Romans Chapter 8

This chapter outlines awesome privilege we believers receive through Christ. We receive salvation; we are no longer controlled by sin, we are heirs to His glory, the Spirit lives within us and communicates to the Father for us, verse 31 even says, “If God is with us who can be against us?” Through Jesus, we cannot be condemned, and He continues to intervene on our behalf.  

With a list of gifts given through Jesus, verse 35 asked the question,  When trouble comes ‘Does it mean He no longer loves us?  This question could seem out of place in a chapter after a list of favors God has given His children.  Having full knowledge of being loved by God, assurance is needed when suffering. 

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?  Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?...37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

Children often communicate what is in their heart better than adults. This may be because they haven’t learned to mask their feelings.  While I sat with a little girl and talked about her parent’s divorce, she said clearly, “If God loves me, why is this happening?”  Many adults ask the same question in times of trouble.  I had asked God this question when dealing with overwhelming life circumstances.  Understanding our fragility as humans, God makes it clear in verse 39 nothing changes God’s love for us. 

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus let us know that we will have trouble in this world.  We can take heart our Lord not only offers salvation, He has a never-ending love for us,  He is always with us, strengthen us, and lift us up with His righteous hand.  The picture of this in my mind's eye is a Father extending a hand to help his child who has fallen

Romans Chapter 7

This passage reminds me of the hope of the Gospel and the importance of evangelism. 

After walking with Christ for many years, It's easy to forget what it was like living as a slave to sin. The inner emptiness and longing that was ever present no matter what experience or pleasure I tried to fill it with. I would set goals and declare I’d never do certain things again... and then, in the moment, the thrill would overtake reason and I’d forget my commitments over and over again. I was a slave… and deep down, I knew it. I needed a Savior.

The hope of the Gospel is life to the thirsty. God chooses to use us, His children to be His messengers.

Which brings me to the E word… Evangelism. It can be an intimidating word and sometimes carries many misconceptions. I’ve heard many well-meaning believers say things like “oh, thats for the professionals”, or “I need to go to seminary before I do that”. However, thats not the way God intended it. 

I think its time we reframe “evangelism" and replace it with the words “guide”. 

A guide is someone who advises or shows the way to others. Evangelism is simply guiding someone to the truth, and that truth when found, will set them free of the slavery of sin. Being a guide isn’t complicated, its sharing your experience and insights into what you’ve already found.

Motivated by love, we guide others to Jesus. Through compassion, we guide people out from of the grip of sin, into the arms of the Savior, Jesus. Humanity needs Christians to step up and be unashamed of the Gospel. The freedom we have experienced is the gift of God to ALL mankind. Its Gods will that none should perish, but that ALL would come into relationship with Him.

Are you a guide? Are you actively looking for opportunities to share the hope you have found in Jesus? Be generous, the worlds needs you to be.

 

Romans 7:25 - "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Romans Chapter 6

It was the middle of the summer.  I was twelve years old.  My brother and I were sitting in the back seat of our brown 1990 Buick Sable.  It was day three, of a road trip across the country.  My family was moving from Pasadena, California to Nyack, New York.  Needless to say, I was restless.  My parents’ had lots of creative strategies to keep us occupied but after three days of driving they were beginning to run low. 

As my parent’s ideas started to dwindle, my creativity started to peak. I started coming up with idea after idea of ways to annoy my brother. Just about every time it would result in my parents telling me to stop doing whatever it was. Naturally, being the obedient son that I was, when I was told to stop I would.  I would spend some time carefully crafting the next strategy. The goal was to get as close to the line as possible and not getting into trouble.  

It was in those hours that I made a brilliant discovery, a discovery that would become an incredible tool for years to come.  I learned that if I sucked on a straw just right, with my mouth in the right position, I could shoot whatever liquid was in my cup about six feet.  In this case, it was most likely ice cold Coke and I only needed about three feet.  I then proceeded to squirt Coke at my brother from across the car.  I got off two or three solid shots before Jon realized what was going on.  He told my parents what was going on and I played dumb and pretended like I didn’t know what he was talking about.  I got him again.  My parents then knew for sure that I was guilty.

Looking back, I know I was wrong.  I probably should not have tormented my little brother as much.  I realize now that I was doing everything I could to get as close to the line of right and wrong as possible.  I learned that I could justify it with a technicality explaining that I did not do the “thing” I was told not to do.  

As I read Romans 6, I was hit by verse 15 and 16, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace.” Often times we ask the question, “How close to the line can I get without actually crossing it?” and with out it actually being a “sin”. This is the wrong question.  The question we should be asking is, “What is my Father’s heart and how can I please him?” We need to flee from sin and run towards what is right! As followers of Jesus we need to do what we can to please our Father and live for Him

Romans Chapter 5

Romans 5:1-2  Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

The first two verses of Romans 5 may be one of the greatest and most succinct expressions of the meaning of the Gospel ever written.  Sometimes we read the Bible, and words like “justified,” “faith,” “peace,” and “grace” sound like religious jargon so familiar to our ears that we fail to pause and take in the incredible truth they convey in a simple sentence.  

Step back for a moment, breathe, and read these two verses again.

You have peace with God!  There is no sin, mistake, or failure that separates you from God and His love!  No past, present, or future missteps, dirty laundry, or skeletons in the closet that change how God sees you, or interrupts the warm intimacy between you and He.  Faith in Jesus has restored forever what was once a broken and painful disconnect.  

Do you hear me?  Because of your trust in Jesus and what He accomplished, you never, ever, ever have to be afraid again of whether or not God loves you, has your back, or believes the best about you.  Any thoughts or feelings of His rejection, disappointment, judgment, or disgust with you – are simply not true – lies of the enemy – designed to worry you, make you anxious, and cause you to think twice about running to your affectionate father in heaven.  But friends, these verses…You have peace with God!  He will ALWAYS receive you with open arms!

Is that not amazing?  Is that not good news? 

It’s great news!  It’s phenomenal news!  It’s literally, “off the chain” news!  It’s Amazing Grace!  

It’s almost too good to be true…too hard to believe…but brothers and sisters, believing it is the very door to the gift of peace with God!  Believe it!  Trust it! Speak it out loud against those thoughts and ideas that come pushing and forcing their way into your mind and emotions saying otherwise!  It’s this grace – that you have eternal peace with God your Father – that is the joy and strength of the rest of your life.  

Paul says it’s the “grace in which we stand…”  So stand in God’s promise that you and He are more than good!  Stand against any thought, lie, or accusation that says otherwise, and “take it captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).  Stand in all the ways He is calling you now to serve in His kingdom, and demolish the roadblocks of guilt, shame, second-guessing, and fear that have kept you from walking in the way, and helping others to walk that road too (Ephesians 2:1-10).

You are sons and daughters of the original, the best, the most loving, understanding, protective, dedicated, and most sacrificial father of all time!!!!  And right now He says to you “(insert your name), my sweet child, I am yours and you are mine, and that’s how you and I will always be…”

Romans Chapter 4

The story of Abraham makes it plain that salvation, righteous and restoration are all in God’s hands.  The Message says it this way, “the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story.”

Nothing in Abraham’s story gives any indication that he did anything to achieve righteousness. Instead, God choose, Abraham believed, and it was reckoned (considered or esteemed) to him as righteousness.  How wonderful is that!

In this chapter Paul uses "believes" five times, "trusts" once and "faith" nine times.  All these verbs place Abraham’s response and actions not on himself or his doing but on God and what He has done and will do.  But that doesn’t mean that Abraham just sat around twiddling his thumbs.  He had to trust in a participatory way.  Abraham did not weaken in faith when he considered his circumstances (verse 19).  No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in the waiting and in the journey (verse 20).  

Abraham's part and my part is to believe and trust, trusting Him in the beginning for the work of restoration and continuously trusting that He will do His good work in me until the day of completion (Philippians 1:6).   Then to take hold of the grace that God extends each day as I journey along with Him as His disciple.

Romans Chapter 3

God Remains Faithful; All People are Sinners, and Christ Took Our Punishment, I could drop the microphone right now! 

Paul through the Holy Spirit has some amazing nuggets in Chapter 3. 

If you and I read this chapter with an ounce of piety or pride we will miss the blessing God has for us. Paul shows us how believers are freed from sin, law, and death through Jesus Christ.

23For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  That means me.  I knew that about me, but did you know that about you?  There is no scale to weigh your sin against my sin.  Sin is sin.  You can think of the worst sin that a human has committed and my white lie, my doubt, my worry, my anger weighs the same.  Our sin put Jesus on the cross, but it was His love for us that brought Him there.

As believers do we become sinless?  Not at all, but we do sin less, or even differently.  For example, the closer we get to the heart of Jesus our heart and mind changes.  We don’t think like we used to.  We don’t talk the same way, our lives change through the help of The Holy Spirit. And here is where I/we need to take off our piety/pride hat, we can never be good enough, or do enough good to get to heaven.  If that was the case, why would God sacrifice His one and only Son?

There is so much more to chapter 3, but I will be forever thankful for this:  24Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin.  People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood…

Romans Chapter 2

Paul is saying to the Jews & Gentiles who are you to judge someone else given our own sins and brokenness before God. Our/my failure to life up to God’s Law.  Paul doesn’t put much value in those people (Christian/Jew) that understand, knows, and study God’s law, are circumcised as the essence of righteous relationship with God.  It is only meaningful if you obey God’s law.  It’s the act of doing God’s law/ways that is pleasing to God.  Verse 14 and 28 makes this very clear.

14 Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”

28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

There is a powerful simplicity in following Jesus. The cost is giving myself/yourself completely to God’s will.

Romans Chapter 1

What a powerful message that Paul has delivered to the Romans.

When I picture those times during the Roman Empire, I imagine a society filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice, gossips, slanderers, God haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful. They invent ways of doing evil, they disobey their parents, they are senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.

But wait! These characteristics of the past can easily describe our world today.

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” 

I for one do not want to go down that same path as the Romans. What was true then is true today. Romans 1:21 for although they know God, they neither glorified Him as God, nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

We as God’s people must learn from the past, we must not have hardened hearts and we must give God all of the glory and praise, or we could face the lesson of Romans 1:28.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to the depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

It would become a hopeless situation but through Jesus, we do have hope. Amen!

It’s at this juncture I have a choice to make. I can go down with the path of what society’s norms say are acceptable, or I can trust and have faith that the Bible is the Living Word of God and follow His directives. I need to make a choice of one or the other, I cannot straddle both worlds.

For me the choice is obvious.

Acts Chapter 28

All roads lead back to Rome.  Looking back over Paul’s life, it is interesting to me how Rome has such a central role in his story.  That doesn’t just include the fact he visited and preached there, but also that he was a Roman citizen.  Several times he used the fact he was a Roman citizen as leverage to avoid being jailed or killed so that he could continue to preach the gospel.  In fact, in Acts 28 he is under guard, but allowed to reach a large number of people and continue to preach.  

Many Christians often focus on the heavenly kingdom we are called to be a part of and want to withdraw from the world.  Paul’s example suggests the opposite.  We should be engaged in our world, reaching out to all that will listen in order to preach the good news.  I love how the chapter finishes – “He welcomed all who visited him boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.  And no one tried to stop him.”  The author of Acts feels compelled to give this point at the end of the chapter to show the contrasting experience of being allowed to preach without constant threat of danger.  This does not suggest in any way that as Christians we will always be able to safely preach the gospel.  It just reminds us that we are called to preach it – no matter what the situation.

Acts Chapter 27

Wow. What an exciting chapter! I pulled up a map to get a sense of the places Luke writes about: departing from Sidon, sailing north of Cyprus to Crete and being blown all the way to Malta (which looks dinky in the vast blue sea). I’m immersed in the action by all the details—the decision to sail for a better winter harbor, the difficulty of hoisting the lifeboat aboard, the tactics of putting out sea anchors and jettisoning cargo. I can’t imagine the terror of enduring this for two weeks—too frightened (and probably too sick) to even eat. 

How good God is to reassure Paul that not only he would survive, but so would all 276 people on board! I’m not sure I would have found the promise of standing trial before Caesar to be a comfort, exactly—though perhaps it would seem a lot better (and less immediate) than being pitched into a cold, roiling sea. 

I’m struck by how focused on his mission Paul is. Being ordered to stand trial before Caesar sounds terrifying, but Paul is possibly acutely aware of what a platform this will be to share the gospel. Literally come hell or high water, he is focused. He comes across as almost serene. And his faith and special mission means that not only is he protected, but all aboard. How good of God to appear in dreams and provide prophecy to reveal himself to the cross-section of sailors, soldiers, and prisoners aboard. How much more weight would God’s provision and protection have carried because of enduring this horrible situation than if they’d all hunkered down in a harbor somewhere for the winter. Yes, that old chestnut: it is so often in the terrifying, rocking, sideways motion of the difficult things in life where we see God most clearly.

Lord, teach me to see you, to listen to your direction. Help me to be obedient beforethe storms of life knock some sense into me.