SO HERE’S WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO…

Romans – “Therefore”
 
As infants we are dressed, fed, redressed, fed, dressed again, and fed again. The daily cycle doesn’t stop for the first few months of life. Someone must do everything for us. As we grow, we are given very small things to try to do ourselves such as hold the bottle we are drinking. We progress to holding the spoon, upside down, as we try to shove food in our mouth. We aren’t good at it yet, but we are given a chance to try. Our parents begin to stand us up by a couch and beg us to take that first step. We try to stand on our shaky legs and fall. We try and fall many times until that first step is taken out of sheer determination and love for the parents who want us to do it so badly.
 
Our love is building for these people in our lives because of their love for us. They are meeting our every need in the best way they can. They freely give hugs and kisses of affirmation of that love. They have given us our identity as belonging to them. We are because they are. When we can’t see them, we cry. Our complete focus is on the ones who love and care for us.
 
In the first five years of life, the most impressionable years, we begin to see what our parents do. We know who they are, but we are now focusing on what they do. We begin to mimic their behavior. We know who we are and now we are learning what to do.
 
So it is with rebirth. We repent of our wrong DOINGS (sin) so that we can now BE in a new relationship as one of God’s children. We are because He is. God, the Father begins to teach us to walk and talk more like Jesus, His Son, who came to earth to teach and be the example of what to do after learning to be. We understand the depth of God’s love by the sacrifice of His Son for us. Transformation begins to take place in us and through us, developing us in our life forever with God.
 
All of Paul’s letters to the people who gather in Jesus Name, called His church, have the same method of teaching. Paul expounds on who we are to BE in Christ, because of our love for Him and His love for us in the first few chapters then in the middle of it all there is the “THEREFORE” and it is there for a reason. Now, beginning with chapter 12 (chapters for us, for this was one long letter without chapters in the first writing), Paul begins to tell us what to DO as children of God who desire to give God glory, give God back all the love He deserves, if that is possible, and to show others how to find and follow Jesus for their lives by what we DO.
 
BE then DO. We cannot DO until we BE with the One who loves us most. BEING with the Master means learning the depth of the love He has for us. The more we realize who we are and how much we are loved, greater and deeper is our love for others. We begin to DO selfless things that we normally wouldn’t think of doing. We are being transformed by Christ who lives in us. We have a new identify. We are BEcoming more and more, in every way like Christ. Hallelujah! Praise God! We cannot do anything by ourselves, but with Christ living in us, the possibilities are limitless!
 
God, like a parent who helps their child take that first step, wants to help us.
 
Romans 12 letterRomans 12, The Message
Place Your Life Before God
 
1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
 
3 I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
 
4-6 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
 
6-8 If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
 
9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
 
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
 
14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
 
17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
 
20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
 
Romans 12 transformedTherefore, what do we do?
 
–Give all of ourselves back to God so He can help us.
–Embrace what God does in us.
–Focus on God with eyes fixed, without glancing to the left or right, to do what He says quickly.
–Allow the transformation. Don’t quicken it or slow it down.
–Let God. In all things, let God.
–Don’t follow the crowd…off the cliff.
–Let God bring the best out of you.
–Live gratefully expectant.
–“The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.”
–We are part of the Body of Christ. BE that without comparing ourselves with others that lead to jealous thoughts, envy or pride.
–Smile, make the outside world wonder who you are and what you have!
–Love. Seriously love. Don’t fake it.
–Run from evil.
–Hold on to good. Keep doing good.
–Be good friends who love deeply…no matter what.
–Be alert and ready with passion for whatever God invites us to do.
–Don’t quit.
–“Make friends with nobodies; do’t be the great somebody.”
–Assume nothing. Discover beauty and brilliance in every person.
–Don’t hit back. (We learned this in Kindergarten, folks!)
–Let God take care of all things, all people and all circumstances.
–Be generous in all things and people.
–“Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.”
 
THEREFORE, if we took this list to heart and allowed God to help us fulfill all the activities on the list we would be revolutionary people of God to the world. But first, we must give ourselves to God as an offering to Him. God will help us DO what reflects who we are…from the inside out.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
This passage of Your Word is so simple, yet profoundly challenging at times without Your help. Continue to transform me. Transform the world.
In Jesus Name, and by His Power in us, Amen
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THE OPEN DOOR

Romans – “Therefore”
 
One summer my mom, a successful Avon lady, talked me into earning college money by taking on a “territory” to sell Avon products. In the old days, this meant going door to door in an assigned neighborhood. I remember praying, God, help me, with every step. This was probably one of the most challenging things I had done in my young life.
 
I remember what calmed my nerves as I walked up to each home. If the door was opened, I felt like there was a chance for a welcome. If I could hear music playing, somehow that seemed friendly. If kids were playing in the yard, that was really helpful. I love kids. If people were already outside their doors, sipping tea and talking with friends on the porch, then I was extremely relieved with courage to ask, “You wouldn’t want to buy this stuff, would you?” No, I was not a great door to door salesperson at that time! I’m laughing now just thinking about it years later.
 
What scared the be-jabbers out of me on that journey in life were barking, snarling dogs with eyes to kill, big men, guarding their domain, who did not want their women buying anything, hateful language flowing from open windows and shut doors with no one coming to answer even though I knew someone was inside staring at me through the blinds! Probably the weirdest response to my question was a woman who tried to psychologically analyze me with questions about my life and why I was doing what I was doing.
 
After reading today’s last passage (Chapter 11) in Paul’s letter to the Romans, I wonder how open the door is to our churches? What do we look like? How friendly do we seem? What first impressions do we have on “outsiders” seeking answers to their questions? Mm. Are their barking dogs of criticism? Are there people who want to analyze our sin? Are we too proud of our heritage to let anyone “join” us? Are we suspicious of anyone knocking on the door of our traditions and unwritten laws?
 
OR, are we seriously the Body of Christ with Jesus in control? Is our music friendly? Are others drawn to music designed to worship God alone? Do we believe and proclaim that the gospel is for EVERYONE and then show it with our faces and behaviors? Do we literally OPEN THE DOOR with a smile and a greeting of value for all who enter? Mm.
 
I think these thoughts as Paul explains to the outsiders that God has not given up on His Friends, the “insiders”, the Jews. The door is open. It was open for outsiders which means the door is still open for the insiders to change their minds and enter into His glory once more.
 
Aren’t you glad God keeps His promises? Rejoice in the very thought! Now, let’s worship together, knowing that we are all on equal standing with God, our Father!
 
Romans 11 open doorRomans 11, The Message (Part 3 of 3)
A Complete Israel
25-29 I want to lay all this out on the table as clearly as I can, friends. This is complicated. It would be easy to misinterpret what’s going on and arrogantly assume that you’re royalty and they’re just rabble, out on their ears for good. But that’s not it at all. This hardness on the part of insider Israel toward God is temporary. Its effect is to open things up to all the outsiders so that we end up with a full house. Before it’s all over, there will be a complete Israel. As it is written,
 
A champion will stride down from the mountain of Zion;
he’ll clean house in Jacob.
And this is my commitment to my people:
removal of their sins.
 
From your point of view as you hear and embrace the good news of the Message, it looks like the Jews are God’s enemies. But looked at from the long-range perspective of God’s overall purpose, they remain God’s oldest friends. God’s gifts and God’s call are under full warranty—never canceled, never rescinded.
 
30-32 There was a time not so long ago when you were on the outs with God. But then the Jews slammed the door on him and things opened up for you. Now they are on the outs. But with the door held wide open for you, they have a way back in. In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in.
 
33-36 Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.
 
Is there anyone around who can explain God?
Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?
Anyone who has done him such a huge favor
that God has to ask his advice?
 
Everything comes from him;
Everything happens through him;
Everything ends up in him.
Always glory! Always praise!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
 
Think about it…
–EVERYTHING. GOD.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for opening the door to all who seek You. Thank you for reaching out to us. Thank you for helping us find you. Thank you for helping us hear Your Voice and follow You. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit who guides and corrects our steps to You. It is ultimately all about You! Be Lord of my life. Transform me. Transform the world.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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GRAFTED TO THE ROOT

Romans – “Therefore”
 
I love roses. I love growing roses. For a few years, Randy would give me a rose bush for Valentine’s Day to begin my collection of roses in our yard. Then the real work began. Roses are particular and picky about their soil. It needs to be just right or they do not grow. They do not like to be sprayed with water either. You need to water them at the root base. Bugs love roses, too. So special sprays have to be used to keep the bugs form eating the green off the leaves as well as the new buds that form the beautiful flowering rose. If you do not prune roses often, the bush or climber rose will grow gangly and wild and not produce the roses you desire.
 
It is hard to prune, especially when there are promising buds on the vine, but prune you must because you know that those buds will not produce well unless you do. You must prune back the deadwood, too. Not only is the deadwood unattractive but it needs to be removed to make room for new growth…new vines connected to the root to produce a greater yield of beautiful roses. The whole purpose behind planting, growing, feeding, watering, protecting and pruning is for enjoying the beauty of the rose.
 
It all makes sense to me for Paul to use the olive vine and root to describe how outsiders (non-Jews) were grafted in and cared for by God. We are the vine. God is the life giving root. “Remember, (says Paul), you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.” “Don’t get cocky and strut your branch.”
 
“Be humbly mindful of the root that keeps you lithe and green.”
 
Read the whole story. This is Part two of three. Part three is a glimpse of God’s bigger picture for a homecoming of outsiders and insiders. God isn’t finished yet! More tomorrow!
 
Romans 11 rootRomans 11, The Message
Pruning and Grafting Branches
 
11-12 The next question is, “Are they down for the count? Are they out of this for good?” And the answer is a clear-cut No. Ironically when they walked out, they left the door open and the outsiders walked in. But the next thing you know, the Jews were starting to wonder if perhaps they had walked out on a good thing. Now, if their leaving triggered this worldwide coming of non-Jewish outsiders to God’s kingdom, just imagine the effect of their coming back! What a homecoming!
 
13-15 But I don’t want to go on about them. It’s you, the outsiders, that I’m concerned with now. Because my personal assignment is focused on the so-called outsiders, I make as much of this as I can when I’m among my Israelite kin, the so-called insiders, hoping they’ll realize what they’re missing and want to get in on what God is doing. If their falling out initiated this worldwide coming together, their recovery is going to set off something even better: mass homecoming! If the first thing the Jews did, even though it was wrong for them, turned out for your good, just think what’s going to happen when they get it right!
 
16-18 Behind and underneath all this there is a holy, God-planted, God-tended root. If the primary root of the tree is holy, there’s bound to be some holy fruit. Some of the tree’s branches were pruned and you wild olive shoots were grafted in. Yet the fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root gives you no cause to crow over the pruned branches. Remember, you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.
 
19-20 It’s certainly possible to say, “Other branches were pruned so that I could be grafted in!” Well and good. But they were pruned because they were deadwood, no longer connected by belief and commitment to the root. The only reason you’re on the tree is because your graft “took” when you believed, and because you’re connected to that belief-nurturing root. So don’t get cocky and strut your branch. Be humbly mindful of the root that keeps you lithe and green.
 
21-22 If God didn’t think twice about taking pruning shears to the natural branches, why would he hesitate over you? He wouldn’t give it a second thought. Make sure you stay alert to these qualities of gentle kindness and ruthless severity that exist side by side in God—ruthless with the deadwood, gentle with the grafted shoot. But don’t presume on this gentleness. The moment you become deadwood, you’re out of there.
 
23-24 And don’t get to feeling superior to those pruned branches down on the ground. If they don’t persist in remaining deadwood, they could very well get grafted back in. God can do that. He can perform miracle grafts. Why, if he could graft you—branches cut from a tree out in the wild—into an orchard tree, he certainly isn’t going to have any trouble grafting branches back into the tree they grew from in the first place. Just be glad you’re in the tree, and hope for the best for the others.
 
What do we learn?
–God is the root that feeds us. We do not feed Him.
–Be humbly grateful for being grafted into His Kingdom.
–Rejoice and be glad you are in the tree of life and hope for the best for others!
–God performs “miracle grafts”. God can do anything. Nothing is impossible with God.
–Let the beauty of God’s work be see in us.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
I am one who is grafted into Your life-giving root. I am grateful and humbled by the thought. Thank you for opening the door to outsiders when the insiders rejected you. You make all things good and beautiful from the bad this world dishes out. You are God and we are not. Continue to prune and and graft as You see necessary. Transform me. Transform our world.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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YOU’RE NOT ALONE IN THIS…

Romans – “Therefore”
 
We are troubled deeply by what is going on in the world. We wonder how bad will it get before things turn around. We blame the government leaders, no matter who is in charge, for everything that goes wrong. We blame local and state leaders if needs are not met immediately as we see them. The world blames church leaders and Christians for not being all they should be then murders, rapes, robberies, prejudices, and all other sin would not exist. We blame everyone for everything that goes on in our world. We even blame God. Mm.
 
As believers in God as the One and Only God, we begin to wonder if we are in the minority in all of this. Are we the only ones who still believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and follow Him as Lord? Is there only a few left who truly believe what God’s Word says and try to live it? Where are they?
 
“I feel alone in my commitment to You, Lord,” we cry out in our hearts at the work place when we are made fun of for our beliefs and behaviors. It’s really serious when a more worldly church makes fun of you because you have never taken a drink of alcohol and still choose not to because you don’t see the need for it in your life. You are called a prude and judgmental because you don’t go to a party, or go for a strong drink after work, where getting drunk is an option. “I feel all alone in this, Lord”, we cry out, even in a church setting.
 
Just yesterday, I was told my praying to God is useless. Wow. A few years ago, a family member told me that my “religion” is just a psychological crutch to deal with life. Wow. Yes, we can feel all alone in this battle between evil and God’s righteousness.
 
But, are we all alone? Paul reminds us what God said to Elijah’s lament of aloneness, “I still have seven thousand who are loyal to the finish.”
 
The numbers may or may not be dropping in living loyally to Christ, but it is not the time to quit, now! We are NOT alone.
 
I know I’m plucking a thought from a few words of this passage but I feel led to write it down for those of you, who like me, feel like you are living in a world gone massively bad. There are still quite a few of us that still believe, still walk the walk even though we mess up at times, and talk sincerely about God’s love for the world, even when mocked. We are not perfect and will humbly admit it, but we know, without doubt, that we ARE perfectly forgiven by the One and Only Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
I will share another thought…It was so refreshing to spend time in ministry alongside a powerful group of missionaries and other Bolivian staff members who had fun as they gathered in relaxed settings at dinner, at a retreat, staff meetings, etc. without alcohol or the mention of it, without foul language, and no harsh kidding or speaking bad about each other behind their backs. Their goal was to help each other as they help others find and follow Jesus. Period.
 
No, we are not alone!
 
Romans 11 God faithfulnessRomans 11, The Message (Part 1)
The Loyal Minority
 
1-2 Does this mean, then, that God is so fed up with Israel that he’ll have nothing more to do with them? Hardly. Remember that I, the one writing these things, am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham out of the tribe of Benjamin. You can’t get much more Semitic than that! So we’re not talking about repudiation. God has been too long involved with Israel, has too much invested, to simply wash his hands of them.
 
2-6 Do you remember that time Elijah was agonizing over this same Israel and cried out in prayer?
 
God, they murdered your prophets,
They trashed your altars;
I’m the only one left and now they’re after me!
 
And do you remember God’s answer?
 
I still have seven thousand who haven’t quit,
Seven thousand who are loyal to the finish.
 
It’s the same today. There’s a fiercely loyal minority still—not many, perhaps, but probably more than you think. They’re holding on, not because of what they think they’re going to get out of it, but because they’re convinced of God’s grace and purpose in choosing them. If they were only thinking of their own immediate self-interest, they would have left long ago.
 
7-10 And then what happened? Well, when Israel tried to be right with God on her own, pursuing her own self-interest, she didn’t succeed. The chosen ones of God were those who let God pursue his interest in them, and as a result received his stamp of legitimacy. The “self-interest Israel” became thick-skinned toward God. Moses and Isaiah both commented on this:
 
Fed up with their quarrelsome, self-centered ways,
God blurred their eyes and dulled their ears,
Shut them in on themselves in a hall of mirrors,
and they’re there to this day.
 
David was upset about the same thing:
 
I hope they get sick eating self-serving meals,
break a leg walking their self-serving ways.
I hope they go blind staring in their mirrors,
get ulcers from playing at god.
 
THERE IS MUCH MORE to these thoughts. Read ahead and see what you think about how God works…More tomorrow.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
Like the prophet Elijah, we get whiny at times thinking we are all alone in our following you. But we are not alone. YOU are with us! You have people all over the world who DO believe and are trying to live Your Word out loud. Thank you for this reminder. Continue to transform us. Transform me from the inside out. Transform the thinking of this world.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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WHAT I WANT…WHAT GOD WANTS US TO UNDERSTAND

Romans – “Therefore”
 
Can you fill in the blanks with loved ones names? “Believe me, friends, all I want for _______________ is what’s best for _____________: salvation, nothing less. I want it with all my heart and pray to God for it all the time.
 
Do you pray to God asking for the salvation of your friends and family?
 
Or what about a church? (Fill in the blank with any church.) “I readily admit that ____________are impressively energetic regarding God–but they are doing everything exactly backwards. They don’t seem to realize that this comprehensive setting-things-right that is salvation is GOD’S business, and a most flourishing business it is. Right across the street they set up their own salvation shops and noisily hawk their wares. After all these years of refusing to really deal with God on his terms, insisting instead on making their own deals, they have nothing to show for it.”
 
Yikes! In making Paul’s word (inspired by God) personal we see the danger of our own sins of complacency and control. What do you think? How does it make us feel? Does it drive us to our knees? Are we as burdened for the lost as Paul is? Are WE lost? Are we trying to set-things-right all by ourselves when that is clearly not our work?
 
Read the rest of this passage with humbled pray for insight and understanding…
 
Romans 10 pray for lostRomans 10, The Message
Israel Reduced to Religion
 
1-3 Believe me, friends, all I want for Israel is what’s best for Israel: salvation, nothing less. I want it with all my heart and pray to God for it all the time. I readily admit that the Jews are impressively energetic regarding God—but they are doing everything exactly backward. They don’t seem to realize that this comprehensive setting-things-right that is salvation is God’s business, and a most flourishing business it is. Right across the street they set up their own salvation shops and noisily hawk their wares. After all these years of refusing to really deal with God on his terms, insisting instead on making their own deals, they have nothing to show for it.
 
4-10 The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it’s not so easy—every detail of life regulated by fine print! But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. So what exactly was Moses saying?
 
The word that saves is right here,
as near as the tongue in your mouth,
as close as the heart in your chest.
 
It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”
 
11-13 Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”
 
14-17 But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims,
 
A sight to take your breath away!
Grand processions of people
telling all the good things of God!
 
But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: “Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?” The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.
 
18-21 But haven’t there been plenty of opportunities for Israel to listen and understand what’s going on? Plenty, I’d say.
 
Preachers’ voices have gone ’round the world,
Their message to earth’s seven seas.
 
So the big question is, Why didn’t Israel understand that she had no corner on this message? Moses had it right when he predicted,
 
When you see God reach out to those
you consider your inferiors—outsiders!—
you’ll become insanely jealous.
When you see God reach out to people
you think are religiously stupid,
you’ll throw temper tantrums.
 
Isaiah dared to speak out these words of God:
 
People found and welcomed me
who never so much as looked for me.
And I found and welcomed people
who had never even asked about me.
 
Then he capped it with a damning indictment:
 
Day after day after day,
I beckoned Israel with open arms,
And got nothing for my trouble
but cold shoulders and icy stares.
 
Think about it…
–We humbly pray and repent and God does the rest! This is the core of our preaching. We pray. God works. HE sets things right in our relationship with Him.
–EMBRACE the salvation of God and SHOUT, “God has set everything right between him and me!” Relationship with God is now complete!
–We call out to God. That’s it. We trust Him to save us.
 
Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God likes this–heart and soul–will ever regret it.”
 
Concerning others…Preach Jesus!
–“But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims,
 
A sight to take your breath away!
Grand processions of people
telling all the good things of God!”
 
PRAY – TELL – GOD DOES THE REST!
God’s Word is read inside the church.
God’s Word is lived outside the church.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
I want to shout out your praise this morning for this reassurance! I love you and trust you with all my heart, mind and soul. Thank you for saving me. I call out to you to save my family members who are still in limbo in their relationships to you. I leave the work of salvation of their souls to you, too. My faith is in You, Lord. Continue to transform me.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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HIS PURPOSE, OUR PROMISE

Romans – “Therefore”
 
Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised—
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon—
Pardon for you and for me!
 
Come home! come home!
Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!
 
I still hear my grandpa leading us in this hymn while the preacher gave an altar call for those who had not yet said yes to God. It is a soulful song from a broken heart for the lost.
 
I hear this song in the background as I read and feel Paul’s broken heart for the lost Israelites who are hanging on to control and banking their lives on being a religion without a relationship with God. “It’s an enormous pain deep withing me”. I think of those close to me in my family who are merely impressed with Jesus but who are not in a relationship with Him. And I feel the pain, too.
 
“They’re my family. I grew up with them.” We have those in our family that have turned away or never accepted Christ who are “good people” but do not feel the need to repent because of their arrogance of doing life on their on terms. We love them but we don’t talk the same language and it is evident. Our hearts break for them. They are missing out, missing the point and most of all, missing God’s promises…His best that replaces our worst.
 
Without a relationship of knowing God through Jesus, we stumble over our “God projects” of our own doing and control to look good and eventually fall flat on our faces. “You’ll find me on the way, not in the way.”
 
And the greatest promise of all…
 
“I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies,
I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.
In the place where they yelled out, ‘You’re nobody!’
They’re calling you ‘God’s living children.'”
(Paul quoting the prophet Hosea)
 
“God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus.”
 
Our church doesn’t save us. Our heritage, race or religion doesn’t save us. Only Jesus saves us through our repentance (giving up human control and asking for forgiveness for our acts of disobedience) according to God’s Original Plan and Purpose put in place before time began. His purpose is to seek and to save the lost and be in intimate relationship with each created person. Our promise, if we accept and believe, love and trust Him is to live with Him forever. His promise for now is to ALWAYS be with us in His embrace! Wow!
 
Romans 9 only GodRomans 9, The Message
God Is Calling His People
9 1-5 At the same time, you need to know that I carry with me at all times a huge sorrow. It’s an enormous pain deep within me, and I’m never free of it. I’m not exaggerating—Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witnesses. It’s the Israelites . . . If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I’d do it in a minute. They’re my family. I grew up with them. They had everything going for them—family, glory, covenants, revelation, worship, promises, to say nothing of being the race that produced the Messiah, the Christ, who is God over everything, always. Oh, yes!
 
6-9 Don’t suppose for a moment, though, that God’s Word has malfunctioned in some way or other. The problem goes back a long way. From the outset, not all Israelites of the flesh were Israelites of the spirit. It wasn’t Abraham’s sperm that gave identity here, but God’s promise. Remember how it was put: “Your family will be defined by Isaac”? That means that Israelite identity was never racially determined by sexual transmission, but it was God-determined by promise. Remember that promise, “When I come back next year at this time, Sarah will have a son”?
 
10-13 And that’s not the only time. To Rebecca, also, a promise was made that took priority over genetics. When she became pregnant by our one-of-a-kind ancestor, Isaac, and her babies were still innocent in the womb—incapable of good or bad—she received a special assurance from God. What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don’t do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative. God told Rebecca, “The firstborn of your twins will take second place.” Later that was turned into a stark epigram: “I loved Jacob; I hated Esau.”
 
14-18 Is that grounds for complaining that God is unfair? Not so fast, please. God told Moses, “I’m in charge of mercy. I’m in charge of compassion.” Compassion doesn’t originate in our bleeding hearts or moral sweat, but in God’s mercy. The same point was made when God said to Pharaoh, “I picked you as a bit player in this drama of my salvation power.” All we’re saying is that God has the first word, initiating the action in which we play our part for good or ill.
 
19 Are you going to object, “So how can God blame us for anything since he’s in charge of everything? If the big decisions are already made, what say do we have in it?”
 
20-33 Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? Either or both happens to Jews, but it also happens to the other people. Hosea put it well:
 
Romans 9 belovedI’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.
In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!”
they’re calling you “God’s living children.”
 
Isaiah maintained this same emphasis:
 
If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered
and the sum labeled “chosen of God,”
They’d be numbers still, not names;
salvation comes by personal selection.
God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name.
Arithmetic is not his focus.
 
Isaiah had looked ahead and spoken the truth:
 
If our powerful God
had not provided us a legacy of living children,
We would have ended up like ghost towns,
like Sodom and Gomorrah.
 
How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together:
 
Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion,
a stone you can’t get around.
But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me,
you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.
 
_______
 
Come home! come home!
Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!
 
In Jesus Name, Amen
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EVERYTHING ON THE LINE!

Romans 8 – “Therefore”
 
What would it take for you to cash in all your resources and lay everything on the line for another person? When you do, that person must really be loved and valued by you to give it all so that their life is saved!
 
What if that person said no to your efforts? What if the one you loved enough to give it all for them betrayed you, turned their back on you, cursed you and spit on your gift then stomped on it? It would break your heart, right? It might even cause you to stop loving that person and all other humans.
 
But not so with God. God is on our side. He loved us while we were still sinners in a mess. He had a plan before our mess. He laid in all on the line for us because He wanted us for His own. We are of extreme value to God, so much so, that we cannot wrap our human minds around the depth of how much we are loved. We are accepted. We are in His family when we love Him back with a desire to walk in His ways for life. We are heirs with Christ when we choose the gift of salvation. Yes, we get to choose. That gift came at a price. God laid in all on the line by sending His One and Only Son to save us.
 
“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?”
 
Romans 8 unstoppable loveRomans 8, The Message (Continued)
 
If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
 
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
 
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
 
Hallelujah! Praise God! Thank you, Jesus for loving us enough. Always enough making us enough for You.
 
So, what do you think, now? Blessed? Humbled? My heart is overwhelmed at these words!
 
NOTHING we can think, do or say will stop God from loving you and me. Absolutely nothing.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the assurance of your love for us. Thank you for reminding us of our value in your eyes. Thank you for loving us so much you gave Your Son to save us. Thank you, Jesus, for sticking up for us when we mess up and need help. Thank you, Holy Spirit for your comfort in the bad times, your wisdom when we need it most and the constant reminder of how much we are loved, accepted and valued. How can we lose? We cannot. Continue to transform us.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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