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Archive for the ‘Romans’ Category

As a pastor and hospice chaplain I have been confronted with the suffering and pain of many of my church members and patients. They have been living with a terminal disease, or perhaps they just lost a loved one to a tragic accident or to a prolonged illness.

 

Several times in the bible we read of Jesus bending down to touch the suffering, bring a healing word to people that were disabled or gravely ill, or to bring comfort to widows, parents, or His own followers. It doesn’t mean that because we are followers of Jesus we will not experience pain or grief…no one is exempt from such experiences. But what it does mean, is that we’re not alone in the midst of our pain and suffering.

 

The apostle Paul prays for us, “May the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus.” Romans 15:5 (NKJV)

 

When going through a painful situation, talk to somebody about it. “Pain shared is pain divided.” May the God of patience bring you comfort.

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Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:23 (NKJV)

 

Pastor Kathy Cannon[i] and her husband have adopted five children whom they call “the fantastic five.”  She shared these thoughts about adoption and foster parents.

  1. Every single one of your insecurities may be tested. Those days will come when there are questions you can’t answer, behaviors that will confuse and frustrate you, and feelings that are horrifying. We’re not saying these will come from your children, but from inside you.  It is vital that you have a safe environment, such as a Christian counselor’s office, which will allow you to talk through what you’re experiencing.
  2. You may become addicted without realizing it. Pastor Cannon is referring to your youngest child, or as some people call it, your “bonus baby.” As she explain, “Not because he was a surprise pregnancy, but I promise, we only updated our home study to get just ONE more child. We were NOT going to adopt another sibling set under any circumstances whatsoever. Umm … oops. Hey look, family, that baby sister we were looking for comes with a baby brother, too!”
  3. The experience will be nothing like what you expected. In her words, “Your child (or children!) may look nothing like what you dreamed about, it may take longer or shorter than you desired, and the court dates and line of social workers and child search and all of it may be something you never wanted for your life. But at the end of the day, as you tuck in your child, turn out the light, and collapse onto the couch … you will be reminded that God works all things together for good for those who love Him, and are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28)”

I like these words:  “If you have no children of your own, it may be that the Lord has a wise purpose in withholding from you this blessing. It should not be taken as evidence that it is your duty to adopt a child. In some cases this might be advisable. If the Lord bids you take an infant to bring up, then the duty is too plain to be misunderstood.”[ii]

 

Father, I submit to your will and wisdom for me and my children.

[i] https://vitalmagazine.com/Home/Article/Ten-Things-No-One-Tells-You-About-Adoption/

[ii] White, E.G., Welfare Ministry, p. 235

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For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 (NKJV)

 

Pastor Kathy Cannon[i] and her husband have adopted five children whom they call “the fantastic five.”  She shared these thoughts about adoption and foster parents.

  1. Complete strangers may feel empowered to ask you very personal questions. This may be specially the case if you have adopted children form a different ethnic background. Some people feel they can approach you freely and ask you if your children are adopted or not, and you may be tempted to respond for the thousandth time that they are your children, period.  It is at those times when a pause for prayer can help you to remain calm and respond nicely, and maybe have some nice responses handy for when that time comes.
  2. Your children will actually begin to reflect you. It is truly amazing when your adopted children begin to reflect some of your character and personality traits. There is no one else to blame for that eye roll, the competitive nature, or the way you say things other than you…they learned it all from you
  3. You will have to clean the hall closet. You will have to learn what parents of biological children have learned: Make your house child proof.  Yes, that may include putting the knife block on the fridge, locks on all the cabinets, and all chemicals in a “non-accessible” location.

Of course, in your case this is not only a matter of safety for your children.  Keep in mind that the social worker is coming to inspect your house, and that hall closet with medicines and cleaning supplies will finally have to get organized and get a fancy new lock so he can see the lock, make sure the tweezers are in the first-aid kit, and check your hot water temperature.  Yes, the official people who will decide whether you can keep your child or not need to see that you are a responsible adult and your home a safe place for them to be.  It is tiresome work, but it is also so rewarding at the end.

 

Father God, please remind me daily that my children are watching me and learning from me.  May they learn about you through me.

[i] https://vitalmagazine.com/Home/Article/Ten-Things-No-One-Tells-You-About-Adoption/

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Lesson on failure

Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! Romans 11:12 (NKJV)

As hard as we may try, there are times when we don’t succeed at what we’re trying to do.  Of course, failing at something does not mean we are a failure, but it is hard at times for us to believe or accept that.  Solomon, the wisest of kings, recognized that he was not always successful at everything he tried.  Choosing a few samples from the book of proverbs, Joshua Kansiewicz[i] gives us a recipe for facing failure and learning from it:

Humility: Solomon writes: “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them” (Proverbs 26:12).  When we fail, we could try to defend our position, blame other people, or the circumstances, or timing or bad luck. Solomon offers an alternative: self-reflection.  Can it be my fault?  Am I responsible?

Authenticity:  These are the words of the king “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).  The next step in facing failure is seeking wise advice.  As Kansiewicz explains, “Every person should have a list of the three wisest people they know. It might be a pastor or a parent or a therapist. It might be a teacher or an employer.”

Time: Solomon adds: “Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes” (Proverbs 19:2, NLT).  Sometimes taking the time to reflect is best.  As Kansiewicz explains, “Walking away from a project is often the best way to make a breakthrough. It is the time away, when the mind is on other things that is often the fertile ground in which truly creative ideas thrive.”

Effort: Finally, Solomn teaches us, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Proverbs 10:4). Success requires sacrifice, determination, hard work, and sweat.

Failure does not have to define us but rather redirect us.  Every time we fail at something should teach us lessons so we can succeed the next time.  Reflect on your personal responsibility, seek advice from others who know you well, take a step back and spend some time considering what took place, and work hard so it won’t happen again.

Father God, help me to rise from my failures to greater success.

[i] https://vitalmagazine.com/Home/Article/What-Solomon-Can-Teach-Us-About-Failure/

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Men owe a lot

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8 (NKJV)

According to Lucy Maher, of CNBC,[i] men are one-third more likely to bring debt into a new relationship.  When you take into account all the wedding planning, and the honeymoon to follow, soon-to-be-wedded couples would be wise to set aside time to go over their spending habits and individual debt levels before they walk down the aisle.  According to Maher, 42 percent of adult men reported bringing credit card debt to their relationships, but only 29 percent of women did.  The average amount of credit card debt adults reported bringing into their relationships is about $4,100.

Talking about finances may not be as exciting as talking about the wedding service, the reception, or the honeymoon, but it is a very smart and important one.  Thirty-five percent of couples, who at least partially combine finances, brought credit card debt into their relationships, and that is particularly the case for 45 percent of millennial adults.  In fact, for millennials, the average debt load is not limited to credit card use. Thirty-eight percent of millennials bring auto loan debt, 36 percent bring student loan debt, and 27 percent bring medical debt into their relationships.

The obvious concern is that twenty-five percent of couples with at least one partner bringing credit card debt to the relationship said that it had a negative effect, sixteen percent said they weren’t able to buy a home or go on vacation, and five percent said it almost caused them to separate.

Taking this into consideration, couples should start by reviewing their credit reports individually and to share each other’s financial condition before entering married life together.  If they choose to proceed with their plans, their first priority should be a plan to pay down their debts.  This can be done by developing a realistic budget and strictly abiding by it. Keep it front of you so you don’t forget what you’re trying to accomplish which is to prevent you from adding on more debt.

Father God, help me to talk openly and honestly about our finances before entering into a marital relationship.

[i] http://www.today.com/money/men-one-third-more-likely-bring-debt-relationship-t28896?cid=eml_tes_20150628

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Scripture:  Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Romans 12:12 (NRSV)

 

Observation:  Rejoicing in hope. The three brief injunctions in this verse seem even more pointed when the word order of the Greek is retained: “In hope rejoicing, in tribulation enduring, in prayer persevering.” Paul has already commended the spirit of cheerfulness (v. 8). In ch. 5:2 he spoke of the believer’s rejoicing “in hope of the glory of God.” This Christian hope, which is the cause of such cheerfulness, has been explained in ch. 8:20–25. This hope enables the Christian to look beyond the darkness and trouble of the present moment to the things that are unseen and eternal (2 Cor. 4:17, 18). The fact that hope, like so many of the Christian virtues, springs from the basic virtue of love is indicated by 1 Cor. 13:7, love “hopeth all things.” [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (621). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  Chapter 12 of the book of Romans is rich in guidance and instruction from the apostle Paul to the members of the church in Rome and to all of us.  Paul probably understood the coming challenges that the Christian church, and in particular the members of this church would face.  To prepare them for the upcoming persecution and the falling away of the faith, Paul tells them to rejoice, be patient, and pray.

The three bits of advice Paul wrote to the Roman believers can be so practical and helpful in marriage.  As good as a relationship may be, there will be ups and downs, there will be good and bad days, and there will be challenges that come to interrupt the peace and calm we enjoy.  Some may even come to the place where they feel it’s best to call it quits, separate, or even divorce.  They would rather take the “easy” exit than do the hard work of staying in their relationship and making it work.

Consider the three pieces of advice from Paul:

1.Rejoice in Hope.  Recent research shows that couples that report unhappiness in their relationship and who are considering divorce, when they choose to remain together, within five years report a higher level of satisfaction than they did during those days when they had considered ending their marriage.  What this tells us is that there is hope, if we only choose to remain together and fight for our marriage, so rejoice in that hope.

2.Be Patient in Suffering.  Patience, in the original Greek of the New Testament, is not simply sitting passively waiting for good things to happen.  Patience is more like the tenacity you need in the midst of strong winds, holding on with all your might to a light pole.  You don’t just sit there praying the winds will cease, you hang on for dear life.  Patience in the suffering that may come to your marriage means hanging on to the relationship until the dark days pass.

3.Persevere in Prayer.  During the darkest hours of our lives, whatever causes that darkness, we can’t cease from praying, we don’t give up praying, we don’t lose our hold on God’s hand.  It is during those most challenging days that we hang on to Him even more tenaciously.

Take these three words of Paul to heart, and see your relationship survive and thrive.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, bless us, during the challenging days, that we may see the hope beyond the darkness until we experience the sunshine of love and peace in our marriage.

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Energy to Serve

Scripture:  Don’t be lazy in showing your devotion. Use your energy to serve the Lord. Romans 12:11 (GW)

 

Observation:  Fervent. Gr. zeō, literally, “to boil.” Apollos is described as a man who was “fervent in the spirit” (Acts 18:25). The zealous Christian will always keep his interest in the cause of God at the boiling point, as it were. His fervor will give him power with men (Acts 18:25, 28) and bring him power from God. The apostle John was “a powerful preacher, fervent, and deeply in earnest,” and “the fervor that characterized his teachings gave him access to all classes” (AA 546).

Serving the Lord. Zeal and fervor arise naturally in the heart of the believer who recognizes that, in whatever sphere of labor he may be serving, he is working “as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:23, 24; cf. Eph. 6:5–8). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (621). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  I’m a morning person and prefer to get up early and get some things done before anybody else is up.  It is during those early hours that I can read, study, pray, write, exercise, and prepare for the day without distractions and disruptions.  Of course, by a certain time at night I’m wiped out and can’t do much productive thinking.

I know of others who are the opposite. . . they are night people who can do all I do in the morning but they do them late at night and sometimes even into the early hours of the morning.  They have a very difficult time getting up in the morning and it takes them a while to drag themselves up out of bed and get going to their job or responsibilities.

Regardless of whether you are a morning or night person, it is important that you do several things: First of all, devote time to developing or strengthening your relationship with God.  Study His word, meditate on how it applies to you and to that day, pray according to what you have just read, and commit to apply the principle you learned or to share the story you read with someone else.  Secondly, devote time to your family.  Use that creative time and energy to help your spouse or your children do some house work or school work, read with and to your children, help prepare them for their day or for bed.

The apostle Paul encourages us to not be lazy in showing devotion.  While we may feel the sheets or the book or the iPad tugging at us, use some of the energy to serve the Lord and to serve your family.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, help me to channel the strength and energy You give me to get better acquainted with you and to serve my family better.

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No Condemnation

Scripture:  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 (NKJV)

Observation:  No condemnation. The good news of the gospel is that Christ came to condemn sin, not sinners (John 3:17; Rom. 8:3). To those who believe and accept the generous provisions of the gospel and who in faith commit themselves to lives of loving obedience, Christ offers justification and freedom. There may yet be deficiencies in the believer’s character, but “when it is in the heart to obey God, when efforts are put forth to this end, Jesus accepts this disposition and effort as man’s best service, and He makes up for the deficiency with His own divine merit” (EGW ST June 16, 1890). For such there is no condemnation (John 3:18). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (559–560). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Application:  One of the most moving stories from the life of Jesus is found in John 8.  It’s worth reviewing it today:

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.  Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst,  they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.  Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”  This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.  So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”  And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.  When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:1-11 (NKJV)

The Jewish law made it clear that both the man and the woman who were caught in the act of committing adultery were to be stoned.  In this case, only the woman was brought to Jesus.  It’s clear that it was a set up on their part so they could trap Jesus with His own words.  Regardless, when they could not, with a clear conscience, stone her, Jesus pronounced those precious words, “Neither do I condemn you.”  Since then, those words still bring us comfort and hope.  The apostle Paul also echoed the same sentiment with the words of our Scriptural passage for today (Romans 8:1), so that we could live with the assurance that it is not just the woman caught in the act of committing adultery whom Jesus did not condemn but also every one of us, while sinners to the core, but in Jesus forgiven and not condemned.

If Jesus, in His purity, does not condemn us, how can we, fallible humans that we are, pretend to be more righteous than our spouse or children or parents and condemn them when they have failed, or even failed us?  May the words that come from our lips be:  “Neither do I condemn you.”

A Prayer You May Say:  father God, thank You because in Your love You do not condemn us but instead shower Your love to each of us, forgive us, and asks us to share the same forgiveness to those around us.  Help us to be more gracious, to condemn less, and love more.

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Like Minded

Scripture: Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind  and  one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5, 6 NKJV)

 

Observation: To be likeminded. Literally, “to think the same thing” (see on ch. 12:16). Paul is not praying for identity of opinion on inconsequential matters, but for a spirit of unity and harmony, in spite of differences of opinion.

According to Christ Jesus. Mere unity or unanimity is not what Paul desires for his fellow Christians, but a spirit of unity patterned after the perfect model of Him whose whole purpose was to do, not His own will, but the will of Him who sent Him (John 6:38). This same mind that was in Christ Jesus must be in each of His followers (Phil. 2:5). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (643–644). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  We all bring certain “baggage” with us on our wedding day.  Our baggage is made up of our upbringing in our families of origin as well as in our life experiences, both good and bad.  Our bags contain our likes, dislikes, hurts, joys, pain, and sorrow. Some of the baggage may be light while some may be heavy and weigh us down. Regardless, we all bring our uniqueness into our newly formed marriage.

The differences can become pronounced as we enter the realm of parenting. How we were raised affects the parenting style that we adopt. Therefore, we each have different sets of values and expectations.

Children are very keen to pick up on the differences that exist and use them to their benefit. It is amazing how quickly they realize which parent will agree to their requests and which one is more apt to deny them. If allowed, they will play one parent against the other.

Scripture tells us that we need to be “like-minded”. Talk about your expectations before you have children. Discuss important issues such as church attendance, school choice, worship in the home, media choices etc. Discussing and making decisions on some key things before baby arrives will help you as parents be united in child rearing.

However, even if you already find yourself with children and grappling with some key differences in parenting styles, it is not too late to have important conversations now. Just make sure that you have them in private, out of earshot of your children. Make a list of key parenting issues and have your spouse do the same. Compare the lists and then take one item at a time and discuss it until agreement occurs.

If  you think this is hard now- imagine the difficulty that may arise if you wait until the issue becomes a reality. It is far better to discuss issues now, pray for resolution, and come to a decision you both can support so that you have a united front before your children. And, if confronted with a situation that you had not anticipated- stop, tell your child you must talk to your spouse, and that you will get back to them as soon as you both agree on a course of action. It is better to have your child wait. And, consider the message this sends to your children. You have made it clear that mom and dad will both agree on the decision.

 

A Prayer You May Say: Lord, where there are two or more, there are differences. Help us to be united as One with you. Lead us to be like-minded according to Your will.

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Glory in Tribulation?

Scripture: “And not only  that,  but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5 NKJV)

 

Observation: we glory in tribulation also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience—Patience is the quiet endurance of what we cannot but wish removed, whether it be the withholding of promised good (Ro 8:25), or the continued experience of positive ill (as here). There is indeed a patience of unrenewed nature, which has something noble in it, though in many cases the offspring of pride, if not of something lower. Men have been known to endure every form of privation, torture, and death, without a murmur and without even visible emotion, merely because they deemed it unworthy of them to sink under unavoidable ill. But this proud, stoical hardihood has nothing in common with the grace of patience—which is either the meek endurance of ill because it is of God (Job 1:21, 22; 2:10), or the calm waiting for promised good till His time to dispense it come (Heb 10:36); in the full persuasion that such trials are divinely appointed, are the needed discipline of God’s children, are but for a definite period, and are not sent without abundant promises of “songs in the night.” [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Ro 5:3–4). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

 

Application:  I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to be happy about troubles that come my way. It is often hard to see the blessings amid the trials. And yet, scripture reminds us that tribulations produce perseverance. In other words, good can come from what we see as bad. It is hard enough when we, as adults go through tough times. But, it is really hard when we see that our children are suffering.

When our children suffer, whether from their own bad choices or those of someone else, we want so badly to rescue them from the situation. We want to “fix it”.  In fact, if possible, we would gladly take the pain upon our own shoulders.  But, God has another plan — to perfect them through their trials. Character-building lessons are rarely learned from the triumphs or successes in life. Rather, it is the disappointments and trials in our lives that teach us how to persevere despite the pain. Taking trials away from our kids deprives them of the chance to grow, build character, and trust in God. The best character-building lessons are learned when our children get up after they have fallen. Don’t inhibit your child’s growth by rescuing them from or taking over difficult situations.  Instead, give them the tools to pick themselves up.

Another challenge is when our child looks at us with teary eyes and asks, “W hy?”  We need to admit that even parents do not always have the answers. It is not as important that we answer all the questions as it is that we teach them to trust Jesus. Even when we do not understand we need to trust Him. We need to trust Jesus to open the next door and show us the way out.

As parents, do you feel the need to always rescue your child?  How do you help your child deal with disappointments? Perhaps the best thing we can do as parents is to kneel down beside our children and teach them to take it to The Lord  in prayer.

 

A Prayer You May Say: Lord, help me to see the blessings among the trials. Help me to teach my child that good things can come out of the bad. Even when we do not understand all of the reasons or have all of the answers, help us as a family to trust you.

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