Day 230: Rooted (Psalm 109-11; Romans 16)

“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” -Romans 16:17-18

One young woman who read a lot of online forums and comments about Biblical disputes. Specifically, she was really tempted by the arguments made by atheists. Eventually, she began questioning God’s existence.

Thanks to the Internet, you can find all sorts of stuff online about the Bible and it’s validity. If you seek for it, you will find it, because there are plenty of people willing to feed into your pain, disappointments, confusion and questions.

Don’t go there. Especially if you’re a new Christian or don’t know the Bible well. Because like a young sapling in strong winds, you’ll be pulled in a million different directions until finally your roots will be pulled out of the good soil you’re planted in.

Study the Word first. Allow the Holy Spirit to nurture you and feed you with His truth. Tune out the haters and the ones whose only goal is to cause disputes and disagreements. The kind of people who just want to win and prove their theologies right to soothe their pride and human ambition.

Believe God’s Word is Truth. Study His Word. Then, you will be deeply rooted, and no smooth-talking false preacher or atheist will be able to tempt you away from the one who sent His own son to die on a cross for you.

 

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Day 229: Decisions & Permissions (Psalm 107-108; Romans 15:22-33)

“But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” -Romans 15:29

Have you ever had to make a decision to go some place? I’m not just talking about where to go eat with your friends. But big life decisions – like whether to take a job, accept a marriage proposal, choose a college, or move to a new city. Those decisions are difficult to make as is, but then to figure out what God’s will in all of that adds even more pressure.

If we could meet for coffee sometime, I would tell you about some of these decisions I’ve had to make. Because I know how difficult it is to try to decipher God’s will when making a big decision.

Apostle Paul traveled for his ministry, but through out the book of Acts, and now Romans, we’ve seen several instances when he chose to stay or not go somewhere because the Holy Spirit told him not to. Even when the trip was planned in advance. Even when the purpose was to spread the Gospel (Acts 16:6).

Y’all, God cares about the details of our life. Like where live, work, and go to college. He would love to offer you guidance and point you in the direction of His will for your life. In the next verse of this chapter, we see Paul ask the church to pray for him so God would bless him and send him to visit them.

So, the next time you have a big decision to make, get on your knees and pray. Pray until the Holy Spirit nudges you towards the direction you should go (or maybe that you should stay right where you are). God will lead you, but only if you’re willing to be lead.

Day 228: Choosing Praise (Psalm 105-106; Romans 15:1-21)

“Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His word, but complained in their tents, and did not heed the voice of the Lord.” -Psalm 106:24-25

I’m a pessimist, which naturally comes with a dose of negativity. So, I can relate to the Israelites on the whole complaining thing. Because I’ve always done that really well. If it’s not my looks, then it’s my finances or studies. There was always something.

But then God began doing His work in my heart. He began pointing out all the good in my life. And there was a lot of it.

I may not have been first in my class in law school, but I had the opportunity to get a law degree – and do well grade-wise – even though generations of my family never had the chance to obtain a higher education. My body is healthy and whole. I have a roof over my head and food in my fridge. I have a job and a loving family. The list goes on and on.

None of these things are perfect and I can find plenty of things to complain about even in all those blessings. But, that’s the thing: it’s my choice. I can choose to praise Him or I can complain as I compare my lot in life to someone else’s (because let’s be real – complaining tends to take root when we start playing the comparison game).

Let’s choose praise, friends. Because we do have so much to praise our God for. Even when life tears us down and breaks us apart, He is still good.

Day 227: For the Community (Romans 14; Psalm 103-104)

As you progress in your life as a Christian, you are bound to come across Christians with whom you disagree. We all have varying opinions about worship, clothing, food, tithes, missions, alcohol, poverty, politics…the list goes on! And it is easy to let these opinions divide us. It is easy to go into our church on Sunday morning, tightly close the door, and forget that so many others are doing the exact. same. thing. They’re loving God.

Wherever you are, however you do “church” (even if it’s just gathering with a few friends for a devotion once a week), you are setting aside that time to pursue God. And the community with whom you do that is pretty important. That’s why we have the reminders in this passage.

There are two key points that Paul has for us in Romans 14.

  1. You then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we all stand before God’s judgment seat. (vs. 10)

It is not our job to point out the flaws in our Christian community (there are exceptions: Matthew 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 5, Titus 1:10-16, James 5:19-20). Not in the community where we worship and not the larger community of believers. Each of us, in our own way, is broken. We are trying to make our way to a life that reflects the love of Christ. There will be mistakes along the way…but these mistakes are (mostly) between us and God…BUT…

  1. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (vs. 19)

There are times when our actions aren’t going to build others up. Our actions will, instead, detract from their experience with God. If we are to build communities of love and peace, then we have to be considerate of those around us. In this specific text, Paul talks about eating habits. Today, the conversation may be focused on using foul language, drinking alcohol, or dressing a certain way. If you, as part of your small community, are not considering the spiritual walk of your brothers and sisters, then you are missing out on a key piece of being part of that community!

Consider what it looks like when you take your eyes off of your own needs and consider the spiritual needs of those around you. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul says, “Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body…Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen…Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:25-32).

***

If you are struggling to find the balance between speaking the truth in love and following the example of mercy set out by Christ, I suggest seeking God’s will in prayer. There isn’t a checklist about when to confront someone about their sins…or which sins are “too distracting.” This is a matter for your heart and the heart of your community.

Could the sins in your life be negatively affecting your Christian brothers and sisters? Prayerfully consider changes that you may need to make…

Once you’ve taken time with those prayers, consider how God may be calling you to speak the truth in love to others around you.

Day 226: Why Rules? (Romans 13; Psalm 99-102)

If you’re in “back to school” mode, then you probably have a few rules on your mind.  Maybe you’re thinking about the rigid school dress code or requirements for a certain research project you’ll have to complete this year.  Or you’re dreading that one professor who’s a stickler for the “7:50 am” start time in a Monday morning class.  Or you’re complaining to everyone who will listen about a stupid “No hamsters in the dorm” rule.

Even as a teacher (second graders), I complain about rules!  I am dreading the first day of school when I have to lay out the rules.  No one likes rules–I promise.

But, can you imagine what would happen if we didn’t have rules?

My second graders would throw rulers at each other and doodle pictures of Taylor Swift in their reading notebooks.  Hamsters would eventually stink up your dorm room.  And your high school teacher who makes you complete bibliographies perfectly down to every comma and period is only making you do that because your college professors will expect it (and they’re much scarier…trust me).  Rules have a purpose..even if we don’t agree with or want to follow them.

When I was a junior in college, 20-years-old, I went to a party with some friends.  Everyone was drinking…from freshmen to seniors.  Except me.  Yep–I was that weird kid who followed laws, even though I didn’t like them (especially since I had spent part of the summer in Europe where the drinking age was 18).  As I stood against a wall sipping on a cup of Sprite, a guy I knew noticed me.  We had met through a Christian organization on campus.  He was a senior…of legal drinking age.

He approached with a reprimanding look, “You’re not 21, are you?”

I held my cup out for his inspection.  “Sprite.”

He nodded with an approving look and walked away.

Did I change the world?  No.  Did I have a moment of clarity?  Yes.

You see, in that moment, I realized that it’s not about the rules themselves.  Instead, it’s about choosing to pursue God…and how that pursuit manifests in your life.

When it comes to following rules or laws that seem petty and annoying, it’s about submitting to authority because that is what our higher law dictates.

There is a beautiful sentiment regarding this a few books later:

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders, and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. -1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Consider for a moment…are you balking at any rules or regulations right now?  How could they possibly be for your good?

How is your response to petty rules and regulations reflective of your life with Christ?

Day 225: Sacrifice (Psalm 96-98; Romans 12)

In today’s reading, we see the Psalmist portraying God’s splendor and majesty with such fervor and passion – the writing itself truly is an act of worship. He also continues to say that we are to “declare His glory among the nations” (Ps. 96:3 ESV) and we are to “worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness” (v. 9). Although we are reading David’s words and taking heed of his instructions, what exactly does a life of worship look like?

In the second half of today’s reading, we come across a verse in Romans 12 that as Christians, we are to present our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,” which is “our spiritual worship” (v. 1). Our lives and daily sacrifices are forms of worship.

Whether it’s a sacrifice of our time while we listen to a friend over coffee instead of making every excuse not to. It could be sacrifice of our money when we give to those in need rather than buying ourselves a new pair of shoes. We also present ourselves as living sacrifices when we simply spend time with God, read His word, and invest in our relationship with Him instead of choosing the passing pleasures of this world.

These are acts of worship, holy and acceptable to God. According to verses 13 and 16, we must seek to show hospitality, live in harmony with one another, and associate with the lowly. These are few of the many marks of a Christian. All that coincide with being a living sacrifice for the glory of God – a true act of spiritual worship.

What are ways you can present yourself as a living sacrifice to God?

How can you worship Him with your life today?

Day 224: The Lesson Plan (Psalm 93-95; Romans 11:22-36)

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out.” -Romans 11:33

Sometimes, we think we know it all. As laughable as that is, because hey, we’re human, and He is God. But I will be the first to admit there are days I flip though my Bible aimlessly and feel like I know that and I’ve already learned this, and oh, that story is so boring so let’s skip to something easy like a good psalm or a highlighted passage for 30 seconds and call it good.

God – His character, wisdom and ways – are not a subject easily mastered. You can spend a lifetime studying the Bible daily and still not cover a fraction of the mysteries and lessons God has in store for us. But just because you’ll never achieve mastery, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it your all.

Because although we may all own the same textbook (the Bible), God as the Teacher tailors His lessons plans to each of us individually. He knows your strengths and weaknesses. He knows the days you need to be kicked into gear with a reprimand and the days when all you need is someone to comfort you and tell you that it will be okay. He is okay with repeating the same lesson over and over again until you pass with flying colors. The Lord knows that some of us can read the Bible in a year, while others need to spend a few months at a time in a single book of the Bible. Best of all, He keeps on giving and teaching – all day, every day, if we’re willing to listen and learn.

What lessons is God teaching you right now?