Surrender

Today’s reading:  1 Corinthians 7

In my Bible, the heading for 1 Corinthians 7 is ‘Principles for Marriage’. While the majority of the text talks about marriage in some way, I don’t think the main point of the chapter applies only to marriage.  Look at the section titled ‘Live as You are Called’, beginning in verse 17 –

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him (1 Corinthians 7:17).

As our creator, God knows what is best for us and has a plan for our lives. He designed everything to work together for good and to bring glory to him.  This is why his word outlines principles for key parts of our lives like marriage, jobs, kids, and so much more.  (Food for thought – with a divorce rate over 50% and a job satisfaction rate under 50%, I don’t think we can claim our plan is working better than God’s).

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

God’s plans do not promise happiness, but they do promise hope and purpose. The wisest choice I could ever make is to trust God and rely on his plans.  I am not that smart.  To think I could ever come up with a plan that is better than the omniscient, perfect creator of the universe is just foolish.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

I know I used this verse in my last post, and I will probably use it in a few more before the year is over, but I love it. It is so humbling, and it illustrates the superiority of God’s ways so beautifully.

Here is the rub… If I know God has my best interest in mind, and if I know that his plan is better than my plan, what is the problem? Why is it so hard to follow his ways?  As much as I hate it, I know the problem is me.  I get in the way of God’s perfect plan.  In his book, The Purpose Drive Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?, Rick Warren says it well –

You cannot fulfill God’s purposes for your life while focusing on your own plans.”

Will you get on your knees with me today and ask God for help surrendering to him and his ways? I know I can’t get there on my own, but I don’t want to miss out on the great things God has designed for my life.

Beloved

How many times per day do we inquire about the price of something? Morning coffee, an on-the-go snack, fuel for our vehicles, a car wash, lunch with a friend, groceries, the electric bill, that cool new shirt, pants, jacket, etc. at our favorite clothing store, etc. In general, we are conscious of the price we pay in exchange for goods and services.

for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20)

Today’s reading link: 1 Corinthians 6

I’m without my family for several days and this time alone has presented the opportunity for spiritual renewal, reflection, some loneliness, and even some crying out to God as I seek His will where my will is clearly in the way.

This morning’s reflection is filled with the thoughts of my wife’s smile and the many reasons why I married her. She is a part of me; we are one. My love for her is deep.

I think of my children; their silliness, some of the unexpected things that they say or do and how much joy they bring to this home. My love for them is deep.

When we take a step back to reflect on the love in our lives, what we would do for these people, how deeply we feel for them, and how important they are to us it is a feeling like no other. They are our beloved.

All of this leads us to the cross. Jesus was and is the son of God. Not only did Jesus sacrifice his own life, it was the plan of his loving father for him to be sacrificed. Jesus was beloved in the eyes of his father.

and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

When I think about how much love I have for the people in my life, I can hardly fathom the agony of the cross; God observing his son being beaten and tortured as a sacrifice for our sin. There has been, nor will there be any greater price paid for anything, ever. Thank you Jesus. Amen.

Actions Have Consequences

When I was in high school there was a night that I remember very well. I remember that night because I was with some of my friends hanging out at one of their homes, as we left we came out to find ice cream all over our windshields. We found out who did it and did what any other teenager would do…we planned an attack of our own.

 

We got eggs and flour and set out to find a car that one of the other guys owned. We eventually did, and I sat and watched as my friends started egging and flower bombing this car. I knew what they were doing was wrong but I kept my mouth shut. We ended the night in an all-out paintball gun war in my parent’s front yard (we lived out in the country) but that’s beside the point. The point was that my friends did something wrong, I knew it was wrong, and I didn’t say a word about it. In the end, it ended in disaster.

 

1 Corinthians 5 talks about this in the church. The chapter specifically talks about sexual immorality but I think this is something that can be taught about any sin. This chapter talks about the hard truth that sin is still a part of our lives and can easily start to take over our lives if we are not watchful. This chapter talks about a man committing sexual immorality by sleeping with his father’s wife. It may be easier to think about this in a different way. What about that time your coworker started to gossip about another person and you just sat there and listened. Maybe you didn’t participate but you knew that it was wrong.

 

Whatever the situation, it is your responsibility to stand up for what is right. God called us to go out to all nations and that could be as simple as your work, your friend’s house, or your own home. We have this responsibility because of love. If we truly love everyone and want to see them go to heaven, we stand up to wrong and with God’s help, we lead people out of the darkness.

 

Romans says that the wages of sin is death, so why wouldn’t we stand up against sin? Why wouldn’t we tell our brother or sister that what they are doing isn’t right? Paul ends this chapter with this, “Purge the evil person from among you.” This stuck with me. We try to focus a lot on spreading the gospel to all nations and but sometimes we disregard the church itself.

 

Christians are imperfect and sin-filled people too. We too can fall right back into the enemy’s grasp. Paul is saying that we need to focus some of our efforts on making sure that the church stays free of the enemy. Let me clarify I don’t mean that the church needs to be free of sin, I am saying that the people who are actively sinning and choosing to do so need to be spoken to. Not only are they acting in a way that leads them away from eternal life, their actions may also lead to false interpretation of Christianity by a new believer.

 

I don’t want you to go around looking at whom you can judge by their sinful behavior but I do want you to look around at some of your close Christian friends. Today, start to pray that the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to any evil that needs to be purged in you and the people who are close to. Just like my story about my car wars experience, I knew what I was doing was wrong and it ended in disaster. If we choose to keep allowing wrong to happen and not standing up against it, it will end in disaster.

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

Today’s picture is from a lesson to the Unit 5 Innovative Entrepreneur class. It was drawn to deconstruct a chapter on the leadership from Chief Hanna’s book Mastering Self: to Lead Self and Others.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 4, Paul helps us understand the responsibility and power of leadership.  As I read through today’s chapter, Chief Hanna’s principles on the power of leadership continued to surface in Paul’s life.  

Challenge: See if you can draw any similarities from Paul’s account and the image above as you read through the chapter.  If you find any that you’d like to share, or any other scripture that comes to mind, put them in the comments.  

I’ve included some takeaways from the reading below along with some other scripture that came to mind when reading it.

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.- 1Corinthians 4:1-2

A follower of Christ is a steward of the truth.  The mysteries of God have been revealed plainly to us in the New Testament. (John 14:26)  The steward’s job is to protect the truth from perversion and proclaim it unfettered. (2Timothy 1:14, Romans 1:16)  The Word of God saves souls so I can see why it is important to steward it well, (James 1:21) but what does it mean to be a faithful steward?

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. – 1 Corinthians 4:3-5

Perhaps the first step in being faithful is to recognize who we are to be faithful to. We are not men pleasers but God pleasers. (Ephesians 6:6-8)  We are slaves of God and we seek our Master’s glory.  We trust his Word and are not ashamed of it.  God is the only one fit to judge.  Comparison is empty if left to us.  Only One can compare rightly.  The Sprit compares us to God’s word.  This is a personal gift to help us each individually.  In the same way, we should not try to unwrap a friend’s birthday gift, we should not attempt to unwrap the Spirit’s gift of comparing others to the Word.  We only need protect the Word and proclaim it. 

And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. – 1 Corinthians 4:6-8

Perhaps the second step in being faithful is to admit our position.  We own nothing but that which God has given us.  God has given us everything to steward for His glory.  

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. 1Corinthians 9-13

Paul’s proper view of himself places him at the bottom which gives him the personal power to minister, save souls, and bring glory to God.

I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? – 1 Corinthians 4:14-21

Paul’s example is faithfulness.  Words would not do, therefore Paul sent Timothy as a reminder of the power of a life.  Wisdom is not knowing things.  Wisdom is shown in a life lived well. (James 3:13)  Paul warns that he will inspect lives and discern the presence or absence of the power of God.

United In Christ

Good Morning, today’s Bible Journal post is by my friend and brother in Christ Jeremey Helmer.  Praise! 1 Corinthians 3

As I read through the first few chapters of 1 Corinthians, especially Chapter 3, I can’t help but be reminded of the spiritual journey my wife and I have been on to find a church home since we wed ten years ago. I grew up Catholic while she spent her childhood in Baptist and evangelical churches, so we began our journey miles apart from a theological and liturgical perspective. I think we’ve regularly attended somewhere around ten churches in the ten years we’ve been married. Now, some of the changes were due to relocating from city to city. However, others were admittedly due to the fact that we just couldn’t find a pastor or church that (insert subtle sarcasm) represented a perfect blend of our Catholic/Baptist backgrounds.
Or, to put it another way, since we were both walking away from the faith traditions of our childhoods, we wanted to be sure we found a pastor that was undeniably “right” in both our minds.

Fortunately, through the frustrations of this journey, I’m thankful we’ve returned to Christ as the foundation of our walk together. And now, hopefully we’ve come to a minimal level of spiritual maturity to see the how what we’ve been searching for has been here all along. So with this context in mind, Paul’s opening of Corinthians speaks volumes about spiritual maturity and the roles of the church and its leaders.

The chapter begins with Paul essentially saying, “Look, the fact that there’s division among you regarding which pastor you choose to follow is demonstration that you’re still spiritual infants.” Basically, Paul pointed out that the envy and strife among them should have been evidence that they were completely missing the point. Neither camp was going anywhere fast because they had taken their eye of Jesus as the foundation of their faith. So for Andrea and I, the more we clung to our theological background and held on to our own right-ness, the more prone we were to take our focus off the person of Jesus Christ.

Paul then goes on to explain “Apollos and I are just servants. Don’t boast or brag that you follow either of us. And, even worse, if you can put together a 43-point narrative about why I’m right and Apollos is wrong, you’re even further from the truth.” Several times this past week, I saw a post pop up from a pastor at a small church calling out and refuting some remarks made by Franklin Graham. I won’t go into details on the post, but I was struck by some of the conversations and remarks between sympathizers of the small-town church pastor and fans of Franklin Graham. Each side was firmly entrenched, supporting the leader of their cause to the detriment of their brotherhood and sisterhood. At one point, I too, caught myself thinking “yeah, this guy is completely right, and anyone that supports the other guy just doesn’t have a clue.” It’s so easy to fall into that trap. But then I wondered, “where and how does the reconciliation begin? How could these two sides ever come together to form a body of Christ that would be a beacon of light to the world?”

I could be wrong, but I have to think the communal reconciliation begins the same way that Andrea and I have reconciled our differences through the years – returning to Christ as the foundation, and laying down our entrenched “wisdom.”

Christ Alone ~ Hillsong

Ambassadors for Christ

Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 2

In preparation for today’s post I read several commentaries from sources that usually help me to distill the scripture into a clear message.  I spent a good amount of time studying the Holy Spirit and how we as Christians should rely on it when sharing our testimony of faith. Paul wrote his letter to the church in Corinth around 55 A.D. near the end of his three year ministry in Ephesus and during his third missionary journey. In chapter one we hear him address problems of division within the church. We know Paul is a brilliant scholar, but we see him here choose to write to the Corinthians with a simple message. In my mind this means so much. In fact, when I think of the spiritual experiences that have drawn me closest to Jesus are the sermons or small group meetings that connected our modern life directly to the scripture. Paul does this by allowing the Holy Spirit to guide his message. My favorite commentary on today’s reading is from Blue Letter Bible. The author, Paul Guzik says this:

“Paul didn’t come as a philosopher or a salesman; he came as a witness declaring the testimony of God. Paul was certainly a man who could reason and debate persuasively, but he didn’t use that approach in preaching of the gospel. He made a conscious decision to put the emphasis on Jesus Christ and his crucifixion. Paul was an ambassador, not a salesman.”

If that didn’t just change your life, please read it again. An ambassador, not a salesman. Paul draws his strength and confidence as a preacher not on his intellect but on the knowledge that the Holy Spirit will guide him. He tells us in verse four:

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:4 (NIV)

I love the NIV here because it says “my message and my preaching…” Paul is encouraging the members of the church to become ambassadors.  If we are truly led by the Holy Spirit and if we simply live Christianity then we don’t have to sell it. For me, selling it is hard. I really struggle to invite people that don’t know Jesus to church.  I feel like I have to somehow sell the idea of church and a life with Christ. But Jesus is not a product. There is no next thing after Him. There is no salvation 2.0. This is it. Paul reminds us later in the chapter that God’s hidden wisdom was revealed when Jesus rose from the dead:

“No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began….What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2: 7 and 9 (NIV)

There is no way for us to imagine what God has planned for us. There will come a time when we live in him forever. Until then, this Holy Spirit comforts and guides us. Knowing that there is more for us, encourages us to keep going.  To endure the challenges and hardships here on earth. We know that we can battle against temptation and greed because the best is yet to come. God asks us to be an ambassador for Him. There’s nothing to sell, there is no upgrade, He is not a product.  He is the product.  We don’t have to sell him or a life with Christ.  He only asks that we live it and through the living we’ll bring others to Him.  Have a great Monday.

Identity Crisis

I read an article recently about identity crisis.  According to google, an identity crisis is “a period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society.”  As we grow older and mature, it is incredibly common for people to experience them.  In fact, we are about to see the Corinthian church going through an identity crisis too.  Today, as we read through 1 Corinthians 1, I wonder, do we know our spiritual identity? Is our identity in crisis?

If you are a Christian, meaning that you are “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (v2), there is a very specific identity attached to you.  Paul explains it very simply for us in verse 2.  He says that we are “called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”  Easy, right?  Not so fast.  Satan, and the world often conspire against us, creating confusion, even crisis.  The Corinthian church, just like us, was confronted with situations that caused “uncertainty and confusion.”  In short, they experienced an identity crisis.  Thankfully, Paul, was one man with a clear understanding of his identity in Jesus.  He used this clarity  to remind and redirect the Corinthian church, the Christians, to the identity of Jesus.  So, how do we get that same clarity?

Consider first that Paul’s certainty of identity carried a posture of gratitude and thanksgiving.  It is not by accident that he starts the chapter (v4-9) giving thanks.  There is, however, something special about his gratitude.  Maybe you didn’t notice, but in those five verses, Paul references God nine different times!  Clearly, Paul was clearly understood that if not for Jesus, we would all be lost.  Therefore, his posture was one of continuous gratitude to Him, the giver of all good things.  Contrast this with our own thanksgiving which is often based on our circumstances and materialism.  

In addition to gratitude, Paul continually considered his position, relative to Christ.  Re-read verses 10-17 paying attention to how the church is dividing.  Member’s are attempting to elevate the positions of their favorite pastors, causing fights (v11).  As this identity crisis begins to grow, Paul steps in.  He knows positively where true hope and joy found; the cross of Christ Jesus (v17). He reminds the Corinthians that elevating any person above another will, in fact, “empty the cross of its power.”  Jesus Christ, therefore, holds the primary and only position for Christians.  As Christ-followers, we are all equal, under him.

Finally, Paul’s posture and position relative to Christ allow him to full embrace his purpose.  Consider these three purpose statement from Paul, found in his writings:

  • “that they may be saved” 1 Corinthians 10:33
  • “to make the word of God fully known” Colossians 1:25
  • “that we may present everyone mature in Christ” Colossians 1:28

Paul has such an intimate relationship with Christ that he knows, without a doubt, why he is on this earth.  With this kind of certainty, identity crisis is impossible.  In fact, our certainty and clarity becomes a beacon of hope and love to the world, just like Paul’s.

In the end we are either with Christ, or without him.  When we, like Paul, fully embrace Christ, He is our identity.  In him, there is no doubt, there is no circumstance that can cause us confusion.   Crisis averted!

1 Corinthians Introduction – Nothing New Under The Sun

The city of Corinth is on an isthmus which is a narrow stretch connecting the mainland of Greece to the Peloponnese peninsula halfway between Athens and Sparta. Scientists have found artifacts which they believe date back to 6,500 B.C., but the city was destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C. Under Roman rule, Julius Caesar built the city back up in 44 B.C. It became the capital of the Roman province Achaia. A few weeks back we were visiting family in Auburn which is near Springfield, and we attended West Side Christian church there. Pastor Eddie Lowen gave a great sermon on God’s plan for sex and marriage and the damages of sexual sin with the focus being on 1 Corinthians. He called Corinth “the original anything goes city like Vegas. In fact, it would make Vegas look good.” I have a note written in my Bible which says, “Vegas with the power of D.C.” It was known for its commerce, rampant immorality, and multiple religions.

Paul established the church and lived there for approximately 18 months with Priscilla and Aquila as we learned in Acts 18:1-18. In these verses, Jesus told Paul in a vision to stay there and to speak up because he would protect him.  Despite the immorality there, he also told Paul there were many there who were his people. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to the church he established there a few years later while in Ephesus between 53-57 A.D.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul not only addresses sex, marriage, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the Resurrection, but also unity in the church. He was concerned with division and wanted the church to have one thought and one purpose which was to glorify God. A few years ago, I came across my Grandfather’s Bible, and I found his many notes written in the margins and a Sunday school lesson he had likely written 40-50 years ago. As a side note, I love the Bible app and the ability to get  into the Word anytime when I don’t have my Bible. However, I want to thank Pete Wiedman who challenged me a few years ago to go back to using a physical Bible and to write my thoughts and notes in it so that my kids and grandkids could read it someday. Not I only have I found it helpful to reference back to past notes myself, but it is one of the main spiritual legacies, outside of words, teaching and actions, I want to leave to my kids and grandkids that can go on and hopefully impact them long after I leave this Earth. As far as we can figure out, my Grandfather was a chain breaker in his family as a believer and the legacy he left by raising my Mom in that way which now (with the help of our Father too) has carried on with my brother and me and down to our kids and I pray for their kids someday is truly awesome. I can’t describe how neat it was to go back and read his notes in his Bible. I would encourage you to give some thought to going back to physical Bible if you don’t use one. Anyway, I digress. My grandfather referenced in his Sunday school teaching notes many of the issues and problems at that time such as absent fathers leaving and creating single parent homes and the damage of some of the same sins Paul references in 1 Corinthians. Doesn’t sound much different than today in 2017 does it? One of my former mentors, John Wright, would often reference Ecclesiastes 1:9 which says, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

As we read 1 Corinthians, I would encourage you to look for Paul’s themes mentioned above and how the Gospel is the answer to many questions. Imagine how different the world would be today if we followed the instructions given to us by God through Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth…one unified church, following one source of instruction on how to live which is the Bible, with one common goal of glorifying God in all we do.

Greetings my friends!

Romans 16

How many times a week do you greet someone? Have you ever stopped to think about how many times you either introduce yourself to someone new or say hello to a friend you know well. How do you make these greetings meaningful? Do you think about the impression you leave on someone just by smiling and saying hello?  How about when you introduce a friend to another person?  Do you go out of your way to make the “greeting” memorable?

At an early age, our parents taught us to mind our manners when we meet someone new. Reminders of etiquette included “smile”, “have a firm handshake”, “make eye contact”, say “nice to meet you”. It is not always easy to do, is it? Or it wasn’t back when we were little and adults sometimes seemed a bit scary or intimidating. If you are meeting someone new, it is all about being confident and trying to be in moment with this new individual. It takes some practice for many of us. We also want the person we are meeting to remember us. How do we make a positive, memorable impression? Again, easy to say, hard to do. For me, it is easier to meet someone new if I am being introduced rather than initiating the greeting or first meeting. It gives you a common ground on which to begin. With practice, it becomes easier the more we think about greeting someone for the first time.

Think of the world today and how greetings have changed. We often “meet” people online, via e’mail, or on a conference call. How do we make these initial introductions important? Do you have a phrase you use? “Nice to know you” is my favorite. Even greeting someone on the trail; you may not know the person but on a run or walk, it’s hard to pass someone without giving some sort of acknowledgement, such as a wave or “good morning”.

In today’s reading, Paul helps point out how important greetings can be.  He starts out greeting women and fellow workers in the church.  He almost goes around the room introducing each person.   I can hear the excitement and compassion he has for these people as he goes through the round of greetings. He wants people to know these women.  He also demonstrates the significance of these women in the early days of the church. He demonstrates his caring attitude toward those who worked hard with him and for him, and those who stood by him.  He wants to offer proper greetings.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert[b] to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia,[c] my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles,[d] and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers[e] who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

May we be role models in greeting others, both those people who we may know and those we are meeting for the first time. Let us make a concerted effort in our “greetings” to introduce friends to other friends.  May we use greetings as a way to practice being good role models and good disciples.  Make a stranger’s day with a friendly hello. Don’t wait to be told to make that introduction or greeting. Just do it!

 

Endurance and Encouragement

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.  For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”  For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:1-6

Do you ever feel that scripture has been written to you through our Heavenly Father? Oh right, hello, it’s Jillian writing under cover for our Bible Journal author Luke today! I’m writing for him because a few weeks ago he wrote for me when our daughter was very ill. At the time I asked him to be sure to allow me to return the favor, and today, he did! I accepted the opportunity blindly. I hadn’t looked ahead in the scripture and to be quite honest, I had fallen behind on reading God’s word. In fact, for weeks we’ve been drowning in turmoil at our house. Our three year old continues to struggle with seizures daily, her new medication makes her aggressive and volatile.  Our two year old has been ill and we’ve spent most of our time trying to protect our truly sick kid from all the germs! On top of that I’m working at two new jobs and trying to find a livable working Mom balance. It has seemed as if each day brings a new challenge for me to endure. It’s taken me to that place of asking, “why me?” When are these hardships ever going to end for our family? I fall prey to the constant social media trap that lures us into believing that everyone else is living a flawless life. And then I read this:

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

 There it is. Paul is literally speaking to us.  He’s revealing the promise of the living gospel. Not only that but he’s encouraging us to build one another up through faith in Jesus Christ.  Don’t miss it! Today’s reading was specifically designed to give us hope and empower us to hold one another up. He then goes on to say that when those of us that are strong hold up others that are weak, we’ll live in harmony. What a convicting message to hear when our small corner of the world has become so divided. Paul’s message is simple. We must be strong in our commitment to the Lord and reading His Word. In turn we must then hold up our fellow Christians and support them when they are weak. It’s only through the God of endurance and encouragement that we can praise him with one strong voice. I hope you’ll take this simple message today and use it.  Use it to praise Him for making you strong and unshakeable in the face of the enemy or use it to hold others when they need support.

 

Lord, we thank you for words that come directly from you when we really need them. We know that when we stand together we are stronger than when we stand alone.  Thank you for blessing us with your presence and for giving us endurance for the long journey.