Sunday 12th May

Read Psalm 56

If you don’t have a bible at home you can find the readings on a website such as or an app such as YouVersion

The heading to this Psalm speaks of the time when David fled to Gath in fear after he had been found by Doeg in 1 Samuel 21:10-15.  He was on his own and scared. He begins, “Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit”. 

Our enemies might not be thugs at the street corner but could be fears for the next days work,  hidden anxieties that trouble us, sudden panics that grip us.  David always has words for those situations and, as he opens his heart to us, we are given the privilege of listening in to his life with God.  When we are in panicky situations we are apt not to turn to God but to be bundled up within ourselves allowing the anxieties to grow.  David knows of this, but that is not how he deals with it.  He says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (v3).  It is not as though he pretends his feelings don’t exist, on the contrary he prays, “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll are they not in your record”, but he is saying, ‘Yes, they are there – but so are you, God’. 

Probably the core verse of this Psalm is 11 where he says “in God I trust and am not afraid. 
What can man do to me?”  That’s a good verse to commit to memory and say at the start of every fearful day. 


Monday Romans 12:1-2 

In view of all that Paul has said in the first 11 chapters of Romans he turns to the proper response saying, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (v1).  Why does he say ‘your bodies’?  Our bodies are our interface with the world of creation round about; we may think things or feel things but our bodies are the way we interface or express ourselves among our fellows and in the world.  The apostle is now going to teach how his Roman hearers should be behaving. 

Imagine you are standing at the side of a game of football or rugby and your side scores, what will be your response?  If you stand stock still doing nothing people around will wonder if you have any involvement in the team at all.  You are surely not going to stand there with your thoughts and no expression; well such is the case with the gospel.   Paul has been expanding that gospel through the first eleven chapters, and these verses are the proper response. 

There is a new pattern to shape yourself to – “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will” (v2).  If you follow the patterns of this world you won’t be properly responding to the goodness of God in Christ instead you need to be transformed, the Greek word is metamorphose which is what we use when speaking about such things as caterpillars changing inside their chrysalis.  The caterpillar’s form is changed to become a butterfly.  The Christian believer realises that he or she has had an inner change happen to them through faith in Christ, they have received his Spirit and their internal reality now is that they are a child of God, (“to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12-13).  In such a condition therefore they need to break out of the chrysalis of this world and show themselves as new creatures. “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old things have passed away behold all things are new” (2 Cor 5:17) 

Tuesday Romans 12:3-21 

Verse 3 is a word for everyone – “Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought” !  Being ‘in Christ’, as the believer is, means no longer to think out of a centre in yourself but in Christ and in spelling this out Paul goes to the picture of a body.  Bodies consist of many parts or members but all belong in the one body and similarly, believers, who come in different varieties and with different gifts, all belong in the body of Christ.  Whatever they are, they must use their gifts in the service of the body. 

All the teaching of this chapter is about living out of a centre in Christ, doing what he would do, thinking what he would think.  He begins with love which must be sincere and out of which all the other virtues spring. 

From v14 he reflects the teaching of Jesus by saying “Bless those who persecute you” and that shows what the transformation of the inner life is all about because the natural person does not do that but tends towards anger with vengeful thoughts against those who annoy and do them harm. 

The whole chapter needs no commentary for it is completely explanatory, it is the plan for what the Christian life is like.  Mark Twain said once, “its not the things in the Bible I don’t understand that trouble me, it is the things that I do understand”.  Exactly, all these things need honed and shaped, polished up, made better each day.   John Newton the slave ship captain who was converted and became a famous preacher (and author of “Amazing Grace”) said, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am”.  Romans 12 is the training manual for all ‘John Newtons’. 

Wednesday Romans 13:1-7 

This is a chapter that causes many modern day democratic Westerners to baulk at what the Apostle is saying.  We need to slow down and carefully look at what is being said and so let’s begin with v1.  “There is no authority except that which God has established” – this doesn’t mean that every authority is God blessed.  Paul has said in chapter nine (9:13) that God raised up Pharoah at the time of the Exodus, but Pharoah was not a good or Godly ruler: in the time of Jesus birth Herod the Great was a vile and bloodthirsty man: in Paul’s time the Roman rulers such as Nero were not  gentle helpers to the Christian community. 

Though rulers are raised and hold their power under God, sometimes it can be not to bless but to bring judgement upon a people and Christian people have to sit under such ill rulers with others.  Yes, as Peter said to the Chief Priests, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), when faced with a plain rule against God, but that is not the norm and in those circumstances obedience is the way to go.  Armed rebellion against ruling authorities is never encouraged in scripture; if resistance is required, the pattern is to do so openly and receive the penalty applied – Jesus way was that.   As we saw in the last chapter, ” Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (12:19).  The closing taxes issue in v6&7 was dealt with by Jesus when his opponents came asking whether the Jews should pay taxes to the ungodly conquering Romans. 

Thursday Romans 13:8-14 

Having spoken of taxes and respect to those to whom they were due, Paul picks up the theme of things due and applies it to love of neighbours, saying that whoever loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law (v8).  To those who wanted to make much of the law he says that love is about doing no harm to a neighbour and that is the fulfilment of the law (v10). 

Having started, after his great exposition of the gospel in earlier chapters, with ‘therefore’ in 12:1 and seeking to tell them what their response should be, he tells them now to bear in mind that their salvation (i.e. the end of time with the return of Christ) is nearer now than when they first believed.  He wants to stir them to do the deeds that befit children of God and not to wait any longer. He uses the metaphor of waking from sleep as what coming to faith in Christ is all about.  The fairy story, ‘Sleeping beauty’, is shot through with that gospel theme – Beauty eats the poisoned apple from the wicked witch and falls into her long sleep until the Prince comes along waking her with a kiss to live happily ever after with him.  He tells his readers to wake to their new life.  Living it means to put aside the deeds of the past darkness and behave decently as in the new daytime in Christ (v13).  The theme continues in v14 with getting dressed in the new clothes which come from Christ and not to think about the old dirty stuff which came from the past. 

Friday Romans 14:1-12 

In Chapter 14 the apostle turns to family life in the Church and how each other behaves.  He begins with accepting the one who is weak in faith, not quarrelling over disputed matters.  Food laws had been embedded in Jewish life for generations but now that the Church consisted of people of different religious histories and traditions, people found that how they viewed things was different.  The example Paul gives was that some were vegetarians whilst others were not (he could have expanded to say that Jews didn’t eat pork whereas others would and so on).   We know that Jesus ruled that the food laws were not things which made for righteousness – “Do you not understand? Nothing that enters a man from the outside can defile him, because it does not enter his heart, but it goes into the stomach and then is eliminated.” (Thus all foods are clean.) (Mark 7:18,19).  However taboos stick hard and it would be difficult for some to give up long held practices and Paul just says they must accept the weaker brother and not cause disputations. 

This practice has wide ranging applications within the Church where we must ask, is this thing that we don’t like of the essence of faith or just a particular quirk of one or the other?  The Church in the past spoke of things being of the esse or the bene esse of the Church.  Things which were of the esse were essential to the existence of the Church (e.g. faith in Jesus Christ), the bene esse were things which might be for the good or well-being of the Church but didn’t constitute the essence of the Church.  When we were in England and worshipped in the Church of England communion had to be with fermented wine and in a common cup unlike our Church of Scotland tradition.  There are many lesser things – what kind of hymns we sing, what we wear, what Bible translations we use etc – that can constitute fruitful ground for arguments and disagreements.  We need to be careful though that we don’t mix up those things which really belong to the essence of the Church and those things which don’t.  In Acts 15 a council was called in Jerusalem to give a ruling on whether new Christians from Gentile backgrounds needed to be circumcised and become Jews.  The answer was a firm No.   

Saturday Romans 14:13-15:2 

Paul continues with the theme of the weaker brother and each person having to give an account for themselves before God not for each other.  However he adds something else.  What if someone who had no qualms about his diet and would eat anything found himself in company with a weaker vegetarian brother who would think that wasn’t right?  What would he do?  Well, he could stand on his freedom and declare to his weaker brother that this was the way to live, but that’s not what Paul said he should consider.   He says, “If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love” (v15).  In other words, don’t barge ahead insisting on what you know to be true but rather allow your weaker brother space.  He may change in time but give him that time, in other words, love him. 

Paul says that it would be wrong for a person to eat anything that would cause his brother to stumble (v20) and goes on to say it would be wrong to do anything that would cause one’s brother or sister to stumble.  So much for ‘standing on one’s rights’, that is not something that belongs in the Christian Church, instead one should, “please our neighbours for their good, to build them up” (15:2).