The power of the Gospel brings diverse peoples together in fellowship. #church
Romans 15:23-24 “But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.”
The language in these verses demonstrates how much Paul wanted to see the Roman Christians. Indeed, they had been on his mind for many years, so much so that he had been planning for a long time to find a way to come to see them. Thirty years before this when Paul was known as Saul, he wouldn’t have wanted to have anything to do with these Roman Gentiles. His prejudices against them ran deep, and the feelings were completely mutual. However, both of them had been changed, they had been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that now these Gentile and Jewish Christians and this Jewish Pharisee wanted very much to fellowship with one another and spend time together. What a beautiful picture of the Gospel. It brings people together who most likely would have never chosen to hang out together before, and now that they share the love of God and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit through Christ, they fellowship together and love one another. That’s why churches are made up of such a diverse group of people, drawn together in the common bond of fellowship by the shared love of the King. It’s not because they root for the same football team or wear the same clothing or go to the same school. The bond we seek with one another as the body of believers is because we share Christ.
Study/Meditation: Why is it so important that believers become active members in the church? How might you answer someone who claims that his beliefs are “personal” so he doesn’t need to be in church?
*Father, thank You for grafting me into Your body and thereby giving me such an amazing family. Amen.
God calls all Christians into missions. #missions
Romans 15:20, 22 “Thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation….This is why I have so often been hindered in coming to you.”
Praying for missions and contributing to missions is an appropriate prayer within the church body. However, when we pray that God send missionaries into the mission’s field, do we pray with the mindset that He may send us or maybe our children or grandchildren? Would we pray so fervently if, in fact, we knew that the possible vessel God were intending to use was us or someone we loved? Oftentimes our focus is our own comfort or the safety of our loved ones, and the thought of stepping outside of those places is frightening and avoided. However, Paul demonstrated the mindset that all Christians must cultivate when praying for the mission field and our roles in it. The end game is not our comfort or our even our safety. The end game is proclaiming God to all nations, tribes, and tongues. Certainly, God does not call everyone into foreign missions, but He does call all Christians to be missionaries. Are you willing to pray with complete abandon that He send you or someone you love wherever He desires?
Study/Meditation: How is it that all Christians are called into missions? How has God called you to this area?
*Father, send me wherever You will, and give me the courage to go. Amen.
Why are Christians to be missions-minded? #missions
Romans 15:19b-21 “…so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’”
Romans 15 is probably the most missions-minded chapter in all of God’s Word, and Paul states the reason why we should be likewise mission-minded. He writes that he has preached from Israel up through Asia Minor and Greece and into northern Italy, and having exhausted that territory, he would then move into Spain. Why? Certainly not because everyone in that area had been saved, but because they had been reached. He refers to the prophet’s words in Isaiah when he makes the proclamation of what God will do, and basically Paul is saying, “I intend to be right in the middle of God’s work.” We do not go on mission trips or support missionaries or become missionaries primarily for the sake of the church or the preaching or even the people we wish to reach. Whereas those are some of the secondary reasons, they are not the primary reason. We are to be missions-minded and missions-oriented because God has declared that He will be proclaimed throughout the world, and He will make His glory known to all peoples. Like Paul, we, as a church, must say, “We will be a part of what God has declared He will do.”
Study/Meditation: How is God calling you to be a part of His declared work to all peoples?
*Father, help me to see what part I am to play in Your work in this world. Give me wisdom and courage to carry out my particular part of this mission. Amen.
Chubby hands clutching the ropes, “Higher! Higher,” she squeals. Only clouds and sun and sweet wind kiss her face. No cares, no worries. Nurturing hands push her upward.
More securely now, small hands on the ropes, “Higher! Higher,” she screams. Bows and ribbons and grass and tops of trees; Innocence on her lips, sweetness and life. Protective hands push her onward.
Careless and dauntless she climbs now. “Higher! Higher,” she demands. The world at her fingertips and knowledge a thing to be won; independence on her lips. Still guiding hands push her forward.
Smoothly and effortlessly she soars, “Higher! Higher,” she yells. Ambiguous horizon and ambivalent sighs, the climb ever necessary, the tasks ever present. There, gentle hands push her through.
Slowly and painfully she grasps the ropes, “High enough. High enough,” she says. Darkness and relief and calming storms fill tired eyes. A hush, a whisper, a breath. Gently now, tender Hands bring her home.
Long arms and strong legs swing effortlessly, “Perfect! Perfect,” she sings. Light and Love and Joy sing with her, life dancing in her eyes, laughter behind and all around.
Redeeming Hands hold her, and love her, and push her…
Swinging Swinging Swinging.
Are miracles for today? #miracles
Romans 15:18-19a “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—… ”
Far too often in western culture we see the workings of God solely as the result of the first part of what Paul says, “by word and deed.” Truly what we do and say in Christ and for the advancement of the kingdom of God are extraordinarily important and significant. However, to limit how God chooses to manifest Himself to the nations to only those things His children do and say is to likewise limit the magnificence of His power. We fault on both sides of this issue at times, thinking either that miracles must occur for God to be exalted or thinking that the time for miracles has passed. God will display His glory, whether that be by way of signs and wonders or by way of the preaching of His Word to the nations. Far be it from us to limit Him on either end of that spectrum. As long as Christians keep God’s Word at the center of all that they do and say, it is healthy and honoring today to pray as the early church did in Acts 4:29-30, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your servant Jesus.”
Study/Meditation: Why do you think that western culture often sees and expects less miracles than less developed countries and peoples? How should truth define your prayer life?
*Father, You are a God of wonder and life. Thank You for showing Yourself to Your people in so many ways. You are awesome and mighty to save! Amen.
Christians must lay their present on the altar of their future. #eternity
Romans 15:18 “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed….”
So many things seem to matter in our lives that have no bearing on eternity. We can often lose ourselves in our struggles and day-to-day situations that while having a level of importance, are not worth one moment of worry we give them. As believers, the one and only thing to which we should strive to give our unwavering attention are those things that are accomplished through and bring glory to Christ. After all, Jesus gave us our mission while on this earth: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) All else must be an engagement into this mission. Paul vowed that he didn’t even want to speak about anything he had done in his life except those things he said or did by way of Christ Jesus. Paul was reminding us that we, as Christians, are to lay our present on the altar of our future. In other words, we live to sacrifice this life knowing that we live for eternity, and we do this in word and in deed.
Study/Meditation: What things in your life are occupying your focus that should not? How can you refocus your attention on eternity through Christ?
*Father, help me get my eyes off of the mundane issues of this life and onto my assured eternity with You. Amen.