Kairos Prison Ministry opportunity

Hey Houston-area people who have thought about doing a Kairos Prison Ministry weekend: Now’s your chance!  We need 25 more people for the October 8-10 weekend or it will have to be canceled.

Here’s portions of a note from the leader with some details.  Contact me if you want to know more.  These weekends take some prep time but are very productive and rewarding.  It is one of my favorite ministries.  I’ll be working it.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

God’s Grace and Peace to all Friends of the Carol Vance Kairos community!

Carol Vance Kairos Weekend #42 is scheduled for October 8-10, 2010 at the Carol Vance Prison Unit in Richmond, TX and this is your invitation to participate in this special ministry.

The mission of Kairos Prison Ministry International is to bring Christ’s love and forgiveness to all incarcerated individuals, their families, and those who work with them, and to assist the incarcerated in the transition to becoming productive citizens.  Those who participated on the team and attended the closing of CVK # 41 Sunday were able to witness God at work and to see the spiritual transformation that takes place in these men as they experience a Kairos Weekend.

Please give prayerful consideration to joining our Kairos # 42 volunteer team. This ministry does not require any special gifts.  Just come with a servant’s heart, knowing that Jesus Christ is in charge and that we are there as his hands and feet to show his grace, mercy, and love to those often forgotten by the outside world.

A Kairos Application Form is attached and should be completed by all volunteers (including veterans).  Please turn this form in to me at the first team meeting.  Before that, I would appreciate an email as well so that I can start planning team positions and family groups.

The first team meeting is scheduled for Saturday August 7, 2010 at a location yet to be announced.  A reminder notice, map, and meeting agenda will be emailed prior to this meeting.  We will provide coffee, juice, and a continental breakfast from 8:00am – 8:30am.  The meeting will start promptly at 8:30am and should be over by 2:00pm.  A light lunch will also be served.

There will be three additional team meetings prior to the Kairos # 42 Weekend plus an Instructional Reunion Meeting at Carol Vance on Saturday October 16, 2010.  Dates for all meetings are included on the attached Kairos Application Form and the locations will be provided as soon as they are available.  Please mark these dates on your calendars.  Your attendance is needed for all team meetings (veterans – we rely on you sharing your experiences with new members) so that we can bond and grow spiritually as a team before we enter the unit.

Kairos is a continuing ministry.  The first Saturday of every month we return to the Carol Vance Unit from 9am – 11am for a “reunion” with all men in white who have previously participated in Kairos for prayer and share.  We also do a lot of singing and laughing at these reunions.  Again, as a Kairos volunteer, your regular attendance is appreciated for these Saturday reunions.

Kenya mission trip pictures / highlights

This is a looong post – actually a bunch of posts in one — but please take time to check it out plus the links.  We had an amazing mission trip to Kenya with a group from our church.  It was my 4th trip but definitely the best because my wife joined me this time.  She was amazing – diving into everything with energy and grace even though the whole enterprise was way out of her comfort zone.

Click the links to see many more pictures.

1. Church / school in Kawangware slum – One of our projects was helping a little on the church building and doing two sessions of Vacation Bible School for the kids at the school. I was playing guitar for the VBS sessions so I don’t have pictures of that, but I’ll post pictures when I get them from others. The kids seemed to have a great time singing, dancing and playing.

This church and school is truly a beacon of light in a dark place. Worshiping with them was one of the seemingly endless highlights of the trip.

A little more background on the slum here.

2. When giraffes attack! — A visit to the giraffe park was fun. We went on the first day in Kenya as we acclimated to the time changes and such.

3. Maua Methodist Hospital – we did daily devotionals with them and various projects.

We did some painting at the hospital to help them maintain certifications that keep their reimbursements up and did some mortar work at a building they’ll use for visiting missionary doctors.

The hospital does amazing work for the community, offering low cost medical services. They save many lives. They have outstanding community programs to help AIDS orphans and to help them go to school and develop skills to support their families (sort of like a “Junior Achievement meets Jesus” program).

No, you would not want to stay there yourself, but for them it is invaluable.

Somehow I didn’t get many pictures of tea time, a nice and tasty tradition they have there.

4. Safari — We spent a couple days on safari at the end of the trip enjoying some of God’s amazing creation.

5. The Proclaimer – getting the word of God out to those who don’t read.  This is one of my favorite parts of the trip. Faith Comes By Hearing translates the Bible into dozens of languages. You can download New Testament versions for free. They give away these “Proclaimer” devices so that illiterate people can hear the word of God in their languages. As noted at the bottom, these can be AC or solar powered so they can be used over and over almost anywhere.

This picture is of Reverend Alice, the hospital chaplain, explaining it to a group of patients and their children. She plans to play the Bible in Kiswahili for them regularly and to set it outside for when the patients go in the sun to warm up. She will also take it to remote locations so they can hear the word. I hope we can take more the next time.

I’m a firm believer in Isaiah 55:10-11

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

From their website:

How does the Proclaimer work? An installed microchip contains Scriptures in the heart language; the chip will not erase or wear out from frequent playing.

The battery will play for 15 hours and can be recharged enough times to play the entire New Testament more than 1,000 times.

The Proclaimer has a built-in generator and solar panel to charge the battery.

The solar panel, in addition to charging the battery, will run the Proclaimer even without battery power as long as there is sunlight.

The sound is digital quality and loud enough to be heard clearly by groups as large as 300.

The Proclaimer was developed primarily as a playback device for poor and illiterate people who may not have any other source to hear God’s Word. Our goal is to use the Proclaimer in the majority of our FCBH programs worldwide.

Very few of these people read, but now they can hear the transforming and powerful word of God. I never get tired of that.

6. AIDS Orphan Homes

The local church and hospital does a great job of identifying the poorest of the poor. Some children have lost their parents and live in stick / mud huts, while others may have one living parent or a neighborhood person who takes care of them.

Local workers do the foundation and the heavy stuff and we help out with painting, hammering and such.

In this case, the father died of AIDS and the mother and youngest child are probably HIV positive. She has resisted testing because of the stigma but it appears that they finally convinced her to get help. The anti-retrovirals have been very successful at preventing deaths and more orphans.

$2,000 builds a home to keep them safe and warm. It does amazing things for their self-worth and gives them a place to study once they are in school.

The hospital program and church stays engaged and follows up with them.

The purpose of the AIDS Orphans’ Project is to provide food, schooling, medical care and improved housing for AIDS orphans and to train their guardians in caring for these children. This project was established in response to the needs of the increasing numbers of AIDS orphans within the region that the hospital serves. Maua Methodist Hospital serves a district of 600,000 people as their only full service hospital. The AIDS orphan children are in desperate circumstances. The hospital is reaching out to them to share the Love of Jesus Christ by helping to care for their basic needs, and by giving hope for a better life.

7. Miscellaneous – travel and such.

8. World Vision sponsor child visit — These are from our visit with Dennis, our World Vision sponsor child since 1998, and his family.  I’m so glad that my wife finally got to meet them.  After all these years and multiple visits they are like family.

Dennis is roughly my oldest daughter’s age.  He is working on a 2 yr. journalism degree at college.  We are very proud of how hard he works.  He is a very humble and godly young man.  He knows his theology well (on my last visit he showed me how he got a 67 out of 70 on a test — not sure I could do that!).  I’ve been praying since he was 6 that God was use him in a big way and that prayer has been continually answered.

Our friends from World Vision, Peterson and Martin, hosted us for most of the day.  They do great work there and are very accountable with all they do.

9. Miscellaneous — shots from Vacation Bible School, the AIDS Orphan home dedication and more.

Digg This

Romans 16

rom-16.jpgGreetings!

Paul ends his powerful and thorough masterpiece with greetings to many friends and co-workers in the Lord.

Personal Greetings

16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

5 Greet also the church that meets at their house.

I know we need well-educated leaders, but I often wonder what would happen if we had more house churches in the U.S.  We need an authority structure but the bureaucracy and seemingly inevitable bad teaching that comes from larger organizations is disappointing.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

8 Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

10 Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ.

Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.

11 Greet Herodion, my relative.

Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.

Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them.

15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them.

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

All the churches of Christ send greetings.

Consider how many women Paul greeted and how he acknowledged their hard work in the Lord.  He is falsely considered a chauvinist but if you study all of what he said and the context of the culture in which he said it, Paul is quite the feminist (in the good sense).

17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

21 Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives.

22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.

23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.

Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.

Paul wrote this from Corinth.  Archaeologists found a block of stone that may refer to this man.  It said, “Erastus, commissioner of public works, bore the expense of this pavement.”

25 Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Note how Paul desired that all nations would believe in and obey Jesus and that God is the only wise God.  There is a good reason you’ll rarely, if ever, hear false Christian teachers preach from Romans.

What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?

Pro-lifers don’t care about kids after they are born?

Jill Stanek, pro-lifer extraordinaire, posed this Weekend question: Are pro-lifers going to adopt all the unwanted babies? As I noted in the comments section there, I love that question.  We should welcome this objection by pro-legalized abortionists. It lets us explain the underlying fallacy of their question and how they never apply it in situations outside the womb, how pro-lifers do a lot to help before and after delivery, and how the same obligation of caring falls on them.

They may not convert but any objective middle-grounder will see the merits.  Here’s a post I wrote a couple of years back that explains it.

—–

baby1.jpgOne of the most common sound bites / jokes that pro-choicers make about pro-lifers is that we are infatuated with the fetus but don’t care about kids after they are born.   The message is that if we don’t adopt all unwanted children then we have no right to complain about abortion.  It is an important sound bite to be able to address, because it is very common and even pro-lifers I know are not only intimidated by it but they have used it themselves as a reason to remain silent about abortion.

The “Pro-lifers don’t care about kids after they are born” line is one of my favorite arguments to rebut.  I teach people how to do it in pro-life training sessions in a two-step approach.  The tone of the conversation is important.  These arguments are powerful and quite effective if they are laid out in a calm, reasoned approach.  You probably won’t convert the rabid pro-choicers, but most of the middle-grounders will get the point.

First, show that pointing out a moral wrong does not obligate you to take responsibility for the situation.

If your neighbor is beating his wife, you call the police.  The police don’t say, “Hey, buddy, unless you are willing to marry her yourself then we aren’t going to stop him from beating her.”  You can use child or animal abuse as examples as well.  Most people get the point pretty quickly.

Or ask the pro-choicer what they would do if the government decided to reduce the number of homeless people by killing them.  Could he protest that without having to house and feed them all himself?

You can also use the “trot out the toddler” approach promoted by Stand to Reason and ask if it would be acceptable to object to murdering a toddler even if you aren’t willing to adopt her.  Of course, the pro-choicer will always recognize the moral good to protest toddler-killing.  Then you can point out that killing innocent human beings is immoral and that the unborn are human beings.  So pointing out this moral wrong does not obligate us to do anything further.

Second, explain that while we aren’t morally obligated to help after the babies are born to be able to speak out against abortion, Christians do many things with their time and money anyway – orphanages, Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), food pantries, etc.

When I’m teaching CPC volunteers I remind them of all that they and the center do: Pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, food, clothes, diapers, life skill training, parenting training, post-abortion counseling and more – all for free!  And, of course, we share the Gospel with the clients if they are interested (Saving lives now and for eternity!).

The workers are mostly volunteers and the leaders make below-market wages because they believe in the cause.  Most centers receive no government funding, so all the money comes from donations.  There are far more Crisis Pregnancy Centers than there are abortion clinics.

When I tell people about CPCs the typical reaction is, “I had no idea.”  Most people aren’t aware of all the good being done there.  In theory, CPCs are something pro-choicers could support as well.  After all, if women choose to keep their child this is a great way to help them.  But Planned Parenthood et al consider them public enemy #1 because we take away some of their business.

You can also ask pro-choicers what Planned Parenthood and the like do for hurting women once the babies are born.  It is a really, really short list.  Do they provide free post-abortion counseling? (Of course not, because who would need that, right?)  Do they give diapers, formula, etc.?  Hey, they don’t even give free abortions (though they would love for your tax dollars to fund some).

Having said all that, I do think the church can and should be doing even more in the area of adoptions and support for orphans.  Not because having pro-life views requires that, but because it is the right thing to do regardless of whether abortion is legal or illegal.  Sponsoring a child from World Vision or a similar organization is a great way to start: For only $28 per month you can feed, clothe, educate and correspond with a needy child.

Here’s a bonus argument: A recent Stand to Reason Podcast brought up another good point that I hadn’t thought of.  Here’s an additional response to use: Unless someone concedes to being truly pro-abortion (i.e., they expect women to always have abortions or raise the children with no help from the public), then the pro-choicers are obligated to adopt the children as well.  Either that, or give up espousing their pro-choice views.  After all, if you claim to be pro-choice and the women choose life, then the same care giving obligation falls on you.

Think about it.  It may seem subtle at first, but it is a completely consistent argument.  Pro-lifers don’t think it should be an option to kill the unborn, so pro-choicers use the false logic that we can’t complain about abortion if we won’t adopt all the kids and raise them to adulthood.  But if the woman decides to choose life, then the pro-choicer would have the same moral obligation to raise the kids.

Here’s how I played this out in this comment thread:

Pro-legalized abortion commenter: Hard decisions belong between a pregnant woman and her caregivers, not “holier than thou” intruders, unless they personally are willing to raise, including medical care, education, and life care, all those fertilized eggs.

My response: Another canard.

Answer me this: Let’s say the government decides to solve the problem of homelessness by killing homeless people. Can you protest this without being willing to house them yourself?

You can also substitute other examples (Can you call the police if your neighbor is abusing his wife and children without having to marry her and adopt the kids?).

It is a simple question designed to point out the primary error of your argument: You don’t have to take ownership of a situation just because you protest a moral evil.

And even though I don’t have to raise those human beings (the ones you like to call fertilized eggs) just because I protest the evil of abortion, I actually do a lot with my own time and money via CareNet Pregnancy Center.

And by the way, unless you are truly pro-abortion, then you are obligated to help as well. After all, if you claim to be pro-choice and the women choose life, then the same care giving obligation falls on you.

So that argument self-destructs in at least three ways.

Finally, consider if the child was outside the womb. Do the women and her caregivers get to decide if the toddler lives or dies? Of course not. So the only question is whether the unborn is a human being. Since it is a scientific fact that she is, then people shouldn’t get to decide whether to kill her. And Christians especially shouldn’t support anyone’s right to kill her.

Other commenter: BTW, half of fertilized eggs don’t implant in the uterus, so is it illegal for a woman to have mensus?

My response: Are you seriously claiming that you don’t see the difference between the following?

1. Human being dies of natural causes.

2. Human being is crushed and dismembered by another human being.

I think most people can see the difference, whether 1 and 2 occur inside or outside the womb.

I’ve heard all the pro-legalized abortion sound bites many times and will be glad to debunk more for you. I hope that you are intellectually honest and reconsider your position on this crucial issue.

In summary, pointing out the moral evil of abortion does not obligate one to adopt all the babies.  But pro-lifers do help anyway.  A lot.  And they do it with their own time and money, not their neighbors’.

When pro-legalized abortion people try to put you on the defensive by asking how many kids you have adopted, use the reasons above to respond.  Also, you can ask how many they adopt from orphages.   If they haven’t adopted any, then according to their logic they couldn’t protest their destruction.

Big hat tip: Stand to Reason pro-life training materials

Romans 15

Greetings!

15 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Paul affirms the value of the Old Testament teachings, just as Jesus did.

It is never fun to be insulted for being Christians, but we need to remember who is really being insulted: Jesus.

5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is one of the great disappointments with U.S. churches today – the lack of unity.  Sadly, some churches put unity over doctrine.  That is not a Biblical theme.  But we should aim at unity on the essentials.  The lack of church discipline has caused much of the problem.  We didn’t weed out enough false teachers when we had the chance.  Now they are in leadership positions in many denominations.

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs 9 so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.”

10 Again, it says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.”

12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul quotes several Old Testament passages that the Jews may have overlooked.  God set them apart, but not because of anything special they had done to deserve it.  In fact, He did it in spite of things they did.  But they were meant to be a light to all the nations.  They were blessed to be a blessing to others.

V. 13 is a great one to memorize.  How often do I overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit?  Sometimes, but not as much as I would like.

Paul the Minister to the Gentiles

14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— 19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21 Rather, as it is written:

“Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”

22 This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.

Paul wanted to meet the Romans in person, but he was detained for a time to share the Gospel with those who hadn’t heard it.

Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome

23 But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, 24 I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. 28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.

It is unclear whether Paul made it to Spain.  He did make it to Rome (see the book of Acts) and was imprisoned there at least once and probably twice.

30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?

Looking for a Internal Auditor or Senior Internal Auditor

If you know of anyone in the Houston area who would be interested, send them my way and I’ll provide more details.   Someone transferred to another part of the company and I have an open position.

And with all due respect to Michael Scott, I really am the World’s Best Boss.  Zero voluntary turnover in 5 years and the highest employee satisfaction rates in the company.  Just sayin’.

Seriously, we have a great company and a great environment.  Travel for this role is 40%.

Romans 14

rom-14.jpgGreetings!

The Weak and the Strong

14 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Romans 14 and other passages address how we are to handle disputable matters. From this we can immediately infer two things:

  1. God knew we’d have disputed matters.
  2. He gave guidance on how to handle them.

Some beliefs are essential if one is to call himself a Christian – e.g., Jesus is the only way to salvation (mentioned directly or indirectly in 100 passages), Jesus is God, etc.

Other things have guidance but not absolutes.  I think a contemporary example would be alcohol.  The Bible doesn’t expressly forbid alcohol, but it does say not to get drunk, don’t tempt others with it, obey laws and not to be a slave to it.  But we shouldn’t make our own denominational rule that says, “Don’t drink alcohol – ever!” and exclude people based on that.  There are enough stumbling blocks to reach people with the Gospel.  Let’s not add any more.  Having said that, I have no use for alcohol and have about one drink per year.

Contrary to many myths, we have a lot of freedom in Christ.  Christianity contains many principles and some specific rules, but we can exercise our personal preferences in many ways, such as worship styles.

5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Paul hadn’t gone soft on sin.  We have preferences or things we aren’t sure about, but we shouldn’t put our demands on top of what scripture requires.

Note that we shouldn’t violate our consciences.  This is a reason that denominations are good.  We must agree on the essentials or we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  But it is better to be in different denominations if differences on non-essential issues would violate our consciences.  For example, if I couldn’t in good conscience baptize an infant then I should go to a denomination that doesn’t require that practice, even though I wouldn’t say those that do require it aren’t Christians.

9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’”

12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

That is a sobering thought!  We’ll give an account everything we did, said and thought that we shouldn’t have and everything we didn’t do, say and think but should have.  Thanks be to Jesus for taking the punishment for our sins already!

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. 14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Paul was not a moral relativist (the line of thinking that “there is no truth.”)  Paul was quick to say what was right and wrong.  But he pointed out that on issues of preference we shouldn’t judge others.

His closing was a bit of a surprise, though: If we aren’t sure if we should do something – even if it isn’t truly a sin – then it is a sin to do it!  We are to act in confidence and faith.

What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?