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lisa pic 2By Lisa Blanco

The most glorious thing I enjoy on this earth is singing with others who share the same hope as I do in Jesus. I enjoy it most as we sing hymns, when they are sung from the soul, not just a hymnal or the screen. This particular thing Christians do together is the closest thing to heaven itself. It’s like we can look around as we sing together and ask, don’t you long for “oh that day when freed from sinning?” It’s the one thing that currently keeps us from experiencing a pure joy of worship; we still sin. But if you know Jesus, you get a taste of that joy that will one day be pure.

Then came the day when our son, Haddon, died as he laid in our lap. Worship, and particularly hymns, took on a new meaning in my life. Suddenly singing about ‘when sorrows like sea billows roll’ was a daily reality. I have felt sorrow to such a degree that I thought I would be overtaken and drown. I have felt and cried to the Lord ‘when darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.’ But I also I learned that I like to sing a hymn in my grief because they are written in such a way that sums up our solid hope. Do you notice a pattern in most hymns?

  1. We sin, and we are helpless to stand before God by ourselves
  2. Jesus made that way to stand before God
  3. Jesus was raised from the dead
  4. Praise God we will stand before him together for all of eternity free from sin

I have a different joy now as I sing, because now its mixed with deep longing. I feel it rise in me as I sing:

 

“When with the ransomed in Glory,

His face I at last shall see.

It will be my joy through the ages

To sing of his love for me.”

 

To finally see his face, the one who took my son, yet showed me more about the worth of His son through unbelievable sorrow, I can’t even sing with my voice. Tears overcome me when I sing of heaven. So I silently mouth a lot of songs in my home, my church and my car, but I silently mouth the words with my whole heart and soul.

 

Does God always answer the prayers of His children? #prayer

 

Romans 15:30b-31 “…strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints.”

 

Do you believe in the awesome truth that God answers prayer? Paul did, and his life and ministry lay as a wonderful testimony to us that God answers our prayers abundantly and that He orders circumstances and people so that our prayers may be answered. Paul asked that the Roman church pray specifically for two things: that he be protected from the unbelieving Jews in Judea and that the Jewish Christians to whom he was bringing gifts would accept him. Luke tells us exactly how God answered these prayers in the book of Acts, and we see God using His will to order the will of everyone needed, believer and non-believer alike, so that these prayers are answered. In Acts 21, we read where Paul was met with a hostile city and God used the will of the Roman officials to save His servant from the angry mob. (Acts 21:27-36) Then also in Acts 23, Luke writes of the plot to kill Paul while he was in prison. God directed the actions of a Roman centurion and Paul’s nephew to save the apostle from this assassination plot. (Acts 23:12-24) Finally, we can also read in Acts 21:17 that the Roman Christians’ prayers that Paul be received by the Christians in Jerusalem was answered: “When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly.” God not only answers the prayers of the saints, but He does whatever is necessary, using whoever He wills so that those prayers are answered. What an awesome God we serve!

 

Study/Meditation: God always answers our prayers, though the answer may not come exactly as we plan. What examples from your life can you think of that attest to this fact? How was God’s manner of answering so much better than what you had in mind?

 

*Father, thank You for hearing the prayers of Your children and answering so that we are all given what is best for us and what glorifies You. Amen.

 

 

Christians join in the mission of God by striving together in prayer. #prayer

 

Romans 15:30 “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.”

 

As Paul brings his letter to the Roman Christians to a close, he does so with a prayer request. As a matter of fact, it is not so much a request as an urgent plea. Paul understood the power of prayer and the necessity that believers unite in prayer for one another as they live as exiles in this foreign land. The apostle could sense the impending danger for his trip to Judea, and rightly so. We learn later that on this trip he is assaulted by unbelieving Jews, imprisoned by the Roman governor and eventually transported back to Rome where on the way he is shipwrecked, he is bitten by a viper and then almost killed by a mob, and then he is finally taken back to Rome in chains. When Christians come together in prayer, they unite in the mission given to each, and it is a dangerous, awe-inspiring mission. That is why we must “strive together” as Paul phrases it. In other words, we struggle or wrestle together in prayer for one another. This fight may be against our own sin or the sins of others, it may be against distraction or our own unbelief, and it is always against the schemes of Satan, but it is a striving nonetheless. As Leon Morris once said, “There is a very real struggle going on between the forces of good and evil, and a most significant part of that struggle is in prayer.”  (The Epistle to the Romans, Leon Morris, 1988, p. 523) Let us all strive together in prayer for one another because of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love given to us by the Holy Spirit.

 

Study/Meditation: Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-11. What does Paul say in this passage was the significance of the prayers of the saints on his behalf?

 

*Father, I lift up to You my brothers and sisters who are in the mission field. Give them peace and safety and rest. Amen.

 

Consumerism cannot ultimately bring joy. #blessingofChrist

 

Romans 15:28-29 “When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.”

 

There are certain phrases in God’s Word that when we read them we feel compelled to stop and meditate on the depth and beauty contained within them. “The fullness of the blessing of Christ” is one such phrase. What an amazing proclamation Paul makes here that he will come to the Roman Christians in the fullness of the blessing of Christ, and interestingly, he proclaims that he will do so in light of what he will have just partaken in—giving to the saints in Jerusalem. Surely the blessings of our Savior come in myriads of ways, but one way we are sure to experience Him and all that He has to give us in joy and satisfaction and peace is when we give to others. Consumerism is so pervasive in today’s society that the notion that happiness comes from giving things away as opposed to having things for ourselves is counterintuitive. One need only to examine the commercials on television and radio to see this point of view. The entire advertising market bases its success on the illusion that owning and acquiring more and more will bring happiness. As believers we know that what we truly desire is to live in the fullness of the blessings of Christ, and one absolute way for attaining that is by living in the truth of Jesus’ words as recalled by Paul: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

 

Study/Meditation: On what premise should a Christian base his or her desire to give away earthly things? (Hint: Who actually “owns” everything?) How will this act then bring joy to the believer?

 

*Father, thank You for giving me all the things that I enjoy while living on this earth. Help me see and move in the opportunities You give me to bless others with what You have first given to me. Amen.

 

It is a Christian’s duty and pleasure to give to the needs of the saints. #giving

 

Romans 15:25-27 “At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.”

 

Serving our brothers and sisters in Christ whom we see face to face is often much easier than serving our brothers and sisters whom we may never meet. If my earthly brother came to me for money, I would have no problem giving it to him. However, would I so readily give that same money to my spiritual brother in another land whom I have never met? Paul reminds us here of three very important principles that apply to our spiritual family: 1) They are our family because we share the blood of Christ, 2) We owe them support as our family members, and 3) It should please us to give to them in their times of need. These principles apply to our spiritual family with whom we attend church as well as those who attend churches thousands of miles from us, either in our countries or in others. We should do so with glad hearts just as Paul says the Macedonians and Achaeans were pleased to contribute to the needs of their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. What a truly magnificent blessing we have received in having been grafted into the family of God. How can we but exult in that blessing by doing anything less than generously expressing love for one another in service and material blessings?

 

Study/Meditation: Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. How does Paul describe the churches in Macedonia? How can you apply these principles in your life today?

 

*Father, thank You for my family, for both my local and international brothers and sisters. Help me to see where I need to be generous in supporting them. Thank you for giving me those opportunities. Amen.

 

 

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.