Taking a Look at Family and Ministry


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When you are young you think you know it all, when you are old you realize you don’t and when you are older you realized what is valuable. As I write these words I am disgusted in many ways and for many reasons.

         I am 50-years-old. I am not young, but not too old either. I see things, some times, beyond the surface. To have any kind of discernment or any prophetic insight these days is not easy. If I am in the Spirit I can handle what I see better; but if I slip into the flesh I become very negative and complaint about everything… that is the truth!

         There are two things that disgust me, 1) to do ministry without intimacy with God, without discipleship and without fully honoring God’s Word and 2) when folks so comfortably give up their special time with family for careers, education, hobbies, social media and everything else. They sacrifice family as if that is the right thing to do, when in reality that is in indeed the wrong thing to do. Let me briefly deal with ministry first. In Mark 16:17-18 Jesus said,  

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (KJV)

         Why is it that I have seen very little of these signs in any ministry, including mine? These signs should be a normal part of the life of any believer. Now, I hear a lot of preaching and teaching; to that the Apostle Paul stated,

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. First Corinthians 2:1-5 (KJV)

         Where is our faith standing, in the wisdom of men or in the power of God? We listen to a lot of teaching; some of those teachings are actually good, well prepared sermons and long series, but when was the last time you witness the power of God?

         Let me make something clear, the Apostle Paul is not discouraging preaching and teaching, the Bible identify us as disciples; a disciple, by definition, is somebody who is learning. In our case, we are learning the ways of the Lord. However, the Apostle Paul is discouraging preaching and teaching that focus on the wisdom of men or men’s ability to put a sermon together. Preaching and teaching that only has value if the preacher has a doctoral degree or some kind of impressive title as if, that is the prerequisite to attain any kind of credibility.

         Paul is emphasizing that our faith should not stand on men’s wisdom, but in the power of God. A simple teaching is able to entertain our intellect, as we stay comfortably in our sin, as we continue to distance ourselves from our families and as we continue our prayerless lives, but the power of God is able to do something that we all desperately need and that is… to be changed.

         See beloved, not only that there are signs that should follow any believer, but we must also understand that what brings forth that power is indeed the teachings of our Lord and not this selfish and man-centered gospel we are teaching today. To this Jesus said,

“…to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 33 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? 34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.” John 8:31-37 (KJV)

         We can’t even be considered disciples of Christ if we are not committed to learning and following Jesus’ teachings. Jesus’ teachings are truth and it is that truth that makes us free. So the first step to deliverance is to get in God’s Word and learn the teachings of our Lord. There is no freedom, no deliverance if we remain in ignorance. When we resist God’s Word that means that there is no room in our hearts for his teachings; that means that we rather follow our own way and not the way of Christ. If the Word of God insults you check your spirit, something is terrible wrong.

         Is important to point out that a disciple is not just a student. A student goes to school, complete a degree in a particular career for a particular job or skill. A disciple focuses on how to live for Christ; we are supposed to be dying to self and looking more and more like Jesus. We are supposed to be changing, growing and going from glory to glory. If this growth and maturity is not taking place you are not experiencing the power of God.

         An effective ministry is a yoke-breaking ministry because it is anointed by God (Isaiah 10:27). The Job Description of an effective ministry is clearly stated in Isaiah 61; it is the portion of Scripture chosen by our Lord to officially start his ministry on this earth.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”Luke 4:18-19 (NIV)

         Ministry is a Godly instrument for change. An effective ministry leads us to dramatic changes as we die to self and become more and more like Christ. So in conclusion, as it refers to ministry, there should be tears, there should be repentance, there should be forgiveness and there should be physical and emotional healing. In general, there should be transformations taking place. Your ministry could be financially sound, your ministry could be growing in numbers, you could have the nicest building in the whole city, but if transformation is not taking place in the lives of those you are ministering to, your ministry represents a form of Godliness, but is clearly denying the power of God (2 Timothy 3:5). That means that you have become so sophisticated that you have closed yourself to the manifestations of the Spirit of God. Here on earth you may have honor, but in heaven your ministry is obsolete.

To be continued…

 

Romans 7:7-25


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BEYOND OPINIONS

Romans 7:7-25

by

Angel Casiano

March 2018

Table of Context

Introduction……………………………………………………………………………….3

Historical Context…………………………………………………………………………3

Literary Context……………………………………………………………………………4

Textual Analysis…………………………………………………………………………10

Application……………………………………………………………………………….16

Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………….18

Bibliography……………………………………………………………………………..20

Introduction

            I subscribe to the point of view that in Romans 7:7-25 the great Apostle Paul was talking about himself and his struggles; thus articulating the struggle of every believer. Paul voiced this harsh truth about himself and the rest of the world with refreshing transparency, admirable honesty, and uncommon humility. This portion of Scripture should be the foundation for the physiological reality of every believer: the dynamic between the flesh, the soul, and the spirit within us.

            In this portion of Scripture, Paul crushes any justification for arrogance and pride in our lives as he defines himself as a wretched man. Nevertheless, Romans 7:7-25 is not only describing the reality of our struggle, but also the reality of our redemption through Christ Jesus, a major theme in the book of Romans. This paper will briefly discuss the spirit, the soul, the body and the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Lastly, this paper will attempt to make the case for Christians to realize that there is more beyond salvation. Salvation is the door, but Christ’s redemptive plan for our lives involves the restoration of our souls even in the midst of a sinful world and an uncooperative flesh.

Historical Context

            There is consensus that the book of Romans was written by the Apostle Paul. Cox describes Romans as, “The Longest and most intensely theological of the 13 NT letters written by Paul.”[1] Cox ads “this letter is also the most significant in the history of the church.” Martin Luther was studying Romans when he concluded that a person becomes righteous in the sight of God through faith alone. His discovery led to the Reformation battle cry, sola fide, “by faith alone.”[2]

            It is said that the Book of Romans was written in Corinth during the winter of A. D. 56 -57.[3] “Douglas identified the genre of Romans as a letter, but recognizes that the primary impetus of Paul’s effort is the development of key theological augments.”[4] “Morris, along with most commentators, assert that at the time of Paul’s writing, the church at Rome would have included both a large Gentile component and, due to the numerous references to the Old Testament, a significant Jewish element as well.”[5]

Literary Context

            The book of Romans has well defined themes. Its central team is the gospel, “the good news that God declares to sinners to be righteous when they trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on their behalf. It involves both the imputed righteousness of justification according to Romans 3-5 and the imparted righteousness of sanctification, worked out progressively through the power of the indwelling Holy Ghost (Romans 6-8). Other sub-themes, such as “flesh versus Spirit,” and “law versus grace,” relate this overall theme.”[6]

            It is precisely here, as we attempt to make sense of the literary context that Romans 7:7-25 seems not to feed. Piper articulated this seemingly contradiction this way,

Neither thinks that when Paul says, “I delight in the law of God, in my inner being (esō anthrōpon)” (Romans 7:22), or when he says, “I, my very self (autos egō) serve the law of God with my mind” (Romans 7:25), he is speaking for himself as a Christian. This is because Paul also says, “I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (Romans 7:14); “I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15); “I see in my members another law . . . making me captive to the law of sin” (Romans 7:23); “wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24); and “with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:25). These statements of defeat do not sound like the person who says in Romans 8:2, “The law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”[7]

            Piper calls the transparency of Paul as statements of defeat. Piper can’t reconcile such statements in light of Romans 8:2 that declares the freedom every believer has found through and in Christ. Dockery also states, “The interpretation of Rom 7:14-25 has been problematic historically. Does the passage reflect Paul’s pre-conversion experience under the law? This was a major interpretation of the church fathers, or does this passage describe Paul’s tension in the Christian life?”[8]

            The reality is that, after taking a first glance at Romans 7 and attempting to take a look at the context by looking at the chapter before and the chapter after, there seems to be an unavoidable tension. This tension has been the cause of many diverse interpretations that are as different as day and night. Romans 7 begs the question, are we free from the guilt of sin, but not really free from sin?

            Even classical theologians such as Augustine struggle with this portion of Scripture. In an indebt study of the way St. Augustine interpreted Romans 7:7-25, Bounds states, “The history and development of Augustine of Hippo’s exegesis of this passage has received significant scholarly attention. In his initial forays into Pauline study in 394/395, Propositions from the Epistle to the Romans, Augustine interpreted Romans 7:14-25 as a human being “under the law, prior to grace. The “I” pictured here is the quintessential unregenerate person, who has knowledge of the law of God, senses true guilt for sinfulness, longs for deliverance, but is without the grace of Christ to overcome sin. In contrast, the Christian “under grace,” infused with the love of God, is victorious over sin and “ceases to sin.”[9]

            It should be noted that Augustine went as far as stating that the Christian under grace ceases to sin. However, by the end of his life, an Augustine view of Romans 7 was completely different. Bounds states, “In 327, three years before his death, Augustine, writing his Retractions, renounces again his earliest position on Romans 7 as a description of an unconverted person “under law” and reiterates his belief that this is Paul’s Christian testimony and the experience of every person “under grace.”[10]

            To get a deeper understanding of Romans 7, other portions of scripture need to be evaluated. The Apostle John tells us in 1 John 1:8-10, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” (NASB)

            Galatians 5:16-17 is another portion of Scripture that describes our inner struggles, Paul states, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (NASB)

            This struggle can be better explained if we take a journey back to Genesis and what took place there. The sin of Adam and Eve had devastating consequences for humanity. 1) It brought physical death into the world; and had an even worse consequence, 2) spiritual death. From that moment on men started hiding from God, many still hiding from Him today. A person with a dead spirit does not have the ability to even hear the Gospel much less understand it (2 Corinthians 4:4). In John 3:3-6 Jesus explains to us the born-again experience by stating,

“…Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (NASB)

            The only part of us that is born again is the spirit in us. Neither the flesh nor the soul is born again. This is the root of the struggle found in Romans 7. We as humans are not only spirit, but we are also soul and body. The Apostle Paul explains this truth in First Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NASB)

            By reading Scripture we learn that the spirit in us is willing (Matthew 26:41). Paul states in Romans 7:22 “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,” (NASB). The spirit is the part of us with the natural ability to cooperate with God. David understood the importance of his own spirit; in Psalm 51:10 he prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (NASB) It is with our spirit that we fulfill one, if not the greatest call as God’s people. With our spirit, with our innermost being, we are able to worship God. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (NASB)

            In our soul we have our mind (Our mindset), our will (decision making) and the seat for our emotions. We know that our soul is not born again, but as born again believers we know that our mind has been renewed. Romans 12:2 tells us, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (NASB) Psalm 23:3 and Lamentations 1:16 speaks of the restoration of the soul.

            The flesh, on the other hand, has no hope; the flesh will always resist God (Galatians 5:17). However in First Corinthians 9:27 the Apostle Paul states the following regarding the flesh,  but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (NASB) The word discipline here is the Greek word, hupōpiázō; meaning “To strike under the eyes, beat the face black and blue, give a black eye.[11] By this definition we can see that, as the spirit is the part of us that is willing to follow and cooperate with God, the flesh is the contrary. Romans 7 is the description of the doings of the flesh in the life of, even a believer.

            As we look at Romans 7:7-25, based on the overwhelming biblical evidence, by no means can we conclude that it represents a contradiction of Romans 6 or 8 or that it is a discouragement to any victorious declaration in Scripture. Romans 7, if anything, explains the nature of our struggle and is not unique to Romans 7. It can be seen all throughout Scriptures in the Old and New Testament. Romans 7 places a stamp and seal on what the work of Christ truly represents; his love, his mercy, his patience and his power to change us.

            To say that we no longer have the ability to sin as believers is lying, it’s deceiving ourselves and is evidence that the truth is not in us. This is a serious matter! Our weakness through the pages of history are well documented; I am sorry, I know that many would like to see themselves as so powerful and so victorious, and we are… but only through Jesus. If you are willing to accept all that we are in Christ and all that we are not in our own power, then you will have a problem with Romans 7; however if you recognize your dependency in Him for every aspect of your life, you will have no problem simplifying Romans 7.

            It is all about Jesus, without him we are simply nothing. Through Him we are free from the guilt of sin, through him we have power to overcome sin and through him we find mercy when we fail to access such power and our weakness overtakes us. His victory was announced from the very beginning after the fall of man. In Genesis 3:15 God the Father tells us, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (NASB) That is the theme of the whole Scripture, that is the good news… that is the Gospel and the central theme of the whole book of Romans. Yes… Jesus is our Savior (Acts 13:23), but the Gospel goes beyond our salvation. Jesus is also our Lord (2 Corinthians 4:5), Jesus is our Intercessor, (Romans 8:34), Jesus is our Attorney (1 John 2:1) and Jesus is our healer (Matthew 8:16).

            The Holy Ghost dwells in me, He ministers to my spirit, He restores my soul and He fights off the flesh. I am not defeated, my victory is sure. I serve a God who is love and the Bible declares that love never fails. Is important to remember that we are going through a process, we are changing indeed; God is not wasting his time. 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (NASB) There are two powerful promises we must keep in mind 1) God will place that law that Paul was talking about in Romans, in our minds and in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33) and 2) God will successfully finish the work that he started in us (Philippians 1:6)

Textual Analysis

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. Romans 7:7-9 (NASB)

            In the Garden, Adam and Eve were given permission to eat from every tree in the Garden, only one tree was off-limits, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why did God place such prohibition? What is it about having knowledge of good and evil that is so bad? Everything was ok in the Garden until their eyes were open to the reality of evil. Without the knowledge of what is evil we were created to do right. Such knowledge must not be a good thing for us to have.

            Responsible parents, for example, do the same thing with their children; they protect their ears and eyes to keep them pure. Only God is able to know evil and not be affected by it. The knowledge of evil is never good for us, it sucks us into doing evil; the flesh rides in such knowledge. What happens when a child is exposed to domestic violence, bad language, pornography and so on? They lose their purity. That’s the reason behind the rating on movies, PG, PG 13, Rated R, etc. Without the knowledge of evil Adam and Eve would have continues to live a pure life.

            The law itself is not sin, that’s what Paul is saying here, but the knowledge of sin produces in us a desire for sin. That knowledge of what is evil, Paul said, produces all kinds of evil coveting. Those evil desires come from our flesh; that is the part of us that delights in sin.

9I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

            Without the command, what is out there to convict us of any sin? Nothing! That is because there is nothing to establish what is sin and what is not. However, through Moses God did give us the Law and clear definitions of what is right and what is wrong. So when was Paul apart from the law? This may be a general statement because we know for a fact that Paul existed way after the Law was given through Moses.

13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.

            Again we see Paul defending the Law and pointing out what is the real problem… sin! He then continues the theme of defending the law by stating,

14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

            There is an argument regarding the verb between Romans 7:7-13 and Romans 7:14-25. Dockery points out that

            “The first six verses of the chapter assert strongly the fact of the believer’s death         to the law. This is done by a somewhat imperfect analogy with the husband and          wife. The following verses demonstrate the character of the law, i.e., it is “holy,  just and good.” This is done by expressing the character of the law and its relation   to Paul in his transitional experience before his conversion (7:7-13). This can be demonstrated primarily by the past tense verbs. The shift to the present tense in vv    14-25 is indicative that this section describes Paul’s struggle with sin as a believer. Vv 24 and 25 form a conclusion to this difficult section.”[12]

            While we can subscribe to the idea that in Romans 7:7-13 Paul could have been referring to his life before becoming a believer; it is very clear that in verses 14-25, he is indeed confessing his struggles as a believer as the past tense transition into a present tense.

            As we continue our analysis we go back to establishing that we are spirit, soul and body. We see these three components of who we are in the following verves. In Romans 7:21 Paul tells us, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me…” This is the flesh in action. In Romans 7:22 he adds, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man…” This is the spirit in us; the one who is willing and capable of cooperating with God as previously established. In Galatian we are able to see that the flesh fights against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. The flesh also attacks the soul. In Romans 7:23 the Apostle Paul tells us, “but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. The word mind here is Greek word, “νοῦς noús; meaning mind, the organ of mental perception and apprehension, of conscious life, of the consciousness preceding actions or recognizing and judging them, intelligent understanding. (I) As the seat of emotions and affections, mode of thinking and feeling, disposition, moral inclination, equivalent to the heart (Rom. 1:28; 12:2; 1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:17, 23; Col. 2:18; 1 Tim. 6:5; 2 Tim. 3:8; Titus 1:15); firmness or presence of mind (2 Thess. 2:2); implying heart, reason, conscience, in opposition to fleshly appetites (Rom. 7:23, 25; Sept.: Is. 10:7, 12).[13]

            As you can see there is a brutal fight taking place in the inside of us. In Romans 7 Paul goes beyond describing the struggle, he confessed that he is in the struggle also. As established before, Romans 7 is not the only place in the Bible that speaks and makes this struggle obvious. A study of the seven churches in Revelation are another large portion of Scripture that also illustrates how our sinful nature can find its way in our lives and even in our doctrines. However, Romans 7 is not a contradiction of the rest of this book or the Bible for that matter. Verses 24 and 25 establishes our condition, but also our one and only hope… Jesus Christ! 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. (NASB)

            Why are so many theologians alarmed and suspicious of Romans 7? Why do so many go as far as twisting Scripture to accommodate a doctrine that does not exist? We often say, I am not perfect, nobody is; so why are we having such a hard time reconciling the fact that we have victory over sin, and at the same time, there is a nature in us that is a slave of sin? Why are we having such a hard time understanding that we are going through a process? Why are we having such a hard time accepting that through Jesus we are victorious and through the Holy Ghost he is transforming us and changing us from glory to glory?

            It is not that Paul was fornicating; it is not that Paul was stealing, lying or murdering people, etc. after becoming a born again believer. What we are dealing with is a man who understood the power of God, but also understood sin. See, we have the tendency to divide sin between the big sins and the small sins and we know that not every sin is an abomination before the Lord; however there is no sin acceptable by God. We can’t enter heaven without the forgiveness of all of our sins.

            In the famous Sermon of the Mount Jesus said,  “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.19 Matthew 5:17-19 (NASB)

            Every commandment is important. Also, do we not remember that we don’t have to actually commit an act in what we know as, our time and space, for that act to enter the realm of reality? In that same Sermon of the Mount Jesus states, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28 (NASB) How many sins are hidden in our hearts? Nobody can see them, we have not acted on them, but before God, they are just as real as if we go out and actually commit these acts. All of those folks that have a hard time with the transparency of Paul and refuse to accept our sinful nature as a reality in our Christian life fail to understand or accept that truth, so they walk either in great denial or, great hypocrisy. The Apostle Paul, on the other, understood his victory in Christ, who he was in Christ, his dependency in Christ, and his daily struggle with sin. Paul states that he dies daily (1 Corinthians 15:31). Jesus goes as far as telling us, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:24-26 (NASB)

Application

            Interpretations regarding Romans 7:7-25, as you can see, are all over the place. If I embrace the conclusion that Paul’s statements in Romans 7:7-25 are those of a non-believer and that it is impossible for a Christian to experience such struggle, I must then question my own salvation. I have experienced the struggle described in this portion of Scripture my whole life as a believer. It seems to me that some Christians cannot fathom a Christian living in such struggle. However, if we are honest, to prove that even born again Christians struggle with sin, all we have to do is take a sincere look at our own mirrors and look at our own stories, not before, but since becoming born again believers.

            How can I finish a paper on Romans 7 and just keep moving on to my next assignment without pausing and reflecting on my own life as a believer? The reality is that every time I read Romans 7 I am deeply touched and moved, even to the point of tears. So I turn this portion of my paper into a heartfelt and sincere prayer:

Father, today, like everyday, I need your help, I need your guidance, I need your forgiveness, I need the cleansing and healing power of the Blood of Jesus and the activity of the Holy Ghost in my life. There is a journey I am in Lord; it has been a tough journey, a journey filled with filth, mistakes, sin, errors and everything in between. I see myself as a wretched men, my victory is in Jesus and in Jesus alone. I thank you for all that I am through Christ and I thank you that through your Holy Spirit you are working in me. I am innocent through Christ; without HIM I am guilty. I am righteous through Christ, without HIM I am unrighteous. I am holy through Christ, without HIM I am a filthy man and I am victorious also through Christ, without HIM I am a looser. The condition of my flesh makes me a slave to sin; my soul is going through a process of restoration. I am changing the way I think, I am getting better with my decision making and better in connecting my emotions to the reality of who I am IN CHRIST; to allow joy and peace to decorate my soul and brighten my days. I thank God for the born-again spirit within me; God has created an upright spirit within me, a spirit who is willing to cooperate with God every day. Oh I thank God for the indwelling of the Holy Ghost and how He ministers to my spirit, how He restores my soul and how he fights my flesh. I praise you today oh God… Wash me and make me white like snow. I desire holiness and not a lifestyle of sin. Thank you for your precious Law that is being formed in my heart… Yes Lord! Thank you that the good work you started in me… YOU will complete! In Jesus’ name… Amen!

Conclusion

            In Romans 7:7-25 we see the great Apostle Paul talking about himself: those were his own words. Not only did he describe his own condition and struggle with sin, but the condition and struggle with sin of all of us. Paul gave us an example of transparency and humility; something very hard to find amongst many of our brethren today. They don’t understand themselves as spirit, soul and body because they were presented with the idea that we could be perfect and unable to sin. They would rather answer to the questing of, “How are you doing?” By stating, “blessed and highly favored.” They were told that to accept that there is a part of us that is a slave to sin is the same as denying their own salvation. So they lie, they embrace hypocrisy and run from transparency.

            Romans 7:7-25 crushes any justification for arrogance and pride in our lives, even as believers and brings us to the point of facing the reality that without Christ we are indeed a bunch of wretched men and women. Romans 7:7-25 establishes that Jesus is everything and ONLY HE deserves the glory. There is no reason for pessimism, Romans 7:25 is not only describing the reality of our struggle, but also the tangible reality of our redemption through Christ Jesus, this is an undeniable theme through the entire book of Romans. Paul closes Romans 7 confirming the power of such redemption by stating, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:24-25 (NASB)

            Thank God that Romans 7 did not end with the reality that we are wretched, but with the announcement of Jesus who will indeed set us free from this body of death; from this sinful and disgusting nature that lives in us. That, my friends, is the Gospel, that is indeed… good news!

            I believe that Romans 7 helps us understand the magnitude of the evil that is in us. However, Romans 7 also teaches us that the death and resurrection of Christ gave us more than taking away our guilt. Christ is making us free by the power of His Spirit and by the power of his blood. Christ stands as our Saviour; soon we will all go home with him. Christ stands as our Lord; he is dealing with us. The devil’s accusations have no power over us. God disciplines us when he needs to, gives us mercy to hold back the judgment we really deserve; gives us grace that we don’t deserve, empowers us to do right, stands as our Attorney when we mess up, and is our number One intercessor to guaranty our victory. When everything is said and done, one thing is for sure; God will restore our souls in the midst of a sinful world and in spite of our uncooperative flesh. This flesh has no hope; this flesh will die, but the true me, the “I” in the inner man that Paul spoke about, will be glorified. That’s good news!

Bibliography

“An Exegesis of Romans”. A Discipleship and Coaching Services, accessed February 18,   2018,   https://www.livestransforming.com/an-exegesis-of-romans-77-      25/?doing_wp_cron=1519003891.9462900161743164062500
Berding, Kenneth, “A Key Insight about Romans 7 from a Conversation with J. I.             Packer.” The Good Book Blog Talbot School of Theology. Accessed February 18,           2018, https://www.biola.edu/blogs/good-book-blog/2012/a-key-insight-about-       romans-7-from-a-conversation-with-j-i-packer
Bounds, Christopher. “Augustine’s Interpretation of Romans 7:14-25, His Ordo Salutis   and His Consistent Belief in a Christian Victory over Sin.” Asbury Theological    Seminary. (2009):
Dockery, David S,. Romans 7:14-25: “Pauline Tension in the Christian Life”. Grace          Theological      Journal. (Fall, 1981): 239-257.
Garlington, Don B. “Romans 7:14–25 And The Creation Theology Of Paul.” Accessed     February 18, 2018. http://www.galaxie.com/article/trinj11-2-04
Lesson 1: Romans: The Gospel of God (Romans 1:1, Introduction), accesses March          9, 2018, https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-1-romans-gospel-god-romans-11-         introduction
Mathew Henry’s Bible Commentary. Accessed February 18, 2018,           https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=45&c=7
Piper, John. “Clarifying Romans 7:24-25 As Christian Experience”. (October, 2014).
Quarles, Charles. “Romans, Letter to The,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated        Bible Dictionary An Introduction to the Book of Romans, accessed March 9,       2018, https://bible.org/article/introduction-book-romans
Schreiner, Thomas. “Romans 7 Does Not Describe Your Christian Experience.” The          Gospel Coalition. Accessed February 18, 2018,             https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/romans-7-does-not-describe-your-         christian-experience/
Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga,     TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).
[1] Charles L. Quarles, “Romans, Letter to The,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1409.
[2] Charles L. Quarles, “Romans, Letter to The,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1409.
[3] An Introduction to the Book of Romans, accessed March 9, 2018, https://bible.org/article/introduction-book-romans
[4] “An Exegesis of Romans”, A Discipleship and Coaching Services, accessed February 18, 2018,             https://www.livestransforming.com/an-exegesis-of-romans-77- 25/?doing_wp_cron=1519003891.9462900161743164062500
[5] Ibid.
[6]Lesson 1: Romans: The Gospel of God (Romans 1:1, Introduction), accesses March 9, 2018, https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-1-romans-gospel-god-romans-11-introduction
[7] John Piper, “Clarifying Romans 7:24-25 As Christian Experience”, (October, 2014).
[8] David S. Dockery, Romans 7:14-25: “Pauline Tension in the Christian Life”, Grace Theological            Journal, (Fall, 1981): 239.
[9] Christopher Bounds, “Augustine’s Interpretation of Romans 7:14-25, His Ordo Salutis and His             Consistent Belief in a Christian Victory over Sin.” Asbury Theological Seminary. (2009):            20
[10] Ibid. 21
[11] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).
[12] David S. Dockery, Romans 7:14-25: “Pauline Tension in the Christian Life”,
[13] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

Are You Doing God’s Will or Your Own Thing?


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There is one characteristic of a man or a woman of God that brings all characteristics together and that is to be faithful to God. To be faithful to God means that we trust Him; to be faithful to God means that we obey Him and to obey God means that we love Him (John 14:15). To be faithful to God means to learn to die to self; that is because, being faithful to God does not mean doing the same thing year after year; being faithful to God is doing what He tells us to do faithfully.

            If I consider that God’s ways are higher and different than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9) we most also conclude that to be faithful to God forces us to deal with one little scary thing called, “Change”. There is no way to be faithful to God and remain in our comfortable zone… absolutely no way! The Bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

            As we look at Abraham having to leave his hometown and his people; as we look at Moses wondering in the desert for forty years; as I see the children of Israel fighting giants to conquer the promise land and, as I look at the Old Testament prophets risking their lives every time they spoke God’s truth, I realize, very quickly, than being faithful to God will always take us out of our comfortable zone. The same can be said about the New Testament characters. John the Baptize was decapitated six months after he started his ministry announcing the coming of the Lord. All of the original disciples were murdered with the exception of John. Don’t think for a minute John got it easy, they did tried to kill him, he did suffer persecution, but most of all, the pain of seen all of his friends dying. The Apostle Paul was also decapitated.

            When I look at how comfortable many of our lives are as Christians I wonder, what are we doing wrong? We want the glory, but we don’t want to change; we want the anointing, but without having to leave our neighborhoods and our jobs. In other words, folks refuse to let go of their identity, that place where everybody knows you, where you have a degree of expertise and where you are comfortable. Very few are willing to “start all over”; they just want to continue the status quo. I am sure when they die, somebody will call them faithful for working in the same place for 20 or 30 years; my question is, did God called them to do the same thing for 20 or 30 years? I am not too sure!

            Matthew 7:21 tells us  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” It seems like we take God’s will very lightly. I remember hearing a deacon in a church stating that God follow us and bless us as we do our thing. In other words it is God following us and not us following Him? I confronted this deacon with his stupidity, but I wonder how many even noticed the heresy of his statement.

            Jesus is not only our Saviour He is also our Lord. He becomes truly our Lord when we surrender our will to his. We can’t say that He is our Lord when in reality we exclusively follow our will. There are some special words from our Father that are only reserved for a very prestige group. These words are not reserve for those who call themselves Christians, but for those who were faithful in doing God’s will. We see those words in Matthew 5:23, “…Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Matthew 5:23 (NASB) On the other hand, for those who were unfaithful to God and follow their own will and ways, they will hear a different set of words, “…I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matthew 7:23 (NASB) Are you doing your own thing? Beloved to do our own thing is to practice lawlessness.

 

Burn Out Pastors: The Problem, The Cause and the Solution


a-case-of-burnout

The Main Responsibility of a Pastor

            Hebrews 13:17 tells us “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (KJV) If the soul is the seat of our emotions, if our minds are housed in our souls and if our will also springs-out of our souls, we can say that the pastor’s hands are very, very full. The pastor deals with the emotions of his people so they can live a life filled with joy, peace and purpose. He teaches them how to think like Christ and, how to surrender their wills to God. However, something is terribly wrong when the pastor himself is walking around with a hurting soul.

The Problem

            On August of 2010 the New York Times conducted a study and found that 33% of pastors felt burn out within the first five years of ministry. 57 % of pastor said that they would leave ministry if they could. 80% of pastors said that they have insufficient time with their spouses. 80% stated that pastoral ministry has affected their family negatively. 1,500 pastors leave ministry every month due to burn out. (Last accessed 9/13/2017): http://www.pastorburnout.com/pastor-burnout-statistics.html

What is the Cause of the Problem?

            There are many reasons why pastors get burn out such as lack of balance between family and ministry (McMinn: 2015, p. 564); Bolsinger calls this, “…unhealthy professional boundaries between pastors and their congregation.” (Bolsinger, 2015) Bolsinger goes as far as stating that most pastors LOVE a good pastoral care crisis; that the idea of the need to be needed feeds many their ego (Bolsinger, 2015). Also, another cause for pastor’s burn out is the unhealthy expectations placed on them by their own congregations (Bolsinger, 2015). Bolsinger conclude his article by stating that the main reason for pastor’s burning out is “…because we have lost our wholeheartedness about pastoral ministry.” (Last accessed 9/13/2017): http://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-how-to/247954-true-cause-pastoral-burnout.html.

            As powerful and logical as these reasons may sound, the root cause for pastor burning out is the little and, in some cases, lack of prayer life and lack of time in the study and meditation of God’s Word. McMinn identifies that spiritual dryness and no time to study or be alone is one of the stressors that clergy is facing. (McMinn, 2015, p. 564). Prayer is the foundation of not only ministry, but the Christian life. There are countless Old and New Testament verses to support the fact that God encourages us to pray; it is part of having a relationship with Him. How can we say that we have a relationship with God if we do not pray? Jesus say, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NKJV) There is absolutely no rest for our souls without nurturing our relationship with God. Jesus also establishes that remaining in his Word is a requirement and evidence that we are his disciples (John 8:31).

            As I read and research for this forum it gives me the impression that prayer is seen “just” as one more tool amongst many, that is able to resolve the issue of pastors burning out. “The amount of time spend in prayer and personal devotions raises questions about the vitality of many pastors’ spiritual life.” (Stetzer, 2009) He continues by stating that 52% of pastor reported that they spend one to six hours in prayer a week. 5% are reporting that they do not spend any time in prayer, while 14% admit to spending less than an hour a week in prayer (Last accessed 9/12/2017): http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2009/december/how-protestant-pastors-spend-their-time.html

            Prayer is the key, the foundation and the tool that access the power of God for ministry. Without prayer, what are we really doing? On the other hand, neglecting our families for the sake of ministry placed us in a category of worse than non-saved people according First Timothy 5:8. Lastly, Pretending to be what are not or pretending that we can accomplish what we are unable to do without God is also a monumental violation of Scripture. It is amazing to me to see the transparency of Paul in Romans chapter 7 where he admits doing the evil that he did not want to do; he openly described the struggle between the Spirit in him and his own flesh to the point of calling himself a wretched man. The pretending and allowing people to place us in a pedestal brings a lot of stress in the long run; why? Because it is not real, is indeed a lie.

Solutions

            In Luke 21 Jesus describes the culture of the last days, the terribly signs in nature that will take place and the persecution that God’s people will suffer. It is not a pretty picture. We know that even as Jesus knew that the disciples would not be around during those days he was describing; the disciples were going to be victims of great persecution themselves. In Luke 21:19 Jesus expressed the following, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” (KJV). We will use this verse as the focal point to answer the following five questions.

What does it mean to “Possess My Soul through Self-Care and Mentorship?

            By these words Jesus is giving them the ability to bounce back or resilience. At the same time our resiliency is of great testimony for he world (Last Accessed 9/14/2017) https://learn.liberty.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-18548914-dt-content-rid-168760391_1/courses/PACO500_B07_201740/Presentations/Module%203/Possessing%20My%20Soul.html

            To possess our souls is to keep our souls under control and from coming crumbling down when facing life troubles. Therefor we see great wisdom here; in order for us to prepare for the tough times we must remain in God’s Word. The same can be said about prayer when Jesus states, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (NKJV) To persevere until the end is also a sign of our commitment to Christ (Matthew 10:22).

What is the overarching purpose of “Possessing My Soul?”

            All points to Christ, by possessing or having my soul under control I can fulfill my hallmark statement, my committed to be a disciple of Christ by honoring his Word above my opinions (John 8:31), by becoming an imitator of his heart and behaviors (Ephesians 5:1), by looking up to Jesus in every aspect of my life (Hebrews 12:2) and by using all of my gifts for his glory and for the service of people (1 Peter 4:10-11).

What are the current self-care/resiliency themes being discussed in the readings and literature?

            Through all the reading I completed for this paper there is support for prayer and the study of God’s Word as key and essential factor in achieving resiliency. Family must be second only after God. Also other resources were provided such as: http://www.healingchoice.org a Christian umbrella organization for several types of therapeutic care. http://www.sheperd-care.org a nonprofit organization that focus on the health of the minister’s soul and, http://www.ministrymentors.org.

How does one identify, solicit, and engage mentorship? What self-care and mentorship strategy best fits your current soul-care context?

            I gave my life to Christ when I was 29 years old; I am now 49; I have learned that as long as I do not neglect my relationship with God, the study and meditation of His Word and, as long as I keep my wife and family first after God, all is well with my soul. The times that I placed entertainment, bad relationships and even ministry before God and family things did not go well for me. Everything starts with my solitude with God that I treasure so much. That solitude makes me a better husband, a better father, a better son and a better friend. The next level is the special place that my pastor has in my life; he is far away in Mexico, but through technology we are able to stay in contact. The next level is to be in close friendship with strong Christian men. Warren proposed that every pastor need four types of people in his life: 1) Models: people to look up to. These people, according to Warren can also include death heroes of the faith. 2) Co-workers; these are people that are there to help you in the work if the ministry. 3) Good old friends; people you can trust; Warren recommends other pastors. (4) Mentors; these are people who are further alone in ministry and are able to teach you a thing or two. (Last accessed 9/13/2017) http://pastors.com/4-types-of-people-every-pastor-needs-in-his-life Out of these healthy relationships I am able to minster freely, with great joy and resilience.

 

Reference

Bolsinger, T. The true cause of pastoral burnout (2015). Retrieved from http://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-how-to/247954-true-cause-pastoral-burnout.html

McMinn, M.R., Lish, A.R., Trice, P.D., Root, A.M., Gilbert, N. & Yap, A. Care for pastors: Learning from clergy and their spouses. Pastoral Psychology, (July 2005).

Pastor Burnout Statistics. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.pastorburnout.com/pastor-burnout-statistics.html.

Possessing my Soul Through Self-Care and Mentoring. Retrieved from https://learn.liberty.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-18548914-dt-content-rid-168760391_1/courses/PACO500_B07_201740/Presentations/Module%203/Possessing%20My%20Soul.html.

Stezer, Ed. (2009). How Protestant Pastors Spend Their Time. Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2009/december/how-protestant-pastors-spend-their-time.html

 

 

Supporters of Hate


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A Republican or a Democrat is not necessarily filled with hate because of their political affiliation. A disagreement is not hate. We are using and abusing the word hate as much as we are using and abusing the word racist.

            On the other side of each ideologies is where hate is found; why? Because all ideologies are manmade; all ideologies are the product of the god of this world; the devil himself (2 Corinthians 4:4). That is why we need to keep our eyes on Christ and not on anything the world has to offer.

            The problem is that a democrat easily recognizes the hate on the extreme right and a republican easily recognizes the hate on the extreme left, but both are unable to denounce the hate on their own extremes. They serve an agenda; a selfish agenda! But I have news for you: the street of Chicago are filled with hate, when a brother kills another brother that is hate; gangs are filled with hate, terrorism is hate, any religion that promotes killing and violence is hate, when a father refuses to discipline their children that is hate (Proverbs 13:24), domestic violence is hate, abortion is hate, Black Lives Matters promoting the killing of police officers is hate, police officers harassing and killing minorities just because the color of their skin is hate, talking about killing our president is hate, not praying for our government, but promoting resistance and rebelliousness is hate, calling our own men the “N” word and our own women the “B” word is hate; making music that promotes killing and violence is hate. Should I keep going?

            So HATE has to be denounced everywhere with zero compromises. When you are willing to denounce hate everywhere you are courageous; when you don’t, you are a coward. When we only denounce hate on the other side of the fence, but refuse to do the same on our own side, we are filled with hypocrisy and supporters of the same hate we are denouncing.

What is the Condition of your Heart?


     A preacher, just like everybody else, likes to see results. We like to see progress in people; we like to see them growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord; we like to see them make right decisions and learn how to successfully deal with temptations. As fathers and pastors, we have a biblical mandate to watch over the souls of our people according to Hebrews 13:17. We love to see our people prospering as their souls prosper. A prosperous soul is a healthy soul; a soul with stable emotions, a soul that even in their struggles strives to do God’s will and a soul with a sound mind and the ability to make good decisions. But just like everybody else; we get hurt when we don’t see fruit manifesting in the people we are called to preach and teach. Is in moments like this that I like to take a deeper look at the heart condition of folks.

     The condition of your heart today will determine if what I am about to teach will or will not be effective in your life. In my life in general I am called to stay pray up and with God’s grace, pursue His will and watch my testimony. My job today and every time I preach and teach is to preach and teach his Word. When I do that is no longer my message, but His; when I do that, is no longer me, but I become a vessel of clay use by God to communicate HIS message. But the rest is on you! You decide what you want to do with this information according to the condition of your heart. In Luke 8:4-15 Jesus tells us,

4 And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. 8 But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
9 Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?” 10 And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that
‘Seeing they may not see,
And hearing they may not understand.’
11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. 14 Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. (NKJV)

     First, Jesus is speaking to a multitude and he chose to speak in parables (That means that he uses stories, allegories, etc. to communicate his message.) He does not speak the message openly; the message can only be understood by divine revelation. This message is not designed for everybody to understand; is designed for those who God call to be able to understand. If you, right now, understand what I am saying, you are blessed; but for a lost person, they will have a hard time listening to this message. Second, he is no longer with the crown, but now he is with the disciples and this is the time when he exclusively teaches them. There is a place where all of us must go to Jesus in our secret places to allow Him to teach us His Word.

Today, I want you to take your eyes off of me and focus in what the Lord is trying to tell you; however, the condition of your heart will determine your level of understanding or lack of understanding. Going back to Luke 8:11-15 Jesus clearly explain this parable. He explained that the seed on this parable is the Word of God. This is what I am giving you guys today, God’s Word; there is no other seed that is able to change your life. Here Jesus gives us 4 Different Heart Conditions:

1. The wayside (V 12)

     This is a hard heart! Nothing gets through this heart. You can talk to these folks until you are blue to your face and NOTHING, absolutely nothing will happen. They don’t change a thing. This is a heart that has been trample on over and over and nothing grows. Notice those places where people or animals constantly walk through; nothings grow there. That is the exact description of this heart! They allow everything and everybody into their lives. If it feels good; they do it. No conviction of sin, no morals and no pursue of holiness.

     When you speak to this group of folks, you will get frustrated if you are not careful. They are in our churches; they are in our local congregations. It may be a husband that goes to church, just because his wife makes him do it. It may be a wife that goes to church just because her husband pushes the issue. It may be teenagers and young adults still living with their parents, who feel force to go. Some have gotten use to, some even serve in ministries; some know how to sing well, some memorize a few Scripture; some even preach; but they have absolutely no fruit. They don’t Study Scripture, they don’t pray, they don’t worship God, they don’t even think about Him and, believe me when I tell you, you never hear God in their conversations. There is absolutely no sign of life; no fruit; they are dead; they are lost! These folks need to get saved.

2. A heart with temporary excitement (Verse 13)

     The heart of these folks is a little softer than the first group; the seed actually grows some here, but is never able to develop strong roots. These are folks that either received a water down message and got exited about that or, received the actual Gospel, but were never disciple. We have a mandate to make disciples, but in a study it shows that here in the United States the great majority of pastors and leaders believe that people can be disciple on their own. Never mind that Jesus tells us to “make disciples.” We have a mandate to teach these folks the ways of the Lord; to equip them, to prepare them for life; but they are weak and have no roots. As soon as the first temptation comes they fall headfirst.

     These are folks that want to immediately testify in the church; they want to preach, do this and do that; but move away from God very easily. That is why we have to be careful; because this group look and sound like Christians, but if we do not give them time to go through the discipleship process and for them to bear fruit, they become a stumbling block for new believers. People want to give testimony without going through any test; this group is unable to overcome any test because they are still not rooted in Christ; many are still playing games.

     When you go back and study church history you will find out that back in the days of the church fathers; the folks that came after the original disciples, they established as a rule to wait six months before baptizing anybody. The reason they did that was because there was so much foolishness going on that they wanted to wait and see if those conversions were real. They figured people can fake, but for so long!

     It is amazing that when you take a look at the First Great Awakening in America, the fruit was everywhere. This is a time when America was indeed great; that is because the First Great Awakening gave America conviction of sin. America started looking at their own mess such as slavery. That conviction started in the church buildings; they were in the “church” but were lost. Everything started with Jonathan Edwards famous sermon: Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God. The Second Awakening was all about emotionalism; thousands of people gather to listen to revivalist; but the soon they came, the soon they left; no fruit. They were hearts with temporary excitement; eager to look for the next new thing.

3. A heart who refuses to let go of the world (V14)

     This group is very similar to the second group; neither is able to bear fruit. We need to understand that Jesus stated that we shall know them by their fruit. As the second group falls with the first temptation; this group is a little more complex; they fall over three things specifically: 1) the cares, 2) the riches, and 3) pleasures of life. These are folks in the church who worry all the time (They have no faith). How can you please God if you have no faith? These are folks who put riches and the pleasures of this world above God. They call themselves Christians, but they look more like secular folks. They talk and walk just like the world. These folks have been apparently walking with Jesus, but are never able to mature; that is because they insist in mixing their faith with the things of this world.

     The Bible is clear that we can’t serve two masters. (Matthew 6:24) Notice that you can only go so far before you start either hating God or the world; but you can’t ever love both. God does not want half of you; God wants your entire heart. I believe that our churches are full of these folks; perhaps this is the largest group and the one that is doing more damage. Perhaps this is the group that Jesus refers to in Revelation 18:4 when he states, “…Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins…” These are the folks that water down the Gospel. In church history, this mixing has been taking place since the very beginning. Mixing the gospel with reason and knowledge, with philosophy and then Constantine really took it to another level as he mixed the church with government. As a matter of fact, he placed the church under the government; that is why you have preachers that in the name of fame, power and money compromise God’s Word all the time. There is nothing new under the sun!

4. A Good and Noble heart (V 15)

     This is a heart with morals. This is a heart with Godly conviction. This is not a perfect heart, but it is a heart that is allowing God to change him or her. The fruit here visible. This is a heart that endures the tribulations of life with patience; they don’t allow temptations, the cares or the pleasures of this world to move them away from their faith in God. Oh I wish everybody I minister to already have this heart; but that is not reality!

Conclusion

     So as preachers we must take a good look at our people and at our own families. Don’t assume that because they grew up in the church they have good and humble hearts towards the Lord. We need to minister to them where they are at. The first three groups are not save; they will split hell wide open. Sometimes we confuse talent with salvation. We think that because somebody can sing or preach or play an instrument somehow someway they have a free ticket to heaven. I have news for you; every human being has gifts and talents; but only through Christ are we are saved. If we don’t repent of our sins, if we don’t call Christ in our hearts and receive Him not only as Savior, but as Lord, we are lost.

     Every day of your life God gives you mercy; giving you time to repent, but that time will run out; death will come and after death is judgment. There are no second changes after you are dead; you have a chance now that you are alive. There will be a time that God will not be found. Oh I know many of us will weep in heaven when we find out that many of our friends and love ones did not make it to the New Jerusalem. I can’t only imagine the pain we will feel in our hearts. But God will wipeout our tears and in his immense power will make our hearts right to fully enjoy heaven in spite of eternally lost love ones. What is the condition of your heart?

     As preachers, is important that we know where people are at so that we can pray accordantly and also deliver the correct message. Can’t speak to people about deep theological truths when they are not even saved. Can’t be surprise when your folks keep falling over and over if their hearts are not right. Some folks need the Gospel and that is all you need to give them; they need to get saved, they are not ready for anything else. And, there are folks that are ready for meat; they will be bored to death if you keep giving them the same message over and over; they are ready to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord; they are hungry for righteousness.

     Out of these four groups only the last one is saved, because it is the only one that is able to bear fruit. Where is your fruit? It is God’s will for all of us to have a good heart; but are you willing to surrender? Would you allow God to do the work in you or, are you in love with the world and the things of this world?

Fellow Minorities: THEY ARE LYING to Us!


Lyndon Johnson campaigning in Illinois in 1964, the year he declared ‘war on poverty’

The United States Census Bureau showed that in 2015 43.1 million people were poor; that is about 13.5 percent of the population.[1] The Henry J. Keyser Family Foundation showed that in 2015 9% of whites in America were poor compare to 24% of Blacks and 21% of Hispanics; 14% were in the category of “Other”.[2] Even as Blacks and Latinos are minorities in this country, when it comes down to poverty we are the strong majority.

         In 2012, the federal government spent $668 billion to fund 126 separate anti-         poverty programs. State and local governments kicked in another $284 billion,    bringing total anti-poverty spending to nearly $1 trillion. That amounts to $20,610 for every poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of  three.[3] The famous war on poverty started on January 8, 1964 under the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson 53 years ago. Twenty-three of those 53 years under Presidents of the Democratic Party; that is including 8 years under Bill Clinton and also, 8 years under Obama. Lets take a look at the way the government is fighting this war of poverty.[4]

         As we look at these numbers, can we conclude that we are loosing this war on poverty? We can’t say that the issue of poverty has been ignored in the United States; the numbers do not lie. The government is investing a lot of money on these programs; so why is it that the poverty numbers remain consistently high amongst our people? I believe that many who engage on this war on poverty have the best intentions; but good intentions are not above biblical truth and principles. Jesus stated that the poor will always be amongst us (Matthew 26:11). However, does that means that Blacks and Latinos will always be the kings of poverty? Absolutely not! Poverty is not God’s will for his people! So we are missing something, what is it?

         We, as minorities are allowing politicians to limit their talking points by offering us more food stamps, more free health care, more free housing, etc. Not that these things are really free; tax payers are actually paying for these programs, but the person receiving these benefits are not required to do anything to earn anything. This approach has created the culture of entitlement. These are the folks who feel that everybody owns them something just because they are black, just because they are latinos and, just because, they are natives. They find justifications on the atrocities committed against us through the bloody pages of our history. The God that I serve is the God of justice. The Bible tells me that his judgments are true and righteous (Revelations 19:2). Our job as Born Again believers is to forgive (Colossians 3:13) God will take care of the rest.

         But the question remains, how can this problem of poverty be resolved? The answer is not all that complicated; it is actually very simple: 1) Place our trust in God: (Proverbs 3:5-6). The ultimate trust for our lives, for our families and for our nation, must be giving to God. Only God is worthy of our trust. God is the only one that will NEVER leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). 2) Be aware that it is God and not the government who is able to supply for all of our needs: (Philippians 4:19). David knew this that is why in Psalm 23:1 he is able to declare the following, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” (KJV) Do you know what is it to bless to the point of wanting nothing else? The Government is very limited in what they can do; God has no limits. Not only that he is able to supply for all of your needs, but he is able to give you things that money can’t buy, such as peace and joy. 3) The way out of poverty is through jobs not through federal programs: It is through hard work, not through handouts that we are able to overcome poverty. I am going to offer plenty of biblical references to prove this point because I am aware that telling people to go and find a job is consider offensive and insensitive these days.

  1. We work for and serve the Lord as we work for and serve others (Colossians 3:23-24). So we are call to do our jobs well and with the right attitude.
  2. We are called to work and make our surroundings better. (Genesis 2:15) Regarding of the size of your paycheck; as a man and as a woman of God you should be a blessing in your job and in everything that surrounds you.
  3. God promise to establish the work of your hands not your laziness (Psalm 90:17). Should I say more? You have to do your part and give God something to work for. To work is to obey God; laziness is disobedience to God… is that simple!
  4. To have food to eat is part of making a living; in order to have food you must work (Proverbs 12:11).
  5. Not working makes no sense before God (Proverbs 12:11).
  6. If you want to have things you are required to work for them; nobody is under any obligation to support you permanently (Proverbs 13:4).
  7. Lazy people are never in charge; they always depend on others (Proverbs 12:24).
  8. At the heart of making a profit is hard work; at the heart of poverty is laziness (Proverbs 14:23 / Proverbs 6:10-12 / 2 Timothy 2:6).
  9. Not providing for our own families is denying our faith as Christians and a worst spiritual condition than an unbeliever (I Timothy 5:8). If you go back and read this verse it is clear that we have a responsibility to help each other out as extended families; but especially for those under our own roof. People run to social services for help, but that is what family is for.
  10. It is God’s will to prosper us through his plan for our lives; it is his will to give us hope and a good future (Jeremiah 29:11). God wants to give you that job; it is his will!

         There are more Bible verses that speak against laziness and the blessing of hard work, but I believe I have given you plenty to think about. The words I am giving you today are not Republican or Democrat. They are not part of a political agenda or a particular ideology; these are not empty words; they come straight from the heart of God. Today, I echo the words of my master when he states,

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:31-32 (KJV)

         This is the true we need; they are lying to us; lets go after God like never before, lets get to work and lets break this curse of poverty out of our lives. For that, we need God, not the government!

 

 

 

[1] https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-256.html

 

[2] http://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/poverty-rate-by-raceethnicity/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D

 

[3] http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/01/08/war-on-poverty-at-50-despite-trillions-spent-poverty-won.html

 

[4] http://federalsafetynet.com/poverty-and-spending-over-the-years.html

 

The President and Twitter


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I don’t think we have to hold a degree in political science to know that the political environment in our country is toxic. Everything that the other party says is automatically received as wrong by the other party; whether is good or bad it does not matter. It seems like politics is no longer about the business of the people, but about the destruction of characters.

         Our current president, Donald Trump, openly confesses that he is a Christian. Many evangelicals supported him. However, I am increasingly concern with how he is representing us as Christians. Listen, I don’t deny that the liberal press and some in his own party are constantly attacking him in many ways, including personal. However, attacks on presidents come with the job, especially in the last 30 years. We can argue which president was scrutinize more or less, but it comes with the territory and, with social media, I predict that is going to get worst.

         Let me go straight to the point of the purpose for this post. If the president wants to use Twitter to correct bad reporting from the press, I can understand that. If he wants to use Twitter to communicate his agenda and message directly to the American people, I can understand that also. However, is the president exempt from biblical mandates?

         There is absolutely no biblical justification to what the press and Hollywood is doing to our president day in and day out. This “Resist” movement is birthed out of rebellion. Romans 13:1-2 tells us, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (NIV)

         God places those leaders, some as instruments of blessings, others for judgment! We see this pattern as we read through the book of Judges, First and Second Kings. Also, did we see Daniel disrespecting the secular kings he worked for? Did we see Joseph disrespecting Pharaoh? No, these men were faithful to their faith in God and also very respectful to the secular leaders they worked under. We can learn some valuable lessons from these two men. Our mandate, as Christians, even above voting, is to pray for our leaders according to First Timothy 2:1-3.

         On the other hand, there is no biblical justification for our president’s midnight hour personal attacks. First Peter 3:8-10 tells us,

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,

“Whoever would love life and see good days

must keep their tongue from evil

and their lips from deceitful speech. (NIV)

         Just in case you need a second biblical reference, Paul also spoke on this matter by telling Timothy, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” 2 Timothy 2:23 (NIV)

         Mr. President, respectfully, let me advise you to focus on the Lord’s direction through prayer and wise council. To focus on protecting our nation, to make sure we have a strong military, to bring down this deficit, to bring down taxes, to deal with our health care issues, our future social security crisis, the war on poverty, the economy, get people back to work by creating a healthy environment for job creation, to reform the welfare system, etc. Let the numbers that count do the talking for you; unemployment rate, deficits, surpluses and the size of our economy. History will judge you on these numbers!

 

The Doctrine of Mercy and the Great Promise


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We are not and will never justify sin and sinful lifestyles, but we cannot take anything away from the power of the blood of Christ. If we are honest with ourselves, we are all struggling with something… I know I am! It may be sexually related, it may be anger, it may be pride, greed, etc. but nobody is exempt from the desires of the flesh! That reality should humble each and every one of us.

         The reality is that we all stand in need of mercy; we can’t make it without mercy. I guess that’s why His mercies are knew every morning; we need them every day. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (NIV) Mercy flows out of God’s love for us. Because of His love we are not destroy.

         The flesh is disgusting! The desires of the flesh are disgusting and everything about the flesh is disgusting. That is, whether you are a born again believer or an atheist. The flesh’s desires are contrary to everything that God stands for (Galatians 5:17).

         Jesus gave us a powerful principle when he stated, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (NIV) There is a part of us, (the flesh), that wants nothing to do with God. There is another part of us, (the spirit), that is willing to cooperate with God; it is our inner most, it is the part of us with the ability to carry on our greatest responsibility as believers, to worship God according to John 4:23. And yet, there is a part of us that stand in need of restoration; it is where the work is taking place, in our souls; that is, the seat of our emotions, our mind sand our will. That is the complexity of us humans.

         In this world we have two kinds of people, the guilty and the not guilty. The guilty because without Christ we are all guilty; that is because we have all sin and fall short of God’s glory according to Romans 3:23. The non-guilty is tricky; because our innocence as believers is not based on our good works, but based strictly on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is what we are… THROUGH HIM.

         I am so glad that Jesus took away the guilt for our sins of the past, our sins of today and even our future sins. I am so glad that through Him we are righteous, holy and a finish work. But also, I am glad that through the Holy Ghost, He is changing us. But in that process of changing us, because it is a process, He is dealing with us through discipline, for God discipline those He love according to Hebrews 12:6 and, through mercy.

          We can’t fail my brothers and sisters! Today, we are a part of that great promise He made to the Children of Israel, as we are also, New Testament folks. That greater promise is that He is going to take the WORD, His precious Law, and place it in our hearts. He will finish the work no only through HIM, not only in a positional way, but also in US. That actual finish work, I believe, will take place in the New Jerusalem. So I end with these words from Jeremiah 31:33,

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (NKJV)

 

The Challenges of Parenthood, Our Biblical Mandate and Hope


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Lets face it, some families are dysfunctional; that means that they are essentially not functioning properly; that means that they accept as truth the opposite of what a family should be. Nevertheless, even good parents are not exempt from messing up; every “good” parent will do and say the wrong thing soon or later. It should not surprise anybody, we as humans are spirit, soul and flesh; that flesh in particular does not go away just because you are now a parent. You can read all the books you want and take all the classes you want, you will still do and say the wrong thing every now and then.

         In the complexity of parenthood, part of the problem is that, to start, many of us do not know our biblical role as parents. That reality becomes a foundational problem that will indeed mess-up everything else. I am glad that the Bible is not silent about this topic; the Bible has much to say about parenthood.

         Now, this doing and saying the wrong thing will cause pain and only two things will help us overcome such pain, 1) love, knowing in your heart that your parents loves you and knowing that you love them and, 2) when you yourself become a parent and you, just like your old folks, attempt to be a “good” parent; then you realize that it is not easy!

         Love should be at the center of families. Outside of crazy folks, people love their families; they want the best for their kids and they look out for them in their own way. But lets go a little further on this topic.

         Let me start the heart of this article by stating that what I am about to say may sound weird, but biblically speaking, marriage is overrated, but family is not. If you don’t believe me when I say that marriage is overrated, take a moment and read First Corinthians 7 where the apostle Paul give us the reality of marriage over and over. Now, he is not advocating fornication and extramarital sexual activities and so on. Again, he is just presenting a real perspective of what marriage really is and what we will be facing.

         In First Corinthians 7:28 the Apostle Paul goes as far as saying: “But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you.” (NKJV) Nothing will make your flesh rise more than marriage! If you have been marry for more than a week, you know exactly what I am talking about.

         In the Old Testament marriage had a few purposes, 1) for the multiplication of God’s people. God told both, Adam and later Noah, to multiply. 2) Marriage was important to preserve the children of Israel from the moral contamination of the world. That is why they were not supposed to marry outside of their own people. It was not a racist thing; it was with the purpose of keeping them holy and 3) It was very important to protect the genealogy of Jesus. Is it amazing that the genealogy of Christ is recorded all the way from Adam?

         The worldly romantic ideas of marriage are not found in the Bible. As a matter of fact, parents were the ones determining whom their children were to marry. However, when it comes down to family, from the Old to the New Testament, family plays a vital role for our formation as Godly people.

         Let me make a biblical point concerning the New Testament. Not caring for our families is consider worst than being a lost person according to First Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (NKJV) This verse alone should get our attention, but my focus is going to be on a portion of Scripture in the Old Testament. Abraham was chosen to be the father of the nation of Israel and the father of our faith because his commitment to family. Genesis 18:17-19 tells us,

And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;

18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. (KJV)

         God knew that Abraham was committed to teach the way of the Lord to his family. Can He say the same about you? Can He say the same about me? The way of the Lord is about teaching our kids justice and judgment according to God, not according to our opinion, our culture, the way we grew up, etc. Now lets look at three words on verse 19 in order to get a better understanding of what our responsibilities as fathers are:

  • Command: From the Hebrew word, ṣāwāh: “A verb meaning to order, to direct, to appoint, to command, to charge, to be ordered, to be commanded.”[1] This is so different from many liberal parents today who seem to let the children be in charge.
  • Justice: Is the Hebrew word eḏāqāh that speaks ofrighteousness (What God accept as right), speaks of blameless conduct, and integrity; right actions, and right attitudes, as expected from both God and people when they judge.”[2] This is a very practical definition because it deals with teaching our kids to act like they have some Godly sense.
  • Judgment: From the Hebrew word mišpāṭ meaning, “A judgment, a legal decision, a legal case, a claim, proper, rectitude. The word connotes several variations in meanings depending on the context. It is used to describe a legal decision or judgment rendered: it describes a legal decision given by God to be followed by the people.”[3] This could sound complicated, but it is not. This is about parents teaching their children proper decision-making based on God’s Word and not base on their own.

         So, in the mix of our humanity, in the mix of dealing with our flesh through our marriages and in the mix of our mistakes and shortcomings, as fathers these are our vital responsibilities: “to command our children to act like they have Godly sense and to obey HIM.” Wow! This is a personal revelation even as I write these words!

         For those who still don’t get it or don’t know how to start, God did not leave us without a system to follow. Deuteronomy 11:18-21 tells us exactly what to do and the promise attached to doing this,

18 “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 20 And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth. (NKJV)

         We should have family devotionals; we should gather as brothers and sisters with other believers, but as parents, in our daily lives and daily routine we should be parenting. These parents that are always running, running and running and act like their kids soccer team, basketball practice, track competition or whatever else may be, is more important than God’s Word, are going to reap what they are sowing right now.

         Families that never have time for meaningful conversations are lost in their own busyness; the devil have you in his hands by keeping you so busy that you don’t have time to teach anything of value to your kids. You don’t have time to command them and teach them to act like they have Godly sense and to obey God.

         When you sit in your house, your children and you are on your phones; not even in the same room. We are all rushing in the morning, so no time to teach anything there. No time to take a walk and speak about the issues of the heart because you get off late from work and the children are involved in a million extracurricular activities. No time to teach when we lie down, because then we are so exhausted that all we want is to be entertained, watch TV, be on the phone, Facebook, etc. until we just fall asleep. The next day we will do it all over again until one day we realize that we never prioritized what was really important, “to command our children to act like they have Godly sense and to obey God.”

         Whatever else we did, follow our career, even ministry, focus on whatever else, while failing to do what God tells us to do as fathers, will come back to hurt us and our children.

         Now, understand that I am with you on this struggle. I have been working so hard to build a nice barbecue/garden area for us, as a family, to enjoy good food as we gather around the grill and engage in these conversations, but I have to tell you that I have totally fail in that aspect. Kids come grab their burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings or whatever else I have on the grill and inside the house they go, back to their phones and back to their worlds. I have had to force the issue and define the word “cookout”. It is frustrating to me as much as it may be for you, but I still press on, even as, at times, I feel like giving up. It does not happen to me too often, just 7 days out of the week and 365 days out of the year!

         But I finish with these words and in them I find hope, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV) My job as a dad is to train my kids; train them in what? In the justice and judgment of God! If you have been a coach on any sport you know that they don’t get it right away, it takes time, but what a great feeling when you see things coming together on that athlete. I find hope in knowing that if I don’t quit, one day I will see things coming together in my own children and if you don’t quit, you will be able to see it coming together in yours to.

 

 

[1] Warren Baker and Eugene E. Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), 942.

[2] Warren Baker and Eugene E. Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), 939.

[3] Warren Baker and Eugene E. Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), 687.