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.