Precursors to Noah’s Flood, Genesis 6:1-6

The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” – Genesis 6:5-6

This next section—Genesis 6-8—covers a lot of territory: the society’s degradation, Noah and the great flood, and life after the flood with Noah’s three sons.

But before we get too scholarly, let’s not miss verse 6 (above).

God grieved. His heart was filled with pain. 4305becdcf62a8d04a95ff62ee2f8fcb

God has emotions like us. Or better stated: Since we are made in God’s image, we have emotions like God. Because God loves us, our attitudes and choices can either grieve Him or bring Him joy.

Precursors to the Flood

Two groups are named at the beginning of chapter 6: the sons of God and the daughters of men. The result of these two groups mixing brings an explosion of evil in the antediluvian period.

“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose,” Genesis 6:1-2.

This passage brings both mystery and controversial views on the “sons of God”. There are three interpretations. The first two interpretations are naturalistic, but have some gaps. The third interpretation sounds more like a scene from a Sci-Fi movie, but appears to have more backbone in biblical research.

Three Interpretations

  1. The descendants of Cain (daughters of men) intermarried the descendants of Seth (sons of God), (4:1-25). This view helps explain the erosion of righteousness on earth through intermarriage of the godly and ungodly. However, the Sethites—with the exception of Noah and his family—were also destroyed in the flood as God’s judgment on their wickedness. Also, Seth’s descendants were never mentioned as “the sons of God” in the spiritual sense.
  2. These marriages are between aristocrats and commoners. (Neither of these first two interpretations explain why the unions would result in giants or universal corruption and violence.)
  3. The “sons of God” were fallen angels acting in violation to God’s will. Henry M. Morris in The Genesis Record writes: “. . . . The only obvious and natural meaning without such clarification is that these beings were sons of God, rather than of men, because they had been created, not born. Such a description, of course, would apply only to Adam (Luke 3:38) and to the angels, whom God had directly created (Ps. 148:2, 5; Ps. 104:4; Col. 1:16). . . . Some commentators have said that, since the phrase “took them wives” is the same phrase as normally used throughout the Old Testament for “taking a wife,” there can be nothing involved here other than normal human marriage. . . . The word used for “wife” (Hebrew ishah) is commonly also used for “woman,” regardless of whether or not she was a married woman.”

Furthermore, Morris believes that these fallen angels (demons) likely indwelled (possessed) individuals in an organized rebellion against God. The offspring of this violation resulted in giants (Nephalim). They were people probably nine or ten feet tall. (Goliath—nine feet tall—appears in 1 Samuel 17.) The Nephilim took advantage of their height and strength by oppressing those around them.

Truthnet.org also offers insight into this view. After a short summary of Genesis 4-5, they delve into chapter 6 and show fossil and rock records. Although it’s long (as is this post) it’s also interesting. For more details, you can read Truth Net’s article here: Noah’s Ark: Genesis 6. Henry M. Morris’ book, The Genesis Record, also offers a comprehensive study for all of you scholars.

I will pick up on Jesus’ comparison of the pre-flood conditions and the last days next time. Have a great week!

Genealogy: Adam to Noah, Genesis 5:1-32

Although this second genealogy, (the first is Gen. 4:17-34), doesn’t appear inspiring at first glance, there are some cool findings here.

Genealogies show that people as individuals, not just nations, are important to God.

This fifth chapter in Genesis lists the ten descendants of Adam to Noah and spans at least 1,600 years—the longest period in world history. The development of the human race and showing the time lapse between these two major individuals seem to be the primary purpose for this genealogy. Of the ten people listed, the average age is about 900.

I would love to see that many candles on a birthday cake.

Come to think of it, I would love to visit with a 900 year-old!

How did our ancestors live so long?

The NIV Life Application Study Bible offers three explanations:

  1. The human race was more genetically pure in this early time period, so there was less disease to shorten life spans.
  2. No rain had yet fallen on the earth, and the expanse of water “above” (1:7) kept out harmful cosmic rays and shielded people from environmental factors that hasten aging.
  3. God gave people longer lives so they would have time to “fill the earth” (1:28).

Grace Trumps

Although the death theme rings loud in this chapter as a reminder of the consequence of sin, God’s grace trumps. References to fertility (sons and daughters), life, and other blessings illustrate God as a loving parent who provides an inherited blessing and insures the future well-being of His children, (Seth down to Noah’s family).

I find Enoch’s story mysterious and fff9ade3efebdb1f86636aed7f01af0aintriguing. Interestingly, Enoch and Lamech (Cain’s descendant) were both the seventh generation from Adam. They exemplified the contrasting positions toward God.

Only two men have been recorded as “walked with God” (NEV): Enoch and Noah (5:22; 6:9). Walk describes the closest communion with God—as if walking by His side—representing fellowship and obedience. Divine blessing are the results.

Enoch never experienced death. He was just 365 years when God took him to be with Him.

Our History: Two Distinct Groups Arise (Genesis 4:16-26)

So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.” – Genesis 4:16-17

Cain’s Descendants         

This account begins a history of Cain’s descendants. Since Nod means “wandering”, it’s likely that this was a figure of speech rather than an actual geographical area that Cain and his wife journeyed to after he murdered his brother, Abel.

GenesisOutlineMap

Cain may have tried to derail God’s prophecy of him becoming a wanderer by building a city. The Hebrew verb “was building”, however, is indefinite and suggests that he never finished. But Cain’s descendants did prosper by taking the lead in building cities, developing music, advancing agriculture, creating weapons, and spreading civilization.

Cain’s family record jumps down to Lamech, the seventh generation from Adam. His family not only epitomizes the variety of talent and ability God gives people, but also shows the rise of sin.

Lamech held a high view of himself and wore polygamy, murder, and revenge as a badge of honor. He defied God’s principle of monogamy (Gen. 2:23, 24) by taking two wives. He also killed a young man in self-defense, then arrogantly bragged to his wives: “If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

Henry M. Morris notes the significant elements that modern evolutionary archaeologists and anthropologists identify of evolving men from the stone age into true civilization—namely urbanization, agriculture, animal domestication, and metallurgy. These were all accomplished quickly by the early descendants of Adam. It did not take hundreds of thousands of years as evolutionists suggest.

Two Distinct Groups Arise

Another branch of Adam’s family tree takes shape. Seth—born to Adam and Eve—took Abel’s place as leader of God’s faithful people. Seth’s name means “appointed” or “substituted”.

Two distinct groups arise: 1) Those who are apathetic to sin and evil, (although the Cainites sought to exercise dominion over the earth as God commanded, their motivation stemmed from rebellion against God); and 2) those who call on the name of the Lord (the descendants of Seth, 4:26). This shows the probable shift from individuals personally meeting with God to the beginning of regular public worship and prayer. It also shows faith on the part of those who “called upon His name”.

Although Seth and his family line also inherited Adam and Eve’s sin nature, they would carry the “seed of the woman” (God’s prophecy to Eve) that would eventually defeat the Serpent: Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection.

Cain and Abel: Our History and More (Not So Great) Firsts, Part 2 (Genesis 4:3-15)

One’s attitude of heart toward this matter of approaching and knowing God actually determines his destiny in eternity. . . .”  – Henry M. Morris

Adam’s first two sons, Cain and Abel, show the first great division of humanity concerning their attitude toward God. Where Adam and Eve sinned only against God, sin quickly snowballed into tragedy through their firstborn son, Cain, who sinned against both God and man.

Adam’s first two sons, Cain and Abel, show the first great division of humanity concerning their attitude toward God. Where Adam and Eve sinned only against God, sin quickly snowballed into tragedy through their firstborn son, Cain, who sinned against both God and man.

Genesis 4:5 tells us that God rejected Cain’s offering, but accepted Abel’s. Beyond being the first shepherd, Abel is listed as the first member of the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. (For more on faith, see Abraham Justified By Faith, Faith Factor, Growing in Faith). Abel is also recorded as the first martyr for truth (Matthew 23:35).

Although the Bible doesn’t give specifics why God rejected Cain’s offering—fruits of the soil—both brothers knew God’s expectations. Maybe Cain resented Abel’s insistence of obeying God. (Abel was deemed the first prophet, Luke 11:49-51.) Maybe Cain determined to prove his self-sufficiency with his own produce, regardless of God’s curse from sin.

Whatever the reasons, God evaluates both the quality and motives of our offerings (Prov. 21:27). Cain’s offering failed God’s standards and specific instructions.

Instead of evaluating why God disapproved of his offering, Cain reacted in hot anger.

In response to Cain’s anger, God replied: “. . . . If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it,” (Genesis 4:6-7).

(This is the first time sin is mentioned in the Bible.)

God’s reply to Cain identifies his haughtiness, pride, and probable growing resentment toward his brother. Although God graciously gave Cain a second chance to right his wrong, Cain refused.

Seeds of jealousy, envy, and anger soon blossomed into hatred and eventually cold-blooded murder of his brother, Abel (Gen. 4:8).

God is patient and merciful, but He won’t always put up with sin. Although Cain stilled his brother’s prophesying voice, God’s voice had the final say: “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground . . . . When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth,” (Gen. 4:10-11).

(This is the first mention of blood in the Bible.)

Although God views human life as very sacred, He didn’t demand capital punishment as commanded later (Gen. 9:5). Instead, “He put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him,” (Gen. 4:15). Maybe Cain would still repent. Maybe Cain would remind others of sin’s consequence.

So What?

  • God deserves our best in time, talents, and money.
  • Satan is real and will do anything to get us to follow his deadly path. We may not think of ourselves as murderers, but as long as we live on earth: sin still “crouches at our doors”. Only through God’s Holy Spirit can we master sin.
  • Is there a small sin that needs to be uprooted in your life?

Our History of “Firsts”, Part 1 (Genesis 4:1-5)

There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot . . .”  Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

The following “first times” are recorded in the short passage of Genesis 4:1-5.

First Sexual Intercourse

Genesis 4:1 records Adam and Eve in this intimate act.

God created sex not only to populate the earth, but also for our pleasure. His design for this act is modeled between one man and one woman, within the boundary of marriage. This sacred gift seals the spiritual, physical, and social relationship between husband and wife when exercised God’s way. (See also Gen. 2:18; Jer. 29:6; Isa. 62:5; 1 Cor. 11:11-12)

First Births

Although childbearing pain entered the picture, Eve acknowledged God’s help in conceiving her firstborn son, Cain. She later gave birth to Abel. Both sons occupied honorable occupations: Cain grew to become a farmer, while Abel became a shepherd.

First Struggle in Daily Living

Abel means “vapor” or “vanity.” At this point, Adam and Eve no doubt realized the full impact of God’s curse from their sin (Rom. 8:20). Food, clothing, and shelter would no longer be provided freely as in the Garden of Eve, but wrought with much struggle against the elements.

First Recorded Offerings to God

Although Adam and Eve had been driven out of the Garden away from God’s presence, God graciously still made Himself available for counsel under certain conditions. Although the Bible doesn’t record these first conditions to Adam and Eve in approaching Him, He probably instructed them in regards to sacrifices and offerings given to Him; possibly when God provided the first clothes—coats of animal skins—for them (Gen. 3:21).

It’s likely that Abel’s sheep were to be used for sacrifice since atonement (“covering”) required shedding of blood.

"In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast."  - Genesis 4:3-5

“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” – Genesis 4:3-5

Cain and Abel may have made many offerings to God. But this was the first recorded time God rejected Cain’s offering. Why? Although we don’t know all of the reasons, my next post will explore some clues as we continue Cain and Abel’s sad saga.

I hope spring is treating you well. Thanks for dropping by!

Made In God’s Image

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So He created man in his own image, in the image of God He created Him; male and female He created them.” – Genesis 1:26-27

In these verses God shifts from third person, “And God said, ‘Let there be . . .” to first person, “Let us make man in our image.” Although it’s difficult to comprehend, we see the triune Godhead at work (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). One member is speaking to the other member(s).

It’s like God is holding a divine meeting on the sixth day of Creation and decides to “place the cherry (mankind) on top” of all He has created. After breathing life into them, He gives them charge over all the earth, fish, and animals.

“Man” is used here as a generic term, which includes female. (Genesis 2 details the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve.)

What Does “Made In God’s Image” Mean?

Although we probably can’t grasp the full significance of this truth now, we know that humans are the most complex and highly organized of all God’s earthly creatures. Besides physical bodies, other attributes that we don’t share with the animals include:

  • Moral consciousness
  • Understanding of emotion and beauty
  • Ability to think abstractly
  • The capacity to worship, fellowship, and love God. Henry M. Morris (The Genesis Record) writes, “This eternal and divine dimension of man’s being must be the essence of what is involved in the likeness of God.”

But if God is spirit (John 4:24) and omnipresent, how can we be made in His image?

Morris writes: “God designed and formed man’s body to enable it to function physically in ways in which He Himself could function, even without a body. God can see (Gen. 16:13), hear (Psalm 94:9), smell (Gen. 8:21), touch (Gen. 32:32), and speak (II Pt. 1:18), whether or not He has actual physical eyes, ears, nose, hands, mouth. Furthermore, whenever He has designed to appear visibly to men, He has done so in the form of a human body (Gen. 18:1-2).”

Christ Himself was the image of God (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:15; II Cor. 4:4). Morris continues: “It does not seem too much to infer that God made man in the image of that body which He would Himself one day assume (Heb. 10:5; Luke.1:35; Phil. 2:7).”

Although we are marred by sin—and are not equal to God—His original, unique work of the human body manifests a part of God’s glory. When God redeems an individual, He begins to renew him/her in the original image of God. He creates a “new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). His redemption is made possible through faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior from the sin that separates us from Him (Eph. 2:8-9). We are made new creations—in the likeness of God—through Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

If—or when—you feel insignificant, remember: You are uniquely crafted by the Master Creator of the universe. He has put much thought and pleasure into designing you. Not only does He have a special purpose specifically for you, but He also declares His work “very good!”

*This article is also posted in the Gospel Blog by FEBC at http://blog.febc.org/made-in-gods-image/

Creation Days (Genesis 1)

How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all.”        Psalm 104:24

God took great care to show us the chronology of His creation in six literal days.

The Meaning of Day

Yom—the Hebrew word for “day” in Genesis 1—is used both in the singular and plural form 2,301 times in the Old Testament. Although yom can have different meanings, similar to our English word “day”, the context in the Old Testament outside of Genesis 1 points to the literal 24-hour interpretation. Consider the following (Ken Ham, The Foundations):

  • The Hebrew word for day with a number [e.g., “. . . and the evening and the morning were the first day”] occurs 410 times, and always means an ordinary day.
  • The phrase “evening and morning” occurs 38 times, and always means an ordinary day.
  • The word “evening” with “day”, or “morning” with “day”, occurs 23 times, and always means ordinary day.
  • The word “night” with “day” occurs 52 times, and always means an ordinary day.
  • We also structure our week from God’s six 24-hour day creation week and seventh day of rest.
Creation Days  
(source: AnswersinGenesis.org) "For in six days God the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.”  - Exodus 20:11

(source: AnswersinGenesis.org)
“For in six days God the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.” – Exodus 20:11

  • Day One – Light (so there was light and darkness)
  • Day Two – Sky and water (waters separated)
  • Day Three – Land and seas (waters gathered); vegetation
  • Day Four – Sun, moon, and stars (to govern the day and the night and to mark seasons, days, and years)
  • Day Five – Fish and birds (to fill the waters and the sky
  • Day Six – Animals (to fill the earth), man and woman (to care for the earth and to commune with God)
  • Day Seven – God rested and declared all He had made to be very good
God’s Creativity and Power

God capped off His creation with Eve. (When Adam saw her, he whistled and said “Whoa! Man!”) :) Instead of making her from the dust of the ground like Adam, He chose to sculpt her from Adam’s flesh and blood. This illustrates God’s intention of marriage between man and woman—beyond becoming best friends—to become one in unity and purpose. Marriage is also used to describe Christ and the church (Eph. 5:23, 32).

Of God’s other creation, Francis Chan, in Crazy Love, writes: “Why would God create more than 350,000,000 galaxies (and that is a conservative estimate) that generations of people never saw or even knew existed? Do you think maybe it was to make us say, “Wow, God is unfathomably big”? Or perhaps God wanted us to see these pictures so that our response would be, “Who do I think I am?”

Chan also reminds us of God’s detailed intricacy and diversity in His smaller creations:

  • A caterpillar has 228 separate and distinct muscles in its head.
  • The average elm tree has about 6 million leaves on it.
  • God made hundreds of different kinds of bananas; 3,000 different species of trees within one square mile in the Amazon jungle; and quite a variety of laughs—wheezes, snorts, silent, loud, obnoxious.

This list could go on and on. Chan has a great video called “Just Stop and Think”. When you have 15 minutes, I encourage you to see it below.

Do We Really Need a Savior? (Genesis 1-3)

For young children, chocolate bunnies and colorful egg hunts mark Easter. But for many, Easter reminds us of the implications of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Questions arise as we sift through the facts, including:

  • Was Jesus’ death really necessary?
  • Why do people die in the first place?
  • And if God is so good and loving, why is there so much suffering in this world?

Genesis 1-3 brings clarity to these common questions, including our need for a Savior.

Summary of Genesis 1-3

God created a perfect creation in six ordinary days. There was no death. In fact, God looked at His creation and declared it, “very good”.

Then why did death enter the scene?

Our Great, Great, Great (many, many “Greats” . . . .) Grandparents, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God’s command.

(irisheyes2490.deviantart.com) As illustrated with the two trees in Genesis—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life—God repeatedly holds out two options for us throughout the Bible: life or death. Like our ancestors, Adam and Eve, it's an individual decision.

(irisheyes2490.deviantart.com)
As illustrated with the two trees in Genesis—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life—God repeatedly holds out two options for us throughout the Bible: life or death. Like our ancestors, Adam and Eve, it’s an individual decision.

Consequences of Sin

Knowing the consequence of their actions, Adam and Eve took the fruit and ate.

  • Enter painful childbearing (3:16).
  • Enter painful toil (3:17).
  • Enter thorns and thistles (3:18).
  • Enter death (3:19).

Alongside the good and beauty in this world exists suffering and pain. Sin, disobedience to God’s command(s), marred God’s good and perfect creation. And, “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pains together until now” (Romans 8:22). But one day, God will restore His perfect creation, banishing all pain and suffering (Rev. 21:1).

Adam and Eve started this downward spiral of sin and decay. As their descendants, we’ve inherited their sin nature. But before we point our fingers at them, we need to examine our own lives. We are free to make our own choices. And our perfect, holy Creator God—who searches our hearts—has declared: “We, all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way,” (Isaiah 53:6). Every one of us has rebelled against God’s commands at one point or another (Romans 5:12).

Not one of us is worthy to join the Creator of the universe. Romans 3:23 says, “the wages of our sin is death.” This gets uglier, because this death refers to spiritual death: eternal separation from God in hell.

Our holy God will not, (can not), dwell with our rebellious, sinful nature for eternity.

Of the tempter, Satan the serpent, God declared: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel,” (3:15). “You will strike his heel” refers to Satan’s repeated attempts to defeat Jesus during His time on earth. Fortunately, Jesus didn’t waver. God foreshadowed Satan’s demise and salvation offer through Christ with: “He [Jesus] will crush your head”.

Life in the Blood

After the Fall, God killed an animal(s) to clothe Adam and Eve. But animal blood (bulls and goats) can’t take away our sin. The Israelites later sacrificed animals repeatedly. Why? God gave this picture to summarize what was to come in His Son, Jesus: the Last Adam and final sacrifice (Hebrews 10).

Although God owes us nothing, the sinless 3909dbcb32924b3e374ebadfb81334b2 Jesus—both God and man—stepped down into history and took the death penalty we deserved for our sin. “The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” (Isaiah 53:6).

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive,” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

Because of Jesus’ great sacrifice on the cross, God offers us His righteousness and new life through faith: “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Romans 6:23.

It’s free for the asking.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!

 

The Foundation of Foundations, Genesis 1:1

The first verse in Genesis is foundational to this foundational chapter. Chapter one is also foundational to Genesis 1-11, which in turn is foundational to the rest of the Bible. I’m not trying to throw you a tongue twister. But . . . .

How one interprets this beginning statement/verse will affect one’s belief (or disbelief) in God. For if God created all things, He can also do all things.

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Henry M. Morris breaks down each word in this foundational verse. The following is a summary from his book, The Genesis Record.

God

The Hebrew name Elohim—which is used throughout the first chapter—stresses God’s majesty and omnipotence. Elohim is a plural name, but used with a singular meaning here, a “uni-plural” noun, suggesting the uni-plurality of the Godhead (Trinity). God is one, yet more than one.

Created

Bara means: only the work of God. Only an eternal, transcendent God can call into existence that which had no existence; the work of creation is God’s unique work (Rom. 4:17, Heb. 11:3). The only other alternative is to believe in eternal matter. But this violates the scientific law of cause and effect, since random particles of matter can’t—by themselves—form an orderly, complex, intelligible universe.

Heaven

This word in Hebrew is shamayim. Like Elohim, it is a plural noun, and can be used either as “heaven” or “heavens”. It doesn’t mean the stars of heaven (Gen. 1:16), which were made on the fourth day of Creation Week and make up the “host” of heaven rather than heaven itself (Gen. 2:1) . . . . In context, this word most likely refers to our modern term space: a component of space in our space-mass-time universe (“outer space”, “inner space”, “atmospheric space”).

Earth

Originally the earth was formless (Gen. 1:2). The Hebrew word erets means “ground” or “land”. This also refers to the basic elements of matter, which would be organized into the structured earth and later into other material bodies (planets, stars, etc.). It can refer to either a portion of earth, or the earth material in general (e.g., “Let the earth bring forth grass” -Gen 1:11).

“In the beginning”

This notes the beginning of time. Morris paraphrases Gen. 1:1 as the following: “The transcendent, omnipotent Godhead called into existence the space-mass-time universe.” These three components— space, mass, time—work together in our space continuum. Morris makes an interesting analogy: “God’s creative activity resulting in a tri-universe strongly suggests the Trinity of the Godhead. Elohim – God is one, but more than one: a continuum in which each component is itself coexistent and coterminous with the whole. That is, the universe is not part space, part time, and part matter, but rather all space, all time, all matter, and so is a true tri-unity/Trinity.” (Also see John 1:1: Jesus, “the Word” transcends the universe and was active in the creation process.)

So What?

Our world is not a product of random chance, but the result of a purposeful, powerful, loving, orderly Creator: God (Elohim).

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” Genesis 1:1.

Genesis Overview

Starlit skies, cascading waterfalls, towering mountain peaks . . . . How does one look at creation and not be amazed at God’s creative power? But with evolution smothering truth in most western schools, modern minds more likely ask: “How did I get here? Did God create the world? Or am I the result of a cosmic accident?”

Many theories abound on our origins, but only the Bible records a personal God who purposely created the universe and everything in it.

Genesis means “beginning” and sets the stage for the entire Bible. It records the origin of our world, human family, and civilization history from Creation to God choosing Israel as a nation through whom all nations would be blessed.

Creation Museum

The Creation Museum outlines seven major events in our history. The first four events are recorded in Genesis. The last three events result from God’s interventions to our disobedience:

  1. Creation
  2. Corruption
  3. Catastrophe
  4. Confusion
  5. Christ
  6. Cross
  7. Consummation
Interesting Facts about Genesis
  • Author: Moses
  • Date: Around 1450-1410 B.C.
  • Genesis covers more time than all 65 books in the Bible combined (about 2,400 years).
  • The first 11 chapters—from Creation, the fall, the flood, and establishing the nations—span more than 2,000 years and 1,500 miles in the Fertile Crescent.
  • 200 years span the middle section in Canaan (12-36).
  • Egypt dominates the final chapters (37-50) where God moves 70 people.
11 Accounts in Genesis:
  1. Introduction to the Generations 1:1-2:3
  2. Heaven and Earth, 2:4-4:26
  3. Adam, 5:1-6:8
  4. Noah, 6:9-9:29
  5. Sons of Noah, 10:1-11:9
  6. Shem, 11:10-26
  7. Terah, 11:27-25:11
  8. Ishmael, 25:12-18
  9. Isaac, 25:19-35:29
  10. Esau, 36:1-37:1
  11. Jacob and Sons, 37:2-50:26

God’s character, promises and faithfulness are woven into this historical account. Master of using ordinary people in extraordinary ways, God’s plans light our darkest moments.

Genesis is our history.

Genesis sparks hope.

For a creative summary of Genesis 1-11, see the following video.

Winter/Spring Update

Although it’s not official, spring has been knocking on our door the past few weeks. Bunnies, robins, tulip greens—along with a few weeds—have arrived in the Inland Northwest.

Living on the Palouse with its rolling hills and maze of changing colors is breathtaking, especially in spring! I love that the deadness of winter gives way to new life and growth.

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New life. I’m thankful for the new life God offers us through His Son, Jesus, as revealed in His Word.

Growth. Yes—as my kids remind me—growing pains hurt! But I’m grateful God pursues and stretches us as He shapes us more into His likeness. I’m thankful He doesn’t leave us in our wretched sinful condition, unless we choose. But, rather pursues us with His great love and patience, orchestrating all our seasons.

Speaking of seasons, all three of my kids have wrapped up their basketball seasons.

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Cameron (14) and Jon (12) are stepping into baseball, while Annie (9) looks forward to volleyball.

Our local girls’ varsity had a fantastic season with their seventh consecutive WA 1B State Championship and record setting 71 consecutive wins.

Coming from one of the smallest schools, from the smallest class, and still being so successful is a sweet reminder: God’s not limited by our “smallness”. (Related post: Training or Trying.)

Thank you for your visits and for hanging in there with me through the lengthy study of Romans. God has taught, challenged, and encouraged me through this study. Wherever you are in Bible Study and/or Christian walk, I wish God’s blessings for you.

My next Bible study will journey back to our beginnings: Genesis. I hope you’ll join me. Your thoughts and insights are always welcome.

Although I can’t meet most of you personally over coffee, know that you are loved and appreciated!

And if you live in the eastern U.S., hang in there, spring’s coming!

The Promise of Many Descendants, Romans 4:13-25

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” – Genesis 17:4-7

Abraham’s name means “father of a multitude”. Israel, the nation that would come from Abraham, was to follow God and influence others. Jesus Christ—born to save humanity— descended from Abraham’s family line. 6fbc418779f48e2f1433a58ed83d578bThrough Christ, people can have a personal relationship with God and become His children by being grafted into His family.

As the first Hebrew patriarch, Abraham became a role model of faith. God’s promises to Abraham and his descendants are based on grace, not on their ability to keep the Law. Although Abraham made mistakes and sinned, he believed in God’s power and integrity. His goodness and faith became evident in his actions of surrender, obedience, and complete confidence in God to carry out His promises.

Shepherd’s Notes observes: “Putting the relationship between God and humans on a legalistic basis invites the wrath of God. Relationships with a legalistic basis require both parties to carry out perfectly both the spirit and the letter of the Law. Failure to do this results in penalties (wrath) to the offending party. Knowing the weakness of human nature as He does, God knows right relationship must be founded on something other than a legal basis.”

Paul ends this section reminding us that Abraham’s justification by faith has purpose for us too: for “us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (vs. 24) is also reckoned righteousness . . . . Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification (vs. 25).

So What?

God graciously gave His Son, Jesus Christ,8607e1deaa4c56349abdb964bdfba256 to be crucified and raised to life as payment for our sins. All who reach out in faith will receive the power of His forgiveness, eternal life, and abundant blessings.

On what basis did God declare Abraham righteous?

What does it mean to be justified by faith?

Benefits of Justification, Romans 5:1-2

“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 5:1-2

Although these two verses are short, they are loaded with significance.

Paul’s opening “therefore” not only connects what he has written in the previous verses, but also summarizes his stance in chapters 1-4.

Peace

The following images come to mind when I think of “peace”. 41ea72419cad64621eb3c86e1169b96b

 

 

 

 

But the “peace” Paul refers to is a new relationship with God where hostility of sin is absent because it has been removed. It is both objective and external.

What are the benefits of justification?

Along with acquiring a new relationship with God when justified by faith (vs. 1-2), we are also blessed with the following:

  • Access to God. Ephesians 2:17-18 says, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him [Jesus] we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” The curtain that sealed one’s view—and denied access except yearly by the high priest—was torn when Jesus died on the cross. This symbolized that all believers may come into God’s presence any time (Mark 15:38; Hebrews 10:19).
  • Hope of sharing the glory of God. We can look forward to our future because God promises to share His glory. In fact, His obedient children are currently reflecting His glory. “This grace in which we stand,” is the utmost privilege. Besides declaring us not guilty, God has also drawn us close to Himself. When we were enemies with Him, He made a way for us to not only be His friends, but also His children (John 15:15; Galatians 4:5).
So What?

Those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ can confidently relax in the assurance that Christ paid the death penalty for their sins and are declared not guilty through His resurrection.

Do you have peace with God?

says, “For He [Jesus] himself is our peace . . .”  - Ephesians 2:14

“For He [Jesus] himself is our peace . . .” – Ephesians 2:14

The following link will take you to a short informational video about the Old Testament temple and the veil that separated God from people: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDNHoijNO2I

 

The Believer and Suffering, Romans 5:3-5

When I’m biking I occasionally see deer grazing on the surrounding hills. I love watching them bound uphill, gracefully jumping over brush. If only I could painlessly leap over problems like that, I think to myself. But that rarely—if never—happens, unless God removes the obstacle(s). It’s not that God doesn’t grant strength, He does when asked. But rough terrain is par for the course during our earthly journey.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn fact, the Bible doesn’t promise believers that problems and trials will dissolve once we place our trust in Christ. Rather, God challenges us to embrace suffering as a source of joy (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7). Why? The results from Christian suffering bring spiritual maturity. This is another benefit of justification (God’s act of declaring us “not guilty” for our sins), along with a new relationship with God, access to God, and peace with God.

A New Understanding in Suffering

In this passage Paul—who was no stranger to suffering—outlines a linked-chain process of Christian suffering:

  1. “Suffering produces perseverance” (vs. 3): Suffering translated is pressure, distress from outward circumstances.
  2. “Perseverance produces character” (vs. 4): Character translated describes the quality of being approved. “Endurance brings proof that we have stood the test” (vs. 4, NEB).
  3. “Character produces hope” (vs. 4): Paul tells us that this hope “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (vs. 5).
So What?

My NIV Study Bible says it well: “In the future we will become, but until then we must overcome. This means we will experience difficulties that will help us grow. We rejoice in suffering not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know God is using life’s difficulties and Satan’s attacks to grow our character.”

Assurance in Judgment, Romans 5:6-11

I received my gold crown today. Yes, really . . . I did! However, I almost bailed halfway through the process.

I nearly jumped out of the chair when my dentist began prepping my exposed tooth. The unnerving sensation—akin to finger nails on a chalkboard—caused me to impulsively grab my dentist’s hand. That’s when he asked, “Shall I numb the area?”

“Yes, please!”

I’ll be okay now, I thought when my tongue felt fat and tingly after the shot. Yea, I won’t feel a thing now! But one poke of his instrument stole my breath with those unnerving shock waves. So I opted for another numbing shot. While waiting for the novocaine to set in, my thoughts shifted like the wind: This shot isn’t going to do the job either! And when it doesn’t, how am I going to hold still? Should I just up and leave? No, I can’t do that! Do they ever strap their patients hands down? Dear Lord, please help me not feel this, or at least distract me from this pain . . . . And so my thoughts flickered.

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Uncertainty

Everyone struggles with uncertainty at times: decisions, jobs, relationships, etc.

Do you ever feel uncertain of God’s love for you? If so, spend some time soaking in these amazing words:

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners. Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified [declared not guilty for our sins] by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!”  – Romans 5:8-10

At the perfect time, God orchestrated the unthinkable: sending His sinless Son to die for the atonement of our sins. We don’t—and can’t—get our act together before coming to Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Our sin was poured into Christ at His crucifixion. His righteousness is poured into us when we place our trust in Christ at our conversion.

So What?

God’s love is bigger than our doubts and sin. Because His generous act has provided reconciliation, Christians “rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (vs.11). We can rest and have complete confidence, knowing we will be saved from God’s wrath at the final judgment because Jesus paid our sins in full.

The same love that caused Christ to die is also the same love that equips believers with the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide, teach, and comfort (John 14:26).

If you haven’t asked Jesus for forgiveness and placed your trust in Him, there is no time like now. Don’t let anything hold you back from coming to Christ.

The Gift of Righteousness, Romans 5:12-21

One man sinned—a whole race suffers for it; one Man lived righteously—a whole race wins life by it. But what about Law? . . . . Law only came in by the way, to intensify the consciousness of guilt.” – John Owen

Summary of Romans 1-5

So far Paul has given us five benefits of justification through faith (God declaring us not guilty for our sins):

  1. A new relationship with God characterized by peace
  2. Access to God through Christ
  3. Hope of sharing “the glory of God”
  4. A new understanding in suffering
  5. A new assurance in judgment

In this section, Paul adds a sixth benefit of justification: the gift of righteousness. He gives us a lengthy contrast between Adam (the first man) and the results of sin and Jesus Christ (the “second man”) and His generous provisions of atonement through life and death.

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Death Through Adam, Life Through Christ (vs. 15-19)

While Adam is a pattern that represents created humanity, Christ represents a new spiritual humanity. Shepherd’s Notes identifies five parallels between Adam and Christ. The first three are contrasts, and the last two are comparisons:

  1. A contrast between Adam’s trespass, through which many died, and the free gift of God’s grace in Christ, which has abounded for many (vs. 15).
  2. A contrast between the condemnation that followed Adam’s trespass and the justification that follows the free gift of God’s grace (vs. 16).
  3. A contrast between the death that reigned through Adam’s trespass and the much greater reign in the lives of those who receive the free gift of God’s grace (vs 17).
  4. A comparison between the condemnation that came to all people through Adam’s trespass and the acquittal that comes to all people through Christ’s act of righteousness (vs. 18).
  5. A comparison between the disobedience of Adam, through which the many were made sinners, and the obedience of Christ, through which the many will be made righteous (vs. 19).
So What?

Although we are all born into Adam’s family line of sin, resulting in separation from God, judgment, and death—God’s grace trumps sins’ rule of death through God’s justifying work in Christ: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (vs. 20-21).

Because of Jesus, we can trade judgment for forgiveness. He invites us to choose life by being born into His spiritual family, which begins with forgiveness and leads to eternal life. By faith in Christ and His work on the cross, we can become His children and reign over sins’ power.

Which family do you belong to?

Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ: Romans 6:1-14

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”  (Rom. 6:1)

In other words: If God is so forgiving, why change? Why not continue in sin if His grace is indeed greater than the deepest stain of sin? (Rom. 5:20)

Never one to hold back his beliefs, Paul retorts to this distorted line of reasoning: “By no means!” He continues describing the Christian’s death to sin by using the picture of baptism.

Baptism

“In the church of Paul’s day, immersion was the usual form of baptism—that is, new Christians were completely “buried” in water. They understood this type of baptism to symbolize the death and burial of the old way of life. Coming up out of the water symbolized resurrection to new life with Christ” (NIV Study Bible).

Baptism is a witness to the world that one identifies with Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."  - Colossians 3:1-4

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”  Colossians 3:1-4

So What?

God’s amazing grace covers all our sins, but His forgiveness doesn’t make sin less serious. Although His mercy and pardon are free, it cost Jesus His very life to pay our ransom from sin. God never intended His unlimited reservoir of grace to be wasted, or become an excuse for immorality.

As long as we are here on earth we will feel the pull of sin and temptation, but through the indwelling Holy Spirit, God frees us from sins’ captivity. If we think of our old, sinful life as dead and buried, we have a strong motive to resist sin and enjoy this new life with Christ. This is the believer’s daily choice and responsibility. (For more on this concept see: Galatians 3:27, Colossians 2:12 and 3:1-4.)

What is the Law? (Romans 6:15)

Shall we sin because we are no longer under Law but under grace?”  Romans 6:15

Again, Paul answers: “By no means!”

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Source: 2wired2tired.com

Wait . . . Rewind . . . Repeat that again? We (believers) are not under the Law . . . .? I admit, this sounds more like a riddle, especially when you look at passages like Psalm 19:7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.”

It helps to know that this section deals with sanctification: God growing the Christian in holiness. But the question remains . . . .

Which Law is Paul referring to?

The following excerpt from the NIV Study Bible helped me sift through this confusing topic:

Part of the Jewish Law included those laws found in the Old Testament. When Paul says that Gentiles (non-Jews) are no longer bound by these laws, he is not saying that the Old Testament laws do not apply to us today. He is saying certain types of laws may not apply to us. In the Old Testament there were three categories of laws:

  1. Ceremonial Law: This kind of law relates specifically to Israel’s worship (see, for example, Leviticus 1:1-13), its primary purpose was to point forward to Jesus Christ. Therefore, these laws were no longer necessary after Jesus’ death and resurrection. While we are no longer bound by ceremonial laws, the principles behind them—to worship and love a holy God—still apply. The Jewish Christians often accused the Gentile Christians of violating the ceremonial law.
  2. Civil Law: This type of law dictated Israel’s daily living (see Deuteronomy 24:10-11). Because modern society and culture are so radically different, some of these guidelines cannot be followed specifically. But the principles behind the commands should guide our conduct. At times, Paul asked Gentile Christians to follow some of these laws, not because they had to, but in order to promote unity.
  3. Moral Law: This sort of law is the direct command of God—for example, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). It requires strict obedience. It reveals the nature and will of God, and it still applies to us today. We are to obey this moral law not to obtain salvation, but to live in ways pleasing to God.

Which Law do you think Paul is referring to in Romans 6:15?

And What About Grace?

Another analogy found in the NIV Study Bible helped clarify Romans 5:20, “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

“As a sinner separated from God, you see his law from below, as a ladder to be climbed to get to God. Perhaps you have repeatedly tried to climb it, only to fall to the ground every time you have advanced on one or two rungs. Or perhaps the sheer height of the ladder seems so overwhelming that you have never even started up. In either case, what relief you should feel to see Jesus offering with open arms to lift you above the ladder of the law, to take you directly to God! Once Jesus lifts you into God’s presence, you are free to obey—out of love, not necessity, and through God’s power, not your own. You know that if you stumble, you will not fall back to the ground. Instead you will be caught and held in Christ’s loving arms.”

I hope this makes sense. Although I’m not an intellect like Paul, his teachings challenge me (in a good way).

I hope you’re enjoying summer!

 

 

Slaves to Righteousness, Romans 6:15-23

If a Christian fails morally, it is not because the needed power was not available. It is because it is not appropriated.” – J.W. MacGorman

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Paul’s reasoning in Romans reminds me of Math, building upon previous concepts.

(properkernel.com)

What’s wrong with this ad? (properkernel.com)

 

If one step of a math problem is wrong, the entire answer will be wrong. I for one need lots of review, even when I think I’ve mastered a concept!

Summary: Three Types of Jewish Law

My last post reviewed three types of Jewish Law found in the Old Testament: Ceremonial Law, Civil Law, and Moral Law. “When Paul says that Gentiles (non-Jews) are no longer bound by these laws, he is not saying that the Old Testament laws do not apply to us today. He is saying certain types of laws may not apply to us” (NIV Study Bible). Although the laws God gave the Jews during Moses’ leadership—Ceremonial and Civil Laws—don’t specifically apply to us, the Moral Laws (Ten Commandments) still apply to us today.

Paul also reminds us that God gave us the Law to point out our sin so that we might seek His forgiveness (Romans 5:20). He never intended for law keeping to be our means for salvation. This leads to the question Paul must have gotten frequently, (which I stated in my last post, but didn’t get very far):

“What then? Shall we sin because we are no longer under Law but under grace?”  (Romans 6:15)

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Using an analogy of slavery, Paul counteracts a leisurely attitude toward sin by contrasting the two masters that everyone chooses from. These two masters lead to opposing freedoms, fruits, and destinies.

The Master of Righteousness

Those who serve this master find freedom from sin, which result in sanctification (holiness) and eternal life. Paul’s use of the terms sanctification and justification (God declaring the sinner not guilty) are closely related.

The Master of Sin

Those who continue in sin will be enslaved to shameful behavior and ultimately death. Their only freedom is freedom from righteousness. Romans 6:22-23 sums up this section.

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So What?

The master we choose—sin or righteousness through Christ—will not only affect our freedom, or lack of, but also our destinies: life or death.

When we were under the Law—striving to keep a perfect record—sin was still our master with the currency of death spiraling out of control. The Law can’t conquer sin or justify sinners. Only Jesus Christ can cleanse us from sin and declare us not guilty. He alone can clothe us in His righteousness when we place our trust in Him.

Eternal life is a free gift in Jesus Christ. It is the believer’s choice and responsibility to rely on the indwelling Holy Spirit’s power to say no to sin.

Which master do you belong to?

Dead to the Law, Romans 7:1-6

I, Jody, take you, John, to be my wedded husband. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse . . . ‘Till death do us part.”

(stylegrace.com)

(stylegrace.com)

Sealed with a kiss, this vow—in the covenant of marriage—is valid as long as the husband is alive.

Paul’s readers understood that a violation of this law would disgrace Jody as an adulteress. If her husband dies, however, she is free to marry another man.

This is the picture Paul gives us to compare Christians and the Law. Not only do believers die to sin, but also to the Law, thus cancelling the Law’s “lordship” or claim over the believer (vs. 4).

Similar to the picture of baptism, death to sin begins when the believer places his/her trust in Christ. By identifying with the crucified Christ and joining in union to Him, the resurrected Christ becomes the believer’s new “husband”. The Holy Spirit enables the believer to produce good fruit for God.

So What?

Because of Christ’s sacrifice, the way to God is open through faith. No longer trying to earn salvation through an external code of law keeping or following Christian customs, the believer is free to serve God with a new heart out of love and gratitude.

The Law and Sin, Romans 7:7-25

“Is the Law sin?” Paul asked as though repeating a reporter’s question. Given his previous replies, this one shouldn’t surprise: “certainly not!”

Romans 7 paints a small picture of Paul’s spiritual experience. He sets the stage here for the triumphant entry in chapter 8.

In verses 7-11 Paul seeks to explain a relationship he finds between the Law and sin. “I would not have known what sin was except through the Law . . . .” He reasons that apart from the Law sin can’t be labeled “sin,” even though it still exists.

Shepherd’s Notes gives this example and commentary: “There may be dangerous microbes in the air, but unless some instrument detects them, they will go unnoticed. The Law does more than show sin for what it is. It provokes sin. Sin seizes the opportunity and arouses within a person a desire to do evil.”

Question #2

Paul brings up another question: “Did that which is good—that is the Law—become death to me? By no means!” (vs. 13). Paul tells that through the Law he realized just how dark and enormous sin was, even achieving its evil end through something as good as God’s Law so death might be accomplished through it. The Law was never the culprit, just sin.

The Christian’s Struggle

As Paul furthers the relation between the Law and sin, he flips from past to present tenses: “We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.” The phrase “sold as a slave to sin” means bought and delivered to sin, as a slave to a master. This same verb was used in Matthew 18:25 to describe a debtor being sold into slavery (Shepherd’s Notes). Paul uses this analogy to show that no matter how much he loved God’s Law, he was enslaved to sin—powerless to completely obey it.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” -vs. 15

More than a tongue twister, Paul’s cry describes the Christian’s struggle against sin, or trying to please God by rule keeping apart from the Holy Spirit’s help.

Verses 21-24 remind me of the children’s book: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day with struggling being the common denominator.

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (vs. 24)

But Paul’s conclusion rings with sweet victory: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 25)

So What?

Law makes us aware of sin by defining it.

There is a two-sided reality of the Christian life. Although our acceptance with Christ is secure—making believers complete in Him—we still feel the pull of sin. Shepherd’s Notes observes: “Sanctification is a gradual process that repeatedly takes the believer through this recurring sequence of failure through dependency upon self to triumph through the indwelling Spirit.” Although conflict and struggle are part of our earthly journey, despair and defeat are not thanks to the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ who provides power to live freely above sin’s lure and captivity.

How do you deal with this struggle?

Life Through the Spirit, Romans 8:1-11

“You may go free, not guilty!” What would these words mean to you if you were on death row?

The reality is, we are all on death row because we have broken God’s holy Law multiple times. But thankfully, God has made a way to clear our record, declare us not guilty, through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

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 8:12

This verse, along with the rest of this chapter, is one of my favorite passages. In a world of condemning voices and pointing fingers, this verse gives reason to celebrate. Jesus liberates the believer from the old bondage to sin and death!

Two laws are cited in this passage:

  1. The Law of Sin and Death. It lurks around every corner, challenging every good motive, enslaving the one who strives to fulfill the Law through self-determination. Romans 7:14-25 describes its havoc.
  2. The Law of the Spirit. Through Jesus Christ, this law defeats the old law’s grip on sin and death, setting people free. Shepherd’s Notes observes: “Twenty-one times in Romans 8 the Greek word for Spirit or spirit occurs. At least 18 of these are references to the Holy Spirit . . . . We have in Romans 8 Paul’s fullest discussion of the new life of the Spirit.” (For more information on our sinful nature vs. our new life in Christ, see 6:6-8; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:3-15.)

Verse 3 not only explains how the Law of the Spirit sets people free, but also contains the following two doctrines:

The Incarnation

God’s Son, Jesus Christ, became one of us. Paul describes Christ’s coming as “in the likeness of sinful man.”

The Atonement

God achieved our freedom from captivity to sin through Jesus’ sacrificial death (“sin offering”) on the cross. Jesus bore the brunt of the world’s sins. The NIV Study Bible notes: “In Old Testament times, animal sacrifices were continually offered at the temple. The sacrifices showed the Israelites the seriousness of sin: blood had to be shed before sins could be pardoned (see Leviticus 17:11). But animal blood could not really remove sins (Hebrews 10:4). The sacrifices could only point to Jesus’ sacrifice, which paid the penalty for all sins.”

In verse 9, Paul tells his readers that they are not controlled by their sinful nature, but their lives are guided by the indwelling Spirit (Holy Spirit). The Holy Spirit is also God’s guarantee of eternal life for the believer.

So What?

Christians can rise above sin and experience life through the empowerment of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

A Christian is anyone who has the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) living in him/her. Jesus promised His Spirit to anyone who sincerely trusts Him for salvation and acknowledges Him as Lord.

Although our feelings come and go, we can stand confidently on God’s promises of living forever with Him. (See also Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14.)

Have you placed your complete trust in Christ?

 

Future Glory, Romans 8:18-25

I hope you’ve had a great summer. The glory of summer is soon fading. I enjoy summer, but I really love the changing colors and weather fall brings. I’m thankful for the changing seasons.

Speaking of fading, my computer’s hard-drive died. I’ve told myself that I will never take my computer for granted again! :)

Since my hard-drive crashed last week I’ve been using the library’s computer. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to post pictures. With limited time I will also be posting weekly for a while instead of twice a week.

Seasons

As I write about change and seasons I’m reminded of what my pastor said: “Knowing what season you’re in (spiritually) is important.” He suggested that our lives won’t be in perfect balance as we journey here on earth, but we usually have a rhythm in our spiritual growth. Knowing which season we’re in will determine how we respond.

On the tail of verse 17 in Romans 8, after writing about a season of sharing in Christ’s suffering, Paul sets up three reasons for encouragement: 1) the glory that will be revealed (vs. 18-25); 2) the Holy Spirit’s help (vs. 26-27); and 3) all things work together for good (vs. 28-30).

Hope of God’s Final Victory

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from the bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” –vs. 18-22

Genesis 3:17-19 sets the background for this passage. Paul makes three observations about creation:

  1. It eagerly awaits the revelation of God’s children.
  2. By God’s will, it was subjected to frustration.
  3. It will be set free from decay’s bondage and share in transformation along with God’s children.

Paul ties the believer’s present trials to creation in verses 23-25. Similar to creation, we groan inwardly as we await the full adoption as God’s children that will happen at the resurrection. Our present hope is “the first-fruits of the Spirit”, God’s promise of our total victory with Christ in the end.

So What?

Through sin, all creation is subject to frustration and bondage to decay. But one day all creation will be set free and transformed. Because believers look forward to a new heaven and earth that God promised we can be filled with hope now.

Believers resurrected bodies will be glorified like the body Christ now has in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:25-58; 1 John 3:2). Believers have the down payment, “first-fruits”, of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of being resurrected (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14).

If you are a believer who is currently suffering, hold on to hope. Ultimate victory is your final resting place through Jesus Christ!

The Spirit’s Ministry of Intercession, Romans 8:26-27

Have you ever been at a loss of what, or how, to pray in a given situation or for someone? While last week we explored hope and how it carries us through difficult times (Romans 8:24-25), these two verses offer another benefit of the new life of the Holy Spirit. This time in the area of our prayers:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us . . . . ” – vs. 26

How does God’s Spirit intercede for the believer? “. . . with groans that words can not express,” (vs. 26).

Perhaps no other Scripture gives greater encouragement in our prayer life. Dale Moody (Broadman Bible Commentary) writes: “The little English verb helps (vs. 26) translates a big verb in Greek. It is used elsewhere in the New Testament only when Martha called Mary to help her prepare a meal (Luke 10:40).”

For all of us who relate to Martha, this is huge encouragement!

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God’s Spirit not only helps when we’re low on faith and/or uncertain what to pray, He also intercedes according to God’s will. And “He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit . . . .” (vs. 27).

So What?
  • In the mystery, and sometimes confusion, of knowing what to pray we can have confidence that the Holy Spirit will intercede for us according to God’s will.
  • Because God helps us pray we don’t need to fear coming before Him with our requests.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to intercede “according to God’s will,” then trust Him for the results.

God’s Overruling Providence, Romans 8:28-30

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These are some of my favorite verses. I love that God is at work in every circumstance, and that nothing is wasted with Him.

I’m reminded of when my mother-in-law keenly observed—while laughing and pointing to the black, mushy banana on top of my freezer—“some of us look like this, but we’re pretty sweet on the inside.” Yeah, I thought, this also applies to ugly trials and circumstances. God takes those ugly moments and turns them into something sweet; something only He can do.

There’s a catch, however, to God’s promise of working all things together: “For those who love God, and have been called according to his purpose” (vs. 28).

God’s Redemptive Purpose (Romans 8:30)

Paul uses verse 30 to bridge eternity past with his grand summary of God’s redemptive purpose. Shepherd’s Notes defines the following:

  • Predestination: God’s grace at work before the foundation of the world
  • Calling: God’s grace confronting us
  • Justification: God’s grace making us right with Himself in the midst of history
  • Glorification: God’s grace in the consummation of this age
So What?
  • Believers can be assured that God is for us. Everything that happens to us is in His sovereign hand.
  • Although we can’t control our circumstances, or others, God is able to take what happens to us and use it for our future good.
  • God’s ultimate goal is not to make us comfortable, but conformable. That is, to grow us into the likeness of Christ (1 John 3:2). This is when we discover freedom and fulfillment in the true person God created us to be.

God’s Sovereignty, Romans 9:6-18

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Trying to figure out God is like trying to catch a fish in the Pacific Ocean with an inch of dental floss.”
Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

I was searching for some profound quote about God’s sovereignty when Matt Chandler’s funny observation caught my attention from goodreads.com. Often asking, why, I relate to his insight— especially with difficult passages like this one.

The first section isn’t too hard to understand. Paul defends God by declaring that His covenant promises didn’t fail, even though the majority of the Jews didn’t believe Jesus was the Christ. For the true children of Abraham—“the children of the promise”—are those who trust in God and Jesus’ work on the cross (vs. 6-8).

Verses 11-13 affirm God’s promised blessing through Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac. But the following verses take some sifting:

“Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by Him who calls—she [Rebeka] was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

The NIV Study Bible helps connect the dots: “Was it right for God to choose Jacob, the younger, to be over Esau? In Malachi 1:2-3, the statement ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’ refers to the nations of Israel and Edom rather than to the individual brothers . . . . He did not exclude Esau from knowing and loving Him.”

In God choosing Jacob over Esau before their birth, Shepherd’s Notes suggests: “The selection could not have been based on their doing of right or wrong.”

Paul also anticipated a charge of God’s unfairness in verse 14. He reminds us that God will act according to His will and wisdom, regardless of our desire or efforts. He cites God’s message to Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy”.

Paul then reminds of God’s dealings with Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (vs.15).

The NIV Study Bible suggests: “God’s judgment on Pharaoh’s sin was to harden his heart to confirm his disobedience, so that the consequences of his rebellion would be his own punishment.”

Because this post is getting long—and my brain feels like a minnow in the Pacific Ocean—I’ll pick up with verses 19-29 next time.

So What?
  • God is sovereign over all creation.
  • Although the Jews took pride in descending from Sarah, (Abraham’s legitimate wife), instead of Hagar, (Sarah’s maidservant), that wasn’t enough for the Jews to be saved. Similarly, no one can claim to be God’s children simply by good deeds, going to church, or from their heritage.
  • The doctrine of election teaches that God saves people by His mercy and goodness. He is not random or illogical. He will save all who believe and place their faith in Him. But He won’t force anyone to choose Him. In judgment, as in Pharaoh’s case, He will allow the hardening of one’s heart as a consequence of rebelling against Him . . . . That is a frightening place to be.

The “Israel” beyond Israel, Romans 9:19-29

Therefore God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.” – Romans 9:1, NIV

This passage—like last week’s—is difficult to understand.

After Paul attributes God’s dealings of mercy and judgment by using Moses and Pharaoh as examples, he continues his defense as if he is sparring with an imaginary opponent.

Paul writes (of his imaginary opponent): “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists His will?” (vs. 19).

Paul answers: But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?

“Then I went to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” – Jeremiah 18:3-6, NASB

“Then I went to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” – Jeremiah 18:3-6, NASB

“Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (vs. 20-21).

In this context Paul asks the hypothetical question in verses 22-24: What if God makes His power known to those He bestows mercy through His judgment on those destined for His wrath?

Paul refers to Old Testament passages in verses 25-29 to show: 1) God will redeem some Gentiles (Hosea 2:23; 1:10), and 2) only a remnant of believing Jews will be saved (Isaiah 10:22-23; 1:9).

So What?
  • Paul isn’t implying that some people are more valuable than others. But his tone does suggest: “God is God. Who is eligible to measure His actions and decisions?” Like the sculpted pottery, our very existence and function depend upon God.
  • God chose Israel to serve His sovereign purposes. Everything in God’s redemptive history can be attributed to His faithfulness to the promise He gave Abraham and his descendants.
  • God has graciously extended an invitation to all people, (Jews and Gentiles), to become part of His family through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Stumbling Stone, Romans 9:30-33

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” – Romans 9:30-32, NIV

The “stumbling stone” was none other than Jesus. Because Jesus did not meet many of the Jews’ expectations for their Messiah, they rejected Him as God’s Son. Although the Jews pursued a worthy goal of honoring God, some became short-sighted and dedicated themselves more to the Law than to God. They either didn’t see—or want to believe—their Old Testament Scriptures that salvation (righteousness) comes by faith, not by human effort (Gen. 15:6).

Paul had reminded his readers earlier in chapter 9 that: 1) The Jews couldn’t earn God’s favor through their national heritage, 2) God’s ways are not bound by human ideas and plans, and 3) The Jews were responsible for rejecting Jesus as Messiah.

As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” - Romans 9:33

As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” – Romans 9:33

On the other hand, Paul explains that some Gentiles acquired God’s righteousness, but not on the basis of perfectly following the Law. Rather, their righteousness was given from God as a gift because they accepted Christ and His message.

So What?

Like the Jews in Paul’s day, it’s human nature to try and get right with God by being good. This can take many forms: faithful church attendance, church work, giving, being nice, volunteering, good sportsmanship. Although these are worthy pursuits, according to Scripture they won’t make us right with God.

Some people stumble over Christ because salvation by faith goes against all they’ve experienced and been taught. Some think because God is love He will overlook their sins. Some stumble over Christ because He asks for humility and requires obedience.

But Scripture makes it clear: There is only one way to obtain righteousness and become right with God. It boils down to accepting or rejecting God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”   -John 3:36

If you haven’t placed your trust in Jesus, and the work He did for you on the cross to forgive your sins, why not do it now? None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. And eternal life is at stake. Simply admit to Him your sins and ask His forgiveness. Tell Him you believe He is all He claims in the Bible. Ask Him to come into your life and indwell you through His Holy Spirit. Then follow Him by obeying His commands.

Seeking a Right Standing With God, Romans 10:1-17

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be a righteousness for everyone who believes.” – Romans 10:1-4

This section echoes Romans 9:1-5 as Paul longs for the salvation of his Jewish people. Paul, who knew firsthand of the Jews’ zeal (Galatians 1:13-14), was pained that they lacked knowledge of Jesus’ identity and mission. Instead of accepting that Jesus fulfilled the Law and opened a way for right standing before God through faith in Him (Romans 3:21; Galatians 3:19-4:7), they sought righteousness through their traditions and through Law keeping. They failed to recognize God’s plan of redemption through Christ.

How is Christ the fulfillment and end of the Law?

The NIV Life Application Study Bible observes: “Christ is the end of the Law in two ways. He fulfills the purpose and goal of the Law (Matthew 5:17) in that He perfectly exemplified God’s desires on earth. But He is also the termination of the Law because in comparison to Christ, the Law is powerless to save. In order to be saved by the Law, a person would have to live a perfect life, not sinning once. Why did God give the Law when He knew people couldn’t keep it? According to Paul, one reason the Law was given was to show people how guilty they are (Galatians 3:19). The Law was a shadow of Christ—that is, the sacrificial system educated the people so that when the true sacrifice came they would be able to understand His work (Hebrews 10:1-4). The Law points to Christ, the reason for all those animal sacrifices.”

Paul ends this section by emphasizing belief: c294fe65b0c2395c94e96512b22b0ae5“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (vs. 17).

Shepherd’s Notes comments: “Nowhere in Scripture is the universal scope of salvation presented with greater clarity. Although God’s redemptive plan was worked out in history through one particular race, it was meant from the beginning for the benefit of all people. Romans 10:9-10 has long served as one of the most helpful portions of Scripture for pointing out the way of salvation: confession that Jesus is Lord and belief in one’s heart that God has raised Him from death. This belief is not merely verbal assent, but staking one’s entire being on this truth.”

A Disobedient People, Romans 10:18-21

God, having placed good and evil in our power, has given us full freedom of choice; He does not keep back the unwilling, but embraces the willing.”  John Chrysostom

As I listened to family speeches at my 94 year-old Grandma’s funeral service last week, we all felt the same: Each of us was Grandma’s favorite. Her decision to follow God resulted in her being a channel of His love. Inside her worn Bible was a list of all her children, their spouses, grandchildren, and great grandchildren whom she prayed for daily. Her decision to trust, love, and faithfully follow God not only has provided a wonderful example to my family and me, but has also been a ripple effect of tremendous blessing upon our families.

Choices

In this last section of chapter 10, Paul talks with an imaginary supporter of Israel. Three questions are presented by this supporter, aimed to prove Israel faultless in their relationship with God. But Paul cites Old Testament passages to prove that Israel’s choice—rejecting Christ as Messiah—is without excuse: But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people” (vs. 21).

Israel’s decision to pursue personal virtue based on works instead of following God’s requirement for righteousness by faith had nothing to do with their inability or chances to understand. For they had been given Old Testament Scripture. Paul clarifies: They were solely responsible for their rejection of God and His Word.

So What?
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death."  -  Proverbs 14:12.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” – Proverbs 14:12.

In chapter 10, Paul describes two ways of trying to obtain a right standing before God: 1) Following the Law, 2) placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ.

What is God’s way of salvation? Why did the Law fail?

What if we are busy serving God by doing good things, but we neglect His way of attaining right standing before Him through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ?

In a land where Bibles are abundant, like Israel, we will not be excused for lack of knowledge and/or opportunity to follow God’s way.

The Remnant, Romans 11:1-6

Did God reject His people? By no means!” – Romans 11:1

This chapter begins in classic Paul style of question-declaration. What follows is a discussion of the remnant of Israel, the salvation of Gentiles, Israel’s jealousy of the fruitful Gentile mission, and the prophetic declaration of Israel turning toward Christ.

“The Remnant”, according to Shepherd’s Notes, “consists of the righteous people of God who remained after divine judgment . . . . For example, Noah and his family may be understood as survivors, or a remnant, of a divine judgment in the flood (Gen. 6:5-8; 7:1-23). In Romans 9:25-33, Paul quoted from the prophets Hosea and Isaiah to demonstrate that the saving of a remnant from among the Jewish people was still part of the Lord’s method of redeeming His people. There would always be a future for anyone among the covenant people who would turn to the Lord for salvation.”

God did not reject Israel as an entire nation. There remained a remnant of Jewish believers. Paul points to himself being a Jew, (so were Jesus’ disciples and most of the early Christian missionaries). Paul backs up his claim—God didn’t reject His special people—by using the great reforming prophet, Elijah, as an example. During a corrupt time when Israel’s priesthood and king’s court strayed from God, Elijah thought he alone remained faithful. But God replied, “I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all who have not bowed down to Baal,” (1 Kings 19:18).

Paul then connects the dots: 4caade4f52332582b74b797142db9fc8“so too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace,” (vs. 5-6).

So What?

We are not saved because of our religion, good works, or heritage. We are saved only through faith in Jesus Christ.

On whom, or on what, or you depending for salvation?

Engrafted Branches, Romans 11:11-24

Again I ask: ‘Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?’ – Romans 11:11

Paul’s description of the unbelieving, hardened Israel in the last section prompted him to ask this question. In other words: Was Israel’s fall a permanent ruin? Again, Paul replies: “By no means!”

Paul summarizes his discussion’s main points for the rest of the chapter in verses 11-12, (Shepherd’s Notes):

  • Through the trespass of Israel, salvation has come to the Gentiles.
  • Through the salvation of the Gentiles, Paul hoped Israel would be provoked to jealousy and turn to Christ for salvation.
  • Through the inclusion of Israel, great blessings will come to all. Not only was the rejection of Israel partial; it was also temporary.
The Ideal Church

Paul had a vision of Jew and Gentile uniting under God’s love where faith and obedience to Christ would matter most, not a person’s social status and/or ethnic background.

"The LORD called your name, 'A green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form': With the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it, And its branches are worthless" (Jeremiah 11:16, NASB).

“The LORD called your name, ‘A green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form': With the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it, And its branches are worthless” (Jeremiah 11:16, NASB).

This ideal church would look to Christ alone for salvation while still respecting the Law.

Paul’s vision has yet to be realized. While many Jews rejected the gospel, and instead relied on their heritage for salvation, many Gentiles began rejecting the Jews. Sadly, persecution has been a recurring practice throughout the centuries.

In verses 17-24, Paul uses the allegory of an olive tree to warn Gentiles from feeling superior because God rejected some Jews.

The olive tree symbolized true Israel: The natural branches broken off symbolized the unbelieving Jews, while the Gentiles were the wild olive branches grafted in.

3 Reasons Why Gentiles Shouldn’t Boast

Shepherd’s Notes observes Paul’s admonition to Gentiles for not boasting over the Jews:

  1. They should remember that they are wild olive shoots who have been engrafted (vs. 17-18).
  2. They should understand that the natural branches were broken off because of their unbelief, taking heed not to presume on God (vs. 19-22).
  3. They should realize that God has the power to graft the natural branches back into the olive tree, provided that they do not persist in their unbelief (vs. 23-24).
So What?

Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect and thank God for all His blessings. Thankfully, God has extended His invitation of salvation to everyone.

May we remember God’s words to Abraham: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). Jesus—descendant of Israel’s father, Abraham—fulfills this promise. Micah 4:2 and Zechariah 8:22 says that many nations will come to know Him. And when Jesus returns, He will reign in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21).

The Salvation of Israel, Romans 11:25-36

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Paul’s response to God’s grace. Only God could turn disobedience into an opportunity for His mercy toward those who would believe.

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” -Romans 11:25

Paul then boldly declares: “. . . . all Israel will be saved,” (vs. 26). This surprising statement should be studied within the big picture of Paul’s previous statements about the nation Israel.

What is the basis of Paul’s claim?

Shepherd’s Notes suggests the following:

  • Although interpreters differ widely in their understanding of this difficult passage, the most probable interpretation of the phrase “all Israel” is that it indicates a great turning of Israel to Christ, without specifying the conversion of every individual Jew, just as the “full number of Gentiles” does not mean that every Gentile will be saved.
  • Israel’s salvation will be like all other people—responding in faith to the forgiveness made possible by Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection.
  • Paul describes this as a “mystery”, which had been previously kept secret, but now revealed. This mystery contained the revelation of God’s will made known to all (1 Cor. 2:1,7; 4:1), which included Gentiles (Rom. 16:25-26; Col. 1:26-27; Eph. 3:3-6).
  • The mystery of the New Testament is described as an open secret: “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
So What?

God—who is always at work in people’s lives—is gracious. He is extremely patient and longs for all to turn to Him for forgiveness and eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). He desires that everyone share in the blessings of the gospel (Eph. 2:11-13), made possible through Jesus’ work (Col. 2:2, Eph. 1:9), and His indwelling Holy Spirit (Col. 1:26-27).

Living Sacrifices, Romans 12:1-2

Paul moves from the theological to the practical in this last section of Romans, laying the groundwork for believers in discipleship. Chapter 12 deals with commitment, spiritual gifts, and relationships.

Call to Commitment

What comes to mind when you think of worship? Many people—including myself—think of Sunday services and singing worship songs. You don’t have to dig deep into the Bible to realize that sincere praise through singing and music pleases God (Psalm 107-150). In fact, about 500 verses speak of worshiping God in this way. But Paul takes our Sunday worship one step further:

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

The word “therefore” directs us to make a connection between Paul’s previous section and his following advice.

3 Qualities of the Believer’s Sacrifice (Shepherd’s Notes):
  1. It is living. This concept may provide a contrast with the [Old Testament] dead bodies of animal sacrifices, or it could denote the new life that the believer possesses in Christ.
  2. It is holy. The Christian is set apart for and belongs to God [sanctification].
  3. It is pleasing. Sacrifices offered to God are not enough in themselves. The offerings must be acceptable to Him.

The greatest motivation for offering ourselves as living sacrifices stem from God’s mercy to us.

A Threat to the Believer

A great threat to the believer appears in verse 2: pressure to conform to this world.

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Credit: Jessica Meggs

The word “world” means “age”. As in Paul’s day, our present age opposes God’s coming world/values. Instead of settling for the world’s standards of living—behaviors and customs—we are to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds”. This goes beyond strict adherence to moral living. It begins by surrendering our thoughts and attitudes to God.

So What?

Believers become living sacrifices by daily setting aside selfish desires. God is pleased when we devote our time, energy, talents, and spiritual gifts to Him. We do this out of gratitude for His forgiveness and free gift of eternal life.

Like salmon swimming upstream, Christians must work hard to not drift (conform) with the world’s current of values and immorality. The Holy Spirit enables us to swim upstream against the corrupting current when we surrender our thoughts/attitudes to God. He is the One who transforms our lives and gives discernment for His perfect will.

Spiritual Gifts, Romans 12:3-8

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“Sober Judgment”

Robert Mounce, in Shepherd’s Notes, writes: “The use of this term suggests how out of touch with reality the Roman Christians were in their opinions of themselves. Since the metaphor suggests intoxication, we might say they were in danger of becoming ‘egoholics!’”

Knowing the devastating consequences of pride, Paul cautioned believers to not think of themselves more highly than they should. Next, he reminded them that they were members of one body (vs. 4-5), and encouraged them to use their varying gifts to build up the church (vs. 6-8).

Unity in diversity is the theme of this passage: working together as parts of the body function together. This is made possible through Jesus Christ, the head and chief commander of the church.

Paul listed seven different gifts and how they should be utilized (see 1 Peter 4:10, and Seven Primary Spiritual Gifts). Although these gifts differ in power, nature, and effectiveness—according to God’s wisdom and distribution—they are not used in proportion to our willpower. The NIV Application Study Bible suggests: “The ‘measure of faith’ (vs. 3) or the ‘proportion to his faith’ means that God will give spiritual power necessary and appropriate to carry out each responsibility . . . . These are gifts to His church, and He gives faith and power as He wills. Our role is to be faithful and to seek ways to serve others with what Christ has given us.”

So What?

What is your spiritual gift(s)? What do you do best?

Maybe the best gift we can give God this coming New Year is through seeking out the spiritual gift(s) that He has graciously given us, and using them to build up His body—the church.

Related Posts: Seven Primary Spiritual Gifts, God’s Plans—Who Me? What? Why?, God’s Plans—Where? How?, God’s Plan for Spiritual Gifts

A Visit from Jesus Christ

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. THANK YOU for being a part of my blog. I appreciate all of your “likes” and visits! I hope 2015 holds the best for you and your family.

As it was the Christmas season and I mulled over the practical implications of Romans 12:9-21, the idea of reworking the poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, came to mind. While this passage in Romans refers to general instructions on personal relationships, I took the liberty of placing Christ’s return (the rapture) in my poem. The question I ask while writing is: What if we are found obeying God’s commands when Christ returns?

***

‘Twas the end of the age, when all through the land

God’s children were stirring, obeying His commands;

Hearts were cleansed through confession and prayer,

In hopes that our Messiah soon would be here;

Pretense and envy were laid to bed;

While visions of God’s love danced in our heads;

And honor and devotion graced the church halls,

As unity and peace adorned all the walls,

Then in a wink of an eye there arose a great blast,

No time for goodbyes, it happened so fast!

Away in the sky we flew like a flash,

Source: lightinspired.deviantart.com

Heartache and grief—gone at last.

The moon cast red shadows on the new-fallen snow,

Giving a strange blush to the chaos below,

When what to my wandering eyes did appear,

But a radiant light—so bright and clear,

Surrounded by angels in one accord,

I knew in a moment, it must be our Lord.

More rapid than eagles His angels they came,

And He whistled, and shouted, and called us by name:

“Now, Chandler! Now, Tanner! Now Paiton and Nickson!

Come, Connie! Come, Reuben! Come, Conner and Kristen!

You who believed and followed my call,

Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

Like birds with wings we soared into flight,

Such exhilaration, and what a sight!

Up past the stars, with the angels we flew

With new found strength and agility too,

And then, in a twinkling, I heard Him speak—

Like rushing waters, or a bubbling creek.

As I scanned the galaxies and looked around,

My Savior and Lord came with a bound.

He was dressed in a robe of brilliant white,

And His eyes dazzled like beacon lights;

A bundle of crowns He had flung on His back,

Then He winked and grinned when I stared and gasped.

Everything dimmed while near His side,

Even this incredible, soaring joyride.

Then He led us before His Bema Seat Throne,

But instead of dread, I felt quite at home.

No condemnation came from His lips,

Only reviews, pointers, and tips;

Because Christ’s blood conquered sin’s curse,

Eternal life was granted and crowns dispersed.

Then I heard Him exclaim as He greeted each one:

“Welcome home to all—faithful daughters and sons!”

***

You may visit here for more on the rapture and Bema Seat of Christ.

Submission to Authorities, Romans 13:1-7

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”  Romans 13:1

In the wake of recent uproar against police officers, this isn’t a popular passage, at least by the world’s standards. But Paul sets the bar high for believers concerning divinely sanctioned government offices and our response to them. For to rebel against authorities is rebelling against what God has instituted and will incur God’s judgment (vs. 2). God’s purpose of rulers and their use of force is to keep order in society by rewarding good conduct and punishing wrongdoers (vs 3).

Paul doesn’t expand on his remarks—such as duties of rulers to those under them, or limits of Christian obedience—and many modern believers struggle with this. But the context implies that the officials are just and are “God’s servants” (verse 4).

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Are there times when believers should not submit to the government? The NIV Life Application Study Bible comments: “We should never allow the government to force us to disobey God. Jesus and His apostles never disobeyed the government for personal reasons; when they disobeyed, it was in order to follow their higher loyalty to God. Their disobedience was not cheap: they were threatened, beaten, thrown into jail, tortured, and executed for their convictions. Like them, if we are compelled to disobey, we must be ready to accept the consequences.”

So What?

Although interpretations may differ on verse one, Paul makes it clear that we are to strive for peace with the authorities. Allegiance to God does not dismiss our responsibility to secular authority. We are expected to respectfully abide by accepted regulations, including paying taxes.

Guidelines for Church Issues, Romans 14:1-15:13

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” – Romans 14:1

The Problem

Strong differences of opinion sparked tension in the early church. These areas included: (1) eating of meat (vs. 2); (2) observing special days (vs. 5); and (3) drinking wine (vs. 21).

Paul’s objective in writing this section was to bring unity in an atmosphere of difference. He wrote of two groups of believers whom he identifies as “weak” and “strong”. He described the “weak” Christian in a figurative way: by his lingering legalism and tendency to criticize other believers with differing opinions—perhaps viewing them as morally lax. They were uncertain how this new faith in Christ affected the Old Testament rules. The “strong” were those who recognized their boundaries within Christ’s freedom. Paul warned them to not put down believers who felt compelled to follow parts of the Mosaic Law, or have a condemning attitude.

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Jewish food laws forbid the Jews to eat the flesh of certain animals, or drink their blood (Leviticus 11). Jewish observances not only set the Jews apart from other people, but also made them feel clean before God.

Although Jesus declared all foods “clean” in Mark 7:17-19, it’s no wonder many of the Jews still struggled with sharing a meal with Gentiles. (Acts 10:9-29 also shows God removing the cultural restrictions with food.)

Paul offered three guidelines to address these divisive issues. His letter is more pastoral than abstract theology. My next three posts will explore each principle.

So What?

Paul didn’t say to stop making judgments on sin. Rather, he urged us to stop launching hurtful and prideful judgments against one another. Loving other believers who differ from our opinions challenges the boundaries of our faith. But God gives us freedom to decide many nonessential issues that are not clear in His Word. He also convicts committed believers differently. As believers, it’s important to know when correct doctrine is at stake and when to be tolerant of others’ strong convictions.

The Church: Unity in Diversity (Part 1), Romans 14:1-12

God is able.

My church’s theme for 2015 is taken from Ephesians 3:20-21:

(shereadstruth.com)

(shereadstruth.com)

Paul’s writing to the early Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome certainly reflects this belief. Although God was—and is—“able”, effort from every believer would be needed. In an arena immersed in vast cultural and societal differences Paul offered three guidelines to help bring about this seemingly impossible task: unity in diversity. This post will look at the first principle.

Principle # 1: Judgment is God’s Right, Not Man’s

“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” –vs. 4 Paul made it clear: observing or not observing special days and/or food laws—the early church’s main divisive issues—wasn’t sin to God, so long as one’s conscience was clear. Rather, the flaunting and flouting of other believers’ convictions was the culprit. Convictions vary. God has accepted both the “weak” and “strong” servant by grace. Equal desire to honor God may be found in both the observer and nonobserver of special days and food laws (vs. 6).

“None of us lives to himself alone” (vs. 7)

Shepherd’s Notes comments: “This has been understood in the sense of John Donne’s statement, ‘No man is an island.’ Paul’s statement, however, was not a sociological observation regarding the oneness of the human race. What he said is that all believers live out their lives accountable to God. Decisions about such matters as special days and eating meat are not made in isolation but in accordance with the will of God as understood by the individual.

So What?

Judgment belongs to God alone. And we will all stand before the judgment seat of God (vs. 10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10). Individuals should act according to their own conviction in trivial gray areas that are unclear in the Bible without passing judgment on those with different convictions. We can—and should—rub shoulders with other believers without judging in these areas. Are there strained relationships in your church? How might this principle help bring the unity God desires?

The Church: Unity in Diversity (Part 2), Romans 14:13-22

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

With the Roman believers in disagreement about eating meat and observance of special days, Paul laid out three principles to encourage peaceful relationships.

Last week highlighted the first principle: Judgment is God’s right, not man’s (vs. 1-12) . . . . Next principle please:

Principle #2: Love requires self-limitations for the sake of others
(Biblesurprise.com)

(Biblesurprise.com)

Paul directs his advice to mature believers. He warns them to beware of placing obstacles—or occasion to sin—before the weaker Christian.

Although the old rules about ceremonial foods were dismissed by Jesus (Matthew 15:10-11; 16-20), Paul addressed the issue of those who felt compelled to follow Judaism’s regulations: Anyone who violates their conscience, and doesn’t act in faith, has sinned (vs. 23).

Shepherd’s Notes comments: “God has called us to a life of faith. Trust is the willingness to put all of life before God for His approval. Any doubt about the rightness of an action removes it from the category of what is acceptable. This principle is of special help to the Christian in what is sometimes called the ‘gray area.’ If it is gray to you, it is wrong—not in itself, but in the eyes of the one who considers it inappropriate.”

Paul warned mature believers to take into account their influential actions. Those who encouraged others to violate their conscience “no longer walked in love” (vs. 15).

So What?

We all have strong and weak areas. It’s important to continually monitor our behavior and its effects on other believers, even if we don’t feel convicted in a “gray area”. Although we don’t have to give up our freedom in Christ, if God convicts another believer differently we should avoid exercising that action in his/her presence. Mutual respect and love mark Christ’s true disciples.

What steps can believers take to ensure peace when differences arise? How does focusing our minds on Christ help promote unity?

The Church: Unity in Diversity (Part 3), Romans 15:1-13

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”    – Romans 15:5

This section wraps up Paul’s talk from chapter 14 and highlights the last principle in this series for promoting unity in the church.

Principle #3: Follow Christ’s example of mercy

Paul identifies himself as a strong Christian as he encourages the “strong” to bear with the failings of the “weak.” To help others mature in the faith, he exhorts the “strong” to build his neighbor up. How? He cites Jesus as our greatest example of self-denial for the sake of others.

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The Relevance of Scripture (vs. 4)

Paul also reminds his readers that all of Scripture—although written in the past—is still alive and relevant today, meeting our deepest needs (1 Cor. 10:11; Rom. 4:23-24).

Paul’s Benediction (vs. 5-6)

Paul prayed for unity among the Roman Jews and Gentiles as they followed Christ so they would glorify God with one heart and voice.

Shepherd’s Notes comments on the remainder of this section: “In support of the universal scope of God’s redemptive work through Christ His Son, Paul cited four Old Testament Scriptures . . . . Christ’s acceptance of both Jewish and Gentile believers, played out in the universal scope of His redemptive work, is to be the measure of their acceptance of one another.”

So What?

Self-denial doesn’t mean we are to be people-pleasers (see Galatians 1:10), but rather set aside our self-pleasing actions and/or willfulness in order to build others up. If Christ—God’s Son—prioritized others above His own comforts and desires, how much more should we?

God communicates hope and encouragement through His Word, the Bible.

We can live in unity when we read God’s Word with a receptive heart, focus on Christ, and genuinely accept each other.

Paul’s Personal Notes, Romans 15:14-33

I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles . . . .” – Romans 15:15, 16

Paul’s tone is warm as he closes his letter by stating his role as a minister to the Gentiles and his travel plans.

Paul’s Goal of Ministry (vs. 14-21)

When affirming the Roman church’s goodness, knowledge, and competent instruction, He also admits his boldness on some points. Why? “. . . . so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (vs. 16).

Paul exerted all of his energy in encouraging and exhorting Gentiles to follow and obey Christ. He sought to preach the gospel in areas where no one had heard it. From Jerusalem to Illyricum—a province bordering the Adriatic Sea—Paul endured much and persevered with the work God gave him.

Plans to Visit Rome (vs. 22-29)

Many scholars believe Paul was writing this letter from Corinth when he declared that his work was finished in the eastern regions. For a second time, he expressed his desire and delayed plans to visit the Roman church (1:10-15). But this time he added his current desire: to evangelize Spain. First, however, he would go with the Gentile church delegates to Jerusalem with the relief offering for the poor (vs. 25-28; Acts 20:3-6; 24:17). He encouraged his readers to financially support both the Jews and his mission to Spain. Paul hoped to visit them on his trip to Spain.

Prayer Requests (vs. 30-33)

Paul shared his concerns about his upcoming mission to Jerusalem. He urged his readers to join in his struggle through prayer: 1) that he would be rescued from unbelievers in Judea; 2) that his service in Jerusalem would be acceptable to them; and 3) that God would allow him his long awaited visit to Rome.

Acts 21:15-28:31 gives insights to God’s answers to these requests. Paul’s dream of visiting Rome was finally realized, but probably not in the way he had hoped. He arrived as a prisoner.

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The book of Acts does not record Paul journeying further westward to Spain.

So What?
  • Although not everyone is called to preach or serve in a foreign country, all of us can support foreign missionaries through our prayers. Some can give financially.
  • We, “who have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings” (vs.27), are called to support Jewish believers.
  • Although prayer is often known as a means of comfort and making our requests known to God, it is also a weapon in the Christian’s arsenal when interceding for others in our spiritual battle.
  • God’s ways are higher than our ways (Is. 55:9). He’s always at work, for the good, even when we don’t discern it.

Paul’s Personal Greetings & Warning, Romans 16:1-23

Paul usually closed his letters with greetings and commendations (recommendations), which were well known in the ancient world. He wanted Roman believers to welcome and help Phoebe, a deaconess of the Cenchreae church. She had faithfully helped Paul and many others in the gospel work (vs. 1-2). She may well have been Paul’s letter carrier to the Roman church.

(marelletaylor.com)

(marelletaylor.com)

Paul’s Greetings (vs. 3-16, 21-23)

Beyond a challenging tongue twister, or finding a unique baby name, this section also reflects Paul’s lengthy list of close relationships within a broad church base. From Andronicus to Philologus, Paul listed a whopping twenty-six people in his greetings to the Roman church. These were people with various backgrounds—men, women, Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, Romans—whom Paul had met in his travels. Paul knew much about these people: their family relationships and ministries.

Paul also sent greetings from his companions, including Timothy, who traveled with Paul on his second missionary trip. Timothy held a special place in Paul’s ministry.

Paul’s Warning (vs. 17-19)

“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

So What?
  • Although Paul was singular in his commitment to God’s call, he also sought ministry partnership and fellowship with the believers that God placed in his path. Likewise, we should extend our fellowship and hospitality to believers outside our circle of church small groups and denominations.
  • By studying God’s Word we can keep from being duped by smooth talkers and/or literature that strays from God’s truth (Acts 17:10-12).

Doxology, Romans 16:25-27

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Paul’s final verses to the Roman church ring with praise. For God not only used him to help spread the gospel, but also share His plan for the Gentiles: God’s inclusion of them/us into His church.

Major Themes

Paul weaved major themes from Romans into these last three verses:

  • God alone establishes and strengthens the believer.
  • God alone has given direct revelation of the gospel through Jesus Christ through His life, death, and resurrection.
  • God has purposed His plan of salvation to everyone who chooses to receive it.
So What?

We should never write someone off as impossible for God to save. Paul was a prime example. From a zealous Christian persecutor to a zealous gospel preacher, God moved mightily in his life: saving, transforming, and strengthening his faith.

We too can trust God to work powerfully in our lives. He’s not limited by our backgrounds, weaknesses, and/or failures.

God used Paul to reach the ends of his world through the cosmopolitan power house of Rome. We would do well to heed God’s inspired words from Paul in Romans as we also take the gospel to the ends of our world through words, prayer, technology, and missionary support.

Have you received God’s gift of salvation?

How has God strengthened your faith?

I love the following scripture/song. It’s a great reminder that God is not only able to work for the good in our  circumstances, but also work for the good in our hearts’ invisible arena.

Now Available: When Rocks Cry Out

I’m excited to share that my first children’s picture book is now available in print and e-book. Yea! Here is an ordering link to Xulon Press bookstore: http://www.xulonpress.com/bookstore/bookdetail.php?PB_ISBN=9781498412810

Also, if you are interested in previewing When Rocks Cry Out and writing a short review on Amazon I will send you a PDF file.

Will Joey win the King's favor? Buckle your seatbelt and find out! (An allegory of God's grace)

Will Joey win the King’s favor? Buckle your seatbelt and find out! (An allegory of God’s grace)

 

 

Fall Update

Hi! I thought this might be a good place to break from Bible Study and give you a brief update. I haven’t been good at this, and will try to post updates more regularly. My study in Romans 9-11 will  continue next week, which is best read as a unit as Paul shares his thoughts about Israel and their rejection of Jesus as Messiah.

Thank you for being a part of this study/blog journey with me. I appreciate you!

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Enjoying a beautiful ride around Lake Coeur d ‘Alene

It’s hard to believe it’s the end of September! Summer and fall have seemed to blur together on a spinning wheel. My kids are growing like weeds. My boys wrapped up their baseball season last June, (they’re both currently in the middle of football and loving it). July was my family’s visitation month:

  1. Several visits with the nose and eye doctors from my oldest son’s nose break when catching a baseball between the eye and nose while messing around with friends. (I don’t recommend this!) His nose and shiner are now completely healed. :) And thankfully, he didn’t have any serious eye damage.
  2. Visiting relatives in southern Idaho; my kids are blessed to have cousins their age whom they really enjoy.
  3.  Swim and pony lessons for Annie, my mini clone, budding artist, and social butterfly.
  4. Lots of visits to my garden: Our Jumbo King corn is taller than our shed, but not as sweet as some varieties. We had lots of apricots this year, so I canned a lot of jam.

With the kids back in school, I’ve had more time to work on a children’s picture book, When Rocks Cry OutIt has been both fun and challenging. The illustrator is my neighbor and friend, which makes the book even more special to me.  Although this story is geared for younger children, I think adults will appreciate the deeper allegory of God’s grace. I am looking for honest reviews. If you are interested, please let me know and I will send you a PDF copy. The release date should be within the next 45 days. I will keep you posted.

I hope all is well with you,

~ KD

Will Joey earn the King's favor? Buckle your seatbelt and find out!

Will Joey earn the King’s love? Buckle your seatbelt and find out!