Lessons from Romans (wisdom)

To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen. (Romans 16:27)

The above is the last verse of the last chapter of the book of Romans.

My curiosity was caught by the phrase “only wise”… I don’t know why, but for as long as I can remember, I always thought that this was a phrase that meant “alone”. But it doesn’t… like many things in the Bible, it means what is says: that God has true wisdom.

Over the years, I’ve heard multiple preachers define “wisdom”; it is usually tied to knowledge, such as “the practical use of knowledge” or “the proper use of knowledge” (I like the latter one).

However, in looking up the phrase “only wise”, I saw that the root idea behind the word for wisdom is “clear” or “clarity”… and that just really impressed me. It felt like when one crests a hill or rounds a corner, and sees far more stretching out in front of one.

I love this idea: that God can see clearly all the way out to eternity. We, on the other hand, are like extremely near-sighted people, or people dwelling in a thick fog: we can barely see beyond ourselves, and what we can see isn’t completely clear.

Such is the wisdom that God possesses; little wonder that glory is due Him!

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Approved unto God

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

I think this verse is fairly well known; it is the basis of the children’s AWANA program (AWANA stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed). [I worked with the AWANA program a long time ago]

This verse was recently brought to my attention at church, and part of this article comes from observations made by others. I am enthused about some of the truths that this verse holds, and I wanted to share thoughts about it.

None of us enjoy being ashamed, but we do enjoy approval: here, we are encouraged to seek the approval of God. It is so easy to skip over little phrases like this, but it is paramount that we seek the approval of God… not so much the approval of parents, or pastor, or friends, or school authorities, but of God. If we will seek God’s approval, and the authority is also seeking God’s approval, the authority will approve what we do. It is easy to say this, but it is so common to fall short here. (Q: “Why do you dress like that?” or “Why do you listen to that music?” A1: “My parents make me.” A2: “My church has these rules {or standards}” A3: “Bro BigName doesn’t have a problem with it”). If these are true answers, then we have not bothered to seek the approval of God, and are letting others do the work for us. The command is to study for ourselves; we don’t need to automatically reject what others say, but we must study for ourselves and become convinced that “this” (whatever “this” is) has God’s approval. A better answer to the question is “Because it honors God”; or, if you like a longer answer “Because I am convinced from my study of God’s word that it is approved by Him”.

Now we have the goal: to became approved unto God. How do we accomplish this goal? In a word, “study”. Study is not just reading or not just reading slowly. Studying is engaging the mind: pausing or stopping to consider what we read.

We know from this verse what happens when we don’t study… we could (and probably will) become “ashamed”.

Finally, there is the requirement that God’s word (“the word of truth”) be rightly divided… properly understood and interpreted — there are a lot of material on this subject, and is way beyond the scope of today’s thought.

Example

As an example (and I may have used this before), let us do a quick “study” on hair length. Does God have anything to say about this subject? Yes; in fact, God has something to say about everything – there are passages in the Bible that talk about “in everything” and “whatsoever ye do”. Having said that, He gives more detail about some areas.

It is clear from a quick look at 1 Cor 11 that God desires men to have shorter hair than women. But there is more: the Bible tells us that the woman’s hair is given to her for a “covering”. Thus, it is also clear that a woman’s hair should be covering something that is not covered by the shorter hair on men. So, we can rule out the scalp, since that is covered by both. Eyes, nose, and mouth can be excluded for obvious reasons, leaving us with ears and/or neck. Thus, we can conclude that God would have women’s neck and/or ears by covered by hair, and men should not be.

That’s as far as I’m going with this example… perhaps further study could reveal more; I once heard a man teach that the basis of the word “covering” implied “down the side”, which, if true, would give weight to covering the ears. However, to use this article’s wording, from my own study of the Scriptures, I am not convinced.

Happy studying!

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Praying too much

This post came from my reaction to a comment about prayer on Facebook: “we cannot pray too much”.

Comments such as that one challenge me and I start to think about them and look at them from multiple angles… and I have to say that I don’t agree with the statement.

I do believe that I could pray more and better, and I suspect that is true for many Christians, but that is not what was said. Let us consider:

Balaam

We read about him in Numbers 22; he prayed about Balak’s request; God told him “no”; and he refused Balak’s messengers. But then Balak sent more important people and offered more money. God had already answered; Balaam should not have prayed again, and yet he did. This would seem to be a clear case where someone “prayed too much”.

Moses

In Exodus 4:13, Moses prayed and asked God to send someone else, and God’s wrath was kindled at him. This is another example of someone “praying too much”. Like Balaam, this case is one where one is praying against the clearly revealed will of God.

Joshua

In the giving-credit-where-credit-is-due, I have to give my wife credit for thinking of this one… In Joshua 7, Joshua is praying about the military failure of the town of Ai when God instructed him to stop praying (Joshua 7:10)… Joshua had prayed too much.

I believe there are other instances in which instructs His messengers to not pray for something; if such instructions are ignored, that would be another case of praying too much.

I think it seems clear that one can pray too much; perhaps a more accurate statement would be that “we don’t pray enough”.

Just some thoughts…

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Lessons from Romans (What matters)

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Rom 14:17)

This verse has been on my mind for the last few days; I believe that there is a great truth here that could change a one’s life if one would make it the foundation of one’s being.

Let’s begin by putting this verse in context; Romans 14 is dealing with issues that are not covered in Scripture. Specifically mentioned are eating meat (or not eating meat), and whether one observes special days [holy days or holidays] (or not).

As an aside, many people think that the “meat” listed here is meat that had been offered to idols, but the Holy Spirit does not use the word “idol” anywhere in this chapter. It may be that such is the case, but we need to be careful when we make assumptions about Scripture. In I Corinthians, there is a specific question about meat offered to idols, and that may have influenced the thinking about this passage.

This verse under consideration has a great reminder of where to focus our attention, and there are a couple of ways we can be in error.

The first way is an outward view; a constant or frequent examination of the lives of others to see if they are “measuring up” to what we think they should be doing. Oh, we are so holy! We would not watch what they are watching; we would not allow our children to watch what they allow their children to watch; we would not read what he is reading! We think the colors she is wearing may be a bit worldly! We don’t have a television; clearly, those that do are not as spiritual.

NO! We are to honor and glorify Jesus Christ with our lives – but we are not the judge of other people. Yes, we are not to be worldly, the Bible commands us, but it is for each believer to evaluate his actions in the light of Scripture while seeking enlightenment from the Holy Spirit. It is not our job to create lists of “worldly” activities and pass these along to every professing Christian we meet. Christianity is a relationship, not a list of things to “do” and “not do”. Let us work on our righteousness and work at being peaceful and showing forth the joy produced by the Holy Spirit.

Remember, we are NOT talking about things that the Bible is clearly against – see, for one list, the “works of the flesh” in Gal 5:19-21.

The second error is an inward view… we are obsessed with ourselves and our actions. I’ve met people like this (and you probably have, too) – they live in almost fear that somehow and in some way they are doing something wrong. These people seem to live under a burden of trying to “measure up”; the last thing you think about regarding them is “peace and joy”.

A help for these people is to seek an honest answer to “measure up to whom?” If it is some other human being – your boss, someone you are trying to impress, or your pastor, then perhaps such a person’s focus needs to change to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light – it is not so with the burdens of man. Some may give the spiritual-sounding answer “God”… but He knows our frame, that we are dust. Even the very best person’s works are still “filthy rags” in God’s sight. He loves you, even though you fail. Success is not His standard, but did you try to please Him? He is well-pleased with such things. Again, we need to remember that His way is a relationship, not merely a list of things to do or to avoid doing.

As in so very many things, it is a heart matter – are we trying to please Him? If so, don’t obsess over how well or poorly you did. Let us take our eyes off of “meat and drink” and focus on righteousness and joy and peace!

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Lessons from Romans (Confession)

I apologize that I haven’t written as often as I intended to; I started a word-of-the-day blog, and that and a few other things have been taking up a lot of time. It’s not really that I have been short of material; it’s just that between thinking about sharing something here, and actually writing it, there is usually a delay, and often, things crowd in and it doesn’t get written.

For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. (Rom 14:11)

I wanted to write about the word “confess”; we often associate it with confession of sin – possibly because of the influence of the Catholic church with “going to confession” and confessing one’s sins to a priest. But the root word of confession here is more about giving honor and glory.

If you think about it, however, confession is both — on man’s side, we are confessing our sins; telling God about the things we have done that are wrong. But on God’s side, confessing our sins implicitly says that His law is good and right; and that He is Holy and Just. It does bring glory to Him — and this is the idea in Joshua 7:19 (And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.)

Of course, not all confession is of sin – we can confess that God is Holy and Just and Right without listing sins we have committed.

Just a thought!

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Lessons from Romans (olive tree)

And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree (Rom 11:17).

I’ve read the above verse several times, but I didn’t understand the full blessing of it until I happened to read about the phrase “wild olive tree”; I had previously assumed this referred to an olive tree growing out in the wild instead of planted on purpose in someone’s garden.

However, such is not the case; the wild olive is, apparently, a different species than the cultivated olive tree. The wild olive tree has thorns and, if it bears fruit at all, bears “imperfect”, “inedible”, and “useless” fruit.

Isn’t this a wonderful picture of salvation and reclamation by our wonderful God!

Before salvation found in Jesus Christ, we were thorny, bearing no useful fruit. But afterwards – we become grafted to Him, Who is called the Root and the True Vine. With a quickened spirit and partaking of the good nutrition of the Root, we can bring forth fruit to the glory of God.

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Thoughts in Luke (Three Men)

These are some thoughts on the following passage:

And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. 

Luke 9:57-62

This may be very common thoughts, but I have not heard them before, and so I wanted to write them down.

There are three men here, and they are all different, and we can learn from each man here.

The First Man

This man was impressed with Jesus. However, based on Jesus’ response, he did not count the cost. How often have we made a spur-of-the-moment decision based upon emotion, but we never really did think it through? We know that God wants us to plan ahead, and “count the cost” of what we decide to do for Him. He does not want us doing nothing at all — it is good to attempt things for the honor and glory and praise of God, but we should ensure that we have thought it through. It looks like this man was caught up in the excitement and didn’t consider how things would be when there were no crowds around Jesus. I hope he reconsidered and still decided to follow Jesus, but he may have walked away. How about us? I know I’ve sometimes tackled things that I hoped would be to God’s glory, but did not properly think it through. This is a good lesson for us.

The Second Man

This is the only man recruited by Jesus; the first man and the third man initiated the request, but Jesus asked (told) this man to follow him. This man didn’t say no, but he did try to delay his response. He had responsibilities – in this case, family responsibilities, and he put those ahead of God’s call. Although it may sound as though this man’s father were dead, it may be that this man’s father was declining, and he was offering to follow Jesus after his father passed away. How many of us are like that! As teens, we want to do well in school, so we don’t attend church services on school nights. Then we have a job and want to make a good impression at work, so we don’t have time for church. Then we are married, and want to have some “family time”, and Sunday is the only day for that… the list goes on. This is an excellent example of good being the enemy of best. It is good to be responsible, and all of the things just mentioned, but it is best to follow the call of God. If God called us, would we say “yes!” or would we be as this man and deflect.

The Third Man

I’m not sure what to think about this man… by his own profession he was ready to follow Jesus — but he wasn’t ready – he had not yet turned his back on his home life, and this is what Jesus points out to him. He talked a good game; he sounded very spiritual, but he wasn’t really committed to what he said. Do we talk bigger than we are prepared to do? If the second man had said this, it would have made sense; it would be fine to bid farewell to one’s family if Jesus called him. But this man effectively said “I’m ready to follow (but not really)”. Do we want to sound spiritual, but don’t follow through?

Well, there they are: three men, all with different issues regarding following Jesus. We tend to think well of ourselves, but, in honesty, I think I’ve failed in each of these three ways over the course of my life.

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Despised Bible Characters – King Saul

We first meet Saul in 1 Sam 9, and he is mentioned in nearly all of the remaining chapters of 1 Samuel.

Saul is another character whose evil and sinful ways are brought up a lot: I first heard about Saul as a teenager in churches, when I first heard the following well-known passage preached (and I’ve heard it a lot down through the years): Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. (1 Sam 15:22-23)

Let me say at the beginning that there is no doubt that Saul did great evil, but these are generally well-known and I will not dwell on them. In this series about various Bible characters, I’m not trying to call evil good; I’m trying to remind myself (and whoever reads this) to take a balanced look at these characters… and so on we go.

When we first meet Saul, he is a good-looking young man; he was sent by his father to find some lost donkeys (interesting word note: both ‘donkey’ and ‘ass’ refer to the same creature; however, the word ‘donkey’ did not exist until over 100 years after KJV was made, which is why it doesn’t appear in it). This means that Saul was trusted by his father, and he WAS trustworthy — he didn’t hang out with the servant until the money was gone and come back and report that they couldn’t find them – they actually went out and diligently searched.

When Saul met Samuel, he seemed shy and embarrassed — look at what Samuel said: And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father’s house?

And here is Saul’s response: Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore then speakest thou so to me? My paraphrase: “Me? I’m nobody; I’m not even from an important family… are you sure you mean me?”

Later, with his uncle, he was still too shy or embarrassed to tell him what Samuel had said. When Samuel came to choose a king, Saul was hiding. Even at the beginning, some of the people didn’t see how a tall kid could help them, and thus despised him, but Saul didn’t have them executed… he was just silent. After Saul’s first great victory, the people spoke about killing the men who despised Saul, but Saul stopped them and gave glory to God. (1 Sam 11:12-13)

Saul’s early years are noble; we hear little about those good years; it seems that mostly what I hear is about the bad things he did. It is a terribly tragedy that he turned away from the good traits of goodness, trustworthiness, shyness, and humility leaving a crazed, jealous, and rebellious egomaniac on the throne. He who started with great respect for Samuel later ordered the execution of the innocent priests of the Lord. After honoring God’s law by ridding the land of witches, it is terrible that Saul would seek one near the end of his life.

Saul had an excellent beginning, but it did not continue. May that not be so for us!

But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of (2 Tim 3:14)

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (I Cor 15:58)

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Despised Bible Characters – Elimelech

We don’t know much about Elimelech; the bulk of his story is in the first chapter of Ruth. The phrase “we don’t know” is going to come up a lot because there just isn’t a lot of information, but I suspect that he is another character getting an undeserved bad reputation.

I have heard several messages either about him or that mention him, and it is always bad. He is condemned for leaving Israel, the place of national blessing because of a famine, and because of the bad impact upon his family. He is often compared unfavorably with Boaz, of whom it is said that he stayed put and became wealthy.

The usual application I’ve heard is that if one is being blessed in a church, we should not lightly move away just because times are tough.

While that would appear to be a fair application, that’s not the point of this writing: I want to provide some things to think about that may make us judge him less harshly.

We don’t know about his family life; we don’t know what led to the decision to sojourn in Moab. It could well be that Naomi was the driving force behind the move and that Elimelech didn’t want to go, but that she could have nagged him about how poorly they were doing and how much better it would be in Moab. There are plenty of families in which the wife pushes the husband to “succeed” or to better the family circumstances. Elimelech could be one of the many men who sacrifice principle for peace and thus moved to Moab.

One of the reasons I wonder about this is that you will note that his sons did not marry heathen (non-Jewish) girls until after Elimelech had died. We don’t know their ages; while it may be that they were just too young to marry before their father died, it could be that he had been the primary one encouraging them not to marry the Moabitish girls.

Furthermore, if Elimelech was the bad guy and dragged Naomi off against her will, then why didn’t she return to Israel after her husband died? (She didn’t have any trouble leaving later). The end of Ruth 1:4 seems to imply that Naomi’s sons lived in Moab ten years with their wives.

Note too, that Naomi does not appear to have been a very spiritual person; like many whose faith is weak, she praised God when good things happened (Ruth 2:20), and blamed Him when circumstances were not good (Ruth 1:13, 20,21). She seemed to be encouraging both of her daughters-in-law to return to their heathen ways, but Ruth was determined to stay with her.

Finally (a minor point); there is no indication that Boaz became wealthy by staying where he was; he could have been wealthy before the trouble began.

Side Notes

The following are some other thoughts I had while looking through the story of Ruth; they are not pertinent to the main post, but I put them here for your consideration.

  • Who named the children? In an older Bible of mine, it says that Mahlon means “sickly” and the Chilion means “pining” or “failing”. What names to give children! They appear to have been accurate, however, for they both died young
  • It is interesting to read that their purpose in going to Moab was “to sojourn” (Ruth 1:1); this implies that they planned to keep moving around and be back before too long, but before long this became “…and continued there”. This story could be told over and over again in the lives of many believers: they intend to do something that they know isn’t really right, but they only plan to do it “for a little while” and then return to doing right. However, the “little while” often becomes permanent. This is a good warning for all believers.
  • It is interesting that Orpah was the one who obeyed Naomi and returned; it was Ruth who was determined to say with Naomi.
  • Even though Naomi asked to be called “Mara” (Ruth 1:20), the Holy Spirit continued to call her Naomi, as did the people of Bethlehem (Ruth 2:6; 4:3, 17).

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Controversy and Explanation

I don’t think I’ve done a post like this one before, and I welcome feedback.

I had an unpleasant experience on social media a while ago, and it was… well, unpleasant.

I want to tell of the events and explain myself more fully that I could at the time. As is my usual practice in such matters, I don’t intend to identify the social media or the people involved; I want to discuss the events.

One more thing before I begin; it has always been my habit to evaluate statements to assess how true they are. Usually, I only respond if I think that my post might be helpful — and most of the time, I don’t think it will, and so I don’t. Obviously, that was not the case this time.

The event

Someone I know from another church posted picture from somewhere that stated: A girl’s body is not responsible for a boy’s thoughts.

I understand the point of the quote: there is FAR TOO MANY TIMES that a wicked man will blame his disgusting/illegal/immoral behavior on how the a girl dresses or acts, and this is just wrong. Period. I understand this and agree with that idea behind the post. In fact, had the post said “A modest girl’s body…”, I would have had no issue with it.

However, it doesn’t change that fact that the statement is not always true: There ARE such things as temptresses and seductresses (Delilah in the Bible was one such women). Women like this specifically dress in such a way and use their body in such a way as to put thoughts in men’s minds, and such women ARE responsible for those actions. I didn’t think anyone would argue this point; it seems so obviously true.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember exactly what I wrote in response: I didn’t intend to write a dissertation, or even as much as the previous paragraph. I assume whoever posted it copied it from somewhere without thinking it through, so I think what I wrote back was something like “While I agree with you in general, this statement is not always true. Her dress and behavior may have some influence.”

The results

As you might expect, that erupted in a flood of hateful posts, with people accusing me of things I did not and have not said (you can imagine). Some told tales of their own experiences with wicked men. Most seemed to think I was taking that the wicked men use of blaming the woman. No one bothered to ask for clarification. I was even threatened by a man I consider to be a friend. Note: I kind of expect that behavior from the overly-sensitive world (the kind of woke feminism that hates men and blames everything on them), but I was disappointed in fellow Christians — people who claim to follow truth.

A friend told me that I just should not have said anything, and he may be right. After consideration, however, if we allow inadvertent false statements to pass without challenge, we are opening the door to give a pass to false statements made on purpose. In hindsight, my judgment was faulty: I assumed people would see the error with the blanket statement made, but that was wrong.

This has been good for me to write about… and I’ve learned a lesson: if such an occasion occurs in the future, I will have to write more fully and explain instead of being quite so terse.

With this written about, I’ll get back to the series about Despised Bible Characters (hopefully another one by the end of the week).

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