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Letting grace move us

Father God, Lord of life, You provide us in every way & for every need. You keep us running, direct our hearts & sustain our souls, body & mind. You bring us life & a hope we can call on every single day. We come seeking You out in all these ways & more every day, because outside of You, we have nothing. On our own we have no hope, no strength, no provision, only empty promises we make to ourselves, but have no power to see through to the end. Forgive us our failings & pride, guiding us to completion in Jesus Christ instead. Empower us through Your Holy Spirit to walk with You today. We need to desperately & deeply. You are our rock & refuge. Restore us & bring glory to Yourself. We bless Your holy Name. Amen.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Do you feel called by God? Can you sense His will at work in your life? Have you ever felt sent by Him to do a particular work? Do you know what that connection feels like & what it is He compels you to accomplish?

Here’s what we find to help us answer those questions. Paul begins by acknowledging these callings in his own life. God has made them abundantly clear. He says that he is called to do these things & that the church in Corinth is called to be a gathering of saints that call upon the Name of Jesus Christ. He acknowledges the call of an individual & the call of the gathering of believers collectively. There are things that we must do on our own & there are activities that we participate in together. That’s not revolutionary or difficult to comprehend, but there are temptations to neglect one of them or both, from time to time.

We often make excuses & tell ourselves it’s okay that we aren’t doing something that God has called us to as an individual, or that it’s not a big deal that we aren’t serving corporately with the rest of the body. But when we look at the second part of the passage today, we find out just what we are missing when we stand apart from this work of God in us.

Paul begins talking about grace & peace that comes to us through Christ. He acknowledges that this same grace is a gift from Christ and how He enriches us in every way through that grace. He blesses our strength. He blesses our knowledge. He blesses our speech & fills us so we do not lack in any gift. This all comes from walking in His will & in being obedient to the call of grace on our lives.

Grace doesn’t call us to simply rest in Him, which it does provide. Grace doesn’t call us to simply know about itself, which is part of how peace works its way in us. Grace calls us to an active participation in the Gospel work in us, it leads us into a new way of living, a movement in the rhythms it provides us, and in those rhythms, we find a new cadence for our lives that brings fulfillment, hope, peace & joy that we can in turn share with others. None of this is passive. None of this is meant to belong only to us. We live this & share in this together. This is what grace does. We are called, provided for & encouraged by grace into a deeper love, a full life & a living hope.

Because of this grace, we can also stand guiltless before God, and that is the greatest gift of all. This is what Jesus has provided for us through His life, death, burial & resurrection. Grace makes the calling & the life of dedicated obedience possible & it brings us to God’s unending well of joy, peace & fulfillment. It’s a wonderful place to be & a deep joy to walk out day by day. Christ is revealed in us through it all. Let Him reveal Himself in your life today. Seek His leading. Walk in His rhythms.

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Faith Lives in Action

Father, give us faith and sight-by-faith to live this life looking to the reward of heaven, not present sinful pleasures. Let us live lives of self-control and self-sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom and Your Name. Give us faith and strength to keep our eyes and hearts focused on Christ. Amen.

Hebrews 11:23-31
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

Living a life that is deeply rooted in faith means our eyes are focused on something different, something higher than the low lying fruit of the world. There are plenty of options, plenty of things to distract us from living as God intends and avenues for setting up our life as a shrine and altar to the god of ‘me.’ Our culture promotes it, encourages it and even provides moments of slacktivism where we can feel like we’re a part of something without ever having to lift a finger. We can use a feeling like solidarity to link our emotions to a cause, but never do any real work to see that goal accomplished.

But faith refuses to operate that way, and in reality, it cannot. Faith demands action. Faith demands self-sacrifice & self-control. Faith demands that we live our lives with a real purpose laid out before us, with a goal that is greater than ourselves. And so God grants us a community of faith to walk in the daily rhythms of faith, in steps of mercy, loving-kindness and grace. And it is in this life of selflessness, walked out in rhythms of grace, that we find action happening, real results coming from the desires placed on our hearts by God.

Look at these examples form Hebrews. Moses’ parents exampled to him so that he might one day example to others what it means to resist evil and seek the ways of God. They stood up against harsh, ungodly leadership within their nation by resisting a call to death. They refused to take part in it, and so a life was saved that would bring deliverance to their people. A quiet faithfulness preserved in the way & will of God brought benefit to countless others because they had faith to do what was right and what was hard.

The nation later followed in footsteps of Moses’ faith, even though they struggled deeply with faith themselves. They marched through parted seas & rivers, defeated armies by walking away from them, and cities by walking around them. God fought battles for His faithful people. They learned through action and hardship what it means to follow and go and be faithful because faithfulness has a price. We lose comfort, earthly/temporary comfort, and we lose the ability to live selfishly.

When you and I live this way, living as those blessed by faith so that we might be a blessing to others, we will find sudden value to sacrifice, like Rahab did before Jericho fell. It doesn’t matter whether we have been good at it before, we simply need to repent of our self-centered lives and walk in the faith God provides through Christ. He writes the story, we walk in His plan, trusting in love and the outcome for His glory. This is how the world is changed.

Father, give us faith and sight-by-faith to live this life looking to the reward of heaven, not present sinful pleasures. Let us live lives of self-control and self-sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom and Your Name. Give us faith and strength to keep our eyes and hearts focused on Christ. Amen.

Listening to Faith

Father, You call us each to things that must be done for Your glory, to tasks that are both big and small, the seemingly mundane and the very public. Thank You for making us fit to serve You and bring You glory in a variety of ways every day. Please give us the strength to serve You in strength today and to echo this great crowd of witnesses that have done the same before us. May we sacrifice self and comfort in order to follow Your will. Amen.

Read the words of author of Hebrews, inspired by the Holy Spirit, slowly today.

Look and listen to the examples of faith and what each has given, in its wholeness, and prayerfully consider what God calls you to do for His sake.

Do not quickly dismiss these times of listening, rushing through them, but prayerfully seek His will above your own.We are all part of something more through Christ, our work of love and thanksgiving is brief, but we work for His eternal glory.

Just like these below, we focus on a reality that already is, and that we must also work and wait for in this season.

We are not alone in this walk, in this rhythm of grace.

Hebrews 11:1-22
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

Father, You call us each to things that must be done for Your glory, to tasks that are both big and small, the seemingly mundane and the very public. Thank You for making us fit to serve You and bring You glory in a variety of ways every day. Please give us the strength to serve You in strength today and to echo this great crowd of witnesses that have done the same before us. May we sacrifice self and comfort in order to follow Your will. Amen.

 

Conviction, Rejection & Comfort

Father, help us to have a deeper appreciation and understanding of the conviction on our hearts that comes from encountering You. Let us see Your love in the discomfort that comes with correction. Father, help us also to see that this same conviction that brings us life stirs up anger in those who do not follow You. May we stand firm in the truth of Your Word & Spirit. Amen.

John 16:1-15
“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.
They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

I know I have felt this before, experienced the anger and frustration of others who do not walk with God and who do not share the convictions He builds up within us. Some people get prideful over stirring up anger from people they would call ‘heathens,’ the irreligious, or the stagnant, nominal “Christians” who just want to be pandered to rather than actually follow Jesus.

And while both are walking in delusion, you and I who follow Christ are never going to be the ones who bring conviction into the heart of another person.We may have well crafted discussion points, and a well thought out apologetic in regards to the life of a Christ follower, but unless the Holy Spirit intercedes, conviction will not come.

Human beings are not the vehicle for conviction, simply for the truth of God. He sees conviction come. Our anger or frustration will not convince them of the truth. We cannot bludgeon people with the Gospel, or pound right thinking into their heads. We are never told to share the truth in this way. Listen to Peter & consider our role:

1 Peter 3:14-16
14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect*, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
*accent mine

We deliver the Gospel & the truth, ready in season and out of season with gentleness & respect. We stand as witnesses for Christ, wherever God may place us, and we trust in Him to reach hearts with what is said. For those who know, love & follow Him, it will be a comfort, for those who do not, a point of agitation. We will be walking in the footsteps of Jesus, in the rhythms of His grace.

Matthew 10:16-25
16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. *accent mine

May we be counted worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ & the Gospel. Be faithful in conviction, stand firm in the face of rejection & be generous in comfort. God has given us what is ours to do, trust Him to do what is His. Be faithful & do not waiver. Be gentle & do not lash out in anger. Walk in the rhythms of grace.

Father, help us to have a deeper appreciation and understanding of the conviction on our hearts that comes from encountering You. Let us see Your love in the discomfort that comes with correction. Father, help us also to see that this same conviction that brings us life stirs up anger in those who do not follow You. May we stand firm in the truth of Your Word & Spirit. Amen.

That Immeasurable Greatness

deep-space-space-6911884-1280-800
Hubble Deep Space View

Lord, grant us this grace, that as servants of Your unending love, as ambassadors of mercy in Your Name, that You would open the eyes of our hearts, that we may better see and express Your immeasurable greatness to our broken and sinful world. Grow our confidence, give us a holy boldness that defies principalities and powers and withstands the onslaught of the enemy. May he break around us (because of Your presence) as water breaks around a rock. All things, especially us, are under Your feet, O Righteous One!

Ephesians 1:15-23
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

If you live in a city, and odds say that you do, if you look up into the night sky on a clear winter’s evening, you will see a handful of stars spread out across the inky, deep blackness of space. If you’ve ever been outside of the city at night, you’ll also know that if you look up into the night sky on a clear winter’s evening, you will see a innumerable panoply of stars and galaxies, gaseous clusters, unblinking planets and a greater whole of the starry host (so far as the human eye can perceive them.)

So foreign are the real night skies to Los Angeles that in 1994, after the Northridge earthquake jostled Angelenos awake at 4:31 a.m., the observatory received many calls asking about “the strange sky they had seen after the earthquake.”

“We finally realized what we were dealing with,” Krupp said. “The quake had knocked out most of the power, and people ran outside and they saw the stars. The stars were in fact so unfamiliar; they called us wondering what happened.”

When we blind ourselves with our own false glory, it becomes difficult to see what God has already done. When we build ourselves up, a la the Tower of Babel, we give ourselves a false view of reality that keeps us from seeing what really matters and from gazing upon the Immeasurable Greatness of God. We exchange cheap, temporary light for the real thing, and we act like what we have created is some big deal. Nominal output from a 60 watt incadescent is 740 lumens. The sun produces 2.12×10^28 lumens (aka 21,200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 lumens.)

But because of His grace, God has placed our planet almost 93 million miles away from this behemoth of burning gas. (Science Alert) So, if the extraterrestrial solar radiation is 1367 watts per square meter, then the direct sunlight at Earth’s surface when the Sun is at the zenith is about 1050 W/m2, but the total amount (direct and indirect from the atmosphere) hitting the ground is around 1120 W/m2. In terms of energy, sunlight at Earth’s surface is around 52 to 55 percent infrared, 42 to 43 percent visible, and 3 to 5 percent ultraviolet. At the top of the atmosphere, sunlight is about 30% more intense, having about 8% ultraviolet (UV), with most of the extra UV consisting of biologically damaging short-wave ultraviolet.

Direct sunlight has a luminous efficacy of about 93 lumens per watt of radiant flux. This is higher than the efficacy (of source) of most artificial lighting (including fluorescent), which means using sunlight for illumination heats up a room less than using most forms of artificial lighting.

Again, we will always pale in comparison, and still be impressed by what we produce. That’s the fallen nature of man. So, in His Immeasurable Greatness and love, He has allowed us to experience real light, real life through Jesus Christ, removing all cheap substitutes from our field of options, and granting us a place in His presence every day. What great grace and mercy He has on silly, sinful humanity, that He should love us so well. Read this again, and let it be your prayer today, thanking God:

“17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might,”

Generous God, Generous Love

Bless the LORD o, my soul! How excellent is His greatness!

Ephesians 4:1-14
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Bask in that for a moment will you? Listen again to what you just read. Rest in words of grace and provision, forgiveness and the mystery of the opening of the will of God to His people. Remember the sealing of the Holy Spirit that came to you when your faith came into being, and your submitted your heart to His, being baptized into His baptism for the praise of His glory.

Remember.

This is our resting place, within the generosity of God. We deserved death as the payment for our sins, for our rejection of His will and Lordship over us. We were guilty, broken and damned. There is no sadder state than the one we occupied before we met Christ, no condition more hopeless. We were sinners in the hands of a just, wrathful and holy God. Hell and desolation were our destination, separated from Him for eternity, goats, chaff & weeds all.

But through Christ Jesus we have stepped out of darkness and into His glorious light!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Praise God all creatures here below!
Praise God above, you heavenly host!
Praise Father, Son & Holy Ghost!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

Dwell in this blessed truth today, if you are in Christ! If you are not, listen to the words of promise above, the words of hope and expectation. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart, the ears of your soul, so that you might see and hear what so many already enjoy and find their peace within. God is generous with His grace. He is generous with His love.

Praise God!

God’s Plans & the Plans of Men

A brief Sunday morning devotional.

Lord God, we know full well that our ways are not Your ways, that we often take the beauty of what You intend and attempt to recreate it in our own image. Father, please forgive our broken motives, and draw our hearts toward correction in You. Only when we humbly bow & obey will we find true beauty, purpose and joy in You. Grant us Your grace again today, and give us strength to walk with our Master, Jesus. Amen,

Galatians 4:21-31
21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
    than those of the one who has a husband.”

28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

We cannot seriously desire to trade the promises of God for the desires of our flesh. Yet, we hand over the eternal & holy for the temporary & twisted. We are given accounts like Abraham’s as a reminder of the consequences that come, the split allegiances that form, and the lives that are broken in the process. The life that attempts to pursue both God & personal desire is always going to deal with these problems. That is to say, we will all deal with these from time to time as our ability to follow God is still struggling with the desire to sin.

When we come to these daily crossroads, we need to remember that simple phrase that Paul uses here when speaking to the church in Galatia, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.” And we need to remember what that entails for us, and what He intends for us.

It is so easy to get caught up in the moment, and to struggle with those earthly pulls & influences. But God has something more, something better in mind for His children. We need to be intentional, take time daily, and bend our knee to the One who has paid the price for our salvation. A conscious surrender to Him is a conscious surrender to this better way, this simpler way, that honors God above self & promise over immediate gratification.

“So brothers, we are not children of the slave, but of the free woman.” We are heirs with Christ Jesus. Draw near to Him & leave the old ways behind.

Romans 3:1-8 // Righteousness, Unrighteousness, Lies & Truth

“1 So what advantage does the Jew have? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Considerable in every way. First, they were entrusted with the spoken words of God. 3 What then? If some did not believe, will their unbelief cancel God’s faithfulness? 4 Absolutely not! God must be true, even if everyone is a liar, as it is written:

‘That You may be justified in Your words

and triumph when You judge.’

5 But if our unrighteousness highlights God’s righteousness, what are we to say? I use a human argument: Is God unrighteous to inflict wrath? 6 Absolutely not! Otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if by my lie God’s truth is amplified to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, just as some people slanderously claim we say, ‘Let us do what is evil so that good may come? Their condemnation is deserved!'”

Romans 3:1-8

==

Does my sin simply amplify God’s glory? Does my malfeasance increase His grace? Does my misbehavior prove His love?

No. My sin is still sin, even if it stands as the proving ground for His love & righteousness. The fact that He is glorified when He saves me does nothing to justify my actions when they are based in unrighteousness. God’s wrath and justice are not so backwards, nor is His righteousness so fragile as to have to fit to my actions and misunderstandings. He stands righteous above all, unchanging and unchangable. He is Righteousness. He is Justice. And without Him, I am nothing but a sinful, lost soul standing in rebellion against Him and everything He examples & desires. God is right when He judges us. He is right when He does anything. He is perfection. 

So, as Paul explores the relationship between man & God, this conversation about righteousness and how we view ourselves (inside & out) is something that must come up. We cannot examine life with God and not examine our lives as lived with Him, how we are changed and undone by Him, being remade into the likeness of Christ. 

But while we are being changed, we must confront our sin. And when we confront our sin, we cannot put blame or pressure on anyone but ourselves. We cannot suppose that in our sin, God places any kind of approval on our choices. We only walk in His favor when we walk in His righteousness. And we only walk in His righteousness when we walk clothed in Christ. Everything done outside of His will is inherently an act of rebellion. His grace covers us when we slip into these times, but it does not excuse what we have chosen to do. 

As we GoLove others in the Name of Christ, we must be mindful of our own actions as we preach the Gospel. Later in chapter 14, Paul will impress upon us not to condemn ourselves by what we approve. If we claim Christ, and walk in the righteousness of God, then we must walk as Christ, prusuing a humble life in Him, denying the impulses of the flesh. This comes as a gift, a result of His righteousness at work in us. Without Him, we are unable to fight against sin and we stand bare before the judgment of God. But when we do walk with Him, we come to understand that path that He blazed before us more and more. That path of righteousness that points toward Him & glorifies Him. That is where God is glorified in us, not in our sin, but in righteousness, His righteousness at work in us. 

Romans 2:25-29 // Circumcision of the Heart

“25 For circumcision benefits you if you observe the law, but if you are a lawbreaker, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore if an uncircumcised man keeps the laws requirements, will his uncircumcision not be counted as circumcision? 27 A man who is physically uncircumcised, but who fulfills the law, will judge you who are a lawbreaker in spite of having the letter of the law and circumcision. 28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh. 29 On the contrary, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart — by the Spirit, not the letter. That man’s praise is not from men but from God.”

Romans 2:25-29

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This theme will continue to be echoed throughout the letter, the heart is what matters. This life we live in Christ isn’t a walking through a series of religious rites or ceremonies. It isn’t a simple matter of doing things, as if our actions purchase the favor of God. His concern is for our heart. It has always been about giving Him our heart. The heart is the seat of emotion, the heart speaks of the true motivation of an individual. We can walk through any activity repeatedly and never engage with it. You can do most anything without a true concern or a modicum of passion. So, God is looking for the full engagement of our heart, not just our time or resources. Legalism doesn’t indicate that we have given our heart over to God. Doing all the ‘right’ things isn’t a sign of humility or submission to His Lordship. 

God’s call for our heart has been echoed all throughout His Word, the heart that follows Him moves beyond the basic appearance of religion and into a life of true devotion. This is where a daily, intentional engagement with God helps us to maintain the direction of our heart in a way that honors Him. Moving beyond ritual into the practice of the presence of Christ involves our heart in constant conversation with the Father. Paul’s later call to pray without ceasing points toward this internal positioning.

It’s hard to be cold and passive when you are engaged in conversation with someone. You could live in the same house with them, going about your daily tasks, and never really engage with them. But when you open up, taking time to talk, time to listen, things naturally move toward relationship and a deeper life. This circumcision of the heart that Paul is talking about is a condition of the heart that reveals a relationship far removed from ritual. It isn’t about what the individual can do, but about the interaction with God that creates space for Him to reign over them. It’s the difference between appearance and reality, an acquaintance and love. 
Paul was having to confront the long running attitude of his own people. He was combatting the life he used to live as a Pharisee. He was living evidence of the circumcision of the heart winning out over the controlled legalism of religion. God never intended for the Jews to go in the direction they did, but the human heart likes to rely on itself more so than on anyone else. But if we are going to be effective in answering the call to GoLove others, we must understand that lives will only be changed by the circumcision of the heart, not by entering into simple repetition of ritual. A circumcised heart is a heart that is engaged, intentional and that desires to be changed by the experience. The religious heart thinks it is in control of what goes on, and pride rules the day. 

The love of Christ moves so far beyond this shallow interaction and into the deeper enegament that we find when we walk in the daily rhythms of grace with Him in the Holy Spirit. 

Romans 1:1-7 // The Focus of a Disciple’s Heart

“1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news — 2 which He promised long ago through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures — 3 concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was a descendant of David according to the flesh 4 and who has been declared to be the powerful Son of God by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness. 5 We have received grace and apostleship through Him to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations, on behalf of His name, 6 including yourselves who also belong to Jesus Christ by calling:

7 To all who are in Rome, loved by God, called as saints.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 1:1-7

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Paul’s primer on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ begins with a greeting that does everything he can to point the focus at Jesus Christ rather than at the reader. All in all, in just this way of saying ‘Hello, it’s me Paul,’ contains close to 20 references to God and only 6 to the reader. There is no doubt, from the first moment, that this letter has an agenda. That agenda is to direct believers, new and old, toward the undeniable truth that God is the center, Christ is the focus and the Spirit is the One who draws us there. 

There is such a relief, such a freedom, that comes from having the focus shifted off of us and onto Jesus Christ. The first steps of discipleship then echo that call to come and die to self, and to then, inturn, live to Christ. Even in saying hello, it is apparent that this new endeavor of the soul is going to create a rhythm that is based in Him, on Him and for Him. This life of being a disciple isn’t anything that might look like our old life, that might resemble whoever it was that we used to be. Instead, we begin in that first step to do what we will be doing in eternity, namely kneeling and confessing His Lordship over all. We begin by confessing Whose we are, as Paul does in the inaugural 6 words, “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ.” and in being owned by Jesus, again, we find such freedom. The weight and responsibility of ownership shifts off of our insufficient shoulders and rests firmly on the shoulders of the One who carried the weight of humanity’s sins on His own shoulders. So, in our kneeling, He makes us able to stand. In confessing His Name, He gives us a new identity. In submitting to His Lordship, He makes us Hiis grace-covered ambassadors to the nations. 

All of this confirmed in a simple greeting by a man the readers haven’t even met yet. 

As we greet each new day, week, month, moment, opportunity or year, as Christians, we a compelled to remember our discipleship and where the focus of our life really rests. Each day is meant to be a practice of His presence and a rememberance of His grace-filled love. As disciples, we cannot look to self, but to our Master. This new life is a complete retooling of the entirety of our being. We are being reset, recast, into His image, His likeness. All of life then, has its lens adjusted, focused and dialed in to the heart of God by the blood of Christ and the direction of His Holy Spirit. We gain a new direction and in turn find contenment in Him. We give over the controls for the lens of our heart to Him, knowing that He knows better than we ever could what will bring richness, joy and purpose into our lives. 

Paul’s introduction echoes these senitments, and so much more. This is about Him, not about us. The rhythm of grace that compells us to GoLove others in His Name finds it foundation in the beating of His heart, not in the compulsions of our flesh. The struggle that ensues, between flesh and Spirit, will wind up being a major topic of conversation as this amazing letter progresses. But as for us, let us greet this day with the rememberance of Whose we are, and use these moments we have to draw the hearts of others around us to see what we have found when we come and die, finding life abundant in Jesus Christ. 

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