Saturday Morning: 30 Mar 2019 – Romans 9:1-18 ~ chosen to receive mercy

Saturday Morning

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening (Collect for Purity)

Almighty God: to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of my heart through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that I may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ my Lord. Amen.
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Morning Reading – Romans 9:1-18 (NLT)

God’s Selection of Israel

With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.

Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children. For God had promised, “I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins. But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.” In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.”

Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! For God said to Moses,

“I will show mercy to anyone I choose,
and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.”

So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.

For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.” So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen.
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Morning Reflection:

God alone determines fairness.

It is God who decides to show mercy.
We can neither choose it nor work for it.
– Romans 9:16

How to reconcile human responsibility with Divine sovereignty remains a problem as difficult as that of reconciling the existence of evil with the power and righteousness and benevolence of a merciful God. Our wisdom is to bow with reverence in presence of these great mysteries, and to say, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” – C.H. Irwin

What then can we say about God’s sovereignty?

1. God’s sovereignty is exercised in righteousness. God’s freedom of choice is not grounded on works, but on grace.  God is free to choose or reject whom he will.

2. God’s sovereignty is exercised in mercy. God’s freedom of choice demonstrates his mercy and compassion. God doesn’t punish us as our sins deserve.

What can we say about human responsibility?

1. We are free agents to choose between good and evil. And yet, we have all chosen to sin and justly deserve condemnation.

2. Our unbelief and guilty consciences are themselves a testimony to our freedom of will and personal responsibility for our estrangement from God.

Questions for consideration:

  • Do you believe that God has the “absolute right to do all things according to his own good pleasure?” [Easton] What are the some of the implications as applied to your life circumstances? Please explain.
  • Do you believe that God is good, merciful, and compassionate, and that all his decisions are “morally correct and justifiable?” [William Lane Craig] What are some of the implications as applied to your life circumstances? Please explain.
  • Do you believe that the default position of all humanity, apart from Christ, is one of estrangement and condemnation before God? What are some of the implications for unbelieving family and friends? Please explain.
  • As a believer, what is your role in bearing witness to the justice, mercy, and grace of God to unbelieving family and friends? What is your role in interceding for them? Please explain.

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Morning Prayer: 1 Peter 2:9-10

You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

“Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people.
Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”

Heavenly Father: You have called me out of darkness into your wonderful light. And you have adopted me, chosen me, to make known your compassion, mercy, and grace. I belong to you; help me to live as your beloved child, an heir of all your riches in glory – that others may recognize what they are missing, repent, and seek your face. I ask this through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.
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“Who You Say I Am” – Hillsong Worship

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Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Friday Morning: 29 Mar 2019 – Romans 8:31-39 ~ Nothing can separate us from God’s love.

Friday Morning

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening (Collect for Purity)

Almighty God: to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of my heart through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that I may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ my Lord. Amen.
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Morning Reading – Romans 8:31-39 (NLT)

Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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Morning Reflection:

If God is for us, who can ever be against us? – Romans 8:31b

No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.
– Romans 8:33b

No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us,
and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand,
pleading for us.
– Romans 8:34b

Against the background of human sinfulness, today’s reading assures every believer that we can rest assured of the God’s love – God is for us!

God’s love for us is

+ Unaffected by extreme changes in our circumstances – believers live and die in Christ Jesus.
+ Unaffected by angels, principalities or powers – believers are one with God in Christ Jesus.
+ Unaffected by time past, present or future – believers are eternally secure in Christ Jesus.
+ Unaffected by space and place – believers are known and immeasurably loved in Christ Jesus.

Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. – Romans 8:38

Questions for consideration:

  • Christ Jesus loves you and is continually interceding for you. What difference does that make in your present circumstances? Please explain.
  • How does knowing you are loved by God in Christ Jesus empower you to overcome the trials and tribulations you face? Please explain.
  • How does God’s love in Christ Jesus affect you when you are faced with suffering, hardship and even calamity? What difference does it make in your life? Please explain.

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Morning Prayer:

I arise today through the mighty strength of Christ within me
and the freedom of his life-giving Spirit.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today through the mighty strength of Christ within me
and the freedom of his life-giving Spirit.

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“The Love of God” – Power Praise [Korean]

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Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Thursday Morning: 28 Mar 2019 – Romans 8:12-30 ~ waiting patiently and confidently

Thursday Morning

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening (Collect for Purity)

Almighty God: to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of my heart through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that I may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ my Lord. Amen.
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Morning Reading – Romans 8:12-30 (NLT)

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

The Future Glory

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
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Morning Reflection:

“We know that God causes everything to work together
for the good of those who love God
and are called according to his purpose for them.” – Romans 8:28

Yesterday a distant friend of mine attended a presidential Medal of Honor ceremony for his son who was killed in Iraq. His son’s act of heroism and self-sacrifice saved the lives of several of his fellow soldiers.

I don’t know about my friend’s faith, but I do know about my own anxiety when my USMC son served his tour of duty in Iraq during the same time period. Every day this verse – Romans 8:28 – was a comfort to me. But then, I never had to face the dreaded knock on the door; my son came home safe and sound.

What is it in Romans 8:28 that enables believers to wait patiently and confidently? It is certainly not freedom from the pain and suffering of this world. What is being promised?

We believe that God is in control of life’s events,
and that God works through them to achieve what’s best for us,
whether we understand it now or not.

Life experiences: Every experience of our life God has allowed. Each experience in our past God is working together with every other experience in order to bring about our good. Whatever experience in our past we think has been devastating, God meant it to develop us.

Personal failures: No sin can ever wipe out the Christians’ hope for the “good” for which God has chosen us and to which He has appointed us. We may fail. We will fail. For this we may very well suffer. But God’s purpose will never fail. Our failures will never separate us from God and from the good He has purposed.

What God does in us while we wait is as important as what it is we are waiting for. – John Ortberg

Questions for consideration:

  • Romans 8:28 is intended as a comfort for believers? Are you a believer in Jesus Christ? Please explain. (If you are uncertain, click here.)
  • Have you gone through a devastating experience in your life? As you reflect on your experience, do you find comfort in Romans 8:28? Can you see any good coming out of your experience, or are you still waiting? Please explain.
  • What are you waiting for at this time in your life? What is God doing in your life while you wait? Please explain.

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Morning Prayer:

Heavenly Father: Comfort your children with the assurance of your sovereign mercy and goodness, especially in our times of great suffering and heart-ache. Unlock your Spirit within us to strengthen us in our weakness and give expression to our groaning, that he might intercede on our behalf. Fill us with an eager hope of glory, when we will receive our full inheritance as your adopted children. And help us to wait patiently and confidently in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. All for your glory. Amen.
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“It Is Well With My Soul” – Audrey Assad

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Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Wednesday Morning: 27 Mar 2019 – Romans 7:24-8:11 ~ No condemnation: the Spirit gives you life

Wednesday Morning

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening (Collect for Purity)

Almighty God: to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of my heart through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that I may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ my Lord. Amen.
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Morning Reading – Romans 7:24-8:11 (NLT)

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin

Life in the Spirit

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
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Morning Reflection:

“Now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
And because you belong to him,
the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you
from the power of sin that leads to death.” – Romans 8:1-2

What an encouragement: the Holy Spirit who lives in us has set us free from the power of sin and death. Do we still struggle? Yes. Are we under condemnation because of it? No. Why? Because we belong to Christ Jesus, and greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world.

What does it mean to belong to Christ Jesus?

+ It’s a union from which we draw new life and nourishment – like a branch grafted into a vine.

+ It’s a union from which we derive our meaning and purpose – like a member of a body.

+ It’s a union effected on God’s side by his Spirit, on our side by repentance and faith.

Why are we no longer under condemnation? Because when God looks at us, He sees Christ Jesus – our life is hidden in his redeeming love. Condemnation is impossible because we belong to Christ Jesus.

“Christ lives within you,
so even though your body will die because of sin,
the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God.”

– Romans 8:10

Questions for consideration:

  • Do you believe that “you been made right with God?” What does that mean to you? Please explain. Please click here if you’re not sure.
  • What does it mean to you to have Christ living within you, and the Spirit giving you life? Please explain.
  • Can you think of an example of how “the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin?” Please explain.
  • Can you think of an example when you were tempted to “follow our sinful nature but instead follow[ed] the Spirit?” Please explain.

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Morning Prayer:

I arise today through the mighty strength of Christ within me
and the freedom of his life-giving Spirit.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today through the mighty strength of Christ within me
and the freedom of his life-giving Spirit.

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“No Condemnation” – Anthony Evans

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Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Tuesday Morning: 26 Mar 2019 – Romans 7:13-23 ~ still struggling with sin

Tuesday Morning

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening (Collect for Purity)

Almighty God: to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of my heart through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that I may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ my Lord. Amen.
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Morning Reading – Romans 7:13-23 (NLT)

But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.

Struggling with Sin

So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
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Morning Reflection:

“Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death.
So we can see how terrible sin really is.
It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.”

– Romans 7:13

In today’s opening verse, Paul describes the essence of our struggle with sin. It distorts the goodness of God for it’s own evil purposes – the destruction of our lives. Let’s look closer at this evil force of deception and distortion.

Steven Cole notes 15 ways that sin works to deceive us –

    1. By convincing us that outward conformity is enough, without an inward change of heart.
    2. By convincing us that everything is hopeless, so why even try.
    3. By presuming on God’s grace, sin today and be forgiven tomorrow.
    4. By convincing us it brings happiness, while godliness brings misery.
    5. By convincing us of our right to happiness, instead of our responsibility to godliness.
    6. By convincing us to discount the consequences of our willful disobedience.
    7. By convincing us that we’ve earned a free pass to sin because of our service, past or present, to God.
    8. By using euphemisms for sin, renaming immorality so that it sounds more acceptable.
    9. By creating a new normal, convincing us that sinful people are normal and godly people are weird.
    10. By working itself into our lives by degrees, so that what would have shocked us in the past is now accepted as normal.
    11. By making us angry at God’s rules, boundaries and limitations, convincing us that God is against us.
    12. By massaging our egos, boosting our pride and feelings of self-importance.
    13. By convincing us that God’s rules, boundaries and limitations are keeping us from developing our gifts and abilities.
    14. By making itself shiny and attractive, and making godliness look drab and dull.
    15. By lowering the bar so that we compare ourselves with other sinners instead of God’s high standards.

    Paul ends today’s reading with a reality check for believers –

    I have discovered this principle of life—
    that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.
    I love God’s law with all my heart.
    But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind.
    This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.

    – Romans 7:21-23

    Questions for consideration:

    • As you review this list of sin’s means of deception, which ones stand out to you? Please explain,
    • Can you think of Biblical examples of sin’s deception? Please explain.
    • Can you think of personal examples of how sin has deceived you? Please explain.
    • Do you find yourself doing wrong, even though you love God and know what’s right? Please explain.

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    Morning Prayer:

    Lord Jesus Christ – Light of the World – expose the residual darkness in my life, and reveal the lies and deceit of the evil one who seeks to dominate and destroy my life. Break sin’s chains of bondage and set me free to love and serve you with my whole heart. Give me new eyes to see the world as you see it, and a new heart that breaks for the lost. Uncap the wellspring of the Holy Spirit within me that I may become a credible witness of your amazing grace. I ask this for your name’s sake. Amen.
    __________

    “Set Me Free” – Casting Crowns

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    Closing:

    May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

    + In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen