Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Pondering Romans 4:13-25

Book-of-RomansTo read the passage you can click HERE.

Two of my favorite verses in the New Testament are in this passage so that will be my focus:

“Yet he (Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promises of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.” (4:20-21)

Abraham had a specific promise from God for him but the Bible is full of promises that apply to all believers. Here are just a few that it is always good to be reminded of:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Mt 11:28-29

“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:19

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone the new has come.” 2 Cor 5:17

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1Jn 1:9

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Prov 3:5-6

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Think on these. Let them sink into your inner being. Let them strengthen your faith and then give glory to God because He is indeed faithful and He will indeed do what He has promised.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 5:1-11
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-10

 

Pondering Extras on Romans 4:1-12

One obvious lesson to draw from Abraham’s life is that we are to live a life of faith. Abraham could take his son, Isaac, up to Mount Moriah because he knew God was faithful to keep His promises. Abraham’s faith wasn’t a blind faith; his faith was a settled assurance and trust in the One who had proven Himself faithful and true. If we were to look back on our own lives, we would see the hand of God’s providence all over it. God doesn’t have to speak from burning bushes or part the sea waters to be active in our lives. God is superintending and orchestrating the events of our lives. Sometimes it may not seem that way, but Abraham’s life is evidence that it is true. Even Abraham’s failures demonstrate that God, while not protecting us from the consequences of our sin, graciously works His will in us and through us; nothing we do will thwart His plan.

Abraham’s life also shows us the blessing of simple obedience. When asked to leave his family, Abraham left. When asked to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham “rose up early the next morning” to do so. From what we can discern from the biblical narrative, there was no hesitation in Abraham’s obedience. Abraham, like most of us, may have agonized over these decisions, but when it was time to act, he acted. When we discern a true call from God, or we read His instructions in His Word, we must act. Obedience is not optional when God commands something.

In the final analysis, we see that Abraham was an exemplary individual, not so much in his piety or perfect life (he had his shortcomings, as we saw), but because his life illustrates so many truths of the Christian life. God called Abraham out of the millions of people on the earth to be the object of his blessings. God used Abraham to play a pivotal role in the outworking of the story of redemption, culminating in the birth of Jesus. Abraham is a living example of faith and hope in the promises of God (Hebrews 11:10). Our lives should be so lived that when we reach the end of our days, our faith, like Abraham’s, will remain as an enduring legacy to others.

Excerpted from GotQuestions.org – Click HERE to read more

Pondering Romans 4:1-12

Book-of-RomansTo read the passage you can click HERE.

Paul has put his lawyer hat on and is making his case as to why God’s righteousness is available to both Jews and Gentiles. He calls two expert witnesses to the stand – two witnesses that the Jews trust. Witness #1 is Father Abraham and witness #2 is King David. He goes on to make his point that this righteousness is available not through the keeping of the law but by faith. Those who walk in the footsteps of Abraham’s faith (verse 12) will likewise be justified. Hebrews 11 gives a good picture of what that faith looks like in real life. Here are a few things that this chapter says about Abraham’s faith:

Abraham obeyed God’s voice even when he had no idea where this “blind obedience” would lead him (11:8)

Abraham’s obedience was fueled by hope in the promises that he had received from God. (11:9-10) He was willing to leave the life he had built for himself behind in order to pursue a new life orchestrated by the Life Giver.

Abraham was even willing to make a sacrifice he considered greater than death – the killing of his own son –  because his trust in God was so complete (11:17-19).

So to sum up, authentic faith, the kind that pleases God and that He rewards is 1) always marked by obedience, 2) is never mired in the things of this world but is fortified by a great hope anchored in the promises of God, and 3) is willing to risk everything dear to us in order to demonstrate our allegiance and our fidelity.

There is a lot in that sentence. Think on these things.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 4:13-25
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-9

Pondering Extras on Romans 3:21-31

PonderingExtrasConsider this modern day illustration.  On June 23, 2000, a deaf couple stood before Judge Donald McDonough in a Fairfax, Virginia court and offered no rebuttal to their landlord’s complaint that they were behind on the rent.  Their recent marriage unfortunately resulted in the loss of disability benefits, most of which kept a leased roof over their heads.  Now they were $250 behind and had no hope of making up the deficit.

Judge McDonough couldn’t disagree.  The landlord was due his rent, the couple was indeed guilty of nonpayment, and justice could not be set aside.  Nevertheless, the judge’s compassion would not allow him to drop the gavel.  Not just yet.  Once the attorney for the plaintiff had closed his case, the judge suddenly left the courtroom.  A few moments later, he returned from his chambers with $250 in cash, handed it to the landlords, and said, “Consider it paid.”  With a transfer of funds from the just to the unjust, the debt was paid and the case dismissed.  The law had been satisfied.  The defendants were then “just” or “righteous” in the eyes of the court.

In a similar way, we have a transfer of righteousness from the account of another to cover our moral deficit so that we might stand justified before the court of heaven. How did this happen? “By His grace.” A free gift given, not because we are good, but because He is good.

(From Insights on Romans by Charles Swindoll)

Pondering Romans 3:21-31

Book-of-RomansTo read the passage you can click HERE.

“Lord, would You capture my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection”

This is one of the greatest passages in all of the New Testament. It has a compendium of some of the greatest concepts in Christianity: righteousness, faith, justification, redemption, atonement, grace, glory of God.

This is a passage that pleads for us to think and meditate on… to ponder if you will. It is pregnant with hope, and power, and joy-filled relief.

This is a passage that is almost too good to be true. And yet it is bonafide truth.

Think about it. Paul is telling the Jews (and us) that they can stop trying to earn the favor of God by obeying a bunch of rules. Rules incidentally that were established by God. The rules were given not as a means to salvation but as a way of revealing to people that no matter how hard they tried they just could not meet the standard of obeying ALL of them. In other words, they show us how unlike God we really are.

People never knew whether they had done enough to satisfy God’s sense of justice and avoid his wrath.. It was a terrible way to live and people lived more in fear of God’s anger with them than in love for Him and His goodness to them.

Paul is explaining in this passage that you don’t have to live like that. Salvation is not based on what we do, it is based on what Christ has done. “We are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

No doubt, this sounded too good to be true. (Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Paul didn’t end Romans with chapter 3 – he had some explaining to do). But once this begins to sink in and once we really understand the power of this grace oriented gospel then we can begin to worship God with heartfelt gratitude, serve Him with joy-fueled passion, and reveal Him with authenticity and integrity.

Praise be to God for a gospel that only seems to good to be true – but in fact is the greatest truth ever proclaimed.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 4:1-12
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-8 (still)

Pondering Extras for Romans 3:9-20

PonderingExtrasIf all the great outstanding figures in history, whose judgments are worthy of serious consideration, if all the prophets, Psalmists, philosophers, father of the church,Reformers, poets, artists were asked their opinion, would one of them assert that men were good, or even capable of good? Is the doctrine of original sin merely one doctrine among many? Is it not rather, according to its fundamental meaning… the doctrine which emerges from all honest study of history? is it not the doctrine which, in the last resort, underlies the whole teaching of history? Is it possible for us to adopt a different point of view from that of the Bible, Augustine, and the Reformers? What then does history teach about the things which men do or do not do? Karl Barth

A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world — and might even be more difficult to save.  C.S. Lewis

Property Laws of a Toddler:  Evidences of Original Sin.

1. If I like it, it’s mine.
2. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
5. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
6. If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
7. If it looks just like mine, it’s mine.
8. If I saw it first, it’s mine.
9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
10. If it’s broken, it’s yours.

Pondering Romans 3:9-20

Book-of-RomansTo read the passage you can click HERE.

Lord, would You capture my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection.

In this passage Paul continues to make his case that Jews and Gentiles alike are all in the same boat. We are all bonafide sinners. It doesn’t matter if we are the keepers of the law (as Jews are quick to point out) or really really good people (as Gentiles like to say).

The verse that struck me this week is the last part of verse 20: “…through the law we become conscious of sin.” The Jews were trying to say that because God had chosen them as His special people and that because he had given them the law (not the Gentiles) that they got a pass when it comes to salvation. In other words, they don’t need Jesus because they have been entrusted with the very words of God. And the Scriptures for them had become a book to be studied and debated and interpreted – but not a book that reveals their neediness for a Savior or a book that unveils their sin.

It seems to me that I do the same thing. I am a pastor. I teach the Bible. I preach the Bible. I memorize the Bible. I love to talk with other people about what the Bible says and means. Studying God’s Word is my job. If I am not careful, the Bible becomes for me the same as it became for the Jews – “a book to be studied and debated and interpreted.”

Verse 20 is a reminder to me that instead of reading the Bible I need to allow the Bible to read me. I need to let God’s Word search my heart and reveal sin and penetrate the darkness that is within me and shine the light of the glory of God into my soul. If I do not do this then I may know God’s Word but not know God at all.

Lord, would You capture my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 3:21-31
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-8 (Same as last week – if you are memorizing this chapter along with me then I am going to give us a few weeks to do some catch up and to make sure we have the first 8 verses before pressing on.)

Pondering Extras on Romans 3:1-8

PonderingExtrasA few quotes from others who have pondered this passage…

“If Torah was the pride of the Jews, their response to it was disappointing. Torah was not a possession to be hoarded but a gift which entailed a responsibility. Calvin believed the Jews were first to be the depositories of Torah and then the dispensers of it. But in this they failed.”  James R. Edwards

“Some people believe that they are secure when they are not because they have never truly come to faith. … Believers should not so presume on their “security” that they fail to make every effort to bring their lives into obedience to Christ. It is precisely for this reason that many contemporary theologians and preachers prefer the slogan “perseverance of the saints” to “eternal security.” Douglas J. Moo

Pondering Romans 3:1-8

Book-of-RomansTo read the passage you can click HERE.

There are several things that I want to comment on this passage but I will only give one here. Perhaps as you pondered you saw the other things that grabbed my attention. I’m always interested in hearing about what stands out to you as you ponder.

Paul, who was trained to be a rabbi, uses a rabbinic teaching technique in this passage. He quotes a verse from Psalm 51 to help make a point (v.4). Psalm 51 is  the great Psalm of repentance by David after being confronted with his sin of adultery and murder in the Bathsheba incident. By quoting one verse, Paul is drawing attention to the entire Psalm. Rather than making excuses for their sin, as the Jews were prone to do, Paul is hoping the Jews would come face to face with their own sin as King David, their hero, was quick to do. Note the verses that come immediately before and after the verse that Paul quotes:

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. (Psalm 51:2-6)

Paul is beginning to make his case that “all have sinned” and all need the Savior. Jews are not exempt from this just because they are the chosen people of God. In fact they ought to be the first ones to get this because, as Paul points out, they have been entrusted with the Word of God.

Here is my takeaway – as believers we pride ourselves on being a people of the Word. We listen to it being preached. We read it for ourselves. We study it in small groups with others. And yet we have the same tendency as the Jews. We feel safeguarded from God’s judgment because we go to church regularly and have “prayed the prayer” and sometimes read the Scriptures and pray and give our money away. What Paul is reminding us of is this: until we come face to face with our own sin and genuinely repent and turn away from our sin and then cling to Christ and the cross – we will be subject to the same wrath that the Jews would encounter apart from Christ.

And God would be faithful in doing this because it is not as if He has not given us fair warning. So don’t just hear the Word, shema it. (I’m teaching on the Shema this Sunday night in my Jewishness of Christianity  course if you want to find out what I mean by this.)

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 3:9-20
Memory Verses: Romans 8: 1-8

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