What is an Apostle? The American Heritage dictionary puts it this way.
What about the Greek? Well, the word is; Apostolos. It means;
"Why are you belaboring this point Jan?", you might ask. Well, I'll tell you. It is because of the following verse.
Note the names of the two apostles that Paul is sending a greeting to. Are they listed among the original twelve disciples? The answer is no, they are not. What this implies is that the title of apostle, or messenger, is one that is given to anyone that is truly effective in spreading the Gospel of Christ. It is not limited to the club of the original twelve.
Also of importance is the fact that Junia is mentioned. Junia is a woman. Quick, what is an apostle? An apostle is a messenger. So don't ever let anyone tell you that women do not have the right to share and spread the Good News of Jesus. Paul affirmed her right by naming her as an apostle.
Heavenly Father, thank You that we all are called to spread Your message. Some are called to lives of doing so, please bless these apostles in their missions. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Tell the Good News! Jan
Romans 15 - Peace, Joy and Hope
I noticed an interesting repetition from yesterday's chapter. Look at these two verses.
i see the common theme of joy and peace coming from God. I have no great insight into this. I just like it.
Thank You Father for beautiful nuggets of truth. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Romans 14 - Offense
My men's group, The Wildmen, have just finished studying the book The Bait of Satan, by John Bevere. What an amazing journey! The basic premise is that we will get offended in life. However, what we do with that offense is the key to our Christian walk. Today in Romans Paul speaks against being a stumbling block to our brothers in what we eat or drink. But is that all he was speaking to? Was it just about food and drink? I thought so until I noticed this verse.
If you missed it, there are three words in the middle of the sentence that completely change the picture. Those words are, "nor do anything".
There are many things in life that we can do that would cause another Christian to stumble. If I know that a brother or sister in Christ has any complusive habit, that I don't share, and I openly display the behavior that is destructive to them, I am sinning against them. This could be something as innocent as inviting a brother to a buffet eating establishment. I may not have a problem with compulsive eating, but if I know, or suspect that he might, I should choose a place that serves specific sized portions. Otherwise I am the one that is leading my brother to a place of weakness enabling him to stumble.
Heavenly Father, please grant me the grace to be sensitive to those around me and to minimize the offenses that I cause. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Righteousness, Peace and Joy to you, Jan
Romans 13 - Vote
I doubt if it is a coincidence that today's reading should fall on election day. God has a way of setting these things up. Here I see the Apostle Paul telling his readers that they are to obey the laws of the land.
Obviously if a law of man directly contradicts a law of God, we are to obey God rather than men.
However, in the absence of any biblical contradiction, we are to obey the laws of man.
Those of us that live in this Democratic Republic known as America have the privilege and responsibility of the vote. This is something that is denied to probably half of this world's citizens. What this means is that if we do not like the way our government is doing something, we can vote to change the laws and to empower representatives to ensure that our voices are heard.
I have heard it said for years, and I will reiterate it now; If you are a US Citizen and do not participate in the political process by voting, then you have no right to complain about anything the government does. If you do not have the right to vote and live in this country, then you should ensure that you are part of the process of informing others of what the candidates believe in so that those that can vote will hopefully do so in a manner consistent with your conscience.
If you do not inform yourself of the issues and where the candidates stand, regardless of political party affiliation, then you are throwing your precious right of the vote away.
I'm not telling you who to vote for, that is between you and God. But you must ask yourself at least one question before you do. It is, "If Jesus were standing next to me, would he approve of the person that I'm selecting to represent me?"
Heavenly Father, thank You that You have allowed me to live in a country where my voice does still matter. Please give me wisdom in choosing representatives. Sometimes it is a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. Please guide me. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Make your vote count! Jan
Romans 12 - Jezis te miluje
I have in my life a person that I've come to name "my troubler, my joy." It is a reference from a daily devotional book named Daily with the King. During one of the day's readings, it taught on how to view those that constantly trouble us. In my life this person is the father of my wife's children. I had nothing to do with the destruction of his marriage, that happened years prior to me meeting his former wife. No, his hatred of me stems from the fact that I am in a position now that he can never be in again. So, how am I supposed to respond to the constant barbs, and outright subversion by this man?
Ouch, nothing can spoil your attitude toward self-serving revenge like a bit of scripture. I myself cannot do what Paul says I should. It is too hard. So what hope do I have? The answer is that it is not me that does it, it is the power of Christ living in me. I recently read a wonderful explanation of how I am to pray for someone that I am at odds with. It came from the teaching of John Bevere in his book The Bait of Satan. I am to pray for this man those things that I personally want God to do in my life. As he explained in the book, at first I will not truly feel it, but God honors the obedience behind it. Therefore I obey.
My stepson Sam recently advised me, "Why don't you learn to say, 'Jesus loves you.' in different languages. That way when dad is shouting at you, you can bless him." What a wonderful idea. Mind you, I have no intention of putting myself into a position to enable a confrontation, it is pointless. But if the need should arise. I pray that the Lord will enable me to say:
May you also learn to say "Jesus loves you" when you are insulted, reviled, and mistreated. Why? Because that is exactly what He did.
Show love, speak it. Jan
Romans 11 - Person Zero
My wife brought up an interesting thought in conversation a few nights ago. It was something that I had never considered before. That thought is that, there are a certain amount of people that God knows will accept His Son. He knows who they are. She asked me the question, "Imagine if you are the messenger that leads the very last person, who is going to do so, to accept Christ." I see that very thought confirmed in today's reading.
Paul says that Israel will continue to be hardened against Christ until the full number of Gentiles has come in. There is a definite number. There is a definite person. The countdown began over two-thousand years ago. Very likely he is living among us today. Can you imagine being the one that leads person zero to Christ? What amazing indescribable emotions would flood your soul. I suspect that at that exact moment the rapture will happen. It could be me who ushers it in, it could be you. There is only one thing needed of us to ensure that we are in this heavenly contest to bring in the last sheep.
Have beautiful feet, enter the contest. Jan
Romans 10 - Tito Huckfeldt
In a former epoch of my life I had the opportunity to work with with an amazing youth worker by the name of Tito Huckfeldt. It was a time that I was working with middle schoolers at Youth for Christ. Tito preached a message to them once, based upon today's reading, that I will never forget. It was that profoundly powerful.
The profound part of the message was the invitation. He told all of the youth to look at him, no heads bowed, eyes closed, no anonymity. He told them that if they could not stand up where they were for Christ, in a room full of people that were enthusiastic about them making this decision, then they would never be able to do so. He asked those that wanted to acknowledge their allegiance to Christ to stand. Some did, some who had never professed Christ before! It was an awesome moment.
Then came the twist. Tito began a countdown. He said, "I'm only going to count down from ten. You don't have as much time as you think you have." No movement. "Nine. Do not give up this opportunity. You never know how much time you have left." "Eight..." And so on all the way down to three. Then he said, "Time's up! I told you that you didn't have as much time as you think you had." You could have heard a pin drop in that room. He had made his point quite eloquently. Several kids accepted Christ that day, and I learned a lesson about how He should be acknowledged before men.
Many years later I borrowed this theme from Tito and taught a lesson to our youth group entitled "Time". It was about the briefness of life and their need to choose. The end result and effect was nearly identical to the message Tito gave. The youth that were there still talk about it, many years later.
If we are truly to be saved. If we are to do it right, then we must verbally acknowledge Christ before others. Jesus Himself said that if we deny Him before others, that He will deny us. Don't let yourself, or those you lead to Christ become guilty of silence. God does not have undercover Christians. We must be a light to a dying world.
Heavenly Father, please forgive me for hiding my light so often. Help me to keep my wick trimmed and to keep the light burning bright. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Be vocal. Jan
Romans 9 - I did it my way.
My Pastor hates the song, "I did it my way." As a Christian my focus should be on doing it God's way. However this song and the majority of the world do just the opposite. I see this presented in today's chapter.
If you recall this story, Abraham was promised that he would have a son. When he didn't see it happening, he did it his way. As a result Ishmael was born and we have the Arabs. With the anniversary of the Twin Towers attack coming up soon, I don't think I need to elaborate too greatly on the grave consequences of that particular act of faithlessness.
Again I see an instance of "doing it my way". The Jews were given clear examples from scripture (Abraham eventually became one of those examples) showing that faith, not works, is what justifies. Yet they continued, and continue to this day, to "do it my way", trying to keep the law by their own strength.
I am one of Abraham's children of promise according to the next scripture!
Thank You Father that through the shed blood of Your Son Jesus, I am now one of your people. You have grafted the wild olive branch into the vine. May I prove to be fruitful to Your glory. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Do it His way! Jan
Romans 8 - What we aren't & what we are.
There is a neat contrast in this chapter of scripture. I love the visual that it invokes. Look at this:
Oops, sorry. That was the Wycliffe Bible written in 1395. Aren't you glad that you don't have to try to read that version.
I love this, we should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. A bit further we find what we are truly are.
Did you catch that? We are Overwhelming Conquerors! I get the mental picture of a dam bursting and a wall of water sweeping everything in its path away.
Yet, there are times that my old flesh nature rises up and I begin to feel like the cowering, fearful slave. It is at those times that I must remember that; neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We win!
Thank You Father for the victory through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
Romans 7 - Kill the Law!
The opening few verses of this chapter have been used to cause much pain in countless people's lives. It is a true shame too, for they are misreading them and are inserting something that isn't there. First let's look at the scripture section, then I'll give the explanation.
Look again, did Paul mention the word divorce or separation anywhere in the text above? No. So, let me make this clear, if the woman in the above example married another man, she obviously would be committing adultery because she is still married to the first husband. No termination of marriage had occurred that would have permitted the second marriage. It is not saying that after a divorce you are somehow still married to the first husband.
This passage of scripture is referring the the law, not divorce and remarriage. Divorce was granted for reasons of sin. In Paul's example, the Law is the husband. Can the law sin? No! It is impossible, the law is perfect. Unfortunately for us, the bride in the example, the law also cannot die. So God made a way for us to get out of our binding marriage with the law. When Christ died on the cross, as we read in Romans 6:3, we also participate in his death. That is, our old nature dies. Thus since we died, we were freed from the marital bond of the law. So since we are not married to the law any longer - we have been freed by our death, for the law cannot die - we are now able to marry grace.
We are free! Jan
Romans 6 - Weapons
I always look for something different, something that I have not seen before in my daily reading. In studying today's chapter I saw these verses in the Rotherham Bible version.
What a neat word usage in verse 12, death-doomed. That describes all of us! Unless Jesus returns first, all of our bodies are going to die. However, that is just the body, our souls will live on. The question is where?
The second thing that stuck out to me was the usage of the word weapons. Immediately upon seeing it in this context, it makes sense. Our bodies are either weapons that will be utilized by Satan to keep others from Christ, or we will use our bodies as weapons to beat back the hordes of hell and save others from eternity without Christ. The choice is ours, how will we wield our weapons?
Present Arms! Jan
Romans 5 - Motivator
Again today I find a compelling rendering from The Message version of the bible.
I like this explanation. Sin disturbed the relationship that we had, or were supposed to have, with God. However, we didn't know how bad we really were until God revealed His laws to Moses. Then we saw how far we were falling short.
Laws are there to show us where we fail, however they cannot do anything to make us want to obey them. Sure there are harsh penalties and fines, and fear of consequences is certainly a motivator, albeit a poor one. But, due to God's unmerited kindness towards us - grace, a more perfect motivator has come into play. That motivator is love, which is brought by the Holy Sprit living within us.
It is because of God's love and grace towards us that we can have freedom from the fear of death and truly live the God life. It is His Spirit living in us declares us justified - not guilty, not any action or inaction on our part.
Thank You Jesus for paying for my sins, before I even knew of You. Please give me the strength and the will to show my gratitude. Amen.
Live in grace. Jan
Romans 4 - Contract or Trust?
The Message version of the bible words this section of scripture so well. It clearly shows in today's language what the Lawyer Paul was attempting to explain.
We are obviously saved because of a gift of God. Not because of something we did. There was no way we could have earned it. Paul goes on and further expounds this point.
The law, as Paul explained in the last chapter, cannot save us. It merely made us aware of sin. It was the contract that we could never collect on.
Just as Abraham trusted in God's promise and was declared righteous, without doing anything other than demonstrating trust. Likewise we are declared righteous when we trust in Jesus' sacrifice for sins that set us right with God. Only by accepting Jesus living in us and empowering us can we live the way God intended. It is Jesus who makes us righteous. Not anything that we could ever do. I am so thankful for that, because I know that I need Him, there is no way that I could have done it on my own.
Thank You Jesus for being my righteousness. Amen.
He is our righteousness. Jan
Romans 3 - Weasel Words?
I love lawyer jokes. I think the only people that don't are lawyers, and if they would be honest, many of them probably like them too.
Here are some of my favorites.
The list could go on. But I'll mercifully stop here. My friend Mark, a lawyer, has something in common with the writer of this book, the Apostle Paul. Paul was a lawyer. That is what it meant to be a Pharisee. So I suspect that when Mark reads this book, he probably sees it from a slightly different perspective than the rest of us. He probably sees the mind of Paul, the lawyer, building his case. I've personally always called most lawyer's words, "Weasel Words". But words, if used properly, can be used to bring clarity and purpose. That is exactly what Paul does in this section, where he describes the relationship that Moses' Teachings, The Law, have to us who are now under Jesus' grace.
The allusion the "throne of mercy" is referring to the place in the temple where the sacrifice for sin, and the spilled blood of that sacrifice, was offered up to God. It was by sacrificing an innocent, spotless animal there in that spot that a person's sins were temporarily covered. The animal had paid the penalty. Paul explains that Jesus is now our "throne of mercy" and His very own blood was spilled so that we may receive an eternal covering for our sins. Jesus paid the price, once and for all.
As Paul showed, we are not justified by keeping the law. No, we can't do it. The law merely made us aware of how far removed from God's standard we truly were. The only way to be justified is by trusting in the one that fulfilled all of the requirements of the law for us. Jesus paid it all.
Thank You Father for this free gift. In Jesus' name. Amen.
You are free. Jan
Romans 2 - Justified How?
In today's chapter I find a continuation of the thought from yesterday's reading.
I see that in the last chapter, God says He is clearly revealed to all men. In this chapter I see Him saying that His law is written on everyone's heart. Therefore further expounding on the question, "What about those that have never heard of Jesus?". In fact I believe that this section of scripture completes the answer.
I may be wrong, but I see Paul saying that if they have not been given the opportunity to receive Christ, then the law is in effect and they will be judged by their works. Is it possible to live righteously under the law? I say yes, it is. Look at this conversation between Jesus and a rich young man.
An amazing thing is shown here. The man says that he has obeyed all of the commandments since he was a child. Jesus' reaction shows that He did not find anything wrong with that statement. However, the man was now confronted with Jesus, the Son of God, and had to make a choice as to follow Him or not. I believe that if He were never presented this choice, then on the merits of obeying the law, he would have been saved. However, Jesus was clearly presenting the Good News to him and he rejected it. I suspect that very few people of the human race can make the statement that young man did - that he had indeed obeyed the law. That is why we truly need a savior.
Father, thank You that I have been presented the Good News and have accepted. Because I know that I have not obeyed the law since my youth. In fact I'm sure that I've probably disobeyed the law even today. Please continue to empower me to live a live yielded to You. Please give me the courage and wisdom to share the Good News with others. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Where there is life, there is hope. Jan
Romans 1 - What about the natives in Africa?
I love this chapter of scripture. It clearly answers the question that many non-believers ask about God. They ask, "How can God send someone to Hell for not believing in Him if they have never heard of Him? What about the natives in Africa?"
Note the section that I italicized. God has given all of us the ability to come to Him if we truly are seeking Him.
Many years ago there was a mighty wave of revival sweeping through the islands of Indonesia. This area of the world still has people groups that rarely if ever see outsiders. In his book, Like a Mighty Wind, Melchior Tari (a native of Timor Indonesia), wrote about his experiences during this amazing move of God. On one occasion, he and his team were led by God to a remote jungle village. However, when they arrived, they did not find the typical pagans that were so common. No, they found a village full of believers. They were astounded. This village was remote and did not receive visitors. So they inquired as to how this happened.
They learned that the man that was the village's medicine man was practicing his magic one day, and suddenly he realized that nothing was working any more. Now he was a devout man that practiced his religious beliefs to the best of his ability. So he could not understand what had gone wrong. It was then that Jesus himself spoke to him. He told him that he was preventing his practices and instead would show him the correct way. The man wrote much of what he was told and taught in his own form of hieroglyphic writing. He was the only one that understood the meaning of the scribbles. Yet, when he read from these writings to Mel Tari's team, they found that they were hearing portions of scripture!
God will not refuse the penitent man.
Thank you Father that You make a way when there seems to be no way. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Who am I?
I am a Christian man in his mid 40's. Like many men, I struggle with daily life issues. I know that my wife and children deserve to have a man of integrity, a man of courage, a man of passion, in short - a warrior for God, as head of our home.
Therefore, one of the things I have resolved to do is to chronicle my bible readings as the Lord Jesus gives me strength and ability. I am doing so with several other men that God has placed in my life. It is a concept that you can find on www.dbrag.org. I encourage you to follow suit.
Remember, if you are in Christ, you are blessed!
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