so what is the vision or purpose of this blog? while i enjoy existing as frank’s beans, that is not the purpose.

this blog is designed as an accountability tool to make sure that i stay in God’s word always. every day i will post a blog with scripture and reflections on the scripture. i am not a scholar, so if you have feedback or redirection, please feel free to post a comment. please remember when you post your comments to include a healthy dose of grace because, well, as previously stated – i am not a scholar. sometimes i just don’t know things.

and here we go.

smooth talk and flattery.

So I took quite a hiatus after I made my blog private. Even though few people probably ever read my blog, I felt a sense of accountability to continue my daily Bible Blogging. Once this blog went private, I lost that sense and it has come with a cost.

I never finished reading Romans. Tonight, I couldn’t sleep, so I opened up the trusty and punched up Romans 16. I’ve always liked Romans 16 because Paul is thanking and encouraging all of those who work on the Kingdom of God. I love that the people he thanks includes men and women of all levels of leadership and giftedness. In this last chapter, Paul leaves with thanks and encouragement – and one strong word of warning. He urges believers to stay away from people who teach against the church. He says, “By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” (Rom 16:18)

This does not mean to not love people (something Paul admonishes us to do earlier in Romans), but this means to be smart about where we are taught. Recently some people in my life have been smooth-talked into believing things that are untrue. This slippery, slippery slope dragged them into a set of beliefs wholly untrue and deadly. Paul is right to advise believers to not get too close to a drowning man. Throw them a life vest (prayer), but there is no need to drown along with them.

This week I had a conversation with Frank, L & G regarding death and life afterwards. This conversation so clearly outlined for me the gravity of the situation. Christianity isn’t about what you believe to help you feel good at night. Christianity is about where we will spend eternity. Christianity is a battle to the death, in every literal sense of the word. It is so easy to think that we have countless tomorrows, but as our senior pastor often says, “I will see you next week, God-willing.” It sounds a little depressing, but the truth is: We are not guaranteed tomorrow.

G shared a story with us about a doctor at our church. One afternoon, while he was doing rounds, a nurse informed him that there was an elderly woman who was constantly complaining and nothing the nurses did seemed to help her. The doctor went into this patient’s room and asked her how she was doing and was there anything he could do to help.

She responded, “There is a man behind you.”

Confused, he looked behind him and, seeing nothing, said to the woman, “There is no one there.”

She shook her head. “No, there was someone there. It was Jesus and He’s come to take me home.” Within moments of saying that, she died.

The cynic in me likes to flatter me into believing that surely this woman was just seeing things. Frank asked G if the doctor often saw patients who saw Jesus before dying. Unfortunately, the doctor said that more often than not, it was the other way. Patients would claim to hear the screams of hell rushing up to great them and would be dragged away into death. Their deaths were not peaceful, but awful experiences for these patients.

I had never heard such reports of people being dragged into death. Frank confirmed what G said – saying that he flew with a pilot who was in Vietnam. The pilot said that he held many of his friends and fellow soldiers in his arms as they died of wounds inflicted on the battlefields. The pilot said that one of his friends, who was a believer, said that he smelled the sweet fragrance of warm bread from his childhood and knew he was going home. But, just as the doctor had experienced, he also watched far too many people leave this world for a more terrifying one. The pilot said that these individuals often knew that they had already made their choice and there was no going back.

Every day, I believe that I will wake up and I will go on. I believe that I will have a million second chances and that everyone and their puppy-dog will be in heaven. If that was the case, how wonderful would it be? But we are not worthy of being in God’s presence as unrighteous sinners. The only thing that makes it possible for us to be with God in heaven is the sacrifice of God’s only son.

I knew this was a big battle. I knew that the stakes were large, but when I am faced with stories like the ones that Frank and G shared with me, it reminds me that the stakes are so large and so valuable, that Jesus died for them.

But just as with a drowning person, there are rules to live by: Reach, Throw, Row, but never Go.

– Reach: Reach out to this person in prayer. Ask God to soften their hearts.
– Throw: Share the gospel with them in a compassionate and patient way. Show them the gospel every day in your life. What does that mean? It means be like God. To understand what God is like, read the Bible. The way He treats people and loves on His people are what we strive for.
– Row: Only go out to the person fully armed and prepared with proper equipment. As Paul says, put on the full armor of God.
– Never Go: Never swim out to the drowning person, unarmed. In the end, we can all be flattered and tricked into Satan’s lies. Satan does not come and say, “Hey, want to sin?” Instead, he smooth-talks and flatters us into giving up a little bit of ground at a time… until we’ve given up all the ground we had.

My New Year’s resolution is to continue blogging, regardless of whether or not anyone reads it.

I wish you all the very best in 2008.

Paul’s Reason for Writing – Romans 15 cont'd

14 I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters,[h] that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. 15 Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder. For by God’s grace, 16 I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit. 17 So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God. 18 Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. 19 They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit.[i] In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.[j]
20 My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. 21 I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says,
“Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.”[
22 In fact, my visit to you has been delayed so long because I have been preaching in these places.

FINALLY! 15 chapters into the book of Romans, Paul finally tells us why he is writing!! 🙂 Something I find interesting about Paul is his tactic of saying, “I write you this letter telling things you already know and that you already teach eachother, as just a simple reminder.” I love that because I sometimes imagine that they got this letter and looked at eachother and said, “woops – we better get on this!” In a very gentle, encouraging way, Paul reminded the Romans that they had all of the resources to keep plugging along. Part of me thinks that some of the Romans read it and felt encouraged and some of the Romans felt a pricking of the Holy Spirit, guiding them back on the right path.

The other thing that I find interesting is how Paul, through his own example, teaches the Romans and us to prioritize those that have not heard the message ahead of those that have heard the message and are part of a community. But he doesn’t forget the community, he still wrote to them and provided them with the wisdom and guidance God lead him to share.

So how am I going out into the world and sharing the good news? And how am I building into the community of believers? And who is the Paul in my life?

Romans 15 cont'd

7 Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. 8 Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews[b] to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors. 9 He also came so that the Gentiles might give glory to God for his mercies to them. That is what the psalmist meant when he wrote:
“For this, I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing praises to your name.”[
10 And in another place it is written, “Rejoice with his people, you Gentiles.”[
d] 11 And yet again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles. Praise him, all you people of the earth.”[
12 And in another place Isaiah said,
“The heir to David’s throne[
f] will come, and he will rule over the Gentiles. They will place their hope on him.”[g]
13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit

So the passage yesterday talked about living in harmony with one another and this passage continues the conversation. The Jews felt that since they were originally God’s people that they were better (this is what I understand from other studies). This sense of entitlement causes chaos in the church because people were believing that they were superior would create resentment, etc. What Paul points out (again) is that Jesus died for both the Jews and the Gentiles, and there isn’t one group that is more deserving than the other.

Sometimes I wonder if this rift can occur between new believers and old believers, between social groups, etc. God loves each of us, regardless of the earthly constraints we use to define others.

My high school English teacher spoke at our graduation. He had just had his first daughter, Abigail. He said when he looked at Abby, he thought about how he would be devestated if anyone ever hurt her. He told us the world would be a better place if we treated everyone else like they were someone’s Abby – and that is a good way of looking at it. Wouldn’t the world be better if we looked at each person as God’s child – that they are precious in God’s sight?

Living to Please Others (Romans 15)

1 We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. 2 We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. 3 For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.”[a] 4 Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is living to please others and then there is living to please others in order to please God. This is a huge thing for me because I know all too often, I put the satisfaction of others as a top priority. That is a wrong attitude! What Paul is saying is that when you are a follower of Jesus, you live in harmony with other followers in order to give praise and glory to God. This passage doesn’t say to foresake God so that non-believers can be comfortable. Quite the opposite – Paul talks about building up other believers in the Lord. We should help them find the right direction, even if it means keeping eachother accountable (a sometimes uncomfortable thing).

Romans 14 – last entry

20 Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. 22 You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. 23 But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.

This to me speaks to those areas and things that I do that are definitely in the “gray” area. While God is very specific in the Bible regarding certain sins, there are items that may be a sin for me and not a sin for you. I think that a sin is anything that interrupts my relationship with God. For example, if I have a taco, that’s fine. But if I have a taco and I love the taco and enjoy it far too much, to the point of distraction, that is coming between God and me. Ok, I know, who really loves a taco more than God? But I guess the point is that there are things that I prioritize ahead of God. I prioritize 5 more minutes on facebook ahead of reading the Bible, for example. While 5 more minutes on facebook is fine for most people, it means that I may not dedicate the time I should to studying and being in God’s word.

Basically, if what Iam doing is pricking my conscience, I probably should not be doing it.

Romans 14 cont'd

10 So why do you condemn another believer[a]? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say,
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.[
12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. 13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.
14 I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

These passages are the easiest to read and gloss over. It’s easy to read them and think of people who have given me a hard time and think, “Hmph, they should really read this – they could get a lot out of it!” But reading this again, I need to identify things that I do that cause someone else consternation. I need to say, “Jesus loved this person so much, He died for them” and realize that no “food” or anything else is worth causing someone else to stumble in their walk with God. If everyone treated eachother with this kind of regard, then there really would be harmony.