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 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

 

Death. Then Life. Through The Light.


Whenever I don’t have a chapter book or novel to read, I flip to a selection in Eugene Peterson’s “As Kingfishers Catch Fire.” It’s a collection of one pastor’s encouraging sermons from over 30 years in the pulpit. 

There is a chapter entitled “Father, Glorify Thy Name” which includes many truths. These words articulate Jesus’ shortest prayer, recorded in the Gospel of John: “Father, bring glory to your name.” (John 12:28, NLT).
It may be a short prayer, but it is a powerful prayer. Peterson says praying, for us as it was for Jesus, is like breathing. “If we are to live, we all have to do it… it is woven into the fabric of life.”


I believe this is a season when we will all rise, but only as we first kneel.


Many have found a new voice of prayer during this season. That is wonderful! I even saw a news clip from MSNBC where the host asked his guest, Pastor T.D. Jakes, to offer a prayer for the Nation. I was a TV news anchor and reporter at one time and under “normal” circumstances that would never happen. Yet here we are! For 30 seconds as the pastor prayed, news anchor Craig Melvin bowed his head and affirmed the petition with his own “Amen.” Isn’t that encouraging? God is gracious. Many are lifting an eye towards heaven and seeking God’s peace, His calm, His healing, His protection. Keep it up! Thank you for breathing. Thank you for praying.

I believe this is a season when we will all rise, but only as we first kneel. I can’t help but recall an often quoted scripture from the Old Testament: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV).

And the glory of God? Paradoxically, it’s not more. It’s less. Peterson says Jesus redefines glory. “The glory with which Jesus is glorified is not inspirational… It is not glamorous.” It is not a beautiful sunrise, although through our eyes it is. No, in God’s eyes, it is first an agonizing cross. “Obscurity, rejection, a sacrificial life, an obedient death.”

Seeds must die and be buried before there is new life. It might be said that the world is dying right now. There is irony in seeing gorgeous spring cherry blossoms and daffodils and redbuds in full bloom as we suffer through a physical, virus-driven fall and winter for humankind. Yet there will be a morning when our life will spring forth again! We can trust the Creator to be glorified in the new life that always follows death.

Peterson notes that the Son must die so that the Son, and the Father, and the Spirit, are glorified. Will you join me in earnestly praying that we will all see the Glory of God during this season?  Jesus describes it this way:

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” (John 12:24‭-‬25, MSG).

We are to let go of our life – we are to die – so that we might save it and live.

Jesus’ final words in this scene? “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.” (John 12:35‭, NLT)

We can trust the Light to shine. We can! Light is key in the cycle of death to germination to regeneration to birth. In the Light, we will all find life.

One final note on the importance of light, from the book of Revelation where John describes heaven: “The City doesn’t need sun or moon for light. God’s Glory is its light, the Lamb its lamp!” (Revelation 21:23, MSG).

A simple, yet powerful prayer for this season? “Shine on, Jesus! Shine!”




(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

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As Kingfishers Catch Fire, by Eugene H. Peterson, (c) 2017, WaterBrook.










Isaiah 51. God Will Turn Deserts into a Lush Garden.

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 51.

Again, words of comfort and the assurance that God will set things right for those who obey Him. The people of Israel, and us by way of Jesus, are chips off the block of Abraham. Just like the great Jewish patriarch, we can also be called a “friend of God” as we remember our roots (see Isaiah 41:8).

“Listen to me, all you who are serious about right living and committed to seeking God. Ponder the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were dug. Yes, ponder Abraham, your father, and Sarah, who bore you. Think about it! One solitary man when I called him, but once I blessed him, he multiplied. Likewise I, God, will comfort Zion, comfort all her mounds of ruins. I’ll transform her dead ground into Eden, her moonscape into the garden of God, A place filled with exuberance and laughter, thankful voices and melodic songs.” (v1-3, MSG).

Who wants a home filled with exuberance, laughter, thankful voices and singing? I do! Isaiah reminds us, that we can be transformed! If you’ve traveled to Israel you might recall the moonscape of the lands around Masada. Those will be reborn into lush gardens. He did it. He does it. He will continue to do it.

“My salvation will last forever, my setting things right will never be obsolete… Pay no attention to insults and when mocked don’t let it get you down. Those insults and mockeries are moth-eaten, from brains that are termite-ridden. But my setting things right lasts! My salvation goes on and on and on!” (v6-8, MSG).

This echoes what the Psalmist says: “When I was really hurting, I prayed to the Lord. He answered my prayer and took my worries away. The Lord is on my side, and I am not afraid of what others can do to me.” (Psalm 118:5‭-‬6, CEV).

We can trust completely in the delight of God. This is a promise the people of Israel hold on to every day. It is a promise we can cling to as well!

Be comforted today in the beautiful transformational work God is doing in you, in each of us! You may feel like a wasteland or a desert. But God sees you as the Garden of Eden! Hear the singing and laughter. Experience His joy!

I love the word picture described here: “On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be, “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”(Zephaniah 3:16-17, NLT).

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 49. Our Light. Our Hope in the Darkness.

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 49.

We often played games with our children that involved flashlights in the dark. We hunted for wild (stuffed) animals hidden in the recesses of the Family Room furniture. We played flashlight tag. They performed skits using flashlights for stage lights.

It is always amazing to me the way a tiny beam of light, or the flicker of a candle, radically changes a dark place. The darkness can never overtake even the smallest of lights. When light breaks into the darkness it often evokes feelings of great joy and relief.

God has a specific calling for His people. “I have placed you here as a light for other nations; you must take my saving power to everyone on earth.” (v6, CEV). The Jewish people will be that luminescence. Sometimes it is just a glowing ember. Other times it will be a beacon that shines so bright it causes us to squint. Either way, the light of God illuminates our path so we can walk in safety.

I believe Isaiah is foretelling the coming of the Messiah. Look at this:

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” (John 8:12, NIV).

Jesus is the One who is the light for the Gentiles and the Jews! He alone provides a light in the darkest night. He alone is our salvation. He alone is our hope.

Again, Isaiah shares a direct thought from God. The Lord will send His son, who will save us all:

“Israel, I am the holy Lord God, the one who rescues you… You can trust me! I am your Lord, the holy God of Israel, and you are my chosen ones. This is what the Lord says: I will answer your prayers because I have set a time when I will help by coming to save you. I have chosen you to take my promise of hope to other nations.” (V7‭-‬8, CEV).

Jesus is our promise of hope! The light from Jerusalem will shine throughout the four corners of the world! The brightness from the tomb on the morning of Jesus’ resurrection still shines in every dark corner of the world!

You may be going through a challenging time. You may feel surrounded by the darkness. Take courage. God knows our seasons of suffering. You can trust Him. The LORD asks the prophet: “Could a mother forget a child who nurses at her breast? Could she fail to love an infant who came from her own body? Even if a mother could forget, I will never forget you.” (v 15, CEV).

God will never forget you or your situation. Jesus is our hope! Let His light shine in the dark places of your life to bring comfort, safety, and joy.

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 40. Those Who Trust the LORD Will Find New Strength.

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 40.

“There is good news for the city of Zion. Shout it as loud as you can from the highest mountain. Don’t be afraid to shout to the towns of Judah, “Your God is here!” Look! The powerful Lord God is coming to rule with his mighty arm. He brings with him what he has taken in war, and he rewards his people. The Lord cares for his nation, just as shepherds care for their flocks. He carries the lambs in his arms, while gently leading the mother sheep.”” (v9-11, CEV).

Your God is here! He rewards His people.  Listen up, everyone! God knows you. He knows that you get exhausted in this life. He knows your struggles and daily challenges. He knows that we slog along through the daily grind and sometimes we fall. Sometimes we fail.  But, here is good news worth shouting from the rooftops:

“The Lord gives strength to those who are weary.  Even young people get tired, then stumble and fall. But those who trust the Lord will find new strength. They will be strong like eagles soaring upward on wings; they will walk and run without getting tired.” (v29‭-‬31, CEV).

Think of the eagle. It is created to soar high above the cliffs on its strong wings. Its eight-foot wingspan keeps it aloft for hours as it takes advantage of thermal updrafts from the surrounding terrain. Think of how you were created. Each one of us has various strengths and abilities that help us function daily. We even have a “sweet spot” that energizes and fills us up when we are doing it. What is that for you? I believe, like an eagle, whether you are a mom or a dad or an accountant or an artist or a construction worker or a pastor, if you are operating in that place where you flourish,  you will walk and run and thrive.

Yes, we will have the occasional struggle and set back. Paul addresses that in the New Testament:

“We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us. We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9, CEV).

The real power comes from God. May we all find new strength today as we trust in Yahweh! God is with you!

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 33. Blessings Follow Obedience.

The Western Wall in Jerusalem.

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 33.

There is doom again in today’s chapter. But this time it is reserved for the Destroyer, likely Sennacherib, the king of Assyria.

Look at those, however, who will speak to God in this humble and honoring way: “You are the foundation on which we stand today. You always save us and give true wisdom and knowledge. Nothing means more to us than obeying you.” (v6, CEV).

You. Always save. True wisdom. Obeying you.

Nothing means more than obeying God. We want to obey, right? May His Holy Spirit lead us and give us the strength to do so. May we hear and obey His still quiet voice and His promptings deep within our souls.

I believe as we obey, we are assured His blessings.

“But there will be rewards for those who live right and tell the truth, for those who refuse to take money by force or accept bribes, for all who hate murder and violent crimes.  They will live in a fortress high on a rocky cliff, where they will have food and plenty of water.” (v15-16, CEV).

Later: “The Lord is our judge and our ruler; the Lord is our king and will keep us safe.  The Lord will forgive your sins, and none of you will say, “I feel sick.”” (v22, 24, CEV).

He will provide! He has forgiven us through the grace of Jesus. Paul says often in the New Testament “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” What does this mean? Our pastor recently said it means something like this: “Everything that God is like be upon you.” God is Love.  So let love be upon you. God is Joy. So let joy be upon you. Peace. Comfort. Care. Protection. Health. Wellness. Everything that is God. Let every amazing and divine thing that is, be upon you. This is the culture of the Kingdom of God.

I love that as we read the Old Testament it points to Jesus! He forgives. He gives grace. We follow. We trust. We obey. We have life! We have His life and every spiritual blessing that goes with it.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3, NIV).

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

 

Isaiah 31. Our Help Comes From the LORD.

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 31.

Isaiah 31 begins with the admonition to put our trust in God alone. Don’t trust in Egyptians or Americans or your boss or your favorite sports team. They will fail you. They are mere humans.

“You are in for trouble if you go to Egypt for help, or if you depend on an army of chariots or a powerful cavalry. Instead you should depend on and trust the holy Lord God of Israel.” (v1, CEV).

We’ve seen throughout Isaiah the encouragement to trust God! Why? Because as verse 2 reminds us: God does what He says. He keeps His promises.

And then there’s this:

“I, the Lord All-Powerful, will protect Jerusalem like a mother bird circling over her nest.” (v5, CEV). One translation says “like a huge eagle…”

God has a special place in His heart for Jerusalem and its people. He also has great fondness and love for those who believe Jesus is the Messiah. Believers in Yeshua are like those who live in Jerusalem. We are included in that group, thanks to His “grafting us in” via the cross and the empty tomb! So, we can say that God has a special place in His heart for you and me. And like an eagle or a mother bird, He will watch over us and protect us!

I’m reminded of this beautiful Psalm:

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalms 121:1‭-‬8, NIV).

He is watching over you today! He sees your hopes, dreams, challenges and struggles. He will lead you to straight paths, meadows of rest and streams of living water.

He loves you and is proud of you, dear child of God. You can trust Him.

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 30. Trust God. Be Blessed.

God blesses everyone who Trusts in Him.

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 30.

More warnings and doom for those who continue to sin and turn their back on the Almighty. These words might be found anywhere in today’s media: “Don’t tell us what God has shown you and don’t preach the truth. Just say what we want to hear, even if it’s false. Stop telling us what God has said! We don’t want to hear any more about the holy God of Israel.” (v10-11, CEV). Sounds like a spoiled child with their hands over their ears, right?

Yet for those who will put their trust in God: “The holy Lord God of Israel had told all of you, “I will keep you safe if you turn back to me and calm down. I will make you strong if you quietly trust me.” (v15, CEV).

Another promise to those who trust Him: “The Lord God is waiting to show how kind he is and to have pity on you. The Lord always does right; he blesses those who trust him.” (v18, CEV).

He blesses us when we trust Him! King Solomon echoes these words: “God blesses everyone who trusts him.” (Proverbs 16:20, CEV).

Can I tell you from firsthand experience: I have trusted God and He has blessed me. Many others can repeat those words, too.

Blessings come through trust.  Blessings come through the truth, if we are open to hear it and receive it. The Lord always does right.

 

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 22

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 22.

Verse 11 brings us wisdom and caution: “You looked and looked and looked, but you never looked to him who gave you this city, never once consulted the One who has long had plans for this city.” (v11, MSG).

I’m reminded of Proverbs 16:9: “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

We must always, always consult, pray, ask and seek God’s counsel as we make decisions. And trust Him as He leads. How do we know it’s Him leading versus us following our own ways? That’s a great question! I wrestle with it daily, especially in seasons of uncertainty. His ways will always line up with Scripture. And, we are to seek the counsel of those who know us, who may be able to see another angle, and who might be able to affirm or offer other thoughts — also through the lens of Scripture.

Another favorite Proverb: “With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgment. Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, CEV).

So, whenever you have a big decision to make, or even daily as you seek to walk where God leads, consult Him. Follow His ways. Discover His best for your life!

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.