September 14, 2011

Today you should read: Romans 11:1-24

“Is God done with me?”

“Am I really a part of God’s plan?”

These are questions every Christian will wrestle with at some point in their lives, and they’re the very questions that the Jews are still asking today. The Israelites rejected the Messiah… but is God done with them?

Paul responds with a resounding “no”! These study notes are especially helpful when trying to wrap our minds around such deep thoughts:

The majority of Israel failed to believe. Does this mean that God has rejected his people? Paul presents himself as an example of the remnant that has been preserved, a remnant that indicates that God is not finished with Israel and that he will fulfill the promises made to his people.

Israel’s hardening is not the final word. God planned salvation history so that Israel’s trespass would open salvation for the Gentiles, and the Jews in turn would be provoked to jealousy when they see Gentiles being saved and enjoying a relationship with God. ESVSB

God has a special place for Israel, and the Bible is clear that they are still a piece of the larger picture of redemption. And until Christ returns, that picture is still unfolding.

Maybe the best part about today’s reading is that the Gentiles are “grafted in” to the tree of God’s family. Just in case you’re wondering, that’s you and me!

While salvation came from the Jews, it didn’t end there. We “Gentiles” are also offered new life through the Jewish carpenter Messiah, Jesus Christ! We don’t have to “guess hope think might maybe” (props to Tim Parsons) — we can know that we have an eternal home in heaven (Romans 8:29-30, 1 John 5:13). I am especially encouraged by this today. I am so thankful to be a part of God’s plan and God’s chosen family.

You may be tempted today to ask those questions I posed earlier. Here’s the deal: if you are in Christ and you are still breathing, God still has a purpose and plan for you. Are you willing to be used by Him in His plan? Are you willing to humble yourself and submit to His purpose for your life? If so, get ready, because maybe the best is yet to come. It is for the Jews and the Gentiles, and it is for you, too.

Posted by: Todd Thomas

September 13, 2011

Today you should read: Romans 10

God loves His chosen people the Jews. Why? It was His decision. He made promises to them and He will keep every one! They have been through a lot, and things are no better for them today. If you follow the news at all, you know of the unrest, threats, and hardship they live under… and they haven’t seen anything yet! There are worse days to come (so the Bible says). But God loves them – and longs for them to repent (verse 1).

Paul writes that their religious zeal is misdirected. They refuse to accept God’s way — Jesus — and instead cling to their own way — trying to keep the law (verses 2-3). This is true of many others as well. We try to get to God on our own merit and by trying to live a good life. The problem is that our good works can never earn us salvation. If we could save ourselves, Jesus would have never had to die. It’s through believing in Christ that we are made right with God (verse 4).

But, we know that simply believing about God in your head will not save you. James 2:19 tells us, “you say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” Many people believe in God. They even believe that Jesus came and died on a cross – but they still do not have a relationship with God through Jesus.

So how do we get it then? What are the steps we take to enter into a relationship with God through Jesus? Probably the clearest instructions for this in the Bible are found in verses 9-10:

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.”

Two simple steps:
1. Confess (with your mouth) that Jesus is Lord (that He’s God just like He said He was)
2. Believe in your heart that He was raised from the dead (that He came back to life after He was crucified)

So many people have tried much more elaborate and extensive ways to God. But there is no other way! Salvation is only found when we confess that Jesus is God (many people do this when they pray and invite Jesus into their lives), and believe in your heart Jesus died and rose again. To believe in your heart is more than simply knowing this as a fact – that would be believing it in your head – to believe in your heart is to embrace it – to receive Jesus as your own personal Savior. That’s a gift that’s available to everyone (verses 12-13)!

So, if that’s all there is to it, why hasn’t everyone embraced it? The answer is very simple: it’s because they don’t know about it. Most people, when they have a clear understanding of who God is and His plan for their lives, want His gift. Why wouldn’t you? It’s clearly a “no-brainer”. But the kicker is that most people don’t know. They don’t understand God’s simple plan of salvation. They have ideas about it – things they’ve heard – but when it’s explained correctly, many people want it.

That’s where you come in… verses 14-15 ask some very convicting questions:

How can someone call on God unless they believe in Him?
How can they believe in God if they haven’t heard about Him?
How can they hear if someone doesn’t tell them?

Who do you know who doesn’t have a relationship with God through Jesus? Friends? Family? Work associates? People in class with you? Neighbors?

How will your dad, your mom, your girlfriend, your boss, your __________ ever call on a God that they haven’t clearly heard about? How will they hear if you don’t tell them? It’s your responsibility.

Stop right now and make a list of 10 people who are around you who you don’t believe know Jesus. Then pray for them by name today and every day until something changes. Beside each of their names, prayerfully make a plan to engage them with the gospel. Ask God to use YOU to get the Good News of the Gospel to them.

Remember: you may be the only Jesus they will ever see!

Posted by: Tim Parsons

September 12, 2011

Today you should read: Romans 9:1-33

Compassion… PLEASE get it back…

Seriously, wow! Honestly, you don’t get much better than this. This proves, and remains to be, one of my absolute favorite chapters in the Bible. Please, soak this up, even if you don’t understand this passage at first. Set apart a couple of hours, sit down and meditate over this chapter. Read it and re-read it. Ask God to reveal the truth as He intended it. Be open and willing to have your beliefs affirmed and challenged. Nothing that we write will compare to you letting God speak to your heart during a prolonged time of soaking over His word.

My hope is that this chapter will cause you to praise God because of His sovereignty. This chapter causes theological debates on God’s election and His sovereignty, but put that away and praise Him for the fact that He is sovereign and we are not.

He is merciful.

Starting at verse 2, Paul describes the anguish in his heart about wishing His people would be saved. This continues until verse 5. We will come back to this.

Then in verse 6, Paul describes that God has not failed to save the people He intended to save. He goes on to say that the children of God are not simply the ones who were of the nation Israel (God’s chosen people) but are the people who have become children through faith in Christ. Verse 11 describes how God’s choice was unconditional in regards to Jacob and Esau. They weren’t even born yet! And God chose to make Jacob (Israel) His chosen one. It was conditional only on His mercy.

In verse 14 – 18 Paul goes on to explain that it is God’s sovereign choice to have mercy on whom He wills. God will have mercy on whom he has mercy and will harden (like Pharaoh) whom he hardens. This can either make you angry, or it will cause you to greatly rejoice that it doesn’t depend on us but on God and His mercy!

Verse 19-24 gives an answer to those who think that this is unfair. What right does the clay have to disagree with the potter? God is sovereign and He knows and does what is best to bring Himself the most glory.

Verses 30 – 34 describe how the Gentiles (most of us) have attained righteousness through faith in Christ rather than by works of the law. Yet, some of Israel has not attained it because they tried to attain righteousness by their works. Remember that the next time you think your “goodness” amounts to favor in God’s sight.

Ok, with all of this election and sovereignty talk, I don’t want to land on any of it. I want to land on something that I feel is most important for us right now. What WE NEED.

Today’s “Walk-a-Way”

Look at verse 1-3. Can you hear Paul saying this? “MY SOUL IS IN ANGUISH AND UNCEASING SORROW… BECAUSE… the people that I care about are not saved.”

Let that sink in for a minute. Do you have a heart like that? Do I? The answer is a resounding “no”.

Paul goes as far as to say that he wishes that he could lose His salvation (as if it were possible, which it’s not) and give it to them. Can you imagine! Which one of us would ever say that we would give up our eternal life and be willing to suffer eternal punishment for the sake of those we care about going to heaven?!?! If you have that convicting feeling in your stomach right now… good.

What Paul is showing here is compassion. He isn’t trying, he just is. I think this is what we are missing. I told my multipliers that there is something missing and it is why we don’t witness. We all know how and we all hear why we are supposed to, but we don’t do it. And even when we do, we are waiting for it to be over or questioning our motive. Why? Why was it so much easier for you to witness right when you came to Christ? It’s because you knew how much Christ had done for you and you couldn’t imagine the people you care about not knowing and going to hell. But we lose sight of that compassion for people. It should motivate us to share and pray for people. Here’s an exercise: Think about the person you care about most in the world. Think about them not knowing Christ and going to hell. Let that feeling sink in your gut.

And now, beg God that He would give you that feeling about everyone around you. Please, pray fervently that you get your compassion back.

Posted by: Sam Cirrincione

September 10, 2011

Today you should read: Romans 8:31-39

Allow me to take a quick moment to draw our attention back to yesterday’s reading. In the first thirty verses of Romans 8, we see Paul encouraging the believers to have hope in Christ. He shows them how they have freedom from condemnation and that they now have the Holy Spirit to give them strength and to intercede for us in prayer. This leads us to our passage today.

Confidence is the theme of today’s passage. I believe that this is what Paul is trying to instill in the church of Rome. Paul has spent so much of chapter 8 showing them their position in Christ and he ends the chapter with a plea for the believers to have confidence. Can you imagine the scene of Paul gathered together with all these Christians? I bet it would look something like the scene in Braveheart when the warriors are on the hill getting ready to charge into battle and Mel Gibson cries, “Freedom”!

Paul is trying to build up these Christians and show them that they can have confidence in the Lord. They were under severe persecution; many of the Christians here would lose their lives, including Paul and Peter who were martyred in Rome. They needed to know that God would not forsake them. They needed to know that they could look death in the face without fear. The only way that one can not fear death is if they know the One who has conquered it. The Christians who found their confidence in the Lord were truly free.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Romans 8:35)

So how does this apply to us?

If we were in a hostile country, it would apply directly, and we need to pray for our brothers and sisters who face this daily reality. Also, let us not be so arrogant to think that America could never become a dangerous place to be a Christian.

Tribulation can come in all different forms. For some it may be the loss of a job, an abusive husband, a torn relationship, rejection from friends and family, and list goes on. Whatever the situation may be, it can seem hopeless if our confidence is placed anywhere but in the Lord. Quite frankly, confidence placed anywhere else is foolish. You will never experience freedom apart from complete trust in the Lord.

I encourage you to ask yourself the hard questions:

-What do I trust in? My bank account, my abilities, my boyfriend/husband/wife, kids, pastor?
-Do I believe God is who He says He is?

These questions need to be approached humbly and prayerfully from your knees. If you find that your confidence is anywhere but in the Lord, repent and trust in him.

Posted by: Chad Wiles