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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Good Enough for Heaven

READ: Romans 10
KEY VERSE: Romans 10:3
DEVOTIONAL:
"I'm basically a good person. I don't think God is so picky that He (or it, really, the whole universe may be God for all I know) would reject a person for just doing what they sincerely believe."

Many times we have heard this, or some similar statement. It is one of the more dangerous lies, for its false solace can prevent someone from escaping Hell, of our time and Paul quickly refutes it. You will not get to God on your own terms - you have no right to. Verses 6 and 7 tell us that we shouldn't plan on fetching Christ from Heaven or raising Him from the dead for our own salvation. He has made the way for us already and we will never make our own. The way of salvation is already in our heart and so near our lips we need only request it. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Lord and believe in your heart that He lives - really, truly conquered death - then He will save you forever. Placing your trust in Him is sufficient and any other path is folly.

But, verse 14 asks, how do you reach this point? You can't call in a God you don't believe in; doing lip service is meaningless. You cannot believe in Jesus' death and resurrection if you haven't heard and you can only hear by being told. So we must then tell others. Not all who hear accept the Gospel, but the Holy Spirit allows them to understand it (v 20), while it is ultimately their choice. Paul and Jesus himself were rejected with their message. If God himself and the apostle chosen to bring the gospel to the Gentiles were both subject to failure, we ought to realize we will not always succeed. Indeed, although the Bible says the Lord doesn't will that any should perish, some will (II Peter 3:9). If the call of God Himself doesn't bring everyone, what hope do we have? I invite you to turn in your Bible to Philippians 3:7-11. Go get a sheet of paper and hand write these verses on it. Fold it up and carry it with you, praying for God to help you believe and relish in it. If only one is saved, our life has become worthwhile. Long had the Lord stretched out His hands to Israel, waiting on them to cast aside their faith in their own hands and pick up faith in Him. But it is that kind of religion which is likely picking up speed in your friends and family, even now.
Witness and pray. Don't give up hope. Salvation is open to everyone, if they can lay aside their pride and take it.

QUESTIONS:
(1) Someone told you the Gospel so you might be saved. Do you care enough to pass it on?
(2) Can you refute someone who claims they have their own way to Heaven with logic and the Scriptures? In the 21st century, having your defense memorized may be valuable.
(3) The Bible says that not all who hear will accept. Do you still get discouraged when rejected? Pray for God to give you the comfort of confidence in His plan.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lost Israel

NOTE: Here I will touch lightly on the passages that seem to teach predestination, just clarifying their meaning in the big picture. If you believe in predestination, just hang on with me for a little while longer. After Romans 16, there will be at least one devotional on free will and perhaps more, explaining the truth and causes of confusion.

READ: Romans 9
KEY VERSE: Romans 9:32
DEVOTIONAL:
Romans 9 is a stark contrast from the joy of Romans 8, and reveals the state of Paul's own heart. He cannot think of his own salvation without thinking of those who lack it and choose death. If it would save them, he would damn his own soul for theirs, but it wouldn't help. God has blessed them mightily but, he explains, it isn't Abraham's line according to blood that determines Abraham's offspring, but those who follow Abraham in faith. Paul is not teaching that Christian's replace Jews (recollect Romans 3:1-8), but is explaining that this grand concept of perseverance is not inherited by blood. Before the dawn of time, God knew who would answer the call of faith (v 12) and works never entered the picture. Paul asks two rhetorical questions I will paraphrase, combine and expound upon for clarity (understand this is biased by my understanding of the Scriptures, as all commentaries are):
Is God then unjust, because he allows children to be born he knows will disobey Him? The reply is obvious: who are you to question God? How do you know how vastly things would be different if they hadn't existed, or that it would be fair to deprive them of their choice? After Pharaoh had denied the nation of Israel's departure after the water was turned to blood, the frogs covered the land, the gnats and flies plagued them, the Egyptian cattle died, boils popped up on man and beast and hail rained from heaven, the Lord hardened his heart for the last three plagues, so the glory of the Lord might be shown. Pharaoh had made his choice seven times before God said "Very well, then I will use you this way" and hardened his heart. As verse 20 explains, some pots may be modified to be good for common use, even if they will not be glorified. God knew they would not turn from their ways and chooses to use them as demonstrations so more can be saved - but it is still their choice. Just as Israel chose to try to earn their own way to Heaven by works. That was never what God taught. It is by faith alone.
We will return to Israel for the next two days, but do not find it irrelevant. There are many Jews today who are not placing their faith in the Lord of hosts, but in their own goodness. Indeed, there are many Gentiles who answer the question of their salvation with "Yeah, I think I'll go to Heaven. I'm a pretty good person." They need to know that their works will never save them because even a few flies will spoil the entire ointment (Ecclesiastes 10:1). The attitude of Israel in Paul's day - since Israel was chosen for salvation as all people are (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4) - is still painfully prevalent today.

Pray for the lost and share the gospel without shame.

QUESTIONS:
(1) Do you mourn the lost? Moreso, do you actively seek their salvation?
(2) Do you really have faith in God or only faith in your ability to execute the precepts of Christianity? The latter will never save anyone.
(3) The end of the chapter quotes Isaiah 28:16. Do you live your life with the assurance that your faith in Him will not come up empty?

Sweet Victory in Jesus

READ: Romans 8
KEY VERSE(S): Romans 8:38-39
DEVOTIONAL:
An old hymn goes:
"I heard an old, old story
How a savior came from Glory
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me
I heard about His groaning
Of His precious blood's atoning
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory
O victory in Jesus
My Savior forever
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood
He loved me 'ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory
Beneath the cleansing flood"

Romans is often called the fifth Gospel, because it (like Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) tells the story of Jesus' sacrifice and the way of salvation. There is very little unique information in Romans, but Paul consolidates some of the most important truths of the Bible in fantastic logical and rhetorical style. As we hit the halfway point in our study of Romans, we will do well to recall that Gospel means "good news" and despite all of the bad news about our own sinful state Paul gives us, this is fundamentally a story of redemption and reconciliation to an holy God. Hopefully we will all know much after this study of Romans, but none of it is more important than Christ and Him crucified. With that being said and the hymn being quoted, this is a lengthier study than most, but I ask that you bear with me in my abuse of your time.

The Bible tells us in verse 1 that we are free from condemnation because of Christ. The Law could not set us free, because our flesh was too weak to keep us; in Jesus we have a better way made for us. When Paul says that the fate of the "carnally minded is death," he simply means the unsaved. When we are saved, a new mind is made in us - a mind not after the flesh but after the Holy Spirit, as we studied yesterday. Verse 8 says very plainly that no number of good works will please God if we have not found his salvation.
We are not still bound to counting good works, but will be shown mercy because we are children of God. We can cry out "Father!" in any language and God himself will hear. That great promise of secure salvation means that the worst tribulations we experience will be negligible in Heaven, like subtracting the weight of an electron from a beautiful mansion (v 18).

When man sinned in the garden, God placed a curse on all of creation. It was a curse of death and a curse of decay. But the Bible tells us that this curse was so that, by a small shadow of the true consequence of sin, we might fear it. Our spirits, indeed all creation, groan with anticipation for the day when the Lord will separate the tares from the wheat and replace the chaff with perfection. In fact, Paul goes on to tell us that the Holy Spirit of God comes into us and allows us to pray in ways too deep for words. The Holy Spirit, God, intercedes for us, even in our own prayer.
But it gets even better. God carefully manipulates every circumstance to our benefit, promising the saved that all circumstances will be our ultimate good (recall Romans 5:3-5).

Verses 29 and 30 have led many astray with the false doctrine of predestination, but I ask you let that simmer for now. After the study on Romans, I will give a separate devotional on free will. This one is long already!

But verse 31 brings nothing but good cheer: If God is with us, who is against us? God Himself died for our sins, how can we doubt He would give us anything else? The rest of this chapter is a beautiful herald of our victory in Jesus. He has come from Heaven to death, the highest to the lowest, to make us a way. Once we are in His hand, nothing can remove us, not even the choices of our own lives. With the power of God made manifest in us, we completely conquer any trial that comes our way. Death was the last enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26), and it has been defeated for almost two millenia.

Go through life tomorrow overflowing with the joy of what God has done for you. A smile is contagious and a laugh can turn someone's day around.

QUESTIONS:
(1) Can you sing "Victory in Jesus" and really understand it personally? Its not a head knowledge that brings about salvation, but a real acceptance in your heart. It only takes a choice.
(2) All creation groans to see who has really accepted God and who does lip service. Have you shared your faith lately? There's plenty of room in Heaven for company.
(3) When you face trials, do you let them get you down? If you do, you're doubting the power of God! They're all conquered for you and work together for His glory.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What is means to be a Christian

READ: Romans 7
KEY VERSE: Romans 7:17
DEVOTIONAL:
In this chapter, the apostle Paul explains that the Law binds only the living; no court punishes the dead. When we die to sin, we also die to the Law and are made alive to Christ, joining with him and our brethren in the family of God. When we were alive to the Law, our sins bore fruit for our master, Death. Now that we instead live in Christ, our Law is replaced by the guidance of the Holy Ghost - the true Spirit of the Law.
"But why have the Law at all?", you ask. The apostle teaches why in the next few verses. The Law is our schoolmaster; it exists to teach us right from wrong. Before Paul was old enough to understand right and wrong (as a little child) he was free from sin and heaven bound. When he became aware of sin, his sinful nature perverted his knowledge of sin and used it to tempt him from perfection and when he sinned, his eternal destination changed (vv 9-12).
But Paul's eternity did not remain in Hell. When he accepted Christ, he became dead to sin. The old man was destroyed and replaced by a new man immune to sin. This new man, the inner man, then must wage war with the flesh. Paul explains security of the believer quite simply in verse 17 (KJV): "Now then it is no more I that [violate God's will], but sin that dwelleth in me." The battle between the two natures, the ultimate warfare in a Christian's life, is not about salvation. That account was settled long ago. It is about being an instrument of God and not an instrument of Death. We ought to despise our flesh for being sinful (v 24), but understand that the sin is separate from us. We are kept clean in our souls, and when the Lord ressurects His elect (those set apart by a choice for Him), the body will be made pure and perfect as well (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). But before the transformation, all the good we do is corrupted and worthless. When we have invited Christ into our heart, we can serve the Law of God with our minds (at the very least).
QUESTIONS:
(1) Verse 6 warns against clinging to the letter of the law, saying we should focus on the spirit of the law. Do you slip into legalism?
(2) Do you understand security of the believer as explained in Romans 7:14-25? Its very important and is worth asking someone about. See my essay "A Brief History of Evil" for more, e-mail me at JGatlin@simplecomputersolutionsinc.com, or ask your pastor.
(3) Who do your actions serve? Death or the Lord?
(4) When was the last time you thanked God for setting you free?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A New Master

READ: Romans 6

KEY VERSE: Romans 6:7

DEVOTIONAL:
Today's devotional is a short one, so I pray you will read the chapter before and after. It is marvelously beautiful and superbly simple.

Romans 6 is one of the best defenses for the doctrine of eternal security or "Once Saved Always Saved" ever conceived. Many critics of this Biblical truth claim it gives a license to sin. To this, Paul replies: "May it never be!" We are dead to sin and it has no sway over our inner man (v 14), but if we are saved, we also have a desire to serve the Lord. Verse 13 is very clear: if we are to continue living in sin, we will find ourselves acting as tools of the very Devil we hate. Our new man cannot sin, because it was crucified with Christ and a new, perfect soul was resurrected in His likeness. But we still dwell in a sinful flesh, which we must seek to master so we might bring glory to God, until our sinful flesh is made perfect in the resurrection/rapture.

In our birth, we are slaves to sin, inherited from the choices of the Garden of Eden. When we are born again, we become slaves of God, willingly giving ourselves to him. As slaves of sin, we do much work of value for our master and will reap his payment: death. As bond-slaves of God, our lifetime of work gives Him nothing he could not have made effortlessly. But since we earn no wages, he reaches out and gives us a gift. Eternal life. A bond-slave hands himself over voluntarily, but once he does, he cannot leave. We are secure in the service of our new master.

Verse 7 absolutely seals the matter. Reread it carefully and relish its simple truth. Sin has no more dominion over you. Allelulia, allelulia, the battle is won.

QUESTIONS:
(1) One simple question today: Who are you serving, God or sin?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Something to be happy about

NOTE: I may post more than one in a day, but they really are meant to be a daily period of reading and reflection. If I get ahead, it is only to cover future gaps where I am unable to post. I am also playing with format. Please bear with me.
READ: Romans 5
KEY VERSE: Romans 5:21
DEVOTIONAL:
So far in our study of Romans, we have found the need for salvation, the just consequence of sin and faith as the eternal means of salvation. But the focus has always been on sin. Today, we will see that Christians have something to rejoice about.
When we have achieved our salvation and are justified with grace, we have a peace in our relationship with God. This chapter contains two sets of progressions:
Faith -> Grace -> Hope of the Glory of God
And
Tribulation -> Patience -> Experience -> Hope
(If you counted to see which one gives hope first, perhaps you need some more patience.)
And hope maketh not ashamed, because our God will not let us down.
If you are living in tribulation or in happy faith, both come to the hope of God and both of those hopes shall be fulfilled. In this we can rejoice: Whatever happens to us will strengthen us in hope, for those who love God. Even though few men have the love to die for a good man, while we were living in the throes of sin, the perfect Christ died for us and gave us access to the love of God through the Holy Spirit. When Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, they made it possible for all people after to sin. When Jesus died, me made it possible for all people to be free of sin. The free gift of salvation, the gift of grace, is without limit.
All men sinned before the Law of Moses, and only those with faith in the Lord of Hosts will escape judgement. After the law of Moses, people were aware of what their transgression was, but still, only those with faith will escape judgement. When Christ came and fulfilled the Law, we now look back onto his sacrifice and faith saves.
That is something to rejoice about.
QUESTIONS:
(1) Do you wear a smile worthy of the good news? Or does your dark demeanor turn people away from God's happiness?
(2) Does v 21 have a real, personal meaning to you?
(3) The Bible tells us the law is a schoolmaster to show us our sin. Do you avoid learning about your sin and deprive yourself of becoming more Christlike?

Romans 4

READ: Romans 4
DEVOTIONAL:
Even in the pagan powerhouse of Rome, most of the earliest Christian converts were from Judaism. Indeed, Christianity was long considered a sect of Judaism, rather than a unique faith. Side stepping the implications of that here, let us instead understand that Paul's readers were very familiar with the Old Testament and also very familiar with arguments that Christianity was disjoint from the Old Testament and Jewish teachings.
To this end, Paul points to the father of Judaism, Christianity and later Islam: Abraham. Before Abraham received the covenant of the circumcision, his faith was credited to him as imputed righteousness. The salvation of faith existed before circumcision was even known of! His circumcision set him apart from the rest of the world and marked him as God-sealed, his profession of faith, but his salvation was done. Citing another major Old Testament figure, King David, Paul quotes Psalm 32, a psalm about life before and after salvation - not a salvation of works, but of calling on the Lord.
If we allow our works to save us, the faith is meaningless. Salvation is not part-faith, part-works; our efforts to make it that way reveal a hole in our faith which must be filled by like substance. By all biology, Sarai was too old to bear children. If we read the story in Genesis, we see Abraham first laughed in his heart (how could something like this be?), but when he overcame his skepticism it became salvation by imputed righteousness. How beautiful a picture of salvation Abraham truly is! At first, it seems impossible, but then we can unworthily take it up.
The natural consequence of grace is imputed righteousness and the natural consequence of the Law is wrath. Both are valid and the time will come when the wrath of the law shall be fulfilled, but faith will supersede the Law and those who are wrapped in grace will find Christ experienced the wrath meant for them. Those who lacked faith will acquire sight, but too late for redemption. It is by faith that we can now celebrate in Christ's salvation, the same justification Abraham and all of the saints of the Old Testament experienced.
In chapter 5, we get into the life of the saved. If that doesn't describe you, it can, by the simple prayer of faith.
QUESTIONS:
(1) After being saved by grace, through faith, Abraham was circumcised. To seal himself for God. How is circumcision like baptism? How is it different?
(2) Do you try to help God save you by placing your faith in things you have done?
(3) Read v 4 again. Have you ever been guilty of kidding yourself into thinking that Heaven is a debt God has to pay you? Will you repent and return to the simple faith that you will be cared for?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Romans 3

READ: Romans 3

DEVOTIONAL:
In this chapter, Paul leaves lofty theory and gets into a number of practical concerns. First, Israel is not superseded by the church. The nation of the Jews were blessed with the great honor of housing the prophets of God and building His temple. Just because not every Jew came to a saving faith does not void the unconditional promises of God; when God says "I will", it will be done exactly as He says. Paul's second point draws on this one by asking a question. If the unfaithfulness of the Jews reveals the devotion of the Lord, isn't it good for us to be unfaithful? Indeed, more generally, shouldn't we sin to show the world how safe we are in God's love? Paul tells us that some have slanderously reported that he taught the latter, a charge still pressed on the Lord's churches today. Of course, this is an utter lie. We ought to do good that good may come, and if our evil brings good, praise God's might while still repenting with a broken heart. Sin ought to disgust the child of God, and will if we are close in our walk with Him.
But we cannot pretend that doing good so good may come is grounds for pride. We are all sinners: every race, creed and religion.
The story is told (I don't know the veracity, but it seems like a parable) of a man who had many patches on his clothes. When asked, he could explain that each patch represented a sin one of his neighbors has committed, so they would not forget. Indeed, when asked about any patch he could tell the whole story. But when a small one on the middle of his back was pointed out, he laughed and said: "Oh, that is my own sin. I cannot see it. " Too often we fall into the same trap. We must see right and wrong so that we can realize our sin. When we truly realize our sin, we can become humble before God and inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). After two and a half chapters of bad news about mankind, Paul brings words of hope.
Truly, the Law and the Prophets pointed the way to Jesus Christ, but they were ultimately superseded by him (Matthew 17:1-8). The Law cannot save those who violate it - and that is every single one of us (v 23). But there is hope. Jesus Christ voluntarily faced separation from God (separation from Himself, if we can begin to imagine it) so that the debt of our sins might be paid in full, for any who accept it. No sin is too great (as Paul's own life shows) and no age is too young or old for the one who understands the gospel and their own sin to step into everlasting salvation.
There is a price to this justification, though. We can do nothing but take it or leave it. Our works do not get us into heaven, and we cannot take pride in our righteousness. We lay all of this misplaced boasting at the feet of the Holy One. Its harder than it sounds. But once we allow our circumcision to be of the heart - a circumcision blind to race - a change in the body is all but inevitable.

This salvation of faith is not a new way of doing things - God forbid we suggest salvation changes! Tomorrow, chapter 4 will teach us just how everlasting God's plan is.

QUESTIONS:
(1) Recalling the charge that we do evil so good may come, have you ever been guilty of falling into that fallacy? Sin is sin, no matter what results. Will you come to repentance and come to love God's righteousness for its own sake? Or is something holding you back?
(2) When you read vv 10-18, do you silently add "except me" to the end? Will you pray for God to make a new heart in you, one that is sensitive to your own sin?
(3) Read verse 31 again. Do you establish your code of conduct as a natural outlet of your faith? Or do you reduce it to stand-alone rules and regulations?
(4) Does the gospel message still excite you? Or have you left your first love?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Romans 2

READ: Romans 2
DEVOTIONAL:
In this chapter, the Apostle Paul picks up the very same mantle that Jesus carried before the Pharisees: Do not remove the speck in your brother's eye until the log in your own is out! This is not an excuse to fail to admonish others (Romans 15:14), but a reminder that we must purify ourselves before we can be taken seriously. As he hammers this point, Paul makes one of the macro points of the New Testament: Jew and Gentile are the same. God doesn't care what color you are, what country you were born in or if you were raised in church. We shouldn't either. The only thing we have a right to recognize is those who now profess faith in Christ. That is the only distinction between people in this world for us.

Paul also looks at a major objection to any faith that proclaims a "one way to God. "What about those who don't hear? " Everyone hears, the apostle tells us. The supremacy of the Lord is inscribed deep in the hearts of men and the faith in Him has always been an option. Those who have heard, Paul tells us, have a greater responsibility: they must accept it for what it is to reap its benefits. Then why evangelize? Why not make it easier for people? The answer to that is complex - at the very least analyzing the advantages of a concrete understanding - but the simple truth is that it takes the wrong attitude. We too often reduce Christianity as a way to die. If we are to really embrace life for its fullest benefits, Christianity is the only way to live! When walking in the ways and praise of the Lord of Hosts, this life is infinitely better, before we even consider Heaven and Hell. But because everything proclaims God, we cannot say God predestined some people for Hell. Each made a choice. We can cry "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" Or we can whisper "Lord, please remember me in your kingdom," but we cannot remain silent.
The Law of Moses, we go on to read, was a perfect rule of conduct which can still educate us today. But if we violate this code once (and we have), the circumcision of the Law becomes uncircumcision. The Law as a means of salvation would be valid only if man were perfect (Ecclesiastes 10:1), which Paul makes clear we are not. Because our body will sin - we need a circumcision deeper than our body. The circumcision of the soul. Chapter 3 will really tell us how; I hope to see you back here tomorrow.
QUESTIONS:
(1) Read through verse 24 again. Are your sins causing people to blaspheme God?
(2) Are you guilty of moralizing your faith by heeding the letter of the law rather than its spirit? What can you do to change this?
(3) Verses 21 and 22 describes hypocrisy with five unique verbs: teach, preach, say, abhor and boast. Do you commit hypocrisy by hating certain sins while practicing only minor variants (idols versus failing to tithe and thereby making something else a financial idol (v 22 and Malachi 3:8-10)? Or do you commit hypocrisy in some more tangible way?
(4) Are you a Christian inwardly or just outwardly? Are you baptized in body but not in heart?
(5) Is your faith just fire insurance? Or is it really a way to live?
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Romans 1

Abandoning the axioms for now because I underestimated the ambition of the project...
I would like you to join with me in a 16 day study of the book of Romans. Each day, I will post a relatively brief devotional on the contents of the chapter. I ask that you first pray for God to grant you guidance and understanding, then read the scripture, then read the devotion, ponder any questions I may tack on at the end and perhaps read the chapter again.
Romans is widely considered to be the pinnacle of the apostle Paul's work in describing and defending the gospel of Jesus Christ and it is well worth our attention for a period of personal revival and renewed attention to our roots. It is my prayer that you will really take the study of this masterpiece to heart, it is the inspired word of the Almighty, written down so that you and I might glimpse his perfect truth. Nothing should be taken with more gravity than the study of the divine and a flippant overview of such an important subject profits nothing. With that introduction out of the way, let us begin.
READ: Romans 1
DEVOTIONAL:
The Apostle Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans by the authority of God. The mention of his own name in the first verse seems merely a formality before he goes into praising the name of his savior. Paul let Christ define who he was; his call was to preach Christ. His mantra was that Jesus of Nazareth had conquered death and shown himself as God, and Paul preached it at constant risk of death and reality of ridicule so that just a few might be saved.
After establishing the Lord on who's behalf he wrote, Paul tells the church (or perhaps churches) in Rome how often he prays for them (without ceasing!) and how he would like to come and impart a spiritual gift to them. The Gifts of the Spirit were special abilities which the apostles were able to pass on to believers, granting gifts from healing to prophecy. The receivers of these gifts could not pass them on, so with the death of the last apostle (John) the abilities quickly died out. The purpose of spiritual gifts was to help establish credibility for the gospel message (v 11) so with the completion of the Bible, its purpose was fulfilled.
Paul doesn't linger on spiritual gifts long, he quickly gets back to his real message: Salvation. He reveals that he has a responsibility to preach to the lost and dying world around him, from the most educated Greek to the savages in the country side - they all needed Jesus. Paul knew that the gospel revealed the true character of God - grace for those who would just sincerely ask.
But grace is meaningless if men deserve God's favor. Often the harsh reality of sin is buried in popular preaching, but Paul didn't shy away from it. The KJV translates the start of 18 particularly well: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." Nature itself proclaims the Lord, Paul explains, but men want to control the divine so badly that they worship animals and the works of their own hands. Pantheism and idolatry reflect the pride of a wicked race, trying to limit God's perfection to something they can understand and control. God sent the spirit of conviction to gnaw on their hearts, trying to turn them from their ways, but when they refused, He allowed them to sear their hearts with hot irons, so they would be insensitive to His prodding. It is not a pretty picture which Paul paints, but Jesus explains why in Luke 7:40-43. Until we understand the debt we owe, we cannot appreciate the free pardon.
Stay with me and we will see what greatness God has wrought from our sin.
QUESTIONS:
(1) Do you make it a real point to pray for the faith of other Christians (v 9)? Why or why not?
(2) Read verse 16 very slowly and carefully. What does it mean to you in your daily walk?
(3) Looking at the list of sins in vv 29-32, how many can you charge yourself with? Do you understand the miry pit from which God has lifted you? Or do you refuse to leave the mud of your own life for the glory of God?
(4) Will you pray for God to give you an opportunity to share your faith tomorrow? Will you really look?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thorns

I know that Easter is past now and that Good (Wednesday/Thursday/probably not Friday) is even older news, but I believe it is always appropriate to make the crucifiction and resurrection a major part of our every day lives, now just an annual nod. With that in mind, let me invite you to the first book of the Bible. Man has sinned and God is placing the curse which will rule from Adam to Jesus. In particular, I would like to point out a particular part of the curse:

Genesis 3:18  Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field

Before sin, there were no thorns. The Earth was easy to pick from and did not protest feeding man or beast. However, part of the curse of sin was that even the basic process of growing food would be mingled with sweat and blood.

But thorns had a much greater destiny than that.

Matthew 27:29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

The fruit of sin was the crown of the King of the Jews! Think about that as you go through your day and thank God for suffering so greatly for you.