Calvin on Romans 1:11-12

Romans 1:11-12 says, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Here’s what John Calvin writes about these verses in his Commentary on Romans:

See to what degree of modesty [Paul’s] pious heart submitted itself, so that he disdained not to seek confirmation from inexperienced beginners: nor did he speak dissemblingly, for there is no one so void of gifts in the Church of Christ, who is not able to contribute something to our benefit: but we are hindered by our envy and by our pride from gathering such fruit from one another. Such is our high-mindedness, such is the inebriety produced by vain reputation, that despising and disregarding others, everyone thinks that he possesses what is abundantly sufficient for himself


What Kind of Peace on Earth?

Full disclosure: I love Christmas songs.  I especially love Christmas hymns.  One of my favorites is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Henry Longfellow.  The first verse goes like this:

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Many Christmas songs talk about “peace,” and rightly so.  The night Jesus was born a new song of peace was recorded — one which Longfellow was inspired by: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'” (Luke 2:13-14).

Thousands, if not millions, of angels sang to God’s glory on this night because a little baby would bring peace to earth. But Jesus didn’t come just to bring peace to a hectic life or war-torn countries or tense relationships. If that is all the peace you think Jesus brings, you are missing out on something great.

Jesus came to bring the ultimate peace: peace with our Creator, because we were at war with him because of our sin. The Bible says that we were God’s enemies (Rom. 5:8-10). There is no peace between enemies.  But God, our Creator, the one who we have infinitely offended, rebelled against, and declared war upon, came to earth in the form of a baby so that there might be a holy armistice.  It was as if God said, “Lay down your arms, my enemies, poor rebels! I will forgive your rebellion and bring you to myself as a friend.” Jesus was born so that one day he might die on a cross so that we might believe in him by faith and have peace with God (Rom. 5:1).

Christmas is truly about peace. It’s about Jesus bringing peace to the war that existed between God and his enemies, namely us.  Lay down your arms, Rebel, and flee to the arms of your peace-giving Savior.


Christ-centered, Others-oriented

Next Wednesday, I’m teaching our high school students at our church on being others-centered. As I am starting to prepare for this message, I can’t help restructure my thinking to look like this:

We must be Christ-centered, not others-centered. We must be others-oriented, not self-oriented.

The problem with being others-centered is that this can lead to idolatry of people. If we center our thoughts, actions, and words around a person, we will inevitably do things simply to please them or to earn their praise. The world does this every minute of the day. If we become people-centered people, we will seek to (even unknowingly) glorify them.

On the other hand, if we are Christ-centered, we will do everything for his glory — and not to please people or be praised by them. When Christ is the blazing center of our lives we will be able to orient our efforts, resources, attitudes, actions, and thoughts toward others because we will want them to know him.

If Christ is our center and foundation, we will be able to do what the Apostle Paul called us to do: “In humility count others more significant than yourselves.” And the ultimate goal of this humility is God’s glory: “Therefore God has highly exalted [Christ] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:3, 9-11).


Pitfalls in Communication: Unreasonable Expectations

Part 5 of a 6 part series. View series intro and index.

I can’t count the number of times on a weekly basis that I get disappointed with a person or a situation because something has gone wrong. Most of the time, I find myself frustrated, not because someone really did something evil or offensive to me, but because the advance of my agenda was halted. The kingdom of James came crashing down.

Your Biggest Communication Problem
Teacher and counselor Paul Tripp puts it like this: “You get angry, not because God’s law was broken, but because your law was broken.” That’s convicting, isn’t it? More often than not, when our blood gets boiling, it’s usually because we didn’t get our way. Rarely are we ever displeased, Tripp says, when God doesn’t get his way.

When a conflict arises, and I sense anger, defensiveness, sadness, or any emotion contrary to love brewing in my heart, I need to consider the question, “Are my expectations of this person or situation unreasonable?” Often, someone actually does sin and communicate or act wrongly. After all, they are imperfect as well. However, if I’m honest with myself, usually the latter is the case. Again Tripp reminds us, “You are your biggest communication problem.”

My unreasonable expectations are why I’m frequently arrogant, disappointed, depressed, angered, bitter, confused, and standoffish. When we have unreasonably high expectations in communication or with relationships in general, these emotions always rear their ugly head. These emotions, in turn, usually always lead to negative communication with the other person. We become purposefully hurtful, vague, shady, or even worse, we just plain ignore them.

The Solution
What’s the solution to this problem? If you think about it, how often do you live up to your own expectations? The answer for myself is almost never. If I fail to keep my standards every day, how can I ever expect someone who’s not me to keep them? More than that, we must understand that we have failed to meet God’s expectations and requirements. Nevertheless, he has forgiven us because the only perfect man, Jesus Christ, has clearly communicted who God is and how we can can him.  And he has accomplished this for us through his atoning work for our sins on the cross.

The short answer is cling to Jesus, confess your sin of faulty communication (and everything else!), and seek to change your intentions, thoughts, actions, and words by the power of God’s grace. For the long answer, check back in a week for our last post in this series.


25 Random Things About Me

Carly tagged me (on Facebook) in her 25 random things so I figured I should do it — not out of obligation but out of delight to share my random life with all of you wonderful friends.

1. God saved me from sin, death, and hell when I was young, but kind of whacked me over the head when I was 20 to cause me to walk with him. God has since then converted me to Christian Hedonism. In short, that means that worshiping Jesus is a delight and not a duty. It means that I find complete joy and satisfaction in Jesus more than anything in the world. It’s totally biblical, trust me. I got verses to back it up.

2. It’s not officially diagnosed, but I am convinced that God blessed and cursed me with obsessive compulsive disorder with cleanliness and organization. I live in Africa right now, so it’s not the best (i.e. cleanest) environment for me to be in. Hard on the mind.

3. I dated my fiancée for 5 weeks before we got engaged, just like Carly did. Our story is quite amazing and Christ-centered, so you should read the wonderful synopsis my beautiful bride-to-be wrote here.

4. In 6th grade, I purposefully spelled words wrong on a spelling test so that I wouldn’t have to participate in the Saturday morning all metro-area school competition. When I got home, my mom made me correctly write each word that I spelled wrong 20 times on a sheet of paper. She then proceeded to throw the paper away in front of me after I handed it to her. I’m scarred for life.

5. My first car was a bright metallic blue Mercury Tracer that, when looked at it from the proper angle, appeared to be a 1982 Ford Mustang.

6. I read a lot of books by dead guys from the 1500-1800s who loved Jesus. I also love to read blogs from guys and gals who are currently living and love Jesus.

7. I used to have to keep the volume on the TV on an even number or else it drove me crazy (see #2). I stopped this problem by not watching TV.

8. The last meal I would eat before death would be a 16 oz. rib eye steak, mashed potatoes, and grilled lemon-topped asparagus (hint, hint, Carly).

9. I really want to be a pastor because I can get away with yelling at people. (Not really…but kind of. In love, of course.)

10. I love big cities, big churches, big schools, and big families. That’s all I’ve known my whole life. So what do I do? I go and get engaged to a girl who was born on a farm and is from a town with one stoplight and 4,000 people. Oh the strange and wonderful providence of God.

11. I would rather write an essay than take a test. No question about it.

12. I will never wear any pastel colors. Ever.

13. My favorite class in college was English 200 because our professor cussed every now and then. The literature was good, too.

14. If I could be any superhero, I would be Batman. He’s smart, rich, and has so many cool toys, including the Tumbler, which any guy would confess is the sweetest vehicle on the planet.

15. Details, details, details…I love them.

16. Clouds are my favorite part of God’s creation because they change every day-even hourly.

17. I let my brother win in wiffleball when we were younger just so he’d play the next day (sorry, Brian).

18. I have had every possible facial hair arrangement a man can have…in one night. From full beard to soul patch in three hours. (Valor II: StudPlex edition, on December 8, 2007).

19. I picked my major at UNL (communication studies) before the first day of class and in spite of the fact that I had no idea what it was about at all.

20. I will scream like a girl if a bee comes near me when I am by myself, but will act brazen and strong if I am around other people.

21. Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. Amen.

22. I have an odd fascination with cemeteries. I love to take times to pray and sing to the Lord while walking in them (especially at Wyuka in Lincoln — I commend it to you for your joy and refreshment). I love to try and figure out whether or not a person wasted their life and what kind of a legacy they left behind.

23. If I could do sports all over again, I would have played basketball instead of baseball.

24. If I could be buried in a t-shirt, jeans, and flip flops, I would. Actually, it’s already in my will. I’m not even making that up.

25. I love the sound of slowly driving over a gravel road.