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

 

 

We Are Hupernikao

Romans Chapter 8

 

I am thrilled that I will be sharing my thoughts on Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome.  Romans is my favorite book of the Bible due to the sheer amount of truth, enlightenment and encouragement that is contained within.

 

Pages and pages can be written on any given chapter within Romans, but I plan to touch on only one or two (or three) portions of each chapter I am covering.

 

Romans chapter 8 is right in the middle of this amazing book, and it should be an amazing encouragement to any believer who is struggling with the weight of life.

 

Have any of you watched the news any time recently?  The old adage, “No news is good news” is often very true.  If the news didn’t have BAD news to talk about, they wouldn’t have much to say at all it seems.  Our world is fallen, and sinful behavior thrives in this fallen world.  But you don’t have to watch the news to know that.  We can see the adverse effects of living in a fallen world on a day to day basis within our own lives.

 

We are reminded in this chapter that all of creation groans and waits in eager expectation to be made perfect and freed from the bondage of decay.  Me too!  I’m not too old yet, (47 is the new 40), but I know my body is slowing down.  Much worse, I have seen loved ones pass away as a result of their bodies failing.

But that will all end!  We will be made perfect in the coming Kingdom!  That is the hope talked about in this section, and it is a hope that can not be taken from us.

 

Until that day comes, be encouraged, fellow believers, in the words Paul shares here.  Verse 28 says, “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.”  That’s encouraging!  That doesn’t mean everything will be perfect as we want it to be, but God, in His infinite wisdom knows what is best for our own good even if do not.

 

Verse 31b – “If God is for us, who can be against us?!!!!”  (I added the exclamation marks – it SHOULD have them in my Bible.)  That is one of the best lines in all of scripture in my humble opinion.  What God has put in motion is unstoppable.  No one will stop God’s plans, and God’s plans include YOU!

 

Yes, we all face hardships in this fallen world today, until we are made perfect in the Kingdom.  But we have a certain hope in that coming day, and nothing can take that hope away or prevent that day from coming.  Likewise, these momentary troubles can not separate us from the love of Christ.  Paul tells us  in verse 37 that in regards to these troubles we are “more than conquerors.”  The Greek word for that phrase is hupernikao.

greg 1

We learned that word in a Sunday School lesson last year, and it was fun to shout “Hupernikao!” if we demolished the other team in volleyball after church on Wednesday nights!  It feels great to be hupernikao.  That is what we are intended to be with God and Christ on our side.

 

Finally, this chapter concludes with more incredible encouragement in regards to the possibility of being removed from the love of God:

 

“38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

I hope that is as encouraging for you as it is for me.  Take these passages to heart.  Remember them when the world seems to be against you.  Remember that your creator, your Father, your God is FOR YOU!  And nothing can take that, or His future promise for you, away.

 

-Greg Landry

Notes from Paul

Romans 13 12

In Romans, Paul is describing the sorrow he feels that the Jews he has been trying to teach have not accepted the good news of Jesus Christ.  Even though he recognizes it is in God’s plan, he is mourning their stubbornness and their hardened hearts.

It is important to God why we follow Him…what motivates us.  He wants us to pursue Him because our faith compels us to do so, not as a result of our obligation to the law.

Paul begins to bring his message around again to the idea that Christ came for all people.  Paul continues to hope that the Israelites will listen and allow their hearts to be opened to God’s message of love and mercy. (Romans 11:11-16)

I believe Paul is saying to the early believers who are not of Jewish descent that they are the branches which come from the foundation of the Israelites.  If the root is holy, then so are the branches. As a result they need to continue to live and work together in the hope that the Jews’ eyes and hearts will be opened to a new understanding of God and Jesus Christ as Savior.  Paul points to this idea more clearly by instructing them in Romans 12:9-17…

 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

As we do our best to live at peace with everyone, Paul gets into more controversial subjects next…it could be controversial yet today too.  In Chapter 13, Paul includes the authorities which govern the members of the early church in his statements about how to treat one another if we are followers of Christ.

Romans 13:6 & 7

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

I am guilty of not appreciating those who are in authority over me.  I speak out against the actions, decisions and judgements those in civil service make sometimes.  There are many times that I don’t agree and wish the government didn’t appear so corrupt and hypocritical, but rather than allowing my anger to rise and my resentment to grow, I should be praying for those in power.  I should be blessing them…tough pill to swallow Paul, tough pill to swallow…sometimes it is bitter too.  Nevertheless, if I am to be obedient to God’s call on my life, this is one area I can improve…I think Paul was speaking the early believers about this subject because he knew they could do better too.

The next part is a little easier to accept, though not necessarily easier to accomplish:

Romans 13:8-10

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”[a] and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Why do we do this? Why do we live this way?  Because the day is near…

Romans 13:11& 12

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already comefor you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light

Let us also join that high calling, that of putting aside the deeds of darkness and putting on the armor of light…let us love one another in spirit and in truth, in action as well as in word…the day is near

Come, Lord Jesus, Come…

Joyanne Swanson

Growing Pains

Romans 12

emoyer-growing pains

The Seaver Family became a familiar household name from 1985-1992.   This tight knit family had weekly story lines with the children in the family having common family situations, and even some more serious situations,  such as relationship issues, drinking, violence and gangs.  Each week the show began with the catchy B.J. Thomas tune, “As Long as We Got Each Other”.  The lyrics were:

 

Show me that smile again. (Show me that smile)

Don’t waste another minute on your cryin’.

We’re nowhere near the end (nowhere near)

The best is ready to begin.

 

As long as we got each other

We got the world spinnin right in our hands.

Baby, rain or shine, all the time

We got each other, sharin’ the laughter and love

We all may not have the perfect homes, the perfect bodies, the perfect grades, the perfect relationships, etc… The great thing we do have is a loving Father and so many people in our FUEL family that love us and care about us.  I just looked through the Facebook page for FUEL and there is so much joy and love in the faces of the friends gathered and united in Faith.  Romans 12 verses 9-11 encourage us to love and honor and be faithful in prayer.  Reach out to those friends and encourage them.  As long as we have each other, we can get past some of our daily challenges and rely on His love and understanding.  

-Emily Moyer

Feeling With People

Monday

Romans 12-15

Romans 12:15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

What is empathy?  For me, empathy used to be one of those words that made sense in conversation, but if someone asked me to define it then I’d be hard pressed to give a good definition.  But over the last two years I’ve had the chance to explore empathy in a variety of ways.

One of the best looks at empathy I’ve found comes from a Social Work professor, Brene Brown.  Check out this really amazing and brief video on empathy (https://youtu.be/1Evwgu369Jw).

Brown describes empathy as “feeling with people.”  It’s the ability to understand, reflect, and share someone else’s situation.  Here’s the thing; I believe that empathy sits at the center of the Christian life.  From the life of Jesus to the letters of Paul and the history of the Hebrews, empathy lies at the core of our calling to follow God and live a holy life.

In Romans 12:15, Paul says, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.”  If this is anything, it is a call to empathy and empathic action.  And what’s the sub-title for the section this verse comes from?  In the NIV, it is “Love in Action.”

This is what it means to put love into our deeds.  It isn’t to fix things, but to share in life with others.

I hope that today and this week, we can begin to see how acting and living empathically will help us bring the love of Christ into the world.

-Graysen Pack

God’s Will

Friday’s devotion

Romans 8-26

Romans 8:26–27 tells us, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will”

What is God’s will?

As humans, we are always interested in the here and now—what will benefit us temporarily.

God, however, sees things a bit differently. He is also interested in the long term and the eternal.

In other words, God has a bigger plan than my personal happiness in the given moment. He desires my holiness as I am conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

It’s my prayer that we would be conformed into the image of Christ! 

-Jennie Montgomery