“Representing the King” (Luke 9:51-56)

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51As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.

Observation #1: Representative-faith exercises mercy, ‘moving on’ in the face of rejection

–Although Jesus knew he would face persecution and death in Jerusalem, he was determined to go there. That kind of resolve should characterize our lives as well. When God gives us a course of action, we must move steadily toward our destination, regardless of the potential hazards that await us there.Life Application Bible study notes, Luke 9:51
–After Assyria invaded Israel, the northern kingdom, and resettled it with its own people (c.f. 2 Kings 17:24-41), the mixed race that developed became known as the Samaritans. “Purebred” Jews hated these “half-breeds”, and the Samaritans in turn hated the Jews. So many tensions arose between the two peoples that Jewish travelers between Galilee and souther Judea often would walk around rather than through Samaritan territory, even though this would lengthen their trip considerably. Jesus held no such prejudices, and he sent messengers ahead to get things ready in a Samaritan village. But the village refused to welcome these Jewish travelers who were headed for Jerusalem.Life Application Bible study notes, Luke 9:53

Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. (Matthew 10:11-14)
–Why did Jesus tell his disciples to shake the dust off their feet if a city or home didn’t welcome them? When leaving Gentile cities, pious Jews often shook the dust from their feet to show their separation from Gentile practices. If the disciples shook the dust of a Jewish town from their feet, it would show their separation from Jews who rejected their Messiah. This gesture was to show the people that they were making a wrong choice–that the opportunity to choose Christ might not present itself again. Are you receptive to teaching from God? If you ignore the Spirit’s prompting, you may not get another chance.Life Application Bible study notes, Luke 10:14

54When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55but Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56Then he and his disciples went to another village.

Observation #2: Representative-Faith responds to Jesus’ correction to reman on mission

–When the Samaritan village did not welcome Jesus and his disciples, James and John didn’t want to stop at shaking the dust from their feet. They wanted to retaliate by calling down fire from heaven on the people, as Elijah had done on the servants of a wicked king of Israel (cf 2 Kings 1). When others reject or scorn us, we too may feel like retaliating. We must remember that judgment belongs to God, and we must not expect him to use his power to carry out personal vendettas.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood And you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyoe he accepts as his son.”a (Hebrews 12:1-6)
–This “great cloud of witnesses” is composed of the people described in the previous chapter (cf Hebrews 11). Their faithfulness is a constant encouragement to us. We do not struggle alone, and we are not the first to struggle with the problems we face. Others have run the race and won, and their witness stirs us to run and win also. What an inspiring heritage we have!Life Application Bible study notes, Hebrews 12:1
–Long-distance runners work hard to build endurance and strangth. On race day, their clothes re lightweight and their bodies lean. To run the race that God has set before us, we must also strip off the excess weight that slows us down. How can we do that? 1) Choose friends who are also committed to the race. Wrong friends will have values and activities that may deter you from the course. Much of your own weight may result from the crowd you run with. Make wise choices. 2) Drop certain activities. That is, for you at this time these may be weight. Try dropping them for a while; then check the results in your life. 3) Get help for your addictions that disable you. If you have a secret “weight” such as pornography, gambling, or alcohol, admit your need and get help today.Ibid
–The Christian life involves hard work. It requires us to give up whatever endangers our relationship with God, to run with endurance, and to struggle against sin with the power of the Holy Spirit. To live effectively, we must keep our eyes on Jesus. We will stumble if we look away from him to stare at ourselves or at the circumstances surrounding us. We should be running for Christ, not ourselves, and we must always keep him in sight.Life Application Bible study notes, Hebrews 12:1-4
–When we face hardship and discouragement, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture. But we’re not alone; there is help. Many have already made it through life, enduring far more difficult circumstances than we have experienced. Suffering is the training ground for Christian maturity. It develops our patience and makes our final victory sweet.Life Application Bible study notes, Hebrews 12:3
–These readers were facing difficult times of persecution, but none of them had yet died for their faith. Because they were still alive, the writer urged them to continue to run the race. Just as Christ did not give up, neither should they.Life Application Bible study notes, Hebrews 12:4

Application: Represent Jesus’ heart by exercising mercy when wronged, to remain on mission with the King.

===FOOTNOTES===
aProverbs 3:11-12

Book Review: The MAMMOTH BOOK OF HALLOWEEN STORIES

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mammoth book of halloween stories

Stephen Jones (Editor)
Skyhorse Publishing
2018

Treat yourself to some very tricky stories! Halloween…All Hallows’ Eve…Samhain…Día de los Muertos…the Day the Dead Come Back…When the barriers between the worlds are at their weakest—when ghosts, goblins, and grisly things can cross over into our dimension—then for a single night each year the natural becomes the supernatural, the normal becomes the paranormal, and nobody is safe from their most intimate and terrifying fears. The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories brings you a dark feast of frightening fiction by some of the most successful and respected horror writers working today, including Ramsey Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Joe R. Lansdale, Helen Marshall, Richard Christian Matheson, Robert Shearman, Robert Silverberg, Angela Slatter, Steve Rasnic Tem, and many more, along with a very special contribution by award-winning poet Jane Yolen. Here you will encounter witches, ghosts, monsters, psychos, demonic nuns, and even Death himself in this spooky selection of stories set on the night when evil walks the earth…

I have a lifelong love of what I have come to refer to as the Spooky Season; that brief window of time that begins to sprout the first week in September, and grows through the month of October, coming to its ultimate expression on Halloween. And while I have grown somewhat jaded about the night itself in my middle age–referring to it as “amateur night”–the lead-up to Halloween is the real magical time for me. Truly, it is the journey rather than the destination that captures my imagination like none other.

Which brings me to this particular review article, for the anthology collection The Mammoth Book of… Halloween Stories. I came across this on Amazon, looking for seasonal themed horror story collections. I am a rather big fan of the Mammoth Book of… line, and bought the physical trade paperback edition because that was at a lower price that the Kindle edition, somehow. Anyway, ’tis the season, so let’s take a look at what we have here, shall we?

“October in the Chair” (Neil Gaiman)
It’s the annual campfire, when all twelve months of the year gather to tell stories, and October has a particularly spooky one about a 10-year-old boy who runs away from home, and makes friends with the ghost of a boy his same age.

“Reflections in Black” (Steve Rasnic Tem)
After receiving a phone call from a long-lost love from his childhood, a man makes a cross country trip to see her again…only, you can’t really go back home again, can you?

“The Halloween Monster” (Alison Littlewood)
A high school boy saves a cat being tormented by a couple of bullies, and discovers that the cat is a witch’s familiar.

“The Phenakisticope of Decay” (James Ebersole)
While trick-or-treating, a handful of children each receive antique entertainment devices that are cursed…because of course they are.

“Memories of Dia de los Muertos” (Nancy Kilpatrick)
This is kind of a meditation on the meaning of death, what it means to be dead, and how the dead might think about the living now that they are dead.

“Fragile Masks” (Richard Gavin)
A nifty ghost story about two couples staying at a bed and breakfast, with a connection between them.

“Bone Fire” (Storm Constantine)
Two young teenage girls on the cusp of womanhood make a wish to the goddess Hekkate for one of her sons as a date to the community Halloween festival dance…and Hekkate says “sure, why not?”

“Queen of the Hunt” (Adrian Cole)
A man out walking at night is torn apart by wild dogs, and the detective assigned to the case is beginning to suspect not only the dead man’s husband, but also his own wife may have a connection to things.

“The October Widow” (Angela Slatter)
Every year on Halloween, a woman renews herself and her community with the sacrifice of a virile young man; this year, however, things get a bit awkward when the father of one of her previous sacrifices shows up.

“Before the Parade Passes By” (Marie O’Regan)
A widow and her 8-year-old daughter move to a new town that, as it turns out, tends to go really old school when it comes to celebrating Halloween.

“Her Face” (Ramsey Campbell)
A young teenage boy is really creeped out by one of the Halloween masks in the small convenience store across the street from his home.

“A Man Totally Alone” (Robert Hood)
Outside a small remote Australian town, the remains of a Viking is discovered in a nearby mine, bearing a cursed medallion that seems to evoke an intense feeling of soul-crushing loneliness in those who touch it.

“Bleed” (Richard Christian Matheson)
A really short punch in the gut about a child stuck in bed on Halloween night, watching the other children go trick or treating in the neighborhood.

“The Ultimate Halloween Party App” (Lisa Morton)
A futuristic tale about a horror themed app that you can download to a chip implant directly into your brain that superimposes anything from Universal monsters to 80s icons into your reality, which is coo…until you realize you can never turn it back off.

“The Folding Man” (Joe R. Lansdale)
A group of teenage boys driving around on a country back road decide to moon a car full of nuns…only, they aren’t nuns, and they happen to have a collapsible hunter golum monster in the trunk that they set after them.

“I Wait For You” (Eyglo’ Karlsdo’ttir)
A man is visited by the ghost of his mother every year in his childhood home.

“Dust Upon a Paper Eye” (Cate Gardner)
A put-upon employee of an ill-tempered theater owner discovers the secret behind the hyper-realistic life sized dolls that will be used for a special performance on Halloween.

“Not Our Brother” (Robert Silverberg)
A professor who is an avid collector of exotic masks from different cultures travels to a remote Mexican village to witness an annual tradition that involves more than just an excuse to get drunk.

“The Scariest Thing in the World” (Michael Marshall Smith)
A successful modern artist visits and art instillation put on by a college and former friend and waxes existential about the nature of their craft. This is one story that’s rather profound, then hits you right at the very end with the shock. Nicely done.

“The Nature of the Beast” (Sharon Gosling)
While investigating a string of local child abductions, a Detective Sergeant bonds with a young girl found within the cellar of an abandoned barn, a girl with soulless black eyes and an extra row of razor-sharp teeth. This one had me on the edge of my proverbial seat, I’m not ashamed to tell you.

“The Beautiful Feast of the Valley” (Stephen Gallagher)
A scholar in Classical Greek philosophy and literature, working on a project involving development of an AI program, swears the ghost of his dead colleague haunts more than just the library’s stacks. A nice, haunting and spine-tingling ghost story with a touch of science fiction.

“In the Year of Omens” (Helen Marshall)
A girl on the cusp of womanhood finds herself dealing with the deaths of her friends and family from a mysterious cancer…I think. This was a rather surreal story, going more for atmosphere rather than explaining what was going on.

“The Millennial’s Guide to Death” (Scott Bradfield)
Turns out, times are tough, even for the literal embodiment of Death. That’s all I really have to say about this one.

“White Mare” (Thara Niveau)
A teenage girl and her father travel from America to an obscure village in England to take care of some family business, and soon discover that Halloween customs there are a bit different.

“Pumpkin Kids” (Robert Shearman)
In a darkly bizarre alternative reality where any child born on October 31st–a Pumpkin Kid–has a darkly sacred purpose, a teenage boy who was born a few hours late of that hallowed date laments his near miss, until his bitter mother kidnaps one of those kids.

“Lantern Jack” (Christopher Fowler)
Have a seat and listen as this mysterious old man entertains you with the sordid history of this old English pub, and the weird stories that seem to happen there every Halloween night.

“Halloween Treats” (Jane Yolen)
A short and fun poem to read on Halloween night.

So, there we have it. And I have to say, the quality of the stories in this, for the most part, are top notch spooky stuff, managing to evoke that Halloween spirit within me effortlessly. Mind you, I did think that “A Man Totally Alone” seemed to be a story that just had Halloween tacked on to be included; “The Millennial’s Guide to Death” was just too clunky, despite it’s interesting take; and “Pumpkin Kids”, while I enjoyed it, might be a bit too weird for a lot of readers.

If there was an actual gripe to have, it’s that this collection only has 26 stories in it. They’re stories that work best when read during the month of October, why not have 31 stories, so you can read one a day leading up to the best night of the entire year? But, hey, it leads off with a Neil Gaiman story; you could definitely do worse. Highly recommended, this.

Book Review: MORE LORE FROM THE MYTHOS Volume 2

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Fractured Mind Publishing
2020

Hey, I haven’t done a proper book review in a while. And it’s the Spooky Season (aka, Uncle NecRo’s Holy Month), and what better way to observe things than by diving into another anthology of mind-bending, spine-tingling short stories playing in Lovecraft’s mythos sandbox? Let’s take a look at what we have, shall we?

“The Custodians” (EV Knight)
An extremely reclusive hoarder discovers that the mold that’s been growing all over the house is sentient and have made her their queen.

“Where They Sleep” (Becky Narron)
A young girl, staying at her grandmother’s farm, discovers that the old, creaky farmhouse is haunted…but that’s the least scariest thing, she’s discovered.

“A Governess in Innsmouth” (Kari Leigh Sanders)
We once again visit the collection of Althea Smithe, and peer into the journal of a young governess’ brief experience having taken a job at the infamous town of Innsmouth in 1845.

“Scavengers” (Patrick Rahall)
Set in a desolate future where horrible monsters roam the scorched earth, a lone human survivor makes his journey. Gotta say, the prose in this pulpish post-apocalyptic tale gets shades of purple at times, but at least it really sticks the landing at the end.

“The Return Visit” (Claire Davon)
The great-granddaughter of one of the original scientists to visit the infamous Mountains of Madness in the Antarctic joins an expedition back to the hidden city.

“The Feast of Dagon” (Charles Reis)
On the night of his birthday, a North Carolina cop gets a surprise visit from his old town of Innsmouth.

“Of Love and Magic” (Raz T. Slasher)
A Las Vegas magician and his wife take a vacation in New York City and come across three rather interesting items, one of which happens to be the Necronomicon.

“The Root of All Noise” (Steve Van Samson)
A man goes hiking to escape the madness of his everyday problems, but then stumbles upon a wholly different kind of madness altogether.

“The Third Vault” (Ryan Colley)
A guy, given the rare opportunity to be one of the first people to see inside a recently escivated vault, discovers why it’s important not to sneak back in by yourself after dark.

“Tony’s Monster” (L. E. Harrison)
A powerful warlock happens to capture a Gilladragon, with hopes to use it to get back at his cheating fiance’…the Gilladragon has other ideas, though.

“The Inverse Man” (Jon Tobey)
The longest story in this collection; nonetheless, one of the better ones, as it’s a classic style Sherlock Holmes mystery, only told from the perspective of Holmes’ reluctant associate Lestrade, seeking out the infamous Jack the Ripper.

“Innsmouth Aquarium” (Lily Luchesi)
A young girl gets trapped in a Michigan Aquarium during a field trip, and learns of its true history…and hers.

“Beach Glow” (Tisha J. Wooldridge)
A writer receives a video from her best friend, recounting a writer’s retreat six months prior, where mysterious glowing blue things appeared in the ocean, and her equally mysterious pregnancy.

Hell’s Creek” (Dale Drake)
A western story, this one about a former preacher turned vigilante, as he takes out a windego that decimated a village, and then comes across a town that seems to worship a river god, and don’t take too kindly to strangers.

Black Eyes Beneath Gray Waves” (Curtis M. Lawson)
We take one last visit to the doomed city of Innsmouth, where a surfer rides the waves off the town’s reef and regains some memory of who he truly is.

So, there we have it. This time around, I found the collection of short stories here to be rather solid, with some very intriguing yarns. This is something you’ll definitely want to have in your collection, to crack open at night, with the waning light of one lamp on to keep you company. And try not to let those shadows distract you too much; they’re nothing to worry about, probably.

“The Marks Of Jesus’ Servants” (Romans 16:17-27)

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17I urge you, brothers and sisters, 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. 18For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. 20The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

  • Observation #1: Jesus’ servants promote unity around official Church teaching, & avoid those who don’t.

–When we read books or listen to sermons, we should check the content of what is written or said so that we won’t be fooled by smooth talk and glowing words. Christians who study God’s Word, asking him to reveal the truth, will not be fooled, even though superficial listeners may easily be taken in. (cf. Acts 17:10-12)Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 16:17-20

21Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews. 22I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. 23Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings. 24May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen.

  • Observation #2: Jesus’ servants are marked by gracious-greetings, not confrontation & competition.

–Timothy was a key person in the growth of the early church, traveling with Paul on his second missionary journey (cf. Acts 16:1-3). Later Paul wrote two letters to him as he worked to strengthen the churches in Ephesus—1 and 2 Timothy.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 16:21

25Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith—27to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

  • Observation #3: Jesus’ servants are strengthened by conforming to the genuine Gospel.

–Paul exclaims that it is wonderful to be alive when “the mystery,” God’s secret plan—his way of saving the Gentiles—is becoming known throughout the world! All the Old Testament prophecies were coming true, and God was using Paul as his instrument to tell this good news.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 16:25-27

–As Jerusalem was the center of Jewish life, Rome was the world’s political, religious, social, and economic center. There the major governmental decisions were made, and from there the gospel spread to the ends of the earth. The church in Rome was a cosmopolitan mixture of Jews, Gentiles, slaves, free people, men, women, Romans citizens, and world travelers; therefore, it had potential for both great influence and great conflict. Paul had not yet been to Rome to meet all the Christians there, and, of course, he has not yet met us. We, too, live in a cosmopolitan setting with the entire world open to us. We also have the potential for both widespread influence and wrenching conflict. Listen carefully to Paul’s teaching about unity, service, and love so you may apply them.Ibid

  • Application: Graciously promote unity around official Church teaching, as you are strengthened by a deepening conformity to the Gospel.

“Gospel Greetings & Church Meetings” (Romans 16:1-16)

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1I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon[a][b] of the church in Cenchreae. 2I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

Observation #1: Those who embody instruction from Church leadership are to receive honor & help.

–Phoebe was known as a “deacon” or servant, and helper. Apparently she was a wealthy person who helped support Paul’s ministry. Phoebe was highly regarded in the church, and she may have delivered this letter from Corinth to Rome. This provides evidence that women had important roles in the early churh. Cenchreae, the town where Phoebe lived, was the eastern port of Corinth, six miles from the city center.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 16:1-2

3Greet Priscilla[c] and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. 4They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. 6Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among[d] the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. 8Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. 9Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. 10Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. 11Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. 12Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. 13Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. 14Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them. 15Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them. 16Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

Observation #2: The Church is a beautiful tapestry of diversity and quiet service.

–Priscilla and Aquila were a married couple who had become Paul’s close friends. They, along with all other Jews, had been expelled from Rome by the emperor (cf. Acts 18:2-3) and had moved to Corinth. There they met Paul and invited him to live with them. They were Christians before they met Paul and probably told him much about the Roman church. Like Paul, Priscilla and Aquila were missionaries. They helped believers in Ephesus (cf. Acts 18:18-28), in Rome when they were allowed to return, and again at Ephesus (cf. 2 Timothy 4:19).Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 16:3
–Priscilla and Aquila ministered effectively behind the scenes. Their tools were hospitality, friendship, and person-to-person teaching. They were not public speakers, but private evangelists. For some of the Romans, their home was used for church meetings. Priscilla and Aquila challenge us with what a couple can do together to serve Christ. Do we regard our families and homes as gifts through which God can accomplish his work? How might God want to use your home and family to serve Him?Ibid
–Paul’s personal greetings went to Romans and Greeks, Jews and Gentiles, men and women, prisoners and prominent citizens. The church’s base was broad, crossing cultural, social, and economic lines. From this list we learn that the Christian community was mobile. Though Paul had not yet ben to Rome, he had met these people in other places on his journeys.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 16:5-27
–Andronicus and Junia may have been a husband and wife team. The fact that they were “outstanding among the apostles” could mean they had distinguished themselves as apostles. Paul notes that they were “fellow Jews” who at one time had been in prison with him.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 16:7

Application: Honor & help those who embody instruction from Church leadership, while celebrating the Church’s diversity and quiet service.

===FOOTNOTES===
a–or servant
b–the word deacon refers here to a Christian designated to serve with the overseers/elders of the church in a variety of ways; similarly in Phil. 1:1 and 1 Tim. 3:8,12
c–Greek Prisca, a variant of Priscilla
d–or are esteemed by

“Three Keys To Gospel Growth” (Romans 15:22-33)

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22This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you. 23But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, 24I plan todo so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.

Observation #1: Christians enjoy fellowship while partnering together in Jesus’ mission. (cf. 1 John 1:7; John 17; Acts 2)

–Paul wanted to visit the church at Rome, but he had delayed his visit because he had heard many good reports about the believers there and he knew they were doing well on their own. It was more important for him to preach in areas that had not yet heard the Good News.Life Application Bible study notes; Romans 15:22
–Paul was referring to the completion of his work in Corinth, the city from which he most likely wrote this letter. Most of Paul’s three-month stay in Achaia (cf. Acts 20:3) was probably spent in Corinth. He believed that he had accomplished what God wanted him to do there, and he was looking forward to taking the gospel to new lands west of Rome. When Paul eventually went to Rome, however, it was as a prisoner (cf. Acts 28). Tradition says that Paul was released for a time, and that he used this opportunity to go to Spain to preach the Good News. This journey is not mentioned in the book of Acts.Life Application Bible study notes; Romans 15:23-24

25Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. 26For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. 27They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. 28So after I have completed this task and have made me sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.

Observation #2: Christians bless monetarily those whom we’ve benefitted from spiritually. (cf. Galatians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 9:9ff; 1 Timothy 5:18ff)

–If the Gentiles had received the gospel (“spiritual blessings”) originally from Jerusalem, surely they would want to offer financial help (“material blessings”).Life Application Bible study notes; Romans 15:27
–Paul’s future plan was to go to Spain because Spain was at the very western end of the civilized world. He wanted to extend Christianity there. Also, Spain had many great minds and influential leaders in the Roman world (Lucan, Martial, Hadrian), and perhaps Paul thought Christianity would advance greatly in such an atmosphere.Life Application Bible study notes; Romans 15:28

30I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, 32so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. 33The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Observation #3: Christians agonize in prayer on each other’s behalf for fruitful ministry. (cf. James 5:16; Romans 10:1; Romans 12:12; 2 Corinthians 1:11; 2 Corinthians 13:7,9; Ephesians 1:16; Ephesians 3:16)

–Too often we see prayer as a time for comfort, reflection, or making requests to God. But here Paul urges believers to join in his struggle by means of prayer. Prayer is a weapon that all believers should use in interceding for others. Many of us know believers should use in interceding for others. Many of us know believers who are living in difficult places in order to communicate the gospel. Sending them funds is part of joining them in their struggles, but prayer is also a crucial way of being with them. Missionaries strongly desire the prayers of those who have sent them out. Do your prayers reflect that struggle on their behalf?Life Application Bible study notes; Romans 15:30
–This phrase sounds like it should signal the end of the book, and it does pronounce the end of Paul’s teaching. He concludes his letter, then, with personal greetings and remarks.Life Application Bible study notes; Romans 15:33

Application: Practice fellowship, giving, and prayer to actively partner in advancing the Gospel.

“Accept, Prepare, Declare” (Romans 15:14-21)

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14I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Observation #1: The Gospel makes us acceptable to God, preparing us for service.

17Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done– 19by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”[a]

Observation #2: The Gospel is marked miraculously by God, to be shared with everyone.

–Paul says that he has “ambition.” Ambition can be a difficult topic for Christians because we see so many bad examples of ambitious people who claw their way to the top. But certainly that isn’t the kind of ambition one sees in Paul. Instead of looking out for himself and working hard for personal advancement, he was ambitious to serve God–for Paul that meant “to preach the gospel where Christ was not known.” Are you ambitious for God? Do you want, more than anything else, to please him and to do his will? Ask God for “holy ambition.”Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 15:20

Application: Receive the Gospel, and trust God to miraculously enable you to share it.

Footnotes:
a–Isaiah 52:15 (see Septuagint)

“Diversity Plus Unity Results In God’s Glory” (Romans 15:1-13)

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1We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. 3For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”[a] 4For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. 5May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6so that one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Observation #1: Believing Scripture inspires diversified unity to God’s glory.

–The knowledge of the Scriptures affects our attitude toward the present and the future. The more we know about what God has done in years past, the greater the confidence we have about what he will do in the days ahead. We should read our Bibles diligently to increase our trust that God’s will is best for us.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 15:4

7Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews[b] on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.”[c] 10Again, it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”[d] 11And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.”[e] 12And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”[f] 13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Observation #2: Extending Jesus’ mercy results in diversified unity to God’s glory.

–The Roman church was a diverse community. It was made up of Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free people, rich and poor, strong and weak. So it was difficult for them to accept one another. Accepting means taking people into our homes as well as into our hearts, sharing meals and activities, and avoiding racial and economic discrimination. We must go out of our way to avoid favoritism. Consciously spend time greeting those you don’t normally talk to, minimize differences, and seek common ground for fellowship. In this way you are accepting others as Christ has accepted you, and God is given glory.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 15:5-7

Application: Extend mercy, as the Scriptures instruct, trusting God to supernaturally produce in you diversified unity, that abounds in hope to His glory.

Footnotes:
a–Psalm 69:9
b–Greek circumcision
c–2 Samuel 22:50; Psalm 18:49
d–Deuteronomy 32:43
e–Psalm 117:1
f–Isaiah 11:10 (see Septuagint)

“If You’ve Got It, Don’t Flaunt It” (Romans 14:13-23)

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13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14I am convicted, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18becuase someone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

Observation #1: The “Kingdom-Minded” abstain from freedoms when necessary.

–Both strong and weak Christians can cause their brothers and sisters to stumble. The strong but insensitive Christian may flaunt his or her freedom and intentionally offend others’ consciences. The scrupulous but weak Christian may try to fence others in with petty rules and regulations, thus causing dissension. Paul wants his readers to be both strong in the faith and sensitive to others’ needs. Because we are all strong in some areas and weak in others, we need constantly to monitor the effects of our behavior on others.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 14:13
–Some Christians use an invisible weaker brother to support their own opinions, prejudices, or standards. “You must live by these standards,” they say, “or you will be offending the weaker brother.” In truth, the person would often be offending no one but the speaker. While Paul urges us to be sensitive to those whose faith may be harmed by our actions, we should not sacrifice our liberty in Christ just to satisfy the selfish motives of those who are trying to force their opinions on us. Neither fear them nor criticize them, but follow Christ as closely as you can.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 14:13-23
–At the Jerusalem council (cf. Acts 15), the Jewish church in Jerusalem asked the Gentile church in Antioch not to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Paul was at the Jerusalem council, and he accepted this request, not because he felt that eating such meat was wrong in itself, but because this practice would deeply offend many Jewish believers. Paul did not think the issue was worth dividing the church over; his desire was to promote unity. So he concludes, “If anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.” Paul’s practice was to honor, as far as possible, the convictions of others. Believers are called to accept one another without judging our varied opinions. However, when the situation has to be faced, how should we deal with those who disagree with us? Paul’s response is that all believers should act in love so as to maintain peace in the church.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 14:14

19Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. 22So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Observation #2: “Kingdom-Service” avoids judgmentalism without flaunting freedoms.

–Sin is not just a private matter. Everything we do affects others, and we have to think of them constantly. God created us to be interdependent, not independent. We who are strong in our faith must, without pride or condescension, treat others with love, patience, and self-restraint.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 14:20-21
–We try to steer clear of actions forbidden by Scripture, of course, but sometimes Scripture is silent. Then we should follow our consciences. “Everything that does not come from faith is sin” means that to go against a conviction will leave a person with a guilty or uneasy conscience. When God shows us that something is wrong for us, we should avoid it. But we should not look down on other Christians who exercise their freedom in those areas.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 14:23

Application: To be “Kingdom-Minded” in service to Jesus’ Church, stop asking others to adopt your convictions about non-essential beliefs.

“Minding Our Own Business In Worshipping Jesus” (Romans 14:1-12)

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1Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Observation #1: There is freedom of conscience in worshipping Jesus together.

–Who is weak in faith and who is strong? We are all weak in some areas and strong in others. Our faith is strong in an area if we can interact with sinful people without falling into their patterns. It is weak in an area if we must avoid certain activities, people, or places in order to protect our spiritual life. It is important to take a self-inventory in order to find out our strengths and weaknesses. Whenever in doubt, we should ask, “Can I do that without sinning? Can I influence others for good, rather than being influenced by them?” In areas of strength, we should not fear being defiled by the world; rather we should go and serve God. In areas of weakness, we need to be cautious. If we have a strong faith but shelter it, we are not doing Christ’s work in the world. If we have a weak faith but expose it, we are being extremely foolish.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 14:1
–This verse assumes there will be differences of opinion in the church (disputable matters). Paul says we are not to quarrel about issues that are matters of opinion. Differences should not be feared or avoided, but accepted and handled with love. Don’t expect everyone, even in the best possible church, to agree on every subject. Through sharing ideas we can come to a fuller understanding of what the Bible teaches. Accept, listen to, and respect others. Differences of opinion need not cause division. They can be a source of learning and richness in our relationships.Ibid
–What is weak faith? Paul is speaking about immature faith that has not yet developed the muscle it needs to stand against external pressures. For example, if a person who once worshiped idols were to become a Christian, he might understand perfectly well that Christ saved him through faith and that idols have no real power. Still, because of his past associations, he might be badly shaken if he ate meat that had been used in idol worship. If a person who once worshiped God on the required Jewish holy days were to become a Christian, he might well know that Christ saved him through faith, not through his keeping of the law. Still, when the festival days came, he might feel empty and unfaithful if he didn’t dedicate those days to God. Paul responds to both weak brothers in love. Both are acting according to their consciences, but their honest scruples do not need to be made into rules for the church. Certainly some issues are central to the faith and worth fighting for, but many are based on individual differences and should not be legislated. Our principle should be: In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in everything, love.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 14:1-23
–Eating “anything” may refer to a strong Christian being free from dietary restrictions, or it may refer to eating meat offered to idols. The person weaker in the faith, however, may only eat vegetables and refuses to eat meat that has been offered to idols. but how would Christians end up eating meat that had been offered to idols? The ancient system of sacrifice was at the center of the religious, social, and domestic life of the Roman world. After a sacrifice was presented to a god in a pagan temple, only part of it was burned. The remainder was often sent to the market to be sold. Thus, a Christian might easily–even unknowingly–buy such meat in the marketplace or eat it at the home of a friend. Should a Christian question the source of his meat? Some thought there was nothing wrong with eating meat that had been offered to idols because idols were worthless and phony. Others carefully checked the source of their meat or gave up meat altogether, in order to avoid a guilty conscience. The problem was especially acute for Christians who had once been idol worshipers. For them, such a strong reminder of their pagan days might weaken their newfound faith.Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 14:2

5One person considers a day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister?[a] Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'”[b] 12So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

Observation #2: There is no freedom for judgmentalism in worshipping Jesus together.

–Each person is accountable to Christ, not to others. While the church must be uncompromising in its stand against activities that are expressly forbidden by Scripture (adultery, homosexual activity, murder, theft), it should not create additional rules and regulations and give them equal standing with God’s law. Many times Christians base their moral judgments on opinion, personal dislikes, or cultural bias rather than on the Word of God. When they do this, they show that their own faith is weak–they do not think that God is powerful enough to guide his children. When we stand before God and give a personal account of our life, we won’t be worried about what our Christian neighbor has done (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10)Life Application Bible study notes, Romans 14:10-12

Application: Repent of judgmentalism as sin, preparing instead to give an account of your own behavior to God.

Footnotes:
aThe Greek word for “brother or sister” (adelphos) refers here to a believer, whether man or woman, as part of God’s family; also in verses 13, 15 and 21.
bIsaiah 45:23

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