Random Ramblings

Reflections on my walk with God

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Freedom to Obey

When I suggested that we might follow the hugely enjoyable #luke2acts Twitter Bible study by reading the rest of the New Testament,  I think I really didn’t know what I was letting myself in for!  The original plan was to read a chapter a day and so finish by mid-December as outlined here. After our Struggles with Romans, we are now reading and commenting on #Rom2Rev at a much more relaxed pace ;-), may finish sometime next year….   I keep getting behind due to “inconvenient” family health issues and spending a lot of time at hospitals. This is my second catch up blog. My first, Time to grow up and be foolish, had thoughts on 1 Corinthians 1-4. This post is my thoughts on chapters 7-9.

These 3 chapters are very much about rights and responsibilities. As believers we are not bound to the Mosaic law, Paul was very concerned that the Corinthians understood that Salvation is absolutely not dependant on works and cannot be earned by obedience to the old covenant. However, freedom in Christ is not freedom to do what we want, and so Paul laid out the way that believers should act. When they were saved they became part of the Church, which is the body of Christ, as such the Corinthians should behave appropriately. Chapters 7&8 deal with the specific issues of sexual behaviour and dietary laws. The Corinthians apparently thought that sexual relationships should be avoided even within marriage, Paul corrects this idea:

The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5 NASB)

We notice that husbands are not given absolute authority over their wives, they are considered equal and must not “deprive each other”. Sex is considered to be a right within marriage but as directed in chapter 5, believers must not indulge in sex outside marriage. We must remember that Paul and the other Apostles expected Christ to return very soon. His admonitions that it was better for the Corinthians to stay single than to marry were to encourage them to prepare for the second coming.

Couples should not divorce because one is saved and one unsaved. Hopefully, the witness of the believer will bring the unsaved spouse into a saving knowledge of Christ [certainly my hope!]. In many ways Paul’s ideas were radical for the time. Men and women were expected to marry. Single women were pitied and widows often looked down on (despite Levitical laws, which required that widows and orphans be taken care of). Paul was in effect saying that all are equal in Christ and their chief concerns should be devotion to the Lord; married people will be distracted (rightly) by their devotion to each other.

This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:35 NASB)

One of the key messages in this letter was that believers should remain as they were when they were saved.

Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches. Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called. (1 Corinthians 7:17, 20 NASB)

Just as believers should remain in the same marital state that they were in when they were saved, so slaves should remain with their earthly master. In all cases they actually only have one master, Christ himself. As stated in the HCSB study Bible “Regardless of a person’s situation, he should live for the Lord. Two realities should heighten our emphasis on such a lifestyle of devotion: the time is limited and the world . . . is passing away.”

Chapter 8 deals with the vexing issues of food laws. The Jews were bound by the Levitical laws, which are incredibly strict. Some Jews thought that hey must continue to keep all of the laws and that gentile converts must also conform to this practise. Paul himself had to receive a direct message from God to be persuaded that all foods can be eaten (Acts 10 and 11). As with other freedoms, just because we can eat anything doesn’t mean that we should! Paul instructs the Corinthians that they should respect the behaviours of others, not criticising them for having certain ideas about food, not antagonising them. We can apply this to today, not only to remind us to accept the restrictions that others place upon themselves with regard to e.g. meat and alcohol; but also to be aware that as part of the body of Christ, we should respect our own bodies. This idea was explored with regard to giving up smoking by Christine.

In chapter 9, Paul seems to be answering direct questions which challenge his rights as an apostle. Again really he is very much focusing on the freedom that we have in Christ. Like the other Apostles, Paul and Barnabas had the right “to eat and drink, ….take along a believing wife,….and …refrain from working..” (1 Corinthians 9:4-6 NASB). Paul did not insist on these rights, he was not married (probably!) and did work to support himself (Acts 18:3); however he and the other Apostles should be free to evangelise and not have to worry about bed & board.

And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; (Luke 10:2-8 NASB).

It is important to remember that Paul is apeaking to believers in all his letters and therefore the behaviours expected of the Corinthians (and us) are not the same as for unbelievers. We must live in the world but we are not of the world. We must work at whatever God have given us to do, as if competing in a race. We must train hard and try to do our best in all things, at all times.



Struggles with Romans

I initially hesitated when an idea was posted on Twitter to do a Bible study which covered the Gospels of Luke, John and the book of Acts (#luke2acts), as I had never done a Twitter Bible study before, and had just finished reading Luke-Acts. I am so glad that I decided to join in for many reasons. Reinforcement of the daily discipline of scripture reading was only one of the benefits. There was no pressure and people felt able to dip in and out as they were able. There were enough of us involved that if any slipped behind we knew that someone else would have commented. As happens in the twittersphere, new contacts were made and older ones renewed.

I enjoyed it immensely. I had previously completed book-based and online Bible studies alone, but the daily interaction and encouragement really supported my own studies and I learned a lot. Hungry for more when we finished, I suggested that we carry on! Romans to Revelation suggested itself and so #Rom2Rev was born.

I have read Romans before, twice all the way through as part of “Bible in a Year” studies (which took about 3 years and 15 months, respectively), and various chapters and passages at other times. In my previous reading I had tended to “leave to one side” the parts that are troubling. As many of us do – and not just with Romans.

I feel a real kinship with those who are participating in #Rom2Rev.  We have collectively struggled with the difficult scriptures, not necessarily finding answers but the act of delving deeper is rewarding in itself.  There are fewer of us participating in this study and along with the complexities of the material we are all having difficulties in to keeping up.

At no time have I considered myself to be the leader – just the impetuous one who thought it would be fun to carry on and so put together a timetable for the study. It has been suggested that we  take 2 days per chapter, I think that would be useful for the rest of Romans, and we may need a week or so to collect our thoughts before continuing! The other letters, hopefully, will not be so taxing so maybe we could have 2 days for the longer chapters, but stick with a day for the shorter ones. We may need much more time for Revelation!

The thought does occur and should be spoken – do we want to continue after Romans? It is a time commitment, and Twitter is certainly not the best vehicle for deep discussion, however for myself the act of trying to sum up ideas succinctly helps my understanding. I do think that none of us should feel obliged at any time to comment on every verse or even every chapter, it is enough to know that others are reading along and struggling/learning/rejoicing with us.  If time only allows the highlighting of one verse,  or even the acknowledgement of having read that day’s chapter, I think that’s enough. 

We can never aspire to truly grasp the whole meaning of these writings on this side of eternity; at present “we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 )

Please comment or Tweet your thoughts.

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Romans to Revelation (#Rom2Rev) – a Twitter Bible Study

I have recently completed reading Luke, John and Acts (#Luke2Acts) along with some friends on Twitter. I enjoyed it so much that I thought it would be great to continue.

So here is my proposed timetable for reading the rest of the NT – Romans to Revelation. I have factored in catch up days – I was originally going to keep to 6 days of reading and one catch up day but then thought that it would be useful to have 2 catch up days after the longer books and that for continuity sometime we may need to read for more or fewer that 6 days in a row.

I would be grateful for any feedback/thoughts/alterations on the timetable.

It should be a “work-in-progress” that we can adjust as we go along – just so long as people know where we are up to.

If you read #Luke2Acts you will know just how enriching and encouraging it can be to share a bible study online. Please don’t feel that you have to commit to reading a chapter every day; if just want to “dip in “ occasionally, read along without commenting or follow the tweets that is absolutely fine!

p.s. I can’t seem to get this whole timetable to show up in the post – keep losing the last column 😦

Any suggestions?

Update 14th July – here’s the timetable as a PDF Rom2Rev!!

14-Jul Rom 1 01-Aug Catch up 01-Sep 2 Cor 9 01-Oct Catch up 01-Nov Jms 3 01-Dec Rev 9
15-Jul Rom 2 02-Aug Catch up 02-Sep 2 Cor 10 02-Oct 1 Thes 1 & 2 02-Nov Jms 4 02-Dec Rev 10
16-Jul Rom 3 03-Aug 1 Cor 1 03-Sep 2 Cor 11 03-Oct 1 Thes 3 & 4 03-Nov Jms 5 03-Dec Rev 11
17-Jul Rom 4 04-Aug 1 Cor 2 04-Sep 2 Cor 12 04-Oct 1 Thes 5 04-Nov Catch up 04-Dec Rev 12
18-Jul Rom 5 05-Aug 1 Cor 3 05-Sep 2 Cor 13 05-Oct 2 Thes 1 05-Nov 1 Pt 1 05-Dec Catch up
19-Jul Rom 6 06-Aug 1 Cor 4 06-Sep Catch up 06-Oct 2 Thes 2 & 3 06-Nov 1 Pt 2 06-Dec Rev 13
20-Jul Catch up 07-Aug 1 Cor  5 07-Sep Catch up 07-Oct Catch up 07-Nov 1 Pt 3 07-Dec Rev 14
21-Jul Rom 7 08-Aug 1 Cor 6 08-Sep Gal 1 08-Oct 1 Tim 1 & 2 08-Nov 1 Pt 4&5 08-Dec Rev 15
22-Jul Rom 8 09-Aug Catch up 09-Sep Gal 2 09-Oct 1 Tim 3 & 4 09-Nov 2 Pt 1 09-Dec Rev 16
23-Jul Rom 9 10-Aug 1 Cor 7 10-Sep Gal 3 10-Oct 1 Tim 5 10-Nov 2 Pt 2 10-Dec Rev 17
24-Jul Rom 10 11-Aug 1 Cor 8 11-Sep Gal 4 11-Oct 1 Tim 6 11-Nov 2 Pt 3 11-Dec Rev 18
25-Jul Rom 11 12-Aug 1 Cor 9 12-Sep Gal 5 12-Oct 2 Tim 1 12-Nov Catch up 12-Dec Rev 19
26-Jul Rom 12 13-Aug 1 Cor 10 13-Sep Gal 6 13-Oct 2 Tim 3 & 4 13-Nov 1 Jn 1 & 2 13-Dec Rev 20
27-Jul Catch up 14-Aug 1 Cor 11 14-Sep Catch up 14-Oct Catch up 14-Nov 1 Jn 3 14-Dec Rev 21
28-Jul Rom 13 15-Aug 1 Cor 12 15-Sep Eph 1 15-Oct Titus 1-3 15-Nov 1 Jn 4 15-Dec Rev 22
29-Jul Rom 14 16-Aug Catch up 16-Sep Eph 2 16-Oct Philemon 16-Nov 1 Jn 5
30-Jul Rom 15 17-Aug 1 Cor 13 17-Sep Eph 3 17-Oct Heb 1 & 2 17-Nov 2 Jn
31-Jul Rom 16 18-Aug 1 Cor 14 18-Sep Eph 4 18-Oct Heb 3 & 4 18-Nov 3 Jn
19-Aug 1 Cor 15 19-Sep Eph 5 19-Oct Heb 5 19-Nov Jude
20-Aug 1 Cor 16 20-Sep Eph 6 20-Oct Heb 6 20-Nov Catch up
21-Aug Catch up 21-Sep Catch up 21-Oct Catch up 21-Nov Catch up
22-Aug Catch up 22-Sep Phil 1 22-Oct Heb 7 22-Nov Rev 1
23-Aug 2 Cor 1 23-Sep Phil 2 23-Oct Heb 8 & 9 23-Nov Rev 2
24-Aug 2 Cor 2 24-Sep Phil 3 24-Oct Heb 10 24-Nov Rev 3
25-Aug 2 Cor 3 25-Sep Phil 4 25-Oct Heb 11 25-Nov Rev 4
26-Aug 2 Cor 4 26-Sep Col 1 26-Oct Heb 12 26-Nov Rev 5
27-Aug 2 Cor 5 27-Sep Col 2 27-Oct Heb 13 27-Nov Rev 6
28-Aug 2 Cor 6 28-Sep Col 3 28-Oct Catch up 28-Nov Catch up
29-Aug Catch up 29-Sep Col 4 29-Oct Catch up 29-Nov Rev 7
30-Aug 2 Cor 7 30-Sep Catch up 30-Oct Jms 1 30-Nov Rev 8
31-Aug 2 Cor 8 31-Oct Jms 2

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The Good Shepherd

I posted this a while back as a note on YouVersion and have come back to it as I’m just reading Luke 10 as part of the #luke2acts Bible study on Twitter.

This chapter of Ezekiel has just jumped off the page at me! In it we see the whole history of the nation of Israel and God’s promises to them and to us.

The priests and leaders have not looked after the people – they have lead them astray and have exploited them.

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God : Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.(Ezekiel 34:2-4ESV)

As a result the nation has been exiled and scattered but The Lord will bring back His sheep.

So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. (Ezekiel 34:5, 6, 11-13 ESV)

The Lord himself will be the shepherd and will protect them (us) and lead them (us) to good, safe pasture.

I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken. And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 34:15, 16, 23, 24, 31 ESV)

Later on we read in Zechariah
“My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them like his majestic steed in battle. Though I scattered them among the nations, yet in far countries they shall remember me, and with their children they shall live and return. I will bring them home from the land of Egypt, and gather them from Assyria, and I will bring them to the land of Gilead and to Lebanon, till there is no room for them. (Zechariah 10:3, 9, 10 ESV)

Compare these verses to Psalm 23 in which David recognises that The Lord is his shepherd and will lead him to safe pasture and feed and protect him.

Also we see woven through these all of verses the promise of the Messiah, who will be set above us all and will be our shepherd.

In the gospels Jesus often refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd. The one who will search for the lost sheep and will gather them in.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd”. (John 10:10, 11, 14-16 ESV)