Romans: Greetings and Gospel

Greetings and Gospel

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures…” (Romans 1:1-2 ESV) You see Paul’s name at the beginning of the letter. This was the custom of the day. You began with your name, then the person you were writing to, then gave greetings. Paul expands that basic template and fills it with Christian truth.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus…” The language Paul wrote his original letter in was Greek. Through the series I will occasionally refer to the Greek words behind our English translation. For example, in the original Greek, these seven verses are all one sentence. Things like that. The word “servant” here is another. Doulos in the Greek could also be translated “slave.” It would have been shocking in first-century Rome. Rome might go down as the most obsessed-with-power city of all time. It makes Washington DC look like a recess playground. Julius Caesar. Beware the Ides of March.

Nobody wanted to be a slave and nobody would call themselves one. But Paul has no qualms describing his life as one of complete devotion and service to Jesus. Are we comfortable calling ourselves a doulos of Jesus? Are we living like that?

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Broken and Blessed

The Present Family – Broken & Blessed

My encouragement today is for you to see the blessing and curses of your family as part of a bigger story. How?

The blessings of family are remnant gifts from creation

In this way, the experience of human family, especially a Christian family, tells the whole story of redemption. Marital intimacy is a reminder of when everything was great. A fun family movie night when everyone gets along echoes an ancient harmony. Family speaking words of honor, love, and respect sounds and feels noble and meaningful. The child dedication. The piano recital. Walking your daughter down the aisle. Singing together on the family road trip. When family is awesome, it is really awesome. It used to be awesome always.

The fact that it’s still here is something we take for granted. God chose to allow family to continue even after sin. Not everything continued—unending life being one example. Many things were lost, but not family. It is a gracious gift from God and we should be thankful that we even have a family. No matter how broken your family is, have you given thanks that you have one?

Help for the Digitally Drowning Family

Tony Reinke, in his book, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, asks questions about our smartphone use, among them are:

  • “Do my smartphone habits expose an underlying addiction to untimely amusements?
  • Do my smartphone habits reveal a compulsive desire to be seen and affirmed?
  • Do my smartphone habits distract me from genuine communion with God?
  • Do my smartphone habits preoccupy me with the pursuit of worldly success?
  • Do my smartphone habits disengage me from the needs of the neighbors God has placed right in front of me?”[1] (Tony Reinke)

Convicting enough? For me too. So, what should we do? How should we approach the technological marvels? Here are some helps.

When a Family Member Annoys

Five Strategies for Dealing with an Annoying Family Member

Overlook the annoyance/offense

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11 ESV)

Proverbs is written to describe practical Christian living. Over the years, this verse has come to my mind regularly as I am deciding whether to be upset about something or not. It is a man’s glory to overlook an offense. This is describing a character quality. It’s the ability to be magnanimous toward the faults of others. Pettiness magnifies the little faults of others. Every little slight or fault is repeated and nursed into a grudge. But it is a glorious person who overlooks the offense.

As Christians, we have a very real basis for overlooking slights against us. God is the judge, not me. “I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) It goes on to encourage us to do good to our enemies knowing God will make all things just in the end.

Anger and bitterness come from me refusing to let God settle the score. I want to do it and my irritation, big or small, is my way of making you hurt back. The key is to be hard to annoy. Are you easily annoyed? Don’t be “annoyable.” How? Overlook it. To overlook is to choose not to look at something anymore. You overlook it.

The Crazy Busy Family

Helps for the Crazy Busy Family

Identify the idols behind the busy

Idols are good things elevated to ultimate things. It is easy to pick on Martha here. Meals are good. Silverware is needed. Jesus ate many meals, and all of them required preparation. There’s nothing wrong with any of that and it certainly can be done with proper priorities. But Martha elevated a secondary thing to a primary thing. Mary realized that when God is in your home, the most important thing is him. Jesus trumps the table setting.

Born a Redeemer

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4–5 ESV)

These two verses summarize God’s whole outworking of our salvation and how Jesus’ birth on Christmas was a part of it. Let’s look at the “why” of this.

Why? To Redeem us From Slaves into Sons

“To redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Verse 5)

Wait, this doesn’t sound like chestnuts roasting on an open fire or rockin’ around the Christmas tree. No, it doesn’t. Those seem incredibly trite in light of the real truth that Christ came to free us from slavery to the cemetery. But it doesn’t stop. Not only does God make it possible to NOT be slaves anymore, God doubles down and welcomes us into his personal family “that we might receive adoption as sons.” No longer slaves but sons and daughters of the most high God. From slaves to forgiveness. From forgiveness to freedom. From freedom to adoption into the family of God. None of this would happen if Jesus had not been sent by God, born of a woman, lived a perfect life, died on the cross to pay the price to set us free.

A Woman, a Dragon, and a Deliverer II

“And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.” (Revelation 12:13-17 ESV)

How Do We Overcome Satan’s Fury?

Trust in the ultimate protection of God (Revelation 12:6, 14, 16)

Satan tries to devour us and drown us. God gives wings and God opens the earth. These symbols show God’s protection of us from evil. Thinking that an enemy like Satan might keep us locked in our houses for fear is exactly the opposite of what John wants. No matter what Satan throws at us, God is there to protect us. Sometimes wings get us out of danger and we flee temptation. Sometimes God’s providences keep us from being overwhelmed. Sometimes it is the truth of God’s Word counteracting Satan’s lies. Most often it is God’s love and grace that allow us to endure suffering that evil brings to us.

“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

As powerful as Satan is, he is not God. This isn’t some kind of dualism between a powerful good and a powerful evil and both struggle for supremacy. We don’t tap into a force that is all around us (ala Star Wars). God is personal and all-powerful. He is sovereign over Satan as well. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)