Romans 15 & Our Mission

Romans 15:14-22 recently stood out to me as guidelines for the mission God has called his church to.


  • “competent to instruct one another” (Rom. 15:14) – this is God’s goal. I fear we look too often for 1 “professional” minister to do all the instructing. God wants us to all grow into that ability, instructing one another. Reminds me of Heb. 5:12 – “by this time you ought to be teachers” (note that this is written to non-leaders, see Heb. 13:24)
  • “the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel” (Rom. 15:16) – we are all called to be priests on the basis of Christ’s work (see 1 Pet. 2:9). Our priestly duty includes proclaiming the gospel
  • “an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:16) – the only way we can walk out this Christian life in a God-pleasing way is via the Holy Spirit
  • “my service…what Christ has accomplished through me” (Rom. 15:17-18) – note that in v. 17 Paul calls it his service, but in v. 18 he says that this was, in reality, “Christ working through me”. Reminds me of 1 Cor.  15:10–“I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
  • “leading the Gentiles to obey God” (Rom. 15:18) – it’s not just them trusting Jesus for salvation (though that is essential). But the goal is obedience unto God (again, only possible via the Holy Spirit)
  • “…by what I have said and done–by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.” (Rom. 15:18-19) – 3 ways they came to faith: (1) by what Paul said, (2) by how Paul lived, (3) by the power of the Spirit. This corresponds directly with 1 Thes. 1:5 where the same 3 categories are listed as bringing the Thessalonians unto faith. Are we walking faithfully in all 3 of these to bring people to faith?
  • “preach the gospel where Christ was not known” (Rom. 15:20) – there are still a lot of people around us who don’t know what the gospel is. May this be part of our strategy to seek them out. Oswald J. Smith – “No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.”

Rom. 12:13 – Serve the Saints

Rom. 12:13 recently caught my attention: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality”

“of the saints”

God frequently tells us to generously support His church. Not to say the world is completely neglected, but there is a clear priority with God: “do good to all, especially to the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).

“to the needs”

I’m also struck that it focuses on providing for needs. I’m concerned that a lot of giving we do is not for “needs” but “wants”. That doesn’t have to be wrong, but when we are calling on the church to sacrificially give, I believe we need to prioritize needs over wants.

“seek to show hospitality”

I appreciated that this doesn’t say “do hospitality” in a slavish way that forces everyone to do X, Y, Z. Instead, it says to be eager to show it in whatever way it’s needed. Always be ready and eager to do it.


In all this, I was challenged to look for ways to meet needs of saints around me and show hospitality to the church as well.

May the world know us by our love for one another!

Christ as Covering and Christ Within

Romans 4-8

It seems that whenever I read Romans 4-8, I always have the same conundrum: it’s hard (at times) to tell where Paul is talking about justification (us being covered by Christ’s righteousness the moment we turn to Him in faith) versus sanctification (us being made more righteous through the Holy Spirit living within us).

But I almost wonder if that is how it is meant to be. It’s kind of like what a mentor taught me about John 15, where Jesus talks about the vine and the branches: you can’t tell exactly where a vine becomes a branch.

In the same way, perhaps, seeing that we are justified in Christ compels us to walk more holy, while walking by the Spirit is the sign we are justified completely in Christ. So they sort of inform and feed each other in a way that is not so easy to say THIS is justification and THAT is sanctification.

Of course there is a difference. But they are both essential parts of our Christian life, and both are tied with each other in various ways.

Hebrews 10:14

Reminds me of Hebrews 10:14 – “By a single offering God has perfected for ALL TIME those who are being perfected/sanctified” Shows the truth of both. God declares us perfect in Christ the moment we believe. But as a result, we get His Spirit within, and live out a more and more perfect/holy life. Only those who have that evidence of a life change (being perfected by the Spirit within) are the ones who are ACTUALLY justified/totally forgiven in Christ. That sanctification is THE PROOF we have been justified.


Last thought on this: I love seeing this dual aspect in the Passover Feast.

The 1 Lamb:

  1. provided perfect blood that covers the house so they were spared from God’s wrath
  2. was eaten (so dwelled inside them) as sustenance for them to actually walk out of Egypt

Jesus is that Passover Lamb:

  1. His sacrifice spares us from God’s wrath.
  2. His life is now within us, by his Spirit, for the lifelong journey of leaving our old life in Egypt and pressing on to the Promised Land

The Critical Qur’an: Explained from Key Islamic Commentaries and Contemporary Historical Research

I want to recommend a key book in understanding the Qur’an (or Koran, the Islamic Holy Book):

Robert Spencer’s The Critical Qur’an: Explained from Key Islamic Commentaries and Contemporary Historical Research.

As of my writing this, it is #1 Best Seller in Quran for Amazon. A Christian expert in Islam said this book will really help people see how destructive the Koran is and Islamic core teachings. And thus why this is the best time in the world for a Muslim to read the Bible and turn to Christ!

Luke 12:13-21, Social Justice, and The Coming Judgment

I’ve been really meditating on Luke 12:13-21. I think it has a lot to say to our current culture regarding what many call “social justice”. May we consider it together:

First, we have a man who is upset because his brother won’t share his inheritance with him. That’s all we know. But I think we may be able to fill in some details based on other Scriptures and thinking further on this. Namely:

  • his brother was probably the oldest, and therefore got a double portion of inheritance that is meant for the eldest son
  • this man thought it was unfair, so maybe found himself in some hard times–or maybe his brother was having lavish times he wasn’t having. In any case, he knows his brother got more than him, and he is protesting the injustice of this.

Jesus responds first by saying “Who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (12:14). There is some irony here in the fact that Jesus will be the ultimate Judge for this man and his brother (which speaks to the rest of the passage). But, in essence, I think He’s saying here, “Your not having more money than someone else isn’t a concern of mine.”

PAUSE there. Have we or others made income disparity a concern where Jesus hasn’t?


Instead, Jesus looks into the man’s heart and sees a bigger concern than perceived injustice: coveting. He says to the man, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (12:15). In other words, “Be way more concerned about the state of your heart than the state of your bank account compared to someone else’s.”

Next, in 12:16-21, he furthers his point by showing that getting more wealth just for yourself will lead you to God’s judgment that you don’t want to receive. Thus the irony of his first statement of not being a judge. In essence, if your concern is with having more money just for yourself, and you want to take from your wealthier brother to do that, you’ve missed the whole point. God wants your soul to be fully given over to Him.

Thus this is really an indictment to more than just this man. It is also an indictment to his brother if his brother is gaining wealth only for self-serving purposes. The whole point is that making wealth (and even wealth inequalities) a big issue could be setting yourself up for a scary judgment to come. Get your soul right with God. If He gives you more wealth, use it for His glory. If someone else gets wealth, their soul will also be judged just as ours is judged. Keep eyes on God and the Final judgment to come, not money and temporary things of this life.

2 Chronicles Reflections

These are notes collected from studying with Matt Lantz, Matt Roefer, Chris Maybury, and Brad Holda. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

2 Chron. 5 – God Changes Everything

I’ve been thinking about 2 Chron 5:13-14…

All of their ministry stopped when God showed up. Then they were only falling on their face in God’s presence. I think of it like hoisting a sailboat. You may do a lot of work to get the sailboat in a position to catch the wind, but when the wind comes you are holding on for the ride (never sailed before, so maybe there’s more to it than that LOL). But I think how futile our ministry is without God. And then when God shows up, even then He is looking for us to worship Him fully (more than do all these things for Him).

2 Chron. 11 – God Divides

I’ve really been struck by 2 Chron 11 – how God says that the division within Israel is from Him, and not to fight it. Wow – this seems eerily similar to what I fear may be going on around us in the church these days. That is, a God-sent division.

Something along the lines of 1 Cor. 11:19 – “there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” A sobering and humbling thought…if it is indeed so, I pray so earnestly that we would choose the Lord’s side in the midst of it all, and by His complete grace

2 Chron. 11 (with 7:14) – Rehoboam

I was really moved by this account of King Rehoboam and thinks it speaks to a message that has been woven throughout Israel’s history and is true today. When we humble ourselves before God and confess our sin he turns from His wrath and welcomes us in (every time)! When we are stubborn, set up idols, and turn from Him, He will also turn His face. We no longer have His peace or protection or provision. However, he keeps welcoming us back if we will just humble ourselves and fall on our faces and let Him be first in our lives.
Israel’s story is very much our story… so much to be learned.

When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him. In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, because they had been unfaithful to the LORD

Same message here! This is powerful! If my people pray…

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chron. 7:14

2 Chron. 14-16 – Keep Trusting God: A Sober Warning

I really think we need to take this to heart. Asa began trusting the Lord alone for victory (even over a large army), and gained victory.

But then…later in his life…he began to do this thing where he trusted in others (the Syrians…then later the physicians). Maybe he even trusted God PLUS others. But he didn’t trust God alone for victory. So he died in this faith-less state, while beginning in a faith-full place. I keep thinking about how we can’t bank on how we trusted God YESTERDAY to see great victories. We may have decades of trusting God under our belt, but now what are we going to do today? Do we still believe this is the best strategy for life and ministry? Or have we “matured” from such simple faith. God forgive us and God help us…may TODAY be a faith-filled day, by the mercies of Christ the Lord!

He must have all of us fully surrendered and as we know He sees the heart.

2 Chron. 20 – Faith and Fast, Not Fear

Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.

2 Chron. 20:3

I love this response to fear—what a good challenge!

2 Chron. 20 – Pulling Together the Old Testament

I think it’s cool how the editors had all these documents of recordings to help them flesh out the timeline. Like the chronicles of Jehu helped fill out the book of the kings of Israel. It gives me a better picture of how the OT came together. I bet there were a bunch of documents that people pulled from for both the old and new to come up with what we have today. Just imagine the authors of Kings saying, hey can you grab that parchment of Jehu etc…I wonder how much of Jehu’s chronicles made it into the book of the kings and how much the original book of the kings is in our first and second kings etc….

2 Chron. 21 – Jehoshaphat’s Decisions

See 2 Chron. 21:3-4.

Why the heck didn’t Jehoshaphat vet his kids before just casually handing the throne to the first born? I know it’s custom to give it to the first born but David didn’t do that. Surely he had to have known his first born would at best be a bad pick, let alone a threat to his brothers. Human intelligence (or lack thereof) is not missed by the Bible.

Nehemiah Reflections

Neh 4: A Tool and Weapon

Neh 4:17 – those rebuilding the wall had a tool and weapon…I know what that is like. When you are doing the work of the Lord there are days like this. You are building His Kingdom and fending off enemies or naysayers.

I’d add that those who are truly doing the Lord’s work become enemy #1 for Satan…so I’d be more nervous if you don’t get satanic attacks, honestly.

This is probably the primary thing hitting me in reading through Nehemiah is the amount of resistance and adversity he faced. When we follow Christ this is what we can expect (not as the exception but the rule because Satan wants none of it to succeed). I think all too often we expect ease and comfort and others to go along with us as we follow God’s plans. Let’s remember it will always be the exact opposite and follow Nehemiah’s example. I have really found this book to be amazing so far as well as his example of faithfulness under fire!

I also liked the image about a tool in one hand and a weapon the other. It takes strong conviction to live out our faith like that.

Neh 1: Do We Weep?

I’m so struck and challenged by the visceral response Nehemiah shows over God’s temple being undone. He shakes, cries, repents, fasts, prays, risks his life with the king–all over the agony of knowing God’s temple isn’t built. Now I think about the church as God’s temple today. I look at so much room for God’s people to be built up in Him, and so many areas we’ve missed the mark. Surely there is room for us to weep, pray, fast, risk our lives, like Nehemiah did over the temple needing repair: Do We Weep?

In chapter 9 it talks about how as part of their corporate time of confession they read/listened to the law for 3 hours followed by 3 hours of confession. Seems maybe our churches should look more like this ie anguish vs. entertainment. This is what really resonated to me about the video coupled with what we are reading.

Pray Against Enemies?

I’ve been thinking about Nehemiah praying that God would look upon his enemies and judge them for their blocking God’s ways. At first, my thought was that this all changes post-cross. Jesus himself teaches us to pray for our enemies and forgive, of course (Matt. 5-6). But then I thought about Paul saying something kind of similar in 2 Tim. 4:14, and also see Paul rebuking and calling down blindness on Elymas the Sorcerer (Acts 13:9-12). Both of these are post-cross.

I think the point is thinking about people who are truly being enemies to God’s work…to people receiving the gospel. We should pray they are thwarted. Ultimately, pray that they repent. But if they won’t repent, sometimes God has to use other (harsh) means to get them out of there. Hear me out…we don’t jump to this. I think of it like police officers trained to de-escalate. They are only supposed to use as much force as the situation warrants based on what the person is doing to them and how compliant they are, etc. (and no more). So using their gun is a last resort. Similarly, praying for a sort of judgment to thwart God’s enemies seems like a last resort, and should be Spirit-led. But it shouldn’t be off the table.

I agree that praying for judgement is not something that is off the table. Jesus is a perfect balance of love and justice, equal parts grace and truth. He taught us to pray that his kingdom would come here on earth as it is in heaven, so I think that would mean we would long for the wrong things in this world to be made right.
I think when the balance is altered is where we run into problems (all grace with no truth is soft, all justice with no love is harsh).

Neh 8: Teaching the Bible

I’ve been touched by Neh 8 – there they read the Bible and then “they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Neh. 8:8). The result? “All the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, BECAUSE they had understood the words that were declared to them.” (Neh. 8:12)

So simple, yet so under-appreciated: read the Bible, explain what it means. That should be our teaching strategy.

Nehemiah 6:16

When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.

I am encouraged in these stories of how pagan people recognize the power of the LORD, even though they don’t follow him.

God’s power is evident when his people fear him and obey. “The fear of the LORD” is something that seems to be mentioned a lot.

Neh 7: Hanani’s Promotion

7:2- Hanani is put in charge “because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most men do.”

It is interesting to think about how different the business world would be if the fear of the LORD was the most sought after quality when hiring someone for an upper management position.

This reminds me of Aristotle’s directions for a midwife:

A MIDWIFE ought to be of middle age…A lady’s hand, a hawk’s eye, and a lion’s heart…But above all, she ought to be qualified with the fear of God, which is the principal thing in every state and condition, and will furnish her on all occasions both with knowledge and discretion.


Nehemiah 8

This story is in the children’s bible I read to my kids after dinner, and to be honest I wasn’t familiar with it before reading it to them. It is a powerful story. Understanding scripture allows us to repent, and this is cause for celebration!

Neh 13: Rough Dealings

I’ve been thinking a lot about Neh 13:25 ~

I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair…

At first blush, this might seem a bit extreme for him to do.


  • we live in a very sanitized and “polished” society compared to a lot of places…in some places, this kind of rough behavior is almost like the “language of the land” you need to use to get their attention (certainly better than killing them or dying under God’s hand for the compromise and idolatry).
  • along these lines, I think Nehemiah may have been acting in a sort of “official” capacity. So you can think of police officers with batons, or Herod with his soldiers who would routinely beat people as a discipline for what they did (we are a society WAY more devoid of corporal punishment than a lot of places…but even in our land, we still allow for a certain level of corporal punishment…I wonder if we could actually curb some really negative things if we used a little more corporal punishment than we do, honestly)
  • You can’t say the Bible doesn’t show the gritty, real-ness of humanity!