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?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Romans 2 Practice What You Preach

Read Romans 2

This passage basically is in two sections -- God's Wrath and the Jews and the Law. But the summary for us today seems to be, will you live as you say you are?

Verses 1-16 teach us that the wrath of God is supreme. He is the judge, period. But how often do we act as judge and jury of others when we are committing sin against the Father? (See 2:1-4) God's reward is going to come on all men "who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality...." (2:7)

The second part reminds us that we must live under the law but more importantly, under the circumcision of the heart. (vs 12-29) Our lives must be examples, not talking heads. We have to model the law to uphold it.

I was raised in the church. I know the lingo. I know the theology. I know the doctrine. But the question is do I model what I teach? Am I living in the physical circumcision or in the circumcision of the heart? And if I am living the law only, then I am judging others who are not following the law and missing the entire objective myself.

What is that objective? To love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. (Mark 12:30-31 paraphrased) That life involves living under the law with the power of the heart in action. I cannot straddle the two; they must be a joint venture. One without the other makes me either a pharisee or a hippy. I can't be bound alone by law, and in the same vein I can't just be spreading meaningless "love." I can only live out the powerful love of our Lord while living under His direction.

And both of these practices - living the law and living in love must be covered by grace. It is through grace that I see my own unworthiness and am humbled. And in that humility, I can extend grace to others who are also unworthy rather than burdening them with judgment. Judging others will only bring destruction to them and to myself. Living by grace does not condone their actions any more than it condones my sin. But grace allows us to love others within their sin. And maybe, just maybe, they will turn from their sin because they have seen love and grace lived out through me.

Lord, guide me to walk under Your laws and live under Your grace with an open heart to others who are just as broken as I am. So be it.

Further Thoughts:

  1. What does living under the law truly mean?
  2. Define grace with Scripture.
  3. Examine your heart - has it been circumcised? What is standing in the way?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Romans 1:18-32. Consequences

Read Romans 1:18-32.

God is made known to all people and men are without excuse.

This passage is a tough one to read. It reveals the consequences of mankind's poor choices. When faced with good - glorifying and thanking God, or evil - succumbing to the temptations of darkness, most have chosen evil. After all, it's the easy way, the known way - popular, pleasurable, an escape into self-indulgence. It's no wonder that so many people choose this path.

But this way only leads to destruction.

The temporal satisfaction of our human desires will result in facing the wrath of God. It is promised. So it begs the question, "Is sin worth it?"

The rational mind, when faced with time and space to truly consider the consequences of sin, will say that sin is not worth it. The path of destruction that sin leaves paving the way to an eternal destination of separation from God is unfathomable.

But time is space is not a child of the chaos we live in. It is a haven of heaven that we must demand to have in the midst of a dark world. We must be intentional about our focus - capturing our thoughts and actions to remain in line with the Father's ways. And we must do so daily, if not multiple times a day.

The task can seem daunting, but it is doable. If we can only hang on to the truth that "greater is He that is within me than he that is in the world," we can overcome the temptations and distractions that want to rob us of the surety in which we can live and thrive.

Father, I see You. Help me, sweet Spirit, to not let the world dim my sight. May my life continually praise and glorify You and You alone. Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from the evil one. So be it.

Further Thoughts:

  1. What is distracting you right now? How will you diminish or even eliminate those distractions?
  2. How do we remain focused on the Father while navigating through the chaos?
  3. What habits do you need to stop and what ones do you need to begin?
  4. Who in your life is adding to your distractions? Who do you need to surround yourself with who will help you stay focused on what is true?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Romans 1:8-17 Eagerness

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 
9 God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 
10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong-- 
12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. 
13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. 
14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 
15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. 
16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 
17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." Romans 1:8-17 NIV

Paul was an amazing teller. He shared Jesus wherever he went. And many times he endured tremendous hardships to get to people who still didn't know about Jesus. 

And what an amazing story of hope Jesus is to a world who is searching, hungry, and lost in themselves. Some say faith is hard, maybe even impossible for them. I say, how could I not live by faith? Walking in my own judgement and direction is what is impossible.

However, the true question is, "Am I eagerly sharing Jesus the way I should be sharing Him?"

For years I have said I am a discipler, not an evangelist. My gifting is in helping people grow in their faith, not winning them to Christ. We have probably done a disservice to the gospel by making such distinctions. We are all called to share Jesus with others. Some of us have a gifting to do that, but that does not exempt the rest of us from letting others know about the power of the resurrection and the hope they can have through Jesus Christ. The Great Commission is for all of us, not just those who are "gifted."

So how do I share Jesus as a disciple-maker? I live Him every day in front of everyone I meet. I build relationships with people to share the love of Christ. When they feel hopeless, I show them Hope. When they are weak, I point them to the Strength. When they are lonely, I introduce them to a Friend who will never leave them. 

I am not ashamed of the gospel, but I must be sure I'm not living as if I am. Sometimes it's not popular to be a Christ-follower, but I'm not looking for popularity. I want to be a hope-giver like Paul. 

I recently heard Pastor Bob Roberts speak and He said, "You don't have to completely understand what others believe. You have to know the gospel and how to share it in love." 

Lord, help me to live as my heart believes - that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Give me boldness to love as you love and to eagerly speak your truth in love to so many who need to hear. So be it.

Further Thoughts:
  1. Consider what is stopping you from sharing Jesus with others. What will you do about those obstacles?
  2. Paul was a bold personality. Who else shared Jesus in the Scriptures who may have been more like you? What can you learn from their life? How can you gain the boldness of Paul?
  3. Read 1 Corinthians 13. Love is the basis of all sharing of the gospel. Are you truly loving others if you are not sharing Jesus?
  4. Read Bob Roberts book, Bold as Love. He talks about how to have a relationship with people of other faiths and belief systems.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Romans 1:5-7 We Are Called!

5 Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. 6 And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Romans 1:5-7 NIV

Because of Jesus' sacrifice, the power of God on just the chosen ones - Israel - is no more. We can all receive His grace which is an undeserved right to forgiveness and eternity with God. His love extends to all men, women, and children. We have all become His chosen. 

And when we accept the call to "obedience that comes from faith," we choose to step into the unknown each day for His glory. Our lives are no longer our own - but they are His. But this is only for a time. You see, the faith it takes to surrender each day will one day in heaven no longer be needed. "12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12

The faith leading to obedience is only needed now while living in the middle of the chaos. In heaven, we will see Him whom we love and serve. We won't need faith; we will just be. 

But for now, we are all called to walk by faith. It's not a burden, but a privilege because we are among the called. And by that same faith we share with others this privilege of being called to the faith of the redeemed. 

Father, thank you for the provision of faith given to us all. Help me to walk in the obedience of that faith and share it with others until one day we can see you face to face. Your grace and peace covers me daily. So be it. 

Further Thoughts:

  1. Why were the Israelites the chosen ones?
  2. Why does Christ's sacrifice make us all chosen?
  3. In the "obedience that comes from faith" how are we to obey?
  4. Restate why we only need faith here and now before Jesus comes again. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Romans 1:4 He is God and Lord!

4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ Romans 1:4 NIV

This is the verse that makes you want to jump up and down and cheer. We serve the One and Only. 

He is the One whom the Spirit of holiness (The Holy Spirit) declared with power (not in weakness, in power) to be the Son of God (an heir to the throne and He is God) by his resurrection (He had the power to overcome sin and death. He was the final sacrifice, but He didn't stay there. He rose up to conquer that which would conquer us without the Him.) Jesus Christ (the name that is above all names) our Lord. (Not only is He our Savior, but He is our Lord - Master, King, the ultimate Leader of our hearts and our lives.)

See why I want to jump up and down? Romans 1:4 is my salvation. It is my hope. It is my eternal address. In Him and only in Him will I live and breathe and serve. 

Lord, I am weak. I can't do anything without the power of You in me. Thank you for your sacrifice -- for paying the price so I won't. I worship you as my Savior, Redeemer, and Lord. So be it.

Further Thoughts:

  1. How is the trinity declared in this verse?
  2. How is His resurrection a declaration that He is the Son of God?
  3. What is the difference between Jesus as Savior and Jesus as Lord?
  4. Have you moved into the realm of living with Jesus as Lord? You can start today.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Romans 1:2-3 The History

2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David....   ~ Romans 1:2-3
Here we see the history of the gospel. The plan before Jesus ever arrived. Now we knew of the trinity from evidences of a divine 3-in-1 existence before this point. But the prophets laid out the specifics. And then even more important to the culture, we see the lineage of Jesus to show His humanity. I just love that the Messiah was a descendant of a man whom God used in powerful ways who was also the youngest of his family and from the least of the tribes. He wasn't expected to do anything, but by God's power, David became a mighty warrior and king. That always gives me hope - He can use even me, and He can use you to do great things for His glory. 

I serve a wonderful God who has a plan. A plan for me. He doesn't just set us to "be" in the world and when we are done, we are done. He loves us so much that He provided a way back to Him way before Jesus was born. 

Jesus was always the plan and He still is today. What hope that brings to a world who so desperately needs Him!  

Lord, help me to show others the plan so they too can have the hope only You can give. So be it. 

Further Thoughts:
1. What Scriptures are the evidence for Jesus' existence from the beginning?
2. Search the prophets for the foretelling of Jesus' birth. 
3. Why does this being the plan all along bring hope?
4. Who do you need to tell today about the hope of Jesus Christ?