Romans 10

“For everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” 10:14

I browsed the library yesterday. I love the staff picks, primarily because it’s next to the coffee stand. Over half of them were some sort of self-help book. There’s a new book out called “Present Over Perfect”, about decluttering and simplifying your thought life. It had 27 holds on it. In both the secular and Christian culture, we are worried and overwhelmed people. I was telling my husband about this before bed, wondering aloud how this comes across to people outside of Christianity. We are writing books with the same topics (with better answers). We are overwhelmed, stressed and tired. Our marriage success rate sucks. Spiraling down into discouragement, he stopped me and said “everyone’s hungry, Carly. Everyone is out there looking to be fed. And there are a lot of bad restaurants. Point them towards the good food.” (I love that this man knows how to get through to me: food analogies.)

Is there someone in your life that you need to share with?  Take some time today and pray for opportunities. And then when the time comes, take ‘em. For everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved, but they need to know who they’re talking to.

 

-Carly

Romans 9

“‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So it does not depend on the man who wills, or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”

This passage can be hard to wrap your mind around. I mean, what? God hated Esau? Then, right smack dab in the middle, it says, “who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” making it impossible to argue.

Let’s take a look at that question, “who are, O man?” It reminds me of Job 38:2 “who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”

Who do we think we are?

Most every view of ourselves is incorrect. Our beauty and success is measured by comparison. We believe opinions more readily than facts. We can, in one moment, feel deeply ashamed, and in the next, super self righteous.

We’ve spent the last 8 chapters hearing about this beautiful, underserved grace and salvation, the benefits of being One with Christ, then God lets us in on some of His big picture stuff and we’re like, “Wait a minute… That doesn’t seem fair…” Yeah! It’s not fair! Haven’t you been listening? You deserved to DIE!

But then what else does He say about us?

We are under no condemnation in Chrsit Jesus.

We are deeply known and perfectly loved.

He orchestrates everything into an ultimate good for those who He calls.

Nothing can separate us from His love.

The list goes on. So, who are we? His creation, whom He loves and self sacrificingly saves, drawing us into truth, out of a sea or lies and opinions. He is trustworthy. We hardly know which way is up.

Humility is hard for us. Impossible without the help of His Spirit, but it’s the appropriate response to Romans 9. Also, gratitude.

-Bethany

Romans 8

“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.” 8:1-2

This is the gospel. We are not sentenced to death anymore. We are not slaves to our sin. We are free, because Jesus paid our debt and his Spirit lives in us, “helping us in our weakness” (8:26).

Salvation is past, present and future. We were saved eternally when Jesus died for our sins. We are currently, every day, being sanctified. And yet, we are still waiting for the day Christ’s new Kingdom is completely established. Living in that tension is weird.

My son has asthma, and for a while, whenever he got a cold, it moved down to his chest and we ended up in the hospital.  After several visits to the ER and an overnight stay in the hospital, our doctor provided us with several inhalers and liquid steroid medicine to administer to him on our own to keep us out of the ER. Last night, his breathing started getting tight and we reached for the medicine. However, it takes about 9 hours for the first dose of steroids to kick in. He swallowed the cherry flavored syrup and we waited. We knew the medicine was in his system, we kept our inhalers in hand and we just waited. We prayed that his breathing would stabilize, the medicine would prevent a severe asthma attack and his airways would open. I laid in bed feeling his chest rise and fall on mine, groaning prayers to God that he would heal his little body. I was confident the medicine would do it’s job, and I had a few ways to troubleshoot his tight breathing in the meanwhile, but the tension of waiting was horrible. (This application is a bit of a stretch, but after a long, sleepless night, writing about it is cathartic so bear with me.)

My relationship with God would not be the same if my son didn’t have asthma. It’s led to some deeply sanctifying moments as I learn to trust God in my parenting. I wouldn’t know or experience his love and grace as deeply if I didn’t battle chronic anxiety. He uses our earthly failing bodies and our internal short-comings for good.  Look for this in your life and take note. Where have you seen God work things together for good in your life? This is a beautiful piece of the gospel.

Look ahead with hope. We are not yet perfect, but we are healed. And still healing. Waiting for the medicine to kick in. In the meanwhile, stay eager with hope (8:20-23), ask the Holy Spirit for help in your weaknesses (8:26), and trust that your journey is not in vain, for God is sovereign, using all things to work together for the good of those who love him (8:28).

 

-Carly

 

 

Romans 7

The Law was that husband who only ever pointed out faults, pushed your buttons and brought out the worst in you. Legally bound by marriage to this guy: Mr. Right, but not in the way you were hoping. Now there’s the possibility of being married to Jesus and you want out! 

“You have died to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in our flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the Law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the Law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under an old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” (7:4-6)

That is some REAL good news! Identifying with the death of Christ (this is signified in baptism BTW) makes us dead to the sin that had sentenced us to death. There is power in the resurrection of Jesus and He shares it with us! 

Like all things, it takes awhile to get used to. We will spend our whole lives growing into this truth: Sin is no longer in charge. It still feels pretty in charge. But what does it say we were released for in the first place? 

“So that we may bear fruit for God.”

What are the fruits of the Spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

Jesus is 100% responsible for our salvation and makes it possible for us to succeed at anything, but we need to decide how much fruit we want to produce. How successful do you want to be at loving people? Doing good? Staying faithful?

Will you invest effort into this beautiful new marriage, full of unlimited potential? Will you fight the good fight, not because you have to, but because you Husband who loves you perfectly is giving you the opportunity?

-Bethany

Romans 6

“Do not let sin control the way you live, do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” 6:12-14

“So you should also consider yourselves dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” 

This is a great chapter, liberating us from the power of sin and joining us to the freedom of Jesus. But sometimes (every day at least six times), sin still feels like my master. When I give in to my selfish tendencies…when I lose my patience quickly….when I speak curtly without thinking. Not exactly the marks of someone who has conquered sin nature and is riding off on a white horse with Jesus. Paul grapples with this alongside us in the next chapter, so whew, we’re not alone.

For now, here are some tangible steps to take to loosen sin’s grip on your life:

  1. Know where sin shows up in your life. You need to know what you’re working against. What are your personal weaknesses?
  2. Practice self-restraint. Our culture tends to keep itself from very little and pride itself on having it all. “Lose weight without changing a thing!” But the Bible talks about discipline a lot and counts it as godly. Self-control is a muscle that needs to be exercised to get stronger.
  3. Ask for help. (Ugh.) This means letting people in on your mess, which does several things. It builds community, because you’re being vulnerable and authentic, it increases your chances of success and it diminishes the power Satan has on you. Instead of you crouching in the dark, scrambling to fix your own mistakes, you’re tearing open the blinds and letting the light pour in. Admit that something’s wrong. Ask for accountability. Ask for prayer. You’ll realize you aren’t alone in your struggles and you’re not alone in your fight.

Writing that last paragraph convicts me that when I am on the receiving end of that from another believer to steward it well. To quickly forgive, to humbly hold them accountable, to take my role seriously in their life and fight their battle alongside them.

We are dead to sin, and we have a choice of who we serve. Do you feel empowered by that? What’s stopping you?

 

-Carly

Romans 5

Let’s start with the Bible Project’s part 2.

“While we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

God’s love is infinitely more than our best love. He has shown this. 

There have been times in life when I’m kind of hiding from God, or rather, I really don’t want to talk with Him about something. I’d prefer to run it past my mom, you know? She loves me with that unconditional mom love. Or when I am heading off on a long, intimidating trip, I lament a friend isn’t coming. Have you ever felt that? “I wouldn’t be afraid of anything if so-and-so were by my side.”

It’s good to have those people in life, who love so well. But GUESS WHAT:

God has demonstrated how much MORE His own love for us is. How? By sending Jesus to suffer, die, fulfill our death penalty, while we were still spitting in His face.

Last December, when I was getting ready to lead a ten week trip to Eurasia, I was kind of freaking out. My friend Tiff came to me at a perfect moment to encourage and offer to help shoulder the burden. It felt like such a relief and I really wished she could come with me. Then God spoke to my heart. Do you know all the love Tiffany has for you is from me and it’s only a small fraction? I love you infinitely more and I am powerful enough to carry and protect you. I am the One going with you!

That moment changed me. I still, at times, need to stop and remind myself of this fact, but check it out! God loves me the MOST! More than all my family and friends combined! His love is unfathomly big! He has demonstrated how “next level” He is when it comes to love, self sacrificing love.

What about you? Who, do you imagine, loves you better than God? Challenge this thinking today. Why is it hard to believe?

-Bethany

Romans 4

Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, ‘That’s how many descendants you will have!’ And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. “ (4:18-21) If you’re not familiar with Abraham’s story, brush up on it in Genesis 15.

This chapter really speaks for itself. Here are some questions I’m asking myself:

  1. What promises of God do you lack faith for?
  2. When you’re doubting God, what are you putting your hope in?
  3. Who are people in your life that model Abraham’s faith? Think about these people, thank God for them and posture yourself to learn from them. It’s good to acknowledge real-life-you-can-talk-to-them faith followers that exemplify the same behavior as people we read about in the Bible. It makes it a bit more tangible.

Paul says it all so well. If I had to sum out why I put my hope in God in one sentence it would be this:

“…Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.” (4:17)

O, praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!

-Carly