Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Romans 5:9-11 An End to the Hostilities

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:9-11

Reconciled means "to put an end to hostility." Have you ever thought of yourself before you received Christ as being hostile toward God? That's a very strong word. Hostile means "unfriendly, antagonistic." Some synonyms for hostile are "unkind, bitter, unsympathetic, malicious, vicious, rancorous, venomous, poisonous, virulent." Wow, that escalated quickly - from unkind to virulent. 

That's how we were toward God - virulent. I think of all the hostilities occurring around the world - civil wars, terrorists, hatred between different people groups, rebellion - and that is how I was behaving toward God. That truly grieves my heart.

But through Jesus Christ, that is over. I am now in right relationship with Him. I am not working against Him but with Him. I am not His opponent, but His ally -- all because of Christ's sacrifice and my acceptance of that gift. Such a profound act on His part, such a simple one for me. Accept. If only all hostilities could end that quickly. I guess they could if someone was willing to make the sacrifice first. 

And He did -- He is the One who brought peace, eternal peace into my life.

You know what's interesting -- even when I lived in hostility toward God, He was loving me all the time. Amazing.

Father, thank you for your love. Thank you for your sacrifice. Forgive me for my hostile heart toward you. The war is over. May my life forever be a shadow of the love you showed me. So be it.

Further Thoughts:
  1. Reflect on how you lived in hostility toward God and give thanks for His love through it.
  2. How does being reconciled to God change how you live?
  3. Who do you know who needs to hear about God's amazing love and gift of reconciliation?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Romans 5:6-8 We Didn't Deserve It

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 NIV

We recently celebrated Veteran's Day. What a wonderful time to recognize all the men and women who have served our country past and present. These people left home, risked their lives, multitudes giving their life so we could live free and safe here in the United States. Sometimes that thought simply overwhelms me to stillness. I am so grateful for what they have done and are still doing.

But I didn't deserve their sacrifice.

They don't know me. They don't know if I am a good person who should have a safe place to live free. For all they know they sacrificed for the worst human being in the history of mankind. 

That's what Jesus did. He sacrificed his life even though I nor anyone else deserve it. In fact, we don't deserve it because we had turned away from our God and followed our own ways. But He did it anyway. 

And His sacrifice wasn't for safety or freedom for my body. It was for eternal freedom from condemnation and the promise of eternity with my Lord. 

If the sacrifice of warriors moves me to stillness, I am paralyzed by the realization of my Lord's sacrifice for my very soul.

Father, the sacrifice of your Son is nothing that should have been done for me. Forgive me for taking that gift for granted. Help me to share His sacrifice with others so they too can live in the true freedom of the soul. So be it.

Further Thoughts:
  1. How has your life been transformed by Christ's sacrifice for you? Reflect on how far you've come from that undeserving sinner.
  2. Read John 3:16 slowly and think about the full scope of its meaning.
  3. What hope do you have now and for the future because you made that decision to follow Christ?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Romans 5:2b-5 Hope and Sufferings and Hope….and Love

Read Romans 5:2b-5.

Since our faith is in Jesus Christ and that gives us hope - the hope of eternity with Him, the hope of His Spirit guiding us each and every day, the hope that He is in control, the hope that the Enemy does not win in the end and receives his punishment - then we can rejoice. We know our future and it is fantastic!

But for now, we suffer. Now there are varying levels of suffering and if you are looking here for an answer to that one, I do not have it. Jim and I always say we are blessed beyond what we deserve because we have not had to suffer much at all. Our difficulties have been light compared to what so many others have endured. Would I want to trade places with others less fortunate to diminish a sense of guilt over an "easier" life? Not really. Do I wish there was less suffering in the world? Absolutely! Some have brought the suffering on themselves by the choices they have made, but many have just had to endure living in a fallen world where suffering exists. And it will continue to exist and in fact get worse befor it gets better.

One of the hopes through suffering is as I stated above, it will not endure forever because we know one day the Enemy will be stopped. But that also may not happen in our lifetime. So we must persevere, but we do not do it alone.

Another hope in suffering is that God promises that He is molding and shaping us into the people He needs us to be to serve Him best. Isaiah 64:2 says:
"Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand."
There is so much hope in that there is truly a purpose to our life, even in our suffering. We are being made into a better version of ourself if we allow perseverance to grow within us….if we let that perseverance develop our character, and the person we are is then our hope to endure to the end faithful and committed to following our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Therefore, we can rejoice in our sufferings. Not because of them, but in them. For we know that we are not alone in this journey of suffering or health for God has "poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (vs 5)

The shaping and molding of our humble clay bodies through suffering is not enjoyable. Sometimes it comes with a pain we simply do not believe we can endure. But through the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can. His love endures forever, and by His power, we can, too.

Father, suffering is a part of our life because we chose to rebel against You. Thank You, that even in the suffering there is joy and hope because You have a much bigger plan for us. Help us to persevere, grow in character and hope, and remain in the power of Your love. So be it.

Further Thoughts:

  1. Read Job and his encounter with suffering.
  2. How does positivity affect our outlook on our suffering? How do we remain positive in suffering?
  3. How can you give hope to those who are suffering more than you?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Romans 5:1-2a Peace from War

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peacewith God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. Romans 5:1-2a NIV
I always start with the "therefore" because I need to know what it is "there for." The previous chapter talked about Abraham and his righteousness by nothing that he had done, but only by his faith. And that God will also credit righteousness for us who believe.

THEREFORE, we have peace through Jesus Christ because we have received grace through faith.

Here is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary's full definition of peace.
1   :  a state of tranquillity or quiet: asa :  freedom from civil disturbance
b :  a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom (a breach of the peace)
2   :  freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions3   :  harmony in personal relations4   a :  a state or period of mutual concord between governments
     b :  a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity 
5 —used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell 
— at peace
:  in a state of concord or tranquillity
There are several areas that we can have peace - within ourselves, in our community, across personal relationships, within our government or between governments.

But let's look at the descriptors that occur in the definitions:

  • tranquility
  • quiet
  • freedom
  • security
  • order
  • harmony
  • mutual accord
  • silence
  • calm

Don't you just take a deep breath, let our a loud sigh, and your entire body relaxes when you read these words? Mine does. Just reading the description of peace brings a feeling of peace to my spirit. And I appreciate that, but the peace we obtain through salvation is so much more.

I love the NIV footnote in the study Bible for 5:1:
"peace with God.  Not merely a subjective feeling (peace of mind) but primarily an objective status, a new relationship with God: Once we were his enemies, but now we are his friends."

You see, when I first read through the definitions above, my mind started to discount any reference to war or enmity between two factions. But I was wrong. Before accepting the gift of salvation, I had been at war with God. My life, actions, view of myself, view of others, etc. were all centered within me. My focus was how will I benefit, how will I be hurt, what will this gain me? That life philosophy was in direct opposition to a life surrendered to the Father. So I had made Him my enemy and was warring against Him.

But no more. There is peace from that battle. He is the ruling Master and I, His servant. And that fact not only brings a respite from war, but a tremendous feeling of peace that comes from the surety of His presence and control. Do I still go through times of turmoil, confusion, upheaval? Of course. I'm human, and I live in a fallen world.

But here's the cool thing. Even when I am in the midst of uncertainty, if I take the time to go to my Father, spend time with Him - pour out my heart to Him - read His Word, then I am in the Presence of peace and feel peace even in the midst of the storm. It's like sitting for a time in the eye of a hurricane and then being embraced in concrete when the calm passes and the storm hits again. I can withstand the wind and the rain because I have remembered Who is in charge and Who is my protector in the storm. That is peace.

Father, thank you for the peace of surrender to Your will and Your ways. Holy Spirit, help me remember to remain close to that peace in the storms. You are my fortress of peace. So be it.

Further Thoughts:

  1. Give thanks to the Father for the peace that has come through salvation. You are no longer at war.
  2. List the ways being at peace with God has transformed your life.
  3. Read Philippians 4:7.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Romans 4 Fully Persuaded

Read Romans 4

3 What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." NIV
The power of God counting someone as righteous! As David is quoted as saying in verse 8, "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." That is righteousness. Our sin is gone as far as the east is from the west, and God remembers it against us no more. What amazing mercy and grace is demonstrated in counting someone as righteous. 

Because you understand, Abraham had done nothing but go where God had sent him when this statement was made about Abraham in Genesis 15:6. Abraham's righteousness even came before the act of circumcision. And this was way before he was willing to sacrifice his son on an altar. Abraham's "belief" was in God's promise that he would be the father of many nations even though he was old and childless. He simply trusted in the power of the Almighty to do as He said He would do. 

I love what it says about Abraham in verse 20:
20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. NIV

It begs the question, am I fully persuaded? And I don't mean in whether God has the power or not. I believe He does. Nor if He will keep His promises. I believe He will. To do otherwise would go against His nature, and He doesn't do that.

But to truly be fully persuaded would mean to live each day completely dedicated to Him and His mission. Am I doing that? Am I living in love for others each day? Am I devoted to study of the Word and prayer? Am I helping the poor, the widows, and the orphans? Do I truly care that people are going to hell? These are the thoughts that make me question if I am living FULLY PERSUADED. I suppose I don't waver in believing in who God is. I waver in believing in who I am in the full scheme of things. Do you?

I know the enemy works very hard to confuse us and to discourage us in our walk as believers in God. Doubt is one of his favorite tools of deception. So I suppose when I am feeling this way, I say:
1. I believe I am loved by God.
2. I believe I am made righteous by belief in His Son's sacrifice.
3. I am fully persuaded that He is able to do all He says He will do.
4. I am His child, a co-heir with Christ, and will walk in His love and by the power of His Holy Spirit.
5. I will do whatever He calls me to do.

This is my creed, and I choose to walk in it today.

Father, thank you for righteousness and that you loved us so much as to make that path even possible. Deliver me from the enemy's lies, and guide me to live out Your love each and every day - living fully persuaded. So be it.

Further Thoughts:

  1. What do you do to combat the feelings of not be fully persuaded?
  2. Read Hebrews 11 about all those who demonstrated faith in amazing ways. 
  3. What is challenging your faith? Write your creed and speak it out loud.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Romans 3 Glory Missed

Read Romans 3.

I have been reading this chapter for weeks now in the English Standard Version. I've read it multiple times and the main message I could see is that there is no one righteous - Jew or Gentile. (:10-11) And that we, Jew and Gentile, are only justified and made righteous again through Jesus Christ. (:22) Both wonderful thoughts but nothing revelatory to me. I knew this and celebrate the amazing gift of Christ's sacrifice so I can be made righteous again and reconciled to God.

But here is the verse that got me.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 

I know, you are all saying that is one of the most famous verses in the Bible. It is the first step in The Roman Road. You've known it all your life. Why did it make such an impression now?

The reason came in the NIV Study Bible footnote. "glory of God. What God intended man to be. The glory that man had before the fall. (see Ge 1:26-28; Ps 8:5-6…."

I had always thought of "fall short of the glory of God" meant that we did not live up to His level. And in many ways it does in that our sin separates us from God. But it can also imply that I must strive to reach a level that I can never fully attain, therefore, why should I try. And if I have sin and don't reach His level, I will always fall short.

But when you look at it from the perspective that I was created in His image, designed to be like Him, and that was how Adam and Eve were made, it opens up a whole new picture of who I am in Him and the potential to be made new or made again as God intended through the blood of Jesus Christ.

When I first read the footnote, a tremendous sadness overwhelmed me. We have chosen to lose so much by choosing sin. We have actually lost the glory of God, meaning the praise and honor that was our very essence through His perfect creation. There has been no greater loss than this. We devastated our perfect hope and existence for what? Sin?!?! While there are temporary pleasures, it will always be that which destroys, separates, confuses, devastates, and ultimately kills us.

We were born into a positive world. We were born into glory, and we traded it for death.

BUT, through our Lord Jesus Christ, we can return to that original glory in which we were first created.  Even though I know that I am completely justified and redeemed into a right relationship with God right now. And that if I died today, I would be with Him for eternity. I also know it will not be Eden again until heaven. We will constantly battle the sin we chose to rule over this world. Daily we must take up, reclaim, choose, remind ourselves again that we are covered by the cross and made new through the blood. But even though we must daily, sometimes moment by moment battle the demons within and without, once we've received His gift, we are made so much closer to the original image of our Creator than ever before.

Lord, I grieve for what we lost through our rejection of the glory of You. But my joy cannot be adequately voiced for the hope and the reality of regaining that glory through Jesus Christ. So be it.

Further Thoughts:

  1. Read Genesis 1:26-30. What glory did God bestow on us in creation?
  2. Read Hebrews 2:5-18. What is our hope in Christ Jesus?
  3. Do a study of the word glory.
  4. How is this post related to my previous post, Here's a Thought?
  5. In what way do you see your daily life differently in light of our original created glory?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Here's a Thought

I'm taking a pause from my study of Romans for this thought....

The other day Jim and I went to the movie, The Avengers. Now you have to understand, I'm the SciFi fan. Jim just loves me enough to to take me to indulge my habit.

I love the action, the special powers, that the good guys always win in the end. We ordinary people don't win every day, but super heroes win 99% of the time. That's pretty awesome. I loved the movie.

Jim and I had met up at the theater, so afterwards, I had some alone time on the ride home to think quietly.  It occurred to me that as much as we revere and adore heroes like the Avengers; as much as we are amazed by their special powers, "greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world."  I have the power of the Holy Spirit living in me and He is the ultimate super hero.

Jesus also said, "You will do even greater things than I have done."  

If only one believer learned how to live in that kind of power, can you imagine the difference they would make on our world? And then what if all believers would take command of the power the Father has placed in our hands? The world would never be the same. Forget about faith to move mountains. We'd be moving entire continents for His glory. Just think about the possibilities!

Lord, I want to be an avenger for you. Teach me to live more and more in the power of Your Spirit so me life can reflect Your glory. So be it. 

Further Thoughts:

  1. Look up the verses I referenced above. Read them in their context. What do you learn?
  2. How do we daily live in the power of Christ? What does that mean practically?
  3. How would our life change if we truly believed?