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God created us to give and receive affection. #churchfamily

 

Romans 16:16 “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.”

 

It was a well-known Old Testament custom to greet one another with a kiss. This kiss could have been on the cheek or the hand or the forehead, and even in some cases, on the mouth. It was reserved for close friends and family, as well as those held in high regard, and it was a sign of deep affection. Paul refers to it here and in many other places as a holy kiss, which is a kiss that is in no way sensual or erotic. (1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26) It was simply a conveyance of love and affection. Paul was encouraging this family of believers to treat one another with this kind of love and affection. There is an account of an orphanage long ago that had a high rate of infant mortality, and no one could understand why. The babies were well fed and clothed. They received immunizations and proper care. Still, more than 55% of the babies died within the first year. You see, even though these babies received good physical care, they were never held or kissed. No one cuddled with them or held them in a loving embrace. No one kissed their sweet faces. These babies died because they received no signs of affection and love. God made us so that we respond to touch and affectionate embraces; indeed, we only thrive as He designed us when we have those things. A simple touch or a well-timed hug or even a “holy kiss” can heal a hurting heart faster than any words might do. Shouldn’t we love our spiritual family in such a fashion?

 

Study/Meditation: Read Luke 7:36-50. How does this story illustrate the deep affection of a holy kiss?

 

*Father, help me to see where I need to be more affectionate with my church family, and help me to receive this same affection from them. Amen.

 

There should be no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian. #churchfamily

 

Romans 16:5b-15 “Greet my beloved Epaenetus,…Mary,…Andonicus and Junia,…Ampliatus,…Urbanus,…Stachus,…Apelles,…the family of Aristobulus,…Herodion,…the family of Narcissus,…Tryphaena and Tryphosa,…Persis,…Rufus and his mother,….Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them,…Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister,…Olympas and all the saints with them.”

 

What is the significance of Paul mentioning these brothers and sisters by name in the last of his letter to the Romans? Were they somehow more special than others? The answer to those questions is not expressed in the status of these men and women, but in the loving relationships they shared with Paul. Believers, by nature of what they share, should be the first among all humanity to be in close relationship with one another. It is completely antithetical to be a “Lone Ranger Christian.” God made us for relationship, and Paul exemplifies in his closing remarks that close relationships between believers is not only a beautiful thing—it is a necessary thing. After all, it is with these brothers and sisters that we will one day stand in the presence of our King and say, “We’re here!” Certainly this is the most precious foundation for love and friendship ever known to man.

 

Study/Meditation: In light of the importance of relationships within the family of God, how important is it that we get connected to a local church?

 

*Father, thank You for my spiritual family. Help me to be a blessing to them as they are a blessing to me. Amen.

 

Christianity and mission work are synonymous vocations. #missions

 

Romans 16:3-5a “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house.”

 

Every church should have men and women whom they send out into the world as missionaries. However, how do we categorize those who would go? Oftentimes, we see them as “professional missionaries.” In other words, we think that those who are sent out into the mission field are trained for that profession and equipped with some trade that would benefit those to whom they would evangelize. Paul’s greetings teach us something entirely different, though. Prisca, more commonly referred to in the bible as Priscilla, and her husband, Aquila, are tentmakers by trade. We learn from Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy that they had successively moved from Pontus to Rome, Corinth, then Ephesus, then back to Rome and then finally back to Ephesus again. Each time they moved they had a church in their home while they continued in their trade of tent making. Even though their business required travel, this couple used this time to work for Christ, building churches and teaching the gospel wherever they lived. They were common people with a common trade who used every possible opportunity to spread the kingdom of Christ and establish His church throughout the land. All of us must see ourselves as missionaries, whether in our own neighborhoods or in other parts of the world. God intends for us to use all that we are and all that we have to further His truth. Don’t wait. “Christian” and “missionary” are synonymous.

 

Study/Meditation: How is God calling you into the mission field today?

 

*Father, help me see where I am to be used in the mission field for Your work. Give me the courage and wisdom to step into the place where You would have me go. Amen.

 

Christians should take care of each other. #churchfamily

 

Romans 16:1-2 “I commend to you our sister, Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.”

 

In Paul’s closing remarks in his letter to the Roman Christians, he speaks of sixteen people by name. What a beautiful commentary on the family of God! In these first two verses he commends Phoebe to them. She most likely was the one carrying the letter since she was coming from Cenchreae and that is where scholars think Paul was wintering when he wrote it. He calls her a “sister,” a “servant,” and a “patron.” First he is once again stressing our relationship to one another as family. When a member of your immediate family, a brother or a sister, comes into town, you take care of them. We all have the same Heavenly Father and we share in the same eternal inheritance. Paul is reminding all of us to take care of those in our family. In referring to her as a “servant” and a “patron,” Paul is commending her as one who has faithfully worked and supported the church through her work and support of Paul and his companions. Our church family is not confined to those we share a building with on Sunday morning. Our church family is anyone and everyone throughout the world who serves and supports the work of our Father. Let us remember to treat all of them as family, which translates both emotionally and materially.

 

Study/Meditation: How can you better take care of your eternal family, both in your immediate church and in the world?

 

*Father, thank You for my eternal family. Help me to see the ways in which I should support and serve them. Amen.

 

Where do you look for peace? #Godofpeace

 

Romans 15:33 “May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”

 

Our Father has many titles—God of love, Lord of Creation, Sustainer of the Universe, Righteous Judge—but Paul lands on one particular title in his prayer for the Romans Christians—God of peace. For most of this letter, the apostle had been writing instructions and admonitions on how the church in Rome should behave toward one another so that they exhibit proper Christian attitudes. Finally, he ends by lovingly praying over them the one means by which they could ever attain such lives, and this is through our God who brings true peace. Only when we know Him, only when we live for Him, only when we submit our lives to Him can we let go of every other earthly injustice or temporal struggle. When we focus our attentions on His glory and His majesty, as well as on the gracious gift of mercy He has given to us, then “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, (will guard our) hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) There is peace with our brothers and sisters and there is peace in this temporary home when we live in the knowledge that God is our God. How precious to pray that blessing over one another today and every day.

 

Study/Meditation: How does the world tell us to attain peace? Why is true peace only attainable in and through God?

 

*Father, please grant to my brothers and sisters Your peace that surpasses all understanding. I pray for that glorious peace in my life, as well. Thank You. Amen.

 

The church family should be a place of refuge for the believer. #church

 

Romans 15:32 “…so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.”

 

The famous American writer, Thomas Wolfe, wrote, “You can’t go home again.” For the Christian, this statement is wonderfully untrue—at least it should be. Whereas Wolfe was referring to returning to our childhood homes, saying that it will always be different after we leave and then return, our church home and the “home” we share among our brothers and sisters in Christ should always be that place of refreshing and joy when we enter. Paul was appealing to the Roman Christians to pray for him on his journeys so that he would not be discouraged. His desire was to be able to return to them and be refreshed in the company of his “home,” in the company of his family.   This is what our church family should be. Unlike another statement by Wolfe, “Home is the place where when you go there, they have to take you in,” coming into your church family should be, “Home is the place where when you go there, they want to take you in.” Belonging to and connecting with a local church is so very important in the lives of believers. The world is not our home, but how wonderful that we have a family while we dwell here temporarily. Seek refreshment from your Christian family, and likewise be that place of refreshing for your brethren. This is what being a family is truly all about. (Quotes taken from: You Can’t Go Home Again, by Thomas Wolfe, 1940)

 

Study/Meditation: What practical ways should a church family be that place of refreshing for its members? What can you do to facilitate that for your brothers and sisters in Christ?

 

*Father, thank You for my church family. Help me to be a family to them, loving them and refreshing them as a family should. Amen.