Tag Archives: unity

Worship Wednesday – Pentecost – Holy Spirit – Kari Jobe

Photo Credit: Jean II Restout, Wikimedia

When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.

There were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were astounded and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that each of us can hear in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,  Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking the magnificent acts of God in our own languages.”  They were all astounded and perplexed…

But Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them…“God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this. …Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” – Acts 2:1-12a, 14a, 32, 36

We are in the season of Pentecost. Last night, the Jewish celebration of Shavuot began, and for the Christians, Pentecost Sunday is just ahead of us. For the Jews, it is a dual commemoration – one of the giving of the Torah (God’s Law) at Mt. Sinai, as well as the celebration of the wheat harvest (Festival of Weeks). For the Christians, Pentecost is the promised coming of the Holy Spirit, 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ.

Because of the Jewish celebration and pilgrimage of old, the apostles (in Acts 2) had an audience of many unfamiliar with the Hebrew and Greek languages. This was essentially the first time the Gospel was preached to the nations, and the Holy Spirit’s grand entrance into our lives made it happen.

Depending on our church tradition, we celebrate Pentecost in various ways. How we see the Holy Spirit at work in the world, and in the church, also differs.

Completing the triune Godhead, with the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is a mighty force in this world. Incomprehensible in His power and movement in the world and yet as intimate as that still small voice, almost audible to those who attend to Him. Almost audible and completely understandable in His gentle ways with God’s children.

How is it that we allow ourselves to be mesmerized with the seen and discount the marvelous and miraculous all around us?

After Jesus’ resurrection and before He ascended to the Father, he told the struggling apostles that He would not leave them alone. He would send to them a Comforter, an Advocate, of the same essence as He.

I usually pray to the Father as the model Jesus taught us, in His instruction to the disciples. It is in Jesus’ name, that come to the Father, because through Jesus’ righteousness and death for us, we have access to God. It is through the Holy Spirit, we pray rightly. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we find the words to pray.  Sometimes, when we can’t find the words, the Spirit lifts the contents of our heart to the Father…better than we can ourselves. What an incredible mercy of God!

Where do we see the movement of the Holy Spirit in today’s world?

  • making truth and the path to righteousness joyfully clear to us
  • convicting of sin in a world grown comfortable with it
  • healing in an impossible situation – be it disease or addiction, broken relationship, or a life of sorrowful decisions
  • opening shut doors to the Gospel – that we might serve in word and deed
  • calming anxious hearts and fearful minds
  • giving courage on the battlefield and compassion toward an enemy
  • restoring joy in the darkness of depression and grief
  • ministering to those deprived of human comfort – those in prison or isolated by other life circumstances
  • setting peace within our hearts through the hearing or reading of God’s great promises
  • moving in ways unseen across our world and across the ages that we will only know fully in Heaven.

Today, around the world the celebration of Pentecost begins. In this season, let’s quiet our hearts before God and hear the counsel of the Holy Spirit. He points us to the fullness of who God is – One in unity, and us with Him, through Christ (John 17:21).

Worship with me.

There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord
I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

[Chorus:]
Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord
Your presence, Lord

There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord
I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

[Chorus]

[x4:]
Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness

[Chorus]

Lyrics to Holy Spirit – as performed by Francesca Battistelli; Written by Bryan & Katie Torwalt, & Kari Jobe

As we think of Pentecost and the work of the Holy Spirit in our world today, we take heart. May God, by the power of the Spirit, waken us to Him and move mightily in our hearts today.

May His Kingdom come…on earth as it is in Heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

Who Is the Holy Spirit? – Explore God

YouTube Video – The Bible Series – Day of Pentecost — Acts, Chapter 2

Pentecost – Father Alexander

Ushpizin a lovely and funny film about the Jewish celebration of the Feast of Weeks (Tabernacles) – also on YouTube as Ha Ushpizin

Photo Credit: Savio Sebastian, Flickr

5 Friday Faves – Snow Days, Organizing Your Life, Riveting Short Film, Dayman Cover, and the Possibility of Unity

Friday again. Whew…this week flew…for me, anyway. I have some great finds for you…as usual, if I might be so bold. Friday Faves celebrate the hard work and achievements of others that encourage me and I hope encourage you. So here goes:

1) Snow Days – For some of you snow comes in months not just days. For us, it’s a few glorious days of this…and I love it!
I have no need for heavy snow recreation…just the quiet, the beauty, the slowing down of life, and the camaraderie of those snowed-in or out with you (family, neighbors, colleagues). More books, more coffee, more hours in pj’s, and more meditation on the Creator who orchestrated such beauty for our pleasure.

2) Organizing Your Life – Leadership coach Paul Sohn has posted the most fascinating infographic on organizing your life – not just your home space, but your work and social media spaces. Really helpful!!

Photo Credit: Paul Sohn

3) Riveting Short Film – It is so easy to allow our attention to drift away from important issues. The news stream is so full and fast-moving.  About a year ago, National Geographic showcased a short film by Lior Sperandeo entitled People of Nowhere. It puts the film-watcher on the seashore as boat after boat of Syrian refugees arrive, some barely alive…leaving everything and desperately risking all they have left – each other and life itself. Compelling and transforming…and still happening.Photo Credit: Vimeo

4) Dayman Cover – One of the longest running TV sitcoms in the US is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Out of this edgy sometimes dark comedy came a song that is known and loved by the show’s fandom – that song being Dayman. Here is the clip from the show and below is the cover arranged for classical guitar by Nathan at Beyond the Guitar. [The Green Man is a frequent character on the show.]

The social media buzz over this video was fun to watch as well.

Photo Credit: Instagram via Facebook

Watch:  Green Person Performs ‘The Dayman’ From ‘Always Sunny’ Classical Guitar – Michael Tanenbaum – The Philly Voice

5) The Possibility of Unity – Political conversations post-election in the US continue to simmer and sometimes boil over. There is no hope for unity unless we do the work to forging a path. Therein lies the possibility. Two thought-provoking posts came out this week of the topic – one from a business leadership writer, Jarrod Shappell, and the other from a Christian thinker and author, Philip Yancey.

Photo Credit: Jarrod Shappell; Philip Yancey (YouTube)

First, this from Jarrod Shappell:

“In The Anatomy of Peace, a fantastic book about attempted reconciliation between leaders of Israel and Palestine, the authors say, ‘In the way we regard our children, our spouses, neighbors, colleagues, and strangers, we choose to see others either as people like ourselves or as objects. They either count like we do or they don’t. In the former case we regard them as we regard ourselves, we say our hearts are at peace toward them. In the latter case, since we systematically view them as inferior, we say our hearts are at war.’ If we continue to believe that we are on the superior side of the argument, we will only objectivity, vilify, and perpetuate conflict.

Finding healthy unity that embraces difference is no easy hunt. We prefer to retreat into our tribal groups among people who think and act like us. We say we value different points of view but rarely seek them out. We feign listening but are really just forming our next rebuttal. All of that is unity’s most insidious counterfeit – uniformity. We are seduced by the enjoyment of confusing sameness with unity.

We fear that adapting our viewpoints is compromising our values (spoiler alert: it’s not). But true unity is hard, gritty, messy work. It takes guts to let go of the need to be right. It takes the deepest of principles to understand your “enemy’s” views rather than vilify them. And only the greatest of organizations, communities, and leaders will take the leap of faith away from their staunchly held ideals in the belief, hope, and determination that there is room for both theirs, and others, ideals.”  – Jarrod Shappell, Navalent

Then, from Philip Yancey:

“Francis Schaeffer added, ‘Love—and the unity it attests to—is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world.  Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.…It is possible to be a Christian without showing the mark, but if we expect non-Christians to know that we are Christians, we must show the mark.’  I see that as the biggest challenge facing committed Christians in the new year.

As the dust settles from the storm of 2016, I pray that those of us who follow Jesus remember that mark above all.  The apostle Paul used these words to describe the characteristics of a true Christian: humility, charity, joy, peace, gentleness, forbearance, patience, goodness, self-control—words in short supply last election year.  Republicans will busy themselves with the difficult task of governing a factious nation in a perilous world.  Democrats will huddle to devise a new playbook.  May Christians of all persuasions remember that our ultimate allegiance and our ultimate hope belong to neither party.  As resident aliens in a divided nation, may we too form pioneer settlements to show the world the Jesus way.” – Philip Yancey, Election Reflections: Bridging the Gap

Bonus: Kris Kristofferson – Story behind his song Why Me, Lord? and the latest on this man’s amazing life:

Rolling Stone: Kris Kristofferson: An Outlaw at 80

Have a great, great weekend. Please share with us (in the Comments) any favorite finds of your own this week.

Worship Wednesday – Undivided – First Call

Photo Credit: Redeemer, New Paltz

“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours...Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”– Jesus – John 17:9, 11b, 20-23

Years ago, on a hot summer evening, I went with a friend to a church deep in Coptic Cairo. We took on the challenge of the choking downtown traffic and dusty dry heat to hear a Christian radio team perform. “A Verse and a Story” – [“Aya wa Hekaya”] – was the name of the humorous program on the radio. The actors present a situation from life and weave Scripture through the story. As inadequate as my understanding of Arabic was, I could get the meaning of the stories and loved being a part of that group of Egyptians that evening. There was also a time of worship – singing and prayer…also in Arabic. As the ceiling fans moved the hot air around and we all glistened with sweat, there was such a oneness there…of sheer enjoyment of Jesus in our midst and the pleasure of being together.

All were welcome that night. Foreigner and local person. Varying doctrines…yet no divisions, in this moment, on style or substance. The love and unity of spirit in that great gathering hall was a sweet glimpse of Heaven (Revelation 7:9).

Enjoying a sense of unity for an evening with like-minded strangers is one thing…determining to live daily in the bond of love, as Christ-followers, is on an altogether higher order… Yet, Jesus prayed to the Father for us to live in those kind of unity…for our own sakes and for the sake of those who peer into our lives. Do they see Jesus when they see us?

John Piper, in his piece on What Is Christian Unity?, quotes Francis Schaeffer:

It is in the midst of a difference that we have our golden opportunity. When everything is going well and we are all standing around in a nice little circle, there is not much to be seen by the world. But when we come to the place where there is a real difference, and we exhibit uncompromised principles but at the same time observable love, then there is something that the world can see, something they can use to judge that these really are Christians, and that Jesus has indeed been sent by the Father. – Francis Schaeffer (Complete Works, vol. 4, 201)

My husband rides his bike on a trainer for exercise. Several evenings a week, I know what he’s doing by the playlist that filters through the house at different parts of his ride. There’s an old Gospel song (popular in the 80’s) that pops up which I love. It is First Call‘s Undivided.

Here are two YouTube videos of this group singing – Undivided with the original First Call (in 1986) and again more recently. The second performance comes 30 years after the first (and at 2:12 into the video, First Call is joined by Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Steve Green – all who gave us wonderful worship songs from early in the Contemporary Christian Music era).

Worship with me (with either of the versions above)…undivided:

We may worship different ways
We may praise Him and yet spend
All of our days living life divided
But when we seek Him with open hearts
He removes the walls we built
That keep up apart
We trust Him to unite us

Chorus
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
Bound by His Spirit
Forevermore

Undivided,
Undivided

It doesn’t matter if we agree
All He asks is that we serve Him faithfully
And love as He first loved us
He made us in His image
And in His eyes we are all the same
And though our methods they may be different
Jesus is the bond that will remain

Chorus
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
Bound by His Spirit
Forevermore

Undivided,
Undivided*

As much as I love contemporary worship, I miss the harmonies of another era – the four-part harmonies of these Gospel singing groups as well as just the corporate hymn-singing of my childhood. There is a unison of singing the melody line led by today’s worship teams, but the unity Jesus prayed for us is more symbolized in the many different voices heard in the old Gospel harmonies.

It’s not just unity longed for in the “Why can’t we all just get along?” lament. It’s a unity in Christ that is an answer to His prayer…a bond between us that transcends our many political opinions, cultural preferences, and national loyalties. It is a bond of love that begins with Christ and extends to the nations…a unity that holds believers together in an inclusive circle that opens its arms to all comers.

*Lyrics to Undivided

What Is Christian Unity? – John Piper

Worship Wednesday – ‘Tis the Season – What’s at Stake When We Indulge In Attacking Each Other

Blog - House Divided - coffeewiththeking.orgPhoto Credit: coffeewiththeKing.org

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”Jesus, John 13:34-35

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”Jesus, Matthew 7:3-5

Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”Paul, Romans 14:20-22

The “happy holidays” are upon us – juxtaposed against a landscape of polarizing political campaigns and various divisive protests and boycotts. In a season of the year (for us in the USA, in particular), we could enjoy warm community and loving unity, even when we differ on some things. Yet, we still divide ourselves up into various camps.

Where are we to land in all of this as Christ-followers?

For sure, it is not in attacking those who are not like us or who may be like us but differ in preference or opinion. Especially, we who call the name of Jesus as Savior – we have no ground to stand on in attacking each other…ever.

So why do we do it? There is this soul satisfaction that comes with feeling right, or smarter, or more cool, or culture-savvy. A soulish satisfaction from which God has actually called us, and toward something extraordinarily better. A unity, a bond of love. A love by which we are known to the rest of the world as followers of Jesus. Here there is even ground for all of us, the weaker brother and the stronger one (that one who becomes weaker when he taunts or shames the other). Jesus calls us to deal with our own flawed perspective (“log”) before we can help dislodge the painful speck from our brother’s eye.

Do we really care about the other, that one God calls us to love as we love ourselves? Do we show that love to the world when we treat those with whom we disagree with the same derision or contempt as the world does? Or worse? Are we keeping company with arrogant haters or are we becoming one? When we publically part company with believers who are offended by what we consider silly matters, what is at stake?

You may ask, “what about those hate-filled people who call themselves Christians and who protest all sorts of things, based on their “Christian” sensibilities?”. Still…Scripture is clear how we are to treat them…Jesus calls us to love even our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-45)

“If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”Jesus, Mark 3:25

There is much to lose and much more to gain in wrestling successfully with this dilemma – exposed in our private conversations and public (un-social) media.

Voices of Wisdom to help us – Keep Unity, Guard Community – Choosing to Love, Refusing to Shame

Blog - House Divided - Scott Sauls

Scott Sauls is the author of Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides . He has also written the richest piece on this whole shaming and raging culture that colors us as Christ-followers, if we partake in its rank hatefulness. In fact, I can’t even quote from his article, because I want you to read it…please. It is a quick but full read on identifying the problem, and seeing what is the truth of how we are to live, in the example of a living, flesh-and-blood human-like-us man, Tim Keller. Please…read Scott’s article. Transforming.

Christians are in many ways a band of opposites, who over time grow to love one another through the centering, unifying love of Jesus…sincere believers can disagree on certain matters, sometimes quite strongly, and still maintain great respect and affection for one another…I don’t know where I would be without the influence of others who see certain non-essentials differently than I do..In non-essentials, liberty. And to this we might add an open-minded receptivity. We must allow ourselves to be shaped by our ‘other’ brothers and sisters for Jesus’ sake. We will be the richer for it.” – Scott Sauls

“This great passion for souls [Romans 9:1-3] gave Paul perspective. Lesser things did not trouble him because he was troubled by a great thing – the souls of men. ‘Get love for the souls of men’ – then you will not be whining about a dead dog, or a sick cat, or about the crotchets of a family, and the little disturbances that John and Mary may make by their idle talk. You will be delivered from petty worries (I need not further describe them) if you are concerned about the souls of men…Get your soul full of a great grief, and your little griefs will be driven out. – Charles Spurgeon – Spurgeon Gems, p. 7-8

“I will never get why we defend our chicken sandwiches and our gingerbread lattes but we won’t take a stand for the things that actually matter to God. Are we loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Are we loving our neighbor as ourselves? Are we obeying God in our personal lives? Are we defending and providing for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant? Are we sharing the hope we have in Christ? That’s pretty much our full job description.” – Angela

Blog - House Divided - Jonathanpearson.net

Photo Credit: JonathanPearson.net

What I Came To Respect Most About Tim Keller (Even More Than His Preaching) by Scott Sauls

We Disagree, Therefore I Need You by Scott Sauls

Jesus Outside the Lines – a Way Forward for Those who are Tired of Taking Sides by Scott Sauls

What Stops Our Fighting? by Tony Reinke

Balcony People – The Encouragers in Our Lives – You Know Who You Are – and We’re Grateful

Blog - Balcony People - Better TogetherBetter Together, George Washington Academy, Casablanca, Morocco

Encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

People who know me well know the struggle I have with insecurity and self-doubt. It doesn’t seem so but it’s true. I have been blessed with great encouragers in my life who have fanned the flame of vision and cheered me on when it was for me to do a hard thing. Those dear ones are what Joyce Landorf Heatherley calls “balcony people” – those encouragers who stand and cheer us on. We all have occasions to be so in each others’ lives. I love the opportunity myself, to be an encourager, having had it modeled so well for me.Blog - Balcony People book

I read this little (70-page) book years ago, but it still comes to mind often when people are kind enough to come alongside and encourage me to be that person for the job, or to do what’s needed whatever it is… It wasn’t because they couldn’t do it but for me to grow into a person of greater capacity. Or, just because I’m the one for the job. Imagine.

Encouragement isn’t just pat-you-on-the-back praise or superficial compliments. Jenn Arman defines it here: “Encouraging someone can mean you’re giving them support or confidence, but is also means that you’re helping to develop something in them. When the Bible talks about encouragement, it usually means that one is calling someone to their side in order to teach, comfort, strengthen or push them to act in a certain way. People who encourage others say with love what a person needs to hear, when they need to hear it–even if it isn’t what the person wants to hear.

The greatest encourager in my long life has been Jesus. He was/is the consummate encourager. Even hours before He went to His death, He could have turned the attention of His disciples on Himself. Yet, that would not be the case. He had compassion on his disciples and taught and encouraged them even in those last hours:

[Jesus speaking] “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering; but have courage, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

There have been great numbers of encouragers along the way in my life, and I couldn’t begin to mention them all here…you know who you are. Through the photos below, I will mention some. Thank you all. Thank God for you.Blog - Balcony People - Paulette BuffingtonMy life-long friend, Paulette, who stuck by me all these years and who was brave enough to say loving hard things to me when needed. She went to be with the Lord recently, and I miss her.

BLog - Balcony People - Kay Mitchell & JoeKay – my friend and colleague at a time I was a new-in-town cancer nursing specialist. Trying to win the confidence of the staff of a cancer center, I leaned on Kay for counsel and kindness. She taught me a whole new understanding of the phrase, “Get over it!”

Blog - Balcony People - KathyKathy – my student, who would years later take my place at that same cancer center. I learned more from her than she ever did from me. She makes me proud and humbles me with her enduring friendship.Blog - Balcony People - Jan McMurrayJan – who was my parenting mentor. She relentlessly spoke truth into my life, and I needed it. Our children still know (and now appreciate more) the rules of the house affected by Mrs. Jan.

Blog - Balcony People - LindaLinda – whose friendship I’ve enjoyed for over 20 years and who taught me how to pray bigger than ever before.

33Heba – a friend and daughter from another mother who makes me laugh every single time we talk. What a gift from God she is.

Kim & Blythe 2Blythe – a young friend who was a true balcony person in my life and has grown into this incredible woman, wife, mother. Kim – who was teacher and friend to our son and became a dear friend to me.

Dan & Marge 2Marge – also a teacher to this son of mine and my friend in a hard season. We walked the streets of Cairo together. I learned from her.

2006 May -- Shana & EdShana – who helped me in more ways than she knows, teaching me a lot about capacity…and joy in the simplest of things.

2006 July -- Nezha & DebbieNezha – who was my friend in a mid-life season – with such class and  generosity of heart.

2014 Phone pics July-December 119Lisa – this friend who taught me about forgiveness and perseverance – who also visited us in Africa multiple times – I see God much more clearer through her experience of Him.

Blog - Balcony People - KarenKaren – my friend and colleague – whose wise counsel has encouraged me in these days…and she actually reads my blogs. ‘Nuff said.

There are as many encouragers as there are days…but I will stop here…with these. My Mom, my mom-in-law, and my daughter – all have believed in me and leaned into my life. You know what a great thing this is in your own life. These people who want to come close – for their sake and for yours. Struggling with fear as I do, these women have brought an uncommon grace into life for me.Mom pictures for website 012

Last, and never least, there’s this guy…I can’t say enough about how his love has altered the course of my life…for the better. “He put stamps in my passport.”…and helped me be a mom. Thank you, Dave.Blog - Dave in France

Whether we care to admit it or not, we all need people who believe in us. Or believe God enough to see in us what He sees and what we can’t see ourselves. How empowering that is!!!

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…Hebrews 12:1-2a

Balcony People by Joyce Landorf Heatherley

Where Are All Your Balcony People?

Basement People vs. Balcony People

Balcony People – a Study in Philemon by James MacDonald

What Does Encouragement Really Mean?

Having Courage and Being an Encourager – from the Bible study series: Marks of Maturity – Biblical Characteristics of a Christian Leader

 

What if Romans 8 was the only Scripture Portion You Had

2014 July Bits 001

The Apostle Paul’s letters to the churches must have been a great treasure to those believers, as they continue to be to us centuries later. His letter to the Romans, written in A.D. 57, is rich instruction and encouragement in the things of God. For those who want to know God in the fullness of His glory and to faithfully follow Christ, the book of Romans is invaluable. How grateful I am that God has preserved this letter over the ages, as He has done with all His Word, for our sakes.

Paul’s letter to the Romans is worth examination, no matter what your religious (or non-religious) affiliations.  Sometimes when I read the Bible, the thought of “What if” comes to mind. What if I only had this portion of Scripture? How would it change my life? It’s dangerous for any of us to pull out bits of Scripture to order our lives without considering the whole counsel of God. Yet, in some parts of the world, the Bible is not available to everyone. There may come a day, when it might be censored where you live, if it isn’t already. It’s already precious, so to think we might not have it all, I read sometimes as if what I am reading is all I have of the instruction and character of God. Romans 8 was my focus this morning.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (verses 1-2, Romans 8) You have to look back to Romans 7 to see what the “therefore” is there for…but in case, we only hypothetically have Romans 8 in our hands, let’s focus on what remains in the passage. No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. No condemnation! What a glorious word for us who live under perceived condemnation (by self, Satan, or the world) every day. And with no condemnation comes the freedom we have in Christ. He has set us free. Amazing truth given our condition from birth apart from Him.

On a side note: Paul’s letter to the Roman believers also often refers to the perfect unity of God (in God the Father, God the Spirit, and God the Son). Watch for references to the Three-in-One – magnificent “Unity in Trinity”.

“But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (verses 10-11) No matter how deep our theological understanding is about life, we know that we wrestle daily with our flesh (body, sinful nature)…even as Christ-followers (not even…maybe more so). This struggle is with us until we leave this life. However, we are not alone in this. The Spirit of life (God), because Christ is in us, gives us life. Life here to choose to live according to God’s teaching and in His power…and life forever with Him. Let that wash over you this morning, Dear One.

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (verses 15-17) Here we see the witness of the unity of God in three persons as Paul further explains our position and inheritance in the Kingdom of God. We are adopted into His family. We are His heirs, fellow heirs with Christ! We share in the inheritance of Jesus which is His by divine right. Yet God the Father includes us…adopts us as His children. A casual read of this will not do. It is a mind-blowing gift from God!

On a side note: I’m sure the bit about suffering registered. Suffering is inevitable for all of us. It just is, and God tries to prepare us for it through His Word (including these great letter-writers). Yet, with the suffering comes glory. We share in the glory of Christ!

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (verse 28) This is such a familiar verse, often-quoted and sometimes misquoted in difficult circumstances of life. Still the truth of it resonates so well with us who follow Christ.  God works good out of all things…no matter what…for those who love Him and for His purposes. We can take great comfort in this promise…great comfort in the One who makes this promise.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be  against us?” (verse 31) Enough said. Hallelujah!

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (verses 35, 37-39) No matter how evil the times are in which we find ourselves. No matter what the course of our lives. Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing. Nada. No matter the press of confusing circumstances or the prosecutorial arguments of the world or the evil whispers of Satan himself lying in our ears…God tells us that we are more than conquerors through Him and that absolutely nothing will separate us from His love.  That is the message Paul delivered to the Roman believers in this letter. They understood and clung to this message during a horrific time in history, and, one day, we will join them, worshipping the God of these great words.

This was my word from God this early morning…still resonating all these years after it was written. My life is steadied and course set on a foundation that is not shaken…thanks to a God who preserved His word for us to the present, and for as long as this world continues…as He purposes and in His love.

Romans 8 (and the rest of God’s Word) in Many Languages

Called According to His Purpose

The Preservation of the Bible

How We Got the Bible