Transforming your Mind

FREE THEME – Romans 12:9-21

romans 12 2 (1)

Every morning when I wake up I try to have my first thoughts be, “Thank you, God, for another day of life and the blessings you will give me today.” Unfortunately, often, my first thought is, “I have cancer” and I have a sinking feeling in my heart. I have to intentionally then redirect my thoughts to the first statement, put a smile on my face, remembering God’s goodness and mercy. I may have cancer, but God sent Jesus so I can be made right with him and live forever with him in his kingdom. That is worth far more than anything this life has to offer. 

But I have to keep reminding myself of this because the things of this life bring so much pleasure and that is what I know and want to keep knowing. I love my family, friends, church, God’s beautiful creation, vacations, sewing, art, … And it can go on. And now I am a grandmother as well! 

But even with these things that I love and know first hand, I don’t always appreciate or treat them in a way that would honor or please them or God. I have to be reminded again and again about having the right attitude, treating people right, and living intentionally. That is what Romans 12 helps us do.

 

Romans 12 is a chapter in the Bible that we as Christians would be wise to read every day. It reminds us of the practical, and yet profound, attitudes and actions we are to have in our relationship with God, fellow believers, and everyone we come in contact with. The following passage is verses 1-2 and then 9 and following. Read them carefully. 

 

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 

  • “Let love be genuine. 
  • Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 
  • Love one another with brotherly affection. 
  • Outdo one another in showing honor. 
  • Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 
  • Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 
  • Live in harmony with one another. 
  • Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. 
  • Never be wise in your own sight. 
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
  • If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 
  • Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:1-2, 9-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

 

You may not have to deal with all of these on any given day, but every day you will be faced with some of them. In keeping these instructions in our minds we will be ready when a situation faces us and we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, respond in a way that will please and honor our God and Maker. The bonus is that not only will the situation turn out better, but you will be happier, with an inner peace and joy, as you grow and mature into the person God has called you to be. 

Beth Mattison

Wise About What is Good

Romans 16

Romans 16 19.png

Welcome back!  Hopefully yesterday’s question brought about some quality reflection time after reviewing the passages.  I hope today’s thoughts do the same as well!

Thought #1 – Vs. 1-16: Wow!  I’m impressed that Paul remembered so many individuals within the church and took the time to greet them all.  I am very fortunate to be part of a small church, and I LOVE the fact that I know everyone by name there.  But, I don’t feel that I truly know every individual that is in my congregation.  Certainly not well enough to greet personally if I were writing a letter from someplace far away!  We recently lost a very prominent, “behind-the-scenes” member at my church.  I knew him well enough to know the amazing impact he had on our church, but not more than outside of seeing him Sundays and Wednesdays.  His funeral was packed with friends and family members, and it struck me how little I truly knew about this man that I had basically “known” since birth.  This, along with these verses, got me thinking; How well do we really know the people inside of our own church body?  Clearly Paul thought it was important to individually know those within the body, as he even brought up some deeper connections he had with them as a reminder and personal touch.  How awesome do you think those believers felt when Paul called them out in a positive way?  They were probably encouraged, and motivated to keep on doing the good things they were already doing.  My aunt Susan likes to say, “If you see something good in someone, say it!!”  People love positive recognition for things they do.  And generally speaking, they’re not going around asking for it!  I challenge you, along with myself, to seek out those deeper connections within your church so that you are able to call out the good in those around you!

Thought #2 – Vs. 17- 19:  There are some pretty strong words used by Paul here.  He calls out some people and intentionally tells believers to keep away from them because they are not serving Christ.  Excuse my Minnesotan here, but… Ufda.  I would NOT want to be one of those people!!  Despite this slight shock of criticism, I love how Paul finishes his little warning with a praise and a reminder: “Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”   We are to rejoice in our obedience, and in the obedience of other believers.  But we are also told here to be wise about good things, and innocent about evil things.  How can you be wise about the good, and innocent about the evil?  I think first you must recognize the difference.  We can still be innocent about evil things without being naïve to the world.  We can also be very easily pulled into a deeper and unnecessary knowledge of evil if we’re not careful.  We need to know enough to stay away, but not enough to compromise our innocence.  How can you grow your wisdom of good things to increase your obedience?  How are you keeping your innocence of evil while still being aware of what it is?

I hope these questions got you thinking from maybe a new perspective on our texts today!  Tomorrow we get to start the book of John together!

To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ!

~Sarah Blanchard

Because He Accepted Me

Romans 15

Romans 15 7

Hello friends!

I do not necessarily have a set style of writing when it comes to devotionals… so (un)lucky for you, you get to listen to my general thoughts on the chapters this week!  I will list a few of my thoughts that are a little less common or obvious on each chapter and pose some reflection questions that will hopefully get you thinking deeper about what we’ve read this week.  My goal is that something I think of, you hadn’t thought about and you’re willing to dig deeper into the idea.  So, let’s look at Romans 15 according to Sarah’s brain, shall we??

Thought #1 – Vs. 1 – 12: There are some great verses in that small chunk that carry big meanings and can be so relevant to our lives!  Focusing on verse 7 specifically, I think it can be very easily manipulated to satisfy an individual’s personal agenda.  “Accept each other… ” that means you can’t tell me what I’m doing is wrong.  Because maybe it’s wrong for you, but it’s right for me.  How many times have you heard that or said that yourself?  I’ve definitely used that excuse!  And while that statement may not always be abused, or even inaccurate, we need to use discernment when bringing that idea up.  When we finish out that sentence, “Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you, SO THAT God will be given glory”  we see more clearly into the message Paul was trying to get across.  If we are accepting others as Christ accepts them, we are not letting them do whatever they want.  We are loving them enough to correct them when necessary, pick them up when they need, and not leaving them even when they mess up.  Let’s be honest, interacting with people can be difficult.  Accepting people who are difficult, is difficult!  But yet we are called to do so.  And why are we doing this?  SO THAT God will be given glory.  We don’t have to try to accept people when it’s hard for any other reason other than to bring God glory.  When you interact with difficult people in a positive way, what is your thought process behind it?  Are you doing it with a self-righteous attitude or genuinely trying to bring God glory?

Thought #2 – Obviously we know that prayer is important, but seeing yet another example of how Paul truly and genuinely believes in the power of prayer is very motivating to my own prayer life.  Not only does Paul live out a strong prayer life, he encourages others to join him and asks that they pray for him.  He clearly truly believes and trusts in the power of prayer.  Are you fully utilizing the power of a praying body of Christ?

Thought 3# – Vs. 30: Final thought for today… Sometimes you need to be refreshed by the presence of like-minded believers!  FUEL, Family Camp, ReFUEL, Refuge, Christian Worker’s Seminar…. These are all great places to be uplifted, encouraged, and refreshed.  But, just as Paul writes, I think it makes a difference in the attitude you come with.  If you are not looking forward to meeting with like-minded believers with joy and anticipation, are you being held back from refreshing company?

I hope some of these ideas were able to make you think a little deeper about our text today!

“May the God of peace be with you all.” Romans 15:33

~Sarah Blanchard

Disputable Matters are Disputable

Romans Chapter 14

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.

Ah yes.  Disputable matters.  What are those exactly?  Well, that’s disputable.  We were only given a short list of what those are for sure.  Meat or no meat?  Days all the same or some more sacred?  And from a parallel passage in 1 Corinthians 8;  food sacrificed to idols able to be eaten?

 

What modern disputable matters can you think of?  Drinking alcohol?  Voting?  Putting up a Christmas Tree?  Playing Dungeons and Dragons?  Rooting on the New England Patriots?  No, we all know that last one is evil.

 

I have heard arguments for and against these so-called disputable matters.  I have also heard from those who hold a strong stand on them that they are NOT disputable.  In fact, those with opposing stands can often both point to scripture to back their conflicting viewpoints.  What then?

 

As Christians, moreover as people, we are going to disagree about things.  Paul knew this.  He saw it.  And he was concerned about the division within the church that would create.  And for good reason.  I once heard that a church actually split over the chosen color of the new carpet.  That is rather ridiculous.  I don’t know if that would classify as a disputable matter, but the point is that we are easily divided if we are not careful.  The enemy wants to divide us.  Don’t let the enemy win in regards to these issues.

 

Sometimes we have to agree to disagree and leave it at that.  And I am not saying that truth is not important.  It is of the utmost importance.  But there are some things that people are simply not going to agree on.  That doesn’t mean that anything we disagree on is automatically a disputable matter.  But if it is something that we can disagree on and still have fellowship together, then maybe we need to leave it at that.

 

Let’s strive for unity, and still be mature enough to disagree on some matters.

 

I’m sure I cleared this right up for you.  Or maybe you dispute that?

 

Greg Landry

 

 

Submission to Governing Authorities

Romans 13 1

Romans Chapter 13  

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

 

Wow, this is a tough passage for me.  I hate politics.  Or more accurately, I really dislike polices, laws, and politicians that I disagree with, especially on a moral basis.  We live in a country where it is legal to end the life of a human baby, for no other reason than the mother just doesn’t want it.  I have a big problem with that.  So how do I deal with that reality in light of this scripture passage?

 

It would seem that God has allowed the people to be in position that have allowed abortion to become law of the land.  And yet God certainly would not approve of this law or many others that exist in our country and other countries.  Worse yet, we are told to submit to these authorities.

 

The truth is, God does not condone all of the decisions of government. He simply allows them to be in place.  Sometimes He may use rulers to bless people, sometimes He may use rulers to judge people and sometimes we may not know why he has certain rulers in place.  But regardless, the simple message from Paul is that we need to submit to authority in general.  This is a model of submission to God.  Keep in mind that when Paul wrote this, it was during the reign of the Roman Empire. It was no democracy, and no special friend to Christians – yet he still saw their legitimate authority.

 

Since governments have authority from God, we are bound to obey them – unless, of course, they order us to do something in contradiction to God’s law. Then, we are commanded to obey God before man.  John and Peter demonstrated that in Acts 4:18-19.

 

I have to live with and submit to the authorities that God has put in charge, but that by no means requires me to blindly follow every edict from those same authorities if it means breaking God’s law.  God is the supreme authority, and His rule is superior to anyone He has placed in lesser authority over us.

 

Greg Landry

 

Be Transformed

Romans Chapter 12 

 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

This!

 

These are some of the wisest words that Paul shares in Romans.  And that is saying a lot.

 

“In view of God’s mercy.”

After the abundance of mercy that God has shown us, we should desire to please him and properly worship Him.  So how do we do that?  By offering our bodies as sacrifices to God by being HOLY and PLEASING to Him.

 

How do we know what holy and pleasing looks like to God?  By renewing our minds in God’s word.  Paul lays it all out right there for us.  Isn’t this easy?

 

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world.”

This warns us that the world’s system – the popular culture and manner of thinking that is in rebellion against God – will try to conform us to its ungodly pattern, and that process must be resisted.  And yet, many of us find ourselves being conformed to the world all the time.  It sneaks up on you sometimes.  Is our mouth just as foul as our coworkers?  Do we covet the latest ‘thing?’  Has your position on the sin of homosexuality moved?  Is viewing pornography ‘no big deal?’  Do you seek revenge against someone if they have wronged you?  (That one is addressed later in this same chapter.)

 

How do we know if these things are wrong or not?  By being transformed by the renewing of our minds.  This is the OPPOSITE of being conformed to the world.  Our minds start out being ruled by feelings, rooted in the flesh.  At that point we look just like the world.  But we need to have a source of truth – God’s world – that tells us what is right or wrong, despite what our feelings tell us.  Feelings lie.  The world lies.  But God’s word never will.

 

We can only be transformed in our minds by becoming more and more familiar with what God’s Word says.  Do you really stand out from the world?  As a Christian, you should.  The transformation you experience, from your old way of thinking and acting, should be as complete as Bumblebee or Optimus Prime from the Transformers movies when they transform from vehicle form to robot form.

 

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Finally, Paul is not calling us to be completely separate from the world, but instead to not be like the world.  We need to stand out in the world in such a way that we attract attention, and hopefully then draw others to God.  If we completely separate ourselves from the world, changing the lives of unbelievers would be impossible.

 

Greg Landry

 

 

The Laughter was Far More Powerful

Romans Chapter 11 –
Paul completes his three chapter address of the fact that the Jews missed the Messiah here in chapter 11.  He emphasizes again that God did not completely reject Israel, for Paul himself is a Jew, and there is always going to be a remnant, until the entire nation will one day believe.

 

Verse 11 reads, “Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?  Not at all!  Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.”  This speaks to a great truth.  Very often, God is able to use transgressions or struggles in our own lives to bring about good.

 

My wife Susan and I have learned from mistakes in our marriage, and have shared those revelations with others.  I know of people who have wrestled with drug addiction who have then participated in programs to help others who are still wrestling.  In a very public example, Abby Johnson is a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston, who came to the revelation that what was going on there was wrong, and began a ministry to combat abortion.  (There is a movie titled Unplanned opening in theaters this month about her experience.)

 

So, yes, things in our lives that we are not proud of can indeed be used for good and for God’s glory.  But Paul continues in verse 12, “But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater will their fullness bring!”  When we are fulfilling our purpose in Christ, that is when we are going to be used to our fullness!

 

greg 4This reminds me of the movie Monsters Inc.  You know the story.  The monsters snuck into kids rooms at night, in order to scare them and collect their screams. They then used the screams as a power source for the monster city.  Yes, it worked, but at a cost, and with a huge amount of effort.  But (spoiler alert) at the end of the movie, it was discovered that laughter was a far more powerful power source, that was much easier to collect.   Maybe this analogy is a stretch, but the point is that God would rather us make good choices (the laughter) and work with that instead of having to work with our mistakes (the screams.)

Speaking of analogies, Paul makes the analogy of Gentiles being a branch grafted onto the tree of Israel.  But he warns the Gentiles not to become arrogant or look down upon the Jews because they do not believe.  Paul says, “do not boast over those branches.  If you do, consider this:  You do not support the root, but the root supports you.”

 

There is a lot of anti-semitism in the world today.  New York City police records indicate that Jews are the most targeted group in regards to hate crimes.  There are many reasons for this hate, but let’s make sure we are not counted among the anti-semites of the world.  God is going to save a remnant of Israel in the last days.  I for one do not want to stand against God’s chosen people then or now.

 

Greg Landry