The “Good” in Romans 8:28

romans 828One of the first promises of scriptures I learned as a new Christian that became a great comfort to me in times of trouble and adversity was Romans 8:28! The precious promise of that passage, not only comforted me as a new Christian, but it has been a source of abiding comfort throughout the years and even to this present day! Paul wrote to the Romans: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28 KJV)  The ESV (English Standard Version) puts it this way: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (ESV)  Yes! No matter what happens; the good, the bad, or the ugly, God is working it all together for our good!

Now, before we get to what the good is, I think it should be noted that this is not a blanket “everything is going to be alright” statement for everybody! Note that Paul didn’t say that all things work together for good for everybody! No! All things work together for good only for those that love God!  This “love” for God is not the emotional feeling that most people associate with love today, but rather it is a calculated faithful response to the grace of God.  The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 4:19: “We love him, because he first loved us.” (1John 4:19 KJV) In the very next verse, John further qualified what it really means to love God when he said: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1John 4:20 KJV) In the Gospel of John, the writer equates loving God with obeying God. In John 14:15, Jesus said: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (ESV) So, we can gather from these passages that the ones who love God in Romans 8:28 are the ones who love their brothers and sisters and obey the commandments of God! Paul further stipulates who they are by identifying them as; “the called according to his purpose.” God’s purpose is God’s will, therefore, all things work together for good to and for them that live in accordance to the purpose and will of God.

Now, with all that being said, we still don’t really know what the “good” in verse 28 is! We know that all things work together for good to and for those that love (obey God and love their brothers and sisters) God and live according to God’s will. But, what is that good? Is the good; all things working together to turn out in favor of or to the advantage of those that love God? Is the good; all things working together for the health, wealth or prosperity of those that love God?  Just what is the “good” that all things work together for and to those that love God, who are called according to his purpose in Romans 8:28?

Well, we should note at this point that the Bible was not originally written in chapter/verse form! Therefore, the thought in verse 28 continues in verse 29! And I think the “good” of verse 28 is identified in verse 29! Roman 8:29 says: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (KJV) “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom 8:29 NASB [New American Standard Bible]) From verse 29, we can deduct the good in verse 28 is to be conformed to the image of his Son! The good that all things work together for in verse 28 is that we might be like Jesus! Therefore, all things work together in the believer’s life for the expressed purpose of molding and shaping the believer into the image of Christ!

Now, what’s really amazing is this: Genesis 1:27 says: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (KJV) When man sinned, the image was not destroyed, but it was tarnished! Paul described Jesus in Colossians 1:15 as the one; “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” (KJV) Therefore, since Jesus came to redeem man and Jesus was and is the image of God and all things work together to conform those who love God (accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior) into the image of Jesus. And it was always God’s purpose for those who love God to be conformed to the image of His Son. And man was originally created in the image and likeness of God, then the good in Romans 8:28 is all things working together to shape and mold those who love God into the image of God’s original intent!

The Selfishness of Skipping Church: A Re-blog from Art Heinz Ministries


The Selfishness of Skipping Church

Old Church 1The overwhelming consumerist mentality in our nation has spilled over and saturated the thinking of Christians throughout the Church in the United States.  More and more believers in America approach the concept of finding and remaining in a church the same way they would handle buying a car, shopping for the latest technological advancement, or choosing a movie to watch.  An institution whose founder came not to be served, but to serve, has been tainted by a ceaseless drum beat of “what can you do for me?”  The worship environment, the style of music, the dress code, the church programming, and the overall focus of the church, is no longer about the Lord and His agenda, but about the personal preferences of individual church shoppers.

The crisis of commitment and ownership in the American Church is reflected in the 2015 Pew Research Study that showed a serious decline in Americans self-identifying as Christians.  The problem is demonstrated any given month as families who used to attend church weekly and even several times a week now attend services one to two times a month (and I’m not referring to the shut-in, the sick, or those who must work). It is impossible to build anything of consequence in any sector of society with such inconsistency.  Imagine if a construction crew showed up to a building site only once or twice a month.  Think of what would happen if physicians and nurses manned the hospitals and ERs only a couple of times a month.  Consider the problems in education if our teachers worked only two days a month.  And yet, the welfare and future of our great nation hangs in the balance as rabid hedonists, religious fanatics, and ignorant young socialists and progressives march on fully committed to their causes.  We cannot build godly, committed, and society-changing future generations with a selfish hit and miss approach to church.

The key to the restoration of our culture and society is not the economy, our healthcare system, or even education, but the tone and temperature of our nation spiritually.  How can cold, lifeless, church skipping Christians possibly be the catalyst for fanning the flames of spiritual renewal and fire in the United States?  This coldness and lifelessness is reflected in the attitude of the Christian who says I don’t need to attend church all that much because I can get my spiritual food online or through broadcast media.  The attitude is reflected in the individual who says I don’t need to go to church because I can commune with God in nature on my own.  It’s reflected in the family that emphasizes every other kind of activity and pursuit other than spiritual education in the name of putting the family first.  It’s reflected by the one who points to their hurts, their disappointments, or their needs as an excuse to be absent from church.  It’s reflected in church workers who only show up to church when they are scheduled to serve, teach, or lead.  It’s reflected by parents who teach their children, by ungraciously and habitually leaving church after church, that the Church and its people are fatally flawed and not worthy of real commitment.  It’s reflected in the people who pursue amusement, recreation, and entertainment to the detriment of their spirituality and places of worship.

So, what’s the issue here?  The primary issue is a fundamental misunderstanding of why we gather as Christians.  True, we gather to worship God, learn the principles of God’s Word, and fellowship with one another.  But if you read the words of the writer of Hebrews, our priority is gathering so that we can encourage and help one another to progress spiritually in an increasingly secular, pessimistic, and antagonistic culture:  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Luke tells us Jesus, the one we say we are following, left an example of faithful attendance explaining, “on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom” (Luke 4:16).  Think about that.  Jesus, the Son of God, had a habit of going to the house of God.  How much more do His followers need to develop that habit?

The culprits in the current spiritual malaise and indifference in our country are the selfish Christians who fail to consider how they can help, assist, and encourage someone else by coming faithfully to church instead of focusing on and serving their own wants, preferences, needs, and schedules.  That single mindset of coming to church not for what you can receive, but for what you can provide is the key to a true spiritual renewal in our land. When you are not in church the gifts and abilities in you are not made available to others.  That’s why skipping church is selfish and the complete opposite of the example of Jesus, the mission of Jesus, and the commands of Jesus.  If you are a consistent, constant, and faithful church goer, don’t let anything stop you from continuing in your dedication.  If you have become distant, cold, lifeless, and selfish in absenting yourself and your family from the Church, repent and return to a faithful lifestyle and relationship with your local church.  As the writer of Hebrews challenged us, we should become more diligent and dedicated to one another as we see the end coming, not more selfish.

Nathan is “Normal!”

nathan bradley

Now this article is in no way an effort to diminish or make light of what Georgia State Trooper Nathan Bradley has and is doing for the Howard family. In fact in praise of what he has done and is doing, I wrote an article, just last week, applauding the actions of Trooper Bradley in his efforts to help and comfort the Howard family after the tragic loss of Donald and Crystal Howard. (See: Thank You: Georgia State Trooper Nathan Bradley) However, this article is a comment on how far we have fallen as a society!

I thought about this as I read the countless comments in response to what Trooper Bradley has done that described him as being “an extraordinary person” or a “super human being!” As I read those comments, I thought about an illustration Jesus gave that is recorded in Luke 17:7-10, Jesus asked his listeners: “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'” (Luke 17:7-10 ESV) The point Jesus was making was that one should not expect to receive praise or reward for merely doing what is required! My point in citing the illustration is to point out the fact that what Nathan Bradley did and is doing is really not extraordinary, but rather it is really “normal” human behavior! We deem it as extraordinary because, in our society, the milk of human compassion and the love for other human beings has so dissipated that “normal” good, moral, and loving behavior is considered as something above and beyond! Now again, this is not to diminish the actions of Nathan Bradley, but rather it is a call for us to realistically look at ourselves as a society!

It has gotten to the point that you really don’t have to do anything extraordinary to be considered extraordinary! An example of this attitude is reflected in our educational system. Today, many school systems have implemented programs that reward students for “good behavior!” But when I was in school, “good behavior” was normal and expected, so the only awards and rewards given were for good grades! At my house, the only rewards I received were for really good grades! I said “really good grades” because in the house I grew up in, excellence was command, required and expected, therefore, average grades were neither acceptable nor rewarded! But our standards have fallen so low today that many students expect to be rewarded just for showing up for class! (And it’s sad to say, but in some cases they are!)

No! Nathan is not extraordinary; Nathan is normal! If what he did and what he is doing seems extraordinary, it is because we have accepted the-less-than-normal as being normal for so long that we think what is actually normal is extraordinary! But it really is “normal” to love your neighbor as yourself!

So, if what Nathan Bradley did on the evening of October 31, 2015 and what he has been doing in the aftermath of this tragedy really is “normal,” then what does that say about the inaction of people who see people in need on a daily basis and make no effort to help them? What does that say about us as a society? And if what he did and is doing really is extraordinary, then what does that say about us as a society if we deem the daily insensitivity, violence, hatred, and inhuman treatment to be normal? Not judging; just thinking! What do you think?

Thank You: Georgia State Trooper Nathan Bradley!

crystal and donald howardFor me, this all started with two names in the local obituary column; Crystal and Donald Howard. Being the naturally curious person that I am, noting that the last names were the same, I wanted to find out if and how they were related and what was the story of their deaths. After some internet searching, I discovered their Facebook page and learned that they were a married couple who died in a tragic automobile accident, not far from their home in Newborn, GA on Halloween night (October 31, 2015). They went to the store to get some face-painting and other things for the kids, with the intention of coming right back home! Unfortunately, less than a mile from their home, Donald Howard lost control of the vehicle and they ended up colliding with a tree and both Donald and Crystal died at the scene!
nathan bradleyNow after praying for the family, this would have been the end of my interest in the story had it not been for the actions of Georgia State Patrol Trooper Nathan Bradley. Trooper Bradley, who was on patrol in nearby Rockdale County, Georgia heard the call on his radio and took it upon himself to make the twenty-minute drive to the accident scene in a neighboring county. He, along with a local deputy and the county coroner, made the notification of death visit to the home of the family. When they arrived, they discovered four children, ages 6 – 13, who were waiting for their parents to return home. At that point and time, not wanting to ruin their Halloween, Trooper Bradley didn’t have the heart to tell them that their parents were dead. So, after making contact with their paternal grandmother in south Florida, Trooper Bradley took it upon himself to personally see after the children until their grandmother could make the 7-hour trip to take custody. He fed them, he entertained them, he put them to bed, all the while knowing and they not knowing their parents were dead!
Now at this point, Trooper Bradley had already gone beyond the call of duty, but he wasn’t finished yet! He had given the oldest child his phone number and told the boy to call him if they needed anything. The next day, the boy; Justin Donald, contacted Trooper Bradley and informed him that it would cost about $7,000 to transport the bodies of his parents back to Florida, along with other typical funeral expenses. Trooper Bradley felt that it was important that the children be able to visit the graves of their parents. In his mind, it just wouldn’t be right for the parents to be buried in Georgia while the children were living in Florida. So, he established a Go Fund Me account, with the initial goal of covering the seven thousand dollar transportation and funeral expense. The account was set up on November 4 and as of the writing of this post on November 5, the initial goal has been bypassed by over $170,000! At the very moment I am writing this, 4,756 people have given $178,865 in just two days! By the time I finish editing and publishing, I suspect it will be well over $200,000!
the howard childrenThank you Georgia State Patrol Trooper Nathan Bradley! You sir, along with those who helped you care for those children in the initial hours after the tragedy, have helped me to regain my faith in humanity! We are bombarded with bad news of shootings, police brutality, gang violence, and war every day! It seems as if the whole world has gone to Hell in a hand-basket! But you sir, provide living proof that there are still people who genuinely care! And so, I thank you! But not only do I thank you, I also thank Donald and Crystal Howard! I thank them because, it was obvious to me, from reading the story, that they were great parents, who instilled strong morals and values in their children! Thank you, Justin Donald, the oldest of the children, along with your brothers and sister, for being strong and brave in your hour of tragedy! I can’t imagine the pain you must be feeling right now! This story has touched me in a deep way and I don’t personally know anyone involved. So I know the situation must be weighting on you and your siblings, along with the rest of the family heavily! Thank you, to the grandmother from Florida, who will be taking care of these children and to all of the rest of the family. I want you to know that you will constantly be in my thoughts and prayers!
Chances are, Georgia State Trooper Nathan Bradley, Justin Donald, his grandmother from Florida, or any of the many others who were directly involved will never read this blog post, but still I felt to need to publicly say thank you! All of you, along with Donald and Crystal Howard (May they rest in peace in the presence of our Loving Father) have served to inspire me to be a better person, knowing that there are yet people in the world who genuinely love and care! Again, thank you!

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