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Front Row Seat

frontrowseatHere’s how this works.

Each day I’ll read and S.O.A.P. one chapter of Romans. S.O.A.P. is a simple way to focus on what God is speaking to you through what you read. It stands for ScriptureObservationApplication, & Prayer.

Every time I read a chapter God always focuses my heart and mind around a specific part of that chapter. Sometimes it’s just a verse. Sometimes it’s more than that. That verse or group of verses becomes the focus of my devo.

There’s one other practice that helps me know, understand and follow scripture – memorization. Consider memorizing the verse or verses you S.O.A.P.


Romans 3

SCRIPTURE
Romans 3:3, “True, some [people] are unfaithful; but just because they are unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? (NLT)”

Romans 3:22, “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. (NLT)”

OBSERVATION
Paul continues the history of salvation by focusing his attention on the relationship of the Jews with God, the law and with non-Believers. God’s chosen people were unfaithful. They did not live up to the covenant He made with them. They did not share the good news with the rest of the world. They knew right things, but they didn’t do right things. It’s a classic case of hypocrisy.

It leads to a natural question, “What good is a promise I am unwilling or unable to keep?” More than that, “If God’s people can’t or won’t follow His Word, what good are His promises?”

Paul also makes clear that the Jews are not alone. We stand right there with them in this hypocrisy. Romans 2:10-12, ““No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” Like Eve in the garden, non-Believers are deceived into disobeying God. Like Adam, the Jewish people knowingly choose disobedience. Either way, through deception or deliberate choice the affect is the same. Regardless of God’s desires we have broken our relationship with Him.

But God has made a way for this relationship to be restored.

APPLICATION
How faithful are you? James 4:17 says, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good but does not do it, to him it is sin.”

I believe faithfulness gives us a front row seat to all the promises of God. Faithfulness in our marriage opens the door for the fairy-tale ending of happily-ever-after. Faithfulness to our children allows us the privilege of seeing them grow in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man. Faithfulness in our career and finances allows us to grow success and satisfaction even when the economy is uncertain and taxes out of control. Faithfulness to others creates friends that stick closer than a brother.

The essence of faithfulness is our ability to hold on: to hold on when circumstances are unfortunate, to hold on when things don’t go our way, to keep moving forward when the odds are stacked against us, to hold on through the disappointment and even when we don’t see how this can possibly work out to our favor.

When we hold on our faithfulness gives us a front row seat to all the promises of God. But this passage makes it clear – most of us don’t hold on. We’ve been unfaithful. Most of us don’t have a front row seat to all the promises of God. We sit in the nosebleed section watching from a distance, wondering if these tickets were worth the price of admission privately thinking we should have just stayed home and watched the game on television publicly giving people reason to doubt whether our participation in this whole God-thing has any real value.

That’s one reason this passage is encouraging. God is faithful even though we are not. He has given us the law to light our way. He has given us Jesus to make a way. He has kept His promises and will not fail to hold on to me and you no matter how we kick and scream and reject and rebel – if only we would put our trust in Him.

PRAYER
Heavenly Father,

Thank you for keeping Your promises to me even though I don’t keep my promises to You. Thank You for making the effort to restore and repair our relationship with one another. When someone hurts me or breaks a promise to me help me remember the way you have responded to me even though I was unfaithful. Grow in me the capacity for forgiveness and the gift of repentance. Please give me the strength, courage, wisdom and endurance to hold on. When my faith is tested let me be found faithful.

Let my life give others reason to have confidence in You.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad


There’s so much more in this chapter…what did God speak to you?

The Story We Tell

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Here’s how this will work.

Each day I’ll read and S.O.A.P. one chapter of Romans. S.O.A.P. is a simple way to focus on what God is speaking to you through what you read. It stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, & Prayer.

Every time I read a chapter God always focuses my heart and mind around a specific part of that chapter. Sometimes it’s just a verse. Sometimes it’s more than that. That verse or group of verses becomes the focus of my devo.

There’s one other practice that helps me know, understand and follow scripture – memorization. Consider memorizing the verse or verses you S.O.A.P.


Here we go – Romans 1

SCRIPTURE
Romans 1:8, “Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world. (NLT)”

OBSERVATION
I’m thankful for those men and women who have lived an incredible example of faith and faithfulness. They are as different as night and day, their stories as unique as they are, yet they demonstrate a humble and uncommon confidence in every situation. My faith is stronger because of theirs.

Last week I spoke with a widow who was married 63 years before her husband passed away. I led a funeral service for a man who was a combat medic in WW2 and was married for 49 years. Their faithfulness challenges me and gives me an example to follow in my life and marriage.

Faithfulness gives us a front row seat to all the promises of God.

APPLICATION
What do people say about my faith? When they talk about me is my faith in God even part of the story? If everything about my life can be explained apart from the work of Jesus Christ in my life then my faith is too small. I believe God wants to do something in me and through me that can’t be explained because of me.

That’s how Believers in Rome lived. Their faith was spoken of all over the world. Something was happening in their lives and their church that could only be described as God at work. That’s the story I want my life to tell.

PRAYER
Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the examples of faithfulness you have given me through friends and family and through your Word. Bless the widows I was with last week. Encourage them today. Allow them to know your presence and comfort. Let them know the significance and influence of their faithfulness.

Increase my faith. Grow in me an uncommon confidence in you. Help me to recognize that every decision I make, every challenge I face, is an opportunity to strengthen my faith.

Let my life be so wrapped up in who you are that when people talk about me they can’t help but talk about you.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad


There’s so much more in this chapter…what did God speak to you?

A Comfortable Scandal – Transitions

The world loves a good scandal. “You’ve gotta see this! They’re some of the funniest pictures I’ve seen. Of course you know them. That’s what makes the pics so funny! Can you believe they would do that in front of a camera!?” One ‘friend’s’ quick moves with a camera-phone turns into another friend’s most embarrassing moment captured for all time and digitally duplicated all over the internet for the world to see. What will mom think!?

Scandalous new travels fast!

There’s a comfortable scandal that takes place everyday in the hearts of Believers. There’s a subtle line of obedience we simply aren’t willing to cross. We hear what Jesus has to say. We agree in spirit and nod our heads in affirmation until we realize He’s talking about us. That’s where the scandal lies. We follow Jesus until He asks us to do something seemingly difficult, counter-cultural, or just plain inconvenient. This isn’t new. John 6:66 tells us it happened during Jesus time as well. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with him no more.” They came to the line they simply weren’t willing to cross. Scandalous…

There are 4 reasons why we walk away. And 4 ways to take the leap of faith Jesus asks us to make when He challenges us to do the difficult, impractical or inconvenient. Most everyone has drawn a line that says, “Jesus, I’m willing to follow you this far, but no farther.” I wonder, as you consider these 4 things how you might redraw the limits of your life.

4 Scandalous Distractions that Set the Limits of Our Faith

  1. Introduction – read more >
  2. Temptation – read more >
  3. Trials – read more >
  4. Teaching – read more >
  5. Transitions

Today – let’s focus on Transitions.

TRANSITIONS – Our church is going through a time of transition. Last year our pastor moved to another church. This year three more Associate Pastors and two Support Team Leaders stepped into ministries in other places. A few short years ago we had a ministerial staff of ten. Today, it’s four.

Changes like these in a church, a business or in your personal life produce natural, on-going effects. Transitions change momentum. Transitions create questions and instigate evaluation. Transitions are God’s way of putting all the right people in all the right places to accomplish His purpose here and around the world.

But let’s be honest, transitions are tough. Of all the things that trip us up in our walk of faith, nothing is quite so difficult to navigate as transitions. With temptation, there’s a definite wrong to overcome. With trials, there’s a clear pressure to endure. With teaching, there’s a well defined principle to obey. But that’s not how transitions work. You can do everything right and still find yourself in the middle of a difficult transition.

That’s how I would characterize what’s taking place right now in the church I serve. Those who are moving on are going where God leads to fulfill the ministry He’s entrusted to them. It’s good for them and will ultimately be good for the church – but in the middle of the transition sometimes the ‘goodness’ of things can be hard to see. With all these changes in staff we’ve said, “God moves the troops around. He’s putting all the right people in all the right places to accomplish His purpose here and around the world.” It’s true, but knowing this doesn’t make facing the transition any easier.

What does Scripture say?

John 15:1-2 says God prunes every branch that doesn’t bear fruit. That makes sense – get rid of the dead wood to make room for something that can bring life – but those leaders who have left our church are certainly not dead wood. Everyone of them were friends who have had a significant influence in my life. These transitions aren’t exactly what I had in mind or part of my ‘plan’ for ministry. Then I take a closer look at John 15:1-2. It also says, “…every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Did you catch that? Because the tree bears fruit God prunes it back so that it will be ready to bear even more fruit than ever before.

The key to following God through times of transition is FAITHFULNESS.

Like a car slowing down to turn a corner, transitions in our life or organization always change momentum. It’s a necessary change. Accelerate through the turn too much and the car flips over. Take your foot off the gas and once the turn is complete you’ll slow down even more. Faithfulness is remaining true to your calling. It’s finishing what you’ve started. It’s letting your ‘yes’, be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. It’s following God, wherever He may lead, in the integrity of your heart. It’s about applying the right amount of pressure as you keep your foot on the gas through the turn.

Momentum is an interesting thing. While on Earth you may have to slow down to turn a corner NASA has discovered that in the heavens you can use a change in direction along with the gravity from something like the moon to slingshot a satellite to it’s destination. For NASA, turning the corner of transition doesn’t always slow things down – it accelerates their plans and allows them to accomplish their mission.

Every transition you face can be just like this. It can be the transition that slows your walk to a crawl. It can be the transition that derails the direction of your plans. Or it can be the transition that accelerates you into the next exciting chapter of your life.

Don’t let transitions keep you from following God. Instead, remain faithful. Transitions are God’s way of placing you and those around you in just the right place to accomplish His mission. They are His way of preparing you for the road ahead.

Some Thoughts on Divorce

Mark 10:1-12 & Matthew 19:1-10 (click the verses to read them at Biblegateway.com) provide pretty succinct Biblical discussions on divorce. In these passages Jesus tells us that Moses allows for divorce because people have hard hearts. He then quotes Old Testament Scriptures that say divorce is not what God intends.

Matthew 19 indicates that sexual immorality may be legitimate grounds for divorce, but if you read it closely this passage isn’t really granting people permission for divorce. It’s actually saying that if you divorce for any reason except sexual immorality then once you or your former spouse remarry you’ll be committing adultery. It doesn’t really say, “Because of sexual immorality, divorce is okay.”

To be clear, it says, “Divorce is bad, don’t do it. If you think divorce is your only option count the cost and consider what the affects will be.”

Divorce is only a legitimate option because of the hard hearts of people. Sometimes this hardness of heart leads to adultery. Sometimes to wrath. If someone is in a physically abusive situation they should get out now.

The End of Grace

Divorce, historically, has carried a stigma, as though God somehow considers divorce more wicked than other sins or divorced people second class citizens. This simply is not true. From a spiritual perspective, divorce represents the end of what is almost always a long list of unrighteousness. The tragedy of divorce is not simply the damage done to a family but that divorce represents the end of grace. It’s two people saying to one another, “There is no hope for repentance, reconciliation or restoration between us. I’m giving up on you.” I believe this is why God hates divorce (not divorced people). Scripture is clear about the grace God has given those who believe. He is faithful even when we are unfaithful. His love for us remains sure, His grace remains strong and His mercy is everlasting in spite of how often we disobey or disappoint.

One design God has for marriage is that it should be a picture of His relationship with His people. It’s simply contrary to His character to give up on His people. When a couple gets a divorce they destroy that picture.

God is so passionate about His faithfulness to us that he once commanded an Old Testament prophet, Hosea, to marry a prostitute in order to illustrate His relationship to His people. God told Hosea, in spite of her unfaithfulness and adultery stay with her, love and cherish her. You are an example of my (God’s) relationship with Israel. They are my people, they have been unfaithful to me, but I will remain faithful to them. Nothing will separate them from my love.

I know couples whose marriage has survived the misery and devastation of adultery. They survived because the unfaithful spouse asked for forgiveness and the faithful spouse gave it. It’s a choice I’m not sure I could make. But I’ve seen it happen on multiple occasions. These marriages, like Hosea’s, have served as an example of God’s faithfulness in spite of our unfaithfulness.

I’m not suggesting that remaining married in the face of adultery is the first, best or only choice. Just like everything else in marriage it takes two. It takes one to seek forgiveness and one to give it. In most marriages both people need to ask forgiveness of one another and give it. It takes both repentance and forgiveness. That’s what leads to a restored relationship. If no one is willing to repent it’s impossible to offer the kind of forgiveness that leads to a restored relationship.

In the end Moses was right. Adultery, outbursts of wrath, selfishness, envy, uncontrolled and unreasonable spending, an unwillingness to repent or forgive – all these things represent a hardening of the heart that can (and likely will) lead to the end of a marriage. Are they ‘legitimate and Biblical’ grounds for divorce? Legitimate, maybe – Biblical, I’m not so sure.

In the end God’s desire is the same, remain faithful to one another. Keep your promise. Anything less is not His perfect intent for you and your spouse.

Practical Thoughts

If you’ve been divorced – You’ve lived through one of the most painful life events a person can experience. You may feel shame or failure. You may feel freedom. Whatever the case I can assure you of a couple of things:

  1. God loves you. You have not done anything that God cannot redeem.
  2. You have a future. It may involve another marriage, it may not. Either way, it’s never too soon to begin practicing faithfulness.

Your divorce happened because someone hardened their heart. How will you cultivate a pure heart that willingly yields to God?

If you’re considering divorce – You are living through one of the most painful life events a person can experience. You may feel shame or failure. Whatever the case I can assure you of a few of things:

  1. God loves you. You have not done anything that God cannot redeem.
  2. Count the cost – divorce will cost you something. It will cost your kids. You will break a promise to your spouse and your children. Is the price worth paying?
  3. Someone has hardened their heart. Examine yourself. Is it you? Is it both of you? Is there room for grace? Are you willing to forgive? Are you willing to ask for forgiveness?
  4. You have a future. It’s never too soon to begin practicing faithfulness.