Archive for August, 2006
18 When God promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations, Abraham believed him. God had also said, “Your descendants will be as numerous as the stars,” even though such a promise seemed utterly impossible! 19 And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though he knew that he was too old to be a father at the age of one hundred and that Sarah, his wife, had never been able to have children. 20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was absolutely convinced that God was able to do anything he promised. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God declared him to be righteous.
The fact that Abe believed God – had faith – this brought glory to God and favor from God. God declared Abe to be righteous because of his faith – and not just for Abe’s benefit. Look what Paul writes next:
23 Now this wonderful truth – that God declared him to be righteous – wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. 24 It was for us, too, assuring us that God will also declare us to be righteous if we believe in God, who brought Jesus our Lord back from the dead.
Do you want to know what it means to be righteous? One needs to simply believe what God has promised – like Abe did. Abe believed it more and more, even though he was getting old and it was becoming more and more likely that he would not normally have children.
So, what are some of God’s promises? Here are a few – see if they apply in your situation:
- And with all His abundant wealth through Christ Jesus, my God will supply all your needs. To our God and Father be the glory forever and ever! Amen. (Philippians 4:19,20 Good News)
- I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me. (Philippians 4: 13 Good News)
- For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NLT)
- But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NLT)
- But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Cor. 12:9 NLT)
- Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present your faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy (Jude v 24 NIV)
- And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV)
Believe! Do not doubt. By this you not only benefit from God’s promises, but you bring Him glory and you encourage others to believe. You become righteous like Abraham.peace,
10 As the Scriptures say, “No one is good – not even one. 11 No one has real understanding; no one is seeking God. 12 All have turned away from God; all have gone wrong. No one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their speech is filled with lies.” “The poison of a deadly snake drips from their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “They are quick to commit murder. 16 Wherever they go, destruction and misery follow them. 17 They do not know what true peace is.” 18 “They have no fear of God to restrain them.”
Paul is talking about everyone. In verse 10 he clarifies that he’s talking about all of us – “No one is good.” Knowing that, re-read the verses above. We (they) sound pretty hopeless.
But, are you ready for the good news? Look:
22 We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. 23 For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.
I got chills when I read verse 22 when it said “no matter who we are or what we have done.” YES!
So, Paul is trying to hammer the point into our thick skulls that only because of what Jesus Christ did, we can be saved. It’s not complicated. It’s not difficult to memorize. It’s certainly not difficult to tell others about!
Paul is trying to make the Jews understand that simply being a Jew – being circumcised, being taught the law, going to church on Sunday – is not what saves. Even the gentiles – who don’t have the written law – instinctively obey the law because it is written on their hearts, “for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.”
I’m struck by the lack of phrases like “it’s not about you” or “you can’t please God without accepting Jesus” or “your best is as filthy rags.” I see lots of speak about being right before God by choosing to obey the law – whether written/taught or instincively/in your heart.v2 – God will punish anyone who does such things
v5 – you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself
v6 – God will judge everyone for what they have done
v7 – He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good
v8 – He will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves
v9 – There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil
v10 – there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good
v12 – when the Gentiles sin, they will be destroyed
v13 – it is obeying the law that makes us right in His sight
v25 – if you don’t obey God’s law, you are no better off than an uncircumcised Gentile
v26 – if the Gentiles obey God’s law, won’t God declare them to be his own people?
Here’s the key:
V29 – No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…
God, thank You for Your awesome plan. Thank You that You made a way that none of us would be abandoned. Help us to understand this idea of putting You first in our lives – our eyes on You and nothing else – and how everything else will just take care of itself. We praise Your Name. We uncover our secret sin to You, God – knowing You already know about it. Heal us – change us – save us! We need You, God.
Paul has a way of bringing complex concepts down to easily understandable tidbits. Of utmost importance is “what must a man do to be saved.” As I read through chapter 1, the following resonated within me:
6 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes – Jews first and also Gentiles. 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
That’s the Good News – our faith in God is what saves us. Salvation is more than just believing in God. Even the demons believe in God and they shudder in terror. They, however, do not trust in God to do anything for them. So also, you can believe in God and not be saved. You must also trust Him and His plan – the gospel of Jesus Christ, who came to die on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.
How many times have we all heard someone say they’re pretty sure they’re going to heaven because they believe in God? It’s not our belief in God that saves us – it’s God Himself, through Jesus, and we have to come to a point in our lives where we truly believe in that and have faith in what God did (and continues to do). In other words, it’s more than just believing that God exists.
Now, you can also believe in Santa Claus, but he won’t do anything for you. Your faith in him will be rewarded with emptyness and disappointment. Like those who trust in anything besides the one true God, Santa-Clausians will be left empty and disappointed. However, belief and faith in Christ will be rewarded with an intimate relationship with God, our Creator and King.
So, what do we do with that? Paul goes on in this chapter to describe the evil and wicked things that people do who have turned their back on God – even though they, like everyone else, has known of God instinctively all their lives. Look what he writes:
19 For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. 20 From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.
There’s no excuse. The signs are everywhere. Yet, there are those who choose to turn their backs and follow their own ways and ideas.
That’s where we are to come in. We need to tell these people the Good News. We need to live our lives as examples so God can draw them unto Himself. It’s not complicated – we simply have to tell them what God has done for us.
Pray about who God would have you talk to this week. Start small and see if God won’t amaze you and work through you.
Even Paul references these people in Romans chapter 1 (I’ve bolded references to ‘they’ and ‘them’):
19 For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. 20 From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God. 21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people, or birds and animals and snakes.
Who are these people? Well, good news! Paul clears that up for us in verse 18:
18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people
who push the truth away from themselves.
Paul continues on listing things these sinful, wicked people do. It was easy for me to read the list and be tempted to compare myself as much more ‘righteous.’ However, Paul’s point here is that God shows His anger towards those who “push the truth away.” That means everyone from the most despicable, wicked person who engages on many things in the list here in Romans 1, to the Sunday School teacher and Preacher who have come to rely on themselves and who no longer depend upon God for life, for forgiveness, or for help.
Like Paul, I’m puzzled how people can see the majesty of God through nature – the clouds at sunset or sunrise, the majestic Redwood forests, snow-covered mountaintops, whitecaps on the ocean waves, intriquite flowers and flora, amazing animals and all living things – and not respond to Him. They must be crazy!
That’s why God depends upon us to reach ‘them.’ ‘They’ need to hear our story about what God has done for us. ‘They’ need to hear the Good News.
Do you know the story of Paul? He’s the guy that met God in a bright light there on road to Damascas. He went from being one of the most notious persecutors of the Christian faith to one of the most famous proclaimers of it. He gave up everything when he became a Christian. God totally changed his life. Paul ate, slept, lived and breathed the gospel, going from town to town telling about what God had done for him. Paul’s passion is obvious in this chapter – bringing others the Good News of the Gospel.
Which makes me examine my priorities. Has God not done the same for me that he did for Paul? Did He not rescue me from myself, from darkness, from a dreary world void of a relationship with the Creator of the Universe? Yet if you were to document all my activities for a day, would my actions reflect my relationship with Him?
Something very simple, yet very powerful, stood out as I read Romans 1:
9 God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart by telling others the Good News about his Son.
Paul prays for those in the church. He prays for them day and night, bringing their needs to God. Paul believes in the power of prayer. This got me thinking – who has God put under me that I should be praying for? This is one area in my life that I need to turn up the heat. I need to pray for my church, the leadership and those in the body, day and night. I need to pray for the men in my small group, and my accountability brothers – day and night.
Now, look at the last half of that verse: “…God, whom I serve with all my heart by telling others the Good News about his Son.”
Do you see it? Paul is saying the way he serves God with all his heart is by telling others the Good News about Jesus.
How many times have you heard someone ask, “How do I serve God?” There are hundreds of books on serving God. Preachers spend weeks on the subject. Yet, with a simple sentance, Paul boils it all down to what’s really important: telling others the Good News.
I’m telling you, this has convicted me. Like I said before, it’s time for me to get back to basics. Things have become way too complicated, to the delight of my enemies. There is great power in telling our story about what God has done (or is doing) in our lives. People want to hear stories. People need hope and they need to hear that there’s a God who cares for them. There are those that need to hear your story.
What’s your story? How has God changed you? How has the Creator of the Universe touched your life? Tell someone…
Well, it has happened again. Every once in a while, I get so far “out there” with my plans and activities that I loose all effectiveness. I start getting so dependent upon my own skills and plans that suddenly nothing seems to be making any difference. The result is a series of half-completed projects and complete dissatisfaction on my part.
Specifically, I got to the point last week where I was busy going here and there, writing, preparing worship tunes, planning activities, showing up to this meeting and that, trying to get things done around the house, daddy/daughter time, and a variety of other things I’m responsible for. You’ve been there, right? Things were getting done, but I knew I could do better. I knew something was missing – so I’d try to plan out and figure out what else I could do and how I could fit it in my already heavy daily schedule.
At the Wildmen men’s meeting last week, I was running around trying to get this and that accomplished and one of the men came to me and asked if I’d fill in as small group leader because the regular leader and co-leader were both out. I remember thinking “but I’ve got so much to do!” but I said I would. It was the biggest blessing I could have had right then. Just being there with the guys, listening to their stories, all sharing their thoughts about the study and what God was doing in their lives, made me realize that my focus was all wrong. Once again, I had let things get way too complicated – at least in my own mind.
Over the next week, God was speaking to me about how I need to simplify (again!) and focus on what’s really important. That’s why He led me to start in Romans again. Back to basics. What’s really important is our relationship with God and telling others what God’s doing in our lives – not some complicated, multi-layered ministry or some other vain pursuit.
So, we turn to Romans, the Cathedral of Christian faith, was written by Paul on his third missionary journey. It plainly teaches about how a sinner can be made righteous through a relationship with Jesus Christ, and then how a justified sinner lives daily for the glory of God.
I look forward to the simple message and hearing your thoughts as we journey through the book of Romans together.
I’m so excited to hear the feedback about the book of Nehemiah that we just finished. It seemed like the right book at the right time. Now, we’re stepping back a book to Ezra – a bit out of order, so don’t be confused. This book begins with a repeat of the end of 2 Chronicles with Cyrus, king of Persia, asking for volunteers to return to Jerusalem to build a temple. It actually goes back farther than that with Isaiah prophesying that Cyrus would be used by God to restore Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple (the prophecy took place before Cyrus was born):
When I say of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,’ he will certainly do as I say. He will command that Jerusalem be rebuilt and that the Temple be restored.” – Isaiah 44:28
So it is clear that God’s plan was in place and nothing was going to stop it. All the plans were in place, Bablylon was punished for destroying Jerusalem (by Cyrus the Great) and, as prophecyed, Cyrus “feels compelled” to help restore Jerusalem.
Does this mean God can use non-Christians to complete His work? You bet!
Imagine if you were Cyrus and this man named Daniel came to you and showed you the prophecy in the Bible where you restored Jerusalem. Wouldn’t you be “compelled?”
The hope for me in this chapter is that no matter my situation, no matter how overwhelmed I feel or surrounded, God can (and does) even the playing field in an instant. He is not restricted or limited by resources. He can (and does) send help from unusual places that I would never dream.
The theme of rebuilding continues. What would God have you spending your time rebuilding today?
Let’s go back and check out Ezra’s story, starting tomorrow in chapter 1.
This is getting good!
Well, having completed his mission, Nehi returned to Persia and to his king. But, not for long. Nehi requested leave to go back to Jerusalem a short time later. On his return, Nehi was disappointed to find that the oath these people had made not long before had already lost its meaning. Already the people had “forgotten” the covenant they made and were involved in intermarriage, working on the Sabbath, and more. Nehi got right to work:
30 So I purged out everything foreign and assigned tasks to the priests and Levites, making certain that each knew his work. 31 I also made sure that the supply of wood for the altar was brought at the proper times and that the first part of the harvest was collected for the priests. Remember this in my favor, O my God.
You can almost sense his frustration. His prayer is simple and direct – remember this in my favor. What can you say about these people? After all they’ve been through – begging forgiveness, obtaining favor from God again, blowing it and starting all over – again and again.
Kind of reminds me of …. me.
Thank You for your continued mercy and grace, Lord.