Friday, May 29, 2009

Paul's Letter to the Galatians

Galatians

As with his other letters, Paul’s introduction is a shortened summary of the gospel: Paul, an apostle was sent by God to deliver this message: through Jesus we have been rescued from our sin. This letter in particular was written to the believers in Galatia in order to address some issues concerning false religious doctrines. Yet, as with the other letters, the lessons and instructions may be applied to all believers throughout all the generations of time.

Chapter 1: False Gospels
“I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you by the grace of Christ to a different gospel- not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to change the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him! As we have said before, I now say again: if anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, a curse be on him!” Galations1:6-9

These stern words of Paul should not be taken lightly. Consider how many people of all ages, nations and generations have come to accept false visions and false gospels- despite the warning. Consider how many religions are started as a result of false visions proclaiming a new gospel. Mormonism is based on an “angelic” vision given to Joseph Smith who thereby proceeded to distort the gospel message. Islam was based on Muhamed’s false vision of the angel Gabriel who supposedly was delivering a message from God. The Jehovah’s Witnesses base their doctrines on the visions and private revelations received by their so called modern day prophets. Many Roman Catholics have been deceived by visions of Mary that have appeared to lay persons and clergy, deceiving many. The one common thing we see is that all these so called visitation, which are actually Satan and the evil demons or spirits, actually take away from the gospel message. These deceptive spirits disguise themselves as “angels of light” delivering a different message that isn’t from God. Often times these messages teach a different Jesus than the Jesus we learn about in the bible. For example, some religions teach that Jesus was simply a prophet or a teacher. The false religions, false prophets and false teachers attempt to undermine the credibility of the message of the gospel.

Chapters 2-6

Paul’s Authority
Most of the earliest believers were originally Jewish. But as the gospel message spread as a result of the mission work of the apostles, others came to also believe in the message. Even during Paul’s own lifetime, false teachers and false prophets sought to undermine Paul’s authority. More specifically, some Jewish converts to Christianity, referred to by Paul as the “circumcision party”, tried to make the claim that new believers in Christ were first required to convert to Judaism. In other words, these false teachers erroneously were teaching new believers that Christianity was a sect of Judaism and that it was required that they submit to all the Jewish laws and regulations such as circumcision and dietary restrictions. The error of this teaching caused confusion and dissention among the early Christian churches. In fact some of these false teachers of the circumcision party went so far as to send spies who would then later spread rumors against Paul and the non Jewish converts in an effort to discredit them among the other members of the early churches. In response, Paul addressed the issue, by using the example of Titus, a respected leader of the ancient Christian church. Titus was a Greek not a Jew, yet when he accepted the message, he felt no need to be circumcised or follow any Jewish traditions.

Hypocrisy Condemned:
Even the apostle Peter, a.k.a. Cephas, was unduly influenced by these false teachers and subsequently began to disassociate himself from non Jewish converts. In fact other apostles fell prey to the beliefs of the influential circumcision party including Barnabas. Whereas Peter and Barnabas used to associate with any believer, and no longer themselves practiced Jewish traditions in a hypocritical fashion they suddenly turned around and said that all converts must become Jews first and practice Jewish tradition and laws. According to Paul, “When I saw they were deviating from the truth of the gospel I told Cephas in front of everyone, ‘If you, a Jew live like a Gentile and not a Jew, how can you compel Gentiles to live like Jews’.” Gal2:14



Justification by Faith Not the Works of the Law
Paul strongly condemned anyone who tried to make the claim that a believer must follow the works of the law. “We know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ and we have believed in Jesus Christ so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by the works of the law no human being will be justified.”. Gal2:16-17 As believers, we have died to the law and are reborn in Christ. “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness came through the law then Christ died for nothing.” Gal2:21 If in fact we could be justified by our works, then what was the point in Jesus dying for our sins? “You foolish Galatians! Who has hypnotized you? .... Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit are you going to be made complete by the flesh?” Gal3: 2-3 In fact, if you rely on the law for your salvation you might as well consider yourself cursed because you never will be saved! It is Jesus alone who can redeem us from the curse of the law. Only through faith in Jesus can we be justified before God. Before Jesus we were subject and even imprisoned as slaves under the law, but through Jesus we have freedom from the law. The scriptures of the old testament for shadow the fact that God would justify people through faith. This is obvious when we consider the old testament heroes such as Abraham and Noah who had friendship with God as a result of their faith. Through our faith we are considered children and heirs of God.

Do Not Forfeit Your Freedom in Jesus
Once we have become reconciled through our faith, and are children of God, why should we turn towards our former sinful ways of life? Why should we reject our freedom we receive in Christ in favor of becoming once again slaves to sin under the law? In fact many believers, just as many of the Galatians, turned away from the message they received and turned back to their former ways. Why should we wish to return to the yoke of the law once we have been liberated it from Christ. If you decide that Christ’s sacrifice is not sufficient, and decide you must merit your way to justification by the works of the law, then you have subjected yourselves under the yoke of the law as slaves. If you try to merit your way to justification under the law, then you are obligated under the law apart from the saving redemption that can be found only through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice. Remember that one corrupt teacher and one corrupt teaching can permeate and spread corruption throughout. If anyone teaches that works lead to salvation then “the offense of the cross has been abolished.” Gal5:11 In fact, the dissemination of this false teaching of salvation through works is so repugnant to Paul that he goes so far as to say, “I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated!” Gal5:12

Continue Life in the Spirit Not by the Works of the Flesh
But remember, do not take advantage of your freedom in Jesus as an opportunity to do whatever you want! It does not give you an excuse to sin. If we are truly believers in the message we have received through face, we will abandon the “works of the flesh” which is sin in favor of the works of the Spirit. “The works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar.” Gal5:19-20 “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self control.” Gal5:22 Remember to carry each other’s burdens but be very careful that you yourself do not become tempted another one’s sins. Never tire of doing what is good. Never boast of anything except of God.

2 Corinthians: The Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians

2Corinthians

Paul felt the continued need to address some specific issues that threatened the early church in Corinth. Yet, the issues that threatened this early church are general enough to be applied to modern day churches and to individuals as well! The problem of false teachers and corrupt doctrine is evident even in today’s modern society as many believers and non believers alike are lured by the deceptions of false teachers who distort and disguise their messages. We must hold fast to the word of God or we will be susceptible to being swayed by false teachers. God’s word is like are yardstick to which we must measure whatever we hear. What we learn must be measured against God’s word and if it contradicts it must be discarded, regardless of the messenger. As believers we must continue to examine ourselves to make sure our doctrines are in accordance with the gospel and that our actions are in accordance with the Holy Spirit.

Chapters 1- 3: Comfort and Receive Comfort

Just as we receive comfort from God during the troubling moments in our lives, we should comfort one another. When we are rejected by the world as a result of our faith in God, we must remember that just as we share in the sufferings of Jesus, we shall also share the comfort and blessings. Think about it in this way: who can offer more comfort to us than our God who has the power to raise the dead? God, through his power can certainly use it to offer comfort. This message that is being written, the gospel message can be easily understood. Furthermore, God himself has given us the Holy Spirit “as a down payment in our hearts”. If others hurt you and cause you pain, do not let Satan use that to his advantage; Satan can use it to his advantage over you if you are not careful- instead offer comfort, forgive and show love.

Messengers Of The Gospel
As believers we are compared to an aroma or scent that permeates the air. For those who believe- the message is recognized as a message that leads to eternal life, but for those who reject God’s message, then the consequence is death. The abilities of the apostles (those who share the message of the gospel) receive their competence through God. The first covenant, which was the law given to the Israel through Moses in the Old Testament represented the Old Covenant. Since we could not even hope to meet God’s standards by following the law, that covenant led to death. We have a New Covenant now, based not on the letter of the law, but of the spirit, which based on mercy and grace leads to eternal life. The differences between the old and new covenants are clear when they are compared side by side:
Old Covenant Vs. New Covenant
Old Testament Vs. New Testament
The Letter of the law written on stone tablets Vs. The Spirit
The law given to Moses Vs. The redemption we receive through Jesus
Death Vs. Life
Works Vs. Faith & Grace
Fading Glory Vs. Eternal Glory
a veiled heart Vs. the veil is removed

Chapter 4: Stand Firm With Gods Message

Because of the mercy we have received, we should be more than willing to abandon anything shameful or deceitful. As a messenger we must never distort the message of God. Regardless of the reception we receive by our hearers- even if it is negative, we must never alter the gospel of God. So if our message is rejected, or criticized as being too hard to follow or too difficult to understand, we still must never concede to the pressures and change the gospel message to suit the tastes of those who listen. We must never compromise the truth of God! In fact, if the message of God is not easily understood by the hearers then it is for a reason. It is because the unbelieving people have been made blind by the corruption of this world. Their love of this world have calloused their hearts and veiled their minds so that they cannot begin to understand. They are as if they are blind and therefore they can not see or understand the message of the gospel or Jesus, the light of this world. The message of God, is compared to a treasure- which is contained in a worthless clay jar, so that the true value of the message may not be overshadowed by the either the container or messenger which is insignificant in comparison to the message. The believer of the message and the messenger of the gospel must never give up hope no matter what trials or opposition are faced. Even if our physical bodies are being worn, our spirits are being renewed. Any suffering is nothing at all compared to the eternal glory we will have. “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of Glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2Cor4:18

Chapters 5- 8

Mortal Life Vs. Eternal Life
Our physical bodies are comparable to a flimsy nylon tent. If that tent is frayed and destroyed- which it will certainly and eventually be- then we need not worry. We will have an eternal, permanent structure- a strong house from God in heaven! And while we exist- burdened and suffering- in our transient, earthly, imperfect, mortal bodies, we long for our new, eternal homes with God in heaven. Eventually, death will be swallowed up by life. And God has prepared us for this change by giving us the Holy Spirit “as a down payment”. Now that is God’s guarantee! So we consider our mortal lives, in our human bodies, to be a temporary parting from the Lord. And we recognize that when the time comes to part with our bodies- in other words, when our physical bodies experience death, we understand that will be when we finally go to our true home with the Lord. But no matter what- whether we still inhabit our fleshly bodies, or whether we have shed our fleshly bodies; whether we live or we die- we still strive to please God. Above all, don not forget this: we will all have to appear before the Lord, with an accounting of our lives.

Apostles and the Gospel Message:
With this knowledge, we recognize the importance and urgency in sharing the gospel message. The love of Jesus is a driving force in our lives and as a result we are a new creature, a new creation! God has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus who without sin became sin in order that through faith we may be considered righteous. In sum, “God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting the trespasses against us” 2Cor5:19. This is the message that believers/ apostles need to share. We are considered to be ambassadors for Christ when we spread the gospel message. There is no need to delay in spreading the message or in accepting the message of the gospel because “now is the day of salvation”. 2Cor6:2 Regardless of what hardships and suffering that messengers of God endure, the messenger of God shall remain true and pure to the end. In fact, the greater of degree of suffering and hardship received in this world, will be an exponentially higher degree of blessedness and glory received in the next world to come. The only limitations faced will simply be self imposed limitations. Don’t limit yourself by partnering up with an unbeliever. It is one thing to share the gospel message with an unbeliever as we are called to do- but to have close fellowship or to marry a non-believer is to mismatch goodness with darkness, or God’s sanctuary with idol worship. It is to defile the pure spirit of God with impurity. Furthermore, don’t confuse anything having to do with the world with God. There can be no union or airing of goodness with evil. “For Godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death.” 2Cor7:9

Chapters 8 and 9: Generosity

Remember to be generous, even when you endure suffering and hardship, just as God poured out his grace on you. Jesus endured poverty and suffering so that you may become rich in grace and blessings. If you have more than others, then share with those who have less. Those who sow little will reap little in return, but those who sow generously will reap generously in return. Generosity may be applied in any aspect in life, not just with resources of money, but of time, service and love as well.

Chapters 10- 13: Distortion of the Gospel and the Danger of False Teachers

Those who oppose the message of the gospel and its messengers, as well as the false message which they seek to deliver, must be challenged against and held to the truth of God’s message. It doesn’t matter if as messengers, we are not as eloquent in the use of language as worldly philosophers or scholars. It is the saving message of the gospel that is of most importance. The true messenger of the Lord will not be boastful or prideful. If he is to boast, it shall be in the Lord alone and not himself. This is what Paul was trying to communicate to the early Christian church in Corinth. That is why the message of the gospel may be compared to valuable gold contained in clay jars. So that the message may be glorified, the vessel must be humbled.

Paul felt the need to respond to those false leaders and teachers who were critics of the way God’s true apostles delivered the true message. False teachers otherwise known as false apostles, were prevalent in the early church just as they are today. In fact Paul compared the message of the false teachers as a competing message to the true message of the gospel. To turn from the true message of the Lord to a false or distorted message would essentially a betrayal of Jesus- comparable to marital infidelity. The false message of the false teachers threatened to corrupt the worship of the church members in Corinth who were apparently na├»ve enough and weak in the faith, making them more likely to being swayed by false teachings and false teachers. Likewise in modern times among believers and nonbelievers alike- as well as in modern churches- many people are easily deceived by false teachings. False appearances will frequently sway people. Consider the attention people in today’s society devote to the media and the entertainment industry and to so- called “famous” entertainers. Also consider the attention and credibility that so-called authorities such as politicians and other “authority” figures receive. Physical appearances frequently play a large role when false teachers try to get attention. “For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you have not received, or a different gospel, which you have not accepted, you put up with it splendidly” 2Cor10:4 What this means is that people show no discretion to what garbage they will swallow when it comes to beliefs and ideas, as long as it is wrapped up in a pretty package.

Satan: The Mastermind Behind False Teachers and the Distorted Gospel
Paul’s message may also be applied to any believer in Christ, as well as the church in Corinth- and anyone who chooses to share the gospel of Christ. Even though Paul had no formal training in public speaking, and he did not wear fancy or expensive clothes, that would not, or should not lessen the credibility of his message. In fact, his humility and humbleness all the more gave credit to the saving message of God. It should be the saving power of the message that draws people and not the distraction of the physical appearance of the messenger itself. Those false teachers, twist the message of the gospel for their own purpose and to boost their own pride, are false and deceitful, even though they disguise themselves as apostles of God’s message. This serves as Paul’s warning to all of us: Do not be fooled by their outward appearances! “For Satan himself is disguised as an angel of light!” 2Cor11:14 And if that is the case, if it is true that Satan can deceptively appear and disguise his evil, tainted message, then of course Satan’s messengers can disguise their evil ways as well in order to deceive unsuspecting and unwitting hearers. Consider how many people are lured by the message of cult groups such as the Jehovah’s witnesses, Mormons, new age movements, and witchcraft. These are all various distortions of the message of the bible. But don’t worry or despair, because these false teachers will eventually get what is coming to them. The sad thing is that so many people will put up not only with these false teachers, but with fools in general. So many willingly and needlessly discard the truth of God to put up with so much immorality, and nonsense! How many prefer to hear and follow foolish worldly “wisdom” instead of God’s wisdom? Well if you can do that, then why not put up with the wisdom of God, even if it is delivered through a so- called humbled fool.

The Purpose Behind the Humility and the Trials of God’s Messengers:
And furthermore, how dare anyone criticize messengers of the Lord with all they put up with- those false teachers have no ground to stand on when they criticize God’s apostles. Paul uses the hardships that he endured during his own ministry to illustrate what he endured in contrast to false teachers. In his humility, which should serve as an example for all of us, Paul refused to boast about himself- except with one exception- his weakness. Rather, Paul was more than willing to boast about others in order to boost others above himself. Likewise, we too should strive to consider others above ourselves. In fact, Paul had a chronic physical affliction or condition that caused him physical pain. Yet, Paul endured his physical illness so that he could boast in God who provided him strength and grace to promote the gospel message. Paul happily endured physical and emotional hardships because it actually made him and his faith stronger! Furthermore, he personally did not create any expectations or burdens on the hearers of his message whatsoever in order to build them up.

Christian and Apostolic Humility:
Concerning his own private revelations, if he indeed had any which is not the concern in this passage, Paul avoided sharing anything beyond what could be readily observed or proven so that what Paul shared would seen as God’s truth- and Paul’s testimony could not be questioned. About other “visions” by private individuals, that may have occurred in the early church, only God for sure could know its authenticity- therefore such revelations are of no concern to us. In fact people should never boast of their own revelations. Paul’s simple explanation, which he repeated twice is simply this: “I do not know, God knows” 2Cor12:2-3 Our responsibility is this: to walk in the spirit of God and to avoid the spirit of this world which is represented by these things: quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, disorder, sexual immorality and promiscuity. Paul challenges all believers to avoid these sins! In fact we are told, “test yourselves to see if you are in faith” 2 Cor13:5 In fact when we examine ourselves and our hearts continuously we are likened as mature Christians. Paul’s final exhortation to all believers is this: “Be restored, be encouraged, be of the same mind (concerning the true gospel message), be at peace” 2Cor13:11 and God will be with us as well.

The Wackiest Wildest Weirdest Animals in the World by Jack Hanna



As a member of the Thomas Nelson Review Blogger program http://brb.thomasnelson.com/ , I had the pleasure of reviewing Jack Hanna’s nonfiction children’s book: The Wackiest Wildest Weirdest Animals in the World. The full color photos, the graphics, and the side bars of information not only make this book educational but fun for kids as well! Jack Hanna has included thirty different animals ranging from the more well known such as the brown bear and lion to the more exotic such as the echidna and the binturong. Each animal included in this book has a full page dedicated to full color photos, “Wacky Facts” about what they eat, where they live and how big they get, as well as a side bar of information on “what makes them wacky”. Jack Hanna’s first hand adventures with real live animals as “Jungle Jack” are also included in this book as well! In the end is a two page glossary. This book included a DVD of animal bloopers from Jungle Jack’s animal interactions as well.
While this is not considered to be a religious book, it is commendable that Jack Hanna credits God for the creation of the animal kingdom when he states that “God designed penguins with some pretty heroic instincts”, on page 4 with the discussion of the Emperor Penguin. Additionally he states that “God created the puffer fish with the unique ability to inflate itself like a balloon when threatened” on page 11. Furthermore, Jack Hanna sees the Giant Anteater as evidence of God’s sense of humor. My eight year old daughter who enjoys animals- especially unusual animals- said this was a “good book”. I would recommend this book for any child who loves animals!

Monday, May 25, 2009

1 Corinthians Chapters 8-16



Chapter 8: The Responsibility of Knowledge

Knowledge Vs. Love: While worldly knowledge often leads to worldly pride, the quality of love leads to more love and encouragement. If you think you know it all, then that in of itself shows you are ignorant of God’s will. If your knowledge of the word of God is great, that is in fact noble and pleasing- it’s a good start. But knowledge without love is just not good enough. What good is that knowledge if you use it in such a way as to offend one another? Knowledge is a powerful tool but without love to guide it, it can be harmful as well. Be careful not to take advantage of your stronger faith and cause your brother who may be weaker in faith to become hurt or offended.

There is only one true God, the creator of this world. Yet the people of this world do not acknowledge and honor God. Instead they pay honor to worldly “gods” or idols. In fact anything that comes before God, becomes an idol. But no matter what that idol or “god” is: fame, money, career, a relationship or whatever else- it is not as important as worship of the true God. In the ancient times whether men worshiped false Greek, Roman and Egyptian Gods, or whether it is in modern times when men worship movie stars, musicians, sports figures, wealth, health or materialism- its all the same- worthless. “For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom are all things.” 1Cor8:6

Now in ancient times when Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Corinth, the worship of false Greek and Roman gods was a common practice condoned and encouraged by the government. On a trip to ancient Rome you would see so many temples, and statues dedicated to gods and ancestors. Idol and ancestor worship was as common as patriotism- and was often linked to patriotism. In fact the Roman Caesers were often deified upon death. The worship of these gods and ancestors was called idolatry. It was common practice to offer food to idols and then to consume the meat after words in a ritual. Oftentimes the excess meat would be sold in shops. But God has declared all food as acceptable to eat. Food is not unclean. What goes into your mouth cannot make a person unclean before God. We as believers and hearers of God’s word have this knowledge. But many new believers, who had converted from idolatry felt it was wrong to eat meat that they knew had been dedicated to idols. It would bother their conscious to eat such meat. Paul wanted to clarify that it was okay for a believer to eat any meat even if it had been part of a ritual. But he also told the believers stronger in their faith to not make a point of eating such meat in front of a weaker believer if it meant offending the conscious of that new believer. Above all else, even when we have knowledge of the truth, love and consideration for one another, especially other believers is of the most importance. If your faith causes trouble for the conscious of another weaker in faith then you have done a great disservice both for the Lord and the other believer.

Chapter 9: Paul’s Purpose as an Apostle

An apostle was a messenger of God’s word. His purpose was to deliver God’s message so as to create new believers and disciples. Paul was an apostle to preach the gospel. As an apostle, a believer in Christ with the added responsibility to deliver and spread the message, he was also entitled to the liberties of other believers and even more: food, clothing, material support, family. Yet Paul willingly chose not take advantage of this. He chose not to accept material and financial support from other believers- even though it would not have been wrong to do so. His first and foremost goal was to spread the gospel to the exclusion of seeking his own comfort. His purpose was to communicate and interact with each at his own level to win over believers for Christ.
Chapter 10: The Choice Between Good & Evil

Let us not temp Christ. 1Cor10:9 As believers we should avoid evil or sinful desires. Consider the Old Testament examples of God’s just punishments upon those who ignored the will of God and Godly morals. We are not immune from God’s judgment either. We should avoid idolatry which means putting other things or people before worship of God. We need to also avoid sexual immorality. Another thing, we must be careful even when we think we are strong in spirit and conviction. We are not immune to temptation and we must be on guard. “Whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it.” 1Cor10: 12-13 If we are believers , why should we participate in immorality. We cannot have divided loyalties. We cannot serve goodness and evil at the same time. “Are we provoking the Lord to Jealousy?” 1Cor10:22

Again Paul addresses the common slogan that many erroneously believe and live by: “Everything is permissible.” While you may believe everything is okay to do, it really is not always okay. Sometimes what we do can cause harm to us and others as well. Furthermore we should put the well being of others above ourselves. As he discussed two chapters earlier, Paul uses the example of meat offered to idols. It is okay to eat anything sold in the meat market, but if your knowledge and liberties bothers the conscious of another then don’t do it in front of that person. You are also to set an example as well, not simply show off without care or concern. Whatever you do, make sure you do it for the glory of God and that you do not cause the offense of another who is weaker in the faith.

Chapter 11: Respect in Worship

The ancient cultural context of Paul’s passage on head covering must be considered. The general message is for today is this: we must act and dress in respect to God, especially in a worship service. Women are not demeaned or degraded as being inferior. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, Paul encourages the respect of women, and both men and women come from God. It is interesting to note how Paul also mentions that our physical signs of respect are observed not only by God but by the angels as well- to whom we are also examples.

The Lord’s Supper:

Think about how you celebrate communion or the Lord’s Supper at your church today. Have you ever wondered why the pastor or (master of ceremonies- whoever that may be)- passes around a bit of bread and wine/ juice to each individual. It is done in an orderly manner isn’t it? It is not exactly a re-enactment of the dinner served at the Last Supper celebrated by Jesus and his apostles as told in the New Testament gospels. It is not a full course meal as it was with Jesus and his apostles in the upper room. There is a reason for this, and Paul had to address this with the early Christian Church in Corinth. When we participate in the memorial of the Lord’s Supper together in Church, we must not consider it to be a party or a buffet to which we satiate our uncontrolled desires for food and drink. No! That is not the purpose. Eat and drink at home if you are that hungry- don’t expect to eat your dinner at the memorial service of the Lord’s Supper! Don’t eat the whole loaf of bread! Don’t you have homes where you can eat? Eat your dinner at home before you come to church. In the church at Corinth, apparently they used to pass out the bread and wine, and some members of the church would take more according to their appetites so that there would not be enough to go around. Instead of respectfully sharing in the memory of the Last Supper, they were simply fulfilling their hearty appetites. Paul had to condemn this, telling them as well as us to wait for one another and eat at home if you are hungry. Hence this is why in most modern churches the Last Supper is formally and orderly conducted that way it is so as to avoid the free for all, all you can eat- buffet effect. Jesus himself told us to remember Him in the practice of the Lord’s supper together- and as often as we do this, we are remembering his death and sacrifice.

Chapters 12, 13 and 14: Spiritual Gifts

There are different spiritual gifts. Each of these is important! They are simply different manifestations of the Holy Spirit working through the believer for the good of all. These include faith, helping, managing and knowledge. Individual members may be apostles or teachers. The thing to remember is that “one and the same spirit is active in all these, distributing to each as He wills”. 1Cor12:11. It is analogous to one human body having many different body parts: all are different but even the smallest is still important. Each body part has a specific purpose. Those parts of the body we see as less honorable, we must clothe with more honor- we must devote more attention to distribute honor. There should be unity therefore and not division among the members of the church. But, remember this- without love, our gifts are meaningless. It does not matter if we can prophesy or heal, if it is done without love then it does not matter! Without love, you have nothing because love is the only lasting spiritual gift- the others: prophesy, languages (speaking in foreign tongues: angelic and human), and knowledge will all eventually come to an end! The only enduring spiritual gifts are these: faith, hope and love with love being the greatest of the three.

An important thing to remember is that in the early apostolic times of the Church to whom Paul was speaking, some believers had supernatural gifts: healing, prophesy, languages (the ability to speak in angelic tongues and different human languages). But these gifts were considered inferior and transient in nature- meaning that eventually they would no longer be available- as in they would eventually pass away with the passage of time, when the more fulfilling spiritual gifts of faith, hope and love would come into play. For this reason, we do not see the supernatural gifts of healing, prophecy and languages.

Languages (a. k. a. tongues):
Paul discusses the proper use of the gift of languages within the context of the ancient Christian churches- which he sees as the lesser of the spiritual gifts. He explains that if someone has the so called gift of speaking in another language or tongues, but that there is no interpreter available, it is essentially useless. There is no point in it whatsoever- and not to bother! That is because no one else will understand what is being said. If no one can understand what is said, there is no point in saying it. There is no purpose at all unless there is an interpreter to explain what is being said to those who are listening.

Regardless of your spiritual gifts, above all there must be order. If everything is in disorder and disarray when you assemble together, what good will that do? How will anyone learn and be encouraged? As in the created world there is order and there should be order in the church as well. “As in all the churches of the saints the women should be silent in the churches”. 1Cor14:34 This is why you see men as pastors and not women.

Chapter 15: The Gospel Message and the Importance of Jesus’ Resurrection for all of us

Paul sums up the message of the gospel and its significance. “I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and…are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you- unless you believed to no purpose.” 1Cor15:2-3 Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. After he rose from the dead he appeared to over 500 people at one time as well as to the apostles and others. Jesus’ resurrection cannot be denied. It really happened! In fact if he did not rise, then the apostles would be false witnesses- and how would they get away with falsifying that information without someone noticing? And if Jesus did not rise from the dead, our faith would be meaningless- not to mention we would still be in our sins because that would mean that our sins were not paid for.

But just as sin and death came from one man’s actions- Adam; forgiveness and eternal life come from Jesus. In fact, Jesus conquered death through his resurrection. If you do not believe in the resurrection, then we are simply no different from the nonbelievers who have no hope and therefore do whatever they wish regardless of whether it is right and wrong. Watch out for those people because their company can corrupt your good morals. And think about why there are people out there who are ignorant about God- it is because you are not doing your job and sharing the gospel message with them. You should be ashamed!

Remember, before we are resurrected, our physical body must die- just as a seed dies before it becomes a tree. Our physical body represents corruption, but our spiritual body represents incorruption. Our physical bodies cannot go to heaven, therefore we must be changed to an incorruptible body. Our mortal lives will become immortal as death and sin are swallowed up in the victory given to us through Jesus.

Chapter 16: Concluding Remarks

Paul encourages believers to put into the collection for the believers according to their ability. He follows up with a description of his travel plans and some encouraging words.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

1Corinthians Chapters 1-7


1Corinthians



Introduction:

Although the names of Paul’s letters are named after the specific early Christian churches they represent, they are written to all Christian believers “called as saints… in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ”. 1Cor1:2 Therefore every one who reads the bible, including these letters should read the words as if they are individually written to him or her .

Chapters 1 and 2: Friends of God and the Problem of Worldly Wisdom

Through faith in Jesus we are called to fellowship with God. In other words, through Jesus Christ, we become friends with God. As friends, there is nothing we will lack for. Knowing this, there is no reason for believers to argue with one another. There is no reason that the body of believers should be divided. We all believe in the same Lord, so why should we be divided? It doesn’t matter specifically who does the preaching, teaching or baptism, it is the message, not the messenger that we should be concerned about- that is what brings unity. Don’t get overly pre-occupied with the messenger whether it be Paul, Cephas (Peter), Apollos or whoever! It doesn’t matter.

For those who are perishing the message of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is God’s power. 1Cor1:18 Sums up the reason why non believers disregard the message of the Lord. The world’s wisdom and the world’s people: teachers. Philosophers, scientists, politicians, writers, atheists, secularism, the media, communists…all of this means nothing to God. Such respected worldly individuals dismiss the wisdom and truths of God as foolishness. In turn, all of this worldly wisdom is simply worthless in God’s eyes. So therefore, when you hear the message of God’s good news, though it may not be delivered in the elegant words of an orator, the message itself through the Holy Spirit conveys the power and wisdom of God. The truths of God cannot be discerned through worldly wisdom but only through the Holy Spirit. How can anyone hope to understand the mysteries and the ways of the lord except through the Holy Spirit which is freely given to all believers. Just as a man’s own min and conscious knows the mind of the man, the Holy Spirit of God is the only one that can comprehend the concerns of God. Natural man, otherwise known as worldly man, does not welcome the Holy Spirit of God, and rejects anything that is spiritual. He sees the ways of the Holy Spirit and God as foolishness. Therefore how can he hope to even understand the ways of God? On the other hand the spiritual person can understand the ways of God and evaluate God’s message through faith and the Holy Spirit which he receives as a believer by faith.

Chapters 3 and 4: The Importance of the Message and God’s Messengers

In his letter, Paul refers to the non believer as a natural, worldly, ordinary, typical or fleshly man. Whatever expression is used to describe the non believer, the meaning is the same. The non believer acts based on human nature: envy, revenge, greed, selfishness, immorality, pride and other fleshly desires rather than with faith and love. As discussed earlier, the message of God, and not the messenger is what is most important. When you concentrate on the messenger to the exclusion of God’s message, then you are acting based on the worldly, human nature. The messengers, also known as the servants of God simply deliver the message. The delivery of the message of God is considered to be an important task- an important work! This work of delivering the message of God is comparable to a builder who lays a foundation and then builds a building. The degree to which the messengers or servants of God obey and spread the word of God may vary: some put in their full efforts to evangelize and win souls for Christ, while others put minimal work into sharing the saving message of God. Eventually, each person’s work will come to light, there are no secrets before God. Such a believer who spends little to no effort in sharing the message of the good news may be summed up by the following verse: “If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he himself will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.” 1Cor3:15 In sum, the wisdom of this world is nothing but foolishness to God. No one, no matter how clever or crafty he may be, can get away with any sort of scheme or dishonesty. The Lord evaluates everyone! Put aside pride. “Nothing beyond what is written” matters. 1Cor4:6 What this means is this: the only important thing is the saving message of God. In fact those who are teachers and messengers of God should be even more humble than those who are the hearers of the message. They need to be extra prepared in this way, because frequently they are rejected by the world. Oftentimes the messengers are persecuted, and slandered. The messengers endure hardships as well, “like the world’s garbage”. In writing this letter, Paul includes himself as a messenger- in fact, succumbing to some of the worst of all hardships. Nevertheless Paul calls all believers in Christ to imitate his ways.

Chapters 5, 6 and 7: Expectations of Believers and Church Members

Immorality:
Deplorable and filthy behavior is not a problem that is exclusive to nonbelievers alone. Apparently at the church in Corinth, (as well as in other churches both ancient and modern), sexually immoral behavior was an ongoing problem which Paul felt the need to address and condemn. Furthermore, instead of being remorseful of such behaviors, the perpetrators were actually proud of it and flaunting it! In response, using the analogy that a little yeast can cause an entire loaf of bread to rise, Paul explains, that even a little bit of sin or wrong doing can permeate a Christian congregation and negatively affect the other believers. As a result, Paul tells the congregation of believers to “turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” in order to save his spirit. In other words, the hypocrite should be reprimanded and if he doesn’t change his ways, then he should be excluded from the congregation. The reason for this is that the other believers may also get caught up in the same actions if it is not properly rejected. A church and believers should not condone or put up with that sort of behavior.

Disputes:
If you have a problem with a fellow believer in your church, do not take it to court! In court, you are dragging out your problems to be settled by a non believer. It is better to approach the church, and perhaps there are some wise arbitrators within the congregation that may settle the matter in a more peaceful and just way. If all else fails, “why not rather put up with injustice? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you act unjustly and cheat- and this to brothers1” which are your fellow believers within your church. 1Cor6:8

Respect for our Bodies:
Remember the behaviors that exclude people from the kingdom of God! We are no longer slaves to our sinful desires anymore because we have been justified in the name of Jesus. A common slogan that many people live by: “Everything is permissible for me”, is very dangerous to put into practice. In fact, Paul points out the folly of following such worldly advice. Not everything is helpful, and is it worth it to do anything you want and to be brought under the control of sinful and selfish desires? You should not believe it is permissible to act in any way you wish without concern or care. The body is not to be used for sexual immorality and other out of control, sinful, fleshly pursuits. Your body is part of the members of Christ, a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, therefore take care with what you use your body for. “The person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body” 1Cor6:18 Therefore we must run away and take guard from sexual sin.

Marriage:
Sometimes the married life is more trouble than its worth. The married believer must be concerned about pleasing his or her spouse and other worldly concerns but the single believer can dedicate his or her life to the Lord. Its okay to get married, if you feel the calling of single-hood (as noble as it is), to be too difficult to follow. If you are so preoccupied with getting married then do it! Its better to marry than to be involved in sexual sin as a single person. If you are married, don’t get a divorce no matter what! Even if your spouse is not a believer, you should stay married. Consider this, even if your spouse is not a believer, your actions may sometimes be enough to win over your husband or wife to God. Therefore if you are married to a non believer don’t give up, and don’t despair. However, if your spouse divorces you, and it is beyond your control, you obviously have no choice. But no matter what, if you divorce, do not remarry. Reconcile with your estranged spouse if it is possible- if not, stay single.

No Need To Change:
If you became saved as a slave, then do not pre-occupy yourself in seeking freedom. If you were an uncircumcised gentile, there is no need for you to perform a ritual or a medical procedure to become circumcised. If you were a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor, salesperson, construction worker, ditch digger or a pauper, no need to change your profession or lifestyle if it has nothing to do with sin. If you wear glasses, have long hair, have warts etc… why change? If some one tries to get you to change something- why should you listen? God accepts you as you are.

Romans Chapters 9- 16

Chapters 9,10 and 11: Faith is the greatest factor

Just because you come from a religious family, or you have a religious heritage, does not mean you have any advantage in entering God’s kingdom. It does not matter if you you come from an entire line of rabbis, preachers or priests, that will not get you into heaven any quicker. You become a child of God by faith and not by your physical heritage descent or ancestry. Human efforts will get us no where- it depends on God’s mercy and compassion. God makes no distinction between race, religious or cultural background. That gives no advantage or disadvantage. What you believe and profess is what matters. Romans 10:9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe with your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved. As you can read in the old testament, the Jews were entrusted with the prophets and the law and God’s covenant. Now, a relationship with God is available to all who accept and believe.

Chapter 12: The Qualities and Personality of a Believer

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.

Be careful to not be so full of pride- to think more highly of yourself than you should. All of us our important to God and we all have our purpose. God has endowed us with gifts- different from each other but essential nonetheless. Some of us teach, preach, encourage, serve, lead, donate etc. As believers in Christ, when we are together with other believers there is an expectation that we should act in accordance with God’s will. As God has shown love, we need to as well. Above all else, we must show love to one another and “outdo one another in showing honor”, love, mercy, patience and goodness. “Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud…. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil… do not avenge yourselves….do not be conqured by evil, but conquer evil with good.” Additionally, we need to submit to authority, whether it is Godly or worldly. For example, we must obey the laws of the state and government. We must pay taxes and whatever legal or financial obligations required of us when living in this world. Yet we should never forget that love is our biggest obligation. All the commandments are easily summed up by this: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Chapter 14 and 15: Don’t argue about doubtful issues. Romans 14:1

Perhaps you feel that you can eat whatever you want with a clear conscious, such as pork. Yet maybe there is a new believer in your church, perhaps a convert from Judiasm or Islam that says he can not eat pork. Perhaps he may even go so far as condemning you when he sees you eating a piece of bacon. Don’t argue about it with him. Go ahead and eat bacon with a clear conscious. If he tells you it is wrong, simply explain that it isn’t but don’t get into a heated debate. Let the new convert who is weaker in his faith avoid bacon; don’t force him to eat it. But if you notice he becomes extremely disturbed by watching you eat bacon, then don’t eat it in front of him for the sake of his conscious. The same thing applies to anything else such as the observance of special days. As long as we act in a clear conscious convinced that what we do is the right thing and to the glory of God. Romans 14:5 Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind. At the same time, we should still be considerate of each others feelings.

Everything is declared clean by God. But even if your conscious is clear and you know you are right, that is not an excuse to make a weaker believer in the faith feel bad. “Do you have faith? Keep it to yourself before God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But who ever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith, and everything that is not from faith is sin.” Romans 14: 22 This means that if you have a clear conscious, then go ahead- eat it, drink it or do it. But if your conscious bothers you, when you do something you believe is wrong, then you have sinned. Another thing to keep in mind is there are many cult like groups such as Mormons and Jehovas Witnesses who have many man made rules adding to the word of the bible. They say it is wrong to do things that God has not declared wrong. Do not listen to these people. They should keep their so called man made rules
to themselves.

Thos of us who are stronger in our faith have a greater obligation that we avoid fruitless disputes and debates. Rather we should try to lovingly address and bear the weakness of those weaker in their faith. We should accept one another as God has accepted us. We should act to the glory of God rather than stirring up dissention and arguments amongst each other.

Chapter 16: Paul’s closing remark- avoid arguments!

As in the tradition and format of Paul’s other letters, this letter closes with some encouraging remarks to some specific believers and members of the early church. Paul ends this letter with a stern warning against trouble makers who seek only to stir up arguments. This verse sums it up: “Now I implore you…watch out for those who cause dissentions and pitfalls contrary to the doctrine you have learned. Avoid them for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” Romans 16:17

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley

This book is not simply another superficial self help book on how to achieve your worldly dreams of financial prosperity, successful career or satisfying marriage. Stanley offers practical and memorable advice on living one’s life based God’s moral principles rather than selfish or emotional desires. The message delivered in this book is broad enough to appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike. Nevertheless, Stanley does not shrink from the task of delivering the saving message of the gospel. Biblical truths are not watered down.
According to Stanley, “The principal of the path trumps all things (page 15) …it is universal” (page 44) and regardless of your age, education, gender or economic status, the principle works the same way. Summed up, the principle explains that the direction a person takes, rather than intentions lead to the outcome in life. The biblical verse, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else”, in Jeremiah 17:9 sums up the tragic results when we depend on emotion and worldly wants rather than on a God- directed path. Furthermore, to make poor choices that violate morals, will eventually result in one’s downfall. As the book of proverbs advises we must run from danger, rather than succumb to it. If you simply depend on intention and short term wants, then emotions will lead you to become sidetracked to the wrong path. There is a cause and effect relationship at work, and these principles can be leveraged to our advantage when navigating through life’s options. It is in our power to choose right or wrong, but at times we must step back, and evaluate our choices in light of God’s wisdom. The simple abstract diagram on the cover cleverly sums up the principle of connecting the dots and staying on the God- directed course.
A big strength for this book is the acknowledgement that at times we do suffer through no fault of our own. Or sometimes, we simply cannot reverse the damage or undue the consequences caused by a lifetime of poor choices. Because Stanley advocates a God directed path above all else, he acknowledges that we can still find peace even in adversity and turmoil. As a member of the Thomas Nelson Review Blogger program http://brb.thomasnelson.com/ , I recommend this book for anyone who seeks some objective worthwhile advice.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Romans Chapter 7 & 8

Chapter 7 Continued: The struggle between goodness & sin

Our conscious recognizes the goodness of the law through the Holy Spirit or natural inclinations of our conscious. When we recognize we have done wrong, and when our conscious convicts us of our wrongdoing- that is the recognition of the goodness of God’s law. Yet, our bodies- our fleshly natures, struggle and fight against what is right. It as if there is an inner struggle between goodness and sin; between the Holy Spirit that lives in us, and the sin which reigns in our bodies.

Chapter 8: New Life & God's Love

It is obvious our flawed human natures cannot possibly overcome our inclination towards sin. No matter how hard we try and no matter how disciplined we think we are- can never meet God’s standards of perfection. What the law could not achieve for us, God achieved- through Jesus who was the “sin offering”. Therefore we no longer live according our natural human natures- the sinful flesh. Instead we live by the spirit which is this: we are justified as righteous through our faith. We are no longer condemned and under the reign of death. As a result, though our faith which gives us the spirit, we will receive life. But remember as living in the spirit and not under our former natural ways, we put to death our former ways. If we suffer from temptation, hardship, suffering or criticism as a result of our new lives, we need to remember it is only temporary because we have hope in eternal life. We are considered to be God’s children as a believer. Because of this we may eagerly await our eternal happiness. Where we may lack in willpower or in strength, the Holy Spirit will intercede to help us.

God loved us so much, he did not even spare his very own son- Jesus. It should be obvious therefore that God loves us very much. So why should it bother us when others do not like us, or if others who are simply human beings try to hurt us? If God is on our side, does it really matter what other people may say or do to us? Furthermore, there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from the love of God.

Romans Chapter 7: Freedom from the Law

In order to explain the sovereignty or power of the law over the believer in Jesus, Paul uses an analogy of marriage. Prior to believing in Jesus, we were still subject to judgment in accordance with the law. (The law is the standard of perfection given by God which are written in the old testament.) Without a savior, we were required to pay the penalty for our own sins and that penalty was eternal separation from God- in other words death. Yet when we accepted God’s gift of redemption or salvation through our faith and acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice, we were not longer bound to the judgment of the law. Likewise when we are married, we are obligated or bound to our spouse. If our spouse is dead, we are freed from that obligation. In a sense when we accepted Jesus in our life, we put to death our former way of thinking. When we humbled ourselves and admitted to our sin and our need for a savior, we put to death our old sinful selves. Now we are not bound legally to the law, and instead we have the spirit. We are not required to fulfill the law for our salvation- which is impossible to do anyway. Instead, our spirit and faith is what gives us life.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions by James A. Beverley

Written from a Christian point of view, Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions by James A. Beverley is a thorough and objective guide covering everything from the largest mainstream religions such as Roman Catholicism and Hinduism to the most obscure such as Rastafarian. Ancient religions as well as modern religious trends such as Wicca, Vampires and the New Age movement are covered in systematic detail. Cultic groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Satanism and Aryan Nations are discussed as well.

Each religion, sect or cult included, is also analyzed in the light of Christianity. You will not find any relativist concessions or excuses claiming all religions lead to truth. Beverley makes it very clear that there is one truth and that all religions must be investigated in light of objective, scriptural truth. Pluralism is rejected in recognition of the fact that many religions do contradict and conflict with each other in their basic theologies. Biased misconceptions are left out as this book. For example rather than condemn Roman Catholicism altogether, the author concedes without revisionist compromise, that the history of the Catholic Church and its ancient leaders such as Aquinas and Augustine, have in fact contributed greatly to Christian theology and apologetics of today. Furthermore, while popular misconceptions of the Catholic Church are refuted in a Question and Answer format, non biblical doctrines are listed and explained. In general the Q & A formats, timelines, and the bulleted summaries, make the information in this book easy to read and retain.

Naturally, with a project of cataloging religions, there will be some overlap and difficult decisions as to where to place certain sects. For example I believe that the Worldwide Church of God would have been better suited in the Christian Sectarian Groups chapter rather than the Protestantism chapter. Additionally, Jehovah’s Witness, Scientology, Mormonism, Branch Davidians, Christian Science and Unification Church would have been more appropriately grouped together under the Christian Sectarian Groups. Furthermore, Taoism is relegated to the appendix rather than the main body of the book. The description of the Satanist brand of witches in the Witchcraft chapter provides a very good summation of the Satanic belief system which would be more useful in the Satanism chapter. If any subsequent editions are produced, I would like to see a chapter on unbelief which would include humanism and atheism (which are included in the chart in appendix A, but not discussed). Nevertheless, these minor details do not detract from the overall book.

In sum, Beverley’s intellectual honesty is to be commended. This book fairly and accurately represents the religions and sects covered. The information is very well documented. Web sites are available so that the reader can investigate and compare for himself, the authenticity of information presented. As a member of the Thomas Nelson Review Blogger program http://brb.thomasnelson.com/ , I would highly recommend this guide for anyone interested making sense of all the religions in today’s world.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Romans Chapters 4, 5 & 6 Faith and Action

Chapter 4: Justified as righteous through faith

We are justified as righteous by God through our faith in Jesus. We can not merit or earn justification through our works. In fact in the old testament, King David and Abraham were justified by their faith in God, not by works or anything they did. God “credits” or gives the gift of righteousness by faith and not by works. In essence, what righteousness means can be summed up in this verse: “How happy those whose lawless acts are forgiven and whose sins are covered! How happy the man whom the Lord will never charge with sin.” Romans 4:8 Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification”. Romans 4:25

Chapter 5: Faith results in justification which results in our hope and salvation

Remember it is through our faith in Jesus alone that we may be justified. While we were sinners, Jesus died for us so that we may be saved by believing in home. What a great act of love this is! Rarely will someone die even for a so-called good or deserving man, but to die for undeserving sinners, that is true love! To place our faith in anything else is meaningless because it is Jesus who died on the cross for our sins. Being declared righteous should give up peace, even in life’s tough times. This is because we can now receive God’s grace and hope for the future. The Holy Spirit within us, assures of and reminds us not only of God’s love but our future hope. Just as condemnation and death for all resulted from the sin of one man- Adam; the gift of justification and eternal life are available for all through Jesus. Justification means this- salvation, which is eternal life.

Chapter 6: Real life application of our faith

It is true that we can not merit our salvation by works, because it is a gift that we receive through our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice. But that does not mean we should go right on sinning- behaving as if our actions do not matter! When we place our faith in Jesus, and in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins- we share not only in glory and salvation but in his death as well. Just as Jesus died for our sins, we too should symbolically put to death our former selves- our former ways of behavior. Baptism is used as an analogy for death and rebirth. Therefore when we place our faith in Jesus we are baptized into his death as well as our rebirth into eternal life. We put to death our sinful natures, and take on a new life. Therefore, even if we are not bound by the Laws of the old testament- otherwise known as the old covenant, we should still seek to please God in the spirit of love and willingness rather than as in an obligation or duty.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Romans Chapter 3: God’s solution for sin & our salvation

Many deny the existence of God and mock those who place their faith in God. Sometimes, even we who have placed our faith in God have some moments of doubt. In fact even John the Baptist had a moment of doubt. But does this doubt nullify the objective truth about God? Certainly not! Just because we do not believe something is true, doesn’t make it false, does it? What we believe does not change the truth. In fact, “God must be true,” even if “everyone is a liar”. Romans 3:4 Furthermore, none of us can say we have never sinned. We all fall short of God’s perfect and just standards. We are all guilty before God’s eyes. No one truly understands God. We all at times have lied or have spoken careless words. At times we have all pursued our own selfish desires and interests at the expense of others. We can never, no matter how hard we try, meet God’s standards. Does that make God’s standards unreasonable because we cannot attain them? No, that doesn’t. It simply shows that through our own efforts it is impossible to be perfect and meet God’s standards. But, while we were still living in sin, God sent his only son, Jesus to die for our sins so that by believing in Jesus, we may be justified. What do we need to do? We need to simply admit we have sinned- in other words, admit that we have fallen short of God’s standards and accept the sacrifice of Jesus through faith. And as a result of our faith, righteousness shall be credited to us- not earned- but freely given to as a gift from God. Our faith in Jesus will result in the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life- which is salvation. We cannot be saved based on merit or good works! Therefore no one can boast. It is a gift from God that we receive from faith!

Roman Chapter 2: Say no to hypocrisy!

“When you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you the judge do the same things”. Romans 2:1 You may think you are a good example, telling others what to do, but what good is that when you do not even follow through? If you consider yourself to be an authority figure, a leader or a teacher then you must also act as one as well. Telling others what is right or wrong isn’t sufficient. You yourself must also practice what you preach. God’s mercy and love is for the purpose of leading us to remorse and repentance. Therefore we should not scoff when we perceives others to be less worthy as a result of their sins. If we choose to remain stubborn, unmerciful, judgmental and hard hearted we will bear the consequences of God’s just judgment. Regardless of how “religious” you perceive yourself to be- we our judged by God according to our hearts. Our conscious serves as a guideline as it convicts us as to whether we are right our wrong. But if we continue to ignore our conscious, our hearts will become hardened to the point where we really do not know right from wrong. It is because of so called religious and Christian hypocrites that, “The name of God is blasphemed”. Romans 2:24 The so called safety net of religion is worthless if you do not practice what you preach.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chapter 1 No Excuses! The Spiral Towards Depravity.

Chapter 1
No Excuses! The Spiral Towards Depravity.

Romans 1:16-17 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes… For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith. The righteous will live by faith.” This passage essentially sums up the purpose of reading the bible, otherwise known as the “gospel”. Firstly we should NOT be embarrassed by the bible as so many in today’s modern society are - because through reading the message of God, which is passed down to us in the form of the written word: the bible- we may be saved. Salvation means this- eternal life in heaven with God. God’s goodness is made evident, or clear to us, through his words in the bible. And we must accept these words of God by faith. Yet faith is not an abandonment of reason and common sense, because there are sufficient proofs of God’s existence evident within the created physical world which is obvious and may be perceived by all of mankind. No one has an excuse for denying God.

There is sufficient proof of God’s existence! It cannot be denied. Don’t believe event the most hardened of atheists or evolutionists. They are simply wrong and here is why: Romans 1:19, “since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse.” Sometimes there may be that doubt in the back of our minds:”what if there is no God?”, but these passages should quell all doubts- because God’s existence is plain and clear to us. And, by denying the common sense reality, the truth of God, we in essence exchange truth for a lie. In doing so, our common sense and our minds become foggy and dulled to the point that we exchange the truth of the immortal and powerful true God for anything else that will satisfy that spiritual vacuum that is created. We lose our power for objectivity and reason, and when we neglect to consider God. Next what follows is that we degenerate into a humanity which lacks morals and truths and objectivity.
In plain and simple English, the process towards sin and depravity are described in this first chapter of Romans! First, it consists of denial of an all powerful, good creator. Then without a moral standard- higher than ourselves, we fall into disarray- grasping at anything to fill that spiritual void. Deny it all you want, since the dawn of mankind, there can be no doubt that people have sought to believe in something greater than themselves. We are “religious” beings by nature, like it or not. Once God is removed from the picture a spiritual void is created- a spiritual Black Hole that seeks to be fulfilled. In its powerful vortex, anything and everything will be sucked up- and common sense, morals and goodness go out the window! Without God, people turn to depravity and debauchery of all sorts. Just look at television and movies if you don’t believe this. Though claiming to be wise, they are not, as their thinking became nonsense and their minds darkened. “Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity. Romans 1:24 And because they did not think it worthwhile to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed and wickedness. They are full of envy, , murder, disputes deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving and unmerciful…and they not only practice such things…but even applaud others who practice them. “Romans 1:28-32 What loathsome qualities, but think about it a second- are they rare or are they common? And which one of us can say we have never been guilty of any of these things. These traits describe us, they describe humanity!

I may have to rethink aout how I write this journal. If I keep this up, I will never get to reading the bible.

Bible Journal: An Introduction

Patricia’s
Bible Journal
2009

Introduction:

Ironically, at a time when I have been feeling somewhat dissatisfied and perhaps a bit remorseful, I have taken it upon myself, the task of writing a journal based on what I have read from the bible. Feeling distracted and a bit overwhelmed by my circumstances, I have neglected to read the bible in a consistent way. (I have neglected other things as well which I have not included here due to the limited scope of this journal. Hopefully, by reading the bible I may find the encouragement and motivation to live up to my worldly responsibilities as well. The bible itself is the best counselor and self help book rolled into one. Therefore it certainly is not a waste of time to be reading the bible- which are the very words of God, our creator. In fact what could be more important?) I currently keep a small journal and index cards of my favorite verses for quick reference. But, reading the bible in a random and haphazard way will most likely result in missing important things that could certainly be of benefit. I enjoy reading the bible, as I find it filled with the most important advice and instruction that can be found. It represents the words of my best friend, embodying the perfect qualities that can be found in no one else. God is the God of perfect justice, mercy and love. Reading the bible has been a help to me whenever I have felt depressed, angry, revengeful, remorseful or lonely. It is far better than any worldly advice that may come from anyone else.

I will begin the task in this way: I will start with the letters of the New Testament first, starting with the book of Romans. After completing the letters, I will then proceed to the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke & John & Acts and then psalms and proverbs. Hopefully I will read each day and record my commentary in this journal.


An Introduction to Romans:

I have decided that the Book of Romans is a perfect place to start this journal. I have read it many times, and in fact most of my systematic reading of the New Testament books will actually be considered a re- reading. Yet, Romans in particular is a very good background providing some important basic essential information about God and God’s will for mankind. I would recommend anyone reading the bible for the first time to start with one of the gospels first, then proceed directly to the book of Romans. It addresses some very basic and universal questions. Even though the bible is written for everyone in general, the words are personally directed to each and every individual. The words of the bible will speak out to me, communicating the truth and thereby convicting me of anything false that I need to change. Hopefully, continued reading of the bible will create in me a desire and a motivation to do what is right and to have the peace of mind that can only come when one is following God’s will.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I’ll Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse by Michael Franzese

Having had renounced the “blood oath” that bound him to a life of crime, Michael Franzese feels the urge to redeem himself and share with the reader some basic lessons he has extracted from his former life of running a “mob enterprise”. Written from the colorful perspective of a former mob boss, the information in this book has an impact that reaches beyond the scope of the business sector. Drafted in an upbeat and motivational fashion, the suggestions on how to achieve success in the legitimate business world are general enough that they may be applied to life as well.

The book provides a brief and relevant background of the author’s mobster activities and their demise as well as vivid real life anecdotes. In of themselves, his real life experiences are quite entertaining. It is ironic that we find some wise and surprisingly moral concepts in bettering one’s life, such as honesty, accountability and sacrifice coming from a former mob source. Negative Machiavellian principals of deceit for the sake of expediency are rejected and exchanged for the morals of Solomon of the Proverbs. Furthermore, Franzese dispels some common myths about success in business as he explains that extensive experience and education are not essentials in succeeding in the business sector. Rather, he advocates integrity, common sense, advance planning, team work and hard work- things which anyone who has motivation can accomplish.

Hoping to salvage something good from his years as a criminal mob boss, Franzese presents the reader with one-of-a kind insight, via age old universal truths of morality and hard work- which are in of themselves powerful tools for personal success. As a member of Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger program http://brb.thomasnelson.com/ I have reviewed this book and I would recommend this book for anyone interested in some advice for a positive business or leadership experience.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Resist Temptation & Sin

Submit yourselves then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7-10

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Cor 6:18

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth no sacrifice for sins is left.. Heb 10:26

Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature. Gal5:13

You were running a good race. Who cut in and kept you from obeying the truth. Gal5:7

So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall. No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.
1cor10:12

Do not be deceived: no sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. 1cor6:9

Come to your right mind and sin no more 1 cor 15:34

Friday, May 1, 2009

Jesus Calling By Sarah Young

As a member of Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger program http://brb.thomasnelson.com/ I had the opportunity to review Sara Young’s unique devotional gift book. What makes this book of devotions stand apart from the traditional devotional genre is that the passages are written from the first person point of view of Jesus. It is presented as if Jesus is actually speaking to the reader! There is a devotion for each day of the year. Furthermore, each page has two or three biblical references to supplement the specific devotion. Essentially, each day’s devotional is an application of biblical principals to real life situations and emotions that we may encounter in our daily lives.

This simple to read devotional book is a good way to jump start your prayer life or devotion time. Written in an encouraging and motivational voice, biblical ideas are simplified to an easily digestible form- perfect for the new believer or for those with extra busy lifestyles. Nevertheless, it should not take the place of daily bible reading. It is reminiscent of a self help book. In some instances the superficial interpretations of scripture may be limiting to those interested in serious biblical study. For example the April 30 devotion which makes reference to James 1:2 and 2Cor12:9 oversimplifies “need” as physical or material rather than also considering spiritual trials and humility as the scripture also implies. This is fine, but keep in mind the reader should take the initiative to explore the deeper meaning of each scripture that is provided. I would recommend this devotional book for those who wish to have a quick and uplifting daily resource, but not for those interested in more intense biblical insight.