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Showing posts from June, 2019

“Inspiration”

BIBLE READING: Romans 9-13
               This section of Romans seems so important.  Of course, it is the body of the letter, but it also seems like a transition.  Paul has already leveled the playing field between the Jews and the Gentiles, so they wouldn’t think that either is better.  Now, he begins his transition into … we’re on the same team on this playing field, so let’s move forward and accomplish our goal.  Romans is a very inspiring book with a lot of information to process, but it is very encouraging.  It is humbling.  It is inspiring.  It is shaming.  It is a lot of things.  We are reminded of where we came from with our sinful nature.  We are reminded of what our Christian behavior is supposed to be.  As you re-read these chapters, you will probably find something you missed the first time around.  Such is the nature of the book of Romans (and the Bible, really).  But that is what is so wonderful about it!


“Authorities”

BIBLE READING: Romans 13
Reading this chapter reminds me of our annual updates with Wayne Barrier.  I remember Wayne saying one thing in particular when he was discussing the work in China.  He said something to the effect of the government there didn’t have a problem with the preachers they were training to teach the Bible because those who became Christians were good citizens that didn’t cause problems for them.  He relayed that this allowed them to spread the Gospel more effectively.                On the other hand, we live in the age of a 24-hour news cycle, where, if someone who works for the government sneezes, we have people discussing if he should’ve used his elbow to cover his mouth, or a Kleenex, and what was wrong with the consecutive sneezes, and why the Secretary of State didn’t say, “Bless you” after the sneeze, and so on and so forth.  It is easy to get distracted by the (for lack of a better word) “circus” that can be around our government sometimes.  However, we are co…

“Pep Talk”

BIBLE READING: Romans 12

               In 1986, the best movie in the history of cinema was released.  You can have Citizen Kane, or Gone with the Wind, or any other movie.  I’ll take the move, Hoosiers.  This movie is a true story about the Milan High School (Indiana) basketball team and their pursuit (as a very small school) of the state championship in 1951.  Gene Hackman plays Coach Norman Dale, and he is tasked with taking small, undersized basketball players and turning them into a competitive basketball team.  There’s a scene in the movie where the team is practicing and one of the players gets overwhelmed by the drill they are doing, and the other players begin to laugh.  Coach Dale blows the whistle to stop practice and urges them to focus on the task at hand.  He tells them to remember why they are here: “Five players on the floor functioning as one single unit: team, team, team – no one more important than the other.”                Chapter 12 of Romans is “Coach” Paul’s pep…

“Grafting”

BIBLE READING: Romans 11

               Holly Dunn released a song in 1986 called “Daddy’s Hands”.  Some of the lyrics go like this: “Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’.  Daddy’s hands were hard as steel when I done wrong.  Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle, but I’ve come to understand there was always love in daddy’s hands.”  That’s a similar thought to what we see here in Romans 11.  We are reminded by Paul that God shows us grace, but is not afraid to be firm.                Now, grafting olive trees is a concept that I know absolutely nothing about.  Fortunately, we live in the age of the Internet where we can learn anything and everything we ever wanted to know, or look up.  So, I found some information about olive-tree grafting…                Some trees have very desirable fruit characteristics and weak roots. Others have strong roots but small or no fruit. Grafting can combine the strong roots and good fruit into the same tree. In addition, some rootstocks incre…

“Hearing”

BIBLE READING: Romans 10                                              Have you ever heard a song on the radio that you just couldn’t stand?  Has it activated the very depths of your being that whenever that song comes on, you just can’t reach the dial to change the radio station fast enough?  Sure you have.  I bet we all have.  Have you ever had a song that you just couldn’t bear to hear and that you developed a hatred for, begin to change and to “grow on you”?  Before you know it, you’re listening to it more frequently, and even, dare I say, beginning to like it?  It may be “Happy” by Pharrell, or “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey, or (if you have a child from 7-14 years old right now) “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus.  Regardless, of what it may be, why does something like that seem to “grow on us” and change our opinion of it?  The answer is because we heard it more and more and more.  The more we heard it, the more the psychology of our brain changed…

“Entitlement”

BIBLE READING: Romans 9
               There seems to be a lot of discussion (or controversy) in our country about social class “privilege”.  A lot of people voice their opinions nowadays that it is unfair that some people are born into situations that are very beneficial materially, where some are not.  While it may be true that we are all born into different situations (a debate can be had as to if that is unfair), we are all on common ground with the fact that we all have a life to live.  We can all make choices each and every day to shape that life, and what it becomes.                The Jewish section of the people that Paul is addressing in Romans 9 had a lot of problems with this.  They felt that they were entitled to the grace of God.  First, realize that Paul would do anything he could to save his Jewish brethren.  In the first five verses, Paul’s desire is to give up his own salvation to save his Jewish brethren.  What an amazing statement!  We can know he is not just saying …

“Storytelling Journey”

BIBLE READING: Romans 4-8
Recently, the movie was released, Avengers: Endgame.If you are not a superhero fan, you probably could not care less.If you are, you realize that this was a movie that was 10 years in the making.There were 21 other movies that led up to this movie.However, when you watched the other 21 movies, you had no idea that they were leading up to such a huge finale.But, seeing all of them and looking back at the previous movies, one realizes that there were little hints and tidbits in each of the other 21 movies that would come to light and make a whole lot more sense once you saw the ultimate ending movie of this storytelling journey. God’s Word is like this in a way.For thousands of years, there were prophecies, and foreshadowing of what was to come, but now we are fortunate to look back and see the entire story unfold.We see how significant it was when God said, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing” t…

“He Loves me…. he loves me not…”

BIBLE READING: Romans 8

“He loves me…he loves me not… he loves me… he loves me not…”Remember that game that children play?It involves picking a flower, and slowly picking off one petal at a time and reciting one of the two sentences in alternating fashion until all of the petals have been removed.The last one stated when pulling off the last petal was supposedly whether or not a person’s target of affection was in love with them, or not.It may seem ridiculous, but it can be all consuming when we wonder if we are loved by another. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about that with God.How wonderful is the crescendo of chapter 8!Verses 38 and 39 read, “For I am persuaded that neither death not life, nor angels, nor principalities, not powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus or Lord”Nothing, except ourselves, can separate us from the love of God.What a comfo…

“Instinctual Behaviors”

BIBLE READING: Romans 7
There are an estimated 5,000 people in the United States that have tigers as pets.  There’s only one thing I can think of to tell these pet owners:  You people are crazy!!!  There seems to be more and more people every day that are beginning to have exotic pets as animals.  I’m not sure why this is a thing because I want to make sure that if I have a pet, it’s one that I know I can handle if he or she gets out of hand.  Bornfreeusa.org is a website that compiles animal attacks into a list by date.  Some are funny.  Some are not.  In fact, as I write this, the most recent entry is that someone called in reporting to animal control because a kangaroo was hopping down the street.  They thought it was a joke until other people in the neighborhood were calling in reporting “sightings of a tan, male kangaroo in their backyards and even on their front porches.”  That seems like a fun and cute story, but there are also instances of tragedy.  The day before the kangaroo…

“Baptism”

BIBLE READING: Romans 6 “Baptism”, a word that derives from the Greek word, baptizo, means so much.  Baptizo, in Greek, means “to immerse,” yet Romans 6 brings baptizo to life so much more.  For instance, in verse 3, where Paul asks the question: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”  The sin of all mankind (my sin, your sin, our sin) was upon Jesus, the only person to live a perfect and pure life, while on that cross.  The imagery of this is realized in the ugliness, brutality, harshness of the crucifixion.  Paul states that to be a Christian, or Christ-like, we need to be “buried with Him.”  We couldn’t do this physically because there would be no one left to teach the Gospel, so God, in His infinite wisdom, established baptizo, immersion.  “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism (immersion) into death…”  Why, and how, does this work?  Verse 5: “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His dea…

“HOPE”

BIBLE READING: Romans 5
               (For background purposes, Ben is writing this devo.)                I love Hope (my wife).  I also love hope.  Years ago, jokingly, I underlined a portion of Romans 5:5 in my Bible: “… hope does not disappoint…”  We laughed at the double-meaning of the statement, but hope is a wonderful concept when you really sit down and think about it.  Think back to Christmas Eve as a child and looking at the Christmas tree with wrapped presents underneath it.  Think about the hope you had that what you had whispered in Santa’s ear could actually be under the tree in one of those wrapped boxes.  Sure, you find out in the next 24 hours, but think about how wonderful and exciting it was to anticipate that what you wanted was right there in one of those boxes just waiting for you to unwrap it.  Think about holding a newborn baby.  Think about the hope that we have of the future for that child.  Think about how exciting it is to anticipate the growth of this child,…

“Trust”

BIBLE READING: Romans 4
Disney recently remade the movie Aladdin.  It just came out a few weeks ago.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I doubt it can be as good as the original animated version with Robin Williams as the Genie.  We can debate that later.  In the movie, Aladdin has used one of his three wishes to become a prince.  He does so because he wants to woo the heart of the fair princess, Jasmine.  One of the most pivotal points of the movie comes when Aladdin is riding his magic carpet up to the balcony of Jasmine’s room in the palace.  This is when they both go on an exploring ride of the countryside on the magic carpet while singing the duet, “A Whole New World”.  It’s a beautiful song, and a pivotal point in the movie.  But, in the moment before they go on the ride, Aladdin is asking Jasmine to go with him.  He’s standing on the magic carpet, and reaches his hand out to the skeptical Jasmine, and says, “Do you trust me?”                This is essentially what faith is.  It’s God t…

“Urgency”

BIBLE READING: Acts 27-Romans 3
               Anyone who has ever coached children playing sports realizes that no matter what the sport is or what activity they are doing, you really only need one thing … patience.  When coaching little ones, it is the hardest thing to teach them to play with a sense of urgency.  They don’t understand why mom and dad and coach and whoever in the stands is yelling at them.  But, it’s because it’s very hard to get them to understand the need to be urgent.                Think about the early stages of the church and its growth.  When you read the end of Acts and the beginning of Romans, you can almost feel the sense of urgency from the apostle Paul.  He was travelling everywhere.  He was talking with everyone.  He was explaining the way of salvation to Jews and Gentiles.  And he was doing it well.  He wanted to tell the world and tell every single person he could because he knew the Lord was returning and he needed all to realize this fact.  These are v…

“Propitiation”

BIBLE READING: Romans 3
Pro – pitch – E – A – shun… now, say it with me, again, out loud … pro – pitch – e – a – shun. 
               Remember a time, well before Google or the Internet, when we actually used something called books to look things up.  Remember when you went to look up words in the dictionary and you had to look up four or five other words before you actually found out the meaning of the first word.  If you look up the word “propitiation” in the dictionary, you get this definition: “something that propitiates”.  Well, thanks, Merriam-Webster, that helps a lot!  Now we have to look up “propitiate”: “to gain or regain the favor or goodwill of”.  Now, that makes more sense.                Chapter 3 of Romans, as a whole, gives us an overview of God’s plan throughout time.  Paul points out that the Jews actually did have an advantage over the Gentiles because they had the Mosaic Law (vs 2).  This allowed them to have the opportunity to understand God, His nature, and what He…

“No Partiality”

BIBLE READING: Romans 2
               As Paul continues into chapter two, he now turns his attention to the Jews that are hearing his letter.  If Romans 1:16 is the thesis of the entire book, then 2:11 is a secondary thesis.  Throughout chapter one and part of chapter two, the Jews in the audience were possibly sitting there with a smug smile listening to Paul tell the Gentiles how unrighteous they are.  But then, Paul says in verse 11: “For there is no partiality with God.”  On this particular statement, I can visualize Paul pivoting from the Gentiles sitting on one side, to the Jews sitting on the other.  He makes the point to them that now, just because you were physically circumcised, as in the covenant made with Abraham (Genesis 17), it does not mean they were right with God now.  He explains that the physical covenant made with Abraham now needed a spiritual parallel.  Now, it would be a circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:29).                So, here in the first two chapters, P…

“The Gospel Zone”

BIBLE READING: Romans 1                I have been watching some of the old Twilight Zone episodes on Netflix, so I’m writing this paragraph in my best Rod Serling (the narrator of The Twilight Zone) voice:                “Imagine if you will…” an auditorium, much like the one at Woodlawn.  There are two sides and a central aisle to walk down.  On one side of the auditorium, sit the Jews of the 1st century, a people who have attempted to abide by every single law that God has ever passed down to them … down to the smallest “jot” or “tittle”.  On the other side, the Gentiles of the 1st century, a people who have attempted to find God in every way imaginable, including worshipping creatures and items that God, Himself had made.  As you look to the front of the auditorium, you see the apostle Paul.  In all his humility and confidence, he begins reciting the words of the first two chapters of the book of Romans.  It’s an interesting scene, to see him relating to both groups of people and th…

“Superpowers”

BIBLE READING: Acts 28                Little boys (and sometimes, us older boys) dream about being superheroes.  We think about how awesome it would be to fly, have superhuman strength, or be able to move objects with just our mind.  How cool would it be to see Paul with the natives of Malta?  Shipwrecked on Malta, Paul is gathering sticks for the fire, and a viper latches onto his hand (verse 3) and nothing happens to him.  The natives of Malta would have known this particular type of reptile because verse 6 tells us “they were expecting that he would swell up or fall down dead”.  Yet, “he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.” (Verse 5) After this, Paul heals Publius’ father of dysentery (verse 8) and the “rest of those on the island who had diseases.” (Verse 9)                As we close out our devotionals on the book of Acts, it’s good to reflect on what’s recorded in the book of Acts and the miraculous “superpowers” these men had in the first century.  People …

“To and Fro”

BIBLE READING: Acts 27
               It’s interesting to see Paul’s relationship with Julius in this chapter.  As a Roman centurion, Julius was charged with delivering Paul and his fellow prisoners to Rome and helping them to have safe passage.  At the beginning of the chapter, when the Adramyttium boat lands at Sidon, Julius has such a strong relationship with Paul that he allows Paul (even though he is a prisoner) to go visit his friends that were there and receive care from them.  Julius trusted and had so much respect for Paul that he knew Paul would come back.  I’m sure this was because Paul showed Julius the same respect.                As the chapter and the difficult trials continue, Paul tries in verses 9 and 10 to warn all the men that they needed to stay where they were at the Fair Havens port because traveling was going to be awful to try and accomplish.  But, think about the relationship that Julius and Paul had, and notice what verse 11 says, “Nevertheless the centurion (…

“Tell Your Story”

BIBLE READING: Acts 22- 26 Over the last week we have seen Paul boldly proclaim the Word of God to the Council, to Felix, Agrippa and several others.It can be very easy for us to feel insignificant when we look at how Paul was willing to share the Gospel with so many people, when we might not have shared it all. What makes Paul’s message so effective is that the story of his conversion was so compelling.In every situation where Paul preaches about Jesus, he just simply shares the story of his conversion; but what a story it is!Paul had been handpicked by God to fulfill a divine purpose.His story of how he had been caught up in sin but freed due to the blood of Jesus to accomplish God’s divine purpose, is extraordinary. How can we be more like Paul in his willingness to share the Good News?We can start by doing the same thing Paul did; share our story.You see, what makes Paul’s story so extraordinary is the change he made in his life to accomplish God’s purpose. Yet, our story is the sa…

“Horseshoes & Hand Grenades”

BIBLE READING: Acts 26 All my life I have heard the expression, “Being close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades”.The literal meaning of the saying is derived from the fact that you win points in horseshoes by landing your horseshoe within a horseshoe's breadth of the stake, even if it doesn't ring the stake or touch the stake. Hence, "close" counts in horseshoes.Also, in throwing hand grenades,an almost direct hit still does pretty good damage to the target.In virtually every other aspect of life, close doesn’t really count.You don’t get points if the ball almost goes in the basket, you don’t score a touchdown if you almost get in the endzone, and you’re not going to eat the chicken if it is almost done.In Acts 26, we see a great example of “almost” not being enough.Paul has again recounted his conversion and boldly preached God’s message to King Agrippa.Paul can sense that he is making some progress as he says “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I kn…

“God is Always at Work”

BIBLE READING: Acts 25
Secular Roman historians tell us that during the Julio-Claudian period, Roman law protected Roman citizens who invoked this special right called ad caesarem provoco (I appeal to Caesar). This right was ordinarily invoked only as a resource against an unfair sentence so Roman citizens who were guilty of murder or pirates caught in the act, were barred from making this legal appeal. And it was reserved that for full-fledged Roman citizens, common Roman subjects, would never try to invoke it. Paul’s words must have exploded in the courtroom like a hand grenade. The Roman governor had misjudged this respectful man. Beneath Paul’s polite exterior was stainless-steel resolution along with his God-given wisdom. By granting this appeal, Festus, the governor, seemed relieved to remove himself from the case, transferring it to the Emperor. He was gladly washing his hands of the situation, but he had a new problem. He had to defend himself in writing, explaining why this Rom…

“Meddlin”

BIBLE READING: Acts 24 Two elderly, women were sitting together in the front pew of church listening to a fiery preacher. When this preacher condemned the sin of stealing, these two ladies cried out at the tops of their lungs, "AMEN, BROTHER!” When the preacher condemned the sin of lust, they yelled again, "PREACH IT, PREACHERMAN!" And when the preacher condemned the sin of lying, they jumped to their feet and screamed, "RIGHT ON BROTHER, TELL IT LIKE IT IS... AMEN"! But when the preacher condemned the sin of gossip, the two got very quiet. One turned to the other and said, "He’s quit preaching and now he’s meddlin’." As Paul stands before Felix, he reasoned with him about righteousness, self-control and the coming judgement. From what we can gather, Felix might have had been somewhat of a fan of the teachings of the church.The text said that he “had a rather accurate knowledge of the Way” (Acts 24.22).He must have been somewhat intrigued about Paul’s …

“It’s Not Me…It’s Him”

BIBLE READING: Acts 23
“And looking intently at the council, Paul said, "Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day." (Acts 23:1).I am not sure we fully understand the gravity of the situation that Paul was in as he stood before the Council.As he is being accused of being an apostate, anti-Jewish and a man that associates with the unclean Gentiles, he boldly stands before them to defend himself.First of all, he looks “intently at the council”, that just means he looked them in the eyes.He wanted to make sure that they all understood what he was about to say.Then he called them “Brothers”, which was not the proper way to address the Sanhedrin.When Peter stands before them earlier in Acts 4.8, he addresses them in this way, “Rulers of the people and elders”.Peter does this as a sign of respect for their office, even though they are not showing proper respect to God’s work.Yet now we have Paul, who stands boldly before them and looks them in …

“Why Do You Wait?”

BIBLE READING: Acts 22
Procrastination is defined as the putting off of activities that are planned or scheduled, for activities that are of lesser importance.A study that was reported by Brandon Gaille found that in 1978, 5% of our nation’s population admitted to being chronic procrastinators.In 2017, that number had quadrupled to 26%.That same study found that 85-95 college students admitted to being chronic procrastinators.I believe that we all struggle somewhat with procrastinating.Whether it is making sure the maintenance is up to date on our automobile, starting a retirement plan or even getting back into shape; even those things that are extremely important for us to do, they seem to take a back seat to taking a nap, watching some Netflix or playing a game on our phone.It has gotten to a point that our culture has even become more and more indifferent to putting off what we could do today, to some other time in the future.The most condemning word in that mindset is the word “tim…