Contributing To One Another
[Romans chapter 12]
Today in our continuing series of studies of the book of Romans, we move on to chapter 12. In this chapter, the apostle Paul talks about how we can initiate fundamental change for the better from within ourselves. He then explains how this renewal of self can affect our place within the community of believers as well as for the good of everyone else. He then goes on to outline how this personal renewal in Christ for the sake of our relationship with Christ applies to our everyday lives and what we as responsible Christians can do to cause this personal renewal manifest itself. I will begin with verse one.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12: 1-2)
We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God in the same way that Christ offered Himself up on the cross of Calvary. Furthermore, we are to be living in the world while remaining separate from it. We can live here as usual but not be caught up in the materialistic and vain trappings of the world as it currently exists. We can accomplish this by what Paul calls “mind renewal”. This means being a modern Christian requires a new and different way of thinking that sets us apart from the rest of humanity. It is only when we do this that we can find out for ourselves what God’s will is for our lives. And His will is always perfect for us whether we realize it or not. And if we don’t yet do so, we can still accomplish this by the renewal of our minds in Christ Jesus.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith that God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it to the proportion of his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Romans 12: 3-8)
The first point Paul makes is that there is no room for big egos in God’s family. Everyone has a place in God’s family “in accordance with the measure of faith that God has given you”. Everyone has a function within God’s family, and Paul names these functions without any particular order of importance. Notice that he mentions money only briefly (“if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously”). This is in stark contrast to the erroneous teachings of the modern church, which emphasizes tithing 10% of one’s income. This is a teaching that goes all the way back to the Old Testament, well before the time of Christ. As I said in one of my recent Sunday commentaries, we should definitely contribute to churches and other charities as we see fit. However, the harsh economic realities of the modern world in which we live make giving 10% a prohibitively expensive proposition, especially for the poor and middle class. Let the rich give 15% to their churches in our place. Besides, when Jesus died on the cross, the old law was sacrificed with Him and He became the new law. Paul then goes on from there.
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those that mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12: 9-16)
The timely advice that is in these few verses is just as relevant now as it was nearly 2,000 years ago when it was first written. Love must be genuine, and never abusive. Stand up to evil and oppose it at every turn. Be a truly selfless person who thinks of themselves last, who puts others first, rarely complaining. Now comes the hardest part, because it’s a quote from Christ himself. “Bless those who curse you…”, be kind to those who oppose you or who have personal vendettas. You will be surprised (based on my own experience) at how quickly this tactic can disarm those who oppose you. Be willing to associate with people of low position, such as the homeless. I was once homeless myself for about four months, and I didn’t think such a thing could happen to me back then until it did. I’m retired from IT after over 20 years in the computer business. But when you’re self-employed and the demand for your product dries up, your income dries up too. Never be conceited, and be wary of all the class warfare that’s going on in America. And how do we accomplish this and other similar things, such as our relationship with Christ? By being “transformed by the renewing of our minds”. Paul then continues on with these closing verses.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written. ‘it is mine to avenge, I will repay, says the Lord’. (Deuteronomy 32:35) On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12: 17-21)
As far as it is possible, live at peace with everyone. If any of your enemies refuses to act peaceably toward you, avoid them and don’t associate with them. Take it to the Lord in prayer and let God deal with them, and you can be sure that He will. God will deal with your enemies in His good and perfect will according to His perfect timing. That is the way of the Lord, and we are to emulate Him every chance we get. And the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding will be with you all. Let’s start putting these teachings into practice on a daily basis. You will be surprised at how much your quality of life will improve, as well as how many doors of opportunity this will open for you. Living God’s way through Jesus Christ really is the best way to live our lives. Try it and see for yourself, you will be pleased with the outcome. Enjoy your day!
Get the print edition on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+vol+1%3A+the+apostle+paul&rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A154606011%2Ck%3Athe+apostles+in+plain+english+vol+1%3A+the+apostle+paul
Get the digital edition on Kindle ($9.99) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul
Get it in audio format on Amazon Audible at https://www.amazon.com/Apostles-Plain-English-Vol-Appearance/dp/B0746TTGBN/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503076680&sr=1-1&keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+vol.+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul
Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI
“The Apostles In Plain English Vol. 1: the Apostle Paul” by Rev. Paul J. Bern (c) 2017 by Rev. Paul J. Bern and CreateSpace.com
Five years in the making, this first of a series is a lot more than just a compilation of Bible studies. This collection of Paul’s writings presents them from a broader perspective that are much more applicable to modern life than one might expect.
This study of Paul’s writings is done from a whole new 21st century perspective that is sure to educate while making the process enjoyable. Over 500 pages of enlightenment! A must-read for believers, whether they attend church or not! An inspirational guide for secular folks too!
Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI
[1st Corinthians chapter 13]
Today in our continuing study of 1st Corinthians we will cover chapter 13, which is sometimes called “the love chapter” by ministers, Bible scholars, and independent pastors like myself. This 13th chapter is not only a deeply meaningful and eloquent piece of scripture, it has literary beauty as well. The words flow like a gently running stream through a magnificent landscape of cascading spirituality, defining what true love is and how it is shared between ourselves and others in compassionate and tender fashion. Let me begin this lesson at verse one right away. This chapter of 1st Corinthians is so good it won’t wait!
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1st Cor. 13, verses 1-3)
When the apostle Paul wrote these words he was not writing about love in a physical sense and he was not commenting on being married vs. remaining single. He was writing about the kind of love that Jesus said we should all have in abundance as He taught us about the two greatest commandments. When asked about this during His ministry, Jesus replied, “These two commandments are that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and that you must love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commands rest all the law and the prophets.” And so it doesn’t matter what we do for God if we have no love for serving others and do not practice putting them before ourselves as I try to do with this ministry. All the effort in the world will come to nothing if we have no love in our hearts. Paul then goes on to point out the meaning of that statement.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1st Cor. 13, verses 4-6)
I could say that this passage is pretty much self-explanatory and move on, but before I do let me comment on what the inverse of this scripture looks like. When Paul wrote that love is patient and kind, he was warning us against being impatient, demanding, unkind and mean. Paul was also telling us that there will be no bullies in heaven. Bullying is completely un-Christian, and this kind of behavior must be opposed in the name of Jesus at every turn. Moreover, when Paul wrote that love is not envious, boastful or proud he was warning us – and the entire Church – against being jealous, arrogant, obnoxious and conceited. When Paul wrote that love is not rude or self-seeking, he was reminding us to be considerate of others while warning us not to be belligerent, controlling or manipulative because such behavior never comes from God.
When Paul wrote that love is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs, he was reminding us to control our tempers, to never hold grudges (especially for very long), and to never be abusive towards others for any reason. When Paul wrote that love rejoices with the truth and never delights in evil, he was reminding us that standing against social and economic injustice and the abuse of power is the responsibility of Christians everywhere, as Rev. Dr. King Jr. (who was himself a minister of the Gospel) so memorably reminded us of a generation ago. If love always protects, then it is never negligent nor does it lack diligence. If love always trusts then it is never dishonest. If love always perseveres, then love is relentless, never giving up. Let me now continue our study of this truly beautiful passage of Scripture.
“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away;For we know in part and we prophecy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” (1st Cor. 13, verses 8-10)
“Love never fails”. Even though the world around us is coming apart at the seams, love will still be standing when it implodes because God, who is eternal, is the personification of love. Even though marriages fail, love will drive men or women to seek another relationship to replace it. Even though our country’s unsustainable debt-based economic policies threaten to crash the capitalist financial system straight into the ground (and make no mistake, that is exactly what will ultimately occur), love will still be standing even when your money is no good anymore (and that day is also coming, so take heed). Even though nations go to war, love always rebuilds the population when the war finally ends. And it is love from which we derive compassion and empathy, two more human virtues that similarly never fail.
Before I move on, let me comment briefly on verse 10, “For we know in part and we prophecy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” Knowing and prophesying in part is an acknowledgment of our one-on-one relationship with Christ Jesus. We know Him through our daily walk with Him, through being in an ongoing state of prayer, and we proclaim his Word because we have read it, understood it and are actively obeying it. We only know Jesus in part because we have never actually seen Him, but our faith in Him makes up the difference. Still, until He returns, we only know Him “in part”. “But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears”. The word perfection in this verse symbolizes and is used as a synonym for Christ. So when He returns, our imperfect relationship with Him will be made perfect because we will have seen Him and in so doing we will be achieving Spiritual fulfillment. Now that I have analyzed this I will move on and finish this up.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1st Cor. 13, verses 11-13)
Paul is comparing maturing from a child to an adult to our growth in faith in Christ as we are first transformed from lost nonbelievers to born-again Christians and then subsequently becoming ever stronger in our walk with our Savior. As of now, we can only hope to emulate Jesus as best as we can, and we freely choose to believe in Him and to uphold the sacredness of His name even though we have never seen Him. But one fine day we shall all see Him face to face, and we will all instantly recognize Him. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully…; our journey as Christians does not end until we are with Jesus in heaven in New Jerusalem, to dwell with Him forever.
Love is the greatest virtue, it has no equal and thus reigns supreme because its source is from God, a supreme being. True Christian love is unconditional, with nothing held back. It is not selfish or egocentric, it is not used cynically to manipulate or control people, nor is it given in exchange for anything, but instead it is distributed freely and always without expecting anything in return. The three greatest virtues as Paul names them are faith, hope and love – but “the greatest of these is love”. Jesus said in the gospel of John, “A new command I give you, that you are to love one another”. If we just focused all our energy on this one thing, the world would quickly become a far more enjoyable and much safer place to live. And that’s a worthwhile goal anytime.
Get the digital edition on Kindle ($7.99) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul
Buy direct from the author ($19.95) at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et
Get it in audio format on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Apostles-Plain-English-Vol-Appearance/dp/B0746TTGBN/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503076680&sr=1-1&keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+vol.+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul
Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI
Happy holidays from Rev. Paul J. Bern
I finally got out of jail on the night of December 17th, 1999 after an agonizing 4 month wait to get my court case done and over with. The main thing I remember about that night was how incredibly cold it was. I had been arrested in early fall near the end of September, and all I had on were casual slacks and a polo shirt. After treating myself to a full sit-down dinner at an all-night restaurant across the street from the jail, I was forced to make my way on foot to the nearest place that I was sure would be open all night, which was the community hospital on the suburban east side of Atlanta about 2 or 3 miles away. So off into the freezing cold I went as I hiked over to the hospital. The two main things that motivated me to get there were the lack of outer clothing and the fact that I was already a nervous wreck from having spent those 4 months in jail without the benefit of my bipolar medication. The clinic there – and it barely qualified as such – were giving me 2 different medications that I had never heard of. They did just barely work, but they were a poor substitute for my regularly prescribed ‘meds’. I recall getting to the ER about 3:30 AM that morning. To make a long story short, I spent the next 13 days at an inpatient clinic right down the street from the hospital. While I was there I got stabilized on my regular medications, and I managed to get back in touch with the district manager where I had been working when all this mess first started. I had contacted him when I was first brought to jail, trying to raise some bail money. They could not help me with that, I was told, but my job would be kept open for me until I was released. They stayed true to their word and rehired me upon my release. That Wang Global district manager’s name was James Dean. God bless you, James, wherever you are.
I checked out of the hospital on a blustery Friday afternoon, and I started back to work the following Monday morning. This gives me pause with regards to God’s eternal mercy, the loving way He chastises us but then restores us – but not always immediately, because His timing is always perfect. Did you ever notice that about God? His timing is always letter-perfect and never too late. Had that gone any other way, when I got out of jail I could have immediately become homeless, wandering the streets without a coat when the outside temperature was around 35 degrees, and having lost the new job I had just acquired 5 months before. Instead, and by the grace of God alone, I had landed on my feet and I was able to miraculously pick up where I had left off before all the trouble started. I give Jesus all the credit for my success, and I give him all my praise, thankfulness, and honor!
I worked that entire year, right up until Christmas time. That’s when they laid us off. But it was the way it was done that bothered me the most. One day a month or two beforehand, a 15-passenger van pulled up and parked in front of the office, and these 15 technicians from the Philippines get out and enter the office conference room. The door gets shut behind them, and it isn’t until the next day that the rest of us found out they were there as our replacements. The senior techs, and by this point I was one of them, were instructed to train one of them apiece. One of them said it was unfair, and he refused to train any of them, saying he could make his job last at least a week longer by not having a replacement trained and ready to go. To no one’s surprise, he was fired on the spot, right where he stood, and it didn’t seem to matter to him. To this day I regard this as a good example of what can and should happen to racists in the workplace.
I spent the next six months searching like crazy for a replacement job. Unfortunately, the dot-com financial crash was happening right around this time, and the computer/IT industry had pretty much came to a standstill. So I did what lots of other technical professionals like myself were doing at the time: I went back to school to get my Microsoft certification. I already had my degree, plus an A+ certification and two Dell certifications, so for me the Microsoft certification made sense (remember, this was back in 2001). But instead of making me more marketable like I thought, what few job offers I did have seemed to evaporate. All together I went for over 14 months without drawing a paycheck. My saving grace during this time was that I had substantial savings, otherwise I would surely have been homeless by that time. But homelessness escaped me when I used the small pickup truck that I owned at the time to go to work as a private contractor for a courier company. I had to take a substantial pay cut from the $35.00 per hour I had been making as a Dell service contractor, but by now my savings balance was nearly depleted. By dodging homelessness the way I had, I thought I had dodged a bullet, but I had only delayed the inevitable for a few more years. I will have more to say on that in the next chapter.
This book is available on-line from Progressive Christian Ministries of Greater Atlanta at www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations (free shipping, tax deductible) for $12.95.
Or, get it on Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=sole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ&rh=n%3A154606011%2Ck%3Asole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ
Get it in audio format at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daudible&field-keywords=sole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ&rh=i%3Aaudible%2Ck%3Asole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ
Watch the video at http://youtu.be/5Bxi7x0nUc0 Thanks so much!
Banks are criminal enterprises. US government involved in dozens of wars globally. Police gone berserk. Children slaughtered in Syria. A world going insane. One man, one ministry confronting the madness, standing against war, social or economic injustice, crooked banks and every kind of corruption. Help us help America win this fight while standing up unashamedly for Jesus Christ. With a recurring monthly donation starting at only $10.00, you can help keep us on the Internet, fund some office expenses, help us buy a new or used van, and cover the monthly expenses of buying double cheese sandwiches and fries for the multitudes of homeless individuals and families in and around greater Atlanta. Please help Progressive Christian Ministries of Greater Atlanta, Inc. (State of Georgia control # 15066742) by becoming a monthly partner today! http://www.pcmatl.org/donations-and-partners
I have a combined 5,000 friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linked In. If I could get just 320 of them to please donate $10.00 or more apiece, I could reach my musical goal in just one day! Could you please help me record my albums? Thanks! http://www.gofundme.com/c49h8365g