Run to God. You Will Make It.

King David wrote these words in 2 Samuel: “What a God! His road stretches straight and smooth. Every God-direction is road-tested. Everyone who runs toward Him makes it.” 2 Samuel 22:31, MSG.

This is the same David who was chased for decades throughout The Land. His enemies included King Saul, his own son Absalom, a wanna-be leader by the name of Sheba, and of course the armies of Philistines.

Here towards the end of the journey he acknowledges and worships the One True God. We might expect this song in the Psalms, but here it as at the end of the 2 Samuel narrative. Despite the many setbacks of the shepherd-turned-warrior-turned-king, his heart is pure before God. He takes time, regularly, to sing and praise the Almighty for who He is.

Every time you begin to run back to God, He will show the way to His throne. It is unmistakable. He wants you to make it.

“The LORD is my rock… He is my shield and my saving strength, my defender and my place of safety. (v3, NCV).

“In my distress I called to the LORD. I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.” (v7, NIV).

“He brought me out to an open place; he rescued me, because he took pleasure in me.” (v20, CJB).

“You give me a better way to live, so I live as you want me to.” (v37, NCV).

“You are a mighty rock. I will honor you for keeping me safe.” (v47, CEV).

‘So I will praise you, LORD, among the nations. I will sing praises to your name.” (v50, NCV).

Even if your life feels like it’s full of ups and downs and right turns and left turns, know that every time you begin to run back to God, He will show the way to His throne. It is unmistakable. Why? Because He wants you to make it! In fact, He is making the way clear. Even now.

David’s son Solomon says it this way: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:56, NIV).

And once we’re there, we will join David in praising God for all eternity.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord, the all-powerful God, who was and is and is coming.” (Revelation 4:8, CEV).

“What a God! His road stretches straight and smooth. Every God-direction is road-tested. Everyone who runs toward Him makes it.” (2 Samuel 22:31, MSG).

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Pentecost. A Jewish and Christian Holiday that Points to the Voice of God.

 

You may listen to today’s audio devotional message here.

I haven’t always understood how Pentecost was a holiday for both Jews and Christians. It took me five trips to the Southern Steps in Israel for it to really sink in. The most recent visit to Jerusalem was just a few months ago.

Christians celebrate Pentecost seven weeks after Resurrection Sunday. Jews celebrate it seven weeks, or 50 days, after Passover. It doesn’t always work out this way because the Jews operate on a lunar calendar, but this year it falls on the same weekend. This weekend.

God asked the children of Israel to come up to Jerusalem three times each year. Passover is one of those times. It celebrates the Exodus and how God delivered His children through the Red Sea and the oppressive Pharaoh of Egypt. A second time is at the end of the summer. Sukkot celebrates the fall harvest and how God provided for the children of Israel as they wandered through the desert, living in tents. We sometimes call this the Feast of Tabernacles. Many Jewish people today still set up small sukkahs, or huts, in their backyard to commemorate the holiday.

The third celebration is called Shavuot, meaning “weeks,” for it was exactly seven weeks after the Exodus when the people of God found themselves at the base of Mt. Sinai. This special time is a celebration of the giving of the Law, the Torah, to Moses (beginning in Exodus 19). Then (Moses) read aloud the Lord’s commands and promises, and the people shouted, “We will obey the Lord and do everything he has commanded!” (Exodus 24:7, CEV).

Now, fast-forward 1200 years. The children of Israel have returned to Jerusalem to celebrate this Feast of Weeks, Shavuot. They bring offerings of grain to honor God for these first fruits of the new harvest season. This year is different, however. At Passover just two months prior, Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose again. He visited with the disciples for 40 days before He ascended into Heaven.

While he was still with them, Jesus said: Don’t leave Jerusalem yet. Wait here for the Father to give you the Holy Spirit, just as I told you he has promised to do. (Acts 1:4, CEV).

The disciples had been waiting days for the Holy Spirit. While they waited, they watched as the city population tripled, when the children of God arrived from the Judean countryside, and even from foreign countries, to celebrate the Feast. And then, just as Jesus promised, on the very morning the Jews were to celebrate the Law, God showed up in Spirit and in power! As the believers met together that day, suddenly there was a sound like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them and it filled the house where they were meeting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on their heads. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in languages they didn’t know, for the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. (Acts 2:2-4, TLB).

Here’s where it gets amazing! The Good News was being proclaimed to people from at least 15 different lands by strangers who didn’t speak those languages. And everyone heard, and understood, the voice of God in their native tongue.

The Law brings death. But the Spirit brings life.

It was into this cacophony of noise that Peter stood up to address the crowd. It was likely near the top of the Southern Steps that lead up to the Temple –the same steps that I visited just a few months ago. At that time, there was an open plaza where a large crowd of people from 15 different nations might gather. You remember Peter… the fearful yet rambunctious disciple. When he tried to walk on the water, he sank. When he was confronted by a young girl if he knew Jesus, the fisherman issued a strong denial. Yet now, filled with the Holy Spirit, he spoke with boldness and with power! This was his first public sermon and the message cut to the hearts of all the listeners.

Peter pressed his case with many other arguments and kept pleading with them, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!” So those who accepted what he said were immersed, and there were added to the group that day about three thousand people. (Acts 2:40-41, CJB).

Three thousand people were baptized in water that day, taking a step of faith to follow the Messiah. There is something amazing about that number.

Let’s go back to the first Shavuot. Do you recall what happened when Moses came down from the Mountain with the tablets of the Law? His brother Aaron had formed a golden calf and the children of God were worshipping it. Yes, these were the same people who shouted “We will obey the Lord and do everything he has commanded!” (Exodus 24:7, CEV). And they were disobeying the very first command! As a result, God released His wrath.

Then the men of the Levi tribe gathered around Moses, and he said to them, “The LORD God of Israel commands you to strap on your swords and go through the camp, killing your relatives, your friends, and your neighbors.” The men of the Levi tribe followed his orders, and that day they killed about three thousand men. (Exodus 32:26-28, CEV).

Would you look at that? The Lord was so angry that He had 3,000 people slaughtered on the original day of Pentecost, the first Shavuot, the giving of the Law. Disobeying the Law leads to death. Now, on the day of Pentecost celebrated here in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit comes and gives life, and 3,000 people were baptized on that day! God symbolically redeemed those caught in His judgment 1200 years earlier, on this Day of Pentecost when He gave the Holy Spirit!

The Apostle Paul says it this way: The Law brings death. But the Spirit brings life. (2 Corinthians 3:6, CEV).

God calls out to us through the Holy Spirit, which we celebrate today. Do you hear His voice, His Good News? It is life!




(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com.




Romans 10. Salvation is Simple. Really. It is.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

 

You can listen to this devotional here.

Romans 10

Another stop along the Romans Road today. You might recall, there are a number of verses that lead us along the path of salvation in this letter from Paul to the believers in Rome.

The first marker is the Human Condition and that we are all sinners — Romans 3:23 and 6:23.

We then learn that God’s Plan for all of us is the hope we have in Jesus — Romans 5:8.

Today’s signpost is often referred to as the Sinner’s Response.

We always have a choice. Even in this crazy season we’re in right now. We can opt to stay at home on the couch in our sweatpants and eat lots of junk food. Or, we can do things that make a real difference in our world.

 

No one who trusts God

will ever regret it.

What is the faith response after realizing that we need a savior and that Jesus is that Savior? If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, NIV). It’s that simple! It’s all about believing it and speaking it.

Have you noticed how many times Paul quotes the Old Testament here in Romans? He certainly knew his Torah!

Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this – heart and soul – will ever regret it.” (v11, MSG).  I loved this verse even before I looked to see where it was in the Old Testament. Deep in my heart, I trust God. I know I’m His son and He’ll never leave me nor forsake me. I’ve never regretted following Jesus.

But what’s really cool here is the additional layer of the context… Paul quotes Isaiah 28. Here we discover the part of the Trinity that we are trusting is Jesus.  And so the Lord says, “I’m laying a firm foundation for the city of Zion. It’s a valuable cornerstone proven to be trustworthy; no one who trusts it will ever be disappointed. (Isaiah 28:16, CEV).

The Psalmist, Paul, and Peter all mention Isaiah’s Cornerstone. Dig into the ritual of laying a cornerstone at a city gate or a building in the Ancient Days and you discover that the ceremony often included the shedding of blood, a sacrifice. Typically, from a lamb. Jesus, as Zion’s Cornerstone, is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy! Whoa! Paul affirms here in Romans that because Jesus laid down His life for you and me, we can trust Him! And this is the Cornerstone of the city of Jerusalem!

Men and women will disappoint us and we will disappoint others. But, as we follow Jesus, we will never be disappointed in the selfless Cornerstone!

Continuing our look at today’s signpost along the Roman Road. What is our response to our need for salvation? Paul says it like this:

It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” (v9-10, MSG).

And then, the cherry on top, the very simple act of faith, from the prophet Joel: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”(v13, NIV. Joel 2:32).

You can see that the Evangelist takes seriously the importance of sharing this Good News. Everyone has a response upon hearing it. But despite Paul’s best efforts, and countless preachers thereafter, not everyone chooses.

You can hear the anguish in the Apostle’s voice at both the outset, and the conclusion of the chapter: Dear friends, my greatest wish and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved.” (v1, CEV).

And Isaiah said about the people of Israel, “All day long the Lord has reached out to people who are stubborn and refuse to obey.” (v21, CEV. Isaiah 65:2).

It’s no wonder Jesus regularly said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  (Matthew 11:15 is the first of six times).

 

© 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com

Romans 8. Part 2. There is Hope Because There is Love.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 8:18-39

We all love a good story of suffering, don’t we? Aren’t we quick to tell others about the time it rained every single day of the vacation? Or about the widow down the street who is going through one misfortune after another following the death of her husband? Why is that? I can think of at least two reasons. The first is that we all go through pain and affliction in our lifetime. It comes with being human. We can all relate. Secondly, I believe that we all have a deep-seated hope for happy endings, for the triumph that follows defeat.

Paul opens this passage with the confirmation that there is glory and victory ahead, not just for us, but for all of creation.  “That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next.” (Romans 8:18-19, MSG). Doesn’t that paint a picture of what we all have experienced this year? We can’t wait for the end of all this bad news. The Word assures us of eventual freedom ahead.

_________________________________________________________________________

God’s love will triumph over death and life’s troubles.

_________________________________________________________________________

And what a joyous freedom it will be! We are told the Holy Spirit of God, the very presence of the Father in the absence of the physical body of Jesus, is with us in our weakness. He even prays for us. (Now that’s a deep theological thought which we might ponder all day.) And through it all, God is in control, even when things seem to be total chaos.

“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). This is where I hang my hat. This is why I trust God completely. No matter the calamity, no matter the strife, no matter the horrendous situation you might face, God is at work. He’s not sleeping. He hasn’t turned His back. He is orchestrating what is best for each one of us. “All things” means all things! Even during a worldwide pandemic.

This chapter offers one beautiful gift, one beautiful promise, after the other.  I am thankful for God’s goodness, His grace, and that we are His children. He works for our good. He calls us by name. He stays with us to the very end, gloriously completing what He has begun.

Why? Why does God do this? Why does He care? Because He loves us so incredibly much.

Jesus is crazy in love with you! He’s in God’s throne room right this very minute asking the Father to take care of you, to meet your heart’s needs. He’s continually praying for our triumph! Our victory! Not just our survival or our just getting by. But for us to TRIUMPH! Wow!

“With God on our side like this, how can we lose?” (Romans 8:31, MSG).

How much does He love us? He gives us what we need to be not just conquerors, but Paul says we are “more than conquerors.” (Romans 8:37, NIV).

We can trust God because His of His love.

So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! (Romans 8:38-39, TPT).

How do we respond? Paul encourages us just a few chapters later: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12, NIV). We are victors today! Even in the midst of our present suffering.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Romans 8. Part 1. “What’s Next, Papa?”

Romans8_14

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 8. Here we go!

We concluded the previous chapter discussing our addiction to sin, caused by the Human Condition. Paul swings the door of God’s grace wide open here. Can it be any clearer than this: “If you belong to Christ Jesus, you won’t be punished. The Holy Spirit will give you life that comes from Christ Jesus and will set you free from sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, CEV).

A new power is in operation! The Spirit clears the air and frees us! Jesus took on the mess of the world… and the mess that is our life. We embrace what the Spirit has done, and is doing, in us. God didn’t tinker around when He came up with the plan to redeem us. He sent Jesus to put sin to death permanently and completely. God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all.” (Romans 8:3-4, MSG).

Continue reading Romans 8. Part 1. “What’s Next, Papa?”

Romans 7. Only Through Jesus Can We Make Sense of the Contradictions of Life.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 7:1-6

This is a bit of a confusing, yet at the same time, encouraging passage. Paul is talking about the law and using the example of marriage and remarriage after a spouse dies. I found some clarity in The Passion Translation.

Verses 5-6:

When we were merely living natural lives, the law, through defining sin, actually awakened sinful desires within us, which resulted in bearing the fruit of death. But now that we have been fully released from the power of the law, we are dead to what once controlled us. And our lives are no longer motivated by the obsolete way of following the written code, so that now we may serve God by living in the freshness of a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 7:5‭-‬6, TPT).

We are dead to what once controlled us! We are free to live and serve God in a new way, in the freshness of a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit!

That’s a freeing picture! Go find a fresh breath of God today as you worship Him!

 

Romans 7:7-25.

As a youth pastor back in the day, I referred to this as the Frank Sinatra passage… “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good..” Do be do be do… (Romans 7:15-16, NIV).

Again, The Passion Translation is helpful here:

“I don’t understand my own behavior — I don’t do what I want to do; instead, I do the very thing I hate! Now if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am agreeing that the Torah is good. But now it is no longer “the real me” doing it, but the sin housed inside me. For I know that there is nothing good housed inside me — that is, inside my old nature. I can want what is good, but I can’t do it!” (Romans 7:15-18, TPT).

We all struggle with behaviors that we know are not healthy. It’s not just the addict. It is the Human Condition. Paul is saying a life not controlled by the Spirit, is a life controlled by sin. The struggle is real. And the reality is what Paul says later in Ephesians, that our fights are not against flesh and blood and the people with whom we love. Our struggles are against the ruler of the air, who wants to take us all down (see Ephesians 6:12).

I can relate to how Paul feels when his actions fail to match his heart’s desire: “What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die? Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me.” (Romans 7:24-25, CEV).

 


We are free to live and serve God in a new way, in the freshness of a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit!

It is only through Jesus that we can begin to make sense of this life of contradictions… this life where we want to serve Jesus with all our heart, and yet our human nature gets in the way. We are distracted. We are selfish. We are lazy. We are greedy. We let our guard down. And at the same time, we can be giving and loving and serving and caring. We have especially seen during this season that there are so many things in our life that we cannot control.

Yet, Jesus… Let’s go back to the beginning of Chapter 7. There is a fresh life for those who embrace the power of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, whom Jesus gives to us freely.

This sets the stage for what many believe is the greatest chapter in all of scripture: Romans 8. Paul outlines the full measure and assurance of the grace of Jesus! “There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Jesus!” (Romans 8:1, NIV).

We get to embrace that beautiful truth together tomorrow.

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com.

 

Romans 6. Part 2. God’s Gift is Eternal Life!

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 6:15-23.

Another stop for us on the Romans Road today. The Human Condition is that we are human. Logical, right? We are not God. We don’t work our way up to being God, or being a god. We are man and woman. We are sinners. Each and every one of us. Sin separates us from holy and righteous God. And in God’s view, sin leads to death.

“For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23a, NIV).

And that’s just that.

If that was all there was to God’s economy, there would be no reason to hope, no reason to live.

But there’s good news next, thanks to Jesus!  “God’s gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b, CEV).


The delight of our relationship with God is more and more life!

Yes, we are all sinners, separated from God by that sin. But Jesus bridges that chasm at the Cross. His death, and then His resurrection, is what allows us to have communion, connection, and community with God. When Jesus died, He provided access to the Most High.

Look at this: “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51, NIV). The significance of this event is that the Holy of Holies, the place where the Ark of Covenant was kept, was now exposed for all. The custom of the day was that only a certain priest would be able to go into this holy place in the temple. But because of Jesus, anyone and everyone can approach Father God directly.

Yet some still believe that a Godly life is constricting. Ironic isn’t it? The life chosen to live without God, thinking one is free, is actually a life that is lived in bondage to sin and leads to a dead-end… to death. It’s worse than ironic, it’s very sad, tragic. Some believe  they’re free because they don’t have to “follow God’s rules.” But yet, they are actually slaves to sin.

“But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.” (Romans 6:22‭-‬23, MSG).

The delight of our relationship with God is more and more life! Whole. Healed. And put-together by God Himself. That’s Good News!

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com

Romans 5. Jesus Came to Give Us Grace and Life.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 5.

We make a second stop along the Romans Road today. The first signpost in Romans 3 identified the realization that we are all sinners.  Chapter 5 illuminates the hope we sinners have in Jesus as our Messiah. He is the resolution for the human condition. He makes it right for us to have a relationship with God.

Paul begins this portion by encouraging patience in our lives. We can all be impatient, right? Especially when we are facing troubles… struggles like unemployment, or a medical crisis, or a marriage that is balancing precariously close to collapse. Have you ever prayed a prayer like this: “Please give me patience, God. Right now!” I have.

Look at what patience brings:

We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! (Romans 5:3-5, MSG).

Patience is a virtue and when it is fully developed in us, through trust in God, we can have an attitude of expectancy and hope instead of worry or dread.


What joy, what blessing, what freedom we can carry when we are fully experiencing a life of grace.


Here’s the solution to our impatience and every other sin: Jesus.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6,8, CEV).

God requires a sacrifice, a price to be paid, for our disobedience. Jesus paid that price through His death, and resulting resurrection. Here’s how Paul explains it clearly:

“But there is more! Now that God has accepted us because Christ sacrificed his life’s blood, we will also be kept safe from God’s anger.
 Even when we were God’s enemies, he made peace with us, because his Son died for us. Yet something even greater than friendship is ours. Now that we are at peace with God, we will be saved by his Son’s life.” (Romans 5:9-10, CEV).

We have life and relationship and even peace with God because Jesus died for us.

And what about the Law, the Ten Commandments and other ordinances God placed before Moses and the children of Israel in the Old Testament? Jesus offers something much better: forgiveness and grace.

All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end. (Romans 5:20-21, MSG).

Grace invites us into a beautiful life, like a flowering cherry tree in the springtime. What joy, what blessing, what freedom we can carry when we are fully experiencing a life of grace. I learned so much about grace as a staff pastor under Max Lucado for over ten years. Here’s how he puts it:

“Grace is God as heart surgeon, cracking open your chest, removing your heart—poisoned as it is with pride and pain—and replacing it with his own. Rather than tell you to change, he creates the change. Do you clean up so he can accept you? No, he accepts you and begins cleaning you up. His dream isn’t just to get you into heaven but to get heaven into you.”
― Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine

God wants to put more of Him inside of you. He does that by giving us His heart through His Son.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.” (Ezekiel 36:26, NIV).

Will you let God give you His grace? He loves you and wants you to have all that He has for you. He’s ready to pour into your life so that you can patiently endure the hardships of the journey and enjoy the blessings of beauty and joy and love He so desires for you.

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

 

Romans 4. Abraham’s Faith Can Be Our Faith Too!

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 4.

Your life is a part of God’s overarching story of Creation to Redemption.  The key players in this real-life journey are not just famous names in the Old Testament. Nor are they acclaimed people of faith who have walked since John penned The Revelation. Nor are they prolific pastors or authors in today’s culture. They are “ordinary” people too. Your brother. Your aunt. Your son. Your daughter. You.

“But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.” (Romans 4:2, MSG).

Read that sentence again and this time, insert your name where Abraham’s name is:

But the story we’re given is a God-story, not a _______-story. What we read in Scripture is, “_______entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. _______ trusted God to set _______ right instead of trying to be right on their own.

Do you see? Your life is a God-story, not merely your story. We are a part of His work in this world. We are part of the story of eternity. Trusting Him is the turning point! Can you trust Him to set things right in your life? Yes, you can!

Hear this: There is nothing we can DO that will make God love us more or less. Faith is not a “doing” thing. It is a heart thing. This grace that Jesus offers flies in the face of all of us who are rule followers. It is merely trust. Can we trust that God has led us to where we are? Can we trust that He will continue to lead us? Yes. Absolutely! I keep returning to the Romans 2:4 passage from last week. “In kindness, He takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into radical life change.”


Your life is a God-story, not merely your story.


Look at Abraham’s life. Even when everything appeared impossible, he believed anyway: “God promised Abraham a lot of descendants. And when it all seemed hopeless, Abraham still had faith in God and became the ancestor of many nations. Abraham’s faith never became weak.” (Romans 4:18-19, CEV).

Wow! How do we get that kind of faith? I’m sure I’m not the only one who says, “God, give me Abraham’s confidence.” But yet, he didn’t have it easy. God told him to leave the land of his youth. Even after he believed and was recognized for his faith, he still had trials. He was challenged to lay it all down for God. He was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac. And God continued to guide him and encourage him and bless him… even through those impossible and challenging seasons.

Do we have impossible and challenging seasons? You betcha! The whole country, even the whole world, continues to face its most imposing age. But God has a plan for each one of us. And it starts with death. When I see all that Abraham had to give up, I ponder these words of Jesus: “If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” (Matthew 16:25, CEV). What does it mean to give up your life for Jesus? Abraham did it by trusting God. And God responded.

I believe God will do the same for you, for me, for us. So today, my prayer is this: “God, help me to lay down my life, my wants, my desires. Do what only You can do. I will trust You.”

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com

 

Romans 2: God is Kind, yet God is Firm.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 2:1-11.
 
This is the whole essence of our relationship with Father God. He’s kind. But sometimes He has to take us firmly by the hand. I’m reminded about a time when I was a really young child and we were on a family vacation in Washington, D.C. We were waiting to cross a very busy intersection when I darted out into traffic. I’ll never forget how hard my dad grabbed my hand and yanked me away from an oncoming car as its tires screeched. It saved my life!
 
God does that for us. He saves us in spite of ourselves. I believe sometimes He allows obstacles to come into our lives that we might perceive to be everything from speed bumps to twenty-foot tall walls. Do you ever wonder if those stumbling blocks are the result of sin? Might our difficulties be His way of leading us, in kindness, to change what we are doing? Why would He do that?
 

Ultimately, it’s all about radical life change.

“But all who do right will be rewarded with glory, honor, and peace.” (Romans 2:10, CEV).
 
God wants us to enjoy the beautiful rewards of following Him…  glory, honor, and peace. 
 
Ultimately, it’s all about radical life change. Are you willing to live that kind of life? A life that is radically different? A life of total surrender and complete obedience? Radically changed? This might be a great season to engage in self-reflection. What are some habits that you might need to release? What are some new disciplines that would be beneficial? I heard a pastor encourage his flock recently by saying, “When this is over, let’s not go back to normal. That was awful! Let’s look forward to a new normal!”
 
We will take a deeper dive into Romans 12 later in this study. This is how I would define radical life change:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1-2, MSG).
 
Let’s all be better in the upcoming season than we’ve been previously. Let’s raise the bar. Can we make a commitment to improving our lives, even if in just one simple way? Radical life change can begin with a small step or a large one.  For example, you don’t have to sign up to run a marathon, but maybe tomorrow you take a walk around the neighborhood for the first time in years? Or you actually read that book on your bedside table? Or you commit to serving or volunteering?
 
Take your hand in His and let Him lead you today. He sees deep in your heart. Let Him bring out the best of you. Let Him develop well-formed maturity in you.
 
 
(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.