Do Over: Introduction to Romans

Do you ever wish that you could take back something that you said or did?  The apostle Paul shows us in Romans that Christ alone can cancel a person’s past and give us second chances. Jesus offers you the “do over” that you’re looking for.  I hope that you can join us for our new series called Do Over.

Don’t you love that our God is a relational God?  I do!  God has used many ways to communicate with us such as creation, our conscience, Christ and his Words. Even in His word he gives us various types of literature to speak to us:  He gave the Pentateuch, (the Law). He gave us history, He gave poetry, and He gave prophecy. He gave the Gospels, and now we come to a new section: the Epistles (or letters) the majority of which were written by Paul.

These letters that we have, these epistles are so warm and so personal that, as far as you and I are concerned, it is just as if they came by special delivery mail to us today. The Lord is speaking to us personally in each one of these very wonderful letters that Paul and the other apostles wrote to the churches. Romans contains the great gospel manifesto for the world. To Paul the gospel was the great ecumenical movement and Rome was the center of that world for which Christ died.

Interesting Facts: 

  • The book of Romans is the longest letter of all the epistles. (Did you know that Paul’s Epistles are in placed in the New Testament based on length, not chronological order? Galatians was the first epistle that Paul wrote)
  • Some commentators and authors say that Romans is Paul’s Magnum Opus.
  • Paul had not been to Rome when he wrote the epistle. Romans was written in Corinth about AD 57.
  • The letter was evidently carried by a woman name Phoebe, a deaconess (servant) from the church in Rome. ( 16:1).
  • The Key Theme is “The Righteousness of God” which Paul uses over 30 times in this epistle.
  • Preaching from Romans 1:17 caused a radical transformation in two men who went on to be the founders of two church denominations. See below:

On May 24, 1738, a discouraged missionary went “very unwillingly” to a religious meeting in London. There a miracle took place. “About a quarter before nine,” he wrote in his journal, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

That missionary was John Wesley. The message he heard that evening was the preface to Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans. Just a few months before, John Wesley had written in his journal: “I went to America to convert the Indians; but Oh! who shall convert me?” That evening in Aldersgate Street, his question was answered. And the result was the great Wesleyan Revival that swept England and transformed the nation.

Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is still transforming people’s lives, just the way it transformed John Wesley.

The one Scripture above all others that brought Luther out of mere religion into the joy of salvation by grace, through faith, was Romans 1:17: “The just shall live by faith.” The Protestant Reformation and the Wesleyan Revival were both the fruit of this wonderful letter written by Paul.

Imagine! You and I can read and study the same inspired letter that brought life and power to Luther and Wesley! And the same Holy Spirit who taught them can teach us! You and I can experience revival in our hearts, homes, and churches if the message of this letter grips us as it has gripped men of faith in centuries past.

Join us as we dive into Romans, be prepared to be transformed by the good news of the gospel,  leave your past behind and experience a “do over!”

Darrell

Sources:  Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee. Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.  The Essential Bible Companion, Zondervan, 2006
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Experiencing God

Are you in one of life’s storms?  “Into each life some rain must fall” writes Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.   For some of us there’s not a cloud on the sky, for some it’s drizzling on us. Others of us – it’s raining. Some of us have been hit by a lightning bolt. Others of us have had a tornado or a hurricane just rip apart our lives.  Job has had it the worst storms take everything from him.  Job is mad at God. Job feels like God’s not answering his prayer. Job’s saying, “Lord, I just want a chance to plead my case in your court. That’s all I want! God, I just want you to show up.”

So, Job finally has his prayer answered. When God answers Job’s prayer, it’s interesting in Job 38 verse 1, it says; “The Lord answered Job out of a storm.” Do you find that fascinating? All these storms had wrecked Job’s life; but God spoke to Job out of the storm.

God says to Job, “Brace yourself like a man, and I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’’ In the book of Job, there are 288 question marks. In the following chapter, we will see that 78 of those 288 question marks come from God.  What’s fascinating is that in Job 38 all the way through Job chapter 42, God never answers any of the questions that were raised by Job and his friends. He does not answer their questions. He just asks question after question after question. He gives Job a lesson on cosmology. He gives Job a lesson on zoology. He gives Job a lesson on physics and mathematics. Where were you, Job, when the foundations of the earth were laid? Do you know how difficult that was? Where were you when all the animals were made? What do you know about this? What do you know about that? And God just asked Job question after question after question that no human being could possibly answer.

The amazing thing is after God goes off on Job, this man who is naked, sitting on a big pile of garbage, scraping himself with a broken piece of pottery, his life is shattered, and his friends have given poor advice. What kind of comfort is that? The amazing thing is that after God finished, Job was okay.  He didn’t answer any of his questions, just asked a bunch of questions – and Job’s okay.

At the end of the book of Job, Job had everything restored to him – he got a lot more camels, a lot more donkeys, and ten kids to replace the ten kids who had died in the storm. Had all this prosperity, was able to visit with his great-great grandchildren. He died a man – a happy man – at a ripe old age. How did it happen?

Did he die happy because God compensated him? Is that the point of the book of Job?  If you have faith and trust God, He’s going to compensate you?  He’s going to bless you in this life, and the life to come?  God gave him ten children to replace the other ten children. Is that why Job died happy? He got a rebate and more?

No! You cannot replace the loss of a child, much less ten children. You cannot replace that loss. So why did Job die happy? Look at Job 42:1: (After the Lord’s 78 questions) “Job replies to the Lord, ‘I know that You can do all things. No plan of Yours can be thwarted. You ask who is this that obscures My counsel without knowledge; surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, “Listen now and I will speak. I will question you and you shall answer Me.” My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.’”

Why did Job die happy? He did so because God gave Job a glimpse of the big picture. That’s it. God gave Job a view – a panoramic view – of the big picture. He gave Job a view of His power; He gave Job a view of His sovereignty. He gave Job just a taste of His presence, and Job was completely satisfied.

I’m a bad photographer.  I mess up my pictures all the time.  I look at ones that I think will be great and then they are all fuzzy.  But God is a great photographer.  Because God has a wide angled lens, and God sees not only what’s in front of you, He sees the whole panoramic view of the history of the universe, and He sees the entire panoramic view of your life and of my life.  Nothing happens on this planet without God’s permission, without God’s sovereign hand behind it. It doesn’t mean that everything that happens on this planet, everything that happens in your life is good. Real evil happens to real people every single day. There are some things in this life that we will never figure out. There are some wounds that we will experience in this life that will never fully heal. But God’s panoramic view, the fact that God is sovereignly in control, gave Job great solace, gave Job great comfort.  It amazes me as I read the scripture, because I’m a why person, and even though Job didn’t get an answer, he was satisfied.

Job was satisfied because God showed up. And even when God blessed him financially again, when God blessed him with children again, that was simply an appetizer. All the goodness, all the joy, all the happiness, all the pleasures that we experience here on this earth – it’s simply a foretaste, an appetizer to the big meal!  Heaven.

We know that life here is only temporary. That’s just a speck compared to the joys and the pleasures and the comfort of heaven.

He’s promised us His presence, His presence. And God’s presence is with you whether we feel it or not.

Sometimes He allows us to feel His presence, sometimes He gives us those feelings, but many times there are no feelings there. Nothing – but God is with us.  I like this poem entitled I Believe.

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.

I believe in love, even when I feel it not.

I believe in God, even when He is silent.

This poem was found scribbled on the walls of a concentration camp.

What did Job want? Job simply wanted God to not be silent, and God spoke up! He made a cameo appearance. And that was enough.

Do you ever ask for that? Have you ever asked for that in your life? Have you ever said, “God, I wish You would come down out of heaven and talk to me.” “Lord, I want You to perform some kind of miracle, give me some kind of sign to know that You’re real.” “God, I sure wish You would give me some explanation for why I had to go through this particular storm, why I had to get this particular disease, why I had to go through this certain situation of rejection, why You had to take this person out of my life. Why I had to endure this affliction, this pain. Lord, I just want You to tell me, show me, show up, do something?  Have you ever had those feelings?

Jesus Christ answers Job’s questions. Have you ever thought about that? Because through Christ, we have God’s presence with us. We want an audience with God; God has spoken to us through nature. God has spoken to us through His prophets. God has spoken to us through the law, and God ultimately spoke to us through His Son, the incarnation. God is with us.  Jesus Christ offers healing for us – isn’t that great? I’m not saying He’s going to make everything hunky-dory. Just a snap of His fingers, just pray the prayer, believe hard enough and all your problems, all the pain, all the hurt’s going to go away. No. But God will, through Christ and through His presence, give us healing to know that His presence is with us. He’ll give us healing from the penalty of sin. That’s our deepest need – is to be made right with this holy, powerful God. And the only way to be made right with Him is through trusting in Jesus Christ and in Christ alone, who suffered in your place and in my place.

So, we look at Christ, we gain healing for the present and we also gain hope for the future. As we look to the cross, we realize that our sin and our life was so ugly, that it cost God the death of His only Son.

And we realize through trusting in the person of Christ that we are forgiven. And then we receive a partial healing in this life, but we receive hope in the eternal life that we will one day be with Him in a perfect world, a new heavens and a new earth, where there’s no sickness, where there’s no pain, where there’s no suffering.  In Christ we have that!

I have experienced the love, salvation and presence of Christ in my life and I pray that you may too.

Darrell

Sources:  Life Application Bible Notes, Bible Exposition Commentary and also adapted from Dr. Ben Young’s “Why Job Died Smiling”
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A Living Hope – Job 19

Have you ever been crushed by what a friend or family member has said?   Have you ever crushed a loved one with your words?  In today’s scripture Job’s friends have crushed him with their words.  When people are hurting they don’t need lectures, they need love. When trying comfort a friend who is suffering it’s best to say very little.  Words like, “I’m sorry,” and “I’m praying for you.” are best.   Look at what Job says to his friends,

1  Then Job replied:  2  “How long will you torment me and crush me with words?
3  Ten times now you have reproached me; shamelessly you attack me. 4 If it is true that I have gone astray, my error remains my concern alone.  5  If indeed you would exalt yourselves above me and use my humiliation against me,
Job 19:1-5 (NIV)

What do I do when?

  • My Friends Attack

What do I do when I feel that?

  • My God has Wronged

6  then know that God has wronged me and drawn his net around me. 7  “Though I cry, ‘I’ve been wronged!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice 8  He has blocked my way so I cannot pass; he has shrouded my paths in darkness. 9  He has stripped me of my honor and removed the crown from my head. 10  He tears me down on every side till I am gone; he uproots my hope like a tree. 11  His anger burns against me; he counts me among his enemies.  12  His troops advance in force; they build a siege ramp against me and encamp around my tent. 13  “He has alienated my brothers from me; my acquaintances are completely estranged from me. Job 19:6-13 (NIV)

 What do I do when?

  • My Family has Abandoned

14  My kinsmen have gone away; my friends have forgotten me. 15  My guests and my maidservants count me a stranger; they look upon me as an alien16  I summon my servant, but he does not answer, though I beg him with my own mouth. 17  My breath is offensive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own brothers. 18  Even the little boys scorn me; when I appear, they ridicule me.
19  All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me. 20  I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped with only the skin of my teeth. 21  “Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me.
Job 19:14-21 (NIV)

 This has to be the low point of Job’s life!   It seems that EVERYONE has turned against him.  Have you ever felt that way?  Despite all that he lost and all that he experienced Job had a living hope.  A hope that was beyond what he could see and feel in that moment.

Viktor Frankel was a Jewish psychotherapist who survived the Auschwitz death camp. He went on to write a book called, Man’s Search for Meaning, that sold over 10 million copies. He began the research for this book as he was actually in Auschwitz watching his fellow prisoners and how they responded to the death and the torture and the humiliation and degradation that was that death camp, Auschwitz. And in his observations he saw several things. He said some people became brutal. Good, nice, respectable people…when they saw and smelt death everyday and saw the nakedness and humiliation that went along with those demonic death camps some people who were nice and kind became brutal and savage like animals. Other people simply gave up. He said one day they just wouldn’t get out of the bunk.

One day they just wouldn’t show up for roll call. Many of them would set a date and they would think this is the day, I had a dream and this is the day I am going to get out of the camp, but the day wouldn’t come. When they began to lose hope, when they gave up the immunity system in their body shut down and opened them up to the variety of the diseases that were floating around the camp and they would die. He said some people held on, but they held onto some expectations that weren’t really real. They said, we are going to get out of here someday and when we get out of Auschwitz we are going to go back to our city, to our town and we are going to go back to our family and friends and enjoy the life of prosperity that we did before the war. And Frankel said they got out and life wasn’t the same. Life is never the same after undergoing a Job like, Auschwitz like time of suffering and they didn’t thrive or make it. There was a fourth group of people, according to Frankel, who somehow maintained their inner liberty, a sense of freedom. He said the way they did it is that they had hope that was outside of them. And he said the only way to survive this death camp is to have your trust in the living hope. A living hope in the middle of death, a living hope in the middle of unparalleled suffering, but it kept them alive and it gave them joy.

What gave Job hope?  What can give you and me hope?

Let’s read what Job says,

25  I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
26  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;
27  I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
Job 19:25-27 (NIV)

In 19:25-27, Job expressed confidence that, even if he died, he would still have a Redeemer who one day would exercise judgment on the earth. Furthermore, Job affirmed that he himself expected to live again and see his Redeemer! It was an affirmation of faith in the resurrection of the human body.

The Hebrew word translated “Redeemer” in verse 25 refers to the kinsman redeemer, the near relative who could avenge his brother’s blood (Deut. 19:6-12), reclaim and restore his brother’s property (Lev. 25:23-24, 39-55), and set his brother free from slavery   The kinsman redeemer could also go to court on behalf of a wronged relative (Prov. 23:10-11). In the book of Ruth, Boaz is the kinsman redeemer who was willing and able to rescue Ruth and give her a new life in a new land.

Previously, Job had talked about his need for an umpire (Job 9:33-34) and an Advocate in heaven (16:19). Now he takes it a step further: his Redeemer will one day vindicate him, and Job will be there to witness it! When you consider how little God had revealed in Job’s day about the future life, these words become a remarkable testimony of faith. And when you add to this the discouragement expressed by Job’s friends and his own intense suffering, Job’s witness becomes even more wonderful.

Of course, this kinsman redeemer is Jesus Christ. He took upon Himself a human nature so that He might reveal God to us, experience all that we experience, die for our sins, and then return to heaven to represent us before the Father. He is willing to save and able to save. One day He shall stand upon the earth and exercise judgment; and He will vindicate His own people.

Our living hope….

  • My Savior will Redeem Me!!

These few verses contain one of the most frequently quoted passages in the great book of Job. In it, Job cries out in the midst of his terrible suffering and expresses a great hope. He exclaims with an incredible burst of confidence that he knows that his Redeemer lives and that he will see Him with his own eyes! What an awesome hope! Job expresses here a faith like Paul described: a faith that fixes our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen (2 Co.4:18). There in the garbage dump all around Job, as well as in his own mortal body, were nothing but death and decay, suffering and disease. Nevertheless, Job took his eyes off his own pain and agony and, for a brief moment, lunged for the great unseen—the hope and certainty that God would redeem him.

Bear in mind that Job could neither see God nor hear God speaking at this time in his life. He longed for answers from the Lord but so far had received none. And sadly, all he had heard from his self-righteous and arrogant friends were more and more accusations, leading to additional heartache and a heavier burden. Still, from the depths of his being he longed for a Redeemer. Somehow, he knew that God would justify, redeem, and deliver him—if not in this life then surely in the next.

This is the hope that Job had, it’s the hope that I have.  Do you have this hope?  You can find it in Jesus Christ our redeemer.

Darrell

Sources: Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry.  Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible – Commentary – The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Job.

 

 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Comforting

Do you find it challenging to know what to say or how to respond to people who have experienced a great loss?  We may mean well, but if we’re not careful we can easily stick our foot in our mouth.  Sometimes, in painful situations, it is better to not say anything at all, then to try to comfort those who are grieving only to offend or hurt them further.

Too often, we are like this guy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In our passage of scripture today, we meet the “Three Amigos.”  Job’s three friends meant well and did some things well, but they also made some big mistakes with what they said. There are about 30 chapters of their distorted dialogue.

11  When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.  Job 2:11

Who were these three amigos?  Eliphaz was the oldest. Eliphaz based his speeches on two things: his own observations of life (“I have seen”—Job 4:8; 5:3) Eliphaz put great faith in tradition (15:18-19), and the God he worshiped was an inflexible Lawgiver. “Who ever perished being innocent?” he asked (4:7); and a host of martyrs could have answered, “We have!” And what about our Lord Jesus Christ? Eliphaz had a rigid theology that left little or no room for the grace of God or a bigger picture.

Bildad must have been the second oldest of the three since he is named second and spoke after Eliphaz. In a word, Bildad was a legalist. His life-text was, “Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will He help the evildoers” (8:20). He could quote ancient proverbs, and like Eliphaz, he had great respect for tradition. For some reason, Bildad was sure that Job’s children died because they also were sinners (8:4)! The man seemed to have no feeling for his hurting friend.

Zophar was the youngest of the three and surely the most dogmatic. He speaks like a schoolmaster addressing a group of ignorant freshmen. “Know this!” is his unfeeling approach (11:6; 20:4). He is merciless and tells Job that God was giving him far less than he deserved for his sins! (11:6)

Now, let’s look at what they did well.   What you can you or I do to help people in grief and loss?  Two big DO’s and one big DON’T

DO Show Up.  Be there.  

11  When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.  Job 2:11

Upon learning of Job’s difficulties, three of his friends came to sympathize with him and comfort him. Later we learn that their words of comfort were not helpful—but at least they came. While God rebuked them for what they said (Job 42:7), he did not rebuke them for what they did—making the effort to come to someone who was in need.  When someone is in need, let’s go to that person, but let’s be sensitive about how we comfort him or her.

Cancer survivor and author Nancy Stordahl, says, the worst thing you can do in someone’s time of grief is to, “not show up at all to offer a shoulder for someone to cry on because you’re scared you might say the wrong thing. Don’t worry too much about what you say; just speak from your heart and be ready to listen. And it’s perfectly okay to admit that you don’t know what to say or do. Your presence alone says a lot in and of itself, and your job is not to fix things anyway even though you want to.

And remember silence is so under-rated. Sometimes there are no words.

Sometimes silence isn’t ‘silent’ at all.”

Job’s friends left their businesses and families and set out to be with Job.  Our presence has power!  Let’s agree to be there for people who are hurting.  Let’s show up and show our love and support.

The second response we can have or what we can do is….

DO Feel as They Feel. (Empathy)

12  When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.
13  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was
. Job 2:12-13 (NIV)

Sympathy is to feel sorry for but empathy is try to put yourself in their shoes, to enter their pain.

Job’s friends showed grief with Job, they entered into grief with him by crying with him, tearing their robes and sprinkling dust on themselves. These were all signs of grieving in that time period and they joined with Job in his grief.

Then they sat for seven days!  Why did the friends arrive and then just sit quietly? According to Jewish tradition, people who come to comfort someone in mourning should not speak until the mourner speaks. Often the best response to another person’s suffering is silence. Job’s friends realized that his pain was too deep to be healed with mere words, so they said nothing. (If only they had continued to sit quietly!) Often, we feel we must say something spiritual and insightful to a hurting friend. Perhaps what he or she needs most is just our presence, showing that we care. Pat answers and trite quotations say much less than empathetic silence and loving companionship.

Try to feel what they feel but, “Try not to say, I know how you feel.

No two people are alike. No two experiences are alike, so no, you probably don’t know how the other person truly feels.

Instead say, I want to try to understand how you feel, tell me how you feel, I am here to listen. And then let the person share. This is not about you and your feelings. But of course, if the person wants to hear about your perhaps similar experience, by all means share. Take the cue from them.” [i]

Pastor and grief counselor of over 30 years Jim Rigby says,

“If you hear someone say, “I know how you feel” at a funeral, take them to the side and politely say, “no you don’t.” This is usually the opening for the “comforter” to talk about a loss they have suffered in their own past. It is painful to watch a grieving person have to listen to someone else’s past problems at such a painful time. Remind the comforter “this isn’t about you.”

The point is to let the grieving person know we care. We do that, by letting them set the tempo and the agenda of our conversation. And, in all my years of doing this work, I’ve never found words that are as helpful as loving and attentive silence.”

People we love and care for will suffer, have grief and loss.  What do we do? Be present, care, listen and try to feel as they feel.  We’ll look at more of what NOT to do in the next post.

Darrell

Additional Souirces:  Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry.
Life Application Study Bible.
[i] http://nancyspoint.com/four-things-not-to-say-to-someone-whos-grieving-or-recently-diagnosed-with-cancer/
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