I love God’s perfect timing. Like many people, the end of the year brings a time of reflection for me. In the same breath we look to what we’d like to accomplish in the coming year. I’m not much for Resolutions but last year one of my goals was to learn the Spanish language. In my ignorance I looked at it like someone saying I want to learn to drive. I have since found that learning to speak Spanish isn’t that cut and dried. I’ve made a lot of progress but I still can’t hold much of a conversation.
So what’s in store for 2017? I’ll definitely be continuing my journey into the Spanish language but what about the bigger picture? What are some things I could do that would work to shape my entire life? In God’s perfect timing I opened up Romans 12 this morning. In this chapter, Paul has laid out everything I need to do to be the best I can be in 2017 and beyond.
Romans 12:9-21 – Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
What are your goals for the coming year? No doubt you have things that you’d like to accomplish and that’s a good thing. As believers in God’s word we should hold fast to what Paul has given us to consider. In doing so remembering and rejoicing in what God has promised, And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God. ~ Deuteronomy 28:2
Note: I began reading Romans in Sept. Like everyone my schedule ebs and flows and I have learned not to force my Bible study. God always has a plan and aligning this chapter for this time period is a wonderful example of such.
A couple of years ago I reconnected with an old friend. It didn’t take long to figure out this person was having substance abuse issues. Regardless we had good conversations and eventually I brought the subject up. They admitted they needed help but despite my efforts the substance abuse had the upper hand. Right before Christmas that year I rcvd a text from this person, they were in dire straights so I called and listened to a very incoherent plea for help. After speaking with my wife and a good friend that counsels substance abusers for a living, I made the decision not to help that day. A decision that has weighed heavy on my heart since. How could I, a person who regularly helps those he doesn’t even know, refuse help to an old friend? The guilt and regret I’ve carried with me these past couple years felt like the chains Jacob Marley spoke of and wore.
Recently this person reemerged in much better shape than they were. It appears that the substance abuse is, if nothing else, under control and they are leading a productive life. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to tell them of my regret. I also asked if I could use the story to speak on the topic of regret. They responded yes, but only if I mentioned the power of prayer and the desire to persevere. You see they were full aware of situation they were in but couldn’t overcome it then. On this side of it, one, they persevered; Romans 5:3-5 – More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Secondly, they also understand that without the prayers of those who love them, they could not have achieved the former; 1 Timothy 2:1 – First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. I will hold dear the lesson I learned but in God’s glory, he made this a story NOT of a lesson learned but instead of the redemption of another one of his dear children.
If you have children you’ve probably witnessed this scenario played out. A child receives a toy and plays with it for about a week. It finds its way into the toy box to be untouched for a while. A friend comes over to play one day and while investigating the contents of the toy box discovers the forgotten toy. All of the sudden it becomes the owners favorite toy again and some sort of parental intervention is generally required.
I love finding humor in the Bible. In speaking on the salvation of Gentiles, namely you and I, I believe Paul delivers just that in Romans 11. Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them ~ Romans 11:13-14. He’s basically saying “while I’m saving you guys, if it makes the Jews a little jealous, that would be awesome!”
Today we still wait for the Jewish people to recognize Jesus as the Messiah foretold by the prophets. In the meantime what are you doing with your salvation? Is it active? Do you cherish it like a new toy or is it buried in a proverbial toy box? Romans 11:12 – Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
n a world full of complications and various hoops to jump through it’s refreshing to find simplicity. We see this in the needs of a child but we also see it in the love they offer. Maybe that is the reason Jesus uses the child analogy when speaking about our salvation. Matthew 18:3 – and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
From day one, Religion has complicated our relationship with God. The Israelites made it about the law. The rituals and legalistic minutia that still exist in religion, work to keep many people from entering into a true one on one relationship with God through Jesus. So today I offer a very simple truth. It is yours to do with what you will …… “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ~ Romans 10:13
There is an ongoing conversation about entitlements in our country. I’m not even sure how that word came about, sans life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, there are very few things in life that we are “entitled to”,
Our salvation in Jesus and relationship with God are not entitlements, they are gifts. Gifts that must be pursued through faith. We can’t assume just because we are good people and recognize who God is that we are saved. Paul illustrates this for us in speaking of his own people. He anguished over the fact that in their rejection of Jesus, the Israelites had turned their backs on God. They continued to believe that if they just worked harder to follow the “rules”, that through their birth right they were entitled to salvation. It didn’t work that way then, it doesn’t work that way now.
Good, lasting relationships have always been a two way street. God has already done his part through the gift of Christ, who continues to intercede for those who believe. Our faith in and dedication to the salvation we receive in Jesus must be active and never assumed. I invite you to take that glorious step into salvation through faith, not works or entitlements.
Romans 9:8 -This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
Some chapters of the Bible are there to warn us. After reading you don’t come away with this warm and fuzzy feeling. With full disclosure in mind I believe conviction is the basis for such feelings. We read a passage telling of behavior we should avoid and think “I did this just yesterday”. However, when we reflect and evaluate our own behaviors it’s very easy to be lied to.
For many years all we had to direct our travels were a few instruments, from the sextant and its accompanying charts to a simple compass. If a traveler used them on a regular basis they could be assured of staying on course. Upon each update the results were either; good news, if they remained on course or bad news, if they veered off course. The information was what it was, the truth of where they were.
Well I’m pretty sure you know where I’m going with this. The Bible and the message it brings us is the truth. There are days we read it and know that we are on course, others days the reading shows us to be off course. When we use it on a regular basis we are prone to stay on course but even then, we’re bound to find something that causes us to take caution. Rejoice in the conviction of God’s Word and if need be, use it to get back on course.
Luke 16:15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
When I was in grade school communicating with friends was a little different than what we see today. We passed notes. We passed them in class, in the halls, through a friend to pass to another friend, etc. This was the communication of choice when investigating the possibility of romantic intentions. There was nothing better than receiving a note from a girl or boy you liked. It probably had the question “do you like me?” written with two boxes to check, one for YES the other for No. A personal hand written message letting you know that someone cared about you and wanting to know if you felt the same.
If you’ve ever doubted Gods love for YOU I suggest reading Luke 15. Here Jesus gives us three awesome examples of how God pursues a relationship with each and every one of his children. No doubt that at some point in your life you have lost something that was dear to you. You most likely put everything else aside until it was located. That’s how God is pursuing you right now. Examples of His love for us aren’t restricted to Luke 15. You might say the Bible is one large love note from God and right now he wants you to check the YES box. Luke 15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Over the past two years our church has been blessed to work along side a ministry that fed homeless people in Ft. Worth. Our association was providing warm bodies to distribute the food. The ministry I speak of is called Humble Beginnings. It is actually just one lady (Peggy) who through her faith was able to pull off feeding 300 or so people every other Saturday. Working with her I learned more about faith in God than I have in my entire life before hand. I never really thought about the ministry’s name until this morning. As I was reading Luke 14 much if this chapter speaks of Jesus’ unassuming way of ministering. Luke points out that we are at our best, when we humbly follow in Jesus’ shadow, I saw this in Peggy. Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus is also cited more than any other Gospel. The events that surrounded the birth speak to the importance of it. However, in and of itself, the birth established the humility we witnessed in the life of Jesus. A mere stable with no conveniences, Humble Beginnings of a life that would change the world forever. Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
In many ways our world has become superficial. Maybe it’s the fast pace, perhaps it’s that we are more leary of those we meet or could it be that we just don’t want to invest time in things that matter, in fear of failure? The superficial relationship is at an all time high. You wave at a neighbor and go about your business. You pass a co-worker in the hall, ask “how’s it going?” without waiting for a response. Then comes a time when one of you really needs something and you’re not sure how to ask. Uncomfortable to say the least.
Unfortunately, for many, this is how their relationship with Jesus stands. They kind of know him, they may go see him a couple of times a year but there’s really no relationship. Then something happens and they want to approach him but are afraid to approach a “stranger” with their problems. Fear not for there is good news! Regardless of where you stand with Jesus today, he longs for you to come to him. His love is as unconditional as a sunrise is beautiful. If you’ve sat and thought about this at all I can tell you it’s the Holy Spirit promoting you to reach out Jesus. I can’t think of a better time to do that than Christmas. Don’t let another opportunity to truly know the love of Jesus slip by.
Luke 13:25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’
One of my favorite Christmas movies is the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim. We all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. A miserly old man is given a new lease on life when he sees it from a new vantage point. Vantage points are important. What we can’t see here, can be seen over there and so on. When we are generous God allows us to see things from a different vantage point. It provides a broader view of a world that is in need while diminishing the need to want more for ourselves. True joy can’t be obtained from acquiring more stuff but it can be discovered through our generosity in service of God.
Luke 12:15 – And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”