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Category Archives: Romans

Romans 13:1-7

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Romans 13:1-7

Dear God, our modern Christianity seems to have lost this passage. At least in America. Sometime in the 70s (maybe is was after Roe v. Wade), we decided that we would not submit to our government but ensure we controlled our Christian agenda from the top down. Then the moral majority came in the 80s and we were off and running. Now, it seems that we have made an idol out of ruling from above instead of serving from below.

So what do I need to do to be a better servant? What do I need to do to be better at serving from below? I received an email from an organization that helps sex trafficking victims yesterday. I shared it with my wife. Yes, it is important that we legislate against sex trafficking, but the truth is that we can petition our lawmakers while, as individuals, we seek to make a difference at a grassroots level.

I often have people tell me I should run for a local political office. I always laugh and tell them that there is no prize for doing that, and I can get more done as a private citizen than I can from a governmental level. So I have friends in the government. I talk with them and let them know about some problems I see and how the government might come alongside us to solve some of them. But my calling is not to be part of the government.

Father, it would be easy to say that Paul didn’t understand what it was like to live under a bad, harsh government that was doing corrupt things, but I guarantee living under our government was better than living under his. He apparently understood just fine. So if I am to take his words to heart, I need to submit to you and seek your will for me. Help me to hear your voice and worship you well today.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2021 in Romans

 

Romans 7:21-25

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Romans 7:21-25

Dear God, this is like the one time I feel like Paul admits he is flawed. I’m grateful for it. It makes me like him more.

A couple of days ago, my wife and I were having dinner with two other couples, one of whom we met that night. As we shared and got to know each other it occurred to me that they were only getting the good parts version of our lives so I dropped a couple of references to the idea that there were some aspects to us as individuals and as a couple that weren’t perfect. We, in turn, we’re getting the good parts of their lives, but they also subtly dropped hints that their lives and pasts weren’t picture perfect either.

Isn’t it funny how our insecurity can drive us to hide the things Paul vaguely references in this passage, yet it’s those very things that make us most likable to others? We are all slaves to sin. we all make mistakes. I made many mistakes yesterday. Some of those mistakes I’m aware of and some I’m not. Thank you that you free me from not only the regret and shame of my sin, but you inspire me to grow and purge a little more of it out of my life each day.

Father, as Paul says here, you are the answer. I can’t be moral. I can’t be good. I can’t be selfless. In my shame, I can’t be truly selfless because everything I do will be driven by the idea of hiding that shame. So thank you. Thank you that you are the answer. I love you and I love everything you offer us. Make me your humble, vulnerable instrument today.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2021 in Romans

 

Romans 12:3-5

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
Romans 12:3-5

Dear God, context is everything. The last half of this paragraph starts with, “Just as our bodies…,” and those verses quoted quite a bit. But the first half of the paragraph is about arrogance vs. humility. In other words, Paul is reminding us that none of us can do it all on our own. We need community. We need partners. We need to be someone else’s partner. We need to be willing to submit to the group so that even if we find ourselves in the role of the body’s head, we can realize that we are still part of the whole and cannot go anywhere without the rest.

Community is so outrageously important as we make our way through life. Of course, the first community you give me is my wife. I metaphorically run into her in our relationship and you use that impact to rub off my rough edges. Children are another important part of that. Parents. Siblings. And then there are friends, coworkers, people in my church. You use all of these people to teach me, humble me, motivate me, direct me, etc. And by me showing up, you can use me in their lives as well.

Father, make me willing to play whatever role you have for me in the body of Christ, and please teach me and sand off my rough edges in whatever way you need. Through my life and the lives of those around me, please accomplish your will and let your kingdom come to earth.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2021 in Romans

 

Romans 12:9-10

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
Romans 12:9-10

Dear God, I like the last part here where Paul encourages us to take delight in honoring each other. It can feel so good to pump someone else up. Why is that? What did you plant into our nature that makes it feel good to 1.) work, 2.) give, and 3.) love selflessly?

Here’s an epiphany I just had as I wrote that question. You gave us your nature and these are things that you do. These things are in your nature. You work hard. You give good gifts to your children. And you love us and delight in watching us grow and develop into better people. How interesting that the things that bring us joy in our existence are the same things that bring you joy in your existence. Hmmm.

Father, as I go through this day, help me to work hard, give sacrificially, and love genuinely. Help me to turn loose of self-pity, anger, pettiness, lethargy, and selfishness. When there is conflict to be addressed, help me to do it in love. Help me to do it with the other person in mind. For your glory, oh, Lord. So that you may increase, I may decrease, and my joy and peace in you can be complete.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2021 in Romans

 

Romans 11:33-12:2

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen. And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 11:33-12:2

Dear God, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a moment in which it was more important that I respond with the Holy Spirit’s guidance or that I’ve actually known was coming so I could spend time talking with you to prepare. Someone has asked to speak to me tonight, and I know it’s going to require all of you and none of me. It’s going to require all of your love, wisdom, and discernment. It’s going to require your insight and your patience. I’m making some assumptions about what we will be discussing so I could be overreacting, but even if I am, there’s is no harm in me trying to be as tuned into you as possible.

So this passage is about your wisdom vs. my wisdom. No doubt which one is better. The theme of my spiritual walk over the last nearly 20 years is that I simply don’t know what you’re doing for the future so I am going to just try to stay in the moment and hear your still small voice.

Father, make me the man you need me to be tonight. Not for my sake, but for your sake. For your kingdom’s sake. I love everyone involved tonight, but in the end it’s not about them or me. It’s about you. So grant me the serenity, courage and wisdom to be what and who you need me to be.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2021 in Romans

 

Romans 7:21-8:4

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
Romans 7:21-8:4

Dear God, this is yet another passage where the chapter and verse breaks do us a disservice. Paul wrote Romans 7:25 and 8:1 as one thought. He was a slave to sin and you sent Jesus, so now there is no more condemnation for anyone who belongs to Jesus. That’s condemnation from you, but it’s also self-condemnation. It’s shame. It’s guilt.

This is what the person who pursues morality apart from you misses. They miss that none of us are good. They miss that they cannot be the moral person they strive to be. Then, when they inevitably fail to love up to the standard they themselves have set they sometimes throw in the towel in despair. Shame takes over. Hiding. Guilt. Then depression can follow that.

Father, first, thank you for giving me a path out of the holes I put myself in. Thank you for forgiving me while still calling me to press on towards you and the man you have me to be. Help me to know how to offer this to others. Give me the words, the courage to say the words, and the mercy to live the words out towards others.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2021 in Romans

 

Romans 12:9-10

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Dear God, as someone who does fundraising for a nonprofit, this is an issue I remember facing early on—the difference between genuinely loving someone as opposed to trying to manipulate them to give our organization money. I had to approach this in such a way that I had to care about the people donating to our nonprofit or I would feel like a salesman only interested in closing the deal.

I still remember the book Dale Barron, the resource development director at the World Hunger Relief Farm, loaned me. It is called Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as a Ministry. It helped me to see the donors as people to be loved as opposed to people who could give me money. Instead of them having something I wanted, it became a challenge to figure out a way to make sure they received more than they gave through the process.

There are others I’m supposed to love too. It starts with my wife. Okay, I’m wrong. It starts with you. I’m supposed to genuinely love you, Father. I’m supposed to love you with all of my mind, soul, and strength. Do I? Is my love for you genuine? The honest answer is, “Sometimes.” Sometimes I really love you. Sometimes I don’t love you like I should.

Father, help me to love you like I should. Help me to love others like I should. Let it start with you and then flow to my wife and children. Then let it flow to relatives and friends. Then let it flow to donors, clients, and strangers. Then to my community, state, nation and world. Put the things on my heart that you want me to respond to. Show me the human need you want me to care about, and then give me the passion and vision to pursue it with complete faith in your provision. Do it all for your glory, oh, Lord!

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2021 in Romans

 

Romans 14:5-13

In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God. ’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.
Romans 14:5-13

Dear God, but it’s so much more fun to judge other people. It’s so much more fun to get caught up in the minutia of I’m right and you’re wrong. I want to find little hills I can die on so I can feel superior to other people.

Okay, obviously, I’m being sarcastic, but am I really? I mean, I can have a tendency to do all of the things Paul is describing here–and more! I can judge other Christians by how they spend their money, how they dress, how they present themselves in public, how they raise their children, how they treat their spouse, how they worship you…the list can go on an on. And why do I do it? Why do I look at speck in their eye while ignoring the log in my own? All I can say is that I’m obviously an insecure mess, and I need your mercy.

Father, help me to focus more on the mercy I need from you than the mercy others need from you. And please forgive me. I’m so much less than I want to be. I’m not the worshipper, the giver, the worker, the father, the husband, the brother, the son, the friend, the citizen I need to be. I’m sorry. Thank you for loving me anyway.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2021 in Romans

 

Romans 1:21-25

Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.
Romans 1:21-25

Dear God, an astute reader of scripture would note that I cut this passage off right before Paul started getting into specific sins, including homosexuality. I did that intentionally. I wanted to talk to you this morning more about the idea of worshipping the creation instead of the Creator. Why is it so hard for us to worship you? To quote Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”

Just off of the top of my head, and without pondering it too much, I think there are maybe two main things at play. The first is that Satan actively tempts us to drift from you. Even his temptations for Jesus, whether spoken in the wilderness or through Peter were about Jesus inserting his own will over yours. And isn’t that what he does to me too? He tells me I deserve better than I have. He tells me I need to protect myself at the expense of truth. He tells me I should be afraid of any number of things–immigrants, the government, my neighbors, my family. The fallacy in every lie is that they are all predicated on the false assumption that my life is my own. That I have a right to safety, money, power, comfort, etc. It’s not about me. It’s about you.

The second is the very desire that Satan plays off of doesn’t need Satan’s encouragement. I am selfish enough all on my own. And while I don’t build idols to which I pray, I certainly have things in my life in which I put my feelings of safety and security. I put my faith in my job and bank account. I put my faith in my government’s power in the world. I put my faith in the safety of my neighborhood/town. I put my faith in my health. My sense of certainty is based in all of these things, and in the midst of it all I lose the rest in you that only your Holy Spirit can offer.

Father, I give this day to you. I give my worship to you. I give my wants to you. Help me to live my life for you. Give me ears to hear and eyes to see what you need me to do in any given circumstance. And do it all for your glory and not mine.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2021 in Romans

 

Romans 13:1-7

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.
Romans 13:1-7

Dear God, I’ll confess that this has always been a passage I’d rather skip. First, as a general principle, I’m fine with it, but when I think about the man who wrote it, the government under which he lived and the circumstances through which he lived (and died) through the last part of his life, I have to wonder if it should be read with more nuance and not just taken at face value. Then there is the reality that a lot of the world lives under despotic governments. How does the North Korean or Iranian Christian respond to this passage?

As I think about the weaknesses of being a Christian in a more modern society like ours or the Europeans, one thing I note is that life can be deceptively comfortable. A little like the frog slowly boiling in the water. When life is too easy and conflict-free, we get lazy. Then we stop hindering for you and depending on you. We make idols of the society we built instead of worshiping you. Even me over the last few days. I’ve taken moments here and there to pray for individuals in need of your comfort and healing, but I haven’t hungered for you.

Then there are the things that are corroding our society from within. The first among them is social media. But other forms of entertainment are doing it as well. Yes, we are corroding from within.

Father, I suppose at the end of the day respecting our government is our default position, but it shouldn’t be replaced by pursuing you. Worshiping you. Sacrificing our lives to you. Help me to do that today. For your glory’s sake, and for the sakes of those around me who need you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2021 in Romans