Belief vs Unbelief

Romans 1 8

Romans 1

As we start to look at Paul’s letter to Rome, it is obvious Paul is writing to the church.  However, in the first chapter we see a message about the believers, and a message about the unbelievers.  Let’s look at both of these.

The beginning of chapter 1 begins similar to other letters Paul has written, with a greeting to the church.  Following that in verse 8 we read:

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.”

The faith of the church in Rome is being proclaimed around the world.   That is an impressive statement about the church in Rome, and must have been very encouraging to hear that their faith was making an impression to people around the world.  Paul continues with this encouragement in verses 11 and 12:

“For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.”

I love that while Paul wants to see them to impart some spiritual gift to the church and to encourage the church, he also wants to spend time with them to be encouraged himself.  As we know, Paul was spreading the gospel to as many people in as many places as possible. It probably felt like an impossible task, but hearing of the faith of the church of Rome from around the world, it had to be an encouragement to Paul to know that the message would be spread even when he was unable to do it himself.

Paul concludes his message about the church in verses 16 and 17:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’ “

This is an example of how the church should act, both then and now.  We need to live by faith and never be ashamed of the gospel.  We should share it everywhere we go, to everyone we meet.

Then Paul turns his letter to speaking about the unbeliever.  Obviously, there were unbelievers in Rome, as there are unbelievers all around us today.   Paul tells us that there is no excuse for not believing in verses 19 and 20:

“because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

God is evident in the world around us, so unbelief must be a choice. The choice of unbelief is when we don’t honor God or give Him thanks.  Instead we rely on our own knowledge and understanding.  So, even if we admit God is real and in control, if we do not honor him and rely on him, it is still unbelief.  Paul continues to say that those who did not believe were turned over to their degrading passions and depraved minds.  In verse 32, Paul points out that this is all worthy of death.

We are shown two very different lives.  The first is one of faithfulness, and the second is one of unbelief.  The first is one of encouragement and spreading the gospel.  The second is one of sin and death.  We need to each examine our own lives.  Although we probably all belief in God, are we honoring Him, giving thanks to Him, encouraging and uplifting others, and preaching the Gospel?

-Andrew Hamilton

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Worship as an Identity

John 4 24

Free theme week: Worship
Chapter reading of the day: John 4

There are many names and titles that the church is given. We’re called the bride of
Christ, saints, children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, the body of Christ,
disciples of Jesus, and so on. However, there is another reference to the church in
John 4. In this chapter, Jesus and the Samaritan woman are speaking at the well. During their conversation Jesus makes this remark about worship: “But an hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be his worshippers. God is spirit and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth” – John 4.23-24. Biblical worship is worship that is so integrated into our life and weaved in through every aspect of our being that worship becomes our identity. We worship. That is who we are. And with being a worshipper we worship God in “spirit and truth”. The phrase “spirit and truth” has perplexed me for a long time. The last few years God has shown me what it means to worship him specifically “in spirit”. We are to worship God by the empowerment of the holy spirit. We worship God in and through and by means of the holy spirit. There is a spiritual aspect of worship that we can gain access to by the spirit. This could be prophetic utterances, words of knowledge, and having a very real sense of the presence of God near you during worship. At the same time we should worship God “in truth”. We should be careful not to let our experiences 100% determine what we believe about God. We should check our experiences with what the Bible says. We should engage our mind and reasoning faculties with God and the Bible. I believe that holistic worship is worship that is executed in “spirit and truth”. Jesus says that God desires true worshippers to worship him in spirit and truth. God doesn’t want a church-goer or someone who is defined by what they do in church. God desires a worshipper to worship him in spirit and truth. God wants worshippers. You are called to be a worshipper. Your identity is to be a worshipper. I pray that God moves on your heart and mine and calls us and teaches us to go deeper in worship. As I said in the beginning, living the best possible life God has for us in this world is inextricably tied to worship. You were created to worship with your whole being at all times in all seasons.
-Jacob Rohrer

Worship God in Every Life Situation

Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together

Free theme of the week: Worship
Chapter reading of the day: Psalm 34

Worship is a loaded word in the American church. Part of the misunderstanding of
worship today is that “worship” is something that only happens on a Sunday or
Wednesday. On the contrary, worship is something that should happen everyday in
every circumstance we find ourselves in. This may seem as common sense or a basic
thought, however, many Christians only worship God when things are going well in life
or only on Sundays or Wednesdays. Biblical worship is worship that permeates every
season of life including the bad ones. Today’s devotion is to encourage you to praise
God in every life season.
Here are some verses to meditate on for this topic:
“I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” – Psalm
34.1
“Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the spirit, speaking
to one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody
with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ to God even the Father” – Eph. 5.19-21
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for your life” – I Thessalonians 5.17
I want to encourage everyone who is reading this that is going through a tough season
that it’s ok to feel sad, upset, frustrated, etc. The Bible tells us just because we follow
Christ that does not mean our lives will be problem free, actually it says the opposite.
Our lives will become harder because as our lives are conformed to Jesus we live
against the grain of culture and our own sin nature. And other times the trouble we have
in our life is self-inflicted. Regardless of the source of our troubles, God is worthy to be
praised in our trouble.
When problems in life arise the best response we can have is to press into God and
praise him. This is so easy to say and so hard to do. You may wonder “what does it
mean to praise God in seasons of trouble?”. Here are some practical suggestions that
you can use to help stimulate praise when life is hard:
1. Tell God and Jesus “thank you” – You can thank God for anything in your life,
the big things and the small things. When we thank God we stop focusing on our
problem and start glorifying God. Being thankful changes our perspective.
2. Remind yourself of God’s faithfulness in your life – Remembering how God
has moved in your life is important during times that you may not feel or hear from
God. The Old Testament is full of sections where the people of God remember how
the Lord has been faithful to encourage them during present crises (the Psalms
are a great place to start).
3. Remember that suffering that is brought on by following Jesus is an honor
and suffering for his name sake is the mark of a true follower of Jesus. In other words, your suffering is not in vain or meaningless – Suffering from following Jesus is honorable and does not escape God’s notice. When you experience this type of suffering consider it joy because it means that you’re following Jesus in a deeper way than the people around you. God is worthy of our praise not just on a Sunday or Wednesday or when life is going well. But he desires worship in every season of life. Don’t run from God when life gets hard. Praise and worship him through it.
-Jacob Rohrer

Worship God with your Heart and Voice

Acts 16 25

Free theme week: Worship
Chapter reading for the day: Acts 16

Singing is usually the first thing that comes to mind when people think of worship.
However, singing is not just some common and mundane practice that believers do
when they gather, say on a Sunday. Actually the Bible teaches that singing praises to
God and Jesus is incredibly powerful and moving and has consequences in the
supernatural realm.
The difference between worship music that is alive and worship music that is dead is
based on two things. 1. The hearts of the music leader and/or band are not in the right
place and they will not be authentic and genuine in their worship. And 2. because their
hearts are far from God, God will not dwell and inhabit their praises meaning the spirit of God will not move in them or through them. Inversely, if the music leader/band’s heart is ready to praise God and solely be devoted to his glory then God will inhabit their
praises, the spirit will be moving, and exciting things will happen. When speaking about
praising God through our voice it is imperative that our heart be in the right place. God
doesn’t want a voice to sing to him. He desires a heart overflowing with love and
worship that manifest in singing praises. There’s a difference.
With that being said we’ll look at Acts 16.22-34. I won’t type out the passage but I’ll
summarize it. In Acts 16 Paul and Silas are in the city of Thyatira. While preaching a
slave girl was following them praising their work. However, she was demon-possessed
and was being a hindrance to their work. Paul cast the demon out of her and her
owner became furious. Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten, and thrown into prison.
Then read what happens next as they are in jail:
“But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God,
and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake,
so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors
were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.” – Acts 16.25-26
Paul and Silas were singing songs of praise and were praying prayers of praise. Despite
their circumstances, their hearts were solely set on God and praising him. The result
was God caused an earthquake, the inmates were set free, and the jailer and his family
were saved.
Setting aside the circumstances and details of the story, we see two men praise God
wholeheartedly and their worship in the natural realm moves God in the supernatural
realm to affect their current circumstances. We see from this account that singing and
praying can actually move the heart of God. Our worship in the natural can make waves
in the supernatural.
We see the same principle in II Chronicles 20.1-23 (please read). Worship can move
mountains in the supernatural realm. Singing can be a weapon used against the enemy
and dark spiritual forces. Our warfare in the supernatural is waged by singing and praying. Praising God and Jesus with our voice does not have to be mundane and
routine though sometimes it can be. Rather, singing has the ability to make waves in the
supernatural realm, move God, and wage war against the enemy. But this is only
possible with a sold-out heart seeking the glory of God. A heart that praises him in all
circumstances and gives him glory in all seasons of life. That is the kind of worship that
God responds to.

-Jacob Rohrer

A Farewell

ACTS 20

acts 20 26 27

In Acts 20 Paul travels around some more, and is heading towards Jerusalem, but on his way he meets with the Ephesus elders one last time to talk to them and encourage them.  He knows that God’s plan for him will not bring him back to Ephesus and that he would never see them again. He had spent three years with them and knew that they would be a strong pillar in the growing Church and he wanted to make sure that they would be okay.  The Church had come under attack from the Jewish communities and from the government many times during Paul’s ministry and he knew that would continue, so he wanted to prepare them. He knew that those who would come after and try to lead them astray would try to attack him personally in order to get the Christians at Ephesus to doubt him and his message, and therefore their own faith.  Paul reminds them that at all times when he was with them he took care of his own needs, and did not profit off of them in any way and only cared about their spiritual well being.

 

One of the biggest detractors in the Christian faith is hypocrites.  How many times do you hear about the pastor at a church somewhere being involved in a scandal and then the church folding or many of the people walking away from the faith.  As Christians we are held to a higher standard and when we do not live up to that standard it affects any who look up to us as a role model. Paul’s ministry was successful and had a deep impact on all of western culture because he preached boldly, and he backed it up with a righteous life.  This is also why you need to make your faith your own. People will invariably let you down at some point, but Jesus is a rock on which you can build your life. Of course it is good to have role models, but know that they are only human.

-Chris Mattison

A Spirit of Boldness

ACTS 8

Acts 8 4 (2)

There are many valuable lessons to be learned from Acts 8. Here are two that stood out to me:

1. Go forward in a spirit of boldness, not one of fear and timidity. If you know me well, you know I LOVE the movie The Princess Bride. (Yes, I realize this movie is now a classic!) Spoiler alerts ahead! If you have ever seen the movie, you will recall the scene where Wesley is leading Buttercup into the Fire Swamp and Buttercup fearfully exclaims to Wesley, “We’ll never survive” and Wesley replies to her, “Nonsense. You’re only saying never because no one ever has.” True to Buttercup’s fears, they encounter the widely known dangers of the Fire Swamp: fire, quicksand and R.O.U.S.’s (Rodents of Unusual Size). In reading Acts 8, especially on the heels of Stephen’s stoning that we read about in chapter 7, one might imagine an atmosphere of fear and timidity could have easily festered in the Christian community. In Acts 8:1 we read about a great persecution that began against the church. We read of Saul who was waging war against the Christ followers, going from house to house, dragging off men and women and putting them in prison. One might think Christians might have chosen to go underground and keep a low profile. As we continue reading the chapter, we find just the opposite to be true. Christians were scattered about because of this persecution, but we read in verse 4 that they continued to preach the word. In verse 5 we read how Philip went down to Samaria and proclaimed Christ. This wasn’t a clandestine type of preaching, his bold proclamation of the gospel was also accompanied by miraculous wonders such as healings and driving out of demons.

In John 15:20 Jesus tells us, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” We are not promised a trouble-free life. Jesus assures us this life will bring us trouble and persecution if we follow him. What should our response be to persecution? Do we shrink back and try to keep a low profile? Or do we move forward with boldness like Wesley and Buttercup in spite of our fears? 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Jesus assures us we will have trouble in this life, but we are never ever alone. He reminds us of this in John 16:33 when he tells us, “I have told you these things, to that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


2.  Be sensitive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Your Christian life is unscripted. In many ways, it is a wild adventure. We have the most excellent advantage of knowing how the story ends and that the good guys do win after all, but there will be many plot twists in between. In verses 25-40, we read about how an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” There Philip sees an Ethiopian eunuch and we read in verse 29, “Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot’.” We continue reading that Philip preached Jesus to the eunuch and the eunuch declares his belief that Jesus is the son of God and gets baptized by Philip. We later read that Philip gets snatched away by the Spirit to Azotus and preaches the gospel in all the cities on his way to Caesarea. Following the lead of the Holy Spirit means we will lead life unscripted and we will often be pushed out of our comfort zones. What is the Holy Spirit stirring you to do? Be sensitive, be open and be bold. A grand adventure awaits…

-Kristy Cisneros

Be Bold with Truth and Love

Acts 4 19 (1)

Acts 4

Despite the change we see in the disciples, the Jewish religious leaders have stayed the same. They continue in the same disbelief they held when Jesus was with them. And because of that, here we see the first of many imprisonments the disciples will endure through the book of Acts. Just as the Pharisees and Sadducees tried to silence Jesus, they will try to continue to restrain his message from his followers. Yet the news of the resurrected Messiah continued to spread.

Despite imprisonments and persecution, the apostles speak out with a growing boldness. We see new converts believing from all neighboring areas. The church that we know, started here and had a passion for what is right and true.

I do not think they were intentionally looking to offend but they were also not afraid to tell the truth if it was offensive. I think today’s church has softened its stance on too many issues to avoid being offensive. There are somethings that we cannot waver from. One being found in our passage today “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Don’t be the one that rejects Jesus but further do not be the one that is ashamed of the truth either. Go and share the message of Jesus with love – not looking to offend but not wavering from truth if it could be offensive.

-John Wincapaw