Thursday, December 1, 2016

Romans 8:28-29

"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.  For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers." 
Romans 8:28-29

Romans 8:28 is a promise we can rest on and trust in when our world around us seems to be falling apart.  It is a blessed promise, but it is also a promise with which we may at times struggle.  We can believe and trust this promise, however, even when we are overwhelmed and puzzled by adverse circumstances all around us.

The writer of this devotional remembers first struggling with the promise of Romans 8:28 when her dad was suffering the excruciating pain of cancer and radiation.  She wondered how "all things" could possibly be working for good in this case.  What could possibly be "good" about cancer and severe pain?  For that matter what could possibly be "good" about any pain or heartache or trial?   Since that time long ago there have been other heartaches in this writer's life such as her own husband's neurological disease, decline, and death.  She also fought breast cancer herself in the time period in which she was caring for her husband.  How could God be working things for good in these situations?

But God's Holy Word tells us that God works "all things," not some things or even most things for our ultimate spiritual good; if we love Him.  The key to understanding this verse is to realize that not all things are good in themselves.  Sin has wrecked havoc with our world, and there are many experiences in this world that are not good or pleasant in themselves.  God, however, works both the "good" and the "bad" events of our lives together for our ultimate good. 

It has been said that life is like a tapestry.  When you look at the backside of a tapestry it does not look beautiful.  There are knotted off ends and threads that seem to have no meaning or beauty.  When one turns the tapestry over, however, one sees a beautiful picture or design.  When we see life's trials and difficulties we see the backside of the tapestry of life.  God, however, is bringing all the threads or events of our lives together, both good and bad, into a beautiful tapestry.  The Lord already sees the top part of our tapestry of life.  The Lord already sees the beautiful end results of what He is accomplishing in our lives.  When we do not understand the reason for the difficult circumstances in our lives we must simply trust that the Lord is working out all things in our lives for His glory and to accomplish His plan.  He is also working out all things for our ultimate spiritual good.

The ultimate spiritual good that the Lord God is seeking to accomplish in our lives is that we might, as Romans 8:29 says, become "conformed to the likeness of His Son."  It is God's purpose and plan for us that we become more and more like the Lord Jesus.  He desires that we become more like Jesus every day in our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. 

In order for this to happen there must be a conforming process taking place in our lives.  This conforming process often can only occur during times of trial and difficulty in our lives.  Gelatin is only able to be conformed or shaped to the mold into which it is placed after it has been dissolved in hot water.  So we too often have to go through the heat of trials and difficulties to become more conformed to the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.

God has the pattern for our lives all figured out.  He knows and understands the beautiful tapestry that He is weaving for our lives.  He knows the beginning from the end.  We must trust the Lord to do His beautiful work in our lives even in times when life's events and circumstances seen very difficult and overwhelming!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Romans 8:17-27

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."  Romans 8:26

As children of God we have everything we need for time and eternity!  Romans 8:17 tells us that we are "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ."  Along life's way it is inevitable that we will have a certain amount of heartache and pain, but we have the absolute assurance of God's presence with us throughout our entire lives.  We also have the assurance of a future entrance into our eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus. 

The heartaches and pain we suffer on this earth are temporary, and they can not begin to compare to the glory we will have with the Lord Jesus some day.  Paul said in Romans 8:18, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."  Even creation is presently affected by sin and its consequences.  So the children of God also "groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:23)  We already have the Holy Spirit in our hearts as a deposit or promise of what is to come in our glorious eternal futures.  We already have the forgiveness of our sins in Christ.  We are already free from the penalty and power of sin, but sin and its effects are still present in our lives.  So we groan in excited anticipation of the day when we will be completely free from the presence of sin and its consequences in the world and in our lives.  We presently "hope" or look forward with absolute certainty to the blessed eternal inheritance that we have in Jesus Christ!  Romans 8:25 tells us, "But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."

As the blessed assurance of our eternal inheritance and future in Christ sustains us, so the Holy Spirit helps us in our prayer life.  Romans 8:26 promises the following, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."  Have you ever tried to pray and felt so overwhelmed with some heartache that you did not know how to pray?  Have you ever felt that you could not find the words to express in prayer the depths of your feelings and needs in your heart? 

God understand our weaknesses and has provided us a helper in our prayer lives.  That helper is the Holy Spirit Himself!  The Holy Spirit prays in and through us.  He also prays for us especially during those times when we are too overwhelmed with heartache to find the right words to express our pain to the Lord in prayer.  The Holy Spirit understands our sorrows and is our prayer helper, and He "intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."  The Holy Spirit Himself pleads and intercedes for us before the Heavenly Father!  The Holy Spirit is our perfect intercessor before the Heavenly Father, because Romans 8:27b says "the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." 

Praise the Lord for His infinite blessings!  He is our salvation.  He is our source of strength, promise, and hope.  He provides for every need in our lives for time and eternity.  The Lord provides us the Holy Spirit to help us live for the Lord and to help us in our weaknesses.  Finally, the Lord even provides the Holy Spirit as our prayer helper and advocate!  What a glorious God we serve!  Praise His name!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Romans 8:1-17

"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  Romans 8:1

Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins!  Many of us have heard that blessed truth since we were children.  Because we have heard this truth so often, we may be in danger of becoming complacent in our faith.  We must pause often, however, to think about the wonder of Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  Romans 8:1 says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  Wow!  Praise the Lord!  We a believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are no longer separated from God by our sins.  As redeemed children of God we can now live a new victorious life in Christ through the Holy Spirit!  Through Jesus Christ Romans 8:2b tells us we are now governed by "the spirit of life," and we are set "free from the law of sin and death."

Because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross, Romans 8:4b tells us that we now have the power to "not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit."  Romans 8:5 goes on to tell us that in gratitude for what the Lord Jesus had done for us we must have our "minds set on what the Spirit desires" and not on what our sinful natures desires. 

Living for the Lord leads to life, peace, security, and joy.  We as children of God are controlled by the Holy Spirit.  We have Christ's resurrection power in us to live for God.  We will always struggle against sin until we go to be with the Lord, but we have the Holy Spirit's power within us to choose to reject sin and to live for God.  Romans 8:13-14 tells us that we have a responsibility to "put to death the misdeeds of the body" and to live lives "led by the Spirit of God."

There are wonderful blessings in living a Holy Spirit controlled life.  We are no longer a slave of anxiety, fear, or sin!  We are now sons and daughters of God!  The Holy Spirit in our hearts now "testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. (Romans 8:16b)"  When we are going through difficult times in our lives we can call on our heavenly Father.  Romans 8:15b reminds us that we can cry out to Him saying, "Abba, Father."  The cry "Abba Father" is not the cry of a Christian at his or her highest level of spiritual experience.  It is the cry of a child of God who is hurting.  It is a desperate plea of child of God who is crying, "Heavenly Daddy, help me!"  It is at this point of need that the Holy Spirit helps us and confirms that we are children of God!

Finally, there is yet another blessing we receive in being a child of God and living Holy Spirit controlled lives.  Romans 8:17 tells us that we are "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ!"  All the riches and blessings of an eternity with the Lord are available to us through Christ Jesus!  All of God's promises, strength, power, and grace are always with us.  All of God's love, mercy, peace, and joy are at our disposal.  All that belongs to God, the Father, also belong to Jesus Christ and to us as His "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ!"  We must be diligent in God's Word and in prayer so that we are not spiritual paupers and overlook any part of what we possess in Christ Jesus.  There is victory and not condemnation for a child of God!  Let us live our lives in the center of the will of God through the Holy Spirit's power!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Romans 6 and Romans 7:15-25

"In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus."  Romans 6:11

Jesus Christ has died on the cross to pay the penalty of punishment for our sins.  We now have a righteous and pure standing before God.  When God now looks at us, He does not see our sins, but He sees Christ's righteousness!  We are free from the power or tyranny of sin.  As a child of God, we have the power to say "no" to the devil and "yes" to God.  We as believers, however, will not be completely free from the presence of sin in our lives until we go to be with the Lord.

As a child of God we must struggle against the sins still present in out lives.  Romans 6:2b tells us, "We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?"  We already have a righteous standing before God because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  Now we need to struggle to show practical holiness and righteousness in our lives.  Because we are united with Christ through His death and resurrection our old sinful selves were "crucified" with Jesus Christ so that as Romans 6:6 tells us "we should no longer be slaves to sin."  As children of God we have already experienced new spiritual birth in Christ.  Now we need to increasingly display that new life in Christ in our struggle against sin and in practical holiness in our lives. 

Hence, Romans 6:11b tells us that we must count or consider ourselves "dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus."  We must choose against sin, and we must choose for the Lord.  We must do all that we can to guard against our sinful natural appetites.  We must do all we can to live in the light of the truth found in God's Word.  We must saturate ourselves with His Holy Word.  Romans 6:13 tells us that we must seek to do all we can to reject sin in our lives, and to offer ourselves to God as "instruments of righteousness."  We must experience in practice what we already are in position-dead to devil and sin and alive in Jesus Christ.

We have a choice, either to be a slave to sin and the devil, or to be a slave to obedience and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Slavery to sin leads to destruction and death.  Slavery to Christ leads to life and righteousness.  We must not let sin be our master, But Christ must increasingly become the Master and Lord of every area of our lives.

We will continue to struggle against sin our entire lives until we go to be with the Lord.  Paul said in Romans 7:15b, "For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Paul said this because of the sin still living or present in him.  In frustration Paul said in Romans 7:18b, "For I have a desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out."  We, as believers today, also struggle against sin in our lives.  What is the answer to all this?  Paul tells us the answer to this question in Romans 7:24b-25a, when he says, "Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!" 

We will and must continue to struggle against sin in our lives, but we must increasingly grow in practical holiness in our lives.  The Lord Jesus must increasingly become Lord of every area of our lives.  Then we will have ultimate victory in the Lord!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Romans 3:10-31

"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.
Romans 3:10-11

"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood." Romans 3:22-25a

We can not truly be thankful for the wonder of our salvation until be begin to understand the depth of our sin.  We often try to compare our lives with others. We can so easily imagine ourselves better than say a hardened criminal who has perhaps killed people.  The truth of the matter is, however, that outside of Christ we are all sinners.  If we would commit only one sin in our entire lives, we would deserve God's eternal punishment.  That is how horrific sin is in the eyes of God.  The fact remains, however, that we commit many sins against our Lord every day.

Romans 3:10-11 tells us, "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God."  Not one of us is righteous before God in ourselves.  Only if we are washed in the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, can we have a right relationship before God.  In our natural sinful state we have no understanding about God and about what is right and holy.  Romans 3:12b goes on to say, "there is no one who does good, not even one."  Our natural minds, hearts and wills are turned against God.  In our natural state outside of Christ there is only deceit and corruption.  Hence, outside of Christ there is no peace, humility, or reverence for God and the will of God found in our lives.  Romans 3:17-18 says, "And the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes."

But praise God, Jesus Christ has provided a remedy for this horrid sin condition in which we find ourselves!  Jesus Christ came to this earth to first live the sinless life that we fail to live and then to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.  If we have accepted Christ's awesome gift of salvation, we now stand righteous before God because of Christ's atoning sacrifice!  Romans 3:22-25a tells us, "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood."

What grace and what love was shown to us by our Lord and Savior!  It is only when we recognize the depth of our sins that we can truly be thankful for and delight in our salvation.  As we begin to more and more realize the depth of our sins from which we were redeemed, we begin to more passionately seek to live our lives in gratitude and service to the Lord.  It is only then that we begin to passionately desire to make Jesus not only our Savior but also the Lord of every area of our lives.  Some of us have heard the story of salvation so often that we may be in danger of beginning to became complacent in our awareness of the depth of our sins and the awesomeness of our salvation.  Let us spend time today thinking about the wonder of our salvation!  More importantly, let us live our live today and every day in gratitude for God's grace to us!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

I Kings 19:1-18

In our Scripture passage today; Elijah had just gone through a spiritual mountaintop experience.  In chapter eighteen of I Kings Elijah had been used by God in a powerful way.  God had used Elijah to demonstrate to the people of Israel that the Lord is the only true God and the only one who can hear our prayers.  God had shown decisively that Baal, the god the people were serving, was a false god.

In spite of this tremendous recent spiritual mountaintop experience Elijah now found himself in the depths of discouragement, depression, and fear.  The wicked queen, Jezebel, was seeking to kill Elijah, and he was fleeing for his life.  Elijah had just seen a wonderful demonstration of God's faithfulness and power on Mount Carmel in I Kings chapter eighteen.  In chapter eighteen Elijah had also demonstrated great faith and trust in God's power.  But  now when a new crisis had arisen in his life, Elijah was afraid and discouraged.  Elijah was not trusting the Lord to once again lead and protect him.  Elijah was looking at the difficult circumstance and looking away from God.

God has also been faithful to us.  He has answered so many prayers in our lives and has been with us each step of the way.  In spite of this, however, it is easy for us also to become afraid and not trust in the Lord when a new crisis arises in our lives.  We need to cling to God's precious promises, and we need to trust that He will always be with us.  There is great joy and peace in trusting in the Lord!

Elijah found himself so discouraged and depressed that he asked God to take his life.  Elijah felt that his life had been fruitless. Hence, he felt his life was not worth living.  He had temporarily lost his confidence in the ultimate triumph of God's Kingdom.  We too must remember that God is in control.  We must further remember that anything we do in our lives for God's kingdom is worthwhile.  This is true even when we do not always understand the workings of God in our lives.

In the midst of Elijah's depression and fatigue an angel touched him and ministered to his needs.  Some believe this angel may actually have been a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ!  The Lord also give us strength for each new day.  The Lord provides for our needs, and He gives us exactly what we need in the moment we need it.  We too might become discouraged by our circumstances at times.  This happens when we look at our circumstance and fail to focus on the Lord.  God is always there to refresh and revive us, however.

In our Biblical narrative Elijah retreated to a cave.  In I Kings 19:9b God approached Elijah and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?  God repeated that question in verse thirteen.  Groveling in self-pity in a cave was not where God wanted Elijah to be.  Elijah was not where he was supposed to be, and he was not in the center of God's will.  Elijah was following in his own misguided plan of action instead of God's will for his life.  Both times Elijah answered God's question. "What are you doing here, Elijah?" with complaints and lack of submission to God's will.  God wants us to trust Him in all of life's circumstances, and He wants us to be submissive to His will in all areas of our lives.

God then spoke to Elijah in a gentle whisper.  Elijah had to learn the lesson of being quiet and calm in his spirit, so he would be able to hear the Lord's voice,  We too have to be still and listen for God's voice speaking to us.  When you and I read a Scripture passage, we are not to rush through the passage.  Instead we need to quietly think about what the Holy Spirit is trying to teach us personally in our lives through the Scripture passage.  Our hearts and souls need to be tuned to God, so we can hear His voice.  Then we must respond in obedience and submission to the Lord's will for our lives!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Psalm 25

"To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in You I trust, O my God." Psalm 25:1
"Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long."  Psalm 24:4-5

In Psalm 25 David prayed to the Lord for relief.  David was going through a crisis in His life, and he needed the Lord's help.  Psalm 25 is a prayer for God's help in David's time of illness, distress, or attacks from enemies.  David said to the Lord in Psalm 25:1, "To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in You I trust, O my God."  David lived in a deep personal love relationship with the Lord.  Hence, in his moment of crisis and need, David could immediately and confidently go to the Lord in prayers for help.  David approached the Lord in prayer with a humble heart.  David recognized his own unworthiness and the Lord's great power and love.  In this way, David experienced the power of prayer and of the Lord's presence and love in His life.  When our lives are saturated with God's Word and with prayer we too can experience the power of prayer and of the Lord's presence in our lives.  We too can then be used by the Lord in powerful ways.

David needed the Lord's direction and guidance in his time of crisis.  David said in Psalm 25:4-5, "Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long."  This must be our prayer also both in times of crisis and in times of relative calm in our lives.  God has a plan for our lives.  Psalm 33:11 tells us, "the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations." 

Since the Lord already has a plan for our lives, we need to only ask the Lord to direct our steps.  We need only to pray, "Show me Your ways, O Lord."  The Lord already knows the way that He wants us to go.  We often wish that we could see ahead into the future.  Peace, however, comes by simply letting the Lord take care of our future and by trusting Him to lead step by step.  We must patiently trust in the Lord's guidance and not seek to run ahead of Him.

David asked the Lord to teach Him the Lord's paths and ways.  This must be our prayer also.  Who could be a better teacher and guide for us in this life than the Lord?  He is the one who made us and takes care of us in love.  The Lord is the One who knows the beginning from the end, and He is the One who has planned our lives.  We need to trust that the Lord will guide us along the way.  The Holy Spirit will use Scripture, prayer, and circumstances to guide us step by step through this life.  Psalm 25:9 tells us that the Lord "guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way."  Psalm 24 goes on to say in verse ten, "All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of His covenant." 

In spite of our weaknesses and sins Psalm 25:12b promises the child of God that the Lord "will instruct him in the way chosen for him."   Hence, we can face the future unafraid.  We simply need to keep our eyes focused on the Lord and not on our circumstances and on the unknowns in our lives.  Even though we do not know what our future holds the Lord does, and we can trust Him.  We can say with confidence along with David in Psalm 25:15, "My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare."  The Lord will remove any obstacle from our paths in our journey through this life.  We need only to bring our needs and our desires for His guidance before the Lord.  He will guide us.  We can trust the Lord and say to the Lord with David of old in Psalm 25:21b, "my hope is in You."  The Lord is our source of certainty for our salvation and for eternity.  The Lord is also our trustworthy and faithful guide through each step of our lives!  Praise His name!