Christianity for Dummies

Today’s Reflection:

“Everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence. But by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free.” (Romans 3:23,24)

So many people are overwhelmed by the complexity of religion. They’re intimidated by it, they don’t get it, they don’t want to talk about it—and even if they do, they just can’t wrap their brain around it to be able to string enough cogent thoughts together to carry on a stimulating conversation about it.

But that is absolutely not the case with true Christianity. I know, “true Christianity” is redundant, but I want to distinguish authentic faith from the junked up, messed up stuff that some misguided folks have turned our faith into. Christianity is simple—so simple, even a caveman can get it. God made sure of that. Here it is in a nutshell in Romans 3. The Apostle Paul, a master theologian who sometimes was not all that easy to grasp, probably foresaw the need for a “Christianity for Dummies”, so he simply, clearly and briefly spelled out the real condition of humankind, God’s offer of salvation, the essence of faith, and the core beliefs of Christianity in this chapter.

I would highly recommend, as a reaffirmation of your faith and as a great refresher for evangelism, that you go back and re-read Romans 3 in a modern translation, like The Message or The New Living Translation. You’ll be amazed at the profound simplicity of our Christian faith.

Or I can give you the Cliff’s Notes version:

1. The truth about you and me—Romans 3:3:9-12

Basically, all of us, whether insiders (Jews who have the Law) or outsiders (Gentiles who live as a law unto themselves), start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it: “There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. No one’s living right; I can’t find a single one.”

2. The bad news—Romans 3:20

“For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are,” i.e., we’ll never attain God’s favor in this life now or in the life to come by being good enough.

3. The good news—Romans 3:21-22

“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him [without our futile effort to be good enough for God]. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”

4. Say What?—Romans 3:23-24

“Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living up to the standards God demands of us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ dying on the cross to pay for our sins.”

5. How cool is Christianity—Romans 3:25

“God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world—you and me—to clear that world—you and me—of sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.”

That’s it! That’s the Good News—and that news really is good! Religion is complex; Christianity is simple. Religion is about what you have to do; Christianity is about what God has done! Religion requires you to sacrifice to appease your god; Christianity required God to sacrifice his Son to appease himself. In religion, you pay; in Christianity, Jesus paid it all. Religious faith is about works; Christian faith is about belief. Religion leads to death; Christianity leads to life.

Need I say more?

Now I’m not all that bright—on par with a caveman—but I think I’ll take Christianity! How ‘bout you?

Something To Consider:
“At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.” ~Martin Luther

Romans 16: Friends

Read Romans 16:1-27

Friends

I commend to you Phoebe…she has been helpful
to many, and especially to me.
~Romans 16:1

Digging Deeper: So who was Phoebe?  We don’t really know, except that she was a deacon in the church in Cenchrea—which brings up a whole different matter about women deacons.  I won’t go there for now, but, hey, the Bible sure does…

Anyway, we don’t know much about Phoebe, or the other friends Paul names as he closes out the book of Romans.  Now, I want to do something normally guaranteed to lose your interest at this point—I want to list those names for you. But before I do, promise me that you’ll read through this entire list.  You probably won’t be able to pronounce the names correctly, but that’s okay, I can’t either.  I just read them really fast and with a lot of bravado, so when people hear me they think I must be an expert in ancient languages.  Try it—you’ll impress your friends.

So here they are: There’s Priscilla Aquila, Penetus, Mary, Andronicus, Junia, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, the household of Aristobulus, the household of Narcissus, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus and his mother, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and his fellow Christians, Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, Olympia and her Christian friends, Timothy, Lucias, Jason, Sosipater, Tertius, Gaius, Erastus, and last but not least, Quartus.

Whew!  My spell-checker is smoking.  I don’t think it will ever be the same again.

So what’s up with these names?  Simply this:  Paul, the great Apostle, the guy who deservedly gets his name in lights almost every Lord’s Day in churches around the world, knew very well that he couldn’t have done it without the help of his friends.  If Paul were accepting an Oscar, he would be up there for minutes listing off all the people he’d like to thank—these names and many others he mentions in some of his other writings.

This great theologian who was largely responsible for the evangelization of the western world didn’t do it all by himself.  He needed a little help from his friends in every city where he preached the gospel and/or planted a church.  Though you will likely never hear a sermon or attend a Bible study where these names are given any mention, Paul gives them their props in the eternal Word of God.

My point is, it takes a team to do the work of the Kingdom. For sure, there are leading characters on the Kingdom team, but it’s still a team, mostly of unnamed, unsung heroes who are typically forgotten—except by God.  God never forgets.  He appreciates the contributions of each and every one—even the lesser lights.  And he has stored up indescribable recognition and reward for them in the Kingdom to come.  And Paul’s mention of them here in the last chapter in Romans is a subtle reminder to us of their contribution to his efforts and of their value to God.

Maybe you are one of those unnamed, unsung heroes who goes unnoticed by everyone else.  But your faithfulness is noticed by God.  Perhaps you are a Phoebe to a Paul or a Patrobas to a Peter or a Junius to a John, and you wonder if you really matter.  My response to you is, “Yes, you matter.  We wouldn’t be effective in building God’s Kingdom without you!  It takes a team—and no matter how you feel, you are an integral part of that team!”

But more important than my acknowledgement is God’s.  He has written your name in a book too—one that’s even better than Romans.  It’s the Book of Life. And God himself will celebrate your name all eternity long.  How’s that for recognition.

So just be faithful doing what you’re doing.  Your day is coming!

“God has not called us to do great things, but
to do small things with great love.”
~Mother Teresa

 

This Weeks Assignment

Read: Romans 16:1-27

Memorize: Romans 16:17

“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions
and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the
teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.”

For Your Consideration: Every church is made up of friends of Christ as well as enemies of the Gospel.  Even your church!  That may be hard for you to swallow, but it’s true.  Now rather than getting you riled up and ready to go on a witch hunt, here is what Paul would ask you to do:  First, take the time to express your gratitude to God for those true friends who make the Gospel possible in your church.  And not only thank God for them, thank them, too.  Second, simply and steadfastly stay alert to anyone that would cause a division in your fellowship.  Satan’s chief strategy to weaken your church is to divide it—and he usually begins with small, subtle cracks!  Don’t’ let him!

Romans 15: Go Missional

Read Romans 15:1-33

Go Missional

“My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of
Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already
been started by someone else. I have been following the plan
spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘Those who
have never been told about him will see, and those
who have never heard of him will understand.’”
~Romans 15:20-21

Digging Deeper: Are you a missional Christian?

I thought I was. I grew up in the church where the occasional missionary would come, and if we were lucky, show slides of his work in Africa, or some other far off place that I’d only heard about in geography lessons at school. Then I grew up and became a pastor, and again, the occasional missionary would come and tell the church of what God was doing somewhere far away, and I would feel good that we were a missions church. I would even give occasionally to support the church’s missions effort around the world. I thought I was a missions-minded Christian.

But that began to change. Periodically, I was sent overseas for short-term missions projects by the various churches I served, and my heart began to get reshaped by what I saw God doing among people who had never heard the name of Jesus before. The signs, wonders and miracles in the missions context (Paul talks about that in his own missions context in Romans 15:19) blew my mind. I had never seen such things in the U.S, and experiencing it abroad, I longed to see the supernatural back home in my church, too. God was shaking me and reshaping my heart for missions. He was getting me ready to go missional!

Then in 2003, God completely dislocated my heart, and gave me a passion for missions like I had never had before—a passion for reaching people who’d never heard the Gospel of Christ. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, I was becoming intensely missionial.

It all happened when I reluctantly got involved in a church-planting project in a remote, unreached region in Africa. I was reluctant because I knew that my involvement would require a lot of my own personal resources, and to be successful, would require significant resources from my church. Figuring our resource pie was stretched, and limited, I secretly feared that the finances we dedicated to this project would flow away from other worthy projects; that we would simply be “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

But then, God spoke to me. Not in an audible voice or through writing on the wall or some other sensational sort of way (wouldn’t that be cool!). He simply and clearly spoke to me through an undeniable and unmistakable inner impression in my spirit. Addressing my fears, God simply said, “Ray, if you will take care of the things I care about, then I will take care of the things you care about. I care about a lost world. I care about people who have never heard my name. And I want you to care about them too!”

That was good enough for me. I jumped into this project up to my eyeballs, and true to his word, God turned on a miraculous flow of resources, not only for this church planting project, but for those other projects I had been so concerned about as well. Best of all, our obedience keyed a revival in this region of Africa that was beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. In a region where only a few believers attended a handful of churches before this missions effort, five years later 1397 churches have been planted and at a last count, 70,000 believers added to those churches. And the revival is showing no signs of slowing.

What God has done in Africa through the obedience of that church changed my heart forever, and has given me a growing, if not consuming passion for missions. I still have a passion for my local church (that’s missions, too), but I have an added ambition now: To keep God’s people focused on reaching people who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ.

That was Paul’s ambition, according to Romans 15:20. That is God’s ambition, according to Romans 15:21. I hope that you will open your heart and let God make it your ambition as well. I hope that you will travel with me down the path to becoming a truly missional Christian. If you will, I will make you the same promise God made me:

“If you will take care of the things God cares about—a lost world, God will take care of the things you care about—your world.”

What a deal! That’s an offer you can’t refuse.

“The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get
to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.”

~Henry Martyn

 

This Week’s Assignment

Read: Romans 15:1-33

Memorize: Romans 15:1

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings
of the weak and not to please ourselves.”

For Your Consideration: Are you suffering from the me-asles? It’s pretty hard to spot in yourself, so why don’t you ask someone who knows you and is willing to be lovingly truthful with you if you are infected. For certain, ask the Great Physician to examine you. Take the time to respond to these questions—they will help to give you a more accurate assessment of your condition:

Do you tend to think of yourself first, or do you gladly and proactively put the needs and interests of others ahead of your own?

Are you willing to put up with inconvenience and discomfort for the sake of Christ?

What do you need to do to increase your “servant quotient”?

Where might your attitude need adjusting?

How can you become more accountable for growth in this area of servant-heartedness?

Who are you serving in the name of Christ?

Is this motto, “God is first, others are second, and I am third” true of you?

It would certainly be easy to breeze through this examination and ignore the prescription that will cure this disease, but the certain outcome of such avoidance will be to live with a persistent case of the me-asles. So what does a daily dose of dethronement look like for you in a practical sense?

Romans 15: Get Your Ambition On!

Read Romans 15:14-33

Get Your Ambition On!

It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ is not
known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.
~Romans 15:20

Digging Deeper:  It’s time to get your ambition on!

Ambition is something that in our day has an equally positive and negative connotation.  In the negative sense, ambitious people are seen as willing to compromise, step on people, win at all costs, and be ruthlessly opportunistic to get what they want—which is usually “to the top.”

When we think of ambition in the positive sense, we prefer to speak of it in terms of passion.  This sort of ambitious person is passionate; perhaps we might even call them driven.  The Apostle Paul was all of those: driven, passionate, and ambitious in the best sense of the word.

Paul’s passionate drivenness was a holy ambition.  It was holy because Paul clearly understood that his calling did not originate within himself, but it was from God:  “…because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God…” (Romans 15:15-16)  Paul had been given a divine purpose, and come hell or high water, it was that very purpose that inexorably drove Paul toward its accomplishment.

Furthermore, Paul was ambitious for all the glory to go directly to God: “Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done…” (Romans 15:17-18) Paul did not want to achieve fame for himself, he wanted only to make God’s name famous among the Gentiles. That’s why Paul was dogged in his determination to take the gospel to Gentiles who had never heard, refusing to co-opt another preacher’s labor, but choosing rather to prophetically plant where no preacher had been. (Romans 15:20-22)

Finally, what elevated Paul’s ambition from merely human to altogether holy was the fact that it was authenticated by the power of the Holy Spirit through signs and wonders: “by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.” (Romans 15:19)  God had called Paul to do what he was doing and Paul passionately did what he did for the glory of God alone, and that was the perfect recipe for the release of the divine power that enabled Paul to do what only God could do.

What has God done through you lately?  You know, God wants to give you a holy ambition for great things, too—even supernatural things!  That ambition is there, wrapped and waiting in heaven to be released to you.  But God won’t waste one ounce of holy ambition on those who would use it for their own gain. However, for those who will open their hearts to being used by God and then doggedly dedicate themselves to be used for God’s glory alone, God will release supernatural supply to do through them what only God can do. And that, my friend, is the best kind of ambition; far better, more rewarding, and soul-satisfying than any human ambition—even the most altruistic ambition.  It is holy ambition.

Do you have it?  If not, it’s time to get your ambition on!  So sanctify your motives, open up your heart, and get ready for God to use you to achieve some glory for him!

“Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things, above all that we ask or think.  Each time, before you Intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can  do, and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ, and expect great things!”
~Andrew Murray

 

This Week’s Assignment:

Read: Romans 15:1-33

Memorize: Romans 15:1

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings
of the weak and not to please ourselves.”

For Your Consideration: Are you suffering from the me-asles? It’s pretty hard to spot in yourself, so why don’t you ask someone who knows you and is willing to be lovingly truthful with you if you are infected. For certain, ask the Great Physician to examine you. Take the time to respond to these questions—they will help to give you a more accurate assessment of your condition:

Do you tend to think of yourself first, or do you gladly and proactively put the needs and interests of others ahead of your own?

Are you willing to put up with inconvenience and discomfort for the sake of Christ?

What do you need to do to increase your “servant quotient”?

Where might your attitude need adjusting?

How can you become more accountable for growth in this area of servant-heartedness?

Who are you serving in the name of Christ?

Is this motto, “God is first, others are second, and I am third” true of you?

It would certainly be easy to breeze through this examination and ignore the prescription that will cure this disease, but the certain outcome of such avoidance will be to live with a persistent case of the me-asles. So what does a daily dose of dethronement look like for you in a practical sense?

Romans 15: A Bad Case of the Me-asles

Read Romans 15:1-13

A Bad Case of the Me-asles

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak
and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his
neighbor for his good, to build him up.
~Romans 15:1-2

Digging Deeper: It’s the worst disease of all. It’s called the me-asles. Yeah, that’s right, me-asles (emphasis on the “me”), not measles. The me-asles have been going around since the beginning of time.  It’s pandemic, it’s virulent, and it’s resistant to all but one drug—dethroning.

You know what I’m talking about … me-asles? “It’s all about me…my needs, my desires, my comfort, my happiness… me…me…me!” The me-asles puts me at the center (a horrible place to be, by the way), God at the periphery (the most subtle but devastating sin of all), and everybody else on the outside (no worse violation of the spirit of Christ).

Me-asles gets particular nasty when it infects churches.  You know there’s an outbreak when you start hearing, “you’re sitting in my seat…that doesn’t feed me…that music isn’t for me…that doesn’t make me comfortable…they’re asking too much of me.”  And, unfortunately, a lot of churches these days really cater to that “me” mindset. If I were you and found myself in a church that doesn’t want to acknowledge or address this spreading outbreak of me-asles, and in fact, actually contributes to it, I’d find a new church in a heartbeat. Get into a fellowship and under anointed leadership that doesn’t shy away from dethroning you and enthroning the One who rightly deserves your worship and service.  Get into a church that demands God first, others second, and you a distant third.

Dethroning can be painful, but there’s nothing like getting your me-asles cleared up! You see, when believers get cured from this nasty infection, the health that comes to the body of Christ is nothing less than spectacular—and even that’s an understatement.  When you get rid of the me-asles, corporate encouragement will flourish and biblical hope will grow. (Romans 15:4) Moreover, the church will experiences unity and God will receive the glory that he is due. (Romans 15:5-6) Suddenly, people will find your church a place where they can experience transforming love and find heart-healing acceptance. (Romans 15:7)  Not only that, but the unbelievers in your community will be irresistibly drawn to Christ by the love you and your fellow Christians have for one another. (Romans 15:9, cf. John 13:35, 15:13) And what about you? Well, you can expect to be filled with nothing less than joy, peace and the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).  Quite preferable to the me-asles, wouldn’t you say?

So here’s the deal: You can settle for persistent case of the me-asles, or you can take a daily dose of dethroning until it clears up.  What’s it going to be?

“Those who do not hate their own selfishness and regard themselves
as more important than the rest of the world are blind
because the truth lies elsewhere.”
~Blaise Pascal


This Week’s Assignment:

Read: Romans 15:1-33

Memorize: Romans 15:1

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings
of the weak and not to please ourselves.”

For Your Consideration: Are you suffering from the me-asles? It’s pretty hard to spot in yourself, so why don’t you ask someone who knows you and is willing to be lovingly truthful with you if you are infected. For certain, ask the Great Physician to examine you. Take the time to responds to these questions—they will help to give you a more accurate assessment of your condition:

Do you tend to think of yourself first, or do you gladly and proactively put the needs and interests of others ahead of your own?

Are you willing to put up with inconvenience and discomfort for the sake of Christ?

What do you need to do to increase your “servant quotient”?

Where might your attitude need adjusting?

How can you become more accountable for growth in this area of servant-heartedness?

Who are you serving in the name of Christ?

Is this motto, “God is first, others are second, and I am third” true of you?

It would certainly be easy to breeze through this examination and ignore the prescription that will cure this disease, but the certain outcome of such avoidance will be to live with a persistent case of the me-asles. So what does a daily dose of dethronement look like for you in a practical sense?

Romans 14: What Matters Most

Read Romans 14:1-23

What Matters Most

“The Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or
what we drink, but of living a life of goodness,
and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
~Romans 14:17

Digging Deeper: So much of what Christians get uptight about, particularly as it relates to how others are living out their faith, really doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of how the Kingdom of God is to be fleshed out.  It just doesn’t matter if some believers drink wine or play cards or put a dollar down on the lottery, or go to movies or dance socially, or you name it.  It doesn’t matter if some Christians run around, jump up and down and wave flags when they worship, or go to church on Friday night rather than Sunday morning, or give their offerings online rather than in the plate, or whatever, whatever…

That’s what Paul is really teaching here in Romans 14. Certain of the Roman Christians in Paul’s day were getting uptight with other believers, because they weren’t living out their faith the way these Roman church members were.  In that day, the issue had to do with certain foods that some believers felt was inappropriate to eat.  The big deal about meat was that before it had been purchased, it had likely been sacrificed to an idol prior to its arrival at the market. That was a concern to the non-meat eating believers, because they believed that to now eat that meat was to give tacit worship to idols.

Another issue had to do with what day they believed was the correct day to gather for worship.  Some thought that Saturday, the Sabbath, was the correct day, while others preferred Sunday worship service.  And as people chose sides over these issues, hard feelings and disharmony was the result in the church.

So Paul says, “look gang, what foods you eat or don’t eat and what day you choose to worship just doesn’t matter in the bigger picture of what the Kingdom of God is all about.  You are free to do what you want so long as your bottom line motivation in life is to bring honor to the Lord.”  Notice these words,

“For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves.  If we live, it is to honor the Lord.  And if we die, it is to honor the Lord.  So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
(Romans 14:7-8)

That is a great rule of life to live by.  If your motive is to bring honor to the Lord, then nothing else really matters.  Do what you want, eat what you want, drink what you want, worship when you want and in the way you want—as long as your sole purpose is to glorify the Lord.  That’s why Paul went on to remind these believers, “the Kingdom of God is not a matter of meat or drink, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Now Paul gives a couple of caveats to this principle.  One, if you cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble by deliberately doing certain things that offend their conscience, then you’ve missed the point.  You are not glorifying God.  You are unnecessarily creating disharmony, and harmony in the family of God is a big deal, a very big deal, to the Lord.  And two, if you take advantage of this liberty in Christ to do something that your own conscience tells you not to do, then you have crossed over into sin.  So be careful in the exercise of your Christian freedom.

Here is what really matters in our Christian faith:  Just do everything to honor God, and you will be okay.

As St. Augustine said, “Just love God, and then do what you want.”

“To many, total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.”
~St. Augustine

This Week’s Assignment

Read: Romans 14:1-23

Memorize: Romans 14:19

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads
to peace and to mutual edification.”

For Your Consideration: What is it that really bugs you about other Christians?  Make a list, and then ask yourself, “Should these things really matter to me?”  (Hint: The answer will be “no” in about 99.9% of the things you list, and the other .01% are in doubt.) The real point of this exercise is to see where you may have fallen into a judgmental spirit toward other believers.  By the way, if you think this is no big deal and you would just as soon skip this little assignment, just remember, God takes this thing very seriously.  That’s why he has one entire chapter in Romans devoted to it.

 

Romans 14: Stumbling Block or Building Block

Read Romans 14:13-23

Stumbling Block or Building Block

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead,
make up your mind not to put any stumbling block
or obstacle in your brother’s way.
~Romans 14:13

Digging Deeper: There is an intentional and intriguing choice of Greek words here in Romans 14:13. It’s the word, krino, which means “to judge”.  The Apostle Paul used it twice: The first time as a negative, “stop passing judgment” and second time as a positive, “make up your mind.”

What Paul has done in this chapter is to bring each of us to one of the most critical decisions we will ever make as Christ-followers: To either use our lives as a stumbling block or as a building block in the body of Christ. That outcome is determined by the mindset we choose.

If we choose to pass judgments about other believers based only on our opinions and preferences (“disputable matters”—Romans 14:1), we will very likely cause the subject of our judgments and the onlookers to our judgmental expressions to fall into sin. Even though our opinions and preferences in and of themselves may not be sin, when they are offered in such a way as to block another believer’s growth and sap their spiritual vitality, we become a stumbling block, and in so doing, commit one of the worst sins possible: Causing someone else to falter. (Luke 17:1-3)

That is why our best judgment must be deliberately employed at all times to choose and use the kinds of words, attitudes and actions that build others up in their faith. When we do, we become that which is highly prized by heaven: A building block in the body of Christ.  Paul says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19) “Edification” comes from the Greek word, oikodomay, which literally refers to the thing that is built, and metaphorically to the act of one who promotes another believer’s growth in wisdom, joy, piety, and purity.

So what, then, are you to do with your opinions and preferences—the things you feel very strongly about?  It’s simple: For the most part, keep them to yourself.  Think I’m being too hard?  Think again: “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.” (Romans 14:22)  And if you do feel the need to offer them, which you have every right to do, express them respectfully and carefully. As Paul says, “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of” what you prefer. (Romans 14:20)

Simply remember this critical piece of theology and you’ll always be a building block, not a stumbling block: “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking [your opinions and preferences], but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

Righteousness, peace and joy! When you value those three kingdom jewels and promote them at all times, you will have chosen the best and highest use of your life.  And best of all, your life will be forever prized by heaven!

“Men stumble over pebbles, never over mountains.
~Marilyn French

This Week’s Assignment:

Read: Romans 14:1-23

Memorize: Romans 14:19

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads
to peace and to mutual edification.”

For Your Consideration: What is it that really bugs you about other Christians?  Make a list, and then ask yourself, “Should these things really matter to me?”  (Hint: The answer will be “no” in about 99.9% of the things you list, and the other .01% are in doubt.) The real point of this exercise is to see where you may have fallen into a judgmental spirit toward other believers.  By the way, if you think this is no big deal and you would just as soon skip this little assignment, just remember, God takes this thing very seriously.  That’s why he has one entire chapter in Romans devoted to it.