This past week has been great for our household, since my kids were on Spring Break, and that meant quality family time. We even got to have some extra bonus quality family time by having Sara Stewart (who’s kinda like an extra bonus daughter) over for pizza and a movie one night. I’ve always felt bad for those parents who look forward to their kids going off to school so that they can get rid of them -- my time with my kids is usually the highlight of my day.
In our service this week, one of the announcements reminded everyone that we’re still collecting pennies for the floor of the Youth Room. You’d think that everyone would know by now, but nope -- at least two different sets of people (neither of whom haven’t been around) were surprised to hear about it and asked for more information. So let me just tell the whole world right now that we’re collecting pennies to make a penny floor for the Youth Room, so if you have any pennies that you’ve been saving up to take in and turn into dimes and quarters and dollar bills, please consider bringing them in and sharing them with the Youth Group.
And yes, we’re also still collecting school supplies for Harrison Public School’s Kindergarten class here in Peoria, so please be thinking of the kids the next time that you’re at the store, pick up something off of the list on the bulletin board, and bring it in to the boxes that we have here in the building. And when you do, please make it a point to pray for a moment for all of those at-risk kids -- they need your prayers even more than your crayons...
In our message this week, we began a new series looking at Paul’s letter to the Roman church (using some of the exegetical notes for the course I was going to be teaching down in Australia). When you think about it, the letter is kind of Paul’s attempt at some basic training -- a “boot camp” for the Christian, if you will. In a nutshell, basic training is supposed to prepare raw recruits to become combat-ready... and that includes not only training in physical skills, but also training of the mind -- a breaking down of the old, civilian way of thinking so that a new, combat-ready way of thinking can save your life down the line.
The Book of Romans similarly presents not only a “Christianity 101” course in doctrinal basics (like the famous “Romans Road” that so many people make use of to help present a Gospel message), but also a series of classical, Aristotelian arguments, designed to break down wrong thinking and help us live out the right, God-honoring paradigms that will save our spiritual lives down the line.
For instance, don’t ever read Chapter 1 without finishing with the first verse of Chapter 2 -- because that verse is the conclusion of Paul’s first argument. Throughout Chapter 1, he points to all of those lost people in Rome who not only sin, but who want to sin, who want to keep on sinning, and will distort the truth to fool themselves into thinking that it’s okay to do so, or that X or Y aren’t really sinful for them to do. Those people know better -- in their heart of hearts, every person knows that there’s a fundamental morality that’s bigger than just you and me and our personal desires. So no one can really say, “But I didn’t realize that I was doing anything wrong...”
But then, verse 2:1 says that if those people have no excuse, what about the Christians who have God’s Word and His Spirit... and yet do the very same things? If we point our fingers at the world and judge those benighted souls for their envy, or deceit, or gossiping, or arrogance, or ruthlessness, then what kind of judgment should fall on those of us who claim to be in the light with Christ, who somehow still justify those sinful paradigms and priorities in ourselves? Should we who are so quick to judge others stop reading at the end of the Chapter 1 so that we can go home self-righteously happy?
Maybe all of us need a little bit of Paul’s basic training as a “refresher course” in our own lives...