Monthly Archives: August 2015

When in Rome (a Look at Romans) – Part 15 & 16

This is the last post in my series on Romans, I have decided to cover the last two chapters I one post, as Paul does tend to write long introductions and farewells. Paul tells us of his plans in detail, so much of the last two chapters is not really a lesson for us to learn. There were two passages that jumped out at me, so I would like to take a look at them today.

Take a look at part of verse 1 and verse 2 of chapter 15. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. What can I say about this. We live in a narcissistic, self-obsessed, selfish, greedy and uncaring world. I hate to say it, but most people are the same. This verse flies right across our current climate. This is why we are called to be in the world but not of it. This is why we need to be different. The problem is that this goes deeper than many of us care to admit. You see, I am not really an extrovert. I don’t mind being up in front of people, but I naturally want to be alone, I don’t really like crowds of people. Society today supports individuals, and not the community. You can have your entire life in front of a laptop or tablet now. Facebook and Google Plus supports us if we want to have our entire social life online. We can talk to many people without actually seeing them face to face. LinkedIn let’s us do the same thing for business. Twitter let’s us put our opinion out there, which is much easier to do when you’re not actually looking someone in the eye. It is easy to type that someone is an ‘idiot’, but try telling that to someone’s face. Now before you all tell me to ‘get with the times’ or call me a hypocrite. I am not saying these things are bad, in fact we need to be using all of these forms of communication to preach the gospel, I am just saying that it is easy to be selfish. Every advert is geared to selfishness. Watch a few commercials on TV and see. You deserve this. You need that. You can have what others don’t. This is what adverts do, they prey on our emotions, and the strongest one most of us have is selfishness. We as Christians need to be different. My finger is pointed at me just as much as it is at anyone else here. What are we doing to help other do what is right and build them up in the Lord? I’ll leave you to think about that.

The second passage is verses 17 and 18 of chapter 16. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. Recently, I have seen many posts about end times, and about false teachers. The problem is that many posts about false teachers, are themselves false. Just because someone posts scripture and talks about false teachers, it doesn’t make them right. Take a look at what Paul says. ..contrary to what you have been taught. This does not mean contrary to what you (yes, you reading this) has been taught. You see, I was taught from the Bible when I was young, yet now I realise that what I was taught is not the truth. Just because you have been taught it, doesn’t mean that it is right. Paul was talking about what they had been taught, which he knew to be right. Please make sure that what you have been taught, are being taught and are teaching is actually from the Bible. And True. We need to weigh everything that we know against our best understanding of scripture. So often people use this verse to attack anyone who doesn’t agree with their theology. Rather use this verse to defend yourself from anything that isn’t Biblical.

Thank you very much for reading my blog, and this series on Romans. I’m not sure what I’ll write about next, I’ll see where God leads me. I have a few ideas, but I want to see what He wants.

Until next week.

Richard

When in Rome (a Look at Romans) – Part 14

Romans 14 is an interesting chapter, and one where we can learn lots of valuable lessons, although there is also a risk of misunderstanding this chapter. Let’s take a look at what it says, and what we can learn today.

This passage of scripture talks about not arguing with people about what they think is right and wrong. It speaks about what people believe about what they eat, and how people were judged by what they ate. Let me use an example from my own life. I have no problem with drinking alcohol, I don’t believe that it is right to get drunk, but I have no issue with people who have a drink. I occasionally have a drink, and I have friends who will do the same, however I also have friends who won’t touch alcohol. I respect this. There are Christians out there who used to have drinking problems, so they now stay away from alcohol. There are others who see the danger of drink, so they stay away from it. I have no problem having one drink, and I have never need drunk, so it is not a stumbling block for me. Having said this, if I go to the house of someone who doesn’t drink, I won’t try and convince them to drink. I won’t even serve alcohol if they come to my house. Why? I respect them and their beliefs, and I do not want to cause them to stumble, by trying to get them to do something that I am comfortable doing. This is what this passage is talking about.

I hope that explains what this means, but let me take a minute to tell you what this passage does not say. I have heard it preached that this passage shows that we should not tell others what is right and wrong as it is only wrong if it is ‘wrong for you’. This is nonsense. The Bible is clear about what is right and what is wrong, scripture also tells us that we should teach. We should show others what is right and wrong. The Bible is good for rebuking and teaching. This passage is talking abut something different, it is talking about condemning others over personal convictions. Verse 10 even tells us not to condemn. This is not talking about accountability. I just wanted to make that clear. If you are doing something against what scripture teaches, and someone tries to correct you, don’t use this chapter in your defence. There are parts of scripture (like drinking for example), where it leaves it up to the individual.

There are a few verses in this passage that give me some things to think about, let’s take a look at some of them. Verse 12 and 13. Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. 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. Most people will use this chapter to justify what they do, and how others should treat them, however it actually shows us how we should live. How many of us live our lives in such a way to prevent others from stumbling? I often find myself using this scripture to justify what I do. “Don’t judge me, the Bible says not to look down on me.” Do I look down on others? Do I live my life so that others don’t fall? I’m not always sure, but this does give me some things to think about. What about you?

How about verse 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 is why we shouldn’t try and convince people to live like us, they need to follow what they believe to be right. Yes, we have scripture to learn from, and yes, we should be using it to teach people. We shouldn’t be forcing people to do what we believe to be right. We should be teaching them what scripture says, so they they can come to the conclusion on their own. Let’s look at the drinking situation again, for me to drink is not a sin because the Bible does not condemn it, and I am not convicted. If I persuade someone to drink, when they believe that it is wrong, then they are sinning. This means that an action could be a sin for someone else and not for me, depending on what we believe and how we have been convicted.

Let’s all have a think about this, and remember it next time we are faced with an issue like this. Just remember, this is not an invitation to do what we like, it is a reminder to keep others in mind when determining our actions.

Stay blessed.

Richard

When in Rome (a Look at Romans) – Part 13

Romans 13 is a short chapter, and I don’t have a lot to say about it, however there are some points that I would like to make. The chapter breaks up nicely into to section, each on a different topic. The first is about respecting government.

This is a tricky topic. If you look at countries like the USA or UK, there are usually two major political parties, and most people usually love one party, and therefore have strong feeling against the rival party. This means that if the party that we support gets in power, we’re happy, otherwise we constantly criticise. This is particularly noticeable in the USA, I see so many people with strong views for a particular party, and anything that the opposing party does, is wrong. In the UK, we tend to criticise whoever is in power, even if we voted for them. Do we respect our government? Do we submit to their authority? I have my favourite party, however I have to say, that whoever gets in power (in the UK) it can not get any worse than the party currently in power in my country of birth. I was born in South Africa, and the ruling party there is completely incompetent, in fact that is one of the reasons why my wife and I left the country. This scripture says that we need to respect the authority, and I believe that we need to be praying for them, rather than speaking against them. I used to pray for the ANC, and now when it comes to elections, I pray for the government, regardless of who is in power. It is easier now in the UK, but even in South Africa or other countries with destructive parties in charge, pray for the government.

The second part of the chapter is talking about loving our neighbours. How do we deal with one another? I’m going to let you in on a small secret here, I am not a people person. I have no issue with getting up in church and sharing a word from God, I have no issue preaching either (although I don’t do it often). I go to business networking meetings and I have no issue talking to people, if you saw me in any of these settings, you would have no idea that I struggle with crowds. I am happy with a one to one situation, and I love individual people and want to see them set free. When it comes to crowds of people that I don’t know, I really struggle. My wife and I went to IKEA the other day, and we walked through with all of the other customers. We were not in there for long, and I was not a happy person by the end of it. I couldn’t wait to get out. I had to almost limit my surroundings to immediately around me, whenever I realised how many people were there, and that they were all sitting on the furniture and moving stuff around. I like structure, order, rules and organisation. That is why I have my businesses. Everyone running around IKEA is anything but that. Now does this mean that I don’t love people? No. I just have to realise how I function and try and change what I need to. This passage is not talking about how we handle crowds, it is talking about how we relate to people in our sphere of influence. You could probably argue that I wasn’t being a witness while in IKEA, and although I didn’t do anything ‘wrong’, I wasn’t open to how God may have used me to minister to someone. This is why we are all wired differently, maybe you would be better at picking up on those things in IKEA, but maybe I’m better in other circumstances. We have an obligation to love one another, let’s find ways to do that.

The last passage is here word for word, it is pretty clear and a nice set of instructions. This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armour of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

Be blessed.

Richard

When in Rome (a Look at Romans) – Part 12

After some quite heavy theological passages, Romans 12 is an easy to read, but less easy to put into action, kind of passage. This time I would like to do something different. Seeing as this chapter is pretty much a list of suggestions on how to live as a living sacrifice to God, I am going to put the scripture here, and let you read it for yourself. Before I do that, I do want to point out a few things.

In verse 2, it says that God’s will for us is good, pleasing and perfect. Bad stuff does not come from God, nor is it His will for us. He may use it for our good (Romans 8:28), but illness, suffering, and the like is not God’s will for us. I’ll leave it at that. The other point is in verse 6. We all have spiritual gifts, but it says that we have different gifts for doing things well. I would like to say that just because we have certain gifts for doing things well, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use the other gifts that we may not be able to do so well. Let me give you an example. If I have the gift of prophesy, I must speak out and prophesy with as much faith as God has given me. If someone comes to me for healing, but I don’t have that gift, what should I do? Well, if you’re with someone who has that gift, then ask them to join you. If you’re by yourself, there is no reason why you can’t command healing. Let me put it this way, just because you haven’t recognised a gift in you, doesn’t mean that you can’t do it at all. You may just not be as good as others. I believe that God can manifest any gift in any of us. If He calls you to do something, don’t use the ‘I don’t have that gift’ excuse.

Anyhow, here is most of the chapter for you. This passage is pretty much like an instruction manual from God. Read it, meditate on it, and then put it into action.

3 Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. 4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function,5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honourable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God.

Easier read than done, but well worth doing

Richard