Teaching Series
Followers of Jesus
Thursday—In the Tension

Series: Followers of Jesus
Message: In the Tension
Preacher: Mark Witas
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Purpose: Vanessa Rivera
Editor: Becky De Oliveira

Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.

Read: Romans 14:1-23 in the New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions. 

Reflect: I only touched on this yesterday, the idea that we need to know the difference between a principle and a preference, but I believe the difference between the two informs the deeper tension expressed in Romans 14. Basically it comes down to this: People fight over things that matter to some and do not matter to others. Sound familiar? It is the root of so many arguments with bosses, with colleagues, with spouses, with partners, with children, with friends, and with  churches. Even, perhaps, with Jesus?

I once served in a church in which a member disliked the color of paint chosen for the main sanctuary. So, on his own time and with his own money, he came in during the week and painted the entire sanctuary a different color. This was obviously a feat worth being noted, but as you can imagine it was not particularly well received. The whole sanctuary required repainting. There were all sorts of tensions. This issue took up so much energy and required endless meetings and resulted in a lot of bickering. Meanwhile, the mission of the church, well, that was . . . that was . . . that was . . . somewhere further down on the agenda.

In another church where I served, some members wanted all the women to cover their heads with doilies. Blame it on my youth, but probably preaching about it was not the best way to help the congregation transition through this practice. My message—that the doilies were silly and not even Biblical—was not well received. Meanwhile, the mission of the Church, well, that was . . . that was . . . that was . . . somewhere further down on the agenda.

A few years ago, I attended a General Conference Youth Leaders Council in Brazil. I could write an entire book just about that week, but let me share two simple stories that took place during the event. The first was when the late Dr. Bailey Gillespie was preaching about his latest Valuegenesis research and the implications for evangelism. His sermon was being translated live into Spanish as well as Portuguese, and suddenly he stopped and turned to the translator and repeated his sentence in English. A live debate ensued, demonstrating that the translator was not actually translating but was disagreeing with Bailey and changing his words (not realizing that Bailey spoke Spanish—oops!). As you can imagine, this proved to be very entertaining. Meanwhile, the mission of the Church, well, that was . . . that was . . . that was . . . somewhere further down on the agenda.

At that same conference, I entered the dining hall and found a feast fit for kings and queens. The only difficulty was that there was scarcely anything  vegetarian. Some of the people I ate with simply could not let this go. What is wrong with the GC? What happened to our health message? What is becoming of our church that we serve meat? I wondered if they noticed the beef on my plate or if they thought it was veggie meat. Naturally, this focus distracted them from hearing anything else. Meanwhile, the mission of the Church, well, that was . . . that was . . . that was . . . somewhere further down on the agenda.

Recalibrate: What can we do to avoid distractions in our professional, personal, and private relationships?

Respond: Pray for fewer distractions.

Research: Read The ONE Thing by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan.

Remember: “Do not, then, pass judgment on one another any longer” (Romans 14:13, KNT).

Japhet De Oliveira is senior pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and co-founder of the One project. Originally from southeast London, he served in the South England Conference for nine years—as a pastor and later as conference youth director—before moving to the United States in 2006. He is married to Becky and they have two sons, Joshua (18) and Jonah (14).

Make some fruit salad with your little one. Experience what the fruit feels like on the inside and the outside. A kiwi fruit or a peach feels furry on the outside but is all squishy on the inside. If your little one is able, place fruit pieces on a skewer. Make some to share with a friend. While some of the fruit flavors are sweet, others may be sour—like lemons and limes. No matter the taste, each fruit is made by God. Know that we are the only created beings who get to choose if we will be sweet or sour.

Check out this video and then make a list of things you think are pleasing to God.

So, if you’ve been studying the passage this week, I hope you’ve come to the realization that each of us is responsible to God for our own actions. We can easily become distracted by other people’s actions—by who is saying, eating, or doing what, but at the end it’s not important. With this concept in mind, Paul gives us a big challenge: to take care of each other simply by not being a stumbling block to others. What does that mean? It means taking into consideration how our decisions can impact someone else’s walk with Christ. This means not adding obstacles as someone is getting closer to God. If you knew someone was looking to you as an example of how to be Christ-like, how would you act?

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