Romans

Don't give in to any attempt to tear down what Christ is building

Don't give in to any attempt to tear down what Christ is building

Jesus made it clear in His word that at present, He is building His church and the devil will not succeed in destroying what Christ is building. Christ is building us up as individuals, as a family, and as an eternal kingdom. But even though Christ will ultimately be victorious in His efforts, there are still those who seek to tear down what He is establishing. He also warned us about these attempts ahead of time so we can be on our guard against them.

So how can we avoid giving in to any attempt to tear down what Christ is building up?

Do big things, but don't do them alone

Do big things, but don't do them alone

Paul spent his life on this earth attempting big things. He experienced great successes and painful failures, but I admire what he did, and I'm motivated by the example he gives us of the blessings of submitting our lives over to the Lord, and learning to listen to the Lord's voice when He speaks.

And I'm grateful that when Paul did the big things the Lord called him to do, that he was intentional about bringing other people along with him. He wasn't trying to bring the gospel to the world by himself. He partnered with men and women who became His family in Christ. They served together, and we are the beneficiaries of their sacrifices. We know Jesus, in part, because people like this partnered together to make Him known to us, and their example has been emulated by millions of people throughout the centuries.

When and how should you speak boldly?

When and how should you speak boldly?

When I was a brand new lead pastor, fresh out of college, I was invited by another pastor to come and speak to a group of teens. I had been serving as a youth pastor for several years, and was involved in camping ministries, so speaking to teens wasn't something new for me, but I didn't do a very good job when I spoke to this particular group that day.

My approach was all wrong. I was under the mistaken impression that in my new pastoral role, I needed to be more serious and somber. And what I ended up doing was communicating the life-changing word of God in the most dull and lifeless way possible. Those teens probably felt like they were at a lecture. I could see in their faces that they were bored to tears.

And whether you're a teacher, a speaker, a preacher, or something else, there's a time for all of us when it's appropriate to speak with boldness, particularly in regard to the gospel of Christ. But when will that be, and how should we go about it?

What is the key to living in harmony?

What is the key to living in harmony?

As much as you may like other people, one of the most difficult aspects of life is getting along with the people the Lord brings into your life. If you serve in a people-centered vocation, I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about. One of my friend's daughters was recently telling us about her new job as a server in a local restaurant. It's been an eye opening experience for her to attempt to meet the different wants and preferences of her customers while keeping a pleasant smile on her face.

Likewise, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that there might be a few people in your life that you've decided not to interact with frequently because you're trying to "keep the peace." Living in harmony with others, even our brothers and sisters in Christ, can be a challenging task that, in the end, requires us to depend on the strength of the Lord to empower.

Pursuing peace in a divisive world

Pursuing peace in a divisive world

Every day of our lives, we're given multiple opportunities to demonstrate Christ-like love toward others. Every day we are given opportunities to build others up in their faith. So, what are we doing with these opportunities? Are people being built up through interacting with us, or are they being destroyed? Are their spirits being uplifted or are they being crushed?

A mature Christian is an others-centered Christian. This world can be divisive, but we have been given the privilege to promote a spirit of peace within our Christian family as we prioritize each others' lives, needs, and growth. Take a look at what we're shown in Romans 14:13-23 where we're taught to prioritize peace in the midst of a divisive world.

Loved or Judged? How do you make others feel?

Loved or Judged?  How do you make others feel?

How do you suppose others experience you? Do they feel better or worse after talking with you or working with you? How do your conversations and demeanor come across to your church family? What kind of impression do you suppose you're making on those you know who aren't followers of Christ?

One of the biggest hangups many people in this world have toward Christians relates to the fear of being judged or condemned by them. And even among believers, there are plenty who no longer attend or participate in the life of their local church because of a fear of being unkindly judged. Is this an issue you've ever wrestled with? Loved or judged? How do we make others feel? What counsel does Romans 14:1-12 give us about this subject?

Is it time to restructure your life's priorities?

Is it time to restructure your life's priorities?

Have you ever come to a breaking point in your life when you realized that it was time to make some changes, but you weren't completely certain what changes you needed to make? I remember a particular season like that in my life that took place when my children were all very little. I was involved in so many things at once, and had taken on more ministry responsibilities than I should have. On top of that, I was working three jobs, and had started neglecting things like my health, my personal finances, and good stewardship of my available time.

Finally, I came to a breaking point…

Can you lead if you haven't learned to follow?

Can you lead if you haven't learned to follow?

In life, I think many of us like to "call the shots." Many of us like to be the one making the decisions, and that preference shows up at a very early age. I'll never forget a debate I had some time ago with one of my teenage children who was bristling against a decision I made. My response was, "When the day comes and you're a middle-aged adult, I'll feel really bad for you if you let a 15-year-old run your house." I also said, "I realize you'd like to be the one calling the shots, but before that day comes, you need to learn an important lesson. You can't be an effective leader until you've first learned to follow."

Three ways you might be able to tell if someone actually believes in Jesus

Three ways you might be able to tell if someone actually believes in Jesus

When you take a close look at your heart, can you truly say you're someone who has a strong relationship with Jesus, or would you primarily describe yourself as someone who has been influenced by Christians without necessarily adopting their beliefs as your own?

When a person truly comes to faith in Christ, things change. Spiritually speaking, they are raised from death to life, and that new life tends to come with some obvious and visible signs. In Romans 12:9-21, the Apostle Paul describes at least three ways we might be able to tell someone has actually come to a place of genuine faith in Jesus.

How to make the most of the time you have left

How to make the most of the time you have left

How are you using your time? Are you using it to rest, or are engaged in activity?

There's a time to rest, and a time to engage in activity. But in the end, it's wise for us to make an honest assessment of how we're using the days, weeks, months, and years of life the Lord has blessed us with.  The years will be used up faster than we often realize, so are we making the best use of the time we have left? The Apostle Paul gives us great counsel in Romans 12:1-8 that can help us answer that question.

Are we responding to God's favor with humility?

Are we responding to God's favor with humility?

Isn't it ironic when we consider the fact that the more we're blessed, the more likely it may be that we'll begin acting like we actually deserved that blessing? Instead of treating our blessings like a gift, and responding with humility, we often puff ourselves up and begin thinking of ourselves as more worthy than others to receive them.

We don't deserve what God has given us. We actually deserve the opposite. So as we contemplate the gracious ways God has blessed our lives, we're encouraged to respond to His favor with humility. Look at how Paul elaborates on this in Romans 11:17-36...

Not everyone will believe, but some will

Not everyone will believe, but some will

Have you ever felt somewhat alone as you lived out your faith? Does it ever feel like you're part of a small subset of people who actually trust in Jesus and seek to be obedient to His teaching? If you feel that way, you're not the first one to experience these emotions. This feeling is somewhat common, and many of us will experience seasons when this feels all too real.

But the truth of the matter is that God's plan is much bigger in scope than we often realize. We can see the small part of the parade that's directly in front of us, but from His perspective, He can see the beginning, middle, and end all at the same time. And while there are plenty of people who will never come to faith in Christ, there are some who will. In fact, there are more who will trust in Jesus than we may initially realize, and that's a subject Paul addresses in Romans 11:1-6.

Why we take the risk to share our faith

Why we take the risk to share our faith

Have you ever wanted to tell someone about the hope they can have in Jesus, but you've shied away from doing so because you feared receiving a negative response from them? Have you ever worried if others will think you're weird, crazy, or fanatical?

Aligning the desires of your heart with God's heart

Aligning the desires of your heart with God's heart

There are things we all crave in life, but our hearts were designed to only be truly satisfied through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Every other desire we experience is secondary in importance, yet sometimes, we treat our secondary desires like they're primary desires.

God has desires as well, and we can see what He desires by what He reveals in His word, and through the actions He has taken to intervene throughout the course of human history. Since God has desires and we have desires, it's worth asking the question, "What would it look like if my desires started to align with God's desires?"

Will God accept me even if I'm not that good?

Will God accept me even if I'm not that good?

We all want to be accepted, but there are very few relationships we may ever experience that show us unconditional acceptance. That isn't how people typically operate. I learned very early in life that many people in this world accept you right up to the point when you stop giving them something or stop doing something for them.

But thankfully, that's not how the acceptance of God works. His acceptance of you and me is not linked to what we can give Him or do for Him. Rather, His acceptance of us is forever tied to what He did on our behalf, and what He gave us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Don't fall back into fear

Don't fall back into fear

Unhealthy fear isn’t something you want to welcome into your life. At times, it takes the form of insecurity and willful ignorance. Unhealthy fear exists when we believe circumstances are out of control and we're reasonably certain there's a good chance things won't be working out in our favor. Maybe you're afraid of someone who has the capacity to harm you. Or maybe you fear experiencing circumstances that resemble painful events from your past. Maybe you're living in fear right now because you aren't confident about what's in store for your future. But fear can be overcome. Here’s how.

A snapshot of your new, Spirit-led, life

A snapshot of your new, Spirit-led, life

The longer we walk with Jesus, the less we resemble the person we once were. The longer we walk with Him, the more distant we start to feel from the life we once lived. In Christ, we have been blessed with a brand-new life, and there are aspects of this new life that we are invited to gain a better understand of through looking at His word.

Romans 8:1-11 gives us a snapshot of the new life we have in Christ. It's a life that isn't being led by the priorities of this world or passions of our old nature. Our new life is a life that's being led by the Holy Spirit.

Why do I do what I don't want to do?

Why do I do what I don't want to do?

Have you ever made a regretful decision or tried to live your life outside of God's will, only to look back at what took place with confusion about what you were thinking when you made those choices? I certainly have, and I suspect we all have. Even though we know Christ, we can still make very poor decisions, particularly if we're treating the tempting influence of sin too casually. Why do we do what we don't want to do?

It is a relief to belong to Christ

It is a relief to belong to Christ

We belong to someone who loves us. Before we came to know Christ, we were unhealthy, without hope, convinced we needed to fend for ourselves, and resigned to the fate of an outcast. But now, Christ has redeemed us. He has cleansed us from our sin and given us new life. He has also given us His name and a permanent place in His family. In Christ, we are shown that we belong, and we are relieved from our attempts to survive on our own. Romans 7:1-6 explains additional details of the benefits we are blessed with as those who belong to Christ.

Rewriting the story of your life

Rewriting the story of your life

God is giving us the opportunity to do a "rewrite" with our lives. Prior to coming to know Him, we were spiraling downward, bent on defiance toward Him, and idolizing our own ideas as if they were superior to His omniscience. We were lost, and we didn't really want to be found. But through Jesus Christ, we're now given the opportunity to experience a full rewrite of our life story, and the story that He's crafting is a masterpiece.