Romans 13. You Can’t Go Wrong When You Start With 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 here.

 

Romans 13.

Yesterday, Paul encouraged us in our relationships with others. Today’s Word highlights our relationship with authorities and governments, where we are to invest with the mind of Christ.

Obey the rulers who have authority over you. Only God can give authority to anyone, and he puts these rulers in their places of power. (v1, CEV).

This can be tricky when the rulers over us put their own personal agenda ahead of God’s agenda for our communities. Yet, there are countless examples of poor leaders in the Bible. Kings who did evil fill the pages of Old Testament history. And yet God still delivered His people. God still gave His one and only Son at just the right time. I believe we can obey even evil rulers, or maybe even those whose politics differ from ours, and yet work to bring about God’s perfect will at the same time. Martin Luther King, Jr. may have said it best and most succinctly: “The time is always right to do what is right.” I often instructed my own kids when they were teenagers with similar words of wisdom, “If you don’t know which choice to make, make the right one.”

Doing what is right is key, especially when it is done in love. Paul says:  Let love be your only debt! If you love others, you have done all that the Law demands. (v8, MSG). And then the Apostle adds: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love. (v10, MSG).

Paul, the former Pharisee, the scholarly Jew, has the Shema in mind here, doesn’t he? Every day he likely rolled off of his sleeping mat, looked heavenward first thing in the morning and said this prayer: “O Israel, listen: Jehovah is our God, Jehovah alone. You must love him with all your heart, soul, and might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, CJB). But love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:9, NIV). Paul may have even heard the disciples quoting the story of Jesus being asked about the greatest commandment. The Messiah first quotes directly from Deuteronomy, then from Leviticus. (see Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34). For Moses and Jesus both, it’s all about love. As it is for Paul. As it is for you and me.

You can’t go wrong when you love others.


Next, there is a warning and an encouraging word or two:

Night’s darkness is dissolving away as a new day of destiny dawns. So we must once and for all strip away what is done in the shadows of darkness, removing it like filthy clothes. And once and for all we clothe ourselves with the radiance of light as our weapon. We must live honorably, surrounded by the light of this new day, not in the darkness of drunkenness and debauchery, not in promiscuity and sensuality, not being argumentative or jealous of others. Instead be fully clothed with the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, and don’t waste even a moment’s thought on your former identity to awaken its selfish desires. (v12-14, TPT).

Another translation says it this way:  Let the Lord Jesus Christ be as near to you as the clothes you wear. Then you won’t try to satisfy your selfish desires. (v 14, CEV).

Love others well today! Make the right choices. And know that Jesus is always with you!


© 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com





Romans 12. How To Be Changed From the Inside Out.

 





You may listen to this 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 12.

I’m not sure about you, but some scriptures remind me of certain people. Romans 12 will forever be associated with a sweet couple who were our life group leaders about ten years ago. There aren’t too many people on this planet with as much grace as these two. This is one of my favorite passages as it reads in The Message:

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).

Place your life before God, everything about your life. You’ll be changed from the inside out. You will be transformed as you rise above the messiness of the world’s ways and prioritize God’s plan.

The Passion Translation says “Live in holiness experiencing all that delights His heart.” Can we make it our goal to delight His heart? Not with works, nor a tally where we keep score. Rather, just to live every single day as if we are serving God, because we are. Paul’s reminder of these actions is noted in another letter. “Put your heart and soul into every activity you do, as though you are doing it for the Lord himself and not merely for others. For we know that we will receive a reward, an inheritance from the Lord.” (Colossians 3:23-24, TPT).

This also reminds me of Deuteronomy 6:6. The Old Testament Torah encourages us to teach our children God’s law, the Sh’ma, at all times of the day, every day… when you’re waking up, walking along the road, riding bikes in the park, sitting at the dinner table, going to bed… at all times and all the time.

 

Place your life before God, everything about your life. You’ll be changed from the inside out.


The second half of Romans 12 is worth highlighting the whole text! Paul is being very “Solomon-esque” with short, little proverbs to encourage flourishing interconnectedness in our relationships. Each thought is written to encourage our getting along with others. Here’s a delightful list of beautiful things to do today. For yourself. And for each other. It’s very poetic, actually.


Love.

Run.

Hold on.

Love.

Practice.

Be fueled up.

Be alert.

Be expectant.

Pray.

Help.

Host creatively.

Bless.

Laugh.

Cry.

Get along.

Make friends.

Discover beauty.

I continue to be reminded about the context of these readers. First Century Rome was very much like 21st Century New York City. It was the center of the world, filled with great opulence and excess. Likely also filled with great poverty and depression. Healthy relationships in that kind of environment, especially, are key to happiness and life fulfillment. Our role in this world can be summed up in this one directive: “Never let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.” (Romans 12:21, TPT).

While this may seem impossible, with the grace of Jesus redeeming us and the power of the Holy Spirit in us, this is not hypothetical! So, do not be discouraged. As the Evangelist noted a few chapters earlier, nothing will separate us from God’s love or His purpose. Today and throughout every day of our life!



© 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com

 

The Secret to Solomon’s Wisdom? Hearing God.

"Shema Israel. Hear o Israel." Solomon asked to hear God.
“Shema Israel. Hear o Israel.” Solomon asked to hear God.

Whenever we think of Solomon we think of wisdom, right? We say that he asked for wisdom so God gave him wisdom… and more!

Interestingly, he actually did not ask for wisdom.

 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours? (1 Kings 3:9, NIV)

Yes, that collection of words translates to what we know to be wisdom, but he actually asked God for “a discerning heart.” Or some translations say “an understanding heart.” When you dig into the root of that word in Hebrew it is the word shama’ or “hear.”

If you are Jewish you say the “Shema’” prayer every day. In English it is:

“Hear O Israel. The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might!”

Hear.

Shema.

So I think Solomon asked to be able to hear God… to have this open communications pipeline from God’s heart to his heart. To have one of those new fiber optic cables that has an almost unlimited bandwidth to allow God to have the fastest amount of data transfer available. From God’s lips to Solomon’s heart. Instantly.

And with that endless and open line, Solomon was indeed wise.

Do you know that you and I have that same access to God?

“Through him (Jesus Christ) we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:18, The Message).

Yet, often our pipeline is clogged so that we are distracted from hearing God… with the things of the world that take our heart off of God’s best for us. With our job. Our family. Our finances. Our health. Our worries.

James encourages us to ask God for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5, NIV). As you do, recall that when Solomon asked for the same thing, he actually sought to HEAR from God.

May you have an open pipeline to hear from God’s heart to your heart. May you give God all your worldly distractions. Give Him those things that choke the conduit of His grace and His love.

Then, as you hear God’s voice today, may you have the strength and boldness to act and go where He leads.

 

© 2017 Rich Ronald.

 

 

You are the intersection of the Cross

My college roommate was the first to introduce me to the key concept of horizontal and vertical relationships.  Even though I had been a Christian all my life and he was a relative new-comer to the faith, Jim had a grasp of the depth of God’s love greater than any of my peers.   

We all understand what horizontal relationships are… those with our friends and family living this life and walking this walk with us daily. 

And the vertical relationship is also easy to see when we look for it… between us and the triune God, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

And all of these relationships intersect in you… in your mind… in your heart.  And really all of these relationships overlap don’t they?  If you have put Jesus on the throne of your life, the relationships you have with people… the love you have, men, for your wives, the love you have women for your husbands and  for your children, are driven by the true source of love, God.  I John 4.  “God is love.”  If God rules your life, it’s all connected isn’t  it?

Continue reading You are the intersection of the Cross

Philosophy of Ministry

Have you ever been challenged to write a “philosophy of ministry?”  Recently I was asked to provide mine. 
And while I know that I have one, I’ve never put down in words.  So I prayed.  And here it is.

PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY

“Hear O Israel.  The Lord our God, the Lord is One!  You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your strength.”  This is the Shema, the call from Moses in Deuteronomy 6:45. 
Jesus took this to the next level when asked by the pharisees about the greatest commandment by adding
“Love you neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22, Mark 12 and Luke 10).

It is with this conviction that my philosophy of ministry resonates.

Continue reading Philosophy of Ministry