“So, when are you going to get to the practical areas?” asked John with a twinkle in his eye during the afternoon break. I spent most of the day answering questions about how many possessions are enough, how to forgive those who hurt you, whether or not we need to pay taxes on unreported income, and how to deal with those who are perpetually late to church. Needless to say, we had several very practical discussions today.
We started the day with breakfast at 9AM. We enjoyed pancakes, boiled eggs, yogurt, sausage and cheese, and juice.
Our morning class session went from 9:30-1:00PM, with a break midway through the morning. After lunch, class went from 1:50-5:30PM, with another break midway through the afternoon. During our day, we covered Romans 12:1-15:6.
We spent the first hour discussing Romans 12:1-2. What does it mean to be a living sacrifice? How do we avoid letting the world squeeze us into its mold? One person said he felt he had so many possessions—car, house, etc.—and some people thought he should sell everything and give to the poor, but if he did that, then he wouldn’t be very happy. We discussed his question in light of these two verses. The world might tell him to sell everything or it might tell him to keep it all for himself. The answer is found in letting Scripture transform your mind and understanding what Scripture says about learning to be content in all situations.
We also explored the myth that God’s will is designed to make us miserable. Romans 12:2 says that God’s will is good, acceptable, and perfect.
We ended our discussion of chapter 12 by talking about how to forgive those who want to hurt us. One of the group asked for a practical example of how to do this. I shared how I dealt with those who have criticized me during my ministry. I talked about how I had to come to the point of praying for these individuals rather than being angry and seeking to retaliate.
By this point, it was time for lunch. We enjoyed a Russian favorite, golubtsi or cabbage rolls, French fries, and fresh vegetables. Afterwards, many enjoyed tea and conversation until our afternoon session began.
Chapter 13 brought up another hot button discussion—how do you submit yourself to a government that you don’t like or disagree with? We covered the waterfront on this discussion but kept coming back to the issue of, can we trust God and obey his commandments? We talked about the fact the issue is not whether the government is good, bad, or indifferent, but the issue is whether or not we will obey God’s instructions. This led to a side discussion of whether or not we should pay taxes on unreported income. I gave a personal example of someone who got in trouble for not paying taxes when they were paid under the table.
During our discussion of chapter 14, we focused on how to deal with a weaker brother or sister. This led to wrestling with the issue of those who are perpetually late to church, as well as discussions about food, dress, and music styles. I also tried to explain the difference between those who are weak and need to grow and those who are “stuck” and refuse to change (Joe Aldrich called them “professional weaker brothers” in one of his books).
By 5:30PM, it was evident we were all running out of gas, so I called a halt for the day. After another sumptuous dinner of beef stroganoff, the Anapa folks headed for home and the Pyatigorsk group started watching a movie.
Tomorrow we will wrap up with a discussion of chapter 15 and 16. If we still have time before lunch, I have a couple of topics I can throw in for further discussion.
It’s been another very fruitful day of ministry, discussion, and friendship. Thanks for praying.