Friday, September 30, 2011

Change in Plans and the Will of God

Romans is a book that presents the 'big picture' of believing.  Everything in this basic treatise teaches the doctrine and practicality of the foundation of the grace administration as it rests on believing God and what he has provided through Jesus Christ.

In  Romans chapter 1, Paul records his desire to go to Rome but the "right time" had not presented itself.
Romans 1:8-13 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long (Link -epipotheo) to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.  Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
In Proverbs 16:1, God's Word says
Plans pertain to the heart of man, but the last word is from the Lord. (NIV)
God's answer to anything exceeds whatever plans man makes. Humans often pride themselves on the integrity of their word. "It may appear to be a very high standard of righteousness that makes a man's word his bond: it may actually be a higher one still for a man to appear untrustworthy because he desires ever to obey the higher will of God. …… Consistency has sometimes been obeyed before the claims of added light, and then consistency becomes self-will and pride.  It is certainly humbling for a leader to confess to making a mistake, but what a trustworthy leader is he who will make the confession!" (Charles Welch, The Just and The Justifier).

In Chrysotom’s translation [early church leader] of II Corinthians 1:17 Paul talks of the will of man and the will of God:
17 Do I plan after the flesh, that the yea with me must be always yea, and the nay always nay, as it is with a man of the world who makes his plans independently of God’s overruling of them?
Paul's example was Jesus Christ who always did the Father's will. There are many other records in both the Old Testament (the Joseph record in Genesis is a good example) and New Testament (John 11 - raising Lazarus from the dead) where men and women  kept to the 'God first' priority.

During Paul's life, he got several green  and red lights. He blew a big red light when he went to Jerusalem, but stopped at the Bithynia and Asia intersection and ended up taking a better route to Macedonia. We can learn a great deal about believing by examining these records.

Paul's example was Jesus Christ who always did the Father's will.  God's ultimate sovereignty should never be considered lightly in any situation.  Call it 'lowliness', 'poor in spirit', or humility, this is  quality of believing in someone's life that is of the utmost importance.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Please turn off electronic devices and fasten your seat belt for take-off."

How about this: as you are talking on the cell phone, the house phone rings, the cell phone bings with email, then plays another sound for text message and your husband asks you a question. This is just a small part of life and yet all encompassing at times, especially when you are supposedly retired!

We need some uninterrupted time. "Please turn off electronic devices and fasten your seat belt for take-off." Never were truer words ever said. A sound mind requires this.

On airplanes, the pilot asks you to turn off certain devices below an altitude of 10,000 feet. The electromagnetic signals could interfere with vital transmissions to the cockpit. This happens to us too! The vital transmission from God via His Word can  be effected by incoming static if we don't give it our undivided attention.

So many things draw our attention.  We are bombarded by phones, computers, TV, movies (DVD or otherwise) and radio.  We are exposed daily to hundreds of opinions. We don't have to adhere to them, but they take up our headspace even when we disagree. We just drift along accepting and rejecting this or that without realizing how much time is eaten up by stuff that we can't do anything about.

Electronic communication is not bad in and of itself. There are great benefits, like being able to text a picture of a sleeping baby to new parents when they go out on date night, sending great Bible verses to someone who needs to be encouraged or hearing the gunfire live from the duck blind in North Dakota! I can fellowship with anyone any moment, any hour!

In order for our lives to be really rich, however, we need to protect our 'uptime' with God. He can communicate sometimes faster than a text message, but we have to be able to hear it. Wouldn't it be great if there was a device that would turn everything off by one single button (Do I need to copyright this idea?) 
Be eager to find out all about God and what he approves, a seeker of truth who has no cause to be ashamed, analyzing and correctly applying it to life. II Timothy 2:15 (my modified version)
By focusing on God consistently we can soar to greater altitudes (It's the seated-in-the-heavenies view. The world looks so small from an airplane!) and we are not so dependent on 'speed dialing' only in emergencies!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Christian Independent

There is a lot of talk these days of the 'independent voter' as election time draws near. The word 'independent' has three parts: 1. 'in' - meaning 'not'; 2. 'depend' - from the French word 'dependre' translated 'to hang down'; 3. 'ent' which is a suffix used to change a verb into a noun or adjective.
When God gave us the absolute grace of providing holy spirit to people, he was providing for a unique independence from anything that  could separate us from Him. This is something he provides contingent on our free-will choice. God does not control us, nor does he want to. The gift of holy spirit does not control either.

Being 'poor in spirit' (Matthew 5:3) is humbly recognizing God's resources.  It is an active recognition, not like the little guy in the picture above who is passively dependent on the hammock and tree limbs to hold him up.  He is stuck in  a rut-like mode with learned dependence on the curvature of the net holding him. Just let him try to stand up or even sit up for that matter!  God's truth sets us free from molding entanglements and control helping us to take action with confidence. 
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)
There are very important times in our lives that God helps us to break certain patterns in our lives. It is all a part of our growth and maturing as Christians. Our culture, society, our families and associations all exert a gentle influence on the way we think, some good and some not so good at times. However, equipped with the resources that God provides we can be free from that which 'hangs us down' in a detrimental way and be free to live above the mundane.

God provides us with the ability and power to live active and fruitful lives. His spirit at work in our lives provides strength, comfort, protection, love, knowledge, wisdom, power and a home in the body of Christ. None of these qualities control us, they are tools that help us as we live in this world.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rich Fellowship!

Romans 1:11-12 Amplified
For I am yearning to see you, that I may impart and share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen and establish ('establish' Link) you; that is, that we may be mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by each other's faith, both yours and mine.
This is not talking about activities or a social event, this is talking about the full sharing of like-minded people among whom God moves and energizes their relationships. The "yearning to see you" is because of the richness of the energized spirit of God. ('yearn' or 'long' Link)  Paul wanted to let them know he wanted to see them even though something was holding him back at that time.

It is not about meetings, pulpits, pews, song books, the ladies auxiliary, circle suppers, politics, denominations, or formula Christianity. Some of these things may be props, but they sit at the perimeter, not the center of life with God.  God is true, real and individually a part of our lives.  Unity based on the Spirit of God in each one of us is the ultimate goal for true fellowship. ('koinoneo' Link)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Paul, a Servant

Paul, right out of the gate, in Romans, labels himself 'a servant' in Romans 1:1. He is a servant of Jesus Christ  before any of the rest of his credentials.  Later on in the same chapter, Paul expresses this heart  in:
Romans 1:11  For I long to see you, that I may impart (Link- Metadidomai) unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
His desire to give was all wrapped up in establishing (Link - sterizo) others. Any person who loves God has the same calling if he or she has recognized the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the servant of all servants (Philippians 2:7)!

As we recognize what God has done, is doing and will yet do for us, we cannot help but love Him and love others with the same love. That's the way it is supposed to work.

The word 'impart' is an interesting study .  It's the 'what do we do?' in practice.  Paul was studied in the scriptures, passionate about God and had a unique awareness of the meaning of God's gift of His Son and the role of the holy spirit in our lives.  That is what he gave. He has openly laid out the truth of the mystery (God's intent with the death, resurrection and ascension of His son in helping us to become powerful sons and daughters). He helped people by setting them firm in God's love. That was his gift that he imparted to the Romans and us as well.
Romans 1:12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
Paul's humble attitude is so clear in verse 12. He himself benefited from their 'mutual faith'.

Each of us has something unique to give others and receive in return.  However, doing good for the sake of doing good is not what this is about. Servants have a master; it is our master's business we must be about in order to produce the satisfying, mutual fruit of God. It is then we can truly 'distribute (link - koinoneo) to the necessity of the saints' as servants.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Philippians 3:3

For we are the circumcision (figuratively), which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice (boast) in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Superstition, idolatry, and hypocrisy have ample wages, but truth goes a-begging.” Martin Luther


The treatise of Romans is part of the 'all truth' that Jesus Christ spoke about in John 16:13. In verses 7-11 that truth is laid out:
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 
Of sin, because they believe not on me;
Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more: 
Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
Three important subjects are covered in the seven church epistles: sin, righteousness and judgement. These are  the subjects of the great treatises, Romans, Ephesians, and Thessalonians that beautifully show what God has made us to be in light of the death, resurrection and ascension of His son.

Romans reproves the world of sin. Sin is the inattention to what God has done for us and the symptoms that result from that lack of attention. The recurring theme in Romans is believing in the grace and finished work of Jesus Christ.  Chapters 1-11 teaches about how the work of Christ has brought us to the place of also being called God's sons. Chapters 12-16 teaches how to practically live in light of this.

Ephesians is the treatise about our righteousness and a Father's love.
John 16:25-27 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.
Chapters 1-3 of Ephesians specifically teach  about our righteousness, while chapters 4-6 is about how to practically apply it.

Thessalonians is about the hope, our future as believers lifted out from the present world and its dominions and spiritual lawlessness. It points to the eventual return of Jesus Christ.

The book of Romans is absolutely essential for our freedom in this life. It lays the foundation for living a life that honestly glorifies God. God has always desired to have a relationship with man. It started in Eden. Adam and Eve decided to ignore God's instructions and fell.  Jesus Christ took the fall and got up so that our relationship with God could be on a permanent basis. Ignorance is not bliss in this case. Romans is a book to pay attention to.