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God is God alone, and He is infinitely wise. Herein lies our trust. #trustinGod

 

Romans 16:27 “To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

 

As we draw our study of this magnificent letter to a close, how appropriate that we do so with Paul in exclamation of God’s singular existence, His supreme wisdom, and His ultimate glory for eternity. When Paul calls God “the only wise God,” he is not saying that God is the only god who is wise. He has already proclaimed in numerous places that God is God alone. In 1 Timothy 1:17 he wrote, “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 4:6, 1 Timothy 2:5) What Paul is saying is more like, “To God alone who is wise be glory forevermore.” What’s more immediate for us today is knowing why we trust that God will deliver the great biblical promises like Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28. We do so when we believe and know that He is wise. The definition of wisdom is “knowledge of what is true and right coupled with just judgment as to action.” (dictionary.com) We know that everything, including all knowledge, is from God, through God, and to God. (Romans 11:36) He is infinite in knowledge, knowing the end from the beginning, every twist and turn of every life, and He is infinitely wise, which means He justly applies His unlimited knowledge to His decisions and actions. We find strength and peace and joy and security in our God because we are assured by His very nature that He can, He does, and He will do all things that are best for His children. There is nothing that He does not know, and there is nothing that He will not do for our good to His glory. That is why we trust Him, and that is why we give Him all praise. Amen.

 

Study/Meditation: Read and meditate on the greatness of Paul’s praise to God in Romans 11:33-36. What comfort does this give you today and every day?

 

*Father, You are everything. I love and adore You. I praise Your name in all creation, and I give You all of me. Amen.

 

 

 

 

How do we gain strength from a desire to obey God? #obedience

 

Romans 16:26b, c “(Now to him who is able to strengthen you) according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith…”

 

Remembering that the point of these last few verses of Paul’s letter to the Romans is to give praise to the glory of God—a doxology, it is wise in these praises for us to continue to ask how God is strengthening us. How do we obtain strength today through God’s command in the Gospel that brings about our obedience? In order to answer that, we must look back to the avenue by which we received justification and salvation. Paul wrote in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Faith, then, through the work of the Holy Spirit, is what brings justification. This is great news, but what evidence do we have that this is true? How do we ultimately gain strength from this otherwise abstract verdict if we see nothing that substantiates its validity in our lives? The answer is what results when this miraculous work is done on our behalf—the obedience of faith. Justification comes “by” faith, but obedience is the result “of” faith. In other words, when we are declared righteous and therefore justified because of our faith in the work and lordship of Christ, our hearts are changed toward a desire for obedience. Obedience is the manifested fruit of the miracle of justification. God changed our hearts so that our desires were for Him, therefore demonstrating that His miraculous work is true. This evidence that we see in our own hearts gives us strength to face the trials of this life, thus once again proving God’s faithfulness to His Word.

 

Study/Meditation: Read James 2:14-26. How does James further expound on how obedience is the fruit of justification?

 

*Father, thank You for changing my heart when You justified me. Help me to always see how I can serve You and bring glory to Your name. Amen.

 

What is it about the Gospel that strengthens believers? #Jesus

 

Romans 16:25a, b “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ,…”

 

It is altogether lovely that our King chooses to display His glory by strengthening us, but how is it that we are strengthened by the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? It is emphatically important that we remember exactly what is contained within the Gospel past the rudimentary facts of it. It is in this kind of remembrance that we are strengthened to live in the now as we wait on the forever, because that is the root of it—we have a forever. Jesus Christ, the King of kings, came to this earth clothed in the flesh of mankind, lived a perfect life, was crucified, buried and then was resurrected, at which point He ascended to His rightful place in heaven where He rules and reigns until He returns for what? There it is—until He returns to take us home to forever with Him. For those of us who are “in Christ”—that is those who have accepted Him as their Savior and submitted to His Lordship over their lives—for us “there is therefore now no condemnation.” (Romans 8:1) Jesus took on the punishment that is rightfully ours so that we might be strengthened in the knowledge of the forever He provided. God has graciously given us strength that is rooted in His glory by way of His Son so that no matter what we face in this life, we declare this very truth: “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.” (Romans 8:38-39)

 

Study/Meditation: Read Romans 8 in its entirety. How are you strengthened by these words?

 

*Father, thank You for providing for me an eternity in Your presence. Help me remember to live in the strength this knowledge provides. Amen.

 

 

 

God strengthens His children through His glory. #gloryofGod

 

Romans 16:25a, 27b “Now to him who is able to strengthen you…be glory forevermore.”

 

Paul ends this most amazing letter with a doxology. Some manuscripts insert verse 24 first which says, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” That verse is a benediction. A benediction is a pronouncement of blessing from God onto His people. Verses 25-27 are a doxology—a pronouncement of praise from God’s people onto God. It is a magnificent testimony of how we must view all of our lives and our praise in terms of recognizing and proclaiming God’s glory. Paul correctly knows that this is precisely how he must end his letter to the Romans. However, it is worth noting that the manner in which the apostle chooses to begin this doxology is to state God’s intent, which is to have His glory magnified so that His children will be strengthened. How awesome to worship a King whose intent is to strengthen us through His glory. Earthly kings often seek to keep their power by weakening their subjects, but not our King. When we give God the praise and honor due Him according to His glory, in His love He strengthens us, giving us the will and the wisdom to live in a world that would tell us to seek strength in ourselves. Living in God’s glory brings a strength that does not fade when times get tough or our efforts fail. No, God loves us too much to offer us ourselves. He gives us Himself, and it is His glory that sustains us.

 

Study/Meditation: How do you think that living in the knowledge and praise of God’s glory strengthens you in your daily walk while living on this earth?

 

*Father, You are glorious and majestic and mighty to be praised! Amen.

 

headshotBy Ricki Allen

William Shakespeare was arguably one of the best writers in the English language. Some people just have a way with words, and Shakespeare was certainly one of them.  From plays to poetry, I think it’s safe to say that Willie had a gift. Not only a wordsmith, he hailed from London, making it entirely plausible that he had a fabulous accent, putting him at the top of my list of people I would love to have read me bedtime stories. Well – except for the fact that he died over 399 years ago, so were he actually to read to me, I would likely have a panic attack of epic proportions and not the sweet sleep I had envisioned – but I digress…

Shakespeare is credited for the popular phrase The Eyes are the Window to the Soul and there are some scientific types who would tend to agree. Years ago, as I struggled through a biology course in college, I read a number of studies indicating that eye color directly affected things like pain tolerance. I specifically recall the idea that women with blue eyes were thought to have less pain in childbirth. That idea is surely bunk, as I am the blue-eyed mother of three boys and am here to tell you that bringing those fellas into this world was no picnic! The smarty-pants in lab coats have also had some thought-provoking theories about iris patterns being a sign of one’s tendency towards things like impulsivity, extending trust, or having a warm personality. Sure, my baby blues might be able tell you a bit about me; but if I were a betting gal (thankfully I’m not, as math is not my strong suit, making my poker playing abilities dismal at best) the average joe is less likely to ponder how intense my migraines are due to my pale eyes and more apt to notice my penchant for shades of grey…in the form of eye shadow of course. Due to the fact that I have some groovy artwork framed on my wall in lieu of a medical diploma, all I’ve got to go on is my personal experience. As luck would have it, I happen to be an expert in the field of my life. So here’s how I see it: the hair is actually the window to the soul – or at least it is into mine.

God has given us all amazing minds, so use your imagination and follow me back a couple of decades. Let’s go back to the 80’s – oh c’mon you younger gals may not have been fortunate enough to live in those amazing fashion years when hairspray was king, but thanks to modern technology you can take a quick sec and google it. There was some teased up-permed up-straight up nonsense going on back then for sure! I have to admit, though I was a late bloomer (epically late – like 40), I did jump on board the big haired wagon. As a teenager, I had the biggest, baddest mane on the block. It was long, thick, and at times held the distinct scent of a fresh perm. That is, until I came to the realization my appearance may be the cause of some pretty serious abuse I was enduring.

As many who find themselves the victim of sexual abuse, I felt lost and alone. What was going on was clearly my fault – I had to fix it. In my young mind, I reasoned that if I could make myself as unattractive as possible, then the madness would stop. The visits to my room in the middle of the night would cease. Maybe I could go unnoticed; become invisible. With my plan was securely in place, I was off to the salon. No more long locks for me – I went as short as I could go without involving a razor. As I sat in that chair, attempting to eliminate what I thought to be the catalyst of the abuse, my eyes wouldn’t have told you of the horrors plaguing my soul. However, the signs were evident in every flash of the scissors, each sweep of the comb. My freshly shorn hair was certain to be my protection, except it wasn’t.

As a grown woman, I wish I could’ve bequeathed a bit of advice to that young girl. For starters, lay off the hairspray, sister! It turns out Aqua Net wasn’t all that great for the environment. Living in the desert, the idea of global warming (fictional or otherwise) is kind of a drag. More importantly, it wasn’t your fault. There was nothing you could have done to prevent the predator from choosing you as his prey and you were NOT weak. Living through that horrendous season makes you one of the strongest people I know. Much more importantly, though you may have felt isolated and alone, nothing could have been further from the truth. The truth is you were never alone – not then, not now, not ever.

As women, our feelings can be tricky – so misleading. Many of us feel things very deeply, which can be a good thing; God created us in such a way. However, I don’t believe He intended us to be led solely by those feelings or even the environment we find ourselves in. When we feel alone and isolated, that is when we need to pause and see what the Word has to say (even if we don’t feel like it).Deuteronomy 31:6 is crystal clear when it says, “…for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” So we aren’t alone? What great news! It gets better when we look at one of my favorite verses Jeremiah 29:11 , “’For I know that plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’” Now there is some fantastical news: no matter what the current situation or how we feel about it, our God has a plan. Guess what? It’s not plan B, C, or some thrown together fly-by-the-seat plan. The Creator of the universe – the one who flung the stars into the sky and paints the most beautiful Arizona sunsets – is on the road of life with you and is leading you to a good place, a place of hope.

There is a saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and I must say that I strongly disagree. As we allow God to work in our hearts and minds, often times the result is a softening. The one who has felt the sting of verbal abuse is more apt to tame the tongue. The one whose heart has been shattered is the one who shows kindness to those in the midst of heartbreak.  As we allow God to work through our past, He has an amazing way of placing us in a position to speak peace, courage, and life to those who need it most.

Every now and again, my sleep is interrupted and I wake with my heart beating out of my chest, my dreams having been disturbed by the nightmares of the past. Those are the times that I have to remind myself that it wasn’t my fault; that I am safe now. I see my husband asleep next to me and think of my children down the hall – all part of His plan.  As my breathing returns to normal, I roll over to check the time with a sigh, knowing I have got to get back to sleep. After all, I’ll need to be up early enough to tame my head full of long, crazy locks before I face the new day.

 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a contingency #gospel.

 

Romans 16:25-26a “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations.”

 

The gospel that strengthens us is not a contingency gospel. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was not a plan God put into place in response to sinful man and the consequences of that sin.   To believe this kind of scenario would be to believe in a “reactionary God,” and our Lord does not react. Our Lord is the Lord, the God of all things, and all things are both under His dominion as well as under His sovereign plan and will. Paul reminds us here that we can likewise be strengthened in remembering that God’s plan for eternity past has always been that His Son would be the propitiation for our sin and the means of imputation of His righteousness onto us. God was preparing the prophets and His people for two thousand years for the coming of the Messiah, and though the details of this plan remained a mystery to them during that time, God was still preparing them as was evidenced in the prophetic writings. Jesus Christ came to earth as the man-god at precisely the appointed time in history so that His children might live in eternity. He didn’t come to fix our mistakes. He came to fulfill God’s plan. You see, we can be strengthened in knowing that it was never about us or our abilities to cause or thwart this plan. If it had been, there would have been the possibility that we might miss it or even mess it up. This plan was always about God, about displaying His glory through His Son. There is astounding peace and strength available to us when we live in this wonderful truth.

 

Study/Meditation: How are you strengthened in knowing that God is not a “reactionary God”?

 

*Father, You are righteous and holy, omnipotent and omniscient. Thank You for willing me into Your kingdom. Amen.