Romans 13:1-7

Book-of-RomansI had difficulty with this passage. The obvious question that arises is “Do we obey government authorities at all times, or are there times when we do not. The passage really does not speak to the latter. What the passage does do is affirm the sovereignty of God. God is in control. He is in control even when it seems like things are out of control. This is one of the great great promises in Scripture that I constantly remind myself (and others) of. You will often hear me say two things when I am talking with people who are going through tough times. “1) God is in control, and 2) The joy of the Lord is your strength.” I can almost hear Paul counseling his Roman friends saying these same things as they are enduring difficult days under the rule of the caesars in Rome.

Never forget these. Because sometimes when life seems particularly cruel and when your authorities are making life difficult for you – the truth of these statements will sustain you as walk diligently by faith through the darkness.

That being said, here are a few things that others have said about this passage;

Martin Luther said it well…

A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.

Richard Halverson, the former chaplain of the United States Senate, wrote that…

To be sure, men will abuse and misuse the institution of the State just as man because of sin has abused and misused every other institution in history including the Church of Jesus Christ, but this does not mean that the institution is bad or that it should be forsaken. It simply means that men are sinners and rebels in God’s world, and this is the way they behave with good institutions. As a matter of fact, it is because of this very sin that there must be human government to maintain order in history until the final and ultimate rule of Jesus Christ is established. Human government is better than anarchy, and the Christian must recognize the “divine right” of the State.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 13:8-14

Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-31


Pondering Romans 12:9-21

Book-of-RomansYou can read the passage by clicking HERE.

In this passage Paul runs through about 20 different things that are on his mind as he thinks about the Roman church and how they relate to one another and to the watching world. He offers very little commentary on them which actually seems a bit unusual. Its almost as if he has a lot to say but very little time to say it so he just makes sure that they are at least down on paper. As I pondered, here are a few from the list (one at the beginning, one at the end) that stood out to me – with the commentary that Paul didn’t have time to say.

Verse 9 – “Hate what is evil.” – Why would Paul have to say something like this? Because, for whatever reason, as saints who are sinful people we are infatuated with evil. All you have to do to confirm this is to take a look at the TV that we watch. Crime shows seem to be the #1 viewing choice for believers as well as unbelievers. This, along with the pervasive sexuality that  seems necessary to draw an audience, has eroded our value system and blurred the lines between good and evil.  One of the #1 songs in the country this year is a case in point – the title says it all, Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. Evil is no longer evil – it is merely unwholesome, or inappropriate for minors, or “for mature audiences”. It seems to me that maturity would recognize what is evil and what is not. But this is not the case any longer. Nor was it the case in Paul’s day. Hence his admonition “Hate what is evil!”. Not “dislike evil”. Not “develop a distaste for evil.” Not “avoid evil.” Not tolerate it. But “HATE evil”. We will have to hate evil if we are going to have any chance with what verse 21 says…

Verse 21 – “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” – It was Edmund Burke who said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”. I will take this statement a step farther and say that “All that is necessary for evil to triumph in the world is for godly people to do nothing.” Evil will prevail in our world unless the people of God do something. It is up to us. Not good people – because Scripture tells us that no one is good. Not government – that certainly hasn’t helped to restrain evil. Not religion – if anything, religion has helped to perpetuate evil. Not an economic windfall for all nations – money is not the answer to a problem that plaques the souls of humanity. I sincerely believe that the only hope our world has is if the Body of Christ rises up and leads a gospel-empowered vanguard against the ubiquitous evil that saturates our culture.

But for that to happen, we must HATE evil.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 13:1-7
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-30

Pondering Romans 12:3-8

Book-of-RomansYou can read the passage by clicking HERE.

Paul is talking to the church in Rome about “gifts of grace”. He wants them to focus on how they have been gifted by God – and not focus on what their gifts are not. We have a tendency to focus on how we are not gifted. We are generally pretty good at looking at others in the body of Christ and thinking we wish we had their skill set or talent or gift. I know I am at least. I’ve always wanted to be gifted musically, but alas, it is just not in my DNA. You can ask almost anyone.

Paul is encouraging us to use the gifts we do have. They are necessary to the body of Christ. If I choose not to use my gifts because I am not a musician then I am hurting the church.

I like what commentator Gib Martin says: “We will help each other most if we focus on whatever task God has set before us. We will become ineffective members of the body if we compare ourselves to other members or if we grumble about our role. God created us with certain gifts for certain jobs. Each job is absolutely crucial to our overall task of being Christ to the world. Every gift is a spiritual endowment from God meant to make and keep the Body of Christ healthy.”

Do you know how God has spiritually endowed you to serve the Body of Christ? If not, find someone who can help you  – because until you do you will feel sort of like an appendix – you know you are a part of the body but you are not really sure what or why you are there for.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 12:9-21
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-29

Pondering Romans 12:1-2

Book-of-RomansFor this familiar passage that is replete with ponderable phrases I am going to share my journal entries this week that took the form of prayers.

Father, I am grateful for your mercy. You have withheld from me what I deserve – your fierce wrath. And instead you have rescued me and given me LIFE. It only makes sense that I would then offer my life to You as a living sacrifice. It only makes sense that I demonstrate my gratefulness by offering my body as an act of worship. Today would You take my eyes, my mouth, my hands, my feet, my mind – and may I find joy in the offering.

Father I am grateful that many years ago you changed my heart from a heart of stone to a heart that beats for You. Would You continue the process now of transforming my mind so that I don’t conform to the patterns of this world but rather live a life of holiness that is pleasing and acceptable to You.
Father, I confess that in many ways I have conformed to the patterns of this world. I have allowed the world to squeeze me into it’s mold rather than allowing Your Spirit to shape me and change me into the new creation that I am supposed to be. Today would You make me aware of areas where I have allowed this to happen and begin to wean me from my worldly ways so that in the years that I have left I will be a living sacrifice upon the altar of Your mercy and grace.
Next Week’s Passage: Romans 12:3-8
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-28

Pondering Romans 11:33-36

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Great theology leads to God exalting worship!

It is not uncommon for Paul in his epistles to get “sidetracked” and throw out something like these verses. As he thinks about God and writes about God and teaches about God it is as if he is compelled to worship God. The Book of Romans is the most theological of all the epistles that he wrote. Paul is thinking deeply about the ways of God and in doing so his soul is moved to exalt God.

2 takeaways from this passage for me this week:

1) Take time to think deeply about God – We do not do this very much as the people of God. It takes time. It takes intentionality. It means using our brain. But until we make this a regular practice we will most likely maintain our feeble faith and our walk with God will be fragile at best.

2) Take time to worship throughout the week – Our worship should not be limited to a service on Sunday. As we spend time in God’s Word and in His presence through prayer we should take the time to exalt the One who is above all gods and who has graciously brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Thinking about God should lead us into worship of God.

May we be “sidetracked” this week just as Paul was.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 12:1-2
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-27

Pondering Romans 11:11-32

Book-of-RomansI’ve got a few takeaways from this passage, which admittedly raises as many questions as it answers.

1) I am very grateful that God has chosen by His grace to rescue me and give me life in Jesus Christ. And as someone with a Jewish heritage this passage excites me because it indicates that God yet has great plans for His chosen people. Despite their rebelliousness and disbelief He has not given up on them. Perhaps God also yet has great plans in mind for me.

2) This passage also reminds me that as my loving Father, God will not give up on me either when I disappoint Him and act out in deceitful, duplicitous ways. Check out this Our Daily Bread article by Herbert Vander Lugt…

In a moment of exasperation, a father told me that if his son continued in his rebellious ways he was going to disinherit him and try to forget him. But I knew that father well. Although he was angry, hurt, and disappointed, I was sure he would never quit loving his son and longing for his conversion.

Good parents cannot forget how they cared for their children as infants, how they helped them take their first steps, and how they shared with them in both happy and painful growing-up experiences. But when children choose a sinful lifestyle, even good parents, after repeated pleas and warnings, may have no choice but to let them go their own way. Parents will do so with broken hearts and with the undying hope that their prodigal will one day return.

In Hosea 11, God is portrayed as Israel’s Father. Because the nation had disobeyed, He had pleaded with them and chastened them time and time again. Yet they refused to change their ways. Finally, God withdrew from them and let them learn the hard way. Yet even then, He could not and would not completely abandon them. One day He will draw them back to Himself (Romans 11:26-27).

God loves His children today with that same kind of tough love. What a wonderful heavenly Father!

At times we spurn our Father’s love
And choose a sinful path;
Yet He will not abandon us,
Though righteous in His wrath. —D. De Haan

God loves us not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 11:33-36

Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-26

Pondering Romans 11:1-10

Book-of-RomansClick HERE to read the passage

My pondering this week is not so much about the passage itself as it is about the hermeneutical principle that the passage demonstrates. “Hermen who?”, you might ask, if this is a word that is not familiar to you. Hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the Bible.

Paul demonstrates a primary hermeneutical principle here in Romans 11 that is important to understand. He is grappling with an issue that even he is trying to wrap his astute mind around – the issue of what about the people of Israel when it comes to salvation. This is his issue. But we all have our own issues when it comes to trying to understand passages of Scripture. Particularly ones that we don’t necessarily like what they say. Perhaps it is an issue about marriage or divorce or sex or hell or the role of women or church government or abortion. There are lots of issues that people disagree on regarding matters of interpretation.

Hermeneutical principle numero uno goes like this: Let Scripture interpret Scripture. In other words, if there is a passage that you don’t understand, look at the whole body of Scripture regarding that subject and let God’s Word speak for itself. This is what Paul is doing in this passage. Notice the number of other Scripture references from the Older Testament that Paul uses in this passage to help explain the dilemma he is dealing with. I count four.  This is the way to do biblical interpretation.

But it is not the way that it is usually done nowadays. More often than not here are some of the principles of interpretation that I see being used today:

  • People make up their own interpretations to suit the outcome that they desire
  • People ask their friends (usually people who are like-minded) what they think hoping to get “interpretational ageeability.”
  • People find “scholars” who say what they want them to say
  • People dismiss the passage and keep doing what they want to do anyway

No doubt there are other ways. But my point is this. Let Scripture interpret Scripture. I love what Acts 17:11 says about the folks in the church in Berea – “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” They didn’t take Paul’s word for the stuff he was saying but rather searched the Scriptures for themselves to make sure that it was in line with what God had already said.

May it be true also of us!

Next Week’s Passage: Roman 11:11-32
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-26

Pondering Romans 10:14-21

You can click HERE to read the passage.

We are saved by faith – faith in what Christ accomplished on our behalf on the cross; and we walk through this life by faith – trusting that the God who rescues us from hell will also be our refuge  and strength as we journey towards eternity.

Where does this faith come from? In both cases it comes from the Word of God! This is what struck me from this passage this week: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of God.” (10:17)

God saves us as we put our faith in Christ and His redemptive work.  As we hear the Word of God, the Spirit of God awakens within us a desire to know Him and to be reconciled to Him. The Word of God makes us aware of our own sinfulness. It shows us why the cross was so necessary. It gives us understanding regarding the power of the resurrection. And it pleads with us to repent and turn from our wicked ways and turn to the One who offers us life. Saving faith comes from hearing the Word of God.

God sustains us as we live by faith day to day, relying on Him to feed us and fuel us with everything that we need to live live’s honoring to Him. As we hear the Word of God, we are encouraged, we are convicted, we are comforted, we are strengthened. Sustaining faith comes from the Word of God.

This is why the preaching of the Word is so vital to the church. And this is why it is so important to read and study the Word on your own. The goal is not to merely survive until we get to heaven. The goal is to thrive as God’s Word nourishes, sustains and supplies what we need to be “more than conquerors.”

Want more faith? Need more faith?

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God!

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 11:1-10
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-25

Pondering Romans 10:1-13

Book-of-RomansYou can click HERE to read the passage.

There is one verse in particular that stuck out to me from this passage and it may surprise you which one it is. It is not one of the 2 “famous” verses that I mentioned in last week’s post – verse 9 or verse 13. Rather it is verse 2:

“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.”

This verse is a mandate for missions. It is a mandate for church-planting. It is a mandate for evangelism.

There are billions of people scattered around our globe who are zealous for God. Their religiosity echos their heart’s desire to know God and to have the God-shaped vacuum in their lives filled with the God who created them, loves them, and longs to be reconciled with them.

But their zeal is not based on knowledge. Rather it is based on tradition. Or it is based on heritage. Or it is based on guilt. Or it is based on misinformation.Or it is based on government mandated faith.

Zeal for God must be fed by truth. And when it comes to knowing God, though it is not a tolerant position to take, Christianity has cornered the market regarding truth. The truth of the matter is that LIFE is only found in Christ. Knowing Christ equals knowing God.

Hence, it behooves Christians to do everything that they can to enable the world know this. This is why I say…

…this verse is a mandate for missions. It is a mandate for church-planting. It is a mandate for evangelism.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 10: 14-21
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-24

Pondering Romans 9:6-33

Book-of-RomansTo read the passage click HERE.

Romans 9-11 are easy to skip over when reading Romans – or at least easy to breeze through without thinking through. The reason for this is because they pose questions for most believers – especially believers who do not want to take the time to think through theologically. Questions about election. Questions about the role of Israel in God’s purposes. Questions about evangelism and the responsibility that believer’s have. As I pondered this section I spent some time thinking about verse 8 – “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” 

Children of the promise – that is who we are. I love God’s promises. And there are some great ones throughout the Scriptures. It was Adoniram Judson, one of America’s first missionaries, who once said, “The future is as bright as the promises of God.” But sometimes God’s promises don’t seem so bright. Take for instance verse 15: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” What if God chose not to have mercy on me? How would I feel about that? What if (according to verses 20-22) God made me for “dishonorable use”? Or that I was created as a “vessel of wrath prepared for destruction”? My future would not be so bright after all.

That’s why I don’t think you can read chapter 9 without reading chapter 10. Because in chapter 10 you get, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.” Here are a few chapter 10 promises to balance out what God says in chapter 9…

v.9 – “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

v. 13 – “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

I love being a child of the promise. And I love Romans chapter 9. I’m just exceptionally glad that Paul also wrote chapter 10. and indeed, my future IS as bright as the promises of God.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 10:1-13
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-23

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