Salt, Light and Cities on Hills (Book Review)

"Salt, Light and Cities on Hills: Evangelism, Social Action and the Church -- How Do They Relate to Each Other?" by Melvin Tucker succinctly addresses the two sides, two expressions, two manifestations, or two applications of the gospel: evangelism and social action. Historically, churches have generally emphasized or predominantly practiced one side, often at the expense of the other by minimizing or neglecting its importance.

Though this is a rather broad generalization, so-called "conservative" churches incline toward evangelism, while so-called "liberal" churches incline toward social action. Churches that emphasize preaching and the importance of Scripture and the Bible (generally traditional conservative churches) incline toward evangelism, while churches that emphasize living out one's faith (generally emergent or liberal churches) incline toward social action. Thus, there tends to be discipleship churches and activist churches. Yet, as Tucker repeatedly points out--using history and exegesis of various biblical texts--the church should be doing both.

Slandered, Opposed and Attacked (Psalm 7)

Psalm 7:1-17; 8

"The Lord judges the peoples; vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness and my integrity" (Ps 7:8, HCSB).

What do you do when you feel misunderstood, maligned and marginalized? Psalm 7 is a lament, petition and prayer by an innocent person who was slandered, opposed and attacked by those who wanted to discredit and dishonor him. Psalm 7 is titled by three different commentaries as follows:
  1. A Cry for Justice (Ps 7:8-10). [Derek Kidner]
  2. The Blessing of a Good Conscience (Ps 7:3-5, 9-10). [Alec Motyer]
  3. Surviving Slander (Ps 7:1-2, 6, 14; 4:2; 5:6, 9). [George Zemek]
Justice. David's primary concerns and motivations were not just for his own personal vindication, but for universal justice before a Righteous Judge who examines each person's thoughts and emotions (Ps 7:8-10).

Conscience. Despite being slandered, opposed and attacked, David checked his conscience before God (Ps 7:3-5), instead of retaliating with the spirit of vengeance and revenge.


Only Ending the Old Way Produces a New Way

Yearning for a new way will not produce it. Only ending the old way can do that.

You cannot hold onto the old all the while declaring that you want something new.

The old will defy the new; the old will deny the new; the old will decry the new.

There is only one way to bring in the new. You must make room for it.


The Deceptiveness of Sacrifice

Jesus sacrificed himself for us. So we Christians often think that we ourselves should sacrifice, and that others better sacrifice like us! But such thoughts, as well intentioned as they may be, block our path to truly seeing the way to life because of the deceptiveness of our own selves (Jer 17:9). The following quotes are by Richard Rohr in his excellent book, Immortal Diamond, from chapter 2, What is the "False Self"?:

"Sacrifice" usually leads to a well-hidden sense of entitlement and perpetuates the vicious circle of merit, a mind-set that leads most of us to assume that we are more deserving than others because of what we have given or done.

When you sacrifice, you always "deserve." Sacrifice, much more than we care to admit, creates entitlement, a "you-owe-me" attitude, and a well-hidden sense of superiority.

Jesus knew that most notions of sacrifice ... are almost always manipulated and misused by people, most institutions, and warring nations.

Jesus was criticized because he was not ascetic like John the Baptist (Mk 2:18)... Ascetic practices (and various forms of self-sacrifice) have far too much social and ego payoff, which is why Jesus advised against anything pious or generous being done publicly (Mt 6:1-4, 16-18): "Don't even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing," he says. External religion is also dangerous religion.

Jesus, along with Buddha, had a much more foundational death to walk us through than mere personal heroics or public grandstanding. They point to an eventual and essential "renouncing" of the False Self, which will always be the essential death. It is at the heart of the spiritual journey.


Barely Able To Pray (Psalm 6)

Psalm 6:1-10, 2-3a

"Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony" (Ps 6:2, NLT). "...my whole being is shaken with terror" (Ps 6:3a, HCSB). "...my soul is in deep anguish" (Ps 6:3a, NIV).
From reading several different commentaries on Psalm 6, for some reason numerous (similar and different) titles for this sermon came to my mind that all seemed proper and appropriate to this psalm:
  • Crying in Helplessness.
  • Praying in Weakness.
  • Grieving Prayer.
  • Agonizing Prayer.
  • A Troubled Conscience.
  • Feeling Helpless and Hopeless.
  • Shaken by Weakness.
  • Broken and Shaken.
  • Overwhelmed, Yet Triumphant.
  • From Defeat to Defiance.
  • From Desperate Need to Great Assurance.
  • From Depression to Elation.


Joy Among Liars (Psalm 5)

Psalm 5:1-12; 11

"But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy" (Ps 5:11, NLT).

Cry out to God in your distress. Psalm 5 is a lament and a prayer petitioning the Lord in the midst of distress. Why was the psalmist distressed? The psalmist's distress is caused by liars and deceitful speech. However, the psalmist also expresses trust and finding refuge in the Lord's protection.

Lies hurt. The devil is the father of lies (Jn 8:44). The destiny of all liars is the second death (Rev 21:8). James understood how destructive lying words can be (Jas 3:5-6). We have all experienced that when lies are spread about you, it wounds, disheartens and devastates you. David experienced devastating lies said about him (Ps 4:2; 5:6, 9). If he allowed the words of liars to get to him he would become bitter and crushed. He would have retaliated in anger and rage. But when he took refuge in the Lord, he found joy amidst the scathing lies (Ps 5:11).


Peace Amidst Discouragment (Psalm 4)

Psalm 4:1-8, 7-8

"You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe" (Ps 4:7-8, NLT).

From Psalms we learn about the manifold emotional life of the psalmist, who is a believer and a person who has faith in God. So far, the following were considered:
  1. The Happy (Ps 1:2): A happy person knows how to live and what to think about (Ps 1:1-2).
  2. The Sovereign (Ps 2:6): The sovereign God rules despite the constant opposition from the rulers of the world (Ps 2:1-3).
  3. The Confident (Ps 3:6): People who pray are confident and fearless, even when the odds are heavily stacked against them.
In Psalm 4, we consider The Peaceful. We learn how the psalmist experienced peace and joy in the midst of different types of discouraging people. Consider this psalm in two parts:


Fearless Before Many Adversaries (Psalm 3)

Psalm 3:1-8; 6

"I am not afraid of the thousands of people who have taken their stand against me on every side" (Ps 3:6, HCSB).
  • Do you feel confident when the odds are stacked against you?
  • Do you live with no fear or anxiety in your heart when you are uncertain about your future?
  • Can you sleep peacefully when there are troubles all about you?
Outline of Psalm 3
Despondency: What he knows
Complaint: Many enemies
Dependency: What he does
Confession: God is my shield
Deliverance: What he experiences
Consolation: Sleep & confidence


God's King Rules (Psalm 2)

Psalm 2:1-12; 6a

"I have installed my king..." (Ps 2:6, NIV). For the Lord declares, "I have placed my chosen king on the throne...." (Ps 2:6, NLT).

From Psalm 1, we learn the "secret" of happiness, which is really no secret at all, since it is self-evident and freely accessible to anyone and everyone. For anyone to be happy, we simply need to be prayerful and watchful about how we live (Ps 1:1)--who we hang out with (including on the internet), and what we entertain and desire in our hearts (Ps 1:2)--what we delight in and meditate on, which God sees and knows (1 Sam 16:7).

In Psalm 2, the psalmist declares, "God's King Rules!" God's king will rule, regardless if the kings and nations of the world oppose and rebel against Him. A longer title would be "The world rebels, yet God's King still rules." The four natural parts of Psalm 2, each with three verses, are:


The Secret of Happiness (Psalm 1)

Psalm 1:1-6; 2

"Instead, his delight is in the Lord's instruction, and he meditates on it day and night" (Ps 1:2, HCSB). "But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night" (Ps 1:2, NLT).

(Alternate titles: Happiness. True Happiness. True Blessedness. The Blessed Life. A Truly Happy Person. A Truly Happy Man. Gateway to Happiness. Two Ways to Live. What Do You Think About? Prosperity as a Problem.)

A theme for each year. Happy New Year. At the end of 2014 I reviewed our six year story at West Loop, 2008-2014. Over the last few years, I chose a yearly theme for West Loop: gospel, grace, sanctification, the whole council of God, remembrance. For 2015 the theme is faith: "The righteous by faith will live" (Rom 1:17c). We do not become righteous by living by faith, but because we are righteous by faith in what Jesus has done for us, we live confidently with our heads held high.


Gospel Blessedness (Romans 5:1-11)

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 5:1, NIV). "Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us" (Rom 5:1, NLT).

"In the whole Bible there is hardly another chapter which can equal this triumphant text." Martin Luther.

So far in Romans, Paul writes convincingly that the only way of salvation is to be justified by grace, through faith. Now in Romans 5, Paul tells us what the practical benefits of this are.

Gospel fruits or blessings are:
  1. Peace with God (1).
  2. Standing in grace (2a).
  3. Rejoice in hope (2b).
  4. Rejoice in suffering (3-8).
  5. Saved through Christ (9-10).
  6. Rejoice in God (11).
Benefits of Being Justified Through Faith: Study Guide for Romans 5. David Guzik.


Dualistic Thinking

In Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation, Franciscan monk and national bestselling author Richard Rohr writes:

Dualistic thinking is operative almost all of the time. It is when you choose one side, or temperamentally prefer one side, and then call the side of the equation false, wrong, heresy, or untrue. It is often something to which you have not yet been exposed, or it threatens you or your ego in a way, or is beyond your education. The dualistic mind splits the moment and forbids the dark side, the mysterious, the paradoxical. This is the common level of conversation that we have in the world. Basically, it lacks humility and patience, and it is the opposite of contemplation.


Martin Luther and Pope Francis' Articulation of the Gospel, the Kerygma

Both Martin Luther and Pope Francis understand the need of all people to hear the gospel, not just initially for our salvation, but repeatedly, in all ways and in countless ways throughout our days.
"The law is divine and holy. Let the law have his glory, but yet no law, be it never so divine and holy, ought to teach me that I am justified, and shall live through it. I grant it may teach me that I ought to love God and my neighbour; also to live in chastity, soberness, patience, etc., but it ought not to show me, how I should be delivered from sin, the devil, death, and hell. 
Here I must take counsel of the gospel. I must hearken to the gospel, which teacheth me, not what I ought to do, (for that is the proper office of the law,) but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me : to wit, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel willeth me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth.
Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually."
–Martin Luther, St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians.


Invitation to James: Persevering through Trials to Win the Crown (Review)

Invitation to James: Persevering through Trials to Win the Crown, Biblical Preaching for the Contemporary Church (Wooster, OH: Weaver, 2014), Donald R. Sunukjian.

Biblical Preaching for the Contemporary Church made the Bible come alive. This small book of just 123 pages is not a technical commentary on James, but a very practical pastoral guide through James. Its intention is to help preachers learn how to effectively preach through James. Sunukjian's preaching style--which is slightly edited for the book in order to preserve its oral style--is amicable and relevant to our modern day experiences. His elaborate and interesting introductory stories and illustrations that starts each of the 14 sermons (see list below) make this already practical letter very relevant and relatable to the issues that all of us encounter in life and especially in the church.

A free PDF can be excerpted here.I received a free copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews on behalf of Weaver Book Company.

  1. A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (James 1:1–4)
  2. Knowing What’s Going On (James 1:5–12
  3. Keeping the Trial from Becoming a Temptation (James 1:13–21)
  4. The Mirror (James 1:22–27)
  5. Impartial Love (James 2:1–13)
  6. Living, Loving, Lasting Faith (James 2:14–26)
  7. Tongue in Check (James 3:1–12)
  8. Wise or Otherwise (James 3:13–18)
  9. He Gives More Grace (James 4:1–6)
  10. Not Thy Will but Mine Be Done (James 4:7–12)
  11. Don’t Leave Home without It (James 4:13–17)
  12. Money Talks (James 5:1–6)
  13. The Moment of the Lord’s Mercy (James 5:7–12)
  14. The Prayer of Faith (James 5:13–20)


Gospel Credit (Rom 4:1-25)

Rom 4:1-25; 4:5

"But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited for righteousness" (Rom 4:5, HCSB). "However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness" (Rom 4:5, NIV).

Gospel Credit or Gospel Justification or Salvation is (Romans, by John Stott):
  1. Not by works (1-8).
  2. Not by circumcision (9-12).
  3. Not by law (13-17).
  4. By faith (18-22).
  5. For us (23-25).
I. Justification is Not By Works (1-8)
II. Justification is Not By Circumcision (9-12)
III. Justification is Not By Law (13-17)
IV. Justification is By Faith (18-22)
V. Justification is For Us (23-25)

Salvation or Justification is (Adapted from "The Message of Romans, Leader's Guide" by Tim Keller):
  1. A gift (1-8): Abraham was given, "credited," righteousness, so salvation is a gift, not earned. (How Abraham was saved.)
  2. For all (9-17): Abraham's righteousness came before circumcision and the law, so salvation is for all, not some. (When Abraham was saved.)
  3. For us (18-25): Abraham's faith is a case study for us, so we can truly be his "children." (Why Abraham was saved.)
I. Justification is A Gift (1-8): It is credited (the Greek word is repeated 14 times in 11 verses).

Why did Paul choose Abraham as his main example of justification by faith (Rom 4:1)? John Stott explains: "There seem to have been two reasons for Paul's choosing Abraham as his main example. The first is that he was the founding father of Israel, 'the rock from which [they] were cut', the favoured recipient of God's covenant and promises. The second reason is doubtless that Abraham was held in the highest esteem by the Rabbis as the epitome of righteousness and even the special 'friend' of God. They took it for granted that he had been justified by works of righteousness. For instance, 'Abraham was perfect in all his dealings with the Lord and gained favour by his righteousness throughout his life.' They quoted the Scriptures in which God promised to bless Abraham because he had obeyed him, without observing that these verses referred to Abraham's life of obedience after his justification. They even quoted Genesis 15:6 (Paul's text in this chapter, verse 3), in such a way as to represent Abraham's faith as meaning his fidelity or faithfulness, which was therefore meritorious. For example, 'was not Abraham found faithful in temptation, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness?'" John R. W. Stott,Romans: God's Good News for the World (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1994), 123.

Justification (righteousness, salvation) is credited (λογίζομαι [logizomai] {Rom 4:3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24} is repeated 14 times in 11 verses. "Credit" is an accounting term meaning "to count as." To "credit" something is to confer a status that was not there before. The Jews of the time (including Christians without realizing it) thought that faith = obedience of the law. But Paul argues in several ways in Rom 2:2-4 why saving faith is not that:
  1. To say that faith is credited as righteousness means that faith in itself is not righteousness. Faith could not be an active accomplishment of good deeds. Faith is therefore something that is receptive. Faith is not a "work" that merits anything.
  2. If faith = obedience, then salvation is not a gift. And if it is not a gift, God would be obligated to save us (Rom 2:4). This runs counter to the whole tenor of the Bible.
  3. If faith = obedience, then we who are saved would be able to boast before God and others, for we are the real authors of our salvation. But that is antithetical to the spirit and character of the great patriarch Abraham (Rom 4:1). Paul argues in Rom 4:2. that if Abraham was justified by works, then he had something to boast about. But Paul expresses the impossibility of such a conclusion — but not before God! In other words, the clear falsity of the conclusion shows that the premise (that Abraham was justified by works) is wrong.
  4. If faith = obedience, then the actual object of faith is you yourself and your abilities. It leads to boasting and pride (or to despair and self-hatred). But if faith = trust God's promise to save, then the actual object of faith is God and his ability. That leads to humility and confidence.
Many Jewish commentators find Paul's definition of faith perplexing. One writes: "Faith becomes a zealous obedience in the matter of fulfilling the law… [Paul's position] of absolute opposition between faith, on the one hand, and the law, on the other… has always been unintelligible to the Jewish thinker." (H.J.Shoeps, Paul, London: 1962) This may also be true of Christians who functionally think of faith as obedience to the word of God, when to Paul salvation is by faith apart from obeying the law (Rom 3:28; 4:5).

Abraham wasn't saved by just believing in God. Rom 4:3 says, "Abraham believed God." This is not a general belief in God that saves, but it is believing God when he promises a way of salvation by grace. Saving faith is not faith in God in general. You can have lots and lots of strong faith that God exists, that he is loving, that he is holy. You can believe that the Bible is God's holy word. You can show great reverence for God. Yet all the while you can be seeking to be your own savior and justifier by trusting in our works, our performance in church/religion, performance in moral character, performance as a parent, performance in vocation, etc.

Rom 4:5 scares some Christians because they think that it means Christians don't have to do any work. They are afraid that it will remove all effort and motivation from the Christian life. This is a misunderstanding of what Paul meant. In contrast, to the model of faith = obedience of the law, Paul gives us a model of faith = trust of God's saving provision. In Rom 4:5, Paul says that saving faith consists in (1) the cessation of one kind of trust and (2) the commencement of another kind:
  1. A saved person does not work (Rom 4:5a). This cannot mean that a saved person does not obey the law (Rom 3:31; 6:1-2). It must therefore mean that the saved person no longer trusts in obedience as a way to be saved. A Christian is one who stops working to be saved, not one who stops working!
  2. A saved person trusts God who justifies the wicked (Rom 4:5b). This means a Christian is one who trusts in God as having a way to save apart from our efforts and our obedience to the law.
In Rom 4: 5 "justification" and "credited righteousness" are the same thing. To be "justified" is to receive "credited righteousness." This is what Martin Luther called "passive righteousness" and what theologians call "imputed righteousness."

II. Justification is For All (9-17)

III. Justification is For Us (18-25)

  1. Why Works Won't Work (Rom 3:27-4:12). Keith Krell.
  2. Study Guide for_Romans_4. David Guzik.
  3. Bible Study Questions on Romans. David E. Pratte.
  1. How does Paul's illustration of Abraham in chapter 4 follow chapter 3? Why do you think Paul chose Abraham as the prime illustration of justification by faith and not by works (Rom 4:1-5)?
  2. The word λογίζομαι (logizomai) is repeated 14 times in 11 verses in Romans 4 (Rom 4:3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24). What does this teach about justification, righteousness and salvation? Explain how Abraham's righteousness is due to faith alone and not works (Rom 4:1-5).
  3. Was Abraham saved by believing in God (Rom 4:3)? Is this a general belief in a God that saves us? Why? Why not?
  4. What does Paul mean by saying a Christian is "one who does not work" (Rom 4:5; 3:28)? Does it mean to not obey the law (Rom 3:31; 6:1-2)? How does Paul's definition of faith differ from that of so many churchgoers and religious people?
    • If you were to die tonight and go before God, and he were to say to you, "'Why should I let you into my heaven?' what would you say?"
    • What do you think are the general requirements for admission into heaven? Who gets in and who doesn't?"
  5. Is how God dealing with sin in Rom 4:6-8 different from Rom 4:1-5? How is "God who justifies the wicked" (Rom 4:5) supported by David (Rom 4:6-8; Ps 32:1-2). Explain again "God credits righteousness apart from works." (Rom 4:6).
  6. How does Paul make his case in Rom 4:9-17 that salvation is not just for Jews, but for all?
  7. How Abraham (Rom 4:18-25) illustrate the difference between believing in God, and believing God (Rom 4:3)? How can his example help you strengthen your faith (Rom 4:19-20)? 


Gospel Apart From Law (Rom 3:27-31)

Romans 3:27-31; 3:28

"So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law" (Rom 3:28, NLT). "For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law" (Rom 3:28, NIV).

Only by faith in Christ. In 3:27-4:25, Paul expounds one key element of the great theological thesis of 3:21-26 by concentrating on the vital theme of Rom 3:22, NIV: "This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." Paul uses a series of antithesis to explain the nature and implications of faith as the sole means of salvation/justification. Faith is contrasted with:
  • "works of the law" (Rom 3:28),
  • "works" (Rom 4:1-8),
  • circumcision (Rom 4:1-9),
  • the law (Rom 4:13-16), and
  • "sight" (Rom 4:17-22).
Paul expounds and enunciates what has become a hallmark of the Reformation (sola fide) that "faith alone" is the means by which a person can be brought into relationship with God.

In 3:27-31, Paul asks 4 questions, which can be addressed in 3 parts:
  1. Where is boasting (27-28)?
  2. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too (29-30)?
  3. Do we nullify the law by this faith (31)?
From these questions, we discover how the gospel resolves these issues:
  1. The gospel removes pride from our national, cultural and religious superiority.
  2. The gospel promotes unity by removing racial distinctions and elitism.
  3. The gospel upholds, fulfills and establishes the law, not nullify or cancel it.
  1. What causes boasting (Phil 3:3)? With what results (1 Cor 1:12; 3:4; Gal 5:15)? What excludes boasting (Rom 3:27)? What could Paul boast about (Phil 3:4-6)? Why didn't he (Phil 3:7-8)? What did he boast about (Gal 6:14)?
  2. What does it mean that justification is by faith apart from the works of the law (Rom 3:28; 4:5)?
  3. Why is God the God of both Jews and Gentiles (Rom 3:29-30)?
  4. How does justification by faith uphold the law (Rom 3:21)? How does this refute the charge of antinomianism (Rom 6:1-2, 15)?


Persuasive Preaching

Persuasive Preaching: A Biblical and Practical Guide to the Effective Use of Persuasion by R. Larry Overstreet is a helpful book for preachers, pastors, and ministers of the gospel. It is not an easy read but more like a textbook with much interaction with the Greek. But I enjoyed reading it and found it useful and practical as a bivocational preacher. It prompted me to think seriously about persuasion, and to reassess how I am to preach and teach and communicate Scripture by using persuasion biblically. This book has 4 logical parts moving from issues, need for, theology of, and how to regarding persuasive preaching:
  1. Issues Facing Persuasive Preaching.
  2. Biblical Basis of Persuasive Preaching.
  3. Structuring Persuasive Messages.
  4. Pertinent Applications in Persuasive Preaching.
What is persuasion? "Persuasion aims at change. It may be change of belief, change of attitude, or change of behavior, but change is the goal." Overstreet makes a very strong case for the utmost importance of persuasion in preaching. Preaching that was geared toward some change was the norm in the past. But persuasion in preaching has been replaced by a more reflective and contemplative style of preaching where the congregation may simply feel informed but not feel challenged or motivated by the sermon. Overstreet encourages the return to persuasion in preaching that would lead to positive change in the congregation.


Preaching By Ear

I love this book! I highly recommend it to anyone who teaches or preaches.

As one who began preaching with some regularity only a few years ago I realized rather soon that preparing and writing out a sermon during one's private study in a room is quite different from preaching the sermon before a live audience. The written sermon should be primarily for reading and study, while the preached sermon is for the listening audience, which is live. The author, Dave McClellen, explained this important difference by exploring the art and science of orality from the ancient masters Augustine, Plato, Aristotle and Quintilian. McClellan also explained Preaching by Ear in two introductory videos on youtube: Preach By Ear - What's the problem (2 min) and Preach By Ear - Beginnings (5 min).

Having attended a church for over three decades where the sermon is always read from a written script, I subjectively sensed some limitation without knowing exactly how to explain why. A few years ago, I began experimenting with preaching extemporaneously, and found it to be far more fulfilling and organic for me. McClellan's book helped confirm my suspicions that extemporaneous preaching enables you to connect with your congregation in the moment with unlimited flexibility and vulnerability. On the other hand, reading a prepared script to a live audience is "safer," but more limiting and less able to connect with the audience in the ever changing moment. At least, this was my own experience when I preached by reading from a script with little or hardly any deviation from it.


Theme of Romans: Gospel, Righteousness, Grace

Structure of Romans based on Rom 1:16-17
  1. Theology (1-8): The gospel reveals the righteousness of God.
  2. History (9-11): First for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
  3. Application (12-16): The righteous by faith will live.
"What God has given to us" (1-11) gives way to "what we are to give to God." But what we are to give to God cannot be produced independently of God's continuing gracious provision. It is not simply a transition from "theology" to "practice." It is rather a focus more on the "indicative" side of the gospel to a focus on the "imperative" side of the gospel.
  1. The heart of the gospel (1-4): What the gospel is.
  2. The assurance of the gospel (5-8): What the gospel does.
  3. The spread of the gospel (9-11): Jew first, Gentile next is how the gospel grows.
  4. The transformation of the gospel (12-16): How the gospel works.


The Christmas Promise

The premise of The Christmas Promise is simple and clear: God keeps his promise. This core truth is repeatedly emphasized. This Christmas story begins with a promise. Long ago God made a promise and He kept His promise. We and our children need to know that God is trustworthy. God is worthy of our trust because He keeps His promises. This story illustrates how God can be trusted to keep His word.

The book also explains how God promised to provide a king, a new king, and a rescuing king, and a forever king, who was confirmed by God's special messengers. By following the messengers' instructions, their words always came true. As in Matthew's Gospel, men who followed a bright star on a long journey saw how the message was true. God indeed keeps His promises. We can always trust God, even today. Many pages were illustrated with sketches of kings, both old and modern from around the world: Chinese, English, a Pharaoh, a modern president. Kings have authority and leadership so that this newly born king is someone we can trust and follow without fear.


7 Objections About Christianity

In the first section of Reason for God, titled "The Leap of Doubt," Tim Keller answers seven common critiques and doubts about Christianity:
  1. There can't be just one true religion
  2. A good God could not allow suffering
  3. Christianity is a straitjacket
  4. The church is responsible for so much injustice
  5. A loving God would not send people to hell
  6. Science has disproved Christianity
  7. You can't take the Bible literally

In the second half of the book, titled "The Reasons for Faith," Keller gives seven reasons to believe in the claims of the Christian faith.

  1. The clues of God
  2. The knowledge of God
  3. The problem of sin
  4. Religion and the gospel
  5. The (true) story of the cross
  6. The reality of the resurrection
  7. The Dance of God


100 Pianos Tuned to the Same Fork

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow.

So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become "unity" conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.

Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified. The body becomes stronger as its members become healthier. The whole Church of God gains...


Faith by AW Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Faith is the least self-regarding of the virtues. It is by its very nature scarcely conscious of its own existence.

Like the eye which sees everything in front of it and never sees itself, faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all. While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves--blessed riddance.

The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.


Take One Year to Study Romans

Why study Romans. Should we take up to one year to study Romans slowly and prayerfully and with some depth and detail?
  • Martin Luther called Romans "really the chief part of the NT, and ...truly the purest gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul."
  • John Stott says, "(Romans) is the fullest and grandest statement of the gospel in the NT...a timeless manifesto of freedom through Jesus Christ."
  • John Piper regards Romans as "the greatest letter ever written."
  • Ray Stedman calls Romans "the master key to Scripture." "If you had no other book of the Bible than this, you would find every Christian teaching at least mentioned here. If you really grasp the book of Romans in its total argument you will find yourself at home in any other part of the Scriptures."
  • Douglas Moo, NT scholar, says, "Romans is Paul's summary of the gospel that he preaches. The theme of the letter is the gospel."
  • Countless people have been changed (and changed the world) through Romans: Augustine (386), Martin Luther (1515), John Wesley (1703-91).
  • Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached on Romans for 13 years and John Piper preached through Romans in 8 years.


Absence of Trust Vs. Trusting Teams

Members of Teams with an Absence of Trust:
  • Conceal their weaknesses and mistakes from one another
  • Hesitate to ask for help or provide constructive feedback
  • Hesitate to offer help outside their own areas of responsibility
  • Jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others without attempting to clarify them
  • Fail to recognize and tap into one another's skills and experiences
  • Waste time and energy managing their behaviors for effect
  • Hold grudges
  • Dread meetings and find reasons to avoid spending time together

Members of Trusting Teams:

  • Admit weaknesses and mistakes
  • Ask for help
  • Accept questions and input about their areas of responsibility
  • Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion
  • Take risks in offering feedback and assistance
  • Appreciate and tap into one another's skills and experiences
  • Focus time and energy on important issues, not politics
  • Offer and accept apologies without hesitation
  • Look forward to meetings and other oppourtunities to work as a group
5 Dysfunctions of a Team:
  1. Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust

    The fear of being vulnerable with team members prevents the building of trust within the team.
  2. Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict

    The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive ideological conflict.
  3. Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment

    The lack of clarity or buy-in prevents team members from making decisions they will stick to.
  4. Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability

    The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members from holding one another accountable.
  5. Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results

    The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective success.

Characteristics of High Performing Teams

Teams willing to address the five dysfunctions can experience the following benefits. High performing, cohesive teams:

  • Are comfortable asking for help, admitting mistakes and limitations and take risks offering feedback
  • Tap into one another's skills and experiences
  • Avoid wasting time talking about the wrong issues and revisiting the same topics over and over again because of lack of buy-in
  • Make higher quality decisions and accomplish more in less time and fewer resources
  • Put critical topics on the table and have lively meetings
  • Align the team around common objectives
  • Retain star employees

Conquer Team Dysfunction.

Addressing the Dysfunctions. To begin improving your team and to better understand the level of dysfunction you are facing, ask yourself these simple questions:
  • Do team members openly and readily disclose their opinions?
  • Are team meetings compelling and productive?
  • Does the team come to decisions quickly and avoid getting bogged down by consensus?
  • Do team members confront one another about their shortcomings?
  • Do team members sacrifice their own interests for the good of the team?
The Dysfunctions

Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust

This occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses or needs for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible.

Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict
Teams that are lacking on trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues, causing situations where team conflict can easily turn into veiled discussions and back channel comments. In a work setting where team members do not openly air their opinions, inferior decisions are the result.

Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment
Without conflict, it is difficult for team members to commit to decisions, creating an environment
where ambiguity prevails. Lack of direction and commitment can make employees, particularly star employees, disgruntled.

Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability
When teams don't commit to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven individuals
hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team.

Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results
Team members naturally tend to put their own needs (ego, career development, recognition, etc.) ahead of the collective goals of the team when individuals aren't held accountable. If a team has lost sight of the need for achievement, the business ultimately suffers.

The Rewards
Striving to create a functional, cohesive team is one of the few remaining competitive advantages available to any organization looking for a powerful point of differentiation. Functional teams avoid wasting time talking about the wrong issues and revisiting the same topics over and over again because of lack of buy-in. Functional teams also make higher quality decisions and accomplish more in less time and with less distraction and frustration. Additionally, "A" players rarely leave organizations where they are part of a cohesive team.

Successful teamwork is not about mastering subtle, sophisticated theories, but rather about
embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence. Ironically, teams
succeed because they are exceedingly human. By acknowledging the imperfections of their
humanity, members of functional teams overcome the natural tendencies that make teamwork so elusive.


James The Just

This is a fascinating book on James from a Jewish perspective.

A Jewish book. Written by Dr. David Friedman (Jewish Rabbi, scholar, former Academic Dean and Professor of Jewish Studies at King of Kings College in Jerusalem, Israel; currently lectures internationally on biblical topics), James The Just presents the view from a Messianic perspective by focusing on the Jewish aspects of this practical NT book. The author states that this is not a verse-by-verse exegetical commentary. He encourages us to put on our Jewish glasses (if we are not Jewish), and to read the NT as a Jewish book, which is the context in which James was written.

Who is James? James (Ya'akov was his real name) was the chief rabbi of his early Messianic Jewish community in Jerusalem. His role was that of Torah teacher par excellence, chief halakhic judge and authority, and spokesman for the entire community. (Halakha or halakhic: Applications of the biblcal commandments to a community lifestyle.) In brief, Ya'akov was:
  1. a chief rabbi.
  2. a Torah scholar.
  3. a Bible commentator.
  4. akin to a high court judge.
A practical application of Leviticus. The writings of Ya'akov were a specific style of rabbinic writings. It is a collection of highlights from the sermons of the chief rabbi of Jerusalem's Messianic Jewish community. Likely, James gave these sermon talks on Sabbaths where the ending section of Leviticus was studied (chapters 19-22).

It was a collection of a particular rabbi's sayings and teachings (a Yalkut, in Hebrew, is a collection of highlighted teachings by a rabbi, often collected by his students). The main emphases of the yalkut are:
  • practical Torah
  • practical encouragement on how to live
  • not philosophical, but concrete: instructional guides on how to live according to Torah
  • most misunderstood point: "fiath & works," Ya'akov's point: keeping the instructions of the Torah is proof that one has strong faith in God and in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).
The subjects found in Leviticus 19-22 which Ya'akov expounds upon are:
  1. The proper use of speech (in rabbinic literature, it is the laws of improper speech, speaking behind someone's back, smearing another and slander).
  2. Proper business practices.
  3. Contractual oaths.
  4. The showing of favoritism in legal matters.
  5. The value of being humble.
  6. Society's obligation to widows and orphans.
  7. The royal law of the Torah.

His words were written down by a scribe or by his students, for distribution into the Diaspora as instrumental guides for communities. His "book" may have been distributed and studied as commentary to Leviticus 19-22 in early Messianic Jewish communities in the Diaspora.

Though James is written in Greek, the letter of James is a uniquely Messianic Jewish view based on thoroughly Torah-based concepts that are from the five books of Moses. It is Jewish in:

  1. Subject matter.
  2. Tone.
  3. Emphasis.
  4. It's main expressed points.

As expressed in Jas 1:22-25, "...the most important matter is not study (of the Torah), but the practice" (Shimon, son of Paul's teacher, Gamliel). The first century Jewish world, both Jews and Messianic Jews, views "works" as the performance of the biblical commandments as stemming from one's faith in God, and never in opposition to it. In Jewish thought, the purpose of fulfilling the biblical commandments was never to earn entrance into the world to come, which may be a misconception of many today.

I received a copy of the book for free from Messianic Jewish Publishers & Resources via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my review. I am under no obligation to provide a favorable review.


Romans 3:21-26

"But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify" (Rom 3:21, NIV).
  1. Why does Martyn Lloyd-Jones exclaim that "there are no more wonderful words in the whole of Scripture than just these two words 'But now...'" (Rom 3:21a)? Notice also, "But God..." (Eph 2:4).
  2. "Apart from law" suggest a new era of salvation. What does the law in the old era expose about man's spiritual state (Rom 1:18-20; 2:1, 4-5, 23-24; 3:9, 19-20)? How does "the Law and the Prophets testify" to "the righteousness of God" (Rom 4:1-8; Gen 15:6; Ps 32:1-2)?
  3. What is being referred to by the phrase "has been made known" (Rom 3:21-22)? What event helps us to know "the righteousness of God" (Lk 23:47)?
  4. "Righteousness" is having a "right relationship with God." However, John Stott explains "the righteousness of God" (21-22, 25-26; 1:17; Phil 3:9) in three ways as:
    1. An attribute of God: This is a quality--who God is.
    2. An activity of God: This is an action--what God does. (N.T. Wright.)
    3. An achievement of God: This is a gift--what God bestows, confers and accomplishes. (Reformed.)
    • Can you explain each phrase? Can the righteousness of God mean all three?
  5. How does one come to know the righteousness of God (Rom 3:22a, 25a)?
  6. How does Rom 3:22b-23 summarize a main theme in chapters 1-3?
  7. Explain how we are "justified freely by his grace" (Rom 3:24a). What is redemption (Rom 3:24b)?
  8. Explain "God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood" (Rom3:25a)?
  9. What sins did God pass over that were previously committed (Rom 3:25b)? How can God be just and still justify those who sin (Rom 3:25b-26)?


Justification and the Righteousness of God (Romans 3:21-26)

Rom 3:21-26 is regarded by scholars and theologians as "the center and heart" of Romans as as "possibly the most important single paragraph ever written."

Rom 3:21-26 is loaded with key theological terms, and the phrase "the righteousness of God" stands out. This is a great text where Paul brings together so much, which is central to his presentation of the gospel. This passage has almost unparalleled power, not so much in its individual elements but the fact that Paul brings so many things and key ideas together: Our standing before God, how God secured that through Christ on our behalf, the importance of faith, what God did on the cross. (Douglas Moo  The Epistle to the RomansNICNT, 1996. 3:21-23 17 min; 3:24-26 27 min.)
  1. The noun "righteousness" {δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosynē)} occurs 4 times (Rom 3:21, 22, 25, 26).
  2. The verb "justify" {δικαιόω (dikaioō)} occurs 2 times (Rom 3:24, 26).
  3. The adjective "just" {δίκαιος (dikaios)} occur once (Rom 3:26).


Top 10 Tips for Clearer Preaching

  1. (Prepare a lot, share a little.) The more you say, the less people will remember. . . . "Sermons are improved by shortening."
  2. (Have mainly 1 thing to say, not many things.) Make the 'big idea' shape everything you say. . . . That's one of the best reasons to preach from a full script—you get to edit before you speak. . . . [From p. 64: "[I]t's easier for your listeners to catch a baseball than a handful of sand."]
  3. Choose the shortest, most ordinary words you can. . . . The more complex your subject, the more helpful it is to describe it in ordinary words. . . .
  4. (Sound normal, like yourself.) Use shorter sentences. . . . This isn't about 'dumbing down' your content. It's about communicating complex content clearly. (But keep in mind that alliteration is no longer considered tasteful.) More importantly, it's about sounding like a normal, conversational you.
  5. (Speak informally and extemporaneously.) Forget everything your English teacher taught you. . . . [I]f you're scripting a sermon you should expect it to read badly. It should break almost all the norms of good written expression and follow the rules of informal speech instead.
  6. (Avoid TMI.) Am I repeating myself? . . . [A]s you're introducing a new idea, it's incredibly helpful to restate the first sentence three times, rephrasing it each time but adding no new information. . . . Avoid giving too much information and learn the difference between the pace of your speech (in 'words per minute') and the pace of information (in 'ideas per minute').
  7. Translate narratives into the present tense. . . . [This] makes a story seem real and immediate—it's just like being there.
  8. (Share what's simple.) The six-million-dollar secret of illustrating. . . . Don't sweat over illustrating the complicated stuff—just illustrate the obvious! . . . Illustrate the obvious, and the complex ideas will take care of themselves, because your listeners will be fresh and focused enough to stay with you.
  9. (Share stories.) People love to hear about people. . . . The journalist's rule is this: if there are no people, there's no story.
  10. (Explain before quoting a key verse or text.) Work towards your key text. . . . When you're quoting a verse, help out the listener by setting it up before you read it, rather than after.

Most natural communicators—whether scripted or not—tend to do most of these things by instinct.

Gary Millar and Phil Campbell, Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God's Word and Keep People Awake  (Kingsford NSW, Australia: Matthias Media, 2013), 50–61.

Top 10 Tips for Being Clearer.


Gospel Diagnosis (Rom 3:1-20)

"For we have already accused everyone, both Jews and Greeks, of being under the power of sin" (Rom 3:9b, ISV).

Four objections raised and refuted (Rom 3:1-8)
  1. God did not help his people (Rom 3:1-2).
  2. God is not faithful to his people (Rom 3:3-4).
  3. God is not fair or just (Rom 3:5-6).
  4. God does not mind sin because sin increases God's glory (Rom 3:7-8).
Seven indictments on sinful humanity (Rom 3:9-18) that affects:
  1. Our legal standing (Rom 3:10).
  2. Our minds (Rom 3:11a).
  3. Our motives (Rom 3:11b).
  4. Our wills (Rom 3:12).
  5. Our tongues (Rom 3:13-14).
  6. Our relationship with others (Rom 3:15-17).
  7. Our relationship with God (Rom 3:18).


Romans 1:18-3:20 (Douglas Moo)

Paul's Target in Romans 1-3: All People
  1. Rom 1:18-19: All People.
  2. Rom 1:20-32: People Apart from Special Revelation.
  3. Rom 2:1-16: People Who Rely on their Birthright.
  4. Rom 2:17-3:8: The Jews.
Summary of Paul's basic arguments in Romans 2-3
  1. The Principle: "...it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous" (Rom 2:13).
  2. The Problem: "...Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin" (Rom 3:9).
  3. The Prospect: "...no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law" (Rom 3:20).
The problem is not that human beings sin. The problem is that (all) human beings are under sin's power (Rom 3:9), regardless of whether Jew or Gentile, Christian or non-Christian, Jewish Christian or Gentile Christian. Man's problem is far more than just doing bad things (which is obvious for Gentiles and the non-religious, but not as obvious for the Jew and the religious). The problem rather is that we are helpless slaves to doing bad things and can't rescue ourselves (though the Jew or moral person or Christian is able to control their outward behavior, so as not to appear to be doing bad things before the eyes of people).


Romans 2:6-3:20 (Douglas Moo's translation)

The Impartiality of Judgment (Rom 2:6-11)

6For he will render to each person according to that person's works. 7On the one hand, to those who by their persistence in a good work are seeking glory and honor and immortality [he will render] eternal life; 8but on the other hand, for those who are characterized by selfishness and who disobey the truth while obeying unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of a person who does evil, for the Jew first and then for the Greek; 10but there will be glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, for the Jew first and then for the Greek. 11For there is no partiality with God.


Gospel Impartiality (Rom 2:6-29)

"God 'will repay each person according to what they have done.'" "For God does not show favoritism." (Rom 2:6, 11).

Based on Rom 1:16-17, Romans may be summarized as:
  1. Romans 1-8: The gospel, the righteousness of God.
  2. Romans 9-11: First to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
  3. Romans 12-16: The righteous life.
Rom 1:18-32 shows how the Gentile world rejected God and plunged into immorality and idolatry. Paul's critique of them would have been roundly supported by any Jew listening to him. They could see how sinful the Gentiles were, while they were exempt from condemnation because they were God's chosen people. This is exactly how any religious person listens to Rom 1:18-32 today. They say, "Yes, of course God's wrath lies on the immoral, the one who lives a life of debauchery. But we have the Bible and live by that. We are not condemned." But it is because of the subtlety of sin and of idolatry that religious people can seem to agree with Paul about Rom 1:18-32 and yet be completely deluded!

Thus, in Rom 2:1ff, Paul shows the Jews (and religious people) that they were missing the whole point of the gospel! The heart of the gospel is that "the righteousness of God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last" (Rom 1:17). Everyone runs from it and tries to avoid it. We run from it whenever we rely on anything or anyone else but Jesus and his perfect, finished work. The pagans rely on their appetites, which become chains around their neck (Rom 1:18-32), but the religious people rely on religion and moral observance, which stores up God's wrath just as much (Rom 2:5). The pagans worship self through appetite, but the religious worship self through morality and religion. There are obvious (being immoral) and not obvious ways (being moral) to rely on (i.e. worship and serve — Rom 1:25) the creature rather than the Creator.

If you are a moral person who is satisfied with your spiritual state, you are denying the doctrine of righteousness through faith only. If you do not feel like a hopeless sinner, if you do not feel that God would have a perfect right to cast you off this minute because of the condition of your life and heart, then you are denying the gospel, and when it is open to you it won't change you or lift you up. You don't get it.

Christian (and other) Righteousness

The difference between Christian righteousness and all other kinds of righteousness.
  1. There is a political or civil righteousness. This is what world leaders, diplomats, civic leaders and lawyers must teach.
  2. There is a "social" righteousness, which is acting, speaking, dressing, and carrying oneself correctly according to the traditions and mores of a particular culture or vocation or field. This is what parents and families and schools teach.
  3. There is moral righteousness, "the righteousness of law" that comes from obeying the Ten Commandments. This the church teaches (but only in light of the "Christian" righteousness, below).
  4. The righteousness that comes from relationships — becoming attractive and loved by people of both sexes.
  5. The righteousness that comes from career achievement — becoming successful or respected or monied through your talent and work.]
There is another, a far better righteousness, which Paul calls "the righteousness of faith" — Christian righteousness.


Gospel Righteousness

In Romans so far, we considered:
  1. Gospel of Grace (Rom 1:1-6).
  2. Gospel Enthusiasm (Rom 1:7-15).
  3. Gospel Power (Rom 1:16).
  4. Gospel Righteousness (Rom 1:17) is next.
What does Paul mean by the righteousness of God? There are three options.
  1. An attribute of God, the righteousness that characterizes God. This righteousness may be either (a) God's justice (Rom 3:5, 25-26), according to which he always does what is right, or (b) God's faithfulness, according to which he fulfills his covenant promises to his people.
  2. A status or position that God bestows on those who believe. It is therefore a righteousness that comes from God. Martin Luther gave eloquent expression to this view in the 16th century. Luther concluded that the righteousness of God that is revealed in the gospel is a gift of God given to sinners through faith. This righteousness is purely forensic or legal. It is a matter of our judicial standing before God, not our internal or moral transformation. Thus, Luther's view is that Paul refers here to the righteous status that comes from God in the gospel through faith.
  3. An activity of God. The righteousness of God is God's action of intervening on behalf of his people to save and deliver them. This idea has strong support from the OT (Isa 46:13; 50:5-8; Mic 7:9).


Faith is NOT a Work that Possesses Merit or Worth

Belief (πιστεύω) and faith (πίστις) are key words in Romans. πιστεύω (248x in NT) occurs 21x in Romans, 7x in Rom 3:21-4:25, while πίστις (244X in NT) occurs 37x in Romans, 18x in Rom 3:21-4:25.

To "believe" is to put full trust in the God who "justifies the ungodly" (Rom 4:5) by means of the gospel--the cross and resurrection of Christ. Though intellectual assent cannot be excluded from faith, the Pauline emphasis is on surrender to God as an act of the will (Rom 4:18; 10:9).

Pauline (and NT) faith is not (primarily) agreement with a set of doctrines but trust in a person. Though not explicit in Rom 1:16, another focus of Romans is the insistence that faith is in no sense a "work" (Rom 3:20, 27-28; 4:1-8; 9:31-10:8).


How to Experience the Power of God

The gospel is the power of God (Rom 1:16).

How does one experience this power of God in their life?

Consider these and add to them:
  1. The love of God must be real to you (1 Cor 13:13).
  2. The grace of Jesus is fresh and new in your soul (2 Tim 2:1).
  3. Your friendships and relationships are Trinitarian:  All of Paul's 13 letters are HOT (honest, humble, happy, open, transparent).
  4. Have a clear life goal and purpose (Phil 3:14). Know what God called and set you apart for (Rom 1:1).
  5. Do something beyond yourself. Paul was praying to go to Rome though he had no way to go there (Rom 1:10, 13).