Category Archives: 2014 Bible Reading

New Year, New Challenge

Alright, so our Bible Challenge for 2014 is completed. Let me congratulate all of you who journeyed with me through the entire Bible in 2014! Let me reiterate, the point of this challenge was not read every word in the Bible (if you did then well done indeed). The point was to get you reading your Bible more in 2014 than you did in 2013, or maybe more than you ever have in your whole life. The point was to whet your appetite for the Word of God.

On numerous occasions, Jesus tells people that he offers us food that will sate their hunger and quench their thirst. Accomplishing those things only happens when we are going deeper into our relationship with Jesus, and that only happens as we spend time with him, in prayer, meditation and, yes, reading the Bible.

Sometimes you don’t even know you are hungry for something until you get a taste for it. It is my prayer that as you took part in the challenge for 2014 that you appetite has been thoroughly whetted because of the taste that you got of God’s Word.

We are going to embark on another journey together for 2015, starting January 5th. The schedule will be posted under the “Bible Challenge” tab on the main page of this website. We’re going to slow things down for 2015 and take the year to journey through the New Testament together. That will mean a little bit lighter reading schedule, which I’m sure some of you will enjoy. Basically you will be reading a chapter a day, sometimes only part of a chapter.

This challenge is going to be less about quantity and more about quality. While there will be less reading to do each day, I hope you will take the time to dig deeper into each reading. Really ask the Holy Spirit to show you what he wants YOU to hear during each day’s reading. How does he want to continue transforming your life to better imitate Jesus? What actions does he want you to do in response to what you read? I don’t know about you, but I felt that we blasted through the New Testament in 2014’s challenge, and there is so much to unpack. It is my hope that by reading less, we will have room to respond and process more.

Another change for 2015 is that I will not be blogging as much. I’m sure many of you realize how much of a commitment it was for me to write as often as I did. It was my goal to write every day when we first began our challenge, but that soon whittled its way down to four or five times per week. My goal for this year will be to blog twice per week, once on Friday and once on Tuesday. The focus of my blogs will not be as much our Bible Challenge, although I will be commenting on it from time-to-time. The focus is going to be on what I am going to be speaking on during our Sunday morning gathering. Friday’s post will be some opening thoughts, scriptures to read and some questions to ponder going into Sunday, and Tuesday’s post will be some follow-up material about Sunday’s sermon.

Here’s a preview of how 2015 is shaping up regarding our 2015 Sunday gatherings. We’re going to start by spending some weeks exploring what the difference is between being a follower of Jesus, and being a fan of Jesus. Then we’re going to take some time looking at one of the outcomes of being a follower of Jesus: that we are “those who overcome”. This phrase shows up in Jesus’ letters to the churches in the book of Revelation. What does it mean to be an overcomer and what does Jesus say about those who overcome?

Then we’re going to take time between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to explore “The Art of Biblical Manliness”, and that will lead us into a walk through the book of Daniel through the summer months.

I want to encourage you to continue the pattern you started in 2014, and build on it in 2015. I know we have so much that demands our time, but there is nothing more important than our spiritual nourishment; and I have never heard anyone say that spending time with God is a waste. It takes away from other things, sure, but it is all a matter of priority and importance. Our time with God should take away from other things, because it is more important.

So thank you for journeying with me through the Bible in 2014, and I sincerely pray that God richly blessed you as you dedicated time to be in his Word. And I invite you to continue the journey withe me and with PEMC as we key in on the New Testament in 2015.

Happy Reading.

Revelation 19-22: The End

Our final reading for our Bible Challenge 2014! And what a way to end it, with the final chapters of Revelation. These last four chapters contain some of the greatest promises in the Bible and outline in pretty clear language the hope we have for an eternal life with Christ.

Really there is one main tone through these four chapters: victory. I realize that comment is not particularly enlightened and is certainly not new, but it is the very blatant truth of these last chapters of the Bible. Jesus is victorious. The war he began on Satan, sin & death when he rose from the dead will be finally completed, his victory will be won and the eternal destiny of those who live in the Kingdom of God will be secured.

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I need to be reminded of the victory that Jesus will eventually win. I need the reminder that we have hope beyond the tears, grief, sorrow and seemingly unrestrained evil that is in the world around us. I need to be reminded that, in the end, I will have a place in a Kingdom where there will be peace, wholesome love and complete selflessness. I can become very disheartened by the way individuals treat one another, by the decisions people make that are so questionable and by the hurt that is caused.

But one day all of that will pass away and the world will be perfected. Sometimes I can’t wait for that day.

Even as that thought passes from my mind into my fingers, I am reminded that there are people in my life who will not be in that Kingdom because they have not made a choice to have faith in Jesus. So as much as I can’t wait for that day to come, I am reminded that the work Jesus left for his church to do is not finished, and I have a part to play in that unfinished work.

Have you ever stopped to consider that although the Bible ends at Revelation chapter 22, God’s story does not? The story that we have been reading over 2014 has continued over these past 2000 years, and even as I writes words, God is writing new chapters in his story, chapters involving me and you, chapters that will involve my children and yours. Chapters full of spiritual greats, Kingdom victories, as well as personal failures. Chapters full of lessons God has taught us, is teaching us and will continue to teach us.

So while we have reached the end of our journey through the Bible, allow me to remind you that God’s story continues. God’s hand moves in the world TODAY through the Holy Spirit and as he acts in the lives of those who follow Jesus.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Bible Reading Challenge 2015: The New Testament in a Year. Details tomorrow.

Revelation 12-18: At war

Almost there! We’re almost to the end my friends.

Unfortunately, this second to last reading gives us little in the way of a peaceful ending, and may leave you with more questions than it does answers.

We must remember that the book of Revelation is among the style of writing known as Apocalyptic literature, a style of writing used to describe the book of Daniel as well as sections of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel and Zechariah. Basically, apocalyptic writing refers to moments when God has chosen to reveal parts of the future to the author. We can make a couple of major mistakes when we read apocalyptic writings. First, we can forget that God has chosen to reveal only part of the picture to us. The very nature of these writings are mysterious and cryptic. Many people over many centuries have tried to interpret and fully understand everything that God has recorded in the apocalyptic sections of the Bible. The truth is, we are not meant to look at these sections in that way.

Second, we can forget that these writings were written in specific times for a specific audience. So while Daniel and Revelation speak about the end of all things as God revealed it, the imagery, titles, and settings of those writings were culturally influenced. Without an understanding of what was going on when these books were written, it can be very easy to jump to conclusions about what they mean.

Finally, we have to remember that these books are not intended to scare us. In fact, most of the apocalyptic sections I mentioned above were written during periods of persecution or difficulty, first for the nation of Israel and then for the early church. They were given by God as a means of encouraging believers to stay on track, to keep strong in their faith because they understood that God was in control of what was happening.

I hope you noticed as you have been reading that there are many sections where worship of God is the focus, and indeed the worship of God is a major component of the entire book. My New Testament professor at EBC did his doctoral thesis on worship in the book of Revelation, and he believes that the book is intended (at least in part) to be a manual for worship for the church. That is certainly a different perspective to think about.

One final comment specific to today’s reading. We have to recognize that the one thing that Revelation seems to make clear about the end times is that it will be a time of difficulty for the church. There will be Christian persecution the likes of which we have not seen since the days of the Roman Empire. The entire middle section of the book (chapters 4-20) describe the church at war. Whether you believe that “current” Christians will be taken to heaven pre- or post- tribulation doesn’t matter, either way there will be Christians on the earth during that time and they will be at war with the Antichrist and his minions.

We have known a lot of years of peace in North America. We as Christians have known a lot of years of plenty and comfort and contentment. I fear that those years have lulled us into a false sense of security and even belonging; that this is our home. We must remember that Paul makes it very clear to us that our citizenship is not here on earth but that it resides in heaven. We must be clear that we are strangers and foreigners in this land. I believe that is why Paul refers to our bodies repeatedly as “tents”, a reminder that these are only temporary dwellings for us.

If these chapters from Revelation scare you, challenge you, worry you, I would say that’s probably good. There is darkness ahead. But don’t lose sight of the fact that God’s victory is assured.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Revelation 19-22

Hebrews 11-13: Endurance

It is unfortunate that the bulk of the book of Hebrews as landed on the days when I normally do not post a blog. There is so very much in this book, and so much of it can be kind of confusing. I wanted to make mention of that before I talk specifically about today’s reading.

One thing we have to be very careful to remember when reading this book is that it was written to Hebrews who had become Christians…hence the title of the book. Some of what the author talks about is very difficult for us to relate to, even after we’ve journeyed through the “Hebrew” scriptures in the Old Testament over this past year. Our reading through the Old Testament should help you understand Hebrews a bit more, especially in its conversation about sacrifices and the priests and how Jesus fulfills and perfects both of those. But there are cultural and religious references in Hebrews that are challenging, even with a fresh reading of the Old Testament under your belt.

One of the basic messages of Hebrews is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law. He is the ultimate priest who ministers in heaven on our behalf, and he is the ultimate and final sacrifice that pays for the penalty of sin. It is in light of those two key truths that the author of Hebrews enters into this final section of the book. Of course Hebrews 11 is a categorical listing of some of the key personalities of the Hebrew faith, the superheroes of Jewish children. They key to chapter 11 is this understanding that they were working toward the fulfillment of the Law in Christ, a fulfillment none of them got to experience first hand; but a fulfillment they all believed God would be faithful in completing.

This understanding is important to the point I want to draw out from chapter 12. The author makes a point of reminding us at the beginning of chapter 12 to carry on this tradition of faithful service that these men and women from days past began. This striving toward something that we may never see fulfilled with our fleshly eyes but that have faith God will fulfill in his perfect timing. The word the book of Hebrews uses in this discussion is the word endurance. We are to endure in our faith, to push forward, to always be striving for what is to come (namely the second coming of Jesus and our arrival in our true home in heaven).

It can be tempting, as we live our lives, to forget that there is something greater we are called to be part of. We forget that there is something more important than our day jobs, our kids hockey games and what we are going to do with the next pay check. Hebrews 11 and 12 shows us what it looks like to spend our lives working for something that we may never actually get to see or experience on this side of eternity. That concept flies in the face of our “get it now”, immediate satisfaction society. I am suddenly reminded of that song by Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: “I want it now!”

The author of Hebrews makes a point of saying that those “greats” of the faith from chapter 11 were working for our benefit, fulfilling God’s plan for their lives knowing that they would never get to live out the reward that you and I have the privilege of living through Jesus. But in a lot of ways, our faith journey is exactly like theirs. While they were looking forward to Jesus’ first coming, not knowing if they would live to actually see it happen, you and I are looking forward to Jesus’ second coming, again not knowing if we will actually live to see it happen.

So you see, the stories of those men and women of faith from the Old Testament are not merely nice stories from God for us to learn in Sunday school, they are the pattern laid out for us that shows us how to live faithfully and work toward a goal we may not actually experience. The parallels are incredible; and I am thankful that God has given us these incredible mentors who have shown us how to walk in faith.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 2 Timothy

Titus: Always learning

I mentioned yesterday that Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus were not like his other letters, mainly because they were to individuals instead of a church family. But they are also different because they are to two church leaders whom Paul had left behind to complete the work that he began. In baseball circles, I guess you could consider these two guys Paul’s closers. We find in these letters then, not just the encouragement of a mentor to a mentee, but also some instructions with how to deal with different situations that arise within the Christian family and instructions on how to handle different kinds of people in the church.

This is especially true of the letter to Titus. Really, Paul spends the bulk of the letter telling Titus how to handle people and how to keep people pointed in the right direction.

If you will notice, there really aren’t any kinds of people that Paul leaves out of this letter. We have old men and young men. Old women and young women. Free people and slaves. Paul even touches briefly on the laziness of some people and how that is not glorifying to God.

I guess what stood out to me in the midst of all of that is that none of us are exempt from correction and further instruction…which means that we had better be open to the probability that there is something new for us to learn. Voltaire wrote: “The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.” Is that a self-deprecating statement? No, it is a person realizing that there is always something to learn, always something to grow in or into.

I have noticed that the characteristic of “teachability” has become more and more valued as of late. It shows up in performance reviews, it is a question asked of references during the hiring process, it even shows up as a characteristic in some personality profiles.

The sad reality is that most of us loose that teachable-ness to some degree as we get older. We get set in our ways, we start to think we have the answers instead of seeking out the answers. We stop asking questions. We get angry when someone tries to show us something new/improved/better than what we already know.

But Paul encourages Titus to be pretty lofty in his expectations of these folks under his care, and that would require them to be malleable and willing to be corrected and learn.

How willing are you to learn?

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Peter

1 Timothy: Wreckage

It struck me as I was re-reading 1 Timothy just how personal this letter is. Most of Paul’s letters are written to a specific congregation or a group of congregations within a given area. But these two letters to Timothy and Paul’s letters to Titus and Philemon are different.

The thing that I appreciate about Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus is that it gives us a very good look into how Paul viewed Christian leadership. Both of these letters are reminders in a lot of ways about what Paul had taught Timothy and Titus about leadership while they were with him. He had shown them how to lead, how to teach, how to address false doctrine and keep the church unified and in line. These letters give us insight into these teachings.

Specific to Timothy, Paul encourages him to be strong on a number of occasions, to remain faithful in the face of opposition, to not put up with people who would look down on him because of his age and to live a good example of the faith for those that he leads.

More than anything, Paul encourages Timothy to remain strong in his faith, to keep up the practices of prayer, to “train himself in godliness”. In the midst of all of this, Paul instructs Timothy in how to deal with some of the common things that come up in church…most of which still come up today.

If I were to mention just one thing from 1 Timothy, it would be from verses 18-20 of chapter 1. Paul encourages Timothy to engage strongly in battle through faith and a good conscience. I think that it is easy for all of us to forget that our engagement with our faith is a battle, if we are doing it right. Satan should be livid at us for how we are bringing glory to God in how we live our lives and cling to our faith. A great many people struggle with one or both of those issues. Either they are weak in their faith, or they have a rotten conscience.

By the way, just as a side note here. Do you know how you rot your conscience? By ignoring it. If you do something your conscience tells you is wrong long enough, your conscience will stop bothering you about it.

Our lives as Christians is a battle my friends and we must not be ignorant of that fact; because if we are ignorant of it, we are in danger of what Paul calls “suffering the shipwreck of our faith.” (1 Timothy 1:19). There are some verses that give me a chill every time I read them, and that verse is one of them. To shipwreck your faith, that thought makes me stop and take stock. Where is my faith? Am I heading for the rocks?

It also makes me sad to think that there are those, past and present, who fall into that category. My friends, let us make sure that we are not among the wreckage.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Titus

Philippians: How many?

Ok, so do me a favour as you read through the book of Philippians today: count how many of the verses (or whole chunks of this book) you already knew/remembered as you were reading it. I bet you counted more than one.

Philippians is an incredibly packed book and I couldn’t hope to put into words everything that Paul writes to the church in Philippi.

I make mention of one thing in regard to this book, instead of painting the broad stroke I have been painting. Paul spends a good chunk of the first chapter and most of the second chapter talking about humility, specifically humility in the context of the church family. For as many sermons as I have heard, and even preached myself, about humility, I think most people (not just Christians) have a very wrong idea of what humility is. Humility is NOT thinking less of yourself. Humility is not putting yourself down or demeaning or devaluing yourself. In fact, people who go out of their way to do those things are guilty of the sin of false humility, which is a form of deception. Humility, quite simply, is not making yourself (or thinking yourself) better than other people. Paul tells us, in chapter 2, to avoid rivalry and conceit and instead put on humility. That makes rivalry and conceit the opposites (antonyms) of humility.

Rivalry is to put yourself in competition with someone else for a position of superiority. Conceit is to have an overly high opinion of oneself, abilities or accomplishments. Humility is the opposite of those things. It is to not seek superiority over others. It is to have a healthy opinion of yourself, your abilities and your worth.

All of that, in relation to the church, means that we “think the same way, have the same love, share the same feelings, focus on the same goal” (Philippians 2:2). This is an echo to the statement Paul makes at the end of chapter 1 when he writes “I will hear that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith of the gospel…” (part of vs 27).

The reason I know that was as Christians still need these teachings from the Scriptures about humility is because those things that Paul mentions are sadly not always present in the church. Quite often we are very much more interested in protecting “my” position, or insisting on “my” opinion, or fighting for what makes “me” happy. Instead, Paul tells us: “Everyone should look out NOT only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

What would it look like if people made it their mission to look out for the interests of everyone else instead of their own? What if young people fought to sing hymns in the church because they knew the elderly enjoyed them? What would it look like if old people fought to sing modern worship in the church because they knew that the young people connected with it? What if the happily married people fought tooth and nail to help people whose marriages are in shambled? What if the well off in our congregations (that’s most of us by the way according to the world’s standards) looked out (and I mean really looked out) for the interests of the poor in our town?

Things might just look different.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Timothy

Ephesians: New life in a new community

This is another instance where I will draw some general comments about the book we are reading instead of focusing in one particular part of our reading.

Ephesians is quite a jam packed book, but it really focuses on three main things:

1) The first half of the book (chapters 1-3) deals primarily with the new life one receives from Jesus when we make the transition into Christian faith. That we go from dead heathenism (that word is not used in a derogative way) to new life in covenant with God because of the Good News of Jesus death and resurrection.

2) The last half of the book (chapters 4-6) deals with how the new life in Christ plays out practically in our daily lives. This section Paul breaks down into three segments of our lives: the church family, our moral life and our family lives.

3) The whole of those two sections takes place with the background focus being the new community that God was creating in the church and how the believer lives as part of that community because of the gospel and then how they should live within that community.

The thing to remember about the four Epistles that we are reading (Colossians yesterday, Ephesians today, and Philippians tomorrow) is that they were all written to new Christians and new churches. These were not written to long established, mature believers. These letters were purposed to help guide people new to the Christian faith, to help them grow; a type of Christian handbook of sorts.

While that is the case, these books challenge even the most mature of us to fully appreciate the new life we have in Christ and allow that life to change us. Paul makes  a point of saying in chapter two that we have been rescued from our dead life of trangressions and sin, a rescue that we did nothing to obtain or earn, but was a free gift by the grace of God. So we must recognize that our new internal life should and must show itself in our physical lives.

One final note: chapter 2 verse 10 contains one of the great statements in the New Testament about our value in God’s eyes. We are his workmanship. We have been created, molded, made to work for God and his purposes. What a statement of value!

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Philippians

Acts 20:4-23:35: What would you do?

I am finding it very interesting to read Paul’s epistles (his letters to the churches) in the context of the book of Acts. It is bringing some new insights into some of the details that I had not grasped before. I hope and pray that you are finding the same.

I am struck very much by something today from this part of Acts. Paul writes in chapter 20 that the Holy Spirit had shown him that there was chains and afflictions waiting for Paul. Then, as we read forward in today’s section, we see some of the outworking of that truth. Paul meets major resistance when he travels to Jerusalem, even though he is careful to observe all of the necessary religious obligations necessary to appease the Jewish faith. (This very much reminds me of Paul’s statement that he became all things to all people in order to win a few…but I’ll talk more about then when we get there in our readings.)

What happens? The Jews from the province of Asia who were in Jerusalem to observe the religious festival rile up the crowd against Paul and a huge mob gathers seeking to kill. What I find amazing in this account is that Paul walked into Jerusalem knowing that he was walking into a hostile situation, and yet he still went.

I know that this speaks to me pretty strongly because I know what it is like to have an openly hostile situation going on in life and not face, in fact to avoid it at all costs. The problem with that approach is two-fold (in my experience). First, it does a number on your self esteem. You might rationalize your refusal to deal with the situation by saying that you’re turning the other cheek, or wanting to keep the peace. But deep down you know that you’re avoiding the situation out of fear, and that is never a confidence booster.

Second, if you do not deal with these types of situations, they never get resolved and they are likely to happen more often.

Paul spent almost his entire ministry knowing that difficulty was going to follow him, and he went on preaching the gospel anyway. He traveled to Rome knowing it would kill him! But if it was for the gospel, if it was to complete the task that God had laid out for him, then Paul was all for it.

So, what would you do?

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Acts 24-26

Romans 14-16: Freedom

There are moments in cinematic history that have become legend. The moment when ET said: “Phone home” or touched the little boy’s finger with his glowing finger. The moment in Star Wars when Darth Vader proclaim: “Luke, I am your father.” Or that scene when Ferris Bueller’s teacher proclaims: “Bueller?…Bueller?…Bueller?” (Just for the record, let it be stated that I am not a fan of that movie, but my wife is). Then there is the iconic: “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!” Truth be told, I could probably quote that whole movie to you as iconic and memorable, and I am deeply sorry for the string of quotes that I have inevitably set off in your mind from that movie. If, on the other hand, you do not recognize that quote from the Princess Bride, allow me to gently chide you for your lack of movie education and encourage you to make it your life mission for this week to watch it.

One other iconic movie scene happens near the end of the movie Braveheart, when William Wallace lies on the rack being tortured by the English and he raises his head, and cries out with his last breath: “FREEDOM!”

If the apostle Paul were to have a favourite movie clip, I think that scene from Braveheart would have a good chance of making the cut. Paul, on numerous occasions throughout his writing, reiterates the importance of freedom in the Christian life, and Romans chapter 14 is no exception.

You may wonder why this subject comes up in Paul’s writing. Let me clarify a couple of things: first, we must remember that much of Paul’s readership was made up of pretty new Christians. And their lives before they became Christians came from numerous backgrounds and even numerous faiths. So switching to the Christian faith involved some growing pains for these people. One of those growing pains was understanding that the rules and stigmas of their old ways of life did not apply to their new life in Jesus.

Here’s the second reason freedom comes up so often in Paul’s writings: it is the tendency of some people in the Christian church (both past, a evidenced by Paul’s writing in chapter 14, and present) who restrict and limit the freedom of others by imposing their views/morals/beliefs on others. Quite often, this is not done in a loving, caring, helping someone grow kind of a way. Instead, it is often done in a very judgmental, heavy handed, legalistic kind of way. That specifically is what Paul is addressing here in Romans 14 and into 15.

There were people in the Roman church who were judging and condemning other people because of what they eat or drank, because they celebrated Sabbath on a different day of the week or because there was a difference of opinion about what was clean and unclean.

The real key, Paul points out is two-fold. First, whatever we do, we do it for the Lord. So if someone celebrates Sabbath on Saturday, he/she does it to the Lord. If someone eats something, they do it for the Lord. If someone abstains from eating something, they abstain to the Lord. Paul makes it clear here that it is the motivation and the heart of the person in it’s direction to Jesus that is the important factor. Jesus is Lord, so he calls the shots. We have absolutely no ground to stand on in judging others.

The second Paul makes very clear is this: if we really love someone, if the law of love (as Paul puts it) is at work in our lives, then we should be willing to sacrifice our comfort for theirs. We should be willing to seek out the other person’s good instead of our own. The interesting thing is that works both ways. So if I love my brother in Christ, I will not judge him because he chooses to drink a beer on a Friday night. AND if that brother loves me, he will not drink beer in a way that makes me uncomfortable.

Just a side note: I only chose that illustration because it is a common item of judgement among some Christians. I quite enjoy a cold, frothy beverage from time to time.

That is the whole point of chapter 15. If we are mature in Christ, we should always act and speak in ways that benefit our neighbour, not ourselves, “in order to build him up” Paul says.

It all boils down to Romans 15:7 “Therefore, accept one another, just as the Messiah accepted you, to the glory of God.”

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Acts 20:4-23:35