January 2015

Focal Passage:  Romans 1:21-32

Romans 1:21a “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.”

God has certainly revealed Himself in the majesty of His creation, as Paul has already stated, and in that revelation mankind has no excuse for disbelief.  However, there are those who though the evidence is there, still choose not to believe.  What’s interesting here is the “why” of their unbelief.  Paul had earlier written in verse 18 that they are “men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”  A refusal to believe that God is God is not an intellectual one; it is a rebellious one.  That’s why there really is no such thing as an atheist or an agnostic.  This person sees God, sees His creation and His glory, but refuses to honor Him in that.  It is not an intellectual decision but one born of disobedience and an unwillingness to give God thanksgiving for what is clearly seen.  No amount of deduction or reasoning can deny Him; only a willful suppression of what is plainly shown.  In that, God’s justice will indeed be just.

Study/Meditation:  How do you see rebellion as the source of unbelief rather than intellect?  How does this truth also reveal God’s justice in judgment?

*Father, thank You for making Yourself clearly known and clearly seen in Your creation.  I lift up to You all of my unbelieving friends and family.  Soften their hearts to see You and give themselves to You unto salvation.  Amen.

Focal Passage:  Romans 1:18-20

Romans 1:19-20 “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.”

At the end of verse 18 Paul had said that God’s wrath is revealed against men “who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”  This truth he speaks of in the next verses is God, Himself.  One cannot live in this world and take part in this creation and be an atheist.  One can’t be agnostic.  Of course, many claim to be just that, but Paul says that God has made Himself plain in all that He has created and that there is no denying His glory and majesty, much less His existence.  It is not that they cannot see; Paul says it’s that that will not see.  They choose to ignore or suppress the truth.  However, those who claim to not believe in God or to believe in nothing will be “without excuse” on that great and glorious day when our Lord comes back.  He is everywhere and He is manifested clearly in His work and He will return.

Study/Meditation:  Read Psalm 19.  How does David reinforce Paul’s words here?  How do you see God everywhere?

*Father, I give You all praise and honor in this world.  Help me take part in displaying Your majesty to the men and women around me.  Amen.

Focal Passage:  Romans 1:18-20

Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

Paul had just said in the previous verse that the righteousness of God has been revealed, and now he is pointing immediately to the wrath of God being revealed?  Why does he state these two points in such quick succession?  The answer is that it is the very righteousness of God that justifies and results in His wrath on ungodliness and unrighteousness.  We live in a world that very much wants to deny the existence of “righteous wrath” or “loving wrath.”  Even many Christians today want to deny a vengeful God in favor of a loving God, but one does not exist without the other.  How could love be displayed by a God who did not hate evil and sin?  One cannot love without indignation for those things that are not loving.  In His righteousness, God’s wrath is revealed against a world that has denied Him, and this is the very thing that makes Him the magnificent loving God who will display His glory.

Study/Meditation:  How can God be loving and vengeful at the same time?  Why is this indicative of His being God?

*Father, You are a righteous and just God, and I praise Your name.  Let Your name be known throughout the lands and the ages, and let it be magnified from the mountaintops!  Amen.

Focal Passage:  Romans 1:16-17

Romans 1:17 “For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”

Paul says something astounding here.  If you and I had been writing this letter, we may have written something like, “For in the gospel is revealed the grace of God,” or “For in the gospel is revealed the love of God,” or the “mercy of God”—which is all true, by the way.  But Paul states the theme of this letter more completely by telling us that the gospel is revealed in the “righteousness of God.”  In other words, the gospel demonstrates God’s absolute and complete justice in the way He deals with us.  Because God didn’t simply sweep our sins under the rug and dismiss them but instead dealt fully with them, He brings us into union with Him in complete harmony with His righteousness.  If it had not been this way and we were aware of God’s righteousness and justice, there would have always been some doubt about the existence of our sin in light of His character.  However, it is God’s gospel and it is demonstrated in His righteousness.  We are secure.  How great is our God!

Study/Meditation:  Paul refers to the gospel as “the gospel of God” or “the gospel of Christ” in his letter to the Romans.  How does this also offer security in that it’s about what God did, not what we did that obtains salvation on our behalf?

*Father, You are holy and righteous.  Thank You for dealing with my sin in that righteousness so that I never doubt my eternity with You.  I love You.  Amen.

By Dr. Deb Waterbury

I was having lunch with a beautiful young lady the other day, and we were commiserating on our individual inabilities to remember birthdays and holidays.  She was telling me of a funny time when her mother had broken a cherished bowl.  She found a replacement at the street fair one day in late October and determined herself then that she would buy the bowl and give it to her mother for Christmas.  She forgot, decided to give it to her for Mother’s Day, forgot, and subsequently gave it to her mother for Christmas the next year.  The problem was that she had placed a note in the gift wrapped box that was dated the year before her mother actually got it!  Caught red-handed!

I do that sort of thing all of the time, as I’m sure many of you do too.  I buy things or cards and put them away with full intentions of giving them to a special someone for their birthday or a holiday, only to not just forget where I put the gift or card, but to often forget the special day altogether!  I forget dates, occasions, calls–you name it, and I’ve forgotten it.  My young friend and I laughed together as we named ourselves “Time Capsule Friends”–that is, friends who give gifts late or make calls late so that we serve as a sort of “time capsule event” for the one getting them.  We excused our lack of memory as a sort of service instead.Time capsule

Of course our conversation was all in good fun, but I came face to face with the reality of my behavior while having coffee with another dear friend shortly afterward.

Understand that I am a busy woman.  We all are!  Kids, work, the house, our spouses, our church:  Women are more often than not overworked and over-extended in most areas of their lives. Consequently, my friends and co-workers in ministry are generally very gracious with me when I don’t return calls or occasionally re-schedule or even cancel coffee dates or lunch.  Sweetly they will say, “It’s okay, Deb.  I know you’re busy.”  And I am, just as you are and they are and we all are.  However, is that always a good excuse?  Do we allow our undeniably busy lives to interfere with ministering to one another as friends and loved ones?  Is a busy life an excuse to selfishly ignore the needs of others?

As I alluded to, I had coffee shortly after my lunch with another dear friend.  We had talked for a while, and I noticed that she was stammering a little, obviously trying to figure out how to tell me what was really on her mind.  Suddenly and without warning, she began to weep right there in the coffee shop.

“I’m sorry, Deb, but I need to see you sometimes.  I need time with you, not often, but occasionally.”

I stopped short.  You see, this is not the first time I’ve heard this, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard this recently.  I get so caught up in my work for the Lord that I had begun to forget the work of the Lord.  I write and minister and speak and counsel, and often I think this is the bulk of what I should be doing.  Unfortunately, I sometimes also ignore that all of those things are absolutely nothing without relationship, without love and friendship and really ministering into one another’s lives.

Jesus, the one person in all of  eternity who truly had an excuse to maybe cancel a few coffees and lunches, never did so.  Right after teaching the Sermon on the Mount, He didn’t hesitate to heal the leper or go to the centurion’s house to heal his servant or to heal Peter’s mom or hundreds of others.  He was busy.  He was about the Lord’s work, but our Savior knew that this work was accomplished in relationship and giving time to individuals.

What excuse have you given for not meeting with a friend or a woman who needs you?  Is it your children or your grandchildren or your job or even your ministry?  Sisters, please don’t do what I’ve done and think that it’s somehow a service or even adorably quaint to be a “Time Capsule Friend.”  It isn’t. God has called us to pour into one another’s lives and live in the love exemplified for us by our Savior.

Needless to say, I’ve made a few long overdue calls lately and paid a few long overdue visits.  My work can wait. After all, it’s really meaningless if in it I am not showing the love of Jesus to the people around me.

Do you need to pick up the phone?

Focal Passage:  Romans 1:16-17

Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

This is probably one of the most well-known and often-quoted verses in the New Testament, and unfortunately that also means we sometimes skim over it without much thought.  Yet the very essence of who we are as believers is contained within these words.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is that eternal life has been made available through the working of the Holy Spirit to everyone who believes that Jesus is Lord and Savior.  It is available to all who place their trust in Him alone as God, who came as a man and died in their place, who was then resurrected and will return.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is our hope and our salvation—and we are not ashamed to proclaim it!  What a glorious truth, and we, like Paul, must live in light of this precious gift.  Sing it from the mountaintops:  Jesus Christ is Lord!  Believe on Him and be saved!

Study/Meditation:  Spend just a few minutes today, and every day, meditating on the truth of the gospel, then proclaim it, both in word and deed.

*Father, praise Your Name and the Name of Jesus Christ, the Name above all names!  Glory and honor and majesty are Yours!  Hallelujah and Amen!