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A recent decision by a colleague left several people quite frustrated, upset and somewhat angry. The decision had negative impacts to peoples’ time and priorities. Schedules had to be rearranged, thus impacting personal and professional plans.
What made matters worse was that there would be no discussing nor changing the decision. It seemed selfish and arrogant. How could he not see the other side of the situation? Doesn’t he care about others? Why is he so stubborn?
I went to bed that night with this on my mind and had a rough sleep trying to process things. Waking up the next day I felt tired, defeated and just as upset as the day before.
Then I prayed.
Why God are you letting this happen? Change the other guy’s heart. Help him see the truth. Fix this please. This cannot be in your will. He’s wrong.
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34)
And then it hit me. The more I prayed, the more I felt my own heart soften, I began to accept the situation for what it was. This was different than “getting over it”, it was unexplainable peace. Then thoughts of praying for the other person, for God to work in that man’s life. The more I became focused on praying for mercy, grace and healing in the life of the other person, the more I felt the much-needed grace covering me.
It felt like I was starting to remove my will which made room for God’s will.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33)
- Those who do not know Jesus had no hope in this situation. An opportunity to pray for and share with those who do not yet have this hope.
- Another reminder to take everything immediately to prayer. I was selfish in allowing this to fester in the night and ultimately, I suffered by waiting too long. Lost sleep, bitterness, sadness that likely could have been prevented.
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36)
Today’s reading: Romans 11
Looking ahead for my readings two weeks from today I read the following which greatly applies to today’s theme. He comforts us in our troubles SO THAT we can comfort others, what a mighty God we serve!
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
Today’s reading: Romans 9 and 10
Sovereign – having the highest power or being completely independent (Cambridge English Dictionary).
Romans Chapter 9 is about God’s sovereignty.
The chapter begins with Paul expressing sadness that his fellow Israelites, God’s chosen people, had missed their long-awaited messiah. Jesus didn’t look or act like the Savior they had dreamt of, so when he showed up, they were too wrapped up in doing the “right” things that they didn’t recognize him.
Paul goes on to explain that it isn’t family lineage (physical descent) or good works that makes someone a child of God, rather, faith in Jesus is what makes them a “descendant of Abraham” or a child of God. You can’t earn God’s favor or salvation, it is the free gift of God.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This is where God’s sovereignty comes in to play. If God is the highest power, he can decide what he is or isn’t going to do, who he is and isn’t going to bless, and who he is and isn’t going to save. How does this make you feel? Does God’s sovereignty give you hope or cause you concern?
Tyrant – a ruler who has unlimited power over other people, and uses it unfairly and cruelly (Cambridge English Dictionary).
Sovereignty often times makes us squeamish because it is usually connected with tyranny. Putting your trust anyone with that kind of power very likely will put you at the mercy of someone who doesn’t have your best interest in mind; someone who may try to harm you. As a result, we resist trusting anyone with absolute power over us. This makes sense until it comes to God. While God’s has the authority to do what he wants, his sovereignty is what gives us hope.
The apostle Paul pointed out that his hope came from understanding of God’s sovereignty in conjunction with the knowledge of God’s goodness. God, by his nature, is love. Here’s how the Bible describes it:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Understanding God leads us to recognize him as the ultimate authority. The real question is whether we can trust the sovereign authority of a God who is Love, and who has our best interest in mind.
It is truly hard to comprehend what freedom means. According to Merriam-Webster, freedom means the liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another, the quality or state of being exempt or released.
Today, in Romans 8 we see exactly this. If you are a child of God, meaning that you understand that Christ died on the cross for you and you have accepted that in your heart, then,there is no condemnation from God in your life. Nothing you have ever done can’t be forgiven and forgotten by Jesus Christ.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Every single negative thought you have had about yourself because you have messed up is taken away and forgiven by God. We have gained our freedom from condemnation through Christ’s sacrifice. He put himself on the cross because He loves us and wants to take the weight of our sin away. That weight is eternal suffering and separation from God.
When we repent of our sins, He promises to forget them. It is as if the sin never occurred. God knows we are human. He knows we are going to mess up. Yet He loves and forgives us anyway.
It is hard to believe that when we are feeling like we have failed or let others down, that God does not condemn us. When we are unable to forgive ourself for something we have done, God does not condemn us. He convicts our hearts when we sin, but He offers love and forgiveness. We only need to ask Him for it.
Any lasting guilt and shame that we feel comes from Satan. Satan is the accuser, the enemy of our soul who seeks to destroy us with false accusations. He wants us to continue to feel shame and guilt. But, we get to fight back with the truth that we find in Romans 8.
We have freedom in Christ. We are no longer bound by sin and guilt. We are loved, chosen and forgiven through Jesus Christ. We are exempt and released from our sin when we give it to Jesus.
This last week, I read day thirty-three of our On Purpose study, and the phrase “measure of stature” from Ephesians 4:12-16 was unpacked. It made me go to my basement, where we have our three children’s marks on the wall to measure their height the last few years. It is truly a blessing and excellent to see your kids grow in front of your eyes. (Always way too fast.)
Ephesians 4:12to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
The connection between Day 33 and our reading for today in Romans 5-7 is that Paul reminds us how we are saved from our sinful nature. Paul goes on to remind us of how we should live once we have been saved. Now for me, that divine transaction occurred back in May of 2014. The physical showing of surrendering my will for His. I wish I could say that from that point forward, I was submitting to Him daily. I have had mountain top experiences and many valleys. The reminder for me in today’s readings is that this transformation does not equal perfection. Our transformation is a lifelong process until He decides the day He will bring me to my eternal home.
I had a recent conversation with a colleague about our physical life: she recently went to the Dr where they said she had a heart problem. We talked about the shortness of life and God’s timing/purpose for everything. While this conversation was sad, it helped me remember the importance of how we live every day.
I know and understand that more important than their physical growth is their spiritual growth. For myself, I know that my spiritual growth will have an impact on others as well. Paul embarks on an excellent discussion of the doctrine of salvation by grace through the work of Jesus.
Romans 5:10 For if, while 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! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
It is exciting to see my kids when they stand against that wall. Making a mark and showing them where they were and where they are today is incredible. How much more awesome will it be as we grow daily closer to God? What if I stood against that wall and measured my spiritual growth? Where would I be? Have I grown? Like I tell my children what it takes to grow physically, do I equally or more stress the importance of consuming what it takes to grow spiritually?
I know my recent measures are not where they need to be. Where would a measure look like for you today? I can make excuses about things that can get in the way, or I can grow closer to Him each day.
Romas 6: 1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Romans 3: 29-30 (MSG)
29-30 And where does that leave our proud Jewish claim of having a corner on God? Also canceled. God is the God of outsider non-Jews as well as insider Jews. How could it be otherwise since there is only one God? God sets right all who welcome his action and enter into it, both those who follow our religious system and those who have never heard of our religion.
Romans 4: 19-25 19-25 Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.
What kind of people affect you? Mean, angry, agitated, critical, happy, funny, pleasant, sincere, or kind? When you order a coffee from your favorite coffee shop, what type of barista affects your experience?
My last visit to get a coffee supplied me with an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness. Not only was my barista pleasant and encouraging, but she also informed me that the previous patron had paid for my coffee. This was all undeserving on my account. I didn’t deserve any of this kindness after the morning I had had. I yelled at my husband, screamed at my dog, sent an angry text and was not a joy to be around. This experience getting coffee changed my whole attitude and turned my day around. The kindness I received turned my attitude from sour to joyful, and I did nothing to deserve it.
This is a very simplified scenario to describe how Jesus can use kindness to lead us to repentance. The barista lead me to joy. But Jesus does so much more for us!
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
This verse in Romans 2 focuses on three attributes of God.
The first attribute is God’s kindness. God is kind or good. It is the nature of God to be good. He is a good God to all who love Him. By nature, He is a good God.
The second attribute is God’s tolerance. The word tolerance means “a temporary truce.” It is not a sudden stopping of grievances. It is a momentary reprieve. God is just. He still must punish sin. He is holy and sin cannot go unpunished.
The third attribute is God’s patience. He is not in a hurry. Our lives are short, but God has a long term perspective. He waits for us to choose to approach Him.
The kindness of God should lead us to repentance (or turning from our sin). When we consider God’s goodness, tolerance, and patience it should cause us to stop and think.
God’s ultimate act of goodness was sending His Son to die for our sins. The only way to be right with God is through the death of His Son Jesus. Jesus took our sin and experienced the punishment so that we might live eternally.
God loves us so much, He is kind enough. He is tolerant enough. And, He is patient enough to wait for us to come to Him. We all have the choice.
Today’s Scripture is Acts 28 & Romans 1.
What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you for sharing the Gospel? As I think back to only being called hurtful things & losing standing in the eyes of colleagues, I know I’ve definitely had it easy in that regard. Perhaps you’ve faced painful deterioration of personal relationships for your faith; maybe losing a job or esteem among other people; maybe, depending on where you live or have served, government/societally mandated suppression or violence. Perhaps even evading death, if so empowered by the Holy Spirit! By the time he went into Roman captivity at the end of Acts for his supposed crime of sharing Jesus’s message across many nations, Paul had been through all this and more in fulfilling his calling. He’d been tossed into prisons, run out of countless cities (smuggled out, even), incited entire riots; even surviving his own stoning by a thread. Even after facing the brunt of countless insults, threats, and shaming from Gentile and Jew alike in his journeys, he had this to say in Romans 1:16-17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ’the righteous shall live by faith.’”
The Roman church Paul was wrote these words to was no stranger to his plight: they were a group of firm believers embattled in one of the largest western empires of all time in the peak of hedonism and indulgence. It’s a timeless plight that echoes into our experiences in the modern church as well. Read Romans 1:18-32 for yourself: I’m almost certain, as you read through Paul’s description of this self-serving behavior, many specific examples can pop up in your head of things you see every day in the world around you. But in his letter to Rome, Paul lays out our hope that rings true even louder to this day: no matter how unworthy of salvation we as a whole are and how little we deserve better, God takes the fallen and uprights them through their faith. God conquers evil trying to overtake us and shines over the spiritual darkness within us through faith. And it is this faith alone in Christ the Messiah that offers us life: both in our lives being enriched and made worthwhile in this life, and in the eternal life we know awaits us. And it’s because of these truths that Paul knew nothing could, nor should, keep him from wanting to boldly declare the gospel.
The book of Romans is a difficult one, forcing us to confront our own human unrighteousness and just how much we really need God’s righteousness. But our motivation to do so is clear. In verse 17, Paul quotes the prophet Habakkuk, and the encouragement bestowed upon him from the Lord. In a time of darkness, when God’s people were assailed by the Chaldeans, Habakkuk prayed for answers, and instead was reminded of the Lord’s promise to destroy the wicked & deliver untold wrath upon the unrighteous, while the upright shall live eternally with Him. The prophet says this in Habakkuk 3:17:
“Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
And the fields yield no food,
The flock be cut off from the fold,
and there be no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
We praise God, not because of earthly blessings or temporal gain, but because God is so good that we can’t not praise Him. He is the source of our joy, our light, and our salvation. Paul traveled all across the old world to find this truth and share it with us: people form all walks of life, no matter what they’ve struggled with or what the evils of the world have thrown their way, can be made clean and upright in their faith in the Lord. So I lift Habakkuk’s prayer as my response to Paul’s reflection and writing on God’s wrath: that even if the weight of the entire world is wielded against us, that God’s righteousness and redemption would shine through what our upstanding faith has done to our lives. That no matter how the world turns a blind eye to its own affliction & mock, shame, or takes from us, that we would know God’s wrath will be delivered upon those who resist Him in due time. That in God, and only in God, will we look for our joy – for only in the Lord will we find it.
Today’s reading is Acts 27.
Have you ever been on ship or boat in the open ocean where no land or light was in sight? I remember going on a cruise with my parents and my brother and fellow Bible Journal writer Chad when I was under 10 years old. Standing outside at night on the deck with nothing in sight was not a feeling I can say I was particularly fond of. I remember thinking if I fell off the deck they would never find me. Feeling like this on a very large, world class cruise ship (where we had no storms) has me wondering how Paul and other passengers on these primitive first century boats must have felt with no electricity, GPS, limited provisions, and the terrible storms they faced.
During all these storms and troubles, what was Paul doing? Paul was still leading. Paul was still speaking the truth in what God was telling him to help others. I would guess Paul was still writing letters..some of which likely ended up as what is now part of the New Testament in the Bible. Many of his other letters we know were written while in prison. Paul was not focused on himself. Paul was focused on making an impact on others for God’s kingdom despite his circumstances.
This is the opposite of what human nature is. When I am facing challenging times, I become very self-focused and fearful. The fear is focused on me and what could go wrong in my life or the life of my family. It can consume me, and it’s all about me.
Paul was focused on God..not his problems. 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him.” Reading on, 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” Not only does verse 18 tell us when we are focused on love, and not on ourselves, we don’t fear, but since verse 16 tells us God is love…I like to trade out the word love for God in verse 18. It then reads… ‘There is no fear in God, but perfect God casts out fear.’ If we continue to read on in 1 John 4, we see more verses about how this focus on God means we are called to love others. 1 John 4:21 says, “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
Don’t hear me wrong, it is absolutely ok to come to God in prayer and ask for what we want when we come with a humble heart and the right intentions. Jesus makes this very clear, as well does the book of James. God wants you and your whole heart, and He wants you to come to Him with your struggles needs. My intention of having us reflect on our prayer life and thoughts is not so that we don’t come to God with our challenges, but rather a nudge for us to reflect further on our thoughts, hearts, and actions. I’ve written before that expectancy theory says that which we focus on expands. Are we focusing more on God which means we are focusing on love which leads to focusing on others causing fear to dissipate..or are we focused on ourself only causing our problems and anxieties to blow up so to speak?
We see in Paul that God can make the most of our seemingly terrible circumstances to bring glory to His Kingdom and bring others to Christ. We must remember in our challenges that someone is always watching. When they see our unfailing trust in God and how we continue to love on and bless others despite our personal problems, they see the love of Jesus in us. They will then want to know more about the ultimate sacrifice He made on the cross for us. They will desire that same peace that passes human understanding that’s rooted in His love
I find Paul’s defense for his actions in this chapter so compelling. He is brought before King Agrippa because of accusations made by the Jewish leaders. Paul was preaching about Jesus, which made the Jewish officials furious because they thought he was preaching against the law of Moses, the Jewish faith. The sad part is that the Pharisees and Paul believed in the same God and shared the same faith. How could they be so opposed, and the Pharisees so angry that they wanted Paul to fry?
Paul grew up in a devoted Jewish family. He was highly trained in the Jewish faith. He studied so many years, and in such great depth that he became a leader in the faith, he was a Pharisee himself. The difference between Paul’s faith and the Pharisee’s faith in Acts 26 is that Paul met Jesus. We say it in this blog all of the time, but Jesus changes everything! Paul’s story in Acts 26 is a perfect example. Paul was doing everything he could to oppose the very name of Jesus as the rest of the Pharisees did also. He sent Christians to prison and condemned them to death for their faith in Jesus. Until he met Jesus himself, Paul did everything he could to follow the Jewish law.
Paul was on a trip for official business when a light from heaven shone down on him and he heard a voice speaking to him. Jesus asked Paul why he was persecuting Him. Paul asked who was speaking to him and Jesus replied that He was the One that Paul was persecuting. Jesus told him, “ I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and my witness. Tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. I am sending you to open their eyes, so they may turn from the darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in Me.” This interaction with Jesus changed Paul. He made a one hundred-eighty degree turn. Instead of persecuting Christians, he began teaching about Jesus and helping people to become followers of Jesus. This abrupt change after Paul met Jesus is what I find so compelling. This one hundred-eighty degree turn had to have been what grabbed people’s attention. When a known persecutor starts teaching how to be come what he persecuted yesterday, people want to know why!
Paul goes on to explain to King Agrippa that after his change in teaching, some Jews arrested him and tried to kill him. Paul tells Agrippa that, “God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen-that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”
The difference between Paul’s faith and the Pharisee’s faith was Jesus. After meeting Jesus, Paul understood that Jesus was the fulfillment of Jewish prophesy. The conversation with Jesus on that road to Damascus opened Paul’s eyes so he could see that Jesus was God and not someone to fear or feel threatened by. The Pharisees were stuck clinging tightly to what they had been taught instead of being willing to consider who Jesus really was.
After hearing Paul’s defense, Agrippa asks Paul, “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?” Paul responded, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.” I pray that everyone reading this post today might become like Paul, changed by Jesus.
We are suckers for entertainment. Good entertainment does lots of things for us. Perhaps the most simple is passing time. I confess, I just binge-watched Ted Lasso. That’s 22 shows at an average of 35 minutes each or 12.8 hours. Yes, I can hear your judgment. Before you go there, check out these stats on binge-watching. Apparently, you are doing it too (and yes that makes me feel better).
Ted Lasso is a great example of entertainment because that show does exactly what entertainment is supposed to do; hold our attention and give pleasure or delight to the customer (so says Google). But, at what point does entertainment lose its value? What would make you stop watching Ted Lasso? Let’s take a look at today’s reading and see what we find.
Read back through Acts 24:22-27 and pay attention to Felix. Now, Felix was the governor who had just heard the Jews’ case against Paul. Rather than offer a quick conviction, Felix delays. Not only would delaying the case allow him to defer responsibility, but it would also give him an opportunity to have some time alone with Paul. In some weird way, Felix was looking to Paul for entertainment.
Remember what Google said about entertainment. It is designed to produce pleasure or delight. This was true for Felix. In fact, he even invited his wife, Drusilla to come along. Unfortunately, this encounter quickly became less than entertaining. For most of us, this comes from boredom, but not Felix, not this time. Instead, Felix becomes alarmed while listening to Paul (v23).
In order to determine why Felix became alarmed, let’s examine the conversation. Paul spoke about faith in Jesus Christ and reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment (v24-25). Somewhere, in this conversation, Felix became agitated. Let’s see if we can figure out why.
Imagine Felix listening intently as Paul talked. If he was anything like me, I can see him nodding in agreement when talking about Jesus and righteousness. “yes, this is who we are created to be,” Felix would agree. “Preach on brother.” Of course, when listening intently, he begins to contrast his own life with that of the righteous. With every new word, he sees the gap widen. The reality of that large gap begins to look insurmountable. Unless… “I changed,” he considers. “What would it take for me to be that righteous?”
This is where the entertainment ends. The list of changes becomes overwhelming. Felix would easily remember his faults, big and small. He may start with the little white lies, no big deal there. Then, he remembers the drunkenness and debauchery. Perhaps he moves on to the bribes and the affairs. But “don’t sweat it,” he thinks, “I’ve got this under control.” Maybe he does have it under control. At least it feels that way until Paul starts in on the coming judgment. Now, there is no way out. ALARM!
As I thought through that scenario, I was reminded of an excerpt from Knowing Christ Today, by Dallas Willard. He says “We can fail to know because we do not want to know—because what would be known would require us to believe and act in ways contrary to what we want. It often strikes first-time visitors to large cities, such as New York City, how the residents have taught themselves not to look at the problems surrounding them—for example, the homeless or victims of muggings. Looking makes you responsible. Avoidance is one reason for the lack of knowledge among humanity—knowledge can be and often is rejected.”
It’s that simple. Felix rejected – no, he ran from – the knowledge that Paul offered for the simple reason that knowing it would require him to act contrary to the way he wanted to act. Ouch!
We all have the same choice when the Holy Spirit calls. How are you responding?