws he had commanded them to obey. They paid allegiance to worthless idols, and so became worthless to the Lord. They copied the practices of the surrounding nations in blatant disregard of the Lord’s command. 17:16 They abandoned all the commandments of the Lord their God; they made two metal calves and an Asherah pole, bowed down to all the stars in the sky, and worshiped Baal. 17:17 They passed their sons and daughters through the fire, and practiced divination and omen reading. They committed themselves to doing evil in the sight of the Lord and made him angry. – 2 Kings 17:7-17

I must be a little dense. I just don’t get it. How often does God have to come to your rescue before you stop worship false gods who have done nothing for you? How many plagues does goes have to send against your enemies? How many sea does he have to part for you to walk across? How many amazing miracles do you need to see?

I understand that we all have short memories. It is easy to forget what happen in the past or just brush it off. It became pretty obvious that when they obeyed God they prospered and when they disobeyed God they suffered. As a nation they had a pretty clear sign. Yet, they did not get it. I know this does not really lead anywhere. There is not answer to this thoughts. I cannot help but wonder what a nation that truly followed God (not the god of fundamentalist extremists) would look like?

Heavenly Father,

I know that this idea of being part of a nation that truly followed you is not going to happen in our present world. I know that we live in a time when less and less are willing to follow your ways. I know we live in a time when many who claim to be your followers fail miserably to show your real love and mercy. Lord, help me to truly follow you. Help me to live a life that glorifies you. I pray that there would be a rising movement of people truly dedicated to being part of your mission. I love you Lord. Amen.

Romans 5

“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

Having gone through lots of suffering in my life, I can attest to the truth of this statement. Looking back over all the trials, I can see that they have produced perseverance, character, and hope. And I know that someday I will look back on the trials I am experiencing now and say the same thing. Even though, at this moment in time, it doesn’t seem possible.

That is all.

14:1 In the second year of the reign of Israel’s King Joash son of Joahaz, Joash’s son Amaziah became king over Judah. 14:2 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother was Jehoaddan, who was from Jerusalem. 14:3 He did what the Lord approved, but not like David his father. He followed the example of his father Joash. 14:4 But the high places were not eliminated; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense on the high places.

14:5 When he had secured control of the kingdom, he executed the servants who had assassinated his father. 14:6 But he did not execute the sons of the assassins. He obeyed the Lord’s commandment as recorded in the law scroll of Moses, “Fathers must not be put to death for what their sons do, and sons must not be put to death for what their fathers do. A man must be put to death only for his own sin.” – 2 Kings 14:1-6

These verses in 2 Kings bring out a great point in scripture that I think everyone needs to understand. Sometimes when people are reading the Bible they begin to have a problem with some of the things that happen because God will say it is going to happen and does. However, just because God says something is going to happen does not mean God thinks it is the best or right thing to happen. For example, often times when a new king came into power in Israel, he would have all the members of the previous royal family killed. In some cases, this was done because of the sinful reign of the previous king. We may have read prophecy in scripture that said this was going to happen and it does. The truth is this is simply an example of God knowing the future, not God proclaiming it right. As you read the latter part of 2 Kings 14:6, you see that God actually declared through the law he gave Moses that this should not happen. We have to begin to understand there is a difference between God telling us what will occur because he knows the future and what should occur because he is righteous.

Heavenly Father,

It is hard (if not impossible) to truly grasp what it means for you to be an all knowing God. On one hand we think if you know everything then you must be responsible for it. On the other hand, we accept that you are a god who has given us fee will. Lord, I pray that I would come to understand and know you more. I love you Lord. Amen.