Devotional Thoughts on Romans 1:1-17
April 27-May 3, 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1)
We all like to be chosen. It may have been the thrill that rushed through our body when we were chosen to be on a dodgeball team in grade school, or when we were chosen for a part in the high school play. The pleasure of being chosen doesn’t dissipate in adulthood. We like to be chosen for a special project at work, or elected to a leadership position in the club that we are passionate about.
Paul begins his letter to the Roman Christians announcing that he was chosen. He was chosen by God to be a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be one who was sent out and he was set apart to share the good news of God’s love and grace in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He implies and later declares that the Christians in Rome have also been chosen. Christians have been chosen to be on God’s team; to share God’s love and grace and to live in the reality of God’s kingdom.
At other times when we are chosen, our talents and abilities may come into play. Our athleticism or our acting skills may have helped us in school. Our hard work, passion or quick intellect may be reasons we are chosen as adults. Thankfully, God doesn’t base God’s selection process on that talents and abilities of the selectees. God’s choice is based on God’s love. God loves us, makes us God’s own and sends us out to do God’s will every day of our lives. Such love is not only humbling, but motivating.
Loving God, thank you for loving us, for adopting us into your family and for empowering us to do your work. Amen.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
“And was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).
Frank Abagnale pulled off cons worth millions of dollars by posing as as a pilot for Pan American Airlines, a doctor in Georgia, and a Louisiana parish prosecutor all before he was nineteen years-old. His life was the subject of the 2002 film, “Catch Me if You Can.” Frank’s life centered around convincing people he was someone he was not.
We have all had people like Frank in our lives. Repairmen who say they will fix something then take our money and run. Politicians who say one thing in order to get elected and then do something entirely different when they are in office. Friends who say they will stick by us no matter what but then abandon us when the going gets tough.
Jesus could have been a religious con man. There were certainly no small number of those traveling around Israel at the time. He was a persuasive speaker and an insightful teacher. He dazzled the crowds with healings and exorcisms. As wonderful as his words and actions were, the resurrection is the real proof that Jesus was who he said he was. Truly Jesus was the Son of God.
In the weeks and months that follow our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, we proclaim that Jesus was not a con. Jesus is the Son of God who has been victorious over death. By faith we live in the reality of that truth every day of our lives.
Living Lord, may our love, thankfulness and hope reflect the reality of your resurrection to all those around us. Amen.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
“Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles” (Romans 1:5).
The project was doomed to fail from the very beginning. It was under funded, it didn’t have enough personnel with the right talents and the team only had a general idea of what they were supposed to accomplish. (This sounds a little like the church at times.) Rather than feeling motivated to do the job and do it right, the members of the team despaired. They couldn’t succeed and their failure would haunt them through their professional careers.
By God’s grace the Holy Spirit makes us members of the Body of Christ, and calls us to be God’s witnesses to the world; God’s salt and light. There are times that this is a daunting task and we feel ill equipped to carry out our mission. The Holy Spirit, though, does not leave us alone. God’s second expression of grace in our lives is to promise never to leave us alone and to empower and equip us to fulfill our calling.
The spreading of God’s kingdom does not rest solely on our shoulders. The Holy Spirit, rather, works in and through us and only asks that we believe in God’s grace, take a step of faith and trust in God’s promises.
Faithful Lord, by your grace we have been saved and by your grace we serve. May we boldly serve, trusting that your grace is sufficient. Amen.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
“To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints” (Romans 1:7).
When we were growing up our parents expected us to be good–to be little angels–especially when company was present. Usually this meant that we were not to get our clothes dirty, hit the child of the company or cause a disturbance. Our angelic qualities were determined by a list of do’s and don’ts.
Our childhood experiences have shaped our understanding of what a saint is. A common definition of a saint is a person who follows the rules better than most people. A saint is also a person who thinks more about God than most people. It can be said that in reality such people are, “no earthly good for heaven’s sake.” This is not what Paul meant when he wrote to the Christians in Rome that they were saints.
Paul’s idea of a saint was a person who grabbed on to the truth that his or her righteousness or goodness was not determined by what he or she said or did, but rather by what Jesus accomplished through his life, death and resurrection. Such a righteousness broke the chains of self-centeredness and selfishness and enabled the person to focus on the needs of others. The freedom of sainthood empowered the person to bend or break the rules (sin boldly) in order to share God’s love and grace with others.
Hallelujah! We are called to be saints!
Holy God, who has made us holy by the cross of Christ, guide us that our holiness may be lived out in love and service. Amen.
Friday, May 1, 2015
“First I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world” (Romans 1:8).
A week doesn’t go by that we don’t receive a mailer from a congregation announcing a concert, sermon series or the type of coffee and donuts served after its worship services. Electronic signs flash Bible verses and cute quotes to the people in passing cars. People know us, but is it what we want them to know about us?
When asked about the Christian Church, a significant number of people respond by saying that the church is antiquated and judgmental. The church is often seen as being uninvolved in the community, ignoring the poor, homeless and hungry and against the rights of gays and lesbians or others that don’t fit their definition of normal and good. Unlike the Christians in Rome to whom Paul wrote, the church today has a PR problem–a problem for the most part that we have brought upon ourselves.
The image of the Christian church will not be improved by a multi-million dollar ad campaign. It will only change when congregations and individuals speak and act differently from what others expect. People’s opinion of the church will improve when congregations get out into the community and serve. Most importantly, Christians will be seen as loving, caring and giving when each of us as disciples of Jesus Christ speak and act in a loving, caring and giving manner. What do people think about us? Is our faith proclaimed around the neighborhood?
Precious Lord, we are called by your name. May you move in and through us so people see who you truly are by our words and actions. Amen.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
“So that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12).
Cal lost his job when his company restructured. Out of embarrassment he pulled away, stayed close to home. Four of his friends from his congregation decided that they needed to get Cal involved in life again. They began to invite him for coffee, a beer or to accompany them to a game and they wouldn’t take know for an answer. In friendship, prayer and encouragement they supported Cal until he found another job. When Anita broke her hip and had to go through hip replacement surgery and rehabilitation, her congregation surrounded her with care. Meals were prepared, rides to and from therapy were scheduled and regular visits for cards and coffee were arranged. Encouraged and supported by her brothers and sisters in Christ, Anita made a full recovery.
There are times when our relationship with others is limited to a few words over coffee and cookies after the worship service or a, “Hi!” when we see them in the supermarket. The Lord invites God’s people to experience a deeper level of community than conversations about the weather or sports. We are the body of Christ. We are more than a gathering of individuals. We are people united by one Lord, one faith and one baptism. We have not been called to go it alone.
Encouragement can come in the form of a phone call, a few minutes listening to a concern or even a greeting card. Encouragement takes time and effort, but as we share God’s love and grace with others, we experience a deeper level of God’s love and grace in our lives. In turn, when we are in need our brothers and sisters in Christ will be there for us.
O God our Father, our Mother, you have gathered us into your family and made us a community. Help us to live in the love and encouragement of that community. Amen.
Sunday, May 3, 2015
“In order that I might reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles” (Romans 1:13).
Paul looked forward to being with the Christians in Rome so that he could reap a harvest among them. What did Paul have in mind? He was writing to Christians in Rome so he probably wasn’t talking about trolling for new converts. A revival or a week of special services were probably not what he intended either.
Paul’s harvest was one of growth. In his other letters, Paul is always encouraging the Christians in the various churches to grow in their relationship with God. He encourages them to be thankful, prayerful, helpful and to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Paul seemed genuinely concerned more for the relationship others had with God than he did for himself.
It is tempting to focus on our devotional efforts and to be concerned with how close we sense God’s presence. Though our personal devotional life is important, perhaps that should not be our greatest concern. Of greater importance might be the spiritual health of others and of the congregation. We can surround them with our prayers, join with others to help in time of need and encourage them in their walks of faith. The harvest that we reap may be a work of the Holy Spirit and truly honor God.
God of life, you have planted the seeds of faith and birthed new life in you. May we work together to nurture this new life in each other’s lives and in doing so honor you. Amen.