Grace: Romans 1: 5

5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.

Today we are finishing up the introduction to Romans!  Last time (verses 1-4) was spent on the first sentence, and to sum it all up, Paul declared himself a servant of Jesus, and then he very quickly sums up the gospel.  Please do bear with me now, because I’m going to focus on one word in this verse: grace.  Tommorow, we’ll finish up this verse (one verse takes two WHOLE days?  (-:

All right, let’s go!

So the phrase through him implies through Jesus Christ.  Through Jesus we received grace and… stop!  Grace.  Think about that.  Jesus’ grace.  For us.  It means that we are sinners, we are unholy, we are in darkness, and Christ the Sinless, the Holy One, the Light, comes to rescue us.  He shows his unexplainable favor and love toward us when we are utterly in need and helpless.  He leads us home, adopts us, so that we might live forever in relationship with him.   

Have you noticed that basically everything we discuss ends up on Jesus?  He’s the one we need to focus on.  It’s not about our stuffy “well, I did this and that, which makes me, ahem, better than you, ho-ho!”.

It about his great love for us.

Check out the next post in the Romans series!

Romans 1: The First Sentence

It’s been ten days since my last post!  I’ve been out of town and busy recently, but hopefully you’ll receive a new post each day here on out.  But I’ll inform you whenever I plan any breaks in writing.  Over this break I’ve decided on my next series: Romans.  As for how much we’ll tackle each day, that depends.  But that’s enough yakety yak:  let’s dive in.

Here’s the passage(NIV):

1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

So, to start off with verse 1, we see that one of Jesus’ servants, Paul,  was called to be an apostle and was set apart for the gospel of God.  Obviously, I don’t want to get too minuscule, but for the first section called to be an apostle, we see in Acts 9 the story of Paul’s transformation.  That’s for another time, but I would encourage you to read that right now if you’ve got the time.

Verse 2 is the second part of Paul’s first sentence (anyone whose taken a peek at any of Paul’s letters know that Paul adores long winding sentences).  This verse expounds on what he was saying about the gospel.  It’s a cool verse – the gospel promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures.  Paul’s saying that the gospel was promised and prophesied long before it occurred.   I think it’s worth going a little bit into what he means by giving maybe one example.  An example would be Isaiah 53.  Let me just include verse 5: But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

It’s quite time for verse 3, which is another part of this eloquent sentence.  The big jewel in here is the part descendant of David.  Jesus, on an earthly level, was actually a great-great-great-great(to infinity and beyond) descendant of David.  If you’re interested in this, check out Matthew 1 for an insomnia cure.  No, seriously though, it’s actually quite fascinating.  What’s cool about this verse is that God uses imperfect people (as an example, David murdered a man to marry his wife)for his great plan.

The last part of the sentence, verse 4, states that the Spirit raised Jesus from the grave (if you’re interested, I’ve written a paper on the resurrection which you can find on the site).  So, the Spirit raised Jesus, and this proved Jesus to be the Son of God (again, more explanation in the paper).

That’s a lot for the first sentence!  Let’s finish by taking one thing away from each sentence, and then connect it all to the gospel.

Verse 1:  God uses the craziest of people.  Paul was a murderer to Christians, but then became the writer of the most books in the New Testament!

Verse 2:  God promised way beforehand to save His people.

Verse 3:  Again, God uses the craziest of people.  Jesus’ great-great-great-great… grandfather was David.

Verse 4:  Jesus is risen as the Son of God

So how does this all connect to the gospel?  I would say the Isaiah 53 passage fits most.  I want to end on verse 5:  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Books I’m Reading This Year

Here are some of the books(most of which I’m in the middle of) I’m reading this year.  As I read them, I’ll write reviews so you can decide whether you want to read them.

The(Real, Unabridged, Old, Original) Pilgrim’s Progress

Great Expectations

Oliver Twist

Mere Christianity   

Screwtape Letters

Perelandra (I’ve already read Out of the Silent Planet.  I recommend you read that first.)

That Hideous Strength

White Fang

The Princess and the Goblin


Treasure Island

Gulliver’s Travels   

The Return of the King   (Start with The Fellowship of the Ring.)

Huckleberry Finn

Tom Sawyer

C.S. Lewis’ Writing Tips

So far I haven’t mentioned the tremendous impact Lewis has had on me.  He is by far the must influential in terms of my writing, and to those of you interested in writing, check out these tips the master gave to other aspiring authors.  The first tip regards developing style:

The way for a person to develop a style is (a) to know exactly what he wants to say, and (b) to be sure he is saying exactly that.

The reader, we must remember, does not start by knowing what we mean. If our words are ambiguous, our meaning will escape him.

I sometimes think that writing is like driving sheep down a road. If there is any gate open to the left or the right the reader will most certainly go into it.

And these last bits of advice was directed to a girl who mailed a letter asking for writing advice:

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us the thing is “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please, will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

If you’re an avid Lewis reader, you probably will notice he actually uses these tips in his books!  I’d recommend you write without implementing (oops, did those tips say something about not using “implement”?) the advice, then use the tips and compare the two pages.  You’ll probably notice a difference (unless, of course, C.S. Lewis read this post!).

By the way, these hints come from a book called C.S. Lewis: Letters to Children.

His Great Love: John 1:5

With Guest Author Zoe

John 1:5(NLT): The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

We’ve come to the epic finale of this series. As always, let’s go phrase by phrase.

So, Jesus shines in the darkness.  In our sin we are in complete darkness.

But Jesus is the light that ignites the world.  Once we become His children, that light can never be taken from us.  The darkness can never, no matter what, extinguish Jesus’ great light.

The Great Commission(Matthew 28: 16-20) tells us to be lights in the world’s darkness, telling the world about His great love we’ve been given.

But we must always remember that Jesus is the whole reason we have this light.  Without Him, we remain in total darkness.  It’s not our great works, it’s simply His immeasurable grace He lavished upon us at the cross.  When we remember His great love, all we can do is carry the torch of His light to this dark world in utter awe before Him.



The Light of Life: John 1:4

John 1:4-In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

We’re nearing the end of this mini John 1: 1-5 devotional series, and today and tomorrow we’re going to talk about Jesus’ Light.  So let’s jump right in!  The first phrase means in Jesus was life.

As for the second phrase that life was the light of all mankind, I’ve thought of the analogy of  a plant.  Imagine a tulip in the sunlight and how colored, lush, and healthy it would be.  Then imagine a silent, cold, bitter planet with absolute darkness.  The plant would be withered, pale, and dying.  The life(and death) of Christ resulted in giving us His light.  I really like how NLT puts it: The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.

Jesus gave his life, and his life brought light to us all.

John 8: 12b reads(with Jesus speaking): “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Check out the final post in the series!



The Source of All Things: John 1:3

John 1:3 – Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Here we come to our third verse, a bit longer than yesterday’s(come on, that was only seven words). Let’s just think about it clause by clause.
Through him all things were made. This means he is the cause and the source of all things. This reminded me of Colossians 1:16: For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

That includes you and I. We were made through him and for him. He is the source.

Now, without him nothing was made that was made.
This second phrase expounds on the previous. Everything was made through him.

I like how NLT puts this second part: nothing was created excepted through him. So only through him were things created. Way back before you were born, God planned to make you for a purpose. And that purpose is to glorify Him and tell others about His great love we saw yesterday.

Check out the next post in the series!

Loved Us To Death, Literally: John 1:2

John 1:2: He was with God in the beginning.

Yesterday we discussed John 1:1 which was all about the Word, who we discovered was Jesus Himself.

Today we will take a peek into seven extremely challenging monosyllabic words-He, was, with, God, in, the, beginning.

He existed with God from the beginning of time, and before that. Like, and this is mind-boggling, the Word existed before the dawn of time. In fact, He invented time.

From this, we can absolutely say we know the inventor of time Himself loved us literally to death. Let me say that again.

The author of time loved(and loves) us so far as to death. Fast forward a few chapters, in John 15:13(NLT), it says “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Wow. That’s all I can say. Wow.

Check out the next post in the series!

How We Coauthor Fiction

Hello again!  Today I want to discuss how Daniel and I coauthor fantasy novels together.  Now, although it’s not unheard of,  it’s quite atypical to hear of coauthoring fiction.  Sure, nearly every chem text you read is written by about 17.3 authors, but fiction is different.  How does that work?

Well, many people feel using an outline to plan your work is limiting, but we believe it’s freeing.  Without an outline, it would be impossible for the two of us to write well with everything coinciding with everything else.

So we usually develop a rigorous outline before we even get started, and normally if we are writing at the same time together, we will switch off when one’s creative juices seem to be dry.  Then, the person who isn’t writing just edits what the writer writes.  It’s actually quite a simple process.  Here are the major pros and cons of this method:



  1. You get to know the coauthor really well(maybe too well!)
  2. You get two insider opinions
  3. It takes less time
  4. If you feel like not working, the other will encourage you to work, so it has accountability built in
  5. You can focus on your strengths


  1.  Frankly, if you don’t like your coauthor,  that’s really bad because you’re around him all the time
  2. There’s more debating
  3. Sadly, it’s not my way or the highway
  4. You have to plan everything meticulously so everything fits together

I honestly feel that coauthoring fiction is awesome, and I’d recommend it to you once you weigh the pros and cons.

Go Fantasy!



The Word: John 1: 1


Today marks the beginning of a new series on John.  I just want to tackle the first verse right now.  So check this out:  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

So what does the first phrase mean?  And what in Jupiter does John mean by the Word? As we will discover, the Word is Jesus.  Okay, so let’s just fill in the blanks:  In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.

Just in three phrases we encounter three huge implications: Jesus was with God, Jesus is God, and Jesus was in the beginning!  Man, and that’s just the first sentence.

This first sentence in John has a ton of truth to delve into, but before we get into that, why did John call Jesus the Word here?

Well, in John 14: 16, Jesus said, “I am the truth.”  So Jesus is like the true Word, the message of God, what God had to say to us.  Here is what I’d imagine He might say:  This is Jesus, my son, and I want to say I love you so much, I’m sending him to die so that you might live.

Wow.  Jesus came so that we might live.

Think about that.  Doesn’t that change the way you think about your day, you think about everything?

Check out the next in the series!