By Dr. Deb Waterbury
I was having lunch with a beautiful young lady the other day, and we were commiserating on our individual inabilities to remember birthdays and holidays. She was telling me of a funny time when her mother had broken a cherished bowl. She found a replacement at the street fair one day in late October and determined herself then that she would buy the bowl and give it to her mother for Christmas. She forgot, decided to give it to her for Mother’s Day, forgot, and subsequently gave it to her mother for Christmas the next year. The problem was that she had placed a note in the gift wrapped box that was dated the year before her mother actually got it! Caught red-handed!
I do that sort of thing all of the time, as I’m sure many of you do too. I buy things or cards and put them away with full intentions of giving them to a special someone for their birthday or a holiday, only to not just forget where I put the gift or card, but to often forget the special day altogether! I forget dates, occasions, calls–you name it, and I’ve forgotten it. My young friend and I laughed together as we named ourselves “Time Capsule Friends”–that is, friends who give gifts late or make calls late so that we serve as a sort of “time capsule event” for the one getting them. We excused our lack of memory as a sort of service instead.
Of course our conversation was all in good fun, but I came face to face with the reality of my behavior while having coffee with another dear friend shortly afterward.
Understand that I am a busy woman. We all are! Kids, work, the house, our spouses, our church: Women are more often than not overworked and over-extended in most areas of their lives. Consequently, my friends and co-workers in ministry are generally very gracious with me when I don’t return calls or occasionally re-schedule or even cancel coffee dates or lunch. Sweetly they will say, “It’s okay, Deb. I know you’re busy.” And I am, just as you are and they are and we all are. However, is that always a good excuse? Do we allow our undeniably busy lives to interfere with ministering to one another as friends and loved ones? Is a busy life an excuse to selfishly ignore the needs of others?
As I alluded to, I had coffee shortly after my lunch with another dear friend. We had talked for a while, and I noticed that she was stammering a little, obviously trying to figure out how to tell me what was really on her mind. Suddenly and without warning, she began to weep right there in the coffee shop.
“I’m sorry, Deb, but I need to see you sometimes. I need time with you, not often, but occasionally.”
I stopped short. You see, this is not the first time I’ve heard this, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard this recently. I get so caught up in my work for the Lord that I had begun to forget the work of the Lord. I write and minister and speak and counsel, and often I think this is the bulk of what I should be doing. Unfortunately, I sometimes also ignore that all of those things are absolutely nothing without relationship, without love and friendship and really ministering into one another’s lives.
Jesus, the one person in all of eternity who truly had an excuse to maybe cancel a few coffees and lunches, never did so. Right after teaching the Sermon on the Mount, He didn’t hesitate to heal the leper or go to the centurion’s house to heal his servant or to heal Peter’s mom or hundreds of others. He was busy. He was about the Lord’s work, but our Savior knew that this work was accomplished in relationship and giving time to individuals.
What excuse have you given for not meeting with a friend or a woman who needs you? Is it your children or your grandchildren or your job or even your ministry? Sisters, please don’t do what I’ve done and think that it’s somehow a service or even adorably quaint to be a “Time Capsule Friend.” It isn’t. God has called us to pour into one another’s lives and live in the love exemplified for us by our Savior.
Needless to say, I’ve made a few long overdue calls lately and paid a few long overdue visits. My work can wait. After all, it’s really meaningless if in it I am not showing the love of Jesus to the people around me.
Do you need to pick up the phone?
Focal Passage: Romans 1:16-17
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
This is probably one of the most well-known and often-quoted verses in the New Testament, and unfortunately that also means we sometimes skim over it without much thought. Yet the very essence of who we are as believers is contained within these words. The gospel of Jesus Christ is that eternal life has been made available through the working of the Holy Spirit to everyone who believes that Jesus is Lord and Savior. It is available to all who place their trust in Him alone as God, who came as a man and died in their place, who was then resurrected and will return. The gospel of Jesus Christ is our hope and our salvation—and we are not ashamed to proclaim it! What a glorious truth, and we, like Paul, must live in light of this precious gift. Sing it from the mountaintops: Jesus Christ is Lord! Believe on Him and be saved!
Study/Meditation: Spend just a few minutes today, and every day, meditating on the truth of the gospel, then proclaim it, both in word and deed.
*Father, praise Your Name and the Name of Jesus Christ, the Name above all names! Glory and honor and majesty are Yours! Hallelujah and Amen!
Focal Passage: Romans 1:1-15
Romans 1:14-15 “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”
Is Paul saying here that the Greeks and barbarians, the wise and foolish have given him something so he is in some way indebted to them? Paul is certainly saying that he is obliged to someone, but it’s not to anyone here. Paul’s obligation is to God and this obligation is a result of what has been given to him by his Father. When you receive this amazing, unmerited grace from God, the natural inclination should be to give back. However, since God doesn’t need us, our return comes in the form of sharing Him with others, no matter who they are. Good news is impossible to keep. When we get it, we can’t wait to share it with someone. Paul’s point is that we have the ultimate Good News; we should feel nothing less than obliged to share it with anyone and everyone. On the contrary—we should be overjoyed and ecstatic to do so!
Study/Meditation: Jesus spoke of us as the “light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) How is what Paul writes to the Roman Christians the same sentiment as that of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount? How can you be more of a light to the world?
*Father, help me seize every opportunity that comes my way to be a light to this world. Thank You for the awesome privilege to share Your Good News with others. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 1:1-15
Romans 1:13 “I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as the rest of the Gentiles.”
Paul wants the Roman Christians to know that he had been trying to get to them but that other things had been preventing him from doing so. His heart, however, has been to come to them, and his intentions are clear. He wants to come to them so that he can enrich their faith and spread the gospel among the others there. He doesn’t say his intentions have been to vacation with them or for them to entertain him. His goals are for their spiritual growth. Once again, Paul exemplifies putting ourselves out of center and placing there the work of Christ. Are your goals when you enter your local church to edify and enrich the faith of those there? When you go to the supermarket, do you have in mind to do anything in your power while there to demonstrate the love of Christ? As Paul shows us, we are to have the work of our Lord forever guiding the things that we do and ministering to the people we meet.
Study/Meditation: In what instances today can you enrich those around you by either showing them Christ or telling them about Him?
*Father, help me see the opportunities to be the light You’ve ordained me to be and give me the courage to step out into those opportunities. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 1:1-15
Romans 1:11-12 “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”
Sometimes we attend our local church with an incorrect notion. We attend a local church looking for how it can meet our needs. We often choose our church based on whether or not the people in it do what we need or desire, or we attend one that offers what makes us feel the most loved. Paul reminds us that the notion we should take to our believing community is one of selfless servitude—What can I do to serve the people of my church? As a matter of fact, we ought to long to attend a church so that we can serve the people there. And the beautiful thing is that in this selfless attitude, we are served more abundantly. We build one another up in faith and the result is that our faith is built up. Let us each go to worship together this week, not looking to be served, but instead centering on how we can serve each other.
Study/Meditation: Why do we attend church? Why should we attend? In what ways can you improve your attitude in this area?
*Father, thank You for my church and my brothers and sisters in Christ. Help me see the ways I can serve them and then step out and do so. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 1:1-15
Romans 1:9-10 “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.”
The Romans Christians had never met Paul face-to-face, and he longed to see them just as they longed to see him. He is encouraging them that this is so, that he prays for them daily and that in these prayers he asks earnestly that God would allow him to come to them in Rome. There are a couple of things that should strike us in Paul’s introductory words. First, Paul prays for his friends “without ceasing.” He brings them before His Father daily so that his intercession might aid in keeping them until he can come to them. We need to pray for our sisters and brothers throughout the world “without ceasing,” just like Paul. Secondly, we see how Paul is always in a spirit of acquiescence to God’s will. He very much longed to see the Roman Christians, but he knows that God’s purposes are always supreme, and he does not rebel against them. Our Father is sovereign, and even though we ask longingly for the things of our hearts, we must do so resting in His perfect and good will.
Study/Meditation: In what way must you pray so that you do so earnestly for your brothers and sisters and also acquiesce to God’s will? How is this more an attitude of the heart than mere words?
*Father, I lift up to You all of the brethren throughout the world, particularly those You have gifted me with knowing personally. Bless them and keep them. Amen.