913.) Romans 8:1-17

October 31, 2012

Romans 8:1-17   (NRSV)

Martin Luther described Paul’s letter to the Romans as the “most important piece in the New Testament.  It is purest Gospel.  It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul.”

 Life in the Spirit

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Romans 8:1 tells us we are free from the guilt of sin. 

Romans 8:2 tells us we are free from the power of sin.

3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

James 4:4  (ESV)

You adulterous people!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

9But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

12So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.

2 Timothy 1:7  (ESV)

God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

from This Day with the Master
by Dennis F. Kinlaw


I believe God wants to give each individual a clean heart, a heart cleansed from the self-will and self-interest that always traps us in futile and sterile paths.  Scripture explicitly says that the Spirit gives life, but the flesh profits nothing.  What is the flesh?  It is simply my way in contrast to God’s way.  The self insists on keeping itself the center of my existence, yet the fruit of living with myself at the center is vanity, emptiness, and loss.

When a person has only one will and that is to do the will of God, the Holy Spirit can begin to build into that life the marks of his presence.  He can transform that person’s life into a temple of God’s holy presence and can make it a fruitful and faithful life.  He can order it so that it shines with his glory, and he can place inside that person the witness of himself that he wants the world to see.

The greatest enemy to fruitfulness in my life is my own way.  If I let Christ purge me and cleanse me so that I am wholly his, then the Spirit can begin to shape my life so it conforms to his master design.  Do you know what it means to belong to God completely?  If you hold on to even a small corner of your right to yourself, you will destroy all that he wants to do in and with you.  Once Christ has given us a clean heart, he can give us the faithfulness and fruitfulness for which we long.



“I’ve got the Spirit of the Living God alive in me giving me power so I don’t have to be ‘Only Natural.'”  Sing along with Steven Curtis Chapman.

Click  HERE  to listen!

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
No condemnation.    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-2UFUV-VI_qI/TXWwhGQD0zI/AAAAAAAAAFM/yvq1SSm-zr4/s1600/nocondemnpic.png
freedom.   http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ns1pRIT5zPo/T5syJlNcq_I/AAAAAAAABx0/UiThHVqwFfg/s1600/freedom_nobk.gif
mindset.   http://owbg.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/mindset.jpg
led by the Spirit.    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_dQABrM8oHE8/S6hiUaODPoI/AAAAAAAAAIU/WMHpgYLX6t4/s320/led_by_the_spirit.png
It’s all about me.    http://beforeitsnews.com/contributor/upload/104465/images/its-all-about-me.jpg

912.) Romans 7

October 30, 2012

Romans 7   (NRSV)

Within my earthly temple there’s a crowd.
There’s one of us that’s humble; one that’s proud.
There’s one that’s broken-hearted for his sins,
And one who, unrepentant, sits and grins.
There’s one who loves his neighbor as himself,
And one who cares for naught but fame and self.
From much corroding care would I be free
If once I could determine which is Me.

–Edwin S. Martin, “Mixed”

An Analogy from Marriage

Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only during that person’s lifetime? 2Thus a married woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. 3Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress.

In a French cemetery there are the following concise inscriptions on one tombstone.  The epitaph is for a husband and wife:

I am anxiously expecting you.   –A.D. 1827

Here I am!   –A.D.  1867

4In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

The theme of Romans 7:1-5 is summarized. Because we died with Jesus at Calvary, we are dead to the law and delivered from its dominion over us as a principle of justification or of sanctification.  The law does not justify us; it does not make us right with God.  The law does not sanctify us; it does not take us deeper with God and make us more holy before Him.

–David Guzik

6But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.



We are free from the law, not only in terms of fulfilling it for our salvation, but also in terms of meeting its demands for how we must live as God’s children!  Such freedom now!  With the Spirit’s help, I now can serve God better, out of love and thanksgiving rather than fear or duty.  So, I’m “Never Gonna Stop” praising You, Lord!  Thanks to Tommy Walker, singing.


The Law and Sin

7What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. 9I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived 10and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.

13Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

The Inner Conflict

14For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

Do you ever feel that you are your own worst enemy?  That when you resolve to do something good, you somehow sabotage  yourself (those conflicting desires!) and end up defeated?  Recently I was reading Genesis 4 and came upon a phrase that captures just what seems to happen to me; in verse 7, God says to Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door.”  How well I know the feeling of being pounced by sin!

Yet the Lord, in such gracious kindness, has provided a way to deal with the problem.  In Revelation 3:20 Christ assures us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”  This has been a helpful visual to me — that at those moments when I am wavering, I can imagine Christ knocking and the devil crouching outside the door of my heart.  The choice is clear:  let me open the door and admit the Lord, who is always my friend and never my enemy, and who will help me do what is right.

21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Psalm 106:1   (NIV)

Praise the Lord!

Give thanks to the Lord,
for he is good;

his love endures forever

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.


Prayer of Confession

(based on Romans 7:15-23)

Loving God,

we confess that we have sinned.

Even though we want to do what is right,

we did not always succeed today.

Not only did we fail to do what was right,

but at times we consciously chose to think and act

in ways we knew were wrong.

We are truly sorry,

and we ask for your forgiveness.

. . .

Words of Assurance

(based on Romans 7:24-25)

Friends, hear this:

Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,

we have been set free from the power of sin!

It no longer needs to control us.

So be at peace: your sins are forgiven!

Go out and live in the light of Christ.

Thanks be to God!

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Joe McKeever cartoon:  conflicting desires.   http://www.joemckeever.com/mt/archives/000744.html
angel on tombstone.   http://petanqueandpastis.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/02_20_06_50_roma.JPG
I do not understand . . .    http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/img-set/BQcDAAAAAwoDanBnAAAABC5vdXQKFkVoTlJvaVZKNEJHR2pka1YxQWRNSHcAAAACaWQKAXgAAAAEc2l6ZQ.jpg
Jesus knocking.    http://www.larrystephensministries.com/Christian%20Photos/JesusAtDoorKnock.jpg

911.) Romans 6

October 29, 2012

Romans 6   (NRSV)

 Prayer before We Turn to the Word
(based on Romans 6:12-23)

God of grace,

You have brought us from slavery to freedom,

from despair to hope,

from death to life!

Holy is Your name!


We are here in Your presence with gratitude and praise

for all that You have done for us.

May the presence of Your Holy Spirit inspire our hearts and minds.

May our words and deeds,

our thoughts and prayers,

even our very lives,

bring honor and glory to You.


This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ,

whose death and resurrection have brought us everlasting life.


Dying and Rising with Christ

What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

Behold Jesus Christ, the King of glory, rising from the dead.  Here the heart can find its supreme joy and lasting possessions.  Here there is not the slightest trace of evil, for “Christ being risen from the dead, will not die again.  Death no longer has dominion over him.”  Here is that furnace of love and the fire of God in Zion, as Isaiah says, for Christ is not only born to us, but also given to us.  Therefore, his resurrection and everything that he accomplished through it are mine.  In Romans 8:32 the Apostle exults in exuberant joy, “Has he not also given me all things with him?”

What is it that he has wrought by his resurrection?  He has destroyed sin and raised up righteousness, abolished death and restored life, conquered hell and bestowed everlasting glory on us.  These blessings are so incalculable that the human mind hardly dares believe that they have been granted to me.  I am unclean, but his holiness is my sanctification, in which I ride gently.  I am an ignorant fool, but his wisdom carries me forward.  I deserve condemnation, but I am set free by his redemption.

–Martin Luther, “Fourteen Consolations”

10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 53:4-6   (NIV)

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

12Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Sin does not stop God’s grace from flowing, but God’s grace will stop sin.

–Joseph Prince

Slaves of Righteousness

15What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

20When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.



“People Need the Lord” and isn’t that the truth — because left on our own, we are, as Paul says, slaves to sin.  Ray Boltz sings.

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Joe McKeever cartoon:   sin.     http://joemckeever.com/wp/46-cartoons-for-the-study-of-romans-updated/
We were therefore buried . . .     http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_SXtbnacO83k/TRTohrecN7I/AAAAAAAAABY/aRRPOLzS3xg/s1600/romans6_4.jpg
dead to sin.    http://www.sermoncentral.com/OptimizedImages/S/i/SinDeadTo_slide1x_365_y_273.jpg
grace.    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_T-UvtpeOsrw/TQFCV5WyRGI/AAAAAAAAARE/tJ-ooEjo6lQ/s1600/graceshinybinary.jpg
the wages of sin.   http://www.inspire21.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/lightbox/wagesofsin.jpg

910.) Romans 5

October 26, 2012

Romans 5   (NRSV)

Results of Justification

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

In this letter the apostle speaks as one who is extremely happy and full of joy.  In the entire Scripture there is scarcely another text like this chapter, scarcely one so expressive.  For he describes the grace and mercy of God in the clearest possible manner, telling us what it is like and how great it is for us.

Note how he begins, placing this spiritual peace with God only after righteousness has preceded it.  For first he says, “since we have been justified through faith,” and then, “we have peace.”  But the perversity of men seeks peace before righteousness, and for this reason they do not find peace.  Thus the apostle creates a very fine antithesis in these words, namely,

  • The righteous man has peace with God but affliction in the world, because he lives in the Spirit.
  • The unrighteous man has peace with the world but affliction and tribulation with God, because he lives in the flesh.
  • But as the Spirit is eternal, so also will be the peace of the righteous man and the tribulation of the unrighteous.
  • And as the flesh is temporal, so will be the tribulation of the righteous and the peace of the unrighteous.

–Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans

3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

This is a golden chain of Christian growth and maturity. One virtue builds upon another as we grow in the pattern of Jesus.

Most every Christian wants to develop character and have more hope. These qualities spring out of perseverance, which comes through tribulation.  I would rather have God just sprinkle perseverance and character and hope on me as I sleep. I could wake up a much better Christian! But that isn’t God’s plan for me or for any Christian.

Therefore — soberly, reverently — we say about tribulation, “Lord, bring it on. I know you love me and carefully measure every trial and have a loving purpose to accomplish in every tribulation. Lord, I won’t seek trials and search out tribulation, but I won’t despise them or lose hope when they come. I trust Your love in everything You allow.”

–David Guzik

6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.



The Oslo Gospel Choir and “The Power of Your Love.”


Adam and Christ

12Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 13sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV)  

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

15But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:7  (ESV) 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

18Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

“Grace reigns!”

–John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Joe McKeever cartoon:  loved me.    http://www.joemckeever.com/mt/archives/000744.html
suffering – endurance – character – hope.   http://billy-adams.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Rom5.3-4-Lock.jpg
Adam and Eve.   http://www.templeton-cambridge.org/lib/img/articles/FPF631~Adam-and-Eve-Posters.jpg
Jesus on the cross.   http://southernmyinternet.catholic.edu.au/curriculum/re/workbook/graphics/jesus_cross.GIF

909.) Romans 4

October 25, 2012

“Abraham, pater multarem gentium (Abraham, father of many nations”) by Salvador Dali, 1964.

Romans 4   (NRSV)

The Example of Abraham

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 4Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7“Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.”

Salvation comes not through works, but through grace.

9Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” 10How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, 12and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.

Salvation comes not through human works, like circumcision, but through God’s grace which produces faith.

God’s Promise Realized through Faith

13For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

Salvation comes not through law, because we are unable to keep the law.

16For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) —in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Salvation comes not because a person is a physical descendant of Abraham through Isaac, but because all who believe are spiritual descendants of Abraham and share his faith in God.

18Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

Salvation comes not through our abilities, for like Abraham, our abilities may be weak or fail.  But God is able to fulfill all that is needed.  If God could call the dead womb of Sarah to life, he can call those who are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) to new life in Jesus.

23Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Psalm 27:1   (ESV)  

The Lord is my light and my salvation.



The sounds of the shofar lead us as we praise the “Lord God of Abraham” with Paul Wilbur.

Lord God of Abraham
Isaac and Israel
Let it be known today that You are God
We ofter up our lives
As a living sacrifice
Purify us with Your holy fire
Holy fire…
You are the holy One
Highly exalted One
We’ve come to worship at
Your holy hill
You are the holy One
Highly exalted One
And we surrender to
Your sovereign will

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Dali.    http://www.store.baterbys.com/salvador-dali/388-salvador-dali-abraham-pater-multarum-gentium.html

908.) Romans 3

October 24, 2012

Romans 3   (NRSV)

John Calvin said of Romans, “When any one understands this Epistle, he has a passage opened to him to the understanding of the whole Scripture.”

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4By no means!

Deuteronomy 7:9  (NIV)

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.

Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written, “So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.” 5But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)

Paul was familiar with the line of thinking that says, “God is in control of everything. Even my evil will ultimately demonstrate His righteousness. Therefore God is unjust if He inflicts His wrath on me, because I’m just a pawn in His hand.”

In theory, the most dramatic example of someone who might ask this question is Judas. Can you hear Judas make his case? “Lord, I know that I betrayed Jesus, but You used it for good. In fact, if I hadn’t done what I did, Jesus wouldn’t have gone to the cross at all. What I did even fulfilled the Scriptures. How can You judge me at all?” The answer to Judas might go like this: “Yes, God used your wickedness but it was still your wickedness. There was no good or pure motive in your heart at all. It is no credit to you that God brought good out of your evil. You stand guilty before God.”

–David Guzik

6By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved!

None Is Righteous

Warren Wiersbe calls this passage “An X-ray study of the lost sinner, from head to foot.”

9What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10as it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; 11there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. 12All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.” 13“Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of vipers is under their lips.” 14“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15“Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16ruin and misery are in their paths, 17and the way of peace they have not known.” 18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

“There is no man so good, who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions to the laws, would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.”

–Michel de Montaigne, “On the Art of Conversation”

19Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.

I like J.B. Phillip’s paraphrase of this phrase: It is the straight-edge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are.

Righteousness through Faith

21But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.

27Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.

But the devil, that master of a thousand tricks, lays traps for us with marvelous cleverness.  He leads some astray by getting them involved in open sins.  Others, who think themselves righteous, he brings to a stop, makes them lukewarm.  A third group he seduces into superstitions and ascetic sects, so that, for example, they do not at all grow cold but feverishly engage in works, setting themselves apart from the others, whom they despise in their pride and disdain.  A fourth class of people he urges on with ridiculous labor to the point where they try to be completely pure and holy, without any taint of sin.

He senses the weakness of each individual and attacks him in this area.  And because these four classes of people are so fervent for righteousness, it is not easy to persuade them to the contrary.  Thus he begins by helping them to achieve their goal, so that they become overanxious to rid themselves of every evil desire.  When they cannot accomplish this, he causes them to become sad, dejected, wavering, hopeless, and unsettled in their consciences.

Then it only remains for us to stay in our sins and to cry in hope of the mercy of God that He would deliver us from them.  Just as the patient who is too anxious to recover can surely have a serious relapse, we must also be healed gradually and for a while put up with certain weaknesses.  For it is sufficient that our sin displeases us, even though we do not get entirely rid of it.  For Christ carries all sins, if only they are displeasing to us, and thus they are no longer ours but His, and His righteousness in turn is ours.

–Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans

29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.



The old gospel song “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross” done by Neville Peter.  Born on the island of St. Thomas in 1972, Neville went blind from glaucoma at age 12.  He started playing piano at age 14 and moved to the USA to do his Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Music and Vocal Jazz at the University of Miami.  He had a promising career going in the clubs, and Gladys Knight asked him to tour with her.  But in 1998, God called him out of the world; from that time on, he has been full time in Christian music.

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Joe McKeever cartoon — sinner.   http://joemckeever.com/wp/46-cartoons-for-the-study-of-romans-updated/#more-778
God is faithful.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/48-god-is-faithful.jpg
X-ray.    http://img.timeinc.net/time/photoessays/2008/xray/parent_xray.jpg
justified.    http://missionventureministries.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/justified-e.jpg

907.) Romans 2

October 23, 2012

Romans 2   (NRSV)

“Romans:  the cathedral of the Christian faith.”

–Frederic Godet

The Righteous Judgement of God

Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

“It seems to me that every morning when a man wakes up still impenitent, and finds himself out of hell, the sunlight seems to say, ‘I shine on thee yet another day, as that in this day thou mayest repent.’  When your bed receives you at night I think it seems to say, ‘I will give you another night’s rest, that you may live to turn from your sins and trust in Jesus.’  Every mouthful of bread that comes to the table says, ‘I have to support your body that still you may have space for repentance.’  Every time you open the Bible the pages say, ‘We speak with you that you may repent.’  Every time you hear a sermon, if it be such a sermon as God would have us preach, it pleads with you to turn unto the Lord and live.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

5But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11For God shows no partiality.

Daniel 9:14 (NIV)  

The Lord our God is righteous in everything he does.

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children in the world,
Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in his sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

12All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.

The Jews and the Law

Just today I read this headline:  Transcript:  Pro-life Congressman Urged Mistress to Get Abortion.

And I thought, “If my life were put under scrutiny, I would be found to be a hypocrite, too.”  How grateful we are that God graciously forgives us and patiently leads us into the light!

17But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God 18and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, 19and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, 21you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.



Oh, that my encounters with the Spirit of God and his truth will have a long-lasting effect on my heart!  Lead me to glorify your name every day in my thoughts, words, and deeds.  “I Will Never Be”  by Geoff Bullock.

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Joe McKeever:  no partiality.   http://joemckeever.com/wp/46-cartoons-for-the-study-of-romans-updated/
Repent.   http://www.catholicbishops.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Repent-and-Believe-cover.jpg
all the children of the world.   http://rlv.zcache.com/all_the_children_of_the_world_2_mousepad-p144162070234998321envq7_400.jpg
skeletons.    http://media-cache-ec3.pinterest.com/upload/86905467779892778_NMTEqgfE_c.jpg

906.) Romans 1

October 22, 2012

Romans 1   (NRSV)

Romans has always stood at the head of Paul’s letters, and rightly so.  Since Acts ends with Paul’s arrival in Rome, it is logical to have the Epistle section of the New Testament begin with the apostle’s letter to the Roman church, written before he visited the Christians there.  More decisively, Romans is the most important book theologically in the whole New Testament, being as close to a systematic theology as will be found in God’s word.

–William MacDonald


Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, 6including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above.

7To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world.

This is the Christian and true way of praising people — not to praise people for their own sake but to praise God in them first and foremost and to attribute everything to Him, as Isaiah 43:21 says:  “This people have I formed for Myself, they shall show forth My praise.”

Then the apostle shows that God is not praised except through Christ.  As we receive everything from God through Him so we must return everything to God through Him since He alone is worthy to appear before the face of God and to carry on His priestly office for us, as in Hebrews 13:15:  “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruits of lips that acknowledge His name.”

Therefore, he praises God through Christ for these people.  While it is characteristic of envy to be sad about a neighbor’s good gifts and to curse them, here we see love.  For it is the nature of love that it rejoices in the good gifts of the neighbor, especially his spiritual gifts, and glorifies God in them.

–Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans

9For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, 10asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you.

Before our Father’s throne
we pour our ardent prayers;
our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
our comforts and our cares.

11For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

We share each other’s woes,
our mutual burdens bear;
and often for each other flows
the sympathizing tear.

13I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. 14I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish 15—hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

The Power of the Gospel

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”

. . . which may also be understood, “the justified-by-faith ones shall live.”



What wonderful words!  HERE  is Rich Mullins singing them.


In August of 1513, a monk lectured on the book of Psalms in a seminary, but his inner life was nothing but turmoil.  In his studies, he came across Psalm 31:1:  In Thy righteousness deliver me.  The passage confused him; how could God’s righteousness do anything but condemn him to Hell as a righteous punishment for his sins?  Luther kept thinking about Romans 1:17, which says that in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live” (Habakkuk 2:4). 

The monk went on to say: “Night and day I pondered until . . . I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith.  Therefore I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise . . .  This passage of Paul became to me a gateway into heaven.”  Martin Luther was born again, and the reformation began in his heart.

–David Guzik

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.

The Guilt of Humankind

19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

2 Kings 17:15   (NIV)

They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.

24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.

Galatians 5:19-23  (NIV)

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Joe McKeever cartoon – Turgenev.   http://joemckeever.com/wp/46-cartoons-for-the-study-of-romans-updated/
I am not ashamed.    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-84PbOLTUZ-E/UBG79OvoqTI/AAAAAAAAARw/ODTG6vovVas/s1600/romans-1_16.jpeg
Luther.   http://www.covenanter.org/Luther/luther.jpg
without excuse.   http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_keJMX8YilHc/TUJPqUo385I/AAAAAAAAAI4/odM7VED_fSc/s1600/Romans1-20.jpg
fruit of the Spirit.    http://loldenver.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/fruits-of-the-spirit.jpg

905.) Psalm 108

October 19, 2012

Lake Superior at Dawn, photograph by Gary Colvard. “Morning by morning new mercies I see.”

Psalm 108   (ESV)

With God We Shall Do Valiantly

A Song. A Psalm of David.

My heart is steadfast, O God!
I will sing and make melody with all my being!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

For thy mercy is great above the heavens, and therefore there must be no limit of time, or place, or people, when that mercy is to be extolled. As the heavens over arch the whole earth, and from above mercy pours down upon men, so shalt thou be praised everywhere beneath the sky. Mercy is greater than the mountains, though they pierce the clouds; earth cannot hold it all, it is so vast, so boundless, so exceeding high that the heavens themselves are over topped thereby.

And thy truth teacheth unto the clouds. As far as we can see we behold thy truth and faithfulness, and there is much beyond which lies shrouded in cloud, but we are sure that it is all mercy, though it be far above and out of our sight. Therefore shall the song be lifted high and the psalm shall peal forth without stint of far resounding music. Here is ample space for the loudest chorus, and a subject which deserves thunders of praise.

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

1 Kings 8:27   (NIV)

The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you.

That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer me!

God has promised in his holiness:
“With exultation I will divide up Shechem
and portion out the Valley of Succoth.

God claims all of Israel as his, and he knows the future of each nation.  Do things in our world sometimes seem out of control?  Let us remember that God has the whole world in his hands, and his purposes will ultimately be fulfilled!  So — no need for us to be anxious or afraid; God is in control!

These two places (Shechem and the Valley of Succoth) are associated with Jacob in Genesis 33:17-20 as the first two places the patriarch occupied after returning from his encounter with Esau.  They are on opposite sides of the Jordan River.

Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine;

Both of these areas are located, at least in part, east of the Jordan River.

Ephraim is my helmet,
Judah my scepter.

The two most powerful tribes in Israel.  They were frequently rivals, but here they are united as parts of God’s army.

Moab is my washbasin;
upon Edom I cast my shoe;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.”

These are nearby hostile nations.

10 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
11 Have you not rejected us, O God?
You do not go out, O God, with our armies.
12 Oh grant us help against the foe,
for vain is the salvation of man!
13 With God we shall do valiantly;
it is he who will tread down our foes.

He who would valiant be ’gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.

Who so beset him round with dismal stories
Do but themselves confound—his strength the more is.
No foes shall stay his might; though he with giants fight,
He will make good his right to be a pilgrim.

Since, Lord, Thou dost defend us with Thy Spirit,
We know we at the end, shall life inherit.
Then fancies flee away! I’ll fear not what men say,
I’ll labor night and day to be a pilgrim.

–John Bunyan (written dur­ing his 12-year pri­son sent­ence for re­fus­ing to con­form to the of­fi­cial state church)



I am thinking “harp and lyre” from verse 2.  So here is a favorite hymn on the harp — “Be Thou My Vision,” performed by Regina Ederveen.


English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
Colvard.    http://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium/lake-superior-at-dawn-gary-colvard.jpg
plane in the clouds.    http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/tm/2008/12/05/plane_sky_428x269_to_468x312.jpg
Earth from space with stars.    http://www.toadhaven.com/images/USFromSpaceWithStars1024.jpg
God is in control.   http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-uO2nvDDv6_w/TsCN5El-fQI/AAAAAAAAIls/U1Yci8XMtQ8/s1600/god-is-in-control_t_nv1.jpg
follow Christ.   http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2542/4162619769_034e6ce31e.jpg

904.) Hosea 14

October 18, 2012

Hosea 14   (NIV)

Repentance to Bring Blessing

Return, Israel, to the Lord your God.
Your sins have been your downfall!
Take words with you
and return to the Lord.
Say to him:
“Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
that we may offer the fruit of our lips.

Hebrews 13:15   (NIV)

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

Assyria cannot save us;
we will not mount warhorses.
We will never again say ‘Our gods’
to what our own hands have made,
for in you the fatherless find compassion.”

“I will heal their waywardness
and love them freely,
for my anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
he will blossom like a lily.

Like a cedar of Lebanon
he will send down his roots;

    his young shoots will grow.
His splendor will be like an olive tree,

his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
People will dwell again in his shade;
they will flourish like the grain,

they will blossom like the vine
Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.

Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
I will answer him and care for him.
I am like a flourishing juniper;

your fruitfulness comes from me.”

Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
Who is discerning? Let them understand.
The ways of the Lord are right;
the righteous walk in them,
but the rebellious stumble in them.

THE END of the book of Hosea.

What did the reading of Hosea say to you?  Please share your thoughts with our ever growing readership — just hit REPLY below!



Oh, so clearly we have heard the Lord calling us back to relationship with himself!  Lord, we hear your voice, and we turn our hearts to you.  Thank you for loving us the everlasting way that you do!

“Come Back to Me”  sung by John Michael Talbot.  (We heard a different arrangement of this same song for Hosea 2.)   Click  HERE  to listen.


New International Version (NIV)   Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Images courtesy of:
I will be like the dew . . .    http://dschondog.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/hosea145.jpg?w=593&h=444
lilies.   http://img4-3.sunset.timeinc.net/i/2007/01/lilies-redalert-m-m.jpg?300:300
cedar of Lebanon.   http://tycm.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/lebanon-cedar-tree1.jpg
olive trees.    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b2/Olive_trees_on_Thassos.JPG/300px-Olive_trees_on_Thassos.JPG
barley field.   http://brinkministries.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/barley.jpg
grape vine.   http://img.ehowcdn.com/article-new/ehow/images/a05/0i/ft/fast-do-grape-vines-grow-800×800.jpg
juniper.   http://www.bio.brandeis.edu/fieldbio/medicinal_plants/images/juniper_branch_full.jpg
God’s way.    http://images.sharefaith.com/images/3/1348590380376_3/slide-02.jpg