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?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Romans 1:1 A Servant of Jesus Christ

1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God-- Romans 1:1 NIV
Paul opens his letter to the church at Rome with this declaration of who he is and his authority. 

- a servant of Christ Jesus - Here the Greek word for servant means 1) slave or bond servant - obligated and bound to serve a master 2) servant - one who chooses to serve a master. It's interesting to me that it means both an obligation and a choice. As believers we have chosen to follow Jesus Christ, but in that choice, we are reminded of who we serve in that He is the most high. Our lives should be lived with each step directed by the master. However, today's definition of a slave is counterproductive in thinking this way. The modern definition of a master would include greed, control, tyrant, merciless, malice, etc. Traits that could never be applied to our Lord. He is the antithesis of this definition. So we tend to lean toward the "servant" definition to soften the picture. What we must remember that while we are choosing to serve, we are still serving the Master, all be it a loving, generous, and grace-filled one. It is a 24/7 service. We don't pick up and go home from working for Him to follow our own path. As the Master, we must follow His guidance in every area of our life. We surrendered our life to Him; now we must live it out as He leads. For some, that may be frightening. However, I find great comfort in knowing the Almighty God of the Universe has my back. He loves me and knows what is best for me. That is an easy surrender in my book.

- an apostle - one who is a representative or messenger specifically chosen for this purpose. We are all representatives of something or someone. Every day our lives proclaim a message. Hopefully, as believers, our message is of the love and hope of our Savior, Jesus Christ. However, our message may be communicating other things - anger, hopelessness, negativity, self-promotion, greed. Who are we representing when we get up from our bed in the morning? That's when it begins - our choice to represent the One and Only Hope of the world.

- set apart for the gospel of God - Paul declares here exactly Who he is an apostle for, the good news of Jesus Christ. He is not living for self-promotion or company promotion or government promotion. Paul's life is to spread the message of Jesus Christ and the hope that He brings. He is "set apart" for this task. 

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are all to be His obedient servants, representing His message of hope to a dying world. That is our calling and our hope.

Holy Spirit, guide me each day, each moment to represent You and only You. Let my life reflect the hope you give to a world who so desperately needs hope.

Further Thoughts:  
  1. Write down a list of what or who your life may be representing to the world. How can you change that? (i.e. Maybe you are only representing your company.  That may be your job. But how can you make being a representative of Jesus Christ the priority? What will change about your approach at work?
  2. What does it mean to be a representative of Jesus Christ? List some of the attributes. What ones do you do well? Where are you challenged?
  3. What does it mean to live like Jesus? You may have heard that phrase for years, but write down what it means. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Romans 1:1-7 The Gospel and Commission in 7 Verses

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 human nature was a descendant of David, 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. 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. NIV

 It's amazing how much Paul packed into these seven verses. In them we see the trinity, prophecy, the gospel, the lineage of Christ, our calling as believers, and our hope. As well as a greeting to the Romans.

Over the next few posts, I will need to break this passage down verse by verse. But today, I wanted to look at it in its entirety simply to see that being a Christ follower is not complex. Here we see it summarized in six short verses. Isn't that amazing? The power of the Creator who sent His Son to change the world and bring it hope can be written about in just a few words. And yet, we want to make it so complicated.

Jesus Christ did come to upset the apple cart, but not to complicate. In fact, His presence brings more clarity to our lives than we will ever experience through any other means. He is our only hope. We simply must believe and walk in that faith. How beautiful is that?

Father, I continue to complicate your gospel and commission by placing it in time and space; by breaking it down into too many parts; by letting it be overshadowed by my sin and chaos. And it is much simpler than that. Forgive me, Lord. You love me; I accept Your love and forgiveness; I will live to serve You. Period. So be it.

Further Thoughts: 
  1. Read this passage again 2-3 times slowly. Let your mind and heart absorb all it has to say. 
  2. Read this passage here in other versions. Notice below the passage, you can click on "view in parallel." Then you can select other versions to read. I particularly like the English Standard Version of this passage.
  3. Define gospel.
  4. Read The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20.
  5. Write out for yourself in a few words a definition of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Great Commission. Memorize it to be your 30-second explanation you can give if someone asks you what you believe.