Praising God in the Storm


A storm blew over my house last night.  Rain pitter-pattered against the windows.  Thunder shook the walls.  Lighting lit up the sky.  The storm induced fear in my son, who sleepily wandered into my room, whimpering.  He crawled into bed, safely snuggled between my husband and me, and went right to sleep.  The storm no longer rattled him while he was nestled between his parents.

We all experience storms in our lives.  Storms can steadily approach, or hit unexpectedly.  Storms shatter our reality, shake our confidence, induce fear, lead us to question.  How do you respond to the storms in your life?

How do we praise God in a storm?  When people die, marriages fail and diagnoses come, how do you praise God and not hate Him or get angry with Him?  These questions were submitted when my pastor invited our congregation to write down questions they would ask Jesus, after he answered the question “What would Jesus say to me?” on Easter Sunday.   Several questions were answered during a recent sermon, however, there were more questions than time.  This week, we are answering additional questions via four blogs:  Adventure Christian Church, Buddy Howard, Nick Burczyk and Heather Snider.

Psalm 77 provides insight on how to praise God in the storm.

Psalm 77 (NLT)

For Jeduthun, the choir director: A psalm of Asaph.

I cry out to God; yes, I shout.  Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help. Interlude

You don’t let me sleep.  I am too distressed even to pray! I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever?  Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever?  Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious?  Has he slammed the door on his compassion? Interlude

10 And I said, “This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.” 11 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. 12 They are constantly in my thoughts.  I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

13 O God, your ways are holy.  Is there any god as mighty as you? 14 You are the God of great wonders!  You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations. 15 By your strong arm, you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Interlude

16 When the Red Sea[a] saw you, O God, its waters looked and trembled!  The sea quaked to its very depths. 17 The clouds poured down rain; the thunder rumbled in the sky.  Your arrows of lightning flashed. 18 Your thunder roared from the whirlwind; the lightning lit up the world!  The earth trembled and shook. 19 Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters— a pathway no one knew was there! 20 You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep, with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.

Asaph, the author of Psalm 77, cries out to God.  He questions God… he wrestles with God.  Did you notice how he honestly presents his thoughts, feelings and emotions to God?  Verses 1-10 document his reaction to the storm.  But starting in verse 11, the tone changes.  Verse 11 ignites a thought transformation as Asaph writes:  But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.  They are constantly in my thoughts.  I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works (Psalm 77:11-12).  And Aspah lists God’s mighty works from the past:  His awesome power among the nations (v. 14), redeeming His people with His strong arm (v. 15), and God parting the Red Sea (vs. 16-20).

Asaph praises God in the midst of his storm.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 encourages us to praise God in the storm too:  be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  Notice the verse says be thankful IN all circumstances, not FOR all circumstances.  Big difference.  Romans 1:21 helps us understand why it’s important to give thanks in all circumstances:  Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.  When we don’t worship God as God or give Him thanks, our minds become dark and confused and we start to come up with foolish ideas of what God is like.  Oh, how we need to cling to God’s Word in the midst of our storms so we can remember Who He really is!

So, how can you be thankful IN all circumstances… how can you praise God in the storm… so your mind doesn’t become dark and confused?  Follow Asaph’s example.  Honestly share your feelings and emotions with God.  And then, recall all He has done in the past.  Reflect on God’s unfailing love and faithfulness in your previous circumstances.  Praise Him for His faithfulness in the past, and trust Him to be faithful in the present and future.  Ask God to show you how He is providing for you in your storm.  Read Psalm 139 and meditate on how you are never out of God’s sight.

Another way to praise God in the midst of storms is to establish a daily habit of giving thanks.  Write down three to five things you are thankful for each day, and watch how you start to recognize the little blessings that fill your day.  And when the storm hits, you can recall all God has done by reading through your thankful list.  Check out Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare or The Thankfulness Experiment for more information on the daily practice of giving thanks.

Storms will come… Jesus said so Himself in John 16:33:  I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.  When storms hit us, we get to choose… to trust God or doubt God.  Oh, that we would choose trust because Romans 15:13 shows us the amazing benefits of trusting God… joy and peace:  I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Need a few songs to help you praise God in the storm?  I AM by David Crowder reminds us that God is holding onto us in the middle of the storm. Praise You in This Storm by Casting Crowns encourages us to listen for God’s still, small voice in the midst of our storms.  No matter what storm we’re facing, we can cling to Psalm 34:18 : The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Will you run into the presence of your Heavenly Father when a storm rises up?  Will you find shelter under the shadow of God’s wings, much like my son found shelter between his mommy and daddy, while the storm is raging?  Will you cry out like David did in Psalm 57:1: Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I look to you for protection. I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by?  God is waiting for you to come

 © 2014






Worth Dying For

you were worth dying for

You were worth dying for… Love Jesus.  This image came through my Facebook News Feed on Good Friday, and it brought me such joy!  I know what a mess I can be… I know what a sinner I am… and yet, in the midst of all my messes and sins, Jesus values me!  And not only does He value me, He thinks I’m worth dying for.  And Jesus thinks you’re worth dying for too.

I wonder what thoughts swirl through your head after reading “You were worth dying for”? Maybe you don’t FEEL like you are worth dying for.  Maybe you doubt that anyone could love you that much because you’ve never experienced that kind of love before.  Maybe you think that if Jesus REALLY knew you, He would NEVER die for you.  Or maybe, you think others are worth dying for, just not you.

There’s no better place to go than the Bible to see if your thoughts and feelings align with God’s Truth.  Let’s take a peek at Jesus in action as He encounters an adulterous woman.  Watch how Jesus responds to the woman and her accusers.  As you read, think about whether Jesus thought the adulterous woman was worth dying for.

John 8:1-11 (NLT)

A Woman Caught in Adultery

8 Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Leviticus 20:10 (NLT) states “If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man and the woman who have committed adultery must be put to death.”  And yet Jesus offered this woman grace.  Instead of condemning her, He told her to go and sin no more.  Can you imagine what this woman felt as she walked away from Jesus?  She thought she was going to die… yet she received new life.

Jesus loved the adulterous woman.  He showed her compassion, grace, and mercy.  She sinned.  She was caught red-handed, yet Jesus treated her as valuable.  Jesus would die on the cross for her sin… and even though her sin would nail Him to the cross, He loved her… forgave her… and encouraged her to let this encounter with Him change the path of her life forever.

Jesus loves you like this.  Jesus loves me like this.  But do we even grasp it?  Do we even begin to understand the magnitude of Jesus’ love for us?  Isaiah 53:3-11 shows just how much Jesus loves us.

Isaiah 53:3-11 (NLT)

He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.  He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows[a] that weighed him down.  And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.  He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.  We have left God’s paths to follow our own.  Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.  And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away.[b] No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream.[c] But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone.  But he was buried like a criminal;  he was put in a rich man’s grave.

10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied.  And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.

Do you see how much Jesus loves you?  Read through this passage again and personalize it by plugging in your name for “we,” “our,” “people” and “their.”

Jesus loved you so much that He was beaten, crushed, rejected, pierced, mocked, abandoned… for “that” sin in your life.  The sin that brings you shame… Jesus died for “that” sin.  The hidden sin that you don’t want anyone else to know about… He died for “that” sin too.  Jesus died for ALL sins.  And Jesus invites you to approach the throne of grace with confidence to receive mercy and find grace.  And you know why we can approach the throne of grace with confidence?  Because if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1b-2).  Can you get your mind around this great news?  Jesus not only died for our sins, but He also advocates for us when we sin!  And 1 John 1:9 gives us more confidence:  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Are you willing to approach the throne of grace with confidence today?  Let Jesus’ extravagant love pierce through the walls of your heart.  Let His love remove any masks that you wear.  Unwrap His free gift of grace that is available because of His death.  (Learn more about the free gift of grace here.)  And choose to believe that you… yes, you… were worth dying for.  Oh, how He loves us!

© 2014

Invitation 101

come follow me 2

My son recently celebrated his birthday with an Olympic-themed party and he couldn’t wait to hand out his invitations.  Some invitations were mailed and others were hand delivered to his friends at school.  He was delighted to share the good news of his party with others.  We weren’t surprised that some friends said no to his invitation.  Those that attended had fun playing Olympic themed games and eating his Krispy Kreme Olympic Ring cake.

Have you ever considered how we get excited about inviting people to parties, or over for dinner, or to hang out with us, but we get intimidated about inviting people to church?  Can you imagine inviting someone to church with the same enthusiasm my son had when inviting people to his birthday party?  The Bible provides us with some Invitation 101 tips that can help turn our invitation intimidation into enthusiasm.  And Jesus Himself provides the example we can follow.

In Matthew 4:18-20 (NLT), we witness Jesus inviting Simon and Andrew to become His disciples:
18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him.
How did Jesus invite these two men to be his disciples?  Three simple words:  Come, follow me.  And how did Simon Peter and Andrew respond?  They left their nets at once and followed Jesus.

We see Jesus using this same, simple approach with Philip in John 1:43-44 (NLT).
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” 44 Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown.

Any guesses about what happens next?  You might be surprised… Philip extends an invitation to Nathaniel.

45 Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied. John 1:45-46

How did Philip invite Nathanael to meet Jesus?  Five simple words… Come and see for yourself.  And Nathanael came.  He was skeptical.  He didn’t believe anything good could come out of Nazareth.  But that didn’t stop Nathanael from checking out this Jesus for himself. (Check out the rest of the story here.)

Did you know that Jesus didn’t have a 100% success rate with his personal invitations? Yep, not everyone Jesus invited to follow Him said yes.  The story of the Rich Young Ruler is told in three of the four Gospels (MatthewMark, and Luke).  Jesus invited this young man to come and follow Him after he sold his possessions and gave the profits to the poor.  (Jesus used the same, simple approach:  Come, follow me).  How did the young man respond to Jesus’ invitation?  At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. (Mark 10:22)  Notice that Jesus was willing to invite, regardless of the response.

Jesus invited.  Philip invited.  The invitations were simple:  Come…  The invitations were presented without pressure… without a list of reasons why the invitation should be accepted…  without expectation of a specific answer.  Each person received a simple invitation… that’s all.  Isn’t it amazing how simple inviting someone to church can be?

So… how can you apply Jesus’ Invitation 101 approach with your family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances… even strangers… in the weeks leading up to Easter?  Use the same simple invitation approach that Jesus and Philip used:  Come to our Good Friday Service.  Come to one of our Easter services.  Come and see for yourself what Jesus did for you.

Are you willing to give Invitation 101 a try?  Think of two people you can invite to Easter.  Pray and ask God to give you the courage to invite them.  And then do some inviting!

Let’s get excited about inviting others to experience the Good News of Easter.  Let’s adopt the enthusiasm my son had when inviting friends and family to his birthday party.  Because once we’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good, how can we not invite others to come and see for themselves?

© 2014

Read through Romans – Day 28

romans 16 19

All good things must come to an end, as the saying goes.  You experience this all the time, right?  You reach the end of your favorite book… maybe with a smile or maybe through tears.  The best (or worst, for that matter) vacation ends and brings you back to the reality of your day to day life.  Today, the 28 day Romans reading plan comes to an end.  I have to confess that I shed some tears before typing this.  It’s bittersweet.  I’ve so enjoyed going on this journey with you.  Thank you for pressing in to knowing God with me.  I hope you KNOW God, rather than just knowing ABOUT God, as a result of spending time in God’s Word each day.  I wonder… did your relationship with God change as you studied His Word?  Maybe God moved from a stranger to an acquaintance… or from acquaintance to friend… or friend to best friend… or best friend to husband…  Wherever you are in your relationship with God, know that He delights in you meeting with Him.  And the more you spend time with Him, the deeper your relationship grows.

While this 28 day reading plan is ending, it’s not predictable like other endings.  Why?  Because God’s Word is living and active.  When you read through Romans in the future, God will meet you again and reveal Himself to you again… maybe even in a completely new way.  He might confirm a truth that you need to hear… or He could gently convict you of sin in your life… or maybe He will remind you to choose hope in the midst of a discouraging situation.  Don’t let this be the last time you read Romans.  Martin Luther wisely advises us to read Romans often:

This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.

Just like we are wrapping up our 28 day journey through Romans, Paul is wrapping up this letter.  And while he includes lots of greetings, he still finds room for some final instructions that we don’t want to miss.  Read Romans 16.

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • Read Romans 16:17-20.
    • What is Paul warning against?  (Romans 16:17-18)
    • Read Romans 16:19.
      • How can you stay wise in doing right and stay innocent of any wrong?
      • How would living this verse out impact your ability to share the Good News with others?
    • Read Romans 16:20.
      • What is your reaction to this verse?
      • How does it make you feel to know that Satan will be crushed?
      • Let this picture encourage you today.

                       scripture shoes

  • Read Romans 16:25-27.
  • What is the purpose of sharing the Good News (“this message”)?  (Romans 16:26)  Who can you share the Good News with this week?  It could be a simple invitation to church or an outreach event.  Or you could share what God is teaching you as you read His Word.  And if this makes you nervous, be encouraged by Joshua 1:9:  Be strong and be brave.  Do not be terrified and do not lose hope for I am the Lord your God and I will be with you everywhere you go.
  • What character trait of God is highlighted in Romans 16:27?

As we wrap up Romans, take some time to reflect on what you learned over the past 28 days.

  • What are three things you learned by studying Romans?
  • What is your favorite verse/passage of Scripture from Romans?
  • Do you know God better today than you did on Day 1?  Explain.
  • How did you encounter God in an intimate and personal way as you read through Romans?
  • How did God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think?

Keep seeking your Father God.  Jeremiah 29:13 says: You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Seek You by Adie encourages us seek God daily because He is where our treasure lies.  Don’t let Romans be the end of your seeking God journey… let it be the beginning.  Let’s make Hosea 6:3 our goal as Romans comes to a close.

Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.

Press into knowing the Lord… moment by moment… day by day… week by week.  God longs for you to know Him.  And He promises to meet you in Jeremiah 21:13:  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Are you willing?

© 2014

Read through Romans – Day 27

snow heart

It. Snowed. Again.  And my hope of seeing the sun today was almost non-existent given the gray, cloud covered sky.  I longed for a glimpse of the sun to brighten my spirits this morning.  And I vaguely remember Ephesians 3:20 rustling through my brain.  It went something like this… Remember, Heather, that God can do immeasurably more.  And while I knew sunshine was possible, I wasn’t confident it would appear.

And then, God did immeasurably more.  After lunch, I looked out the window and discovered that the sky transformed from gray to blue with fluffy clouds… and the sun was shining brightly!  I soaked in the sun while playing cards with my boys on this snow day.  I thanked God for the sunshine.  And I’m praising Him right now for the reminder to choose hope… to trust Him… to wait patiently for Him… for He truly is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.

Maybe your life feels like a gray, snowy day with little hope of sunshine breaking through it all.  Today’s Romans reading reminds us to not just have a little hope, but to have confident hope.  Read Romans 15.

Here are some questions for you to consider:

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope. AMP 

May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope. PHILLIPS 

Our hope comes from God. May He fill you with joy and peace because of your trust in Him. May your hope grow stronger by the power of the Holy Spirit. NLV 

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. NLT

  • Which is your favorite translation?  Why?
  • According to Romans 15:13…
    • Who is the source of hope?
    • What happens when we trust in God?
    • How do we overflow with hope?
    • Are you hopeful or hopeless right now?  Explain the reason for your hope or hopelessness.
    • If you’re feeling hopeless, take a moment and pray this verse back to God, asking Him to fill you completely with joy and peace as you trust in Him so you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Read Romans 15:14-19.
    • What does Paul encourage us to do with what we’re learning?  (Romans 15:14)  How can you apply this?
    • When we are teaching others, what do we need to guard against?  (Romans 15:18)
    • How do we guard against boasting? (Romans 15:18-19)
  • Read Romans 15:20-33.
    • Review Romans 15:25-27.
      • Why did the believers take up an offering? (Romans 15:27)
      • We have received spiritual blessings too.  How can you give back to God?  It could be through serving, encouraging, giving financially, or another way that the Holy Spirit brings to mind.  Commit to giving back to the Lord in some way this week.  And then give cheerfully as the believers did in Romans.

If you’re struggling with hope, let your Father God know.  Be open and honest with Him.  Know that He loves you and wants you to experience the joy and peace that comes from trusting Him.  Maybe you don’t feel like you can be yourself with God.  If that’s the case, let I Can Just Be Me by Laura Story inspire you to be yourself and let God be God.  You are His treasured possession, holy and dearly loved.  Let these truths settle in your heart today.

1 NLT Study Bible.  (2004).  Elpis (1680) hope (p. 2223).  Carol Stream, IL:  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

© 2014

Read through Romans – Day 26

trip male

How do you react when someone stumbles?  Do you laugh, or run over to help, or turn your head?  One of my most embarrassing moments involved a public stumble.  Envision a room full of people…  a serious climate… and me bringing some props on stage.  In an effort to lighten the mood, I got the brilliant idea to dance off the stage.  Except dancing off the stage in flip flops was not the best decision.  As I turned my body towards the stairs, my feet got tangled and I stumbled off the stage in a not-so-graceful kinda way.  It’s true, the mood lightened.  And thankfully my feet untangled before I fell on my face.

I caused myself stumble in this scenario.  Consider how someone can cause you to stumble… or how you can cause someone to stumble.  Today’s Romans reading encourages us to guard our actions so we don’t cause others to stumble.  Read Romans 14:13-23.

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • Read Romans 14:13.
    • Read these verses:  1 Corinthians 8:9 and 1 John 2:10.  How do these verses reinforce the message of Romans 14:13?
    • Explain what these verses encourage us to do.  (Review Romans 14:14-16 and Romans 14:20-21 for more insight.)
    • Why do you think this is important?
    • What motivates us to not cause someone to stumble?  (Find the answer here and here.)
    • What might you do differently in order to not cause another believer to stumble?
  • Read Romans 14:14-19.
    • How should we live according to Romans 14:17?
    • Who enables us to live this way?  (Hint “… in the __________ __________.)
    • Galatians 5:16-26 describes living in the Holy Spirit.  When reading these verses, look for connections with Romans 8:1-13.
      • What kind of fruit is produced by the Holy Spirit? (Galatians 5:22-23)
      • What three fruit are mentioned in Romans 14:17?
      • What fruit is the Holy Spirit producing in your life?  What fruit do you need to ask the Holy Spirit to produce?  Take a moment to pray.  Thank God for the fruit that the Holy Spirit is producing in your life and invite God to produce fruit that you need.
      • How would living in the Holy Spirit help us have harmony in the church?
    • Read Romans 14:20-23.
      • What is your biggest take-away from these verses?
      • Read Romans 14:23.  What is your reaction to this verse?
      • The NLT Study Bible notes this:  God’s word defines sin for us, yet sin also involves violating our conscience1.  What do you learn about the conscience from these verses?  1 Samuel 24:4-6, 2 Samuel 24:10, Titus 1:15-16, Hebrews 9:14, Hebrews 10:21-23.
      • Is God convicting you because you’re doing something that you believe is not right?  Read Psalm 32.  Now take some time to confess your sins to God and receive the joy that comes from forgiveness.

You’re forgiven!  The mercy and grace we receive from our loving Heavenly Father is beyond words.  Maybe you need some reminders about forgiveness.  Listen to Forgiven by Sanctus Real and remember that you don’t have to carry the weight of who you’ve been ‘cause you’re forgiven.  Rest in that truth today!

1 NLT Study Bible.  (2004).  Romans 14:23 Note (p. 1918).  Carol Stream, IL:  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

© 2014

Read Through Romans – Day 25

being judged

Do you like to be judged?  Judgment takes on many forms.  We can invite judgment by entering a competition.  Contestants on American Idol and The Voice pursue judgment on their musical talents by voluntarily attending auditions.  Some like what they hear, but many leave devastated.  We are judged on our performance through annual evaluations at work.  People judge us based on first impressions… you’ve heard the saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”  Lots of pressure can ride on a single interaction!   And if we’re honest with ourselves, we make judgments all day long.  We judge motives behind actions, we judge a book by its cover, we judge how great a meal will be based on a picture and a two sentence description on a menu, we judge…. you fill in the blank.

Today’s Romans reading might make you think twice before judging.  Read Romans 14:1-12.

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • How would you summarize Romans 14:1-12.
  • Read Romans 14:1-4.
  • Read Romans 14:5-9.
    • How does Romans 14:6 show the heart behind the action?
    • The NLT Study Bible provides some great insight into Romans 14:7:  As the Lord’s servants (14:4), Christians are to look to God for guidance and seek to honor Him in all things (14:8).  Because we are ultimately accountable to Him, our desire should always be to please Him, not to live for ourselves1Is your desire to please God or yourself or maybe a little of both? 
    • What changes do you need to make in order to please God rather than yourself?  Take a moment and ask God to search you and know your heart.  Let God test you and know your anxious thoughts.  Invite God to point out anything in you that offends Him and ask Him to lead you along the path of everlasting life.  (Psalm 139:23-34)     
    • What does it mean to honor the Lord? Review Colossians 1:9-10, Psalm 22:23, Psalm 29:1-2, Proverbs 3:9, Proverbs 22:4, Isaiah 29:13, and Jeremiah 3:17.
  • Read Romans 14:10-12.
    • Evaluate yourself against Romans 14:10.  Do you condemn others?  Or look down on other believers?  Explain your answer.
      • Read Matthew 7:1-5.  What did you learn about judging others from these verses?
    • Who is the ultimate judge according to Romans 14:11-12?
    • How does Galatians 6:4-5 keep us focused on ourselves rather than others?

I’m incredibly thankful that our Ultimate Judge is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.  I’m so grateful that I can approach the throne of grace with confidence to receive mercy and find grace to help me in my time of need… and you can too!  This means we can ask God to forgive us when we judge someone else.  And I love that our Father God is earnestly waiting… and not just waiting, but expecting, looking and longing… to be gracious to us and to demonstrate this, He lifts Himself up to he can have mercy on us and show loving kindness to us.  How. Loved. We. Are!  

Maybe you need to approach the throne of grace right now… go for it!  Chris and Conrand encourage you to Let It Out at the cross where Jesus died.  He’s waiting with mercy and grace.  Take off your mask.  Find peace at last ‘cause He loves you more than you could ever know.

1 NLT Study Bible.  (2004).  Romans 14:7 Note (p. 1917).  Carol Stream, IL:  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Read Through Romans – Day 24


follow the leader

Remember playing Follow the Leader as a child?  The game works something like this:  The first person in line leads and everyone else is supposed to follow.  If the leader jumps, everyone else jumps.  If the leader twirls around, so does everyone else.  If the leader crawls like a snake, the followers should obey too… whether they want to or not.  The game breaks down when kids stop following the leader.  The leader loses control when the followers no longer imitate their actions.  And chaos results.  Either the game ends or a new leader steps up and attempts to lead the kids in a new series of silliness.

Have you ever experienced Follow the Leader chaos as an adult?  Are you curious about the Bible’s perspective on following earthly leaders?  Read Romans 13 to learn more.

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • Read Romans 13:1-7.
    • Summarize what these verses instruct us to do.
    • How should we respond to those in authority? (Romans 13:1)
    • Where does authority come from?  (Romans 13:1)
    • How are authorities described in Romans 13:4?
    • Read Hebrews 13:17.  What do you learn about spiritual leaders and our response to spiritual leaders?
    • How can these verses guide your attitude towards leadership?  (Check out Titus 3:1-2 for more insight.)
  • Read Romans 13:8-10.
    • What is our obligation according to Romans 13:8?
    • Why is loving our neighbor as ourselves so important? Review John 13:34-35 (Jesus is speaking in these verses) and Galatians 5:13-14.
    • Think about one way you can love your neighbor as yourself this week… and do it.
  • Read Romans 13:11-14.
    • Day and night/dark and light are contrasted in these verses.
      • What behaviors are associated with the night/dark? (Romans 13:12-14)
      • How do we demonstrate that we belong to the day/light? (Romans 13:12 & 14)
    • Romans 13:14 tells us to clothe ourselves with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.  What would this outfit look like?  (Check out these verses for more insight:  Colossians 3:12, Colossians 3:14-15, and 1 Peter 3:3-4)
      • Compared to the verses above, what kind of outfit are you wearing:  dark deeds like dirty clothes or the presence of Jesus Christ?
      • Ask God to add at least one piece of clothing from these verses (Colossians 3:12, Colossians 3:14-15, and 1 Peter 3:3-4) to your wardrobe this week.  Pray about this each day.

Wearing the wardrobe of Jesus takes time and I’m so thankful we have the Holy Spirit to help us put on the new clothes!  Galatians 5:24-25 gives us some encouragement in our wardrobe makeover:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

Newworldson’s song Learning to Be the Light inspires us to keep putting on our new, shining clothes.  Shine brightly today because those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

Read Through Romans – Day 23

Romans12_10 pink

Jason Gray is one of my favorite Christian artists.  His music is vulnerable and heartfelt.  God has encouraged me through many of his songs.  In fact, his “a way to see in the dark” CD is my surrender soundtrack.  Jason Gray is releasing a new CD in March (and yes, I did pre-buy it!).  Take a moment to listen to the title soundtrack, With Every Act of Love because it ties in perfectly with today’s Romans reading.  This blog post gives even more insight into the heart behind the music and can help prepare your heart and mind for what we’re studying.

Read Romans 12:9-21.

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • What is the theme of these verses?
  • Read John 13:34-35.  What is the new commandment Jesus gives to his disciples?
  • Verse 9 encourages us to really love others, rather than just pretending to love others.  According to Romans 12:9-21, how can we really love others?  Make a list of all the ways we can show love from this section in Romans.
    • Now choose 1-2 ways to love others from your list and put them into action this week.
    • How do these verses inspire you to love others more intentionally?
  • Read Romans 12:12.

___ ___          ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___           (Read this for a hint.)

Isn’t it incredible to think that our acts of love can point others to Jesus?  Let’s intentionally show love this week… to those we know and even to those we don’t know.  Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 1 John 3:18 NLT


Read Through Romans – Day 22

take thoughts captive

What kind of thoughts swirl around in your head?  Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?  You are a failure.  You have no friends.  No one cares about you.  You are all alone.

Who do you think is behind these thoughts… God or Satan?  I’m all too familiar with battling the lies that Satan whispers.  The lies he whispered to me, starting at an early age, were “You’re not beautiful.”  And these lies haunted me for a huge portion of my life.

God didn’t want me to believe these lies and after much pursuing, He finally got my attention by reminding me to take my thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).  And that’s what I decided to do.  First, I went on a Biblical scavenger hunt to find the true meaning of beauty from God’s perspective.   Then, I typed up the verses and recited them to myself in the mirror, out loud, two times a day.  This daily practice transformed me.  My thoughts were taken captive as I wrote God’s truth on my heart. I began to see myself as God sees me. And God’s word set me free.  (You can learn more about my beauty war here.)

Today’s Romans reading encourages us to be transformed by changing the way we think.  Read Romans 12:1-8.

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • Read Romans 12:1.
    • What do you think it means to give our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice? (Romans 12:1)
    • Why should we give our bodies to God? (Romans 12:1)
    • Based on what we’ve studied in Romans 1-11, what has God done for us?  (Consider Romans 8.)
  • Read Romans 12:2.
    • What are we told NOT to do?
    • Who transforms us into a new person?
    • How are we transformed?
    • Why would changing your thoughts lead to transformation?
    • Read Romans 8:5-6.  What do you learn about your thoughts from these verses?
    • 2 Corinthians 10:5 says:  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  One way to take our thoughts captive is to evaluate them against Philippians 4:8.  How can you take your thoughts captive by using the guidelines from Philippians 4:8?
  • Read Romans 12:3-5.
    • Romans 12:3-5 introduce the concept that believers are the body of Christ.  1 Corinthians 12:12-27 explains this in more detail.  What did you learn about the body of Christ?
    • Based on these verses in Romans and 1 Corinthians, why do you think Paul warned us to not think we are better than we really are?
    • What do these verses tell you about your importance to the body of Christ?
  • Read Romans 12:6-8.
    • How would you summarize these verses in one sentence?
    • What gifts are described in these verses?
    • Do you know what your spiritual gift(s) are?  Ephesians Four Ministries offers a free spiritual gift inventory.  After completing the online questionnaire (which is 108 questions and takes about 10-15 minutes), you receive a report with detailed information on your dominant spiritual gifts.  You can then learn how to use your spiritual gifts here.
    • How can you use your spiritual gifts to serve the body of Christ?

How you think is important.  Using your spiritual gifts to serve others is important.  And you are important.  As a matter of fact, this is how you are described:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into His wonderful light.  1 Peter 2:9

Be confident because you are fearfully and wonderfully made by your Father God.  Let Beautiful by MercyMe remind you of your value today.