NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

David recollected that as a young lad, with long unruly hair and a ruddy complexion, sleeping out in an open pasture under a starry sky after watching his father’s sheep all day long; how he would take his little harp and sing to the God above all gods. Looking up, he saw the sky as a huge tent with the sparkling stars as lights that lit up the night. He may have even tried to count them once or twice. But what really impressed him was that each night every star was in exactly the same place, not one of them was missing. He was so overcome with awe that he penned a hymn to the creator of that starry universe.

O my LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius, as You display Your grandeur all over the heavens for all the world to see. For through these small and tiny dots of light You communicate as a way of countering those who don’t take You seriously; yes, You do this to silence the doubter and unbeliever. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies Your hands created, the stars and the moon You put into orbit I ask, “What role do humans play in this vast universe; why do You care and fuss over them?” Then I realized, You created them a little short of being angels; endowing them with attributes of honor and dignity; making them the smartest and most influential creatures on earth; putting them in charge to being stewards of Your handiwork, even taking care of the animals, both domestic and wild, including the birds that fill the sky and the fish that fill the sea. O LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius for all the world to see.” Psalm 8:1-9

Reflection: Back in the days of the hippy movement I sat in a coffee house in Stuttgart, Germany talking with a long-haired flower-child about God. The young man was respectful but adamant about his doubts concerning God’s existence because he couldn’t see Him or talk to Him. At that moment the Holy Spirit gave me an inspiration, so I pointed to a picture hanging on the wall beside our table and asked the young man if he believed that picture came into being due to an accidental collision of paint and paper. He laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous; that picture was painted by an artist.” I responded that I wasn’t convinced because I couldn’t see the artist in the picture; how did I know that maybe one day it just appeared on the wall by accident. The young fellow looked at me for a moment and then admitted that even though I couldn’t see the artist in the painting, I had to accept the fact that an artist painted the picture because it just makes sense. I told him that in the same way, one must exercise faith to believe an unseen talented artist created such a beautiful portrait, we can also believe an unseen God created the beauty of the universe. The magnificence of God’s creation shows His responsibility for man’s existence, and man’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s handiwork. The young man smiled somewhat embarrassingly as he bowed his head and said, “Okay, you got me on that one.” I asked him if we could have prayer for him to have faith, but he wasn’t sure. As he went away I asked the Holy Spirit to go with him and open his eyes to the truth.

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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JEWISH JAZZ

Years ago, a young African-American, the grandson of slaves, was born in a poor neighborhood of New Orleans known as the “Back of Town.” His father abandoned the family when the child was an infant; his mother became a prostitute and the boy and his sister had to live with their grandmother.

Early in life, he proved to be gifted for music and with three other kids, he sang in the streets of New Orleans. His first gains were the coins that were thrown to them. A Jewish family living in New Orleans, the Karnofskys, who had immigrated from Lithuania to the USA, had pity on the 7-year-old boy and brought him into their home to feed this hungry child. Initially, he was given house chores which he gratefully performed. He remained and slept in this Jewish family’s home where, for the first time in his life, he was treated with kindness and tenderness.

When he went to bed, Mrs. Karnovsky sang to him a Russian lullaby that he would sing with her. Later, he learned to sing and play several Russian and Jewish songs. Over time, this boy became the adopted son of this family. The Karnofskys gave him money to buy his first musical instrument, as was the custom in the Jewish families. They sincerely admired his musical talent. Later, when he became a professional musician and composer, he used these Jewish melodies in compositions, such as the song, “Saint James Infirmary,” and “Go Down Moses.”

The little black boy grew up and wrote a book about this Jewish family who had adopted him in 1907. In memory of this family and until the end of his life, he wore a star of David and said that in this family he had learned “how to live a real life with determination.” You still may not be able to guess who this young boy was, but I’m sure you’ll recognize the name: Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. Armstrong would always tell everyone that he proudly spoke fluent Yiddish!

We may not be so fortunate as to rescue such a talented young person from the streets but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many who have run away from homes where they experienced poverty and abuse. That’s why we should applaud every family that opens their doors as foster homes. Pray for them and pray for those in their care. Who knows, there may be another Louis Armstrong out there. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER FOURTEEN (Lesson IX)

German scholar John Bengel comes to the conclusion that giving sincere thanks to God sanctifies all actions no matter how awkward or different. It certainly does not weaken them.1 Bengel then makes an interesting parsing of words by noting that where Paul says “For” he who eats has greater force than, “and” he who abstains. Bengel feels that giving thanks is more connected with eating than with not eating certain foods. For the person who sees no need to abstain from certain foods based this on their personal decision. This is a standard they have established to guide them, and the results are acceptable to them. We see where Paul sets this standard later on in verse 22 which involves having an assured conscience with respect to the person who does not eat.2 As confusing as this may sound to some, Bengel is making a good point when it comes to the fact that those who feel free to eat certain foods and those who are convinced to abstain, are both operating by the faith, standards, and actions that fit their beliefs and conscience for which they can give thanks.

Adam Clarke gives us his take on how we can understand what Paul is outlining here. He feels that Paul is offering believers a beautiful way to keep from mistaking the sincerity of the other person which may end up making a careless charge against that person’s behavior. That is, do not condemn the other person for something that is not an issue of salvation. If they keep certain festivals, their purpose was to honor God by observing such festivals in good faith. On the other hand, the person who finds that they cannot observe them as honoring God and that God does not approve of what they are doing is also doing so in good faith. At the same time, the person that eats any foods made by God which is wholesome and proper food gives thanks to God as the author of all good things. And those who cannot eat everything indiscriminately because they adhere to those things regulated by Mosaic Law relative to clean and unclean meats, also give God thanks. Both are sincere; both are upright; both act according to their understanding; God accepts both and they should accept each other’s decisions.3

Robert Haldane sees things this way: Paul is obviously saying that every person should give God thanks for whatever they are comfortable in eating or drinking. By doing so, they show that they eat or drink to honor God. This allows them to look at what they do consume as permissible for them even though for others it is unacceptable. In other words, they are thanking God for the liberty He has granted them to eat and drink with a clear conscience. There are other places in which Scripture writers exhort believers to grow in knowledge, and where they charge them as blamable if they are ignorant about any part of the Lord’s will. But here the Apostle Paul makes it clear that those who have a reverential regard for the authority of Christ and a true knowledge of His character can thereby call Him their Lord. So they ought to be welcomed and recognized by others as fellow disciples.4

Charles Hodge feels that we must keep telling ourselves that Paul is writing to those Jews who still regard the Mosaic distinction between clean and unclean meats as necessary for them to follow. The same goes for those who have by good conscience disregarded such practices as an effort to deserve salvation. This applies to the Gentiles as well who had no such restrictions. The Apostle advises them not to discriminate against each other. Let God through His Holy Spirit guide them into more enlightenment on the subject. Says Hodge: “The Lord is He who died and rose again that He might be Lord both of the living and the dead.” So it is to Him that believers are responsible as the Lord of their inner lives.5

Frédéric Godet makes the following observation: The Apostle Paul is giving his reasons why these two lines of thinking are equally admissible. It is because opposed as they are, they are inspired by one and the same desire, that of serving the Lord. The Apostle means that the person who, in their religious practice, keeps the Jewish feast-days, does so for the purpose of doing homage to the Lord by acknowledging Him as their Lord, as does the person who feels no need to observe them does so for the purpose of doing what God wants them to do. It has been concluded from these sayings of Paul that the obligation to observe Sunday as a day divinely instituted was not compatible with all Christian’s views in his day. The believer who observes Sunday does not do so with the intent of ascribing to this day a superior holiness than that of other days. To them, all days are, as the Apostle thinks, equal in holy consecration.6 In other words, a true Christian does not worship and celebrate their relationship with God only on Sunday, but every day of the week. At the same time, those who do treat Sunday as a special day for them do so to honor God not honor themselves.

Charles Spurgeon spoke out about such behavior among Christians during his time. In one of his sermons, Spurgeon introduced his message this way, “The doctrine of eternal judgment upon which I shall speak this morning is introduced to us for a certain reason.” He then points out that Paul saw among Christians in his day a common habit of judging one another. He supposed if Paul were to come among believers now he would not see any remarkable change on that behavior. Back in Paul’s day, the bulk of the early converts were Jews, and as such, they brought into the Christian faith their former religious habits – those who had devoutly kept the ceremonial Law because they felt as if they would violate their consciences if they did not continue to keep its more prominent precepts. And though they gave up some of its observances, which were evidently abolished by the Gospel, they kept up others, such as special days for religious fasts and feasts. Also, many true but weak believers were very scrupulous about what they ate, deciding to maintain the legal distinction between clean meats and unclean.

Spurgeon continues by noting that at the same time the church had in her midst people who said, and said correctly, “The coming of Christ has done away with the old dispensation; these holy days are all types and shadows whose substance is found in Christ.” He goes on to ask, did not the Lord show to Peter, who is the Apostle to the Jews, that from now on nothing is common or unclean? The people of strong faith blamed their weaker brethren of being superstitious, and by their superstition bringing a yoke of bondage upon themselves. But the weaker believers objected. They were not superstitious! They were conscientious! It was just that they were ready to go as far in their liberty as those who did not abstain.

Then says Spurgeon, while the strong looked down upon the weak, almost doubting whether they came into the liberty of Christ at all, the weak condemned the strong, almost charging them with turning their liberty into licentiousness! They were both wrong, for they were judging one another. Paul, who was himself most strongly opposed to the Judaizing party, and in every respect came out clear and straight on championing the bold lines of Christian liberty, was, nevertheless, so motivated by the spirit of his Master that he was ready to be all things to all men. He saw the grave danger of dissension arising where all should be loved. So he rushed into the breach and he said, “Do not judge one another: what have you to do with judging? Judgment Day is yet to come.’

I like the way Spurgeon finishes this sermon. He encouraged everyone to take a second look at their God and Savior and confess that He is their Lord. They know He is their Judge, but they are also their Redeemer. They accept the fact that they were under condemnation, but they see that He did stand in on their behalf – the Just for the unjust, their Substitute sacrifice, bearing their sin and punishment. So every believer should say, “Blessed Lord, I accept You as my Substitute! I yield myself up to You! I stand now tried, condemned, punished, dead, raised again in You, and, therefore, pardoned, acquitted, justified, beloved, accepted for Jesus’ sake.” Spurgeon was happy to end his stern sermon with such a glorious blessing. He then quoted from an old hymn sung in that day: “Bold shall I stand in that great day, For who anything to my charge shall lay? While through Your blood absolved I am. From sin’s tremendous curse and shame.78

Karl Barth shares his insightful commentary by pointing out that the free-thinking believer has the responsibility of understanding the stricter person better than they understand themselves and of interpreting rigorous practices by generalizations. For that, they give God thanks whether an action is valid or invalid as long as it involves their relationship with God, By this standard, the precision of the strict person is judged by the same standard that the freedom of the stronger believer is critiqued. To the onlooker, however, the application of this basic principle remains wholly invisible. That means, believers have no alternative but to accept the claim of the weak that they do honor God when they obey their highly conservative rules, however much some may imagine that an idol has intervened between them and God. By invoking God it can mean that honorable significance can reside in their practices; their action can be a necessary demonstration offered to the glory of God. On the other hand, it cannot for one moment be admitted that in itself eating is more pleasing to God than not eating.9

Dr. F. F. Bruce gives his understanding of Paul’s teaching here. He finds it closely aligned with what Paul told the Colossians: “Do not let anyone tell you what you should or should not eat or drink. They have no right to say if it is right or wrong to eat certain foods or if you are to go to religious suppers. They have no right to say what you are to do at the time of the new moon or on the Day of Rest.”10 Paul says no more at present about the observance of special days, presumably because this was not a touchy issue at the time in the Christian community of Rome, as it had been some years before in the churches of Galatia.11 Therefore, don’t get involved in nitpicking what others do that is different from one’s own. If one person says grace for the food that their conscience permits them to eat, then the person who would not eat such food should say grace over what they do eat without being critical of the other. By doing so, what they both eat is then equally sanctified. In either case, their food is sanctified by the thanksgiving12.13

1 1 Corinthians 10:30; Colossians 2:7; 3:17; 1 Timothy 4:4.

2 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 351-352

3 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 269

4 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 598

5 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 652

6 Frédéric Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

7 “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness” based on 1 John 1:7, by Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), Translated by John Wesley, (1703-1791), Composer George J. Elvey, 1862, The Lutheran Hymnal, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941, hymn #371, Stanza 2.

8 Charles Spurgeon: Sermon – “The Judgment Seat of God,” Delivered on Sunday, May 29, 1881, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, England

9 Karl Barth: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

10 Colossians 2:16

11 Galatians 4:10

12 Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:30; 1 Timothy 4:3–5

13 F. F. Bruce: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. 6, p. 246

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER FOURTEEN (Lesson VIII)

It is quite clear that while Jesus and His disciples visited the synagogue each Sabbath Day, and the earliest missionary services by Paul the Apostles were conducted on the Sabbath, that Lord of the Sabbath said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.1 It appears that the Jewish converts wanted to keep the Sabbath holy but the Gentiles had no such inclination. In fact, Paul believed that Christians should live every day in honor of the risen Lord and Savior and not make one day more holy than the other. But at the same time, there was no prohibition to Christians gathering on whatever day or time of day they wanted to give thanks, praise, and worship to the KING of Kings and LORD of Lords. What Paul is pointing out is that those who prefer Sunday should not speak disingenuously of those who prefer Saturday.

Frédéric Godet shares what he sees going on in Paul’s mind. As the Apostle sees it, to elevate one day above another is an attempt to distinguish one as more important than another. In doing so, they felt that the day became more sanctified and so the Day was worshiped instead of Him. Thus, those who held that day in high esteem were then more sanctified as well. There is a little irony in discerning one day as more important than another. Is it more important because it commemorates some event in the past? Or does the actual date itself, such as Christmas always fall on the 25th of December whether it be a Saturday or Sunday or some other day of the week? The more dates that are set apart as holy does not guarantee the person who observes them as gaining in holiness. The Apostle Paul does not take sides on this issue. All he asks of anyone is that this practice should be personal based on one’s convictions. The expression, “in their own mind,” contains the idea of an individual’s choice. And the term “should be sure,” means to be filled to the brim. It denotes a state of conviction which leaves no more room for doubt or hesitation.2

Jewish scholar David Stern offers his perspective. He doesn’t believe that the Apostle Paul is generally referring to Jewish holidays but to any days that any believer might have come to regard as especially holy. This is because the “weak” are not specifically Jewish believers, but any believers attached to a particular calendar. Each should be fully convinced in their own mind. This principle for dealing with doctrinal and practical disputes applies to the Greek concept of adiaphora (matters about which the Bible is indifferent),3 and must be balanced against 2 Timothy 3:16. Where Scripture gives a clear word: personal opinion must give way. But where the Word of God is subject to various possible interpretations, let each be persuaded in their own mind while at the same time “outdoing one another in showing respect for each other.45

Verse 6: Those who think one day is more important than other days are doing that for the Lord. And those who eat all kinds of food are doing that for the Lord. Yes, they give thanks to God for that food. And those who refuse to eat some foods do that for the Lord. They also give thanks to God.

Paul did not write this to promote promiscuity or lack of morals. To take this in a secular way is completely out of harmony with the true meaning. Everything mentioned here is that which already is done in our daily observance of God’s Word. Today we could compare this to our thoughts on fasting, communion, prayers, church attendance, etc. Sure, all of these are done in one degree or another to honor God. Other things, however, that are designed to satisfy the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the lust of one’s ego are not meant to honor God, and, therefore, cannot be included in the list provided by Paul in this chapter.

I have met believers who when they speak to Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, et al, they speak down to them and are very critical of their beliefs. Paul scolds anyone who would do that. All should be accepted at their level of faith and understanding of God’s Word. If they begin to see more in you than they do in themselves let them ask for greater clarity, don’t force it on them. Not only will you be doing them a favor but you will be doing God a favor. When I first joined the Boy Scouts, in Bisbee, Arizona, we learned how to tie knots. I thought I had a pretty good idea because I knew how to tie my shoelaces and tie up my little brother when we played cowboys and Indians. But when I saw some of the older scouts tie what they called the figure 8 knot; square knot and bowline knot, I immediately asked, “How did you do that?” I wanted to learn. Let your faith in God do the same thing to those who are spiritually still trying to learn how to tie their shoes.

Paul knew that the Jews in the congregation in Rome were accustomed to observing all the special days ordained by God.6 Some of them memorialized marvelous acts of God and some were done in obedience to God’s directives.7 Also, there were those days on which particular forms of reverence to God were performed.8 What Paul wanted them to know was that those things which honored God and were done out of gratitude to Him should not become a reason for arguments because one did it one way and another did it a different way and some who didn’t do it at all.

Not only that but when a person did anything on a special day or a specific occasion they were to thank God for the privilege of honoring and reverencing Him. Look at what Jesus did before He broke the bread and dividing the fish to feed the multitude.9 He gave thanks to bless the meal. Apparently, this became a custom among believers that is practiced to this day.10 But Paul felt that things might get out of hand, so he wrote to Timothy: The Holy Spirit tells us in plain words that in the last days some people will turn away from the faith… They will say, ‘Do not get married. Do not eat some kinds of food.’ But God gave these things to Christians who know the truth. We are to thank God for them. Everything God made is good. We should not put anything aside if we can take it and thank God for it. It is made holy by the Word of God and prayer.11

When it comes to how we should honor and thank God for what He’s done for us through our Christian conduct, several early church writers have a few things to say. For instance, Chrysostom notes that Paul continues his exposition from the previous verse. The issue at stake is not a fundamental one. Both sides are doing what they think pleases God the most, that’s why both end up by giving Him thanks. This proves that the differences between them turn out to be a minor one. Nevertheless, Paul aims a blow at the Judaizers because he accepts the validity of all foods.12

Then Pelagius credits the person who fasts in order to pray and honor God’s goodness and not on account of other people doing the same is observing that day for the Lord.13 At the same time, the person who eats in honor of God’s blessings eats that they might have strength to preach the Gospel for which every convert should thank God. Such individuals are not devoted to their stomach but to the salvation of others.14 But it is also true that if by the example of the person who does not eat meat many are saved, they can all return thanks to God. For the person who gives thanks only with their voice gives thanks alone, but the person who gives thanks in their actions gives thanks along with many others.15

Reformer John Calvin gives us his impression of Paul’s intent here. He advises everyone that in order for them to understand Paul’s purpose in this verse, it is necessary to distinguish between the notion, which anyone may have entertained as to the observance of days, and the observance itself to which they feel bound to do so. Calvin feels that such notions stem from superstitions. This is something that the Apostle Paul does not deny. In fact, he has already condemned it by calling it a “beggarly element,16 and he will condemn it again even more plainly.

Now, the person who is a slave by such superstition does not dare to violate the seriousness of keeping such days as holy. In their mind, this was approved by God because they dared not to do anything with a doubtful conscience. What indeed could the Jews do who had not yet made such progress as to be delivered from scruples about such days? They had the Word of God in which the keeping of certain days was commended; there was a necessity laid on them by the Law and its annulment was unthinkable for them. Nothing then remained but that they, waiting for a fuller revelation, should keep themselves within the limits of their own knowledge and not to yet embrace the benefits of liberty given by the Gospel. It was something they did out of habit before embracing it by faith.17

Calvin goes on to observe that Paul is telling us that whether we feel free to eat certain foods or abstain from them, we are to give thanks to the Lord for what we do eat. So in Calvin’s mind, that meant that what we eat is impure and abstinence is impure when we don’t give God thanks. It is only the name of God, when invoked, that sanctifies us and all we have. Furthermore, it has been suggested as a question by some whether the Christian Sabbath is included here? The very subject in hand proves that it is not. The subject discussed is the observance of Jewish days, as in Galatians 4:10, and Colossians 2:16, and not what belonged to Christians in common.18

1 Mark 2:27

2 Frederic Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

3 Adiaphora is a Greek word and means “things that are indifferent.” It has its origin among the Greek Stoic philosophers (4th century BC) who first used the concept to indicate a given act that was neither a vice or a virtue. It is not used anywhere in the New Testament.

4 Romans 12:10

5 David H. Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

6 Exodus 12:14, 42

7 See Exodus 16:22-26

8 Isaiah 58:2-7

9 Matthew 14:19; 15:36

10 See 1 Corinthians 10:30-31

11 1 Timothy 4:1, 3-5

12 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 25

13 See Matthew 6:18

14 See 1 Corinthians 10:31-32

15 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

16 See Galatians 4:9-10

17 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

18 Calvin: Ibid., footnote [419]

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER FOURTEEN (Lesson VII)

A number of early church scholars have several things to say about this subject of the Roman believers placing certain priorities in their lives when it came to celebrating particular days of the year. Chrysostom believes that Paul may be giving a subtle hint about fasting. It is quite possible that those who boasted of fasting several days a week were being critical of those who did not. It is also likely that even though some fasted, they did not do so on particular days. As Chrysostom supposes, Paul explained to those who fasted out of fear of being criticized that it should be their choice, not someone else’s. Furthermore, when it came to their right standing with God, required fasting was not part of justification.1

Augustine, on the other hand, notes the inconstancy between human and divine judgment. As he sees it, that without looking deeper into the subject on what Paul says here seems to him that this is said about God and man, not about two individuals. The person who picks and chooses what holy days they plan to observe and which ones they don’t plan to celebrate are constantly being changed. But the One whose judgment is the same every day is the Lord. That’s why believers should make their decisions based solely upon what is mutually accepted between their spirit, God’s Spirit, and God’s Word. But their decision must be their own.2 From my study of Augustine and his writings it is quite possible that he represents the Lord’s decisions as those which come through the Church. So the message is clear, any and all directives from God come to the people in the pew through St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

And then we have the thoughts on abstaining from meat on certain days. Early church scholar Constantius is convinced that Paul is saying that there are some people who at certain times of the year abstain from meat but that there are others who have decided they must abstain from meat their entire lives.3 And Pelagius says that each person must become fully convinced in their own mind on these things. That’s why Paul felt obligated in shining some light on a subject which is neither a fixed law in Judaism or Christianity. Each individual should do whatever seems right to them in their effort to please Christ with their commitment to His cause. Furthermore, they should do so only out of love for Him and not earn merit on being more righteous. So it only makes sense that whatever decision they make is one they can live with because their conscience is clear.4 Again, what a person eats or abstains from is not a requirement to be justified before God as one of His children.

Martin Luther points out a dilemma that believers often find themselves in when not wanting to cause any controversy by either criticizing another Christian for their liberal views or putting down a fellow believer for being too conservative. They should consider cooperating and even participating to show humility and create harmony, Luther believes that some may be evoked into acting contrary to their own convictions, and since they think differently on the matter they end up violating their own conscience. They just don’t have the spiritual strength to do otherwise than what others are doing so they can be accepted as part of the crowd. This, in spite of the fact, that their own conscience is screaming for them not to be bullied into doing something they are against.5 It is clear that Luther is speaking about those who Paul calls “the weak” and their response to “the strong” in the congregation.

Fellow Reformer John Calvin shares his interpretation. For him, the Apostle Paul applies the best rule by encouraging everyone to make up their own mind. With this said, it implies that each believer should be certain in their own hearts and minds that they are being obedient to the Spirit’s leading and not the leading of others who they hold in esteem or contempt. The whole point is to please God, not those you want to impress, with your dedication to God. Every believer must keep in mind that the first principle of living right is that everyone must submit to the will of God and never allow themselves to lift a finger while they are in the process of making up their mind. Otherwise, they will end up doing something that exasperates and irritates them more than making them happy with their choices.6

To further examine what Calvin is saying, he implies that it is often more convincing when we decline to join someone in an endeavor that does not fit within the purview of our belief system, we can do so by appealing to a higher or stronger source as the basis for our decision. For instance, if you invite a friend over for a meal and have pork chops or ham, and they decline by saying, “I’m Jewish,” or “I’m vegetarian,” we should waste no time in trying to persuade them to go against their custom. So it is with things that a person may be uncomfortable by joining in when they say: “Thank you so much, but I must decline since I am an Evangelical,” or “Thank you but I can’t. I have very strong convictions about it and would be going against my conscience.”

John Bengel does not say precisely which of these points we’ve examined is correct since all are a matter of choice. As he sees it, a person who has decided on following one way or the other must be committed to the way they choose much like a ship that holds to its course unimpaired either in a narrow canal or in a spacious lake.7 The editor of Calvin’s commentary explains that this idea is inherent in the Greek verb plērophoreō used here by Paul. He writes that this metaphor is borrowed from ships going full steam ahead, and signifies a person having a most certain persuasion of the truth. – Leigh.8 In either case, Paul is saying that it is the same for both groups, those who eat and those who abstain. Both were to do what they were fully convinced was agreeable to the will of God.9

Adam Clarke points to his understanding of what Paul implies here. He thinks that perhaps the word “day,” is here taken for a particular date, time, festival, or such like, in which sense the term “day” is frequently used. Reference is made here to the Jewish institutions, and especially their festivals; such as the Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles, New Moons, Jubilee, etc. The converted Jew still thought that to observe these days was a moral obligation. The Gentile Christians, not having been raised in this way, had no such biases. And, furthermore, those who were the instruments of bringing them to the knowledge of God insisted on no such stipulations. Consequently, they paid little attention to these less important things.10 While many Christians today also hold Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, Ascension Sunday, and the Lord’s Day – Sunday, as special if not holy, the requirement to keep the Sabbath, – Saturday as the Jews did their days and feasts, is generally not enforced except for some denominations such as the Seventh Day Adventists.

Robert Haldane acknowledges that even in his day there were some non-Jewish believers who thought that participating in certain Jewish feasts was helpful to their image. We can say that this has continued up until this day. That’s why Haldane notes that the Apostle Paul took it for granted that there were believers in Rome who held different views on this subject. That’s because Haldane feels that Paul is directing his message only to the believers. Even though this is a clear point, it is one of great practical importance. It recognizes that many believers live at different levels in their understanding of the Gospel and the Will of God for their lives. It is proper, however, to believe that the Lord’s Day was not included by Paul in this list since it appears he was talking strictly about meats and days that were peculiar to the Jewish Ceremonial Law. Just as he wrote to the Galatians, he objects to their observing days, and months, and times, and years, because it only kept them in bondage to the Law. Paul called such habits as signs of weakness and lack of resolve to remain liberated in the grace of God that set them free.11.12

Henry Alford offers his views on how these special days apply to Christians, especially Sunday. In his own way, he amplifies what Paul said by putting it this way: If a weak believer celebrates just one particular day as a special holiday, while a stronger believer celebrates many days as holidays, that’s fine. Let each person do what they are comfortable with, in their own minds. Alford goes so far as to say that keeping one day of the week holy for worshiping God is an obligation for all believers whether they choose the first or last day of the week. During apostolic times, there were some believers who gathered on the Sabbath (Saturday) and some on Sunday (the day Christ rose from the dead), but it was never instituted as a law for Christians. Furthermore, there is nothing in the Final Covenant that establishes Sunday as God’s choice over Saturday as a day of rest. It wasn’t until the 4th Century under Emperor Constantine that the Church of Rome decided on Sunday as a sneaky way of denigrating the Jewish Sabbath.

So Alford argues that anyone who insists on celebrating the Jewish festivals and holy days may do so as long as they don’t convince themselves that they are enhancing their salvation through grace. Also, that the argument of whether Christians should meet on Saturday or Sunday as their day of worship are only dealing with church tradition not the Word of God. Alford maintains that had the Apostle Paul been convinced to keep the Sabbath as the Christian day of worship he could not have penned what has written here. Also, the fact that Paul says that the controversy was over “one day,” means that some were elevating one day – out of many – above the others.13

Here is a little more historical evidence on how the Sabbath became Sunday instead of remaining Saturday: When Emperor Constantine I, – a pagan sun-worshiper – came to power in A.D. 313, he legalized Christianity and made the first Law that required all to observe Sunday as a holy day. His infamous Sunday enforcement Law of March 7, 321 AD reads as follows: “On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.14 The Sunday Law was officially confirmed by the Roman Papacy. The Council of Laodicea in A.D. 364 decreed, “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day they shall especially honor, and, as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ.15 Furthermore, James Cardinal Gibbons freely admits, “You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we [the Catholic Church] never sanctified.16

1 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 25

2 Augustine on Romans 80

3 [Pseudo-]Constantius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

4 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

5 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 199

6 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

7 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 351

8 Edward Leigh (1602-1671): Critica Sacra, or Philologicall and Theologicall Observations upon all the Greek Words of the Last Covenant in order alphabeticall, London, 1639; 2nd edit, 1646.

9 John Calvin: Ibid., Footnote [418]

10 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 268

11 See Galatians 4:9-10; Cf. Colossians 2:16

12 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 597

13 Henry Alford: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 119

14 Codex Justinianus 3.12.3, translated by Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 5th ed. (New York, 1902), 3:380, note 1.

15 Strand, op. cit.,citing Charles J. Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, Vol. 2 [Edinburgh, 1876] p. 316

16 Faith of Our Fathers, 92nd ed., p. 89

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER FOURTEEN (Lesson VI)

Augustine addresses this same subject again in another of his commentaries. He suggests that apparently there were still some in Rome who were quick to pass judgment on things whether they were done with bad intentions or good intentions. It didn’t matter if the person did what they did to get all they could get or to give all they had. If it wasn’t done the way they thought it should be done then it might as well not have been done at all. Although they were mere humans, they wanted to judge the secrets of the heart – secrets of which God alone is the judge.1 Pelagius follows this with a question he would have liked to ask these people, “What authority do you have to judge someone whom the Law does not judge?” This is why the Apostle James says: “He who judges his brother judges the Law.2 In other words, they imagined themselves to be wiser than the Law. Nevertheless, Paul was willing to admonish those who broke the commandments and said that we can do the same.3 But in the end, a person lives or dies according to their heavenly Master’s will and judgment.4

Martin Luther sees an interesting reply in Paul’s response to all those who question whether or not those who eat things, or do things, that they should not do will be able to endure to the end. Luther says that Paul’s reply is: “God will see to it that they endure.5 Since this is said in response to Paul’s point that no one should take on the air of superiority when judging another person’s servant. John Calvin makes the point that if anyone is so discourteously and presumptuously as to give orders to another person’s employee to do things their way, that is a case of assuming too much of what is not theirs. If a person criticizes another person’s helper because what they did not please them and instructs them on how it should be done, that is not their right to do so. You should report it to the one over them and let them handle it. Who are you to order someone to do or not to do when you don’t even pay their salary? Luther believes that such people want everybody else to live according to their rules.6

Calvin goes on to make this point: Although the power of judging individuals on the manner of their performance is not ours, there is still a big difference between the two. That is, the person receiving the criticism, whoever and whatever they may be, should only have the judgment of their competence and manner of doing their job left up to their boss. In like manner, when a believer is trying to do the will of God, it is up to God whether or not they have done it right. However, when it comes to their performance in serving, any person can certainly express whether or not they were happy or unhappy with the way it was done. But it must always be remembered, such judgments are based solely on one’s personal views, not that of society.

It is also true that when it comes to how believers do what they have been commissioned to do, any judgment must be based on the Word of God. That’s because the judgment derived from His Word is neither human nor another individual’s opinion. Calvin sees Paul intention here was to restrain believers from presumption in judging. This is why believers who dare to pronounce anything respecting the actions of other believers as unacceptable must require God’s Word as the basis for their critique.7 Calvin also points to Paul’s own words to the Philippians: “He who began in you a good work will perform it to the end.8 Once we understand this, it should play a vital role in how we conduct our judgment of other believers. There is no reason to be a monster when we can be a mentor.

John Bengel gives us a jewel of wisdom concerning this issue of judging others. To him, the work of Divine grace always draws a valid conclusion in that it is transferred from what it could have been to what it is. This is especially true when compared to how people judge others who are incapable of figuring out things for themselves.9 And Robert Haldane also gives us insight to broaden our understanding of who’s doing what to whom. He notes that it is generally understood that the person who Paul cautions against condemning others is considered the strong believer, and the person who is being condemned is the weak one. But this conclusion lacks any solid foundation in the text. Instead, in verse 3 it was the weak who condemned the strong, and not the strong who condemned the weak. The strong did not condemn the weak, they despised the weak. When, therefore, in this 4th verse, the Apostle asks with some sense of indignity, “Who do you think you are condemning another person’s servant?” Haldane believes this is directed toward the weak who previously condemned the strong. Had it referred to the strong, it would have said, “Who do you think you are to despise another person’s servant?” The weak condemned the strong as if they were not at all true believers. For this, they were rightly cautioned. They assumed the exclusive right of God who alone is the Judge of His own servants.10

Charles Hodge focuses on the provision that the person in charge is the one with the right to uphold or dismiss what those under them have done or are doing. As such, Paul is urging everyone to think things over before making a charge. This is especially true when it involves those who differ from us on matters of choice or opinion. This requires patience and a steady hand. No matter how weak a person’s faith may be, if they are a Christian they should be recognized and treated as such. If whatever may be determined to be their weakness is not acceptable, it does not take anything away from their acceptance with God. Therefore, there is no ground or necessity for proceeding against them without any compassion. The object of discipline is the reformation of offenders in order to purify the church. But neither of these objects requires the condemnation of those believers whom God has welcomed into His family. God is able to help them stand. He not only has the power but the disposition and determination to do so gently11.12 Hodge goes on to say that no matter what others may think, the individual involved must ultimately answer to God. It is before Him we all stand or fall.

Henry Alford agrees with the interpretation that the words right or wrong (“stand or fall,” NIV) are inapplicable to the judgment that will take place on Judgment Day. He wants us to notice that the admonition here is entirely directed to the weak who have little compassion when judging the strong – not vice versâ. The weak assume that the strong cannot be true servants of God since they don’t stand up for what is right when confronted with temptation. To this, the Apostle Paul answers that such judgment belongs only to Christ whose servants they are. Furthermore, that the Lord’s Almighty Power is able to keep them going and will do so.13 Charles Ellicott agrees with Alford that the true reading here is “the Lord” will help them stand.” In Paul’s case, the Master mentioned in the text is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

Charles Spurgeon is happy that Paul is saying here in verses 2-4 that it is a great blessing when the members of the church do not push one another around because everyone is responsible for the path they have chosen to follow. Almost every church has workers assigned to different tasks, but they must learn to cooperate for the betterment of the Church. Unfortunately, Sunday school workers do not always agree with one another. Then, again, Sunday school personnel are not always fond of how the Children’s Church sessions are run. It should never be so. Members of the Church body are represented by the different members of the human body. That’s why the eye must not say to the foot, “I don’t need you.” Neither should the hand say to the ear, “You’re not important.14 Every person must work according to the Holy Spirit’s gifts in their lives.

Spurgeon also advises that when a person assigned to one area of ministry starts telling a person responsible for another ministry how they should or should not do their job, or starts telling their staff what to do, they are making a great mistake, both for themselves and for the Church at large. It is also unacceptable for one ministry leader to envy another leader and start knit-picking at loose threads so they can find fault with their service. They should be reminded of Paul inspired question that asks: Who do you think you are to criticize another person’s staff? Their promotion or demotion is entirely left up to their leader.15 Spurgeon then appealed to his own church staff and tells them that he is praying that they will maintain a holy unanimity, to be of one accord, to have the same goal of doing what’s good for the church, to only provoke one another to love each other so they do a good job. It is their goal to give, not to get, and to strive for nothing except that which promotes everything for everybody to the Glory of God and the Lord Jesus!16

Verse 5: Some people might believe that one day is more important than another. And others might believe that every day is the same. Everyone should be sure about their beliefs in their own mind.

What Paul is talking about here are religious holidays. We know about the Jewish Holy Days such as the Sabbath and all the Feasts. But there were equally important and celebrated holidays among the Gentiles. Ancient peoples were very attentive to seasons and the Sun’s position in the sky because their livelihood depended on planting and harvesting at the proper times. Then there were pagan festivals honoring their gods. So you can imagine in a congregation of mixed ethnicities coming from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds there would be some who felt the need to retain certain holidays as a part of their culture, not their religion.

Paul had to remind the Galatians of the same thing: “Now that you know God, or should I say that you are known by God, why do you turn back again to the weak old Law? Why do you want to do those religious acts of worship that will keep you from being free? Why do you want to be held under the power of the Law again? You do special things on certain days and months and years and times of the year.17 Once the early church began to spread throughout the Roman Empire they fought the same battles over such holidays. However, rather than simply forbidding converted pagans from continuing to celebrate such festivals, the church redesignated them as Christian holidays. For the most part, this created the basis from which these holidays have been secularized and for the most part, the religious factor has been completely eliminated.

1 Augustine: Sermon on the Mount 2.18.59

2 James 4:11

3 1 Corinthians 5:3-5; 6:2-3

4 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

5 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 199

6 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

7 Calvin: ibid.

8 Philippians 1:6

9 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 351

10 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 596

11 Cf. Romans 11:23

12 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 650

13 Henry Alford: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 119

14 1 Corinthians 12:15-21

15 Romans 14:4

16 Charles Spurgeon: Sermon titled: “Order is Heaven’s First Law,” Text: Joel 2:8, A sermon published on Thursday, February 22, 1906

17 Galatians 4:9-10; See Colossians 2:16b

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POINTS TO PONDER

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John Steinbeck (1902-1968), born in Salinas, California, came from a family of moderate means. He attended Stanford University but never graduated. In 1925 he went to New York where he tried for a few years to establish himself as a free-lance writer, but he failed and returned to California. After publishing several novels and short stories, Steinbeck became known as one of the best writers of social novels dealing with the economic problems of rural labor. His most famous work was “The Grapes of Wrath.”

In his Book, East of Eden, Steinbeck has two characters named Adam and Samuel sitting together in Adam’s restaurant talking about the good old days. As their conversation progressed, Samuel told Adam that there were two stories in the Bible that had haunted him for a long time. They were the stories of Adam and Eve committing the original sin, and Cain killing Abel. Samuel said his wife Liza gets mad at him because he’s always trying to figure out what these stories are trying to tell us. As the day quickly passed and the skies began to darken, Samuel turned to Adam and said, “Lord, how the day passes! It is like a life, [it passes] so quickly when we don’t watch it, and so slowly if we do.1

There have been some interesting thoughts and theories about how quickly time seems to fly by for most of us. For instance, a French psychologist and neurologist named Pierre Janet (1859-1947) stated in 1877 that time seemed to speed up as we get older because each new experience becomes a smaller and smaller fraction of our life the longer we live here on earth.

But this does bring up a good point about ratios. I’m sure it’s something that many people have thought of probably a million times or more. When you’re five, a year represents 20% of your lifespan. When you’re fifty, it’s a measly 2% of your lifespan. What makes this idea appeal to most of us is that we have noticed that our sense of history changes as we get older. For instance, I was born in 1938, so the events of the 20s and 30s were to me “recent” history. So when I reached 50, those same decades were now old history. And now that I am 80 years old, they are ancient history.

In the meantime, I’ve assimilated a lot of history. So it isn’t so much that what happened back in the 1930s is so old, it’s that a lot of history has been jammed in my mind in between. And that could make more distant things seem more familiar. But it could also be that I project a shadow of my own life, that gets longer and longer, back to the year of my birth, so anything that falls within that shadow is considered “nearest history.”

In my mind, World War II was just a few years ago, and the Korean Conflict and Vietnamese War were just like yesterday. All this makes me think that the length of my own life is something of a default measuring rod for time. But here’s the strange thing, from my earliest years starting with Kindergarten and going on through High School, seemed to have gone slowly. I can remember so many incidents very clearly. But my nine-year service in the military and my six years as a missionary in Europe seem to be more compact. And from the time I graduated from Seminary up through my mission service in Asia, time went by way too quickly. So it is no wonder that as I sat and watched the scary predictions of Y2K in 1999, I am now writing the date of 2018 and it all seems like a flash. So the ratio of time that occupies our mind and memory is what makes time go by so fast.

Another thing that seems to be the calendar on the wall of our mind is “memories.” This is because we seem to store more vivid memories when we are younger than when we are older. This might happen for at least two reasons. First, when we are young, everything is new. And, when things are new, they are more exciting or more terrific. And, when events are more emotionally charged, we are more likely to record them as memories.

Secondly, as we get older we describe our experience in larger chunks. Ask a child how they got home and they will tell you they left school, got chased by a bully, found a rock to kick around, kicked it until it hopped the curb near the mean dog’s yard, found another rock to kick, got teased by a girl, and so forth. Ask an adult, they’ll tell you simply that they drove home. So figuratively speaking, the first ten years of our life take up a lot of room in our memory, while the last ten years of our lives only seem like the size of a postage stamp.

And perhaps time seems to pass more quickly for another reason entirely. Psychologists tell us that with people who suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder, where different personalities taking charge at different times, and with no shared memory of what happens when other personalities are in control, there must often be large gaps in their experience. Those with DID must feel like they are “losing time” on a regular basis. And, as a result, time must seem to them to move even faster than it seems to move for us.

However, we don’t need to be suffering from DID in order for us to feel like we have lost time in life. Can you remember when you were reading a book or playing a game of solitaire and told yourself that you might finish the chapter or complete the hand in solitaire in 15 minutes? You finally got to bed at midnight. And the next thing you know, the alarm is going off and you have to get up, take a shower, and get ready for work.

Sometimes this happened because we don’t stick to our plan and keep saying “just one more thing.” But often it’s because it took longer than expected to finish our original quest. Perhaps we got sidetracked along the way. Or maybe we didn’t realize how many things we wanted to do before we quit. Regardless, it was always something of a surprise when the alarm went off. What we started out to do in 30 minutes, ended up being completed 300 minutes later. Where did all that time go?

Why do we overshoot our estimates so regularly? It could be because when we make an estimate we think about our project at a high level of abstraction, and that precludes us from seeing all the obstacles and conflicts we still have to resolve. It could also be because even if we allow ourselves some cushion, we tend to fill up the extra time by wanting to get more done than what we originally planned to do. And then, as usual, we go on to encounter unexpected complications. What is important to remember is that when we blow past deadlines and finish projects much later than expected, we tend to feel like we’ve lost time. And this contributes to the sense that time is moving faster than it should.

In a 2005 paper, researchers Wittman and Lehnhoff asked study participants: “How fast did the last 10 years pass for you?” And what they found was that to older a person got the faster time seemed to pass by – at least until they got into their 50s. After that point, between 50 and 90 people’s ratings for the speed of time passing leveled off to an average speed. So it does seem to be true if we keep running past our time estimates and it does make us feel like we’re losing time. So maybe we need to start sticking to the deadlines we set for ourselves.

Wittman and Lehnhoff also asked people how much they resonated with being under pressure to do things by a certain time. People from their late teens until their early 50s said it didn’t bother them that much, but not as well after that point. Linking the two findings, Wittman and Lehnhoff suggested that time pressure might be one of the factors causing passing time to accelerate for people as they grow older. And that makes some sense. People tend to work and make decisions under pressure quite a bit between the ages of 16 and 50. And they do feel like time moves more quickly when under pressure.

These are the kinds of things that can wake us up at 2 am, filled with despair at the passing of time and the dwindling hope that we will ever make anything of ourselves. And, if our main first-person running commentary throughout our lives involves the thought “there’s never enough time,” is it any wonder we feel like time is passing more quickly than it should? If we feel that time is moving too quickly, and we’d like to slow it down a bit, here are some suggestions that I found that might be very helpful:

First, close all the doors on all your unfinished business or things you which you would have done differently. Keeping the doors open will cause your mind to constantly going back over and over things you can’t change. These open doors distract you from the task at hand and create stress. They are one of the reasons things take longer than they should. And they add to the feeling that there’s never enough time to get everything done.

Secondly, take on projects you know you can complete in the time allotted. The larger your project, the more likely you are to blow past your estimated completion time. Then you will overshoot it by a larger margin, and that results in more “lost time.” If you can arrange your work to be a series of one-week or two-week projects instead of four-month or six-month projects, you will complete more projects in the same amount of time and will have a smaller percentage of “lost time.” So as they often say, “Stop to smell the Roses.” To the extent that the effect is caused by dwindling “memory density,” we can slow time down by stopping to smell the roses more often. This is another way of saying, enjoy what you’ve already completed before you go on.

So, while we may resist the advice to “always” live in the present, we can agree that most people need to slow down and be present more often than they currently are if for no other reason that time will seem to move more slowly. This doesn’t mean that you a killing time. In fact, there is no such thing. Time is in our hands one second at a time, we can either use it or lose it. Taking time to contemplate what our goal is and why it is so important to finish what we are doing in a certain amount of time, is not wasting time. In fact, it has proven to be a reliable way to change despair into acceptance and hope.

But will this work for you? Just think of a believer who keeps telling themselves that all of the things they must do here on earth increases their “longing for heaven.” They are anticipating a state of existence that is better than their current situation, and this desired state is still a long way off. This bit of cognitive re-framing moves them from a state of very clearly wanting time to slow down, to a state of wanting time to speed up.

The Bible is not silent on this subject. The ancient wise man, Job, once told his friends that even though we were born yesterday, we still don’t know all we should know today. That’s because life here on earth is like a fading shadow.2 In other words, we’re not going to know everything, or even remember everything we have learned. But since life is passing so swiftly, use what you do know and what you do remember to get the job done. Don’t fret over what you don’t know.

In fact, the psalmist said that we should keep in mind that our life here on earth is short and that every minute counts. So use each second, minute, hour, day, week, month, and year because they won’t come around again to do things over.3 Later on, another psalmist stated that when compared time here on earth to eternity, all of a person’s life is no more that one breath.4 As God tells time, we are here today and gone tomorrow, like the shadow of a passing bird. So make each day count.

Wise King Solomon cautioned about anyone who brags about what they are going to do tomorrow.5 First, you don’t know if you’ll be here tomorrow. And secondly, you don’t know what tomorrow will bring that you will have to deal with. Later on, in another book, Solomon clearly points out in a sermon that life is not just a passing of time. That for everything we do in life there is an appointed time.6 The problem is, we often spend time meant for something important on something that is meaningless when it comes to our future.

That’s why when Jesus came, He wanted His followers to know that time should not be wasted on frivolous things. He said to them: “All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned to us by the one who sent me, for there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end.7 In Jesus’ day, there were no electric lights. Everything was done at night by the light of candles or oil lamps. What He was trying to impress on His disciples was that the day was coming when there would run out of candles and oil for their lamps, so get done all that you can while there is still light outside.

Then one of Jesus’ disciples, the Apostle James, expands on what Jesus said. He told his readers, “Listen up! You people who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to such and such a town, stay there a year and open up a profitable business.’ How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? For the length of your lives is as uncertain as the morning fog – now you see it; now you don’t. What you ought to say is, ‘If it’s the Lord’s will I plan to live my life to do what He tells me to do.’ Otherwise, you will be bragging about what you want to do, and that kind of egotism never pleases God.8

So we may end up saying what Samuel said in Steinbeck’s book about how the day passes! It’s like life that seems to pass so quickly when we don’t watch it, and so slowly when we do. While this is so true, it doesn’t give us the instructions on what we should be doing with our time. We may be able to borrow money from the bank, but we cannot save time from yesterday or borrow time from tomorrow. Remember, every second wasted is a second you will never get back to use over again the right way. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1 East of Eden by John Steinbeck: Copyright 1952, Penguin Books, New York, 2003, Chapter 4

2 Job 8:9

3 Psalm 90:12

4 Ibid. 144:4

5 Proverbs 27:1

6 Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

7 John 9:4

8 James 4:13-16

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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THE MORE YOU GIVE THE MORE YOU RECEIVE

When I read this story, I noticed that it was short and sweet. But it also contained a powerful message that could benefit us all. Here is the story as told by Fred Bauer:

When Fred was a kid growing up in Ohio, he made extra money picking strawberries for a man who had a small farm on the edge of town. He sold his produce from a little roadside stand. Because he was paid by the quart, Fred figured the faster he picked, the more he would make. But the farmer informed him that there was another requirement. “Don’t just fill your boxes to the edge. Fill them till they run over and won’t hold anymore,” he said. “I’ve always operated on the principle that if I charge a fair price and give my customers a little extra, they’ll come back again.” And they did.

Fred said that what he learned was that we reap what we sow … in every facet of our lives. Give the minimum, expect to receive the minimum. Give lavishly, extravagantly, and be rewarded in kind. But this does not need to be our only motivation. The Word of God that says you can’t out-give the Lord is changeless. Jesus confirmed it when He preached, “Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.1 It not only applies to strawberries, but to the Fruit of the Spirit, as well.

Fred then goes on to ask, “What are the Fruit of the Spirit?” The Apostle Paul listed them as follows: “Loving service, unselfish devotion, courageous loyalty, sincere fairness, enlightened honesty, undying hope, confiding trust, merciful ministry, unfailing goodness, forgiving tolerance, and enduring peace.” So just think of yourself filling your quart basket every morning with fruit that you plan to share with those around you, this should tell you that you have plenty of fruit to choose from in the Spirit’s garden. But just don’t fill your quart basket to the edge, fill it to overflowing and see the surprised but joyful look on those who receive this blessing from you. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1 Luke 6:38

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