Copyright by Bob Rogers.
In my hospital ministry, I often ask patients what lessons they have learned. Here are a few of the wise words that I have heard, with limited details about the patients to protect their identity:
Elderly man with COVID-19. “They almost lost me, but the Lord still has a plan for me.” He was discharged a few days later.
Middle-aged woman who survived a car wreck, hit by a drunk driver: “Don’t take life for granted. It could all change in a moment.”
Elderly man with terminal cancer diagnosis: “Be ready to meet God.”
Elderly woman, retired educator, with congestive heart failure: “Do the right thing, treat people right; let be and let God.”
Elderly woman with kidney failure: “Live one day at a time.”
Elderly man in therapy, unable to move legs: “I don’t need money; I just need friends, and people to pray for me.”
Elderly female with multiple medical problems: “Accept what you get.”
Recently retired female pt who may need heart by-pass. “When I was little and there was a storm, mama put us children in a room together and said, ‘When God is doing His work, we be quiet.’” The patient explained that this became a motto for coping with trials: “When God is doing His work, we be quiet.”
Middle-aged female pt who nearly died in the ICU, slowly recovered and went to a room. “Just because life is hard, don’t give up.”
Younger middle-aged female pt who had a seizure and wrecked her car, and went through months of surgeries for broken bones. “I choose joy.”
Recently retired female pt who was told two months ago that she has breast cancer. “Don’t feel sorry for me. God’s got this. I’m not taking God down off His pedestal. What God can’t do, there ain’t no doing.”
Teenage male pt who had surgery for torn ligaments from football practice. “Everything happens for a reason.”
Middle-aged female pt who had a blood clot in the brain. “You can get glad or mad in the same pair of breeches.”
Middle-aged female pt who was in the hospital for a long time, recovering from COVID-19. “Learn to lean on God.”
Younger middle-aged female pt who spent over a month in rehab after spine surgery. “Don’t sweat the petty stuff. Prayer gets you through.”
Senior adult female who had a stroke. “The same God who did miracles for people in the Bible is getting me through this.”
Elderly man with leukemia, going home on hospice. “Money doesn’t mean anything when you leave this earth, and I have some money. The only thing that matters is that you know Jesus.”
Copyright by Bob Rogers
Two churches were located a few blocks from each other in the same small community. The leadership of the two churches felt it would be wise to merge into one larger, stronger congregation, and so plans were set in motion. But it never happened. Why? They could not agree on the wording of the Lord’s Prayer. One group preferred “forgive us our trespasses” while the other wanted “forgive us our debts.” A newspaper article reporting the failed merger noted that one group went back to its “trespasses” while the other returned to its “debts” (Kenneth Boa and William Kruidenier, Holman New Testament Commentary: Romans, p. 417-418.)
Unfortunately, churches and church members often divide over many minor matters.
In Romans 14:1 (NIV84), Paul says, “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.”
There are all kinds of disputable matters that come up in churches today. Church members debate over the translation of the Bible. Church members debate over whether to use organ and piano or use guitars and drums in worship. Church members debate over how much of the budget should go to missions, whether to tithe the gross or the net, and what Sunday School literature to use. Church members debate about whether it is proper for a Christian to have a tattoo or whether to wear dress clothes or casual clothes to church. Some churches debate over whether or not it is proper for a man to wear short sleeves and a woman to wear makeup. Some even debate over the color of the carpet.
So how do we handle it when disputable matters come up in the church?
Romans 14:4 asks, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” The point Paul is making is that the Lord Jesus is the Master, not you or me, so don’t get critical over sideline issues.
How do we define a disputable matter?
This raises a question, however. How do we define what is a disputable matter? After all, most people would agree that whether I preach from the King James Version or some other translation of the Bible is a disputable matter, but for some people, it’s not even open for debate. How can we know? Here are some guidelines:
1) What does the Bible teach on the subject?
First, what does the Bible teach on the subject? Take the example of drinking alcohol. Some Christians drink alcohol, while others feel you cannot be a true Christian and drink alcohol. So what does the Bible teach? The Bible says in some passages that wine was consumed by good people (Melchizedek brought out wine and bread to Abraham in Genesis 14:18; Jesus turned water into wine in John 2:1-11), but it also says that drunkenness is sinful and foolish (Proverbs 20:1; 23:20, Isaiah 5:11). So according to the Bible, drinking alcohol is not a sin, but getting drunk is a sin. So the first principle is to ask what the Bible teaches on the subject.
Of course, there are some areas where sincere Christians have honest differences of opinion about what the Bible teaches on a subject. For example, I believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus’ Second Coming is premillenial. However, I used to believe it was amillenial, and I finally changed my mind after continual study. The reason for differences of opinion is that a person can take scripture and make arguments for both sides, based on scripture. And if two Bible-believing Christians can back up their viewpoints from scripture, then they should respect their differences of opinion.
2) Is the dispute over a practice or a principle?
There is a second guideline that can help us, however. Paul says later in this chapter, in Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Notice that he is making a distinction between practices and principles. “Eating and drinking” are practices. “Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” are principles. Worshiping the Lord is a principle; playing the organ or playing the guitar are practices. We should stand on our principles but be flexible in our practices.