Romans 15. Uncontainable joy! Perfect peace! That’s maturity.



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 may listen to today’s devotional message by clicking the start button above.

Romans 15.

Jesus came for the Jew and the non-Jew. Paul’s assignment was to bring the Gospel to all the world. Yet even though he was a Jew who came to know Jesus first-hand, God’s marching orders for the Missionary were primarily to the non-Jewish world. His various journeys took him far from Judea. In fact, here in Romans 15, he is planning a journey all the way to Spain, with a stop-over to those he has addressed this letter to, the church in Rome.

Paul notes that Jesus came to serve and bring hope. And that’s our assignment too! Our daily strength is for service not for status. Our charge is maturity. 

Again, Paul quotes from the Ancient Text, and notes how relevant it is for us, even today. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. (v4-6, MSG).

Uncontainable joy! Perfect peace! That’s maturity.

Spiritual maturity is God’s goal for us. May I ask you frankly, how are you doing in that area? Are you growing deeper in your personal relationship with Jesus every day? I’m asking myself that question as well. Maturity is a common theme in Paul’s letters. He challenges us to focus on spiritual maturity in five other letters: 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 Timothy! We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. (Colossians 1:28, MSG).

We are designed by God Himself to grow into greater spiritual maturity each day; not to merely tread water. How do we grow? Through the power of the Holy Spirit! Peace. Joy. Hope. Strength. Love. 

Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope! (v13, TPT).

Uncontainable joy! Perfect peace! Trusting God. That’s maturity. And you will shine with a waterfall of unshakable hope through the Holy Spirit.

As Paul begins to wrap this letter up, I love the glimpse into the humanness of who he is. He sums up his evangelistic travels, noting with a small touch of pride in Jesus the depth of the message he has preached far and wide: The text of the messages I preached: Those who were never told of Him, they’ll see Him. Those who’ve never heard of Him, they’ll get the message. (v21, MSG). Again, he’s quoting Isaiah (Chapter 52) and it’s a quote that even Jesus uses often: “To him who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

So, are you listening? Am I listening? Sh’ma! Hear! Listen. Act. Obey. Mature.

That’s the whole point, isn’t it? I believe the reason for living is all about seeing, knowing, and experiencing God. 




(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com

Romans 14. Never Be Without 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.


You may listen to today’s devotional blog by clicking the link above.



Romans 14.

Paul is such a great orator, even with his pen.  He gives multiple sides of a situation, then brings the final decision to the place that lines up with the Scriptures. Eat this or that. Take this day for a sabbath or that one. Don’t judge your brother. Don’t be condescending to your sister. For, in the end, we will each stand before God. HE is God! He’s got this. He is worthy to be worshipped!

Here’s the passage of his conclusion, from the prophet Isaiah:

God, Creator of the heavens— he is, remember, God. Maker of earth— he put it on its foundations, built it from scratch. He didn’t go to all that trouble to just leave it empty, nothing in it. He made it to be lived in. This God says: “I am God, the one and only. I don’t just talk to myself or mumble under my breath. I never told Jacob, ‘Seek me in emptiness, in dark nothingness.’ I am God. I work out in the open, saying what’s right, setting things right. So gather around, come on in, all you refugees and castoffs. They don’t seem to know much, do they— those who carry around their no-god blocks of wood, praying for help to a dead stick? So tell me what you think. Look at the evidence. Put your heads together. Make your case. Who told you, and a long time ago, what’s going on here? Who made sense of things for you? Wasn’t I the one? God? It had to be me. I’m the only God there is— The only God who does things right and knows how to help. So turn to me and be helped—saved!— everyone, whoever and wherever you are. I am God, the only God there is, the one and only. I promise in my own name: Every word out of my mouth does what it says. I never take back what I say. Everyone is going to end up kneeling before me. Everyone is going to end up saying of me, ‘Yes! Salvation and strength are in God!’” All who have raged against him will be brought before him, disgraced by their unbelief. And all who are connected with Israel will have a robust, praising, good life in God! (Isaiah 45:18‭-‬24, MSG). For more on Isaiah 45, go here.

Three times in Matthew 6, Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life.” (Matthew 6:34, NIV). Sarah Young’s interpretation of Jesus’ words, from Jesus Calling: “You need not fear the future for I am already there.” Wow! Such a powerful promise!

God is God. We need not worry. But you say, “I’m sick.” Or “I lost my job.” Or “My marriage is a wreck.” Or… I will say it again, as Paul did. God is God. Turn to him and be helped.

As you do, be sure to do so with love. In another letter The Missionary says it like this:  So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.  (Colossians 3:12‭-‬14, MSG).

The way we live is to be consistent with what we believe.

Just like in Romans 13, Paul continues to encourage love over all else. Many in that day were holding up their good works, like worshipping on a special day or eating kosher, in a higher place than love. He urges us all the way we live is to be consistent with what we believe. If we believe in grace, have accepted Jesus’ grace, we are to offer His grace.

God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you. (Romans 14:17‭-‬18, MSG).

Love others with His love today. Never be without love.


(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com

Romans 11. Jews And Gentiles are God’s Children.

You may listen to today’s devotional blog here.

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 11.

Paul has an interesting observation about people, specifically the people of Israel. Here they are, God’s chosen children and it seems that most of them didn’t want to be chosen. It’s a burden too heavy to carry. Ah, but the few who accepted it? They are living out their God-given purpose! They let God pursue His interests in them and as a result received His stamp of legitimacy. (Romans 11:7, MSG).

That’s our prayer, isn’t it? I want to be truly authentic in letting God’s grace and purpose be revealed in me and through me. I want to have the courage to always say, as Jesus did in the garden, “Not my will but your will be done.” (Luke 22:42, NASB).

What does the rest of verse 7 say? This means that only a chosen few of the people of Israel found what all of them were searching for. And the rest of them were stubborn. (Romans 11:7, CEV).

That’s really sad, isn’t it? How many people today are so rigid in their beliefs that they can’t see God’s grace? How often am I? Personally, I do not want to be so stubborn or pretend that I’m following God for my own selfish reasons. I want to fully embrace His grace and purpose! Even today! How about you?

Paul continues with a very familiar word picture of how we Gentiles can become as precious to God as His chosen people, the Israelites. It is by being grafted in. The Apostle says we are grafted in to show the Jews the way back to God.

Do I mean that the people of Israel fell, never to get up again? Certainly not! Their failure made it possible for the Gentiles to be saved, and this will make the people of Israel jealous. (Romans 11:11, CEV).

If you were to take a walk just about anywhere in most of Israel, you will see some amazing olive trees. What is really fascinating is that they sometimes send up new shoots far away from the main trunk. And those shoots can ultimately become strong trees, sometimes even stronger than the main tree. Why is that? Even shoots that are far from an existing tree are connected below ground to the main roots. It’s kind of wild to see. There’s also a process called “grafting.” Even different kinds of tree shoots can be connected to an olive tree and given a new life! Paul says this is like non-Jews becoming as close to the Father’s heart as His chosen children. And that will cause the Jews to want to come back to God.

You see, God goes to supernatural means to get everyone connected to His love and life! Both Gentiles and Jews!

I love how Paul concludes this mystifying example:

Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out. Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do? Anyone who has done him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice? Everything comes from him; Everything happens through him; Everything ends up in him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes. (Romans 11:33-36, MSG — quoting from Isaiah 40:13 and Job 41:11).

Everything, every person, finds their ultimate fulfillment in and through God and God alone.

 

You might find this blog post of interest regarding Jesus as the “shoot” of Jesse, from Isaiah 11.

 

© 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com

 

Romans 9. Grace Means We Are God’s Children.



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 9

We all have blind spots. Don’t you find it ironic when you can see something about someone else’s life but they cannot? That’s how Paul feels about the people of Israel. He notes that the Jews are God’s chosen people, but they are so strict at following the Law, they are often blind to see His grace.  We all can be that way.  Paul gives a couple of Old Testament examples. Here is one about Jacob, the second-born twin of Rebecca:

“What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don’t do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative.” (v 12, MSG).

God’s grace and mercy are not dependent on anything WE do. He loves us. Period. Just because we are His kids.

He’s in charge of compassion and mercy. I’m thankful for that. He extends His kindness and we can trust Him. He leads us and we can follow Him. He cares for us and we can rest in His arms. He protects us and we can be certain the enemy will not defeat us. He provides for us and we can be assured that we’ll always have more than what we need. Just because He’s that kind of Father. He’s that kind of God. The One True God. He keeps His promises. Always.

And no matter where we are or what we’ve done, that kindness, that mercy is ours. Yes, it’s that simple.

It’s such a good place to be on the receiving side of His grace! The emphasis here is that God is God. And it is a privilege to be called His children. Why? Like we read yesterday, God is crazy in love with us. After all, He created us.


He cares for us and we can rest in His arms.



Paul quotes one of the minor prophets next:

Hosea put it well:
I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
I
’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.

In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!”
they’re calling you “God’s living children.” (v 25, MSG). Hosea 2:23

Paul then quotes Isaiah:

Isaiah maintained this same emphasis:
If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered
and the sum labeled “chosen of God,”
They’d be numbers still, not names;
salvation comes by personal selection.
God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name.
Arithmetic is not his focus. (v27-28, MSG). Isaiah 10:22-23.

And arithmetic need not be our focus either. Things don’t always add up in life. As long as we keep our focus on God and His grace, we don’t need to worry about anything else! We are His children. He’s got this!

Paul concludes his thoughts on the subject:

How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together:

Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion, a stone you can’t get around. But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me on the way, not in the way. (v30-33, MSG).  Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16.

That’s a promise that I want to fully embrace! He is walking with us. Following Jesus is not a stumbling block! He doesn’t slow us down. Following Him is not an obstacle or wall to be climbed over. He is the stone that leads us along the path. I think when we fully embrace that He is with us “on the way,” we can have an amazing confidence that wherever we walk, we will be okay. We have nothing to fear.  In fact, we will be more than okay, because the very presence of God is with us! 


Remember this:

“At the place where they yelled out “You’re a nobody!” they are now calling you “Children of the living God!”




(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

RichlySpeaking.com


Today, I’m attaching this worship song from Bethel Worship because it mirrors our text. 


https://youtu.be/XxkNj5hcy5E











 

 

Romans 6. Grace is Freedom!

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.

I have always loved the way this chapter begins. Chapter 5 is all about God’s grace. Now, Paul asks this thought-provoking question: “So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving?” (Romans 6:1, MSG). Do we keep on behaving poorly so God can keep on giving us more and more and more of His grace?  Here are a few different translations of verse 2:

By no means! (NIV)
I should hope not! (MSG)
What a terrible thought! (TPT)
Heaven forbid! (CJB)
Of course not! (NLT)
May it never be! (TLV)

I used to be a king at rationalizing. I’m pretty sure that if I was reading the words of Chapter 5 when Paul was writing it, I would have been one of the first to ask that question. It’s a logical one for our human mind. So, I’m glad to see the answer to his own question. It makes me wonder if Paul likely asked it of God and this answer was for the Apostle’s benefit as well as for ours.


Like wave after wave, grace continues to lap along the seashore of our lives.

To be clear, more sin on our part does not equal more grace on God’s part. Although, Jesus pointed to a woman at a meal at Simon the Pharisee’s home in Luke 7: “She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” (Luke 7:47, MSG). Our assignment in fully accepting God’s grace is to recognize that we are all sinners, and none of us deserve His grace. And we are to be thankful no matter if the perceived amount of His grace is one ounce or a thousand tons! In reality, we cannot quantify it.

John Newton was a slave trader, British ship captain, and author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace.” He said it this way: “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” *

Paul says we get to bury that sinful life in baptism. And just as Jesus was raised to life, we too can live a life of freedom from the bondage of sin. That’s why Jesus came! Recall, Jesus said in Luke 4, quoting Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19, NIV).

Our baptism reminds of that. It is a mark on our spiritual journey. It’s a public proclamation that allows us to say, “No, I am going to live differently than I used to live. I am going to live fully embracing the freedom and grace Jesus offers. I am set free from sin. I have been forgiven!

I like walking along the beach. It reminds me, like wave after wave, grace continues to lap along the seashore of our lives. It never runs out! So, how do we live out this grace each day?  Back to Romans 6:

“That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.”(Romans 6:12-14, MSG).

May the Holy Spirit empower you to”throw yourself into God’s way of doing things” today. And please pray that He allows me to do the same!

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

*John Pollock, Amazing Grace: John Newton’s Story (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981. Page 182.

Romans 3. We Were All Going to Drown. But There is Hope.

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 3:1-20.

As the previous Chapter concluded, Paul began to unravel the Law, and make the case that because of Jesus, religion in itself is not where our salvation is found. No, God is truth. And in God alone is our salvation.

“Depend on it: God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth. Scripture says the same: “Your words stand fast and true; rejection doesn’t faze you.”” (Romans 3:4, MSG). When the time comes to put God’s promises on trial, they will remain steadfast, from the beginning of time to the end of time.

He’s the one who is faithful even when we’re faithless.  We can trust Him. We can count on Him. He will guide us. He will direct our paths. He will comfort us — even when we’re faithless. And how much more so when we are doing our best to be faithful, seeking after Him with our whole heart! That is amazing, isn’t it? He loves us when we’re in a tight relationship with Him AND when we’re not.

It helps when we earnestly try to listen to Him, right? Remember the old analog days of radio, when you had to turn the dial just a little this way or that to get the signal to come in loud and clear? Some times, hearing God can be that way too. We need to regularly tune in, removing every distraction, to hear Him clearly. So, my encouragement to us all today is to take time to listen and I’m pretty sure we’ll hear. That’s good news!

Keep your hearts tuned into God!

At the same time, we have to remember that we are going to drown in our sin. You are. So am I. And so is everyone you know.  Following the Law won’t help you, either. Even if you could keep all the laws. Which you can’t. 



He’s the one who is faithful even when we’re faithless.

 


Paul, the accomplished rabbi, knows his Torah. Nine times Paul quotes from the Old Testament.  Nine times we hear that we are all condemned because of our sin. Can you imagine being a Torah following Jew, or even a new believer in Rome (the folks to whom this letter is written), and reading all these discouraging words that Paul quotes here? How did anyone have hope?

“Scripture leaves no doubt about it: There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. No one’s living right; I can’t find a single one.” (Romans 3:10-12, MSG).

And this might have been written about people today: “They don’t know how to live in peace. They don’t even fear God.” (Romans 3:17-18, MSG). Paul is quoting from Isaiah 59 and Psalm 36.

I love how Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase draws a sailing analogy:

“And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.” (Romans 3:19-20, MSG).

We’re all destined to drown. That’s a horrific image, isn’t it? Probably one of the worst ways to die. Think about it though, as Jesus spent many of His days around Lake Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, we see in our mind’s eye images of fishermen-turned-disciples and storms out on the water. I’m reminded of a story in the Gospel of Mark.

“Suddenly a windstorm struck the lake. Waves started splashing into the boat, and it was about to sink. Jesus was in the back of the boat with his head on a pillow, and he was asleep. His disciples woke him and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re about to drown?” Jesus got up and ordered the wind and the waves to be quiet. The wind stopped, and everything was calm.” (Mark 4:37-39, CEV).

Under our own efforts, when we attempt to captain our own ship, when we strive to follow all the rules about living life as a Jesus follower, we will surely drown.  Be assured, however, Jesus offers a Good News lifeline to everyone! He offers calm in our storms. 

Yes, here’s the Good News we’ll read more about tomorrow: “God treats everyone alike. He accepts people only because they have faith in Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3:22, CEV). I’m so thankful for this live-giving hope!

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.











Isaiah 66. Walking With God.

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 66.

The last chapter, the final word from this great prophet, is about worship, how we act and His promises to His children who will worship Him once again in Jerusalem.

“The LORD said, “Heaven is my throne. The earth is my footstool.” (v1, CEV). The image is that of a great and mighty king, right?

The Psalmist says, “The LORD says to my lord: sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”  (Psalm 110:1, NIV).

So, how are we to worship Him? “The people I treasure most are the humble— they depend only on me and tremble when I speak.” (v2, CEV). The Message says “a person simple and plain, reverently responsive to what I say.” We worship God not with brash arrogance nor pride that we are called His children. But rather, with our hands and heart open to receive and a posture turned toward honoring our great King.

Listen to the similar words of another prophet: “The LORD has told us what is right and what He demands: see that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern and humbly obey God.” (Micah 6:8, CEV). The NIV says we “are to walk humbly with your God.” I like the picture of walking with God, don’t you?

God promises that the people of Israel will always have a special place in His heart. “As surely as my new heavens and earth will remain, so will you always be my people, with a name that will never disappear,” says the LORD. (v 22, NLT). What great comfort for the Jewish people, and all of us who have been grafted into this wonderful community because of the resurrection of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, Jesus, the Messiah!

What is the prophet’s final words, the last verse? “My people will go out and look at the dead bodies of those who turned against me. The worms there never die, the fire never stops burning, and the sight of those bodies will be disgusting to everyone.” (v24, CEV).

This is an image of hell, the true image of not walking with God.

But, as for me and my house, I will choose verse 2 over verse 24. Like Joshua rallied the people of God, I, too, will choose the LORD. How about you?

 

Thanks for reading Isaiah with me these past 66 days! I have loved this journey. I trust along the way you have learned a thing or two about God, and His special love for the people of Israel.  I have.

 

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.
(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.