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Brotherly love and affection is serious business. #Christianlove

 

Romans 14:13 “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.”

 

This is serious business. We might expect a discussion about causing another person to stumble in their Christian walk or hindering them in that walk to be a discussion about leading them mindfully into sin or teaching them incorrect doctrine. We might make a cursory observation that these sorts of hindrances are the responsibilities of teachers and pastors and elders and that these types of leaders are the ones who need to be mindful of leading others astray in the church. However, here Paul is directly addressing the topic of correct relationship between brothers and sisters in the body of Christ and how we relate to one another, and it is in this very discussion that he tells us not to cause each other to stumble or hinder one another in our Christian walks. Broken relationships brought on by unloving or hypocritical behavior are the leading cause of men and women walking away from a church, and sometimes they never return to one. We must acknowledge and accept the grave responsibility each of us has to the other to love and be kind, holding one another accountable with that love while lifting each other up by that love. It is indeed serious business, and the way we manage it or mismanage it will be called to account by our Father.  

 

Study/Meditation: What is your responsibility in restoring relationship with a Christian brother or sister with whom you may have acted in an unloving or judgmental manner? How might you go about this restoration?

 

*Father, help me restore broken relationships with my brothers and sisters. Give me wisdom and discernment to know exactly what I must do in an attempt at this restoration. Amen.

 

Every believer and unbeliever will give an account of himself to God. #judgment

 

Romans 14:10b-12 “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

 

It is often difficult to stand outside of our need to be right in a situation and to instead act in love and mercy toward one with whom we have a disagreement. It is often equally difficult to forgive another and respond in mercy when we feel we are on the side of righteousness. Paul is reminding us that one day all of us will stand on one side together, and that will be the side facing the Holy Judge. God will not talk to any of us about what someone else did in a given situation. He will talk to us specifically and individually about what we did in that situation. Whereas it is true that our salvation is undergirded by God’s mercy and grace, we must also acknowledge and remember that it includes judgment for everyone. As Paul said, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”   As we relate to one another while here on this earth, let us do so with mercy and love and forgiveness. Not only is that God-honoring and God-driven, but it will also be God-judged.

 

Study/Meditation: Read Matthew 5:7, 6:12, and 7:2. What did Jesus have to say about judging one another?

 

*Father, forgive me for those times when I respond incorrectly to others. Help me to love and forgive in ways that honor You. Amen.

 

photo cathyBy Cathy Letkeman

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you

I have been struck lately by how often scripture references God’s steadfast love. Every time I read those words it’s like honey to my soul. I’m not sure why it always seems “surprising” to me when I find those words nestled away in various, sometimes obscure passages of scripture, but I think I sometimes get caught up in verse 2 of Psalm 63 that is referenced above:

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.

In my awe of Him as Sovereign Creator and Lord of the Universe, His steadfast love gets eclipsed by that in my heart. So those reminders that this awesome, powerful God, who is “not a tame lion”, is good and loves me with a steadfast love, are refreshingly sweet and reassuring.

3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.

George Mueller had this to say in a writing called “Soul Nourishment First” https://bible.org/seriespage/appendix-8-soul-nourishment-first

I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit.

Which reminded me of this passage of scripture:

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

The dictionary defines the word satisfy in this way:

1.to fulfill the desires, expectations, needs, or demands of (a person, the mind, etc.); give full contentment to: 2. to put an end to (a desire, want, need, etc.) by sufficient or ample provision: 3. to give assurance to; convince: 4. to answer sufficiently, as an objection. 5. to solve or dispel, as a doubt.

Can you imagine if we allowed ourselves to believe that God’s steadfast love satisfies in this way?  The truth is, God’s steadfast love, which is intrinsically faithful, and enduring by virtue of the nature of the One from which it is given, is the only kind of love that satisfies. All other love will fail us. Only His love can fulfill our desires, expectations and needs.(Psalm 138::8) Only His love can give us full contentment. (Ephesians 3:16-19) Only His love can put an end to all other desires by making sufficient provision. (Lamentations 3:22-24) Only His love can dispel our doubts and fears (1 John 4:18). Indeed, as we read in Psalm 63, His steadfast love is better than life!

If our soul is truly nourished and satisfied by His steadfast love, we will be less-inclined to be needy and self-focused, and can give to others out of the fullness of our joy and Christ’s love. Imagine if we began each day with this truth, and allowed it to power us through the day, like an ocean current, directing the flow of all that lives, and breathes and churns in the tidal ebb and flood that is our life.

Let me close with this poem:

The Ocean of Christ’s Love

Christ’s love,
vast and boundless,
like an ocean,
deep and wide and powerful
calls to us.
It laps against the pride of our stony hearts.
Will we stand on shore
content to let it merely wash our tired feet
dusty from the trail of life?
or will we plunge headlong,
immersing ourselves in the pounding surf,
caught by the undertow,
pulled in;
our old selves buried
as our new selves rise on the crest of the wave of
Christ’s redeeming love?
Will we let it cleanse our filthiness?
Will we let it heal our brokenness?
Will we let it still our restlessness and claim our wandering souls?
Will we let it transform us as it beats against our rocky hearts,
eroding the layers of our sin and rebellion until we are formed into His image?
Will we let it compel us to yield our stubborn will to His, so we can be used
for His purpose and glory?
This love He died to show us?
This love that cost Him dear?
Like the ocean that spans from East to West
it reaches far enough to cover the sin of the darkest soul.
Dive in weary traveler.
Be refreshed,
Be renewed,
Be revived,
in the ocean of Christ’s love.

This love is a love that truly satisfies. Why would we settle for anything less?

Christians are called to love, even in correction and disagreement. #harmony

 

Romans 14:10a “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother?”

 

Christians are certainly called to distinguish between good and evil and to discern matters of moral and doctrinal statutes. Even though mainstream society might tend toward the most widely misused phrase in all of Jesus’ words, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1), we are held responsible for judging and thereby correcting on the basis of essential biblical teachings. Paul’s central point in these verses is division in the body of believers in matters of non-essential practices, but the greater principle at stake is our hearts and the motivations therein. He makes this clear in using the phrases “pass judgment” and “despise” in these rhetorical questions. In other words, these questions could have been asked like this: “Why do you stand in judgment on your brother as if he is condemned?” or “Why do you treat your brother with contempt because of this disagreement?” In all matters of disagreement between brothers and sisters in Christ, whether on essential or non-essential elements of biblical teachings, we should remember Paul’s direction in Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” Then we mustn’t ignore the rest of that verse which says, “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” That temptation is to judgment and feelings of contempt. As children of God, ours is to love, even when we disagree and are called to make correction.

 

Study/Meditation: Read 2 Timothy 2:24-26 and 4:2. Then read what Jesus said in Matthew 7:5. What do these passages teach about our heart condition when we are called to correct a brother or sister in Christ?

 

*Father, give me wisdom and discernment as I live here on earth and serve with my fellow brothers and sisters. Help me have a compassionate and loving heart in all things. Amen.

 

Authenticity comes only when we see Christ as Lord. #truth

 

Romans 14:9 “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”

 

It is a tremendously awe-inspiring thing that Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, the King of kings, came to this earth as a man and was murdered, then was resurrected to sit at the right hand of the Almighty for one soul-altering purpose—to be Lord and thus save His bride unto eternity. This act of love is unmatched by any we will ever know, and it was done for you and for me. Christ lived, died and then lived again so that we might see with authentic knowledge our Lord and thus live and die for Him. How interesting that it is at this point in Paul’s teaching that he makes this point, right in the middle of an exhortation on how we are to avoid divisive, argumentative behavior with our brothers and sisters. The apostle is drawing us to ultimate truth, beyond the petty and superfluous details of this world to the only truth which matters, that Christ is Lord. He is our Lord and our eyes must be on Him, living for Him, not on each other in bickering and obstinate behavior. Our faces must be ever looking upward in worship and love for our Bridegroom, the Lover of our souls, and that perspective has to be the one through which we view each other and this life while waiting on His return.

 

Study/Meditation: How can a perspective like the one described in today’s devotion direct your behavior towards others, especially those with whom you may have a disagreement?

 

*Father, forgive me for the moments when I take my eyes off of You and Your Son. Give me eyes to see beyond these temporary things and instead to things of eternity and what was done so that I might live in it. Amen.

 

Mankind was designed to seek identity in God. #identity

 

Romans 14:7-8 “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”

 

In the “Self Help” section of any major bookstore throughout the country, one can most likely find a plethora of books on “finding self.” Identity: Your Password to Success, Identity Development, and Identity: A Sociological Perspective are just three that come to mind. Humanity is obsessed with knowing who we are at our cores so that peace with that self can be obtained. This is a human condition and it is purposeful. We were created to seek identity, but the world is looking for it in all the wrong places. All mankind was made to see its identity in God because all that we are and all that we do was designed to be about Him. We were made to belong to Him. Consequently, until we relinquish our ideas about looking for our “true self” in any other place but our Lord, it will be impossible for us to treat anyone else with His love and grace. This is Paul’s point. Divisive, argumentative, and obstinate behavior toward one another can only be eliminated when we know our true identity and for Whom we live. Paul simply states, “We are the Lord’s.” Know this, and know peace.

 

Study/Meditation: What does it mean to have your identity in God? How does this perspective dictate appropriate behavior and responses to others?

 

*Father, I am Yours and I rejoice that I am. Help me to live as Your child, placing all that I am in Your hands, my Maker and my God. Amen.