Monday, September 10, 2007

Dealing with Error

This is my outline from this week's Sunday School class.

"As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him..." - Romans 14:1-15:7


We are rightly trying to build a church with an emphasis on sound doctrine. This is a difficult task, as errors are prevalent today. But the task is more complicated than being able to identify error: we must be able to respond in a biblical manner as well. And Paul wants us to learn that there is a deeper right than being right.

Vegetables Only?

Paul takes the Roman Christians aside to discuss a hot topic in the first century- abstaining from certain foods for spiritual reasons. Regardless of the reason for the prohibition, Paul identifies this as the doctrine of demons (I Tim 4:1-3), and says that those who are caught up in it have a weak faith (v. 2). A good minister has the responsibility to stand against it (I Tim 4:6), because it has the power to steer Christians into destruction (I Tim 4:16). This is not a mild academic discussion- souls are in the balance.

Salvation is from God

Calvinists are always subject to the temptation to forget that Calvinism is true. We are not saved by our works, or by our understanding, or anything else we do, say or think. God is in charge of our salvation, and His work is not up for peer review (v4). Being critical of a brethren’s spiritual state is to be critical of God’s work, for He is our master. And He is no perfectionist.

Judging Motives

When we’ve studied a matter out of sincere love for God and come to a conclusion, it’s easy to question the motives of others who come to a different conclusion. Make up your mind, Paul says (v5), but consider other’s motives charitably (v6). We belong to God, and He accepts our sincere works because Christ died (v9). So remember that man judges the outside, but God (alone) judges the heart. And He will judge you (v10).

Where is the Sin?

Ancient Gnostics believed that sin was resident itself in material things; food, wine, sex, etc. Judaizers held the same belief, remembering (wrongly) the Old Testament law.

But we know better- God has made all things for us, and all of them are good (v14). The sin is in our hearts, and comes out in how we use the world. Are you using the world to gratify your fleshly desires for sensual pleasure? How about your desires for the pleasure of quarreling with the brethren? Put it away (v16), and put on love.

The Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God is not about right opinions, but about peace with God, man, and one’s self (v17). God loves the man who learns to live this way, and so do other people (v18). Pursue it hard, Paul says (v19). Do these three types of peace characterize you? Or are you constantly at war with everyone and everything?

Revolution and Reform

There are two basic ways to react to problems in the world. The first is the way of the revolutionary, who just wants to know who is black and who is white. This has the benefit of instant results, but fighting sin with sin only multiplies sin. The way of the Gospel is reformation, which is patient, longsuffering, and trusting in the Holy Spirit. God is doing a good work in us, but our rashness can destroy it (v20). So mind your own business (v22), and keep your conscience clean (v23). You have an obligation to bear with those who are weak or confused (15:1), just like Christ did (v3). Of course, this takes great patience and endurance, which God will give, especially through the Scriptures (v4,5).

As Christ Has Welcomed You

Paul doesn’t mind repeating himself, and so he urges you again to accept one another as Christ has accepted you (v7). Understanding that Christ has accepted you is the only way carnal man can accept someone else. So has God called you to Himself in peace this morning? Yes He has- so be at peace with each other, and all those God has called. Does God invite you to His table to eat with Him in peace? Yes He does- so be at peace with the others who eat. Does God forgive your sins generously and willingly? Yes He does- so forgive one another.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Night Bugs

If you've spent any time in your backyard this summer, you've probably noticed how loud it gets right at sunset. (Hopefully it's not because the neighbor's dogs bark all day and night.) Pennsylvania has three common insects that call from ground and tree during the evening (and at times during the day). Try to listen for these:

The Tree Cricket makes the steady trill you'll hear in the background. Sometimes these modulate their call up and down, but it usually has a steady feel like this sample.

The Field Cricket is the more common cricket, one you'll find easily if you turn over rotting logs or compost. These little guys chirp day and night, a "cheep cheep" sound that varies its rate with the outdoor temperature.

The loudest is the Katydid. These grasshopper-like bugs call to one another from the tree tops starting at about sundown. You can hear their name in their call- "Kay-Tee-Did, Kay-Tee-Did" (or sometimes "Kay-Tee-Did-Did-Did").

All of these insects make their sounds by rubbing their legs together vigorously. They don't have the ability to make sounds with their mouths, and their hearing organs are along the edge of their legs. Calls are for mating, and for your backyard hearing pleasure.

Links (with thanks for the sounds and pictures):