The Strong for the Weak-Feb. 8, 2012

Romans 15:1-13 describes a mature Christian as one who bears up the weaker brother.  Those that are mature in Christ should work not to please ourselves but for the good of our neighbor and in doing so are imitating Christ.  Verse 4 speaks about the scriptures being written “to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”  “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ.”(v.5-6)

Bearing up one another produces unity in Christ and he gets the glory.  Christ in becoming a servant of the Jews confirms God’s Old Testament promises made to the Patriarchs and so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy.  In Christ God has kept his promises to the Jews and shown mercy to the Gentiles bringing him glory.  This helps us to know that we can trust God and the testimony of scripture which gives us hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

**a shorter study because of business meeting

On Eagle’s Wings-Feb. 5, 2012

Our sermon this morning dealt with Isaiah 40:21-31.  We looked at the larger context that these verses appear.  Chapter 39 Isaiah has just informed King Hezekiah that Babylon with overtake the kingdom.  In chapter 40:1-20 Isaiah states that this will not last forever and that there will be a time of restoration and begins to speak of the greatness of God.  Mentioning God as creator and asking us to look at the greatness of God displayed in creation.  The reason I believe that Isaiah mentions these things is that for us to find our comfort, hope, and victory in God we must daily remember how worthy he is of worship.

Worship is not a Sunday event but rather a daily awareness of who God is in light of who we are and the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Worship is truly about whether we believe that God is who he says he is, and not just how I feel about my circumstances in the moment.  So it is about our faith not feelings, our feelings will from time to time fail us, be he is true and trusted always.  Isaiah points to the larger creation, the waters in his palm, measuring out galaxies by using his hand.  In light of the greatness of God and his perspective is there anything that is beyond the ability of God?  No. 

The summarizing thought of the sermon and the scripture is that there will be things that we all have to deal with.  Days when we will be tired or weary and cannot find the strength to move on or see a way out.  Psalm 127 reminds us that unless the Lord builds it, he who builds labors in vain.  Even good things done in our power and not relying on the Lord will wear us out.  For those who are weary and tired trust him and find rest.  Verse 28 reminds us that he won’t grow tired or weary, and there is no one that knows as much as God. Verses 29-30  states that he gives strength to the weary and power to the weak, and it doesn’t matter how young or strong you think you are, no one can supply strength like the Lord.

The last two verses assure us that those how hope in(abide in, trust in, dwell in) the Lord will renew their strength.  Doesn’t it make sense that the give of life is also the sustainer.  We can trust him with our lives.  When we first learn to worship daily, and remember that he is the source and sustainer of our lives, can we soar on wings like eagles.  The eagle has great endurance and great perspective.  Soaring like an eagle would allow us to look back at the problems of this life and see them in a better perspective which in most cases smaller.  Then we can not just endure these days, but can run with perseverance the race set out before us in Christ, not becoming weary or faint. 

It’s my prayer that your life be filled with daily worshipping the Lord, trusting his plan, and learning to soar on eagle’s wings.

For Good Not Harm-Feb. 1, 2012

We are continuing our study in the book of Romans with chapters 13 and 14.  In addressing concerns over how one responds to the government Paul states that we should submit to the governing authorities.  God is the one who brings good and order to the lives of people, and it is he that can use government as his agent for good.  This does not mean that those in government even have to see themselves that way.  In Old Testament, men like King Cyrus was understood by many in Israel at the time as working for their good and saw it as God’s blessing although he himself was not a man of faith or an Israelite.

It was mentioned “do we obey all government, no matter what”?  The answer given in verse 4 of chapter 13 that the government is God’s servant to do good, if then a government is working for the purposes of bringing about chaos rather than order and evil not good, then our higher authority is God.  The point is not to so easily disregard the governing structures.

The later part of Romans 13 speaks of the continued debt to love one another.  In verse 10  “Love does no harm to its neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”  This reminder is made all the more immediate because the day of the Lord is near.  Knowing that the time is close at hand should encourage us to seek Christ and to share that love with others through actions not just lip service.

Romans 14 begins to narrow the scope from how we respond to government and or neighbors to the responsibilities we have to one another in the body of Christ.  The chapter begins by reminding believers not to pass judgement on one another in “disputable” matters.  In the Roman church there were two groups of people those who were Jewish believers and Gentile believers.  Those how had that law and tried to obey it and those that had great freedom.  The Jewish believers had prior to accepting Jesus as Messiah practiced dietary laws and restrictions but in Christ found the freedom to eat what they chose.  As stated in Mark’s Gospel chapter 7 it is not what goes into a man’s body that defiles him but what comes from within.  The Jewish believers exercised their freedom to honor God.

On the other hand there were Gentile believers whose previous life involved eating or drinking what they wished and often in regards to other Pagan or cultic traditions and the self-imposed restrictions help them to separate the old life from the new life they have in Christ and also restrict their diet to honor God.

So which one is right?  In these disputable matters Paul says we must let each person stand before God with his conscience clear and not to judge one another.  If each is serving and honoring God Paul asks “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?”  Then speaks of the differing thoughts as to whether one day is more sacred than the other.  It matters that what is done is done to the honor of the Lord.  A modern example may be in style of worship music.  Are not the ones playing bluegrass, hymns, contemporary, or southern gospel doing so in their hearts to honor God?  So then is one more right or acceptable?

We are in Romans given a few simple thoughts in this matter:  We each will have to give an account to God for ourselves not the other person, God knows each person’s heart and he doesn’t need us to tattle.  Stop passing judgement whether in your mind and heart or in public through gossip or other harmful talk.  Next let the rule of love reign.  Do not put a stumbling block in your brother’s way.  Do not damage their faith and your witness over a disputable matters.  Christ died for each of you and loves each dearly, do not harm those Christ died for.

We have in matters of faith freedom of differences in disputable matters, and with all freedom comes responsibility to our brothers.  To insist in freedom that our preference is the only valid way, is to set ourselves as the standard and we come dangerously close to self-righteousness.  Paul continues to return to a position of tolerance, and seeking community above preferences in disputable matters.  “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.  Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food” (v. 19-20), or for the sake of what day is sacred or what style of music.  Let us as a people of God seek to move toward unity in Christ, making room for all  that Christ has called his own.