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"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." --- Psalm 119:105

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Slavery Should Still Exist!

Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God... (Romans 1:1)

The Bible records the words "servant," "service," or "serve" in various forms over 1100 times. Most of these have the same meaning as "slave." This is because people are either servants of God or servants of other human beings. Both servant and slave have the same two characteristics: work and obedience.

A servant is one who is bound to his or her master. Slavery should still exist in that we should be bound to Jesus in every way. A servant or slave is one who follows orders and does everything his master tells him or her to do.  Slavery should still exist because we should obey every commandment of Jesus Christ. A master has full claim over his slave, and the slave has full commitment to his master.

Throughout his epistles, Paul calls himself a slave because it was his title of honor. Paul could have called himself many things, but at the beginning of most of his books, he identified himself as a slave, a servant or a bondservant of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1; I Corinthians 7:22; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1).

In the Line of Duty
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God. (Romans 1:1)

Whenever we hear the double prepositional phrase "in the line of duty," it is usually preceded by a tragic verb such as "killed in the line of duty" or "wounded in the line of duty."  When have you heard the expression, "serving God in the line of duty" in reference to Christians' day to day activities?

Paul, the most influential teacher of Christianity, is known for being in the line of duty from his Damascus Road conversion experience to his death. Paul used every opportunity to share the gospel because he believed it was his duty to do so. He was imprisoned during the writing of four of his books: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. Paul considered being under house arrest an opportunity to teach Christianity. Although he was confined to his lodgings and chained to guards, he was allowed to have visitors. The gospel was always the topic of conversation. In Paul's own testimony he said, "...what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel" (Philippians 1:12).

Like Paul, we should consider ourselves in the line of duty at all times. We should share the gospel of Christ Jesus through our witness to the world. We should ALWAYS be "in the line of duty."

The Paradox of Freedom
Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God... (Romans 1:1)

If you ask most people to define the word "freedom" they would say, "Freedom is the act of being able to do exactly what one wants to do when one wants to do it. Freedom is the liberation from coercion of any kind. Freedom is not being restricted or constrained in any way. Freedom is being self-sufficient. Freedom is being independent. Freedom is being able to make any choice at any time regardless of the circumstances."

Freedom is a paradox. While unbelievers do what they want to do, they are the ones in bondage...enslaved to sin. Believers, on the other hand, are set free to become bondservants or slaves to Jesus Christ.

In summary, people in the world take pride in self-sufficiency, liberation and independence. Freedom to them is having complete control over their lives without anyone telling them what to do or how to do it. For them, anything goes. True freedom for the believer is not relying on one's own efforts, but it is surrendering all to God and doing what He says.

Freedom is a paradox. To be set free is to become a slave to Jesus Christ. However, "If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed." (John 8:36)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1)

Shalom is a Hebrew word that literally means "peace." However, shalom is more than just "peace." Shalom is a greeting that means "Hello." Shalom is a farewell that means "Good-bye." Shalom is an expression of a blessing. All these things are wrapped up in that one word "Shalom."

While most people limit shalom to the general meaning of peace, shalom means "wholeness, completeness, fulfillment, soundness, and well-being of the total person." Shalom means having all sufficiency including security, contentment, and prosperity. Shalom means the absence of conflict and war. Shalom is peace with God in its highest form of inward satisfaction that reflects upon the outward person.

The above definitions of shalom show up in the Old Testament. However, in the New Testament, shalom often refers to inner tranquility and poise of the Christian whose trust is in God through Christ. Jesus knew the importance of shalom for He Himself said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you." (John 14:27) In the first couple of verses in every one of the letters written by Paul, he expressed peace and grace to his readers. (Check this out in Romans through Philemon).

According to Ephesians 6:15, we all should "proclaim the gospel of peace."  Therefore, shalom is something we do rather than something we feel. Let's help spread shalom by doing our part. Go to someone and say "hello," "how are you?" proclaim a blessing and say "Good-bye" all in one word: "Shalom."

Your IQ and SQ
Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren. (Romans 1:13)

In Homer's Odyssey and other ancient literature, the Cyclops had only one eye. Therefore, they had limited vision. God made us with two eyes to see all around us as well as straight ahead. We who have both an IQ (intelligence quotient) and an SQ (spiritual quotient) also have a panoramic view of ourselves and the world around us.

We should let our IQ and SQ work together. How do we do that? Intelligent people can be spiritual and spiritual people can be intelligent. It is so refreshing to be in someone's company who knows the Bible but who also can talk about other things such as Shakespeare's writings (literature), Rembrant's paintings (art), Anita Baker's music (singer), Alvin Ailey's performances (dancer), Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings (architect), or Joe Louis' career (boxer). These people were intelligent and used their talents for our enjoyment; yet they believed in the same God as we do. They maintained their faith while making great accomplishments.

Let's not think it has to be either...or. Let your intelligence and faith work together. In the words of Dr. Costa Deir, "It is good to be highly educated; it is better to be educated from on high; it is best to be both."

"Closet Christians: Come Out of the Closet"
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God, for the salvation of everyone..." (Romans 1:16)

There is a time to stay in the closet, and there is a time to come out of the closet. Yesterday you were given permission to stay in the closet to pray, give, study and meditate. Today you are given permission to come out of the closet.

Who are "Closet Christians"? Closet Christians are secret disciples. During Jesus' day, there were secret disciples who feared the Jews (John 7:13). Nicodemus was a secret disciple of Jesus (John 19:38). Today Closet Christians are those who don't want their classmates, co-workers or friends to know they are Christians. They are those who compromise their faith instead of sharing it.

Contrary to Romans 1:16, Closet Christians are ashamed of the gospel. They ignore that Jesus said, "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory." (Mark 8:38) Come out of the closet and take a stand for Christ. Come out of the closet and "contend for the faith." (Jude 3) Come out of your private closet and share publicly what God has done for you.

If the person working in the same office with you doesn't know you are a Christian, then you are a Closet Christian. If you profess to be a Christian and members of your own family aren't sure, then you are a Closet Christian. If you spend a considerable amount of time with your friends and they have doubts about your salvation, then you are a Closet Christian.

Come out of the closet and show some evidence that you are a Christian. Stand up for Jesus. Speak up for Jesus. Practice "closet Christianity" by praying, giving, studying and meditating in private. However, these private disciplines should help you become a public disciple. 

Come out of the closet. Go public and share your faith.
See Matthew 6:6 - Stay in the Closet.

One-Line Descriptions
For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith. (Romans 1:16)
Have you ever overheard a conversation when people were describing you or someone you know? Since they don't know you are present, they are at liberty to speak freely. I overheard such a conversation today about fellow ministers. A clerk in the supermarket was inviting a customer to his church next week for a revival. The clerk did the roll call of ministers for each night. Along with the name he gave a one-line description of that particular minister. On Monday night, there is Rev. A, and he can really sing. Tuesday night is Rev. B, and he can really bring down the house. Rev. C is there on Wednesday night and that's the best night because he calls people up and prophesies over them. Thursday night Rev. D is bringing his big choir. Rev. E is there on Friday night, and she is really good. She makes you shout as soon as she starts preaching.

By those one-line descriptions, which night would you be motivated to attend that revival? Which preacher preaches the unadulterated word according to those one-line descriptions? You can't tell by those one-line descriptions, can you? If I had been included among that group of ministers, I hope it would have been said that I preach God's word to God's people or that I preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Singing is good, but it doesn't save. It is all right to bring down the house as long as it is done by the power of the Word of God. Prophesying is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but people shouldn't mix it up with fortune telling. By merely saying a preacher is good has no meaning unless the preacher preaches the Word of God. Making someone shout as soon as the preacher starts preaching is not a reason to attend a revival. The preacher shouldn't try to  "make" someone shout. That's the job of the Holy Spirit. Much prayer is needed for that upcoming revival if it will be as the one-line descriptions indicate.

As a Christian, what one-line description would people say about you?

God's Just Judgment
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:5)

People are condemned not for what they don't know, but for what they do with what they know. Those who know God's written Word and His law will be judged by them. Those who have never seen a Bible still know right from wrong, and they will be judged by the standards of their own consciences.

Those of us who know Jesus Christ will be judged by our relationship to Jesus. If people who have a chance to know Jesus and refuse to accept God's offer of forgiveness through Christ, then they will themselves bear the responsibility for their own judgment.

Wouldn't it be much easier to let Jesus be a mediator for you than for you to face God alone?

Every Thought, Word, or Deed
God will give to each person according to what he has done. (Romans 2:6) 

Even though God might not punish us immediately for sin, His eventual judgment is certain.  We don't know exactly when it will happen, but we know that no one will escape that final encounter with God. Everyone has a ledger account with God, and all thoughts, words, and deeds are recorded, whether good or evil.  We are not saved by deeds, but deeds are seen as clear evidence of a person's actual relationship with God. 

Some might think since God has a whole world to oversee, He will not always pay attention to what we are thinking or doing.  Not so!  God is concerned about everything; even the little sparrow that falls from the sky.  God knows every thought we think, every word we speak, and every deed we do. We have to give an account for everything we have done.  This should move you to respond in a righteous way at all times.  If you have been thinking polluted thoughts, speaking evil words, or committing unrighteous acts, ask God "to forgive you and He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). Then purpose in you heart that you will let every thought, word and deed be pleasing in the sight of God now and when you are judged.

"Go On With Your Bad Self"
None is righteous, no, not one. (Romans 3:9)

When a person does something good or unique, a friend or colleague might say, "Go on with your bad self." That expression implies that the person has excelled in something. When someone says, "Go on with your bad self" I wonder how many people know that what they are saying is true in the biblical sense of the word. And that word is "depravity." Depravity means man's true nature is bad, evil, wicked and corrupt. John Calvin, the founder of the Presbyterian Church, terms it "total depravity."

The doctrine of total depravity teaches that man is inherently evil. Total depravity means fallen man has no goodness in thought, word, or deed. In other words, he is bad; even bad to the bone. Total depravity is a state of corruption due to original sin. It affects every part of man's nature and makes the natural man unable to know or obey God on his own.
Here are the four points of John Calvin's total depravity of man:
  1. Man's rebellion against God is total. Man can pray and fast and give to his heart's content, but the bottom line is that compared to God's goodness, man is evil.
  2. In his total rebellion, everything man does is sin. In Romans 7:18 Paul says, "I know that no good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh."
  3. Man's inability to submit to God and do good is total. Natural man does not and cannot submit to God. Man cannot reform himself.
  4. Man's total rebellion deserves eternal punishment.
In summary, total depravity means that our rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sin, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are therefore totally deserving of eternal punishment.

Total depravity simply affirms that no one will ever come to Christ or submit to God on his own because he is spiritually dead and is incapable of seeing his spiritual need to do so. Apart from God's grace, man does not have the ability to love God. Therefore, every “good” thing that an unsaved man does is displeasing to God (Hebrews 11:6) because God's wrath abides on Him.

So, there is a lot of truth in it when someone says, "Go on with your bad self." However, God's grace is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

"What Then?"
"What then?" (Romans 3:9) "What then are we to say?" (Romans 6:1; 7:7; 9:30) "What then?" (Romans 6:15)

Paul is known for teaching and afterward asking his audience, "What then?" First, he gave them basic instruction, and he expected them to respond in some way. Therefore, he called them into accountability by repeating the two-word question throughout his epistles. We find several "What then?" questions in Romans as indicated in the above scriptures.

What then does this mean to us generations after Paul penned these words? What then are we to do with what we have read? The answer is simple. After reading any part of the Bible, we are to make a life application. In other words, be diligent to apply the scriptures to your own life.

Make it a practice to ask yourself "What then?" after every Sunday School class, Bible Study, Worship Service or individual study. Your answer to the "What then?" question should show up in your actions; not in words only (James 1:22).

Self-Righteousness Identified
There is none righteous, no, not one. (Romans 3:10)

Do you know people who are always complaining about people and criticizing others for their faults; yet they do not see their own? The Bible calls this self-righteousness.  Self-righteous people judge the lives of others. Self-righteous people are the Pharisees of today. They try to dot every "i" and cross every "t" but miss the important things of life. Self-righteous people are worse than the lost. At least the lost know and admit they are lost and perhaps one day will be found. On the other hand, self-righteous people THINK they are in right relationship with God, but they are far from Him.

Self-righteous people let their pride get in the way of their enjoyment of God. They focus on what others are doing or not doing instead of focusing on God, the Creator and Sustainer of us all. Self-righteous people see the speck in others' eyes while having a plank in their own eyes (Matthew 7:3-5). Self-righteous people allow their pride to damage their personal relationship with God.

If you know any self-righteous people or if you are one yourself, let's remember that none is righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10). All have sinned and continue to fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Because God is a forgiving God, He made a way of escape for us through the atoning blood of Jesus.  So, if you want a closer walk with God, put away self-righteousness and put on humility and meekness. "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5)

One Point Away
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
Sometimes we are on the borderline of being in one's favor.  Sometimes we are just a point away from being in a higher category. For example, a student's test grades could be just one point away from an "A."  Since that student has missed by only one point, the teacher might be led to give that student an "A" based on the student's attitude and cooperation during the entire school year.

We don't always measure up to God's standard. Sometimes we come close; sometimes we come real close.  We might be just one point off.  God is like that teacher who is willing to give the student an extra point so the student can move up to a higher grade.  God looks on our faults and gives us the benefit of the doubt based on our past attitudes and cooperation with Him throughout our entire lives.  While God and most teachers don't "grade on the curb," they do consider the entire picture before making a final decision.

Are you missing the mark by a slim margin? Are you just one point away from being in God's favor? Live so that your lifestyle can be the determining factor for God to move you to a higher category.

What Does God See?
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Since we all have sinned and constantly fall short of the glory of God, what does God see when He looks at us?  Good question!

We all come short in relation to the holy sovereign God. We look at some Christians as being more spiritual than others. However, God does not see us the same way as we see others. There is no such thing as one person being "more saved" than another.

Let's illustrate by comparing one person's morals to be in Death Valley, 280 feet below sea level; another person's morals to be in Denver, the mile-high city; and another person's morals to be at the peak of Mount Everest whose altitude is 29,000 feet. How do all three places look from the moon? No matter how high or low they are, they all look the same! From our human standpoint, there is a great difference in what we see in others, but in contrast with the holiness of God, we are all the same: we all fall short of His glory. And that's what God sees. However, there is good news. Jesus' death on the cross has made it possible for sinful man to have access to a holy God.

Can a Sinner Still Be a Child of God?
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Someone recently admitted she is a sinner but believes she is still a child of God. Then she asked, "Does the Lord ever give up on us?"

According to Paul in Romans 3:23, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by the grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Notice sinned is in the past tense, but fall is in the ongoing present tense. This means even though we are children of God, we still sin and continually fall short of His glory. That's why God gave us I John 1:9 that says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

As children of God, do we still sin? Yes, we do! We sin in thoughts, words, and deeds. The penalty for sinning is not to be thrown out of the family. The penalty for sinning is being separated from God. The deep intimate relationship is seriously damaged. We need to repent for our sins and be reconciled with God. David is an excellent example of this. He sinned with Bathsheba which resulted in adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11) but he repented (Psalm 51) and is still considered to be "a man after God's own heart."

Does this give us a license to sin? No, it doesn't! When we have a close relationship with God, we don't want to sin, but since we were born with a sin nature, it is impossible not to sin. However, we try not to make it a lifestyle to sin because we do want to be closely connected with God at all times. And the penalty of sin is separation from God, but He doesn't disown us as His children.

Will God ever give up on us? God has adopted us into His family as heirs (Ephesians 1:5). With a legal adoption, would a parent return the child when the child does something wrong? Would the parent rescind the adoption? God is not pleased when we disobey Him, but He doesn't give up on us. Why not? "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance." (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Against the Odds
Abraham who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken. (Romans 4:18)

The odds were against Abraham becoming the father of many nations.  After all his wife was old and barren, and his own body was dead.  Where "odds" are concerned, there is a vast difference in favor of one side against another.  The odds are advantages given to the other side.  The odds are when we are outnumbered or outvoted.  The odds are when our chances are slim or next to none.  The odds sometimes deal with circumstances; with what we can see, feel or hear.  Sometimes these circumstances point to defeat, and the odds don't seem to be on our side. 

Even though the odds were against Abraham having a son in his old age, he believed in hope and not the odds.  He trusted God.  God knows how to even the odds.  Let's keep our eyes on God and not on the circumstances.  Let's walk by faith and not by sight.  Things appear worse than they usually are. 

When the odds are stacked against us and our backs are against the wall, let's remember what Abraham did . . . he believed in hope and trusted God.

"Almost Persuaded" . . . "Fully Persuaded"
Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian" (Acts 26:28). . . . and Abraham being fully persuaded that what God had promised He was also able to perform. (Romans 4:21) 

The above scriptures illustrate two different degrees of faith and commitment to Christianity.  The words of Agrippa are sad words because they indicate that he was on the verge of becoming a Christian.  He was on the border line, but for some reason he did not accept the gift of salvation at that time.  The Bible does not indicate whether he did later.  We know that today is the day of salvation because tomorrow is not promised to us.

On the other hand, Abraham did not waver in his faith.  He did not stagger at the promise made by God that he would become the father of many nations.  Abraham is noted for his faith and his commitment to God's covenant.

Which category do you fit into?  Do you have the Agrippa syndrome of being "almost persuaded" or do you have the faith of Abraham to be "fully persuaded"? Be fully persuaded knowing that God can do everything; that God will do what He promised; that God's words will not return to Him void; that what He says will come to pass!

Peace, Perfect Peace
Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

What does it mean to have peace, perfect peace? All of us at one time or another have experienced what we thought was peace, but then a passing thought would make us realize we didn't have perfect peace after all. We were still worried about bills, children, jobs, and a multitude of other things. What then is peace, perfect peace, and how then can we have perfect peace?

The word "peace" has several different meanings in the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament meaning of peace was completeness, soundness, and well-being of the total person. That peace could only come from God to those who followed the Law of Moses (Psalm 119:165). Peace also meant security (Psalm 4:8), contentment (Isaiah 26:3), prosperity (Psalm 122:6-7) and the absence of war (1 Samuel 7:14).

In the New Testament, peace often referred to the inner tranquillity and poise of the Christian whose trust was in God through Christ. The peace Jesus spoke of was a combination of hope, trust, and quietness in the mind and soul brought on only by God.

Today peace, perfect peace can only be a direct result of faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.

I leave you with the traditional Jewish greeting which is a wish for peace . . .

Your Credit Report
The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (Romans 4:23-24)

Many lenders want to see your credit report before they will lend you money. You can't buy major purchases without someone checking your credit. It is understandable that if someone is going to lend you money, or trust you with a house or apartment that it is necessary to see if you are a credit risk. Once a person starts spending, he establishes a credit report. That report is based on how faithful a person is in fulfilling his financial obligation to his lenders.  When that credit report becomes unfavorable, the credit score is lowered. With money management and careful planning, the low score can be raised again. So much for your credit report based on money.  What about your spiritual credit report?

Everyone has a spiritual credit report. This report has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the amount of money you make or how much you have in the bank. Hallelujah! This report is based on your faith in God who raised Jesus from the dead. Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. These words were not for Abraham alone. Since Abraham is our example of faith, it is also credited to us as righteousness. (Galatians 3:6)

Do you want to increase your spiritual credit score? Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) Without faith it is impossible to raise your spiritual credit score. Faith is believing God and taking God at His word even though you have no physical proof.


How to Have Inner Peace
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. (Romans 5:1)

Some people search their whole lives and never find the peace they seek. Perhaps it is because they are looking for it in all the wrong people. Perhaps it is because they are looking for it in all the wrong places. Perhaps it is because they are looking for it in all the wrong things.

Inner peace can come from ONLY ONE source: God. Sure you can be friends with important people, but that will not give you inner peace. Sure you can go to those places that provide temporary calmness, but that's not inner peace. Sure you can buy those items that will satisfy briefly, but by the time the bill comes, they would have lost their flavor. People, places and things cannot give us inner peace. Inner peace comes only from God. And that peace will be displayed even in the midst of storms and trouble. The whole world could be falling apart around a person with inner peace, and that person can still persevere because of what's on the inside . . . inner peace!

Have you been looking in all the wrong places? There is only one place to look for inner peace: to God Himself!

Access By Faith
Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2)

There are many ways to get to where we are going. Often times driving on the interstate will get us to our destination faster. When we have time to spare, we take the scenic route. Nevertheless, both ways result in our arriving at our destination.

We usually have to purchase admission tickets to attend a special activity or event. Our seats are assigned based on the price of the ticket. Paying a higher fee gives us the privilege to sit in a seat of honor or one closer to the stage.

However, there is only one way to gain access to the grace of God, and that is through His son Jesus Christ (John 14:6). And there is only one way to get to Jesus and that is access by faith. "That is if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). You cannot purchase a ticket to gain access to Jesus. The access to Jesus is free. The access to Jesus is by faith.

Hope Does Not Disappoint Us
And we rejoice in the HOPE of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, HOPE. And HOPE does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)

The word HOPE is in the above scripture three times. Paul tells us that we are to rejoice in hope. Hope is simply the expectation that what we want to happen will happen. But then Paul says, we are to also rejoice in suffering. Oh, Paul did you make a mistake? How can we rejoice in our suffering? Why should we rejoice in our suffering? Tell us, Paul.

Paul starts with what we know. He says, "We know suffering produces perseverance..." Suffering isn't easy, but if we endure, suffering produces character. If we pass the test, we are approved to go on to the next step. Approval fills us with hope. Notice how Paul had gotten us from suffering to hope. Here is the best news of all . . . "And HOPE does not disappoint us."

Why doesn't hope disappoint us? Hope doesn't disappoint us because the hope we have is an assured testimony of our hearts put there by the Holy Spirit. How can we be so sure? Because the foundation for hope is based on the love of God that has been poured out in our hearts. When we have an intimate relationship with God, our hope is from the Holy Spirit, and hope does not disappoint us.

If you are hoping for the things of God, keep on hoping. Just remember there is a process (including suffering) you must go through before you can get to the stage when hope does not disappoint you.

1,440 Minutes
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time (chronos) the star had appeared. (Matthew 2:7) You see, at just the right time (kairos) when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)

If you haven't realized it by now, 1,440 minutes simply means 24 hours or 1 day. Why, then, not say 24 hours or 1 day? Saying 1,440 minutes brings us to the awareness that every single day we are presented with many new moments in time.

What, then, is time? Time is a measurable period during which an action or condition exists or continues. We know time to be measured in units such as seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. During Jesus' day and for all practical purposes, there are two types of time operating simultaneously: chronos and kairos.

Chronos and kairos are Greek words that mean "time." However, there is a major difference between chronos and kairos. Chronos refers to a literal chronological time as indicated by the dates on a calendar or the ticking of a clock. However, kairos refers to a significant event that alters your life. Kairos refers to a decisive turning point within chronological time. Kairos refers to what was said or done during chronos that had an impact on you. A kairos moment is a moment within the 1,440 chronos moments when a special event intersected with your reality. Kairos events may be positive or negative; but they are NEVER neutral. A kairos moment makes an impression on you whether good or bad, and it NEVER leaves you the same. That's why it is so important to have an intimate relationship with God so that God will work through your chronos moments to give you your best kairos moments.

According to the calendar, your wedding day was chronos. What you remember from your wedding day is kairos because the event of the day had an impact on your life. Starting your present job was chronos. What happens on your job each day is kairos. So how are chronos and kairos combined and operating at the same time? How can we experience kairos in our chronos? We experience kairos at those moments when the reality of God intersects our reality.

Look at the above scriptures to see that Herod was speaking of chronos time. It was kairos time when Jesus saved us from our sins. Hopefully, you are getting the picture.

In conclusion, chronos is time according to a clock or calendar that involves the motion of the sun and earth; 1,440 minutes. Chronos ALWAYS happen, and we tend to take it for granted. Kairos is a time when a significant event happens that involves the motion of the heart and mind.  We can't take it for granted because it changes us. When a kairos moment happens, it never leaves us the same and it is usually unexpected.

Have you experienced any kairos moments lately? If not, don't worry; you will!

Would You Die For Me?
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners. Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)

You have probably heard such expressions as: "If I could take your pain away, I would." "If I could trade places with you, I would." These expressions sound good, don't they? Sure, they do! But do people really mean them? People might have good intentions, but what person would gladly take your place and let you escape all harm and danger?

What person do you know who would (or could) take your place and let you go free? What person who has never met you would suffer, bleed and die for you? What person would take 39 lashes (resulting in 468 gashes) for you? Best friends are good to have, but which one of your best friends would die in your place? Mates and spouses are good to have, but would your mate or spouse die and let you live? Would a brother or sister lay down his or her life for you?

A lot of people might profess to love me, but what kind of person would take my place in death? I know Someone who did! Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior has already taken my place. Nobody else has to!

A Pre-Existent Condition
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

When people apply for a new insurance they are asked, "Do you have any pre-existent conditions?" If the answer is "Yes," then the insurance application is denied.  A pre-existent condition is any illness or malady that exists BEFORE the insurance policy goes into effect.

Before we were born again, we had a pre-existent condition: we were sinners. We were unsaved and lovers of the world. Thanks be to God that unlike insurance companies, God does not reject sinners. God welcomes sinners. God welcomes us with pre-existent conditions. He accepts us as we are; flaws and all. He takes our sin-sick lives and makes us whole. And the best news of all is that our insurance policy with God is free; absolutely free with no premiums ever to pay. Jesus paid it all with His shed blood. Therefore, our policy is forever in effect because while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

What Did Jesus Do?
 . . . in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:8)

A few years ago, a Holland, Michigan youth group was reading the classic by Charles Sheldon, "In His Steps." The key question in that book was: "What would Jesus do in any given situation?" They made bracelets with W.W.J.D. on them as a reminder of that question.  Today in Christian bookstores you are able to find W.W.J.D. not only on bracelets but also on t-shirts, calendars, pens, pencils, tote bags, and many other items.  Those youth had a fantastic idea of asking the question: "What would Jesus do?" 

There is another question that is just as important:  "What did Jesus do?"  Before we can answer the question: What Would Jesus Do (W.W.J.D.) we must contemplate What Did Jesus Do (W.D.J.D.).  Understanding what Jesus DID will give us a better understanding of what He WOULD DO in our own lives.  So, what did Jesus do?  Although innocent of wrongdoing, He died on the cross to provide a sacrifice for us. He died so that we could have eternal life.  Without knowing what Jesus did, we can never understand what He would do, and then follow "In His Steps."

For the Greater Good
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)

This message will help those who have a decision to make between two things of like manner. When both choices are of equal value and you can choose ONLY ONE, this will help you make the right choice.

Decision making is easy when you follow the Greater-Good Principle. Ask yourself which decision is for the greater good? Which decision will help the greater number of people?

I made a decision in 1987 to leave my job at the Post Office to go into business for myself which led to full-time ministry. At the time I thought it was for the greater good. Today I KNOW it was for the greater good. I gave up so much, but I gained so much more in a different way. Instead of storing up treasures on earth, I am storing up treasures in heaven. And, that my brothers and sisters, is for the greater good.

God approves of the Greater Good Principle. For you see, He sent His only Son into the world for the greater good of us all. One man died not for Himself but for many. Jesus died so that we might be made righteous. If the principle was good enough for God to use on His only Son, the principle should be good enough for us to use as well.

NOTE: I am not advising anyone to quit their jobs. Leaving my job at the Post Office was the greater good for me. Leaving your job might not be for the greater good. I had other things in place as well. And the choice was between two things of like value. I used the Greater-Good Principle and have never once regretted it. Use the Greater-Good Principle whenever you come to a crossroad where two choices are good and you can choose ONLY ONE. Just go for the greater-good in Jesus' name and never look back!

Disobedience Defined
For just as through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man (Jesus) the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 (parentheses, mine)

To say disobedience is the opposite of obedience is such a vague definition. Disobedience is more an unwillingness to comply with the guidance of authority, especially a neglect of God's will.  The first and most crucial act of disobedience occurred when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3). Just like all disobedience, that single act involved setting the desire of the flesh above the will of God. As a result, all of us became disobedient.

Disobedience is further defined as a refusal to obey; failure to follow commands; and insubordination.  True obedience is instant, whole and joyful obedience to God. Anything else is disobedience.  In other words, delayed obedience is disobedience. Partial obedience is disobedience. Doing what God has commanded you to do with murmuring and complaining is disobedience.

Questions, Anyone?
"What then are we to say? (Romans 6:1) "What then should we say?" (Romans 7:7) "What then are we to say about these things?" (Romans 8:31) "What then are we to say?" (Romans 9:30)

When I teach I ask my students if they have questions or comments. There is a very good reason for that.  In the Pauline Epistles, Paul frequently interrupts his writings to ask a question or a series of questions before continuing. In doing so, he is using the style he learned from rabbis in his earlier training. 

The story is told of one student who asked a rabbi, "Why do you rabbis so often put your teaching in the form of a question?" The rabbi replied, "So, what's wrong with a question?"

Questions are important in teaching. They provoke dialogue between the teacher and student. Questions give the student something to think about. Questions are used to review or to reinforce teaching.  An effective teacher is one who does more than lectures. An effective teacher is one who asks questions along the way.

If you are a teacher, be like Paul, the rabbis and yours truly.  Feel free to ask questions. Now, wasn't that a good idea??????

New Life
For you have become a part of him, and so you died with him, so to speak, when he died; and now you share his new life, and shall rise as he did. (Romans 6:5)

We cannot save ourselves from sin and its consequences.  No matter how good we think we are, we can't eliminate the sinful nature present in all of us.  Only Jesus can do that. Jesus came to be our Savior from the power and penalty of sin.  When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, our new life begins at that very moment. Then we begin to enjoy our new life in Christ because our bondage to sin died with Jesus on the cross. We are united with him in his death, burial and resurrection. By faith, we are crucified with Christ; nevertheless we live because it is Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). Having a new life lets us have a personal, intimate and ongoing relationship with God and freedom from sin's grip on us.

Speaking Faith
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)

The word "count" in the above scripture can also be translated "speak."  Then we are to speak ourselves dead to sin but speak ourselves alive to God in Christ Jesus. What does it mean to "speak yourselves dead to sin"?  What does it mean to "speak yourselves alive in Christ"?

Unbelief focuses only on the natural, while speaking faith focuses on the supernatural, on God's character and power.  "Speaking yourself dead" simply means to confess that you cannot do supernatural things. You must first confess that you cannot have God's character and power without Him. When you make that confession and agree with God's Word, then God's character and power will be released through you.

Speaking faith based on God's Word is our privilege in Christ to release the fragrance of Christ (His righteousness) through us.  Therefore, we become God's ministering ones.  We become disciples by mean of God's character and power. Speaking faith simply means saying what God said.  Speak God's Words back to Him. Speak faith today and everyday in Jesus' name.

Stop, Drop and Roll!
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. (Romans 6:12)

Even young children know what to do if their clothes catch on fire. They have been taught the fire safety lesson to Stop, Drop and Roll.

If your clothes catch fire, running will only fuel the flames and allow the blaze to spread over your body, producing worse burns. When flames are on your clothes, stop where you are, drop to the ground or the floor, cover your face with your hands and roll back and forth until the flames are extinguished.

You can apply this same principle when you are caught up in sin. If sin is in your life, running will only fuel the flames and allow the blaze to spread over your entire life producing more sins. When sin is in your life, STOP where you are, DROP to your knees, cover your face with your hands and cry out to God. Then ROLL back and forth by repenting in remorse.

Stop, Drop and Roll is a simple lesson for fire safety. Stop, Drop and Roll is a simple lesson for sin safety as well.

Evidence of a Surrendered Life
Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. (Romans 6:19)

We have no problem singing the song, "I Surrender All." For some, it is just lip service. Everyone who sings the song surely has not surrendered ALL to God. They admit there is a part of their lives that is controlled by self more than it is controlled by God. Some people blatantly say they don't have to surrender ALL. They say God is big enough to understand and "God knows my heart." They rationalize and say because they don't sin in one area, they have a license to sin in another area. This behavior is not characterized by one whose body has been offered as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God. (Romans 12:1) Here is some evidence of a transformed and surrendered life . . .
  1. Walking in the spirit and not in the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
  2. Loving your enemies and doing good to those who hate you. (Luke 6:27)
  3. Forgiving those who have inflicted pain and hurt upon you. (Matthew 6:14)
  4. Immersing yourself in God's word at all times. (2 Timothy 2:15)
  5. Obeying all of God's commandments instead of picking and choosing what to obey and what not to obey. (Deuteronomy 13:4)
  6. Allowing God to order your steps. (Psalm 119:35)
  7. Following the examples of Christ in every situation. (Matthew 16:34)
A surrendered life is one that has voluntarily been offered to God. A surrendered life is one that says "Yes" to God and "No" to self. A surrendered life is one that knows earth is not his home but his citizenship is established in heaven. (Philippians 3:20)

The Wages of Sin is Death
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

The wages of sin is (not are) death. Even though the word ends in an "s," it is still one unit. You get paid for your labor with wages. How many paychecks do you get that represent your wages? Just one! Used as one unit, the word "wages" takes a singular verb. Wages (plural) indicates a single payment or compensation for labor or services usually according to a contract. Now that the English lesson is out of the way, what does wages have to do with death?

Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin is death" to denote the consequences of a person's sinful acts. Paul's immortal declaration is clear that whenever we sin, something has to die. Death today might not be as evident as the physical death of Ananias and Sapphira who died for lying to the Holy Spirit when the church first began (Acts 5:1-11). Their death in the physical is an example of what happens in the spirit when we sin. Today, there is a spiritual death of something for every sin we commit.

When people lie, truth dies. When people cheat others, honesty dies. When people fear, faith dies. When people violate their marriage covenants, fidelity dies. When people sin against God, the relationship dies. The wages of sin is death! In other words, something dies, or is lost, or diminished, or is decreased in some way.

Can restoration ever take place after the penalty of death has been established? According to the second part of Romans 6:23, "the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ." Yes, restoration is possible even after the sentence of death has been pronounced. You can accept the free gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ.

If you think you are getting away with sinning, remember the wages of sin is death of something. Penalty has to be paid in some form. When you think about sinning, weigh the consequences. What are you willing to lose? YOU WILL LOSE SOMETHING! There has to be a death of something because the wages of sin is DEATH. __________________________________________________________________________________

That Tenth Commandment
For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet. But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. (Romans 7:7-8)

When confronted with a "DO NOT," something within human nature says, "DO." Though the law was designed not to save but to point us toward a relationship with God, we still allow sin to seize us and cause us to do those things that we are told to "do not."

Paul admits he had a real problem with the tenth commandment. It was a stumbling block to him because it aroused him to want to do what the law told him not to.  This commandment might also be a stumbling block for many of us because it deals with an inner attitude rather than an overt action or word.  "You shall not covet" is a commandment telling us not to desire anything that someone else owns.  You might say you do not want someone else's house, wife, husband, animals or property in general.  You might not be stimulated to covet any of these things. The trouble might go a bit deeper.  It might illicit desire in such a self-centered intensity that it usurps the place which God alone ought to occupy in your spirit.  Therefore, covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).

The best way to handle covetousness is to say with the songwriter:  "What God Has For Me IS For Me."

A Constant Battle
For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (Romans 7:19-20)

Our flesh and our spirit are always in a constant battle.  Because of Adam we all were born with a sinful nature.  Jesus came to atone for that which Adam had done.  When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, our spirits became saved; not our bodies.  Therefore, we must wage war against our bodies all the time.  We still have to battle against the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

Because our flesh and our spirit are constantly battling with each other, we must make sure we starve the flesh and feed the spirit.  We must die to self daily  while feasting on the word of God, praying, worshipping and praising God so that the spirit may dominate the flesh.  If not, the flesh will win causing us to do those things that are not pleasing in God's sight.

"It's Just Our Nature"
When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. O wretched man that I am! (Romans 7:21, 24)

A story is told of a bee who requested to ride on the back of a frog to get to the other side of the river. The frog hesitated and said, "No, you will sting me and we will both drown." The bee insisted that would not be the case. So the frog allowed him to hop on his back. Half way across the river the bee stings the frog and as they are both drowning, the frog reminds the bee of its promise. The bee says, "I know what I said, but stinging is just my nature." So often we don't want to sting (sin, disobey, hurt, deceive, lie, cheat, steal, etc.), but we do. Why? Because it is just our nature!

The above scripture indicates that Paul knew about stinging even when he didn't want to. It was just his nature. So he concluded, "O wretched man that I am."  Paul also knew that man has two natures . . . one to sin and one to serve; one to disobey and one to obey; one to hurt and one to help; one to hate and one to love, etc.

We were born with a sinful nature. When we got saved (born again) our sinful nature (our flesh) did not get saved. Therefore, within us will always be two natures; a sinful nature and a spiritual nature. The sinful nature will always try to do what is wrong; while the spiritual nature will always try to do what is right. The nature that gets fed is the one that will dominate and have victory over the other.

Be careful who you trust. It just might be their nature to sting you!

Inner Struggles
Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25a)

Like Paul, all of us have inner struggles of some kind. Like Paul, when we want to do good, evil lies close at hand (Romans 7:21). Paul learned how to deal with his inner struggles. We are admonished to do the same.

First of all, Paul admits his struggles. He doesn't deny they exist. He doesn't make excuses for them or blame others. He emphatically calls himself a wretched man. Anything that's wretched is extremely or deplorably bad. Then Paul asks a rhetorical question: "Who will (not merely can) rescue him from his sinful ways? Paul answers his own question. He knows only God through Jesus Christ our Lord can help us in our wretchedness. Only God can help us eliminate that sin that besets us. Only God can deliver us from our bad habits and addictions. Only God can rescue us from our inner struggles. But first we must (1) admit that we have them; and (2) acknowledge that only God can deliver us from them.

Conviction or Condemnation?
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1)

Both conviction and condemnation are emotions believers feel within themselves. Conviction is being convinced that you are wrong. Conviction is a good thing because it leads to change. When people are convicted, they stop doing the evil things that lead to conviction, and they start doing whatever is necessary to lead to inner peace. Conviction is a nasty feeling, but it's necessary if one wants to change.

Condemnation, on the other hand, is not a good thing. It is another nasty feeling that results in self-blame and feeling shame for something you thought, said or did. Condemnation is bondage that wears you down. Conviction leads one to Christ Jesus. And as Paul says in the above scripture, for those who are in Christ Jesus, there should now be no condemnation.

Stop condemning yourself if you are in Christ Jesus. It is not of God; however, allow yourself to be convicted so that you may be changed as a result.

Conviction: YES! Condemnation: NO!

Two Categories of People
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5)

In the above scripture, Paul describes two categories of people: (1) those who let themselves be controlled by their sinful nature; and (2) those who follow after the Holy Spirit.  Because Jesus gave His life for us, everyone should be in the second category. Once you say yes to Jesus, you should want to follow in His footsteps because following Him brings peace. We should strive diligently to follow the ways of Jesus because He did only what pleased His Father. 

If you are living for your own selfish pleasures, then you belong to the first category and will not experience total peace and eternal security.  If you are living according to the second category, then your heart and mind are always focused on what is pleasing to God. "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you" (Romans 8:9)

To have total peace even in the midst of storms, live according to the Spirit of God.

A Lesson From Spirituality 101
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Romans 8:14)

We live in two dimensions: the physical and the spiritual; the natural and the supernatural; the flesh and the spirit; the seen and the unseen. We often make the mistake of looking for God to guide us through our physical senses or through our intellect. God will only guide us through our spirit. He will only enlighten us through our spirit. Why? Because "the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord..." (Proverbs 20:27) Therefore, the Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit to shed light on our natural situations.

When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are born again not physically, but spiritually. I once saw a bumper sticker that read, "I don't need to be born again; I was born the correct way the first time." Physically, maybe! Spiritually, no!  In order to be enlightened by the Spirit, you must be born again. Then you will have an inward witness that will lead you into all truths. Paul calls man's spirit "the inward man." Peter calls man's spirit "the hidden man of the heart."

Every born again believer has an inward witness to guide him in every area of his life. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh (our physical bodies); and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (our inward man). (John 3:6)

If you are only operating in the flesh, you are believing like that bumper sticker that you were born correctly the first time. However, if you are operating in the spirit, you have passed the first test in Spirituality 101.

Everything Happens For a Reason
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Everything happens for a reason. Everything happens under the watchful eye of God. Every bad thing that happens to us is connected to a good thing that will happen through us. When bad things happen to good people, the usual reaction is "Why, God?" As bad as it might seem at the time, God is working things out for a greater purpose. With the natural mind, you will not immediately understand why you lost your job. You don't know now, but God knows. With your limited wisdom, you cannot understand why your spouse died what you believed to be an untimely death. In God's sight, there are no untimely deaths. You ponder over why God does certain things. Until you understand that everything happens for a greater purpose, you will be stuck in your thoughts forever.

In order to realize that greater purpose, one must surrender all wondering thoughts to God. Seek God's face and ask Him what greater purpose will come out of your own tragedy. And then live expectantly. Expect God to show you the butterfly after the caterpillar, the rainbow after the storm, the beautiful canvas painting after the use of the black paint.

Anyone who is living a spirit-filled life today is probably one who has gone through many storms; yet they did not give up. They kept on trusting God in spite of their tragedies. One of the most inspiring stories of one whose life was changed for the glory of God is Joni Eareckson Tada. A diving accident in 1967 left Mrs. Tada a quadriplegic in a wheelchair unable to use her hands. During many years of rehabilitation, she began to paint with a brush between her teeth. To date, Mrs. Tada has painted thousands of pictures and written over 30 best-selling books, has ministered in over 35 countries, and recently retired from 32 years of teaching. She made her wheelchair her sanctuary and has often said her life has brought glory to God through that tragic accident that happened over 37 years ago.

It's all a matter of what one wants to do...either to let tragic circumstances make them BITTER of BETTER. By changing the letter "I" can make a world of difference. Trust God and know that everything happens for a reason; for a greater purpose. Ask God to show you that greater purpose. Ask Him to give you the strength you need to enjoy life again!

Your Good; God's Glory
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Being a faithful Christian does not exempt us from going through trials and tribulations. Don't think it strange if as a Christian you do find yourself going through things that the non-believer seems to escape.  It seems the opposite of what it should be but you, as a Christian, have to go through these things because you love God and you have been called according to God's purpose.

The above scripture is one of the most comforting scriptures in the Bible when you can't make sense of your struggles, grief, heartaches and pain. It is at these times that God is concerned more for your spiritual growth than for your happiness.  It is at these times that you need to take your eyes off your problem and focus with all your might on the purpose of your struggle. The purpose is quite simple: Whatever troubles you face God will use for your good and for His glory!

All Things Work Together
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

If I were on a deserted island and could have only one book, it would be the Bible.  If I could have only one testament from that book, it would be the New Testament.  If I could have only one section of the New Testament, it would be the Pauline Epistles.  If I could have only one book of the Pauline Epistles, it would be Romans.  If I could have only one chapter of Romans, it would be Romans Chapter 8.  If I could have only one verse from Romans 8, it would be Verse 28.  And if I could have only part of that scripture, it would be 28a.  For deep within my very being I do know that all things (the good, bad, ugly, joyful, painful, lovely, hurtful, and pleasurable) work together because I love God.

What particular scripture keeps you going?

All Things Work Together
And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

God works in all things  (not just isolated incidents) for our good.  This does not mean that all that happens to us is good.  Evil is definitely present in this fallen world, but God is able to turn every circumstance around for our long-range good according to His purpose.  This scripture is not for everyone.  It is for those who love God, for those who trust in God and not in life's treasures.  This scripture is for those who look for their security in God and not in earthly things.  They learn to accept, not resent, pain and persecution because God is with them.  All things (the good, the bad, and the ugly) work together to bring forth God's ultimate purpose for us.

God Uses Financial Terms
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

It is no coincidence that throughout the Bible God uses financial terms to explain His purpose for the world. God's ECONOMY mean's God order for the world but not necessarily limited to money.

In the above scripture, we see two financial words: WAGES and FREE. We are free to choose between two masters. Each of the two masters pays with his own kind of currency. The currency of sin is death. That is all you will get without Christ-- death. The currency of Christ is life -- eternal life. Eternal life is a free gift from God. It is a gift; therefore, it is not something that has to be paid back.

Jesus PAID a DEBT that He didn't OWE. We OWED a DEBT we couldn't PAY. Jesus PAID it all.

Waiting Patiently!
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:25)

When you are waiting for something, wait patiently for you are just "in between times." You are in between your present situation and your future destiny, between the already and the not yet, between the no and the yes. The correct posture while you are in between times is "patience" with keen anticipation.

Problems develop our patience and character by teaching us (1) to trust God to do what is best for us; (2) to look for ways to honor God in our present situation; (3) to remember that God will not abandon us; and (4) to watch for God's plan for us.

Patience is developed through waiting. Even though God promises to reward our good deeds, we sometimes feel our "payoff" is too far away. Don't pray, "God, I need patience. Give it to me right now!" Instead, know that God steps in when it will do the most good.

Pick Up and Read
For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

The above scripture is found in Paul's Letter to the Romans.  This letter has been the catalyst which has brought many unsaved people to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  For example, Augustine was unconverted until one day while sitting in his garden he heard some children at play.  They were singing "Pick up and read!" "Pick up and read!" "Pick up and read!"  Augustine picked up the Bible from a nearby table.  It was opened to Romans 8.  He read it and immediately gave his life to the Lord!

Other powerful stories have been cited about atheists and agnostics who became converted during their reading of Romans.

Read and study the book and get ready for God's power to become alive within you. Get in position to receive God's blessings and for things to work together for you. Become part of the two groups of people referred to Romans 8:28.  "For we know that all things work together for good to (1) those who love God and (2) to those who are called according to His purpose."

When the Pieces Don't Fit
And we know that all things [PIECES] work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

What if we know we are living right, but for some reasons things just aren't going the way we think they should go? We evaluate our situation, but the pieces of our lives don't seem to fit in place. Our lives can be likened to a giant jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces are there, but unless they are in the right place, they still will not fit. And even when we put a piece in place, it still might not fit because it is upside down or turned on the wrong side. In order for the pieces to fit perfectly, they have to be right side up and facing in the right direction. Another observation is that each piece must be joined to another piece. So it is in life; we must not only be connected to God, but we must be connected with others relationally.

So what do our lives have to do with jigsaw puzzles? Like jigsaw puzzles, we must recognize what pieces of our lives fit into certain places. We must remember to know what's above us, beneath us and on each side of us. When we keep these things in mind, perhaps then all the pieces will fit.

Glorification Is In The Future
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined. Those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified. And those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

Do you know the difference between "justification, sanctification" and "glorification"?  There are successive stages according to God's plan of salvation.  The foreknowing and the predestining belong exclusively to God.  The calling and the justifying take place within people's experience.  The glorifying lies in the future. 

God calls everyone to become ministers of reconciliation.  When you accept the call, you repent of all your sins and turn away from a lifestyle of evil.  Then you become justified ("just-as-if-I've never sinned").  Then justification leads to sanctification ("being set apart" for God).  Sanctification is glory begun. Glorification is  sanctification consummated. Glorification is the ultimate completion. Glorification does not take place until we leave this world with Jesus.  It should be our priority to be glorified, but we must go through the successive stages first.

Growing into Your Calling
Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified, them he also glorified. (Romans 8:30)

Was Joseph equipped to be in charge of all Egypt when he first had his dreams at age 17? Was he prepared for people to bow down to him when he first told his brothers about God's promptings. Certainly not!  God was calling him at that young age, but Joseph was not equipped.  Joseph had to grow into his calling. When God calls us into a specific ministry, there is a process and a path we must follow before that ministry is fully realized. There are steps leading up to where God wants to take us. No one starts out at the top. Otherwise, there would be no room for growth.

Our life application is similar to Joseph's. Before we can be used totally for God's glory we must be refined into pure gold by going through the fire. Joseph was not ready at 17. God molded and shaped him for thirteen years before He put his seal of approval on Joseph. He was falsely accused, imprisoned and forgotten about until he was made ready to handle his ministry.

Before we can be totally used by God, we must go through certain steps in order to be purged of all impurities.  It is only after God can look at us and see Himself in us that we can be elevated to a higher position. If you are going through the fire right now, rejoice; for you are growing into your calling.

More Than Conquerors
 . . . in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (Romans 8:37)

When we rely on our own resources, we fight a losing battle with absolutely no chance of winning.  When we avail ourselves to the resources of our Father, we become more than conquerors.

When we surrender to God, His spirit infuses into us to give us hope, and hope never disappoints (Romans 5:5). Because God is our source, He gives us power to get wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18), to have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10), and to have everlasting life (John 3:16).

To say we are more than conquerors is to say we just don't win by the skin of our teeth, but we win, and we win BIG!  We win because God is our Creator, our Source and our Sustainer! If you don't believe we win, read the end of the Book!

How to Be an Overcomer
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)

How do you survive the heat when trials come your way? How do you maintain your joy when you are tried by fire?  Do you give in, give up, or overcome? Everyone who believes in God should be an overcomer. It is no accident that the word is "overcomer." An overcomer is one who comes over a situation, a problem or a barrier. An overcomer is one who overpowers rather than allowing himself to becoming overpowered.  An overcomer is one who conquers that which is troubling to the body, mind, or spirit. Would you like to know how to be an overcomer?

The first step is to know that you CANNOT become an overcomer in your own strength. Release you problem to God and rely on Him to be the guiding force within you. Until you master this step, there is no need to go on to the other steps. Are you willing to give up your own strength in order to become an overcomer? If so, then move to step 2.

After you have surrender to God, approach Step 2. Get your mind in gear to know that God created each of us with survivor mechanisms embedded within us. We can bear more than we think we can. Have you ever heard of people receiving extra strength to lift cars off children or being extra courageous to save someone who is drowning. We don't know the strength we have until we need to put it into practice. Be confident that when you need the strength the most, it will appear.

Step 3 involves learning everything you can about the situation you desire to overcome. How can you attack unless you know the enemy's strategies?  You can't overcome that which you are ignorant about. If you have a disease, study the medical facts about it and you will be in a better position to overcome it.

Step 4 is to accept the situation as reality. Denying the problem doesn't solve it. In fact, the denial of it prolongs the solution. Know three things about your problem: (1) It is real; (2) It will not last forever; (3) Either you will overcome it, or it will overcome you.

Step 5 is to prepare in advance for unexpected problems by always putting on the FULL armor of God according to Ephesians 6:10-18. Then you will be able to overcome whatever threatens to defeat you.

Practice becoming an overcomer by using the aforementioned five steps. Then you will be able to say,  "Come on, Satan, take your best shot because I am an overcomer."

Redefine Your Goals
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)

Have you ever watched the waves on a beach? After watching for a while, you will know exactly where the waves will stop. They go to a defined point, stop and return to the ocean. That is exactly what we do. We go to an imaginary defined point, do what we have to do, and return to our starting point. How can we go beyond the defined point? Redefine the goal, of course! Move the stakes out farther.

When Alexander the Great made his great conquest of the known world, he sat down and cried. Why? Because there was no more world to conquer. He had met his goal. However, we still have a lot of world to conquer. So when we reach our designated point, we should redefine our goal, erase the line we have drawn in the sand, and go beyond where we have gone before.

Perhaps you are satisfied with the accomplishments you have made in life up to this point. Let me help you redefine your goals. Which do you think is a greater accomplishment ... to fill your thimble or to fill your barrel? Time's up; so let me give you the answer. For a thimble to be full is just as great as for a barrel to be full. Why? Both containers have lived up to their fullest capacity. Full is full no matter how big the container you are using.

Perhaps your goals could fix very well in a thimble. And if you have met that thimble full of goals, then CONGRATULATIONS! The next step is to get a bigger container to hold your goals. When that container is full, get a bigger container.

Redefine your goals as soon as you meet them. You will soon discover that your waves will get bigger and bigger and go farther up on the beach.

Nothing Can Separate Us From the Love of God
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

These scriptures reaffirm God's profound love for His people.  Paul's hypothetical situations could turn into painful realities if we didn't know God. When we are anchored in the Lord, we can stand up to persecution, illness, imprisonment and even our own death.  It is impossible to be separated from God when we realize God's constant presence with us. No matter what happens to us, no matter where we are, we can never be lost to His love.  Suffering, hardships, heartaches, or pain should not drive us away from God, but help us to identify with Him further and allow His love to touch us, deliver us, and heal us.

My Final Answer
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

On the prime time television show, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," the host gives the contestant several choices to help with answering the questions. If you notice, the first five or six questions are relatively easy (even I could answer those). When the questions become more difficult and more money is to be won or lost, the contestant is given what I consider to be too much time in answering, the host talks about other things while waiting for the answer, and the contestant is also given SEVERAL choices.

Thank God salvation is different. God did not give us four multiple choices and we have to  pick the correct one. There is ONLY ONE choice: Jesus Christ. We don't have to gamble on the answer. God does not give us a "50-50 " chance by removing two of the four choices to make our selection easier. There is ONLY ONE choice: Jesus Christ. God does however throw us "a life line," and that life line is Jesus Christ. We can "poll the audience" to get the right answer. If it is a Christian audience, the answer will always be the same: Jesus Christ. Just as on that television show, when you don't know the answer, you may "call a friend."  Call any Christian friend, and the friend will give you the right answer: Jesus Christ. The host might say, "Go with your instinct." Based on what you have read about salvation, what you have witnessed in your own life, what you have heard in your local churches, and what God has revealed to you, you too should be able to "go with your instinct" and give the correct answer: Jesus Christ.

And when the host calls for your answer, you can emphatically say "Salvation comes only through Jesus Christ." Then as is the custom, the host is going to ask you one last question. He will ask you "Is that your FINAL ANSWER?"  Without a doubt, without any hesitation, without any fear of giving the wrong answer, you can say with confident: Salvation comes through Jesus Christ, and that's MY FINAL ANSWER!

What Do You Know For Sure?
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13)

There is a section in Oprah's magazine where people articulate what they know for sure. Long before this appeared in the magazine, the Bible admonished people to confess what they know for sure.

While it is true that we cannot always know what the gas prices will be or when the snow will fall, we can be sure of many things based on God's word.  We can be sure of all that God has said because His word does not return to him void (Isaiah 55:11). Whatever He has said will come to pass.

What do you know for sure? Your answer should be: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Twelve Inches Below
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  (Romans 10:17)

Paul makes the same claim that the prophet Isaiah made when he said faith comes by hearing the word of God.  Belief comes from hearing the message of God, and that message comes through the word about Jesus Christ.  Faith comes to us when we hear preaching and teaching concerning our Lord and Saviour based on the written word of God. 

Hearing with the physical ears is not enough.  We must hear with an open heart and mind, willing to be shown the truth of God.  The hearing spoken of by Isaiah and by Paul does not involve the ears exclusively.  So "to hear" means to receive the word by the physical ears and spiritual ears as well.  The word should never go in one ear and out the other. It should go into the ear and then drop 12 inches below to the depths of our heart.

Twelve Inches Below
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  (Romans 10:17)

Paul makes the same claim that the prophet Isaiah made when he said faith comes by hearing the word of God.  Belief comes from hearing the message of God, and that message comes through the word about Jesus Christ.  Faith comes to us when we hear preaching and teaching concerning our Lord and Savior based on the written word of God. 

Hearing with the physical ears is not enough.  We must hear with an open heart and mind, willing to be shown the truth of God.  The hearing spoken of by Isaiah and by Paul does not involve the ears exclusively.  So "to hear" means to receive the word by the physical ears and spiritual ears as well.  The word should never go in one ear and out the other. It should go into the ear and then drop 12 inches below to the depths of our heart.

"Oh, By the Way"
Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! (Romans 11:33a)

Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has ever occurred to God? While things occur to us all the time, nothing has ever “occurred” to God. He never wakes up and says, “A great idea just occurred to me.” In the first place, He never sleeps, therefore He never has to wake up. In the second place, all His plans were perfect when He made them. In the third place, nothing ever occurs to Him. He knew all He needed to know from the beginning of time. God needs no new information.

God knows everything that could ever be known. God knows everything that has ever been known. Therefore, nothing needs to occur to God. No new idea will ever just pop into God's head. And what God knows, He has always known and will always know.

You can tell when something occurs to someone because that person says, "Oh, by the way..." or puts a PS (post script) at the end of a letter or puts an addendum to a contract or agreement.  God never says, "Oh, by the way." He doesn't need to. His plans were set in place before the foundations of the world.

Along with omnipotence and omnipresence, omniscience is one of the attributes of God's "all-ness." God is all powerful, always present and all knowing.

We grow in our knowledge of God, but God never has to grow in His knowledge about anything. Isn't it good that we don't serve an "Oh, by the way God"?

The Acceptable Sacrifice
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

God commands us to offer up acceptable sacrifices. An acceptable sacrifice is not the killing of an animal as in the Old Testament. The sacrifice God accepts today is different. What, then, is the acceptable sacrifice?

The above scripture names the acceptable sacrifice: YOUR BODIES!  Paul believes so much in this principle that he appeals to us by the mercies of God to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Unlike dead animals on the altar, we are to offer ourselves up to God while we are alive.  Jesus was the first fruits of a living sacrifice that was offered up to God on the cross. When we offer ourselves to God, we prove to Him that His son did not die in vain. Jesus was God's perfect sacrifice making it possible for our sacrifice to bring good pleasure to God.

Life's Lessons
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)

Students in school are not promoted to the next grade until they master what they have to learn in the grade they are in.  Workers are not promoted to another position until they succeed in the job they already have.  It is the same in the spiritual world.  Until we learn the lessons of life at the stage where we are, we will not be elevated to the next spiritual level.

We must stay on the potter's wheel until we are molded and perfected to what God wants us to be.  We must stay on the altar until all the imperfections are burned off.  God will not use us in full measure until we present our bodies as "living sacrifices."  After we are tested and proved, then God uses us to do exploits.

Which Should Come First?
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1)

As service oriented people, do you know what should come before attempting to work in the kingdom of God?  We tend to put the cart before the horse or to put it another way, we let the tail wag the dog. If we are to do effective service for God, we need to reverse the order.

God wants us to offer ourselves before we offer our services. Before Isaiah could do work for God, his sin had to be purged from him. (Isaiah 6) Before we can do effective work, we too must be consecrated and set apart for God. Surely, we can work in the kingdom, but is it effective? Do we find our work laborious? Do we lack power and the anointing to do the work with ease? Perhaps it is because we are trying to offer our services without first having offered ourselves?

The offering of ourselves should ALWAYS come before the offering of our services. Don't attempt to offer services to God without having first offered yourself upon the altar.

This is a good time to present yourselves to God as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Him. Let this be your spiritual act of worship during this Lenten season.

How to Live Sacrificially
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

God requires that you present your bodies to Him. He wants you to offer up your body to Him; that you dedicate your body to Him; that you exhibit your body before God. God wants you to yield your whole body up to Him. Paul is not talking about exercise, diet, or body building even though those things are certainly important since our body is the temple of God. In this scripture, Paul is talking about the simple act of yielding ourselves to God.

What God wants is all of you; not part of you. You have probably heard people on television who were fighting say to each other: "You want a piece of me?" God doesn't want a piece of you. He wants all of you.

Why does God want us to present our body? Four reasons come to mind.
  1. Everyone has a body. That is the one thing we all have in common.
  2. The body represents the whole person in the physical setting.
  3. The body is the vehicle through which we operate.
  4. The body is the agent of sin. When we sacrifice it on the altar, it becomes an instrument of holiness.

Can you think of anything better to offer God than ourselves? He doesn't want our cars, our houses, our yachts, or our clothes. What better sacrifice could we give Him other than our very own body?

Transformation 101
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is. (Romans 12:2)

The obvious mistake people make when it comes to transformation is to go directly to the second part of the above scripture. They start with "the renewing of the mind" part. However, transformation takes place by beginning at the beginning and following all the steps in the proper order.

There are four steps to effective transformation:
1.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.
2.  Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
3.  Then test what God's will is.
4.  Finally, approve what God's will is.

If you try to renew your mind but still conform to the pattern of this world, transformation will NOT take place. Unless you follow all the above steps in the order in which they are stated in Romans 12:2, transformation will NEVER take place for you or your loved ones.

It is only after you pass Transformation 101 will you be able to move to some of the deeper areas of spiritual development

Be Ye Transformed
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2)

Before a change can take place in your life, the change has to take place in your mind.  We often say "seeing is believing."  Not always true!   If you really want to see changes in your life, you first must "believe" and then "see" the manifestations of your beliefs.

Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  "Seeing is believing" is a concept of the "world."  Believing first is a concept of the spirit — of faith.

Arrange things in your mind and watch your entire life be transformed!

Change Your Mind
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  (Romans 12:2)

Are you so stuck in your own ways that you think it is almost impossible for you to change?  Is your mind so set on the things of this world that a crowbar could not pry your mind from them? The above scripture is very specific in telling you not to be go along with the pattern of this world, but be changed into a new creature by first changing your mind.

You change your mind by evaluating where you are with God and fellow human beings. Do you have a close relationship with God?  To establish a close relationship with God is first to become part of the family of God (Romans 10:9-10), to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to read His love letter everyday (Joshua 1:8), to study God's word (2 Timothy 2:15), to praise the Lord (Psalm 150:1), and to seek the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).  When you do all these things, you will establish a relationship with God.  That relationship will result in a change of mind; one that is focused always on God.  And when your mind is focused on God, then your whole life will be transformed.

Need a new life?  Then change your mind.

God's Perfect, Permissive and Prevailing Will
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is...his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

God's will for us is of three types. Everything we do falls into either God's perfect will, God's permissive will, or God's prevailing will. What's the difference?

Some people mistakenly think all three types are found in Romans 12:2. Not so. Romans 12:2 identifies only one category of God's will. The "good" and "pleasing" are descriptions of His perfect will. God's perfect will is his ideal plan for us. When our lives line up directly with God's commandments and when we obey Him in all that we say and do, then we live according to God's PERFECT will which is good and pleasing.

God permits us to do what we choose to do because of the free will He has given us. That's God's PERMISSIVE will. That is what God is permitting us to do based on our individual choices. "Choose this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15).

The third is God's PREVAILING will. No matter what we do, God's plan will prevail. There is absolutely nothing we can do to make God go against His ultimate plan for His people. Yes, the steps might be in a round about way, but God's plan will prevail. A good example is God's promise that the Israelites would go into the Promised Land. With all the things they encountered, God's ultimate promise and plan for them did prevail. They did enter into the Promised Land. And so can we.

In summary, God's perfect will is the ideal will of God. God's permissive will is that which he permits or allows to happen. God's prevailing will is God's ultimate plan and purpose that cannot be stopped. That's why Mary said at Jesus' conception, "Be it unto me according to thy word [God's will]" (Luke 1:38). That's why Jesus said concerning His death, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42).

Whatever you do should be in accordance with God's will . . . perfect, permissive or prevailing!

Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2b)

Have you ever wondered what's behind the question Dr. Phil McGraw so often yells at many of his guests? When they share something that Dr. Phil thinks is absurd, illogical, or down right stupid, he doesn't sugar coat it or smooth it over. Instead he screams, "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?"

As a psychologist, Dr. Phil knows that whatever people do, the concept of it started with a thought no matter how minute. In essence, Dr. Phil is saying if you hadn't had that misguided thought, the parallel action would never have taken place.

What Dr. Phil says isn't anything new. Dr. Paul said it thousands of years ago. Because your mind holds a lot of stuff . . . the good, bad and ugly; things of the past, present and fantasies about the future; shame, guilt, and unforgiveness, Dr. Paul suggests you unclutter your mind by "capturing every thought and making it obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The next time you are tempted to sin or to do something stupid, hear the voice of Dr. Phil yelling at you: "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?" That'll make you back up and think about the situation differently. Also, if you want to change, remember the words of Dr. Paul, "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2b) Any change on the outside MUST start with a thought on the inside.

Living By Measurements
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)

Perhaps you have noticed that we live by measurements. Our entire day consists of measurements of some kind. We put on clothes bearing a size. We prepare foods with a pinch of this or a dash of that. We cook the food by setting the temperature to a certain degree either on the microwave or a regular oven. We eat the food by spoonfuls or forkfuls from a bowl or plate. We sip coffee from a cup with a teaspoonful of sugar and a tablespoonful of milk. We drink ounces of water during the day. We travel miles to work. We look at our calendars to see what time a meeting is scheduled.  We check our watches as we pump gallons of gas that we pay for with different denominations of bills. Our entire life is based on size, distance, capacity, dimension, temperature, and amounts. Also, what we do is based on the measure of faith God has given us. What, then, is a measure of faith?

A measure of anything is simply "an adequate or due portion." It is also "a fixed or suitable limit." The spiritual gifts that God has given come with enough faith to use them. Everyone has not been given the same spiritual gifts. Therefore, the faith that has been given each person is in proportion to the gifts God's people are to perform. Let's clarify. A person who has been called to go into uncharted territories to preach the gospel surely has been given more faith than the person who teaches a youth Sunday School class (or maybe not). The point of the matter is this: Your faith is proportioned to your gift and your call.

If the truth be told, grace is also meted out. "But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it." (Ephesians 4:7) Like faith, everyone has not been given the same amount of grace.

Faith and grace for ministry vary from one individual to the next. Faith and grace come in measurements. Can you see now how we all live by measurements?

God's Gifted People
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. (Romans 12:6)

The Bible is clear about the fact that each Christian is gifted in a special way.  God is the giver of gifts.  Each person is in some way gifted by God. The purpose of any individual gift always goes beyond the individual since it is to be used for the community, for the building of the church, and for the work of ministry to all people.

God expects us to use the gift He has given us. We have been given excellent resources to build and expand God's kingdom. We are expected to use our talents so that they will multiply and the kingdom grows. God asks each of us to account for what we do with His gifts. While awaiting the coming of the kingdom of God in glory, we must do Christ's work here on earth by combining our gifts with other Christians for the benefit of all.

Christian Women Serving God by Serving Others
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (Romans 12:11)

I was blessed and honored to facilitate a women's retreat at the Founders Inn in Virginia Beach, VA for the women of Broad Rock Baptist Church of Richmond, VA this weekend. Their theme was: "Christian Women Serving God by Serving Others" based on Romans 12:9-21.

The goal was to bring all 29 women into a right relationship with God by emphasizing that we can serve God by serving others. Serving God is not merely standing behind the pulpit even though that is indeed important. Serving God is more than being a Sunday School teacher even though that is quite important. No matter how small we consider a godly matter, it brings pleasure to God when we help others.

We take for granted some of the many ways we can serve God. The women learned during the retreat that we can honor God by being devoted to one another in brotherly (sisterly) love (Romans 12:10); by sharing with God's people who are in need (Romans 12:13); and by practicing hospitality (Romans 12:13).

An entire session was devoted to learning those small things certain biblical women did to serve God by serving others. Both men and women can learn what those retreatants learned. Take this Quiz to see how much you know about the small things we can do to serve God by serving others.  Perhaps it will help you realize that you are already doing some of these things.

How to Benefit From the Blessings of Others
Rejoice with them that do rejoice. (Romans 12:15)

Have you ever noticed the pattern of blessings among your family, friends and co-workers? For example, when God blesses one person, there seems to be a chain reaction and others are blessed as well. You will notice that God’s blessings don’t stop with one person. The blessings are spread throughout the camp. Probably in your circle, there have been several people who have been recipients of similar blessings such as new jobs, new houses, new cars, etc. There are no isolated incidents. God blessings usually affect more than a single individual.

How can you benefit from the blessings of others?
1. Rejoice with them and let their blessings impact you. Resent their blessings and you severe all connections to the blessings.

2. Embrace the blessing as if it were yours. You will not only share in this particular blessing, but it will put you in the right position to be next in line for your very own blessing.

3. See the good that God is doing in the lives of others and know that God is no respecter of persons. What He has done for your friends and co-workers, he will also do for you if you keep the right attitude about it.

4. Recognize when Jesus is passing through. Do whatever you can to get in the crowd so the showers of blessings can fall on you. You might have to crawl on the ground to touch the hem of His garment like the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:43), or you might have to run ahead and climb a sycamore tree like Zacchaeus (Luke 19:4).

Congratulate and celebrate with others with the genuine confidence that you will be blessed as a result.   And before long, people will be celebrating with you because you embraced and tasted the fruit of someone else’s blessing.

Coals of Fire
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22 and Romans 12:20)

In biblical times almost everything was carried on the head.  Water, jars, fruit, fish, vegetables all alike were carried on a person's head from one place to another.  Cooking was done on small burners outside the house.  If the fire went out, someone would fill a bucket with live coals and carry it on his head to his neighbor. Such an act stood for warmth and neighborliness.  To be kind to our enemies, even forgiving them, is like heaping "coals of fire on their head." Evil is replaced with love and forgiveness.

Has someone mistreated you lately?  Show love and forgiveness by heaping "coals of fire" on that person's head.  The above scriptures say, "The Lord will reward you." Try it. You will feel better and so will that individual.

Walking in Love
Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10)

Love is at the very heart of Christianity. Believers in Christ are commanded by God to love one another despite our theological differences. In everything we do, love should be the main motivation and key characteristic.  Our ministry and our Christian witness become meaningless if they are not done in love. In every area of our lives, God wants us to walk in love.

Love can be summed up as "selfless giving," reaching beyond our own needs to others. Love should be the identifying mark and the unifying force of the Christian community. We grow spiritually when we walk in love. Our growing relationship with God will result in wholesome relationships with others.

The Law of Love
Love does no wrong to anyone. That's why it fully satisfies all of God's requirements. It is the only law you need. (Romans 13:10, TLB)

There are rules, regulations, principles and laws governing all areas of our existence. However, there is only one law that is needed. The law of love supersedes all social, civil, political, and religious laws. Love is the central characteristic of the Christian. (Matthew 22:37-40) James calls it the "royal law." (James 2:8) Paul writes that love is even greater than faith and hope. (I Corinthians 13:13)
Love is a unifying force that keeps friends and families together in the worst of times as well as in the best of times. Love is a connecting force that brings people together who have been enemies for many years. Love is a healing force that makes people forget about their pain and focus on the deep love they have in their heart for all people.

I challenge you to love your way out of dark situations. Love your way out of depressing situations. Love your way out of dismal situations. Love you way into the things you desire . . . good friends, good health, and God's goodness. God is love. (1 John 4:8) And if we want to be like God, we also must love!

We don't need to wait until Valentine's Day, Mother's Day or Father's Day to say, "I love you." My 37-year old son, Michael, concludes every telephone conversation by saying,  "I love you, Mom!"

It is better to let people know you love them while they are alive rather than visiting a grave saying it over and over again after they have departed from this earth. Let someone know you love them TODAY!

If you are reading this, it is my indication that "I Love You!"

Naked and Exposed
It is written: " 'As surely as I live, says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.' So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:11-12)

Last night in our Romans class, we discussed the three things Paul says everybody, including unbelievers, will have to do.

1.   Every knee will bow before Jesus.
2.   Every tongue will confess to God.
3.   Everyone will give an account of  himself to God.
Many people neglect to list #3 thinking that if they don't acknowledge it will happen, then if won't happen. Guess what? It will happen whether you acknowledge it or not.
One student, LaShay Childs from Bethel Baptist Church in Bowling Green, VA shared an interesting revelation that God has given her in reference to #3.   She said God showed her how we will all stand before God completely naked and exposed.   God will see us as we really all with nothing to hide behind. And we will also see ourselves as we stand there naked and exposed while giving an account of the deeds we have done on earth.
Isn't that enough to make us want to do right? Isn't that enough to make us want to have only good deeds to report instead of having to give an account for evil deeds? Wouldn't it be better to do what God commands instead of having to explain why we didn't?
There are so many things to cover up with such as wigs, toupees, make-up, tummy tucks, etc. to prevent people from seeing the real you. While you stand naked and exposed before God, there will be none of those things to cover you up  (not even fig leaves). It will be just you and your testimony. Let it be a good one!


Staying on the Wall
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

Nehemiah is a historical book of the Old Testament that describes the rebuilding of the city walls around Jerusalem. The book is named for its major character, a Jewish servant of a Persian king and effective leader who organized and guided the project of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Against overwhelming odds, Nehemiah encouraged the people to rise up and build (Nehemiah 2:18). Nehemiah gives us an excellent object lesson on the power of prayer which enabled him to stay on the wall. Despite opposition from enemies, Nehemiah stayed on the wall. He was on a mission, and nothing would force him to turn back. Limited resources would have caused some to come down, but Nehemiah stayed on the wall. The wall that had been in ruins for many years was rebuilt in only 52 days because Nehemiah stayed on the wall.

We learn a great lesson from Nehemiah. In the midst of opposition or limited resources to do God's work, we should always "be steadfast, immovable always abounding in the work of the Lord, because we know that our labor in the Lord is not in vain" (I Corinthians 15:58). The Book of Nehemiah was written in the past to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Let's stay on the wall unto our project has been completed; until our task has been done!

Acceptance or Resignation?
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7)

Sometimes you have to agree to something so that the matter can be concluded. But what have you done? Have you accepted the situation? Or have you resigned yourself to it? There is a vast difference between acceptance and resignation.

Gas prices are extremely high all over the country. When it comes to you, is the situation one of acceptance or resignation? Let's explore the matter.

Acceptance is positive; resignation is negative. Acceptance is liberation; resignation is bondage. Acceptance is the result of faith; resignation is the result of fear. Acceptance leaves the door of hope open, while resignation closes that door. Acceptance gives room for God to work. Resignation dismisses God with the assumption that God can't handle the matter.

Acceptance is the act of receiving something gladly; or the consent to pay for something. Resignation is to give over, to give up, to quit. Resignation is relinquishing all privileges, rights or claims to something. It is total submission to what is without acknowledging the possibility that it can be worked out. To put it in the language of today's teenagers, resignation is expressed through the word, "WHATEVER!"

Now, back to the gas prices. Do you accept them or do your resign yourself to them? The right answer could cause them to go down. And who wouldn't ACCEPT that?

Accepting Others
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7)

Why should we accept others? God commanded it! Accepting others grows out of obedience to God. That's the number one reason we should accept others. However, there are several more reasons. To make Jesus Lord over every area of life means to share His values and His perspective. Just as you accept Jesus' views on eternal life, love  of Scripture, the nature of heaven, and the crucifixion and the resurrection, so you are to have the same type of attitude and love toward others as Christ did. If Jesus is really Lord of your life, then you should accept everything that He accepts . . . including others.

Another very important reason to accept others is that when we don't accept others, we miss out on their contribution. When we look beyond stereotypes, we become to know and appreciate others even though they might not share all of our beliefs and theologies. When we accept and associate with others, we learn from them and they learn from us.  As Christians we should accept others and treat them with respect because everyone has a place in the family of God.

Why Paul Never Became A Pastor
It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. (Romans 15:20)

Paul is known by many titles: apostle, preacher, missionary, tent maker, servant, prisoner of Christ Jesus but not pastor. Since Paul wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament, he would have had lots of sermons to preach to his congregation had he become a pastor. Paul was a great teacher and preacher, but he never became a pastor. Paul mentored to Timothy and Titus and instructed them to become effective pastors; however Paul was never a pastor himself. Paul was known as an itinerant preacher. What is an itinerant preacher, and why did Paul prefer being an itinerant preacher instead of a pastor?

An itinerant preacher is one who travels from church to church to preach but never becomes a pastor of any particular church. Itinerant preachers have a different "itinerary" than the pastors who stay at the same church year after year.

Paul was under a holy compulsion to preach the pure gospel; not one that was mixed with other things. He endeavored to preach it fully leaving out nothing. Paul had no desire to go into another man's pulpit and preach behind him. Paul had a different aim. He wanted to go where Christ had not been known and teach people from the very beginning. He sought to go to those places where he could lay the foundation himself.

Paul preferred not preaching at a church that had already been established so he wouldn't take another man's crown, or boast in another man's history, or take credit for another man's labor. Rather, Paul planted churches that he might first lay the foundation himself by preaching Christ. (Paul didn't build churches. He planted them. Whatever you plant will grow under the right conditions. Whatever you build will stay the same. Paul would have a problem with building funds and building projects in today's churches).

After Paul planted churches, he turned them over to men capable of maintaining them. Later he wrote letters to the churches to advise them and to settle matters. Hence, we have the letters to the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and two letters to the Corinthians and Thessalonians. We have two letters to these two churches because they couldn't get it right with just the first letter. Therefore, Paul had to address more issues or further explain previous ones.

Pastors preach from the writings of Paul all the time; however, Paul himself never should be called Pastor Paul. Paul NEVER became a pastor.

When In Rome Do as the Romans Do
This is the reason that I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, with no further plans for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while. (Romans 15:22-24)

Paul longed to visit Rome. He had many friends there. The entire chapter of Romans 16 consists of Paul's personal greetings to his Christian friends scattered throughout Rome. Paul had planned to visit Rome many times before, but each time his trip was hindered.

Paul's letter to the Romans was written to prepare them for his visit. He did not want to barge in on them. He planned to visit them "in the fullness of the blessing of Christ" (Romans 15:29) so he asked them to "pray that he could come to them with joy and be refreshed in their company" (Romans 15:32). In other words, when Paul visited Rome he wanted to do what the Romans did as long as it was pleasing to God.

What lessons do we learn from Paul in this matter? Paul was praying on his end for his journey. He wanted the Romans to pray on their end to receive him and what he had to say about the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wanted his long awaited arrival to be all that it could be to glorify God. Let us not only pray when we take a trip, but let us also remind those at our destination to receive us well.

Another lesson we learn from this passage is one about timing. Paul desired to get to Rome long before he finally did arrive. Let us not be discouraged if it is taking a long time to get to the place or position we desire.  In due season, we like Paul will finally arrive in Rome.

How To Shorten Your Time of Adversity
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

All of us have faced adversity, trouble, trials and tribulations at some points in our lives. And if we keep living, we will face them again. There are many ways to shortened your days of adversity. One major way is to adjust your attitude about what is happening to  you. Yes, it's so easy to get depressed and cry, "Woe is me!" No one is asking you to deny the reality of your trouble, but to constantly focus on it gives it power over you. So, accept your problem as real, but don't give it power.

Also, know that your problem is temporary. That too, shall pass! In the midst of your trouble, know that the Holy Spirit can still fill you with joy and peace. No one is saying that your attitude and state of mind should be proportional to your problem. Keep smiling and having hope in the midst of your trouble. Draw upon your reserved faith that you stored up in the good times.

In summary, you need to know two things that will help you during your time of trouble: 
know that your problem is real, and know that it will not last forever.
 Tested and Approved
Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ. (Romans 16:10 )

Paul wrote Romans 16 in appreciative recognition of those who had contributed something to the starting of the early churches.  Many women were among the list, along with other believers and laborers in the spreading of the gospel. At first glance the closing chapter of Romans seems to be an uninteresting catalog of names that have little or no meaning for us today.  However, upon closer study this neglected chapter yields many important lessons for the believer.

One interesting thing about this chapter is that when Paul sends greetings to each person, he identifies that person according to how he views that person's relationship to Christ. When he sent greetings to Apelles, Paul described him as having being tested and approved in Christ.  What a description!  Apelles was mature in faith and had endured many trials causing Paul and others to see him tested and approved. 

Do people see you that way? If Paul were to describe you, what would he say? What do your family, friends, and close associates say about your relationship in Christ?

A Hug, A Kiss and A Word
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
(Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26)

There is a 6 year old boy at my church who greets me every Sunday morning and Wednesday night with three things: a hug, a kiss and a word.

Last July during our Vacation Bible School I taught the word "Shalom" and explained its meaning to be "peace." Shalom is a greeting to say "Hello." It is a parting word to say "Good-bye." It is a blessing within itself.  It means being whole with nothing missing and nothing broken. Since July Kyrie greets me with, "Shalom, Rev. Minnicks." He then gives me a hug and a kiss.

Last Wednesday night for some reason Kyrie was not in the children's Bible Study. I spotted him sitting in the back of my adult class with his grandmother. I did not expect Kyrie to understand what I was teaching from the minor prophetic book of Zephaniah. I had explained that Zephaniah was encouraging the people of Judah to repent from their sins so that God would restore them. It sent chills down my spine when after the class was over, Kyrie came forward and gave me his usual hug, kiss and a word. He had picked up one word from my teaching and had made a connection. He said, "John the Baptist preached repentance like Zephaniah." I wonder if the 100+ adults in my class made that connection. Well, Kyrie did!

I can't wait until I see Kyrie on Sunday because I can expect three things from him: a hug, a kiss, and a word from God. There should be more Kyries around our churches, our workplaces, our schools, our communities, and our world.

Brief Lesson About "Holy Hugs"
Greet one another with a holy kiss. (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14)

You might be surprised to discover that there is no such thing in the Bible as a "holy hug." Paul does mention at the end of many of his letters to "greet one another with a holy kiss." That was the custom of Paul's day; not ours. During Paul's time, the holy kiss was an expression of both a greeting and a farewell. It expressed devotion, honor and respect. It still is in many countries today. But this kiss was not something God commanded the apostles or us to do. It was merely a custom.
Amazingly, the "holy hug" has made its way into our churches. Some churches designate a certain time in their worship service for people to go around and hug one another. The "holy hug" is called just that to separate it from the ordinary, common hug. Calling it "holy"  distinguishes it from an unchaste and lascivious one and from a hypocritical and deceitful one. It should have a special, godly significance.

Remember, a "holy hug" must come from a "holy person." A "holy hug" must proceed from a heart that is full of holy love. Persons who use the church to give a hug or kiss for reasons other than to express genuine Christian love and devotion need to evaluate their motives. In our culture today, the handshake is our common expression of greeting and farewell. However, there is nothing wrong with the "holy hug" as long as it is void of sensuality. Both men and women should be mindful of their motives when they give or accept a hug in or out of the church.

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