Romans

I love the Word of God! I love how I can read a part of the Bible that I’ve read many times before and it still impacts me like it did the first time. Sometimes I’ll discover something I hadn’t even noticed before.

The book of Romans is one of my favorites. It summarizes the struggle with sin and obeying the law that we all face. It explains how we can’t be good enough on our own – and how God provided us with a path to salvation.

Jesus came. Jesus died. Jesus rose. When we accept that — God credits us with righteousness. (Not because we are righteous, but because Jesus is – and he paid the price for the fact that we’re not.)

Here are some snippets from my daily reading. (Any emphasis is my own.). Read these verses one at a time and let them soak in. And Be sure to read Romans as a whole for yourself so that you can get the context. (Context is important!)
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[People] know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:19, 20

Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking… (Romans 1:28 NLT)

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! … (Romans 2:1 NLT)

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? (Romans 2:4 NLT)

…And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people. (Romans 2:29 NLT)

Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. (Romans 3:19 NLT)

Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. (Romans 3:27 NLT)

…only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law. (Romans 3:31 NLT)

If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. …(The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!) (Romans 4:14, 15 NLT)

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise…He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. (Romans 4:20, 21 NLT)

[Jesus] was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God. (Romans 4:25 NLT)

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. (Romans 5:2 NLT)

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. (Romans 5:5 NLT)

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:11 NLT)
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I hope you have accepted this truth as your own. I hope you are resting in the fact that no matter how unworthy you may be, Jesus’ worthiness has been credited to your account. I hope that you live with the confidence that you have the promise of eternity with God.

I humbly thank God every day that he opened my eyes to salvation. I can’t imagine trying to “do life” without that blessed assurance!

Church? Why?

These days there is a lot of divisiveness within the Christian church. A lot of fighting over the details that ultimately take away from the purpose God has for the church. And for many of us Christians, this drama can seem like the perfect excuse to skip church all together.

Does our regular attendance at (or absence from) church impact our salvation? No! The gospel message is quite clear. Jesus + nothing = salvation. So what’s the big deal, then, whether or not I go to church?

When Jesus left this earth to take his seat in heaven, he sent his Holy Spirit to empower those who believe in him. (Acts 1:8) The Christian church is the body of Christ. (Colossians 1:18) The physical presence on earth of the Holy Spirit of God that dwells in believers. And just as God created our physical bodies with many different parts, all designed to work together, so it is with the body of Christ. (Romans 12:4-6) So when you’re not there – when you’re not connected – there’s something missing. And no matter where your local body of Christ gathers in his name, when you do — you become a holy temple for the Lord. (Ephesians 2:21). The first church that was born after Jesus’ death and resurrection leaves us a great example of what the Christian church should look like.

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. — Acts 2:42-47

*Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be an active part of the family of God.*

Experience the amazing privilege of worshiping God with other believers.

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. — Psalms 100: 1 & 2

Take the opportunity to be fed and equipped by those that God has gifted with teaching so that you can go out into your sphere of influence and share the gospel.

Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. — 1 Timothy 4:8

**It is vitally important that we pray for our teachers/pastors — that they have strong spiritual discernment and that they remain grounded in the Bible. It is also important to pray for your own discernment and to read and study the Bible for yourself so that you will not be deceived. (Matthew 24:11)**

Feed into the Kingdom of God by being an active giver and serving as part of the body! This is how we can work together to be “Jesus with skin on” to a hurting world.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. — 1 Peter 4:10.

Make every effort to connect socially, and to allow yourself opportunities to be in fellowship with other believers. These relationships will provide you opportunities for encouragement and accountability that you cannot find in secular circles.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. — Hebrews 10:25

Nowadays, we are all good at being plugged in to our “extra-curricular” activities and our high-tech devices — but for many of us, finding time to plug into the community of Christ has dropped in priority. Imagine how the world might look if all of us that love the Lord hooked up and served him together. And imagine how the church might look to the world!

For such a time as this

Have you ever wondered what impact you could possibly have on the Kingdom of God? Have you ever tried to figure out how God could possibly use you where you are right now? One thing I’ve come to know as I’ve walked with God is that he can turn the seemingly insignificant into something grand.

Imagine if you had a chance to interview one of the “great” men and women of the faith. Someone that’s made it into the history books or through fame and recognition, their contribution to the Kingdom has been obvious. You can bet that they would have a story about someone in their life that impacted them. In some cases, they may not even remember that person’s name. Maybe it was the person that first shared the good news of Christ with them. Maybe it was someone that made Jesus real for them with a sacrificial act of service when they were in need. Maybe it was someone who was devoted to praying for them. Or who loved them unconditionally. Odds are that at that moment neither one of them knew the future significance. But because one of the Lord’s servants was faithful with the moment they were given — another one of the Lord’s servant could go on to be faithful, too.

There’s an Old Testament story about a Jewish girl named Esther. She was taken from her home and brought to the King’s palace to be one of his wives, part of a Harem. She did not choose this, and I imagine that she may have even asked God why. But fast forward the story a ways, and suddenly her moment appears. The King is tricked into issuing a command that all the Jews be killed, and things are not looking good for Esther’s people. As she is presented with the fact that she must speak up. That she must risk her life by going to the king without being called for. And as she wonders if she has the courage to do that – she is reminded that if she doesn’t take her moment, the consequences could be deadly. And the thought is posed to her: “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)

We’ve all got our moments. Some will come and go, and we will miss them. But pray that God will open your eyes to see your opportunities. Never underestimate a kind word or gesture that you can offer to someone. Never pass up a chance to share your personal relationship with Jesus, and how it has changed your life. Be faithful with whatever gift, talent, opportunity God may bless you with and one day you will hear Jesus say: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)

— If you don’t do it, God will use someone else. Don’t miss the opportunity to seize your moment(s)!

If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this? Esther 4:14

The greatest among you must be a servant. Matthew 23:11

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28

To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Matthew 25:29

A fresh start

For some people, it seems hard to believe that the blood of Jesus can truly wash away our sins and make us “white as snow”. (Isaiah 1:18) For some people, their past is far too tainted — and there seems to be no coming back from sins they’ve committed or choices they’ve made.

For some people, they live with a daily reminder of a past transgression in the form of a painful consequence. Maybe the reminder is a physical one. Maybe it is a mental one. Many people live each day with depression and feel hopeless and overwhelmed.

The lie that the devil is selling … and that many of us are buying … is that there is no hope. That we’ve gone too far down to rise back up. The devil wants us to spend our life in hopelessness and despair. He doesn’t want us to see that each morning is a chance for a fresh start. He doesn’t want us to learn to cast our burdens on the Lord (Psalms 55:22). He knows that once we discover that the hope God promised is real — we will have victory over the pain. And our victory in Christ is another defeat on Satan’s record.

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
Lamentations 3:21-23 NLT

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 15:56-57

The battle is already won! The victory is final! All we have to do is make it ours by accepting Christ and allowing him to heal us, one new day at a time.

Tongue trouble

Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. (James 3:2 NLT)

The Bible goes on to compare the tongue to the tiny rudder on a large ship, able to change the entire course. And to a small spark, able to start a destructive fire.

Mankind has managed to tame all sorts of wild animals – yet we are unable to tame our tongues. (See James 3:7)

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. (James 3:9, 10 NIV84)

There are many times I reflect on my day and call to mind times when I said something I wish I could take back. Whether it was joining in on some gossip; letting a swear word slip out; repeating an inappropriate joke; or spewing bitter words in an angry argument.

Sometimes at the very moment the “godless chatter” leaves my lips I’m asking God to forgive me and kicking myself for not thinking before I speak.

The Bible doesn’t sugar coat the sort of trouble our tongue can get us into. God refers to it many times throughout scripture. Here are just some of the verses:

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36, 37 NIV84)

What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ ” (Matthew 15:11 NIV84)

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. (2 Timothy 2:16 NIV84)

Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble. (Proverbs 21:23 NLT)

Their own tongues will ruin them, and all who see them will shake their heads in scorn. (Psalms 64:8 NLT)

So what can we do to avoid all of this tongue trouble? Pray! Pray for God to control our tongue…then pause before we speak. Allow God to intervene. Allow him to give us something good to say, or to shut our mouth before our tongue gets us in trouble.

Staying connected

Daily routines. We all have them. Coffee, before I even open my eyes. Take a shower. Brush my teeth. Make sure my kids do the same. My mornings are so scripted, you could almost set your clock by them. (Right down to the part where I’m running around proclaiming that I’m late…again.)

I am so thankful that God has placed a hunger in my heart for his Word. Because of this, it’s a rare morning that I don’t sit on my couch and do my “devotions”.

The challenging part for me is when I finish my devotions and head out into a world full of struggles and temptations. How can I “resolve” to be different? (Like Daniel did – Daniel 1:8). How can I stand firm (1 Peter 5:8-9) and “refuse to let the world corrupt me”? (James 1:27)

This is a daily challenge for me (more accurately…a moment by moment challenge). I need to do what I can to keep God’s word close at hand. Constant reminders. Things like a perpetual calendar with a daily verse; Christian music playing in the background; a mid-day prayer or moment in the Word. For each of us, staying connected will look different – the important thing is to make a conscience effort to do it.
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But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. (James 1:22-25 NLT)

Just a “brief glance” into God’s word may not be enough to ensure that we don’t forget it when we walk away. We must be intentional about allowing the Word of God to soak into our souls.

Habitual sin

Once you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior, your eternity is sealed and he has prepared a place for you in heaven. Of this you can be sure.

Unfortunately, even God’s own children can rob themselves of the peace and joy he desires to give them. Even the children of God can be given over to their sin and left to deal with the consequences.

The Old Testament as a whole is such a great picture of what the Christian life can look like. God’s chosen people were so up and down in their walk with God! They would lean on him…he would walk alongside them…they would get comfortable and complacent…God would be pushed aside for the new “idol of the day”…suddenly life would fall apart and they would cry out to God in repentance…and every time he would forgive him! (This cycle was repeated multiple times. And I’m personally familiar with it.)

It’s obvious when you look at the whole story that they were much better off, much safer, experienced more peace and joy, when they were walking with God.

It is the same way with Christians today. Each of us sins! And God hasn’t assigned a grading curve to indicate that one sin is worse than another. Sin is sin! And when we humbly come before him, confessing our sin and turning away from it – he will forgive us, removing the power of that sin.

Unfortunately, in some cases, we have allowed a particular sin (or sins) to become a way of life for us. Initially we can feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit within our Spirit – and we know that we should repent. But we like the sin too much. We don’t want to give it up. Not yet, anyway – maybe tomorrow.

The problem is, the more we ignore that feeling of conviction, the harder our hearts will become and pretty soon the Lord will stop bugging us about it and let us have our sin. He won’t stop loving us!!! He won’t stop waiting for us to return!!! We will not lose our salvation!!! But we will end up on an island named [insert sin here] and the weather may get pretty tumultuous.

When faced with the consequences of our sin, we will cry out to God – “Why??” And with a sad heart, he will gently respond: “Child, I tried to warn you. Now take my hand and I will walk you through this.”

Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. (Psalms 19:13a NLT)

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalms 51:10 KJV)

…“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. (v. 20)

…“ for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. (v. 24) Luke 15 NLT

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (Romans 8:1, 2 NLT)