Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ENCOURAGEMENT

LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES - Romans

Read Romans 1:1-19

     I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong– that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith   Romans 1:11-12 NIV
* * *
     The church at Rome was established by Jewish believers who came to faith at Pentecost. (Acts 2) Paul wrote them this letter to encourage and build them up in a full understanding of the Truth. He also encouraged them to build each other up through the abilities God had given them.
     Reports of the ongoing spread of the gospel brought tremendous encouragement to Paul. He said, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.” (Romans 1:8)
     Paul had suffered much for preaching that Jesus …was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead… (1:4) But in spite of this he said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (1:16)
* * *
     Dear Lord, grant me the ability to share my faith, realizing that it is not my ability to convince, but the power of the Holy Spirit that will bring men to faith. Help me to be a source of encouragement to other believers.
* * *
     For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."   Romans 1:17 NIV

Thursday, August 26, 2010

GOD'S PLAN MOVES FORWARD

INTRODUCTION TO ROMANS

Read Acts 25:1-12; 28:16-31

     Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God- the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures…To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1–2, 7 NIV
* * *
     The church at Rome grew from the nucleus of Jews who believed the gospel during the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem. At the time Paul wrote this letter to the Roman church, he was in Corinth and had not yet been to Rome. This inspired letter contains very concise doctrinal teaching for both the Jews and Gentiles who made up the church.
* * *
     Paul had been on three missionary journeys preaching the gospel to those who had not yet heard which he believed was his primary calling. He wrote, “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again…” (Romans 15:14-15a) He then tells them that he is going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to him there, but he hopes he will be able to come to Rome after he delivers a gift to the believers there.
* * *
     Later in Jerusalem, Paul was arrested for preaching the gospel and taken before the authorities, where he claimed his rights as a Roman citizen. Because he appealed to Caesar, he was taken to Rome, where the authorities allowed him to live in his own rented house under a guard.
* * *
     Three days after his arrival, he called together the leaders of the Jews. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. Acts 28:23b-24 NIV
* * *
     When the unbelieving Jews left him, rejecting the message, Paul said, "Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!" (Acts 28:28) and so it was that the church in Rome grew through the ministry of a preacher confined to his house.
* * *
     Lord, I praise You that your plan for reaching men and women is not limited to our efforts and vision for the future. What a wonderful thing that the apostle Paul, under house arrest, was still able to preach the gospel to all who came to him. Help me to remember that it is still Your Holy Spirit who draws men, women and children to You.
* * *
     For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 28:30-31 NIV

Friday, August 20, 2010

FINISHING WITH JOY

[84]

FROM EPHESUS TO JERUSALEM

Read Acts 19:21–41; 20:17–38

     Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. Acts 20:37b–38a NKJV
* * *
     For the first three months in Ephesus, Paul preached in the Jewish synagogues, but when opposition to the gospel escalated he began to reason daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. (19:9b–10 NIV)

     After three years of ministry in Ephesus, Paul was forced to leave. Later, when he arrived at Miletus, he sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said, "And now compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me." (20:22–23 NIV)
* * *
     Paul traveled on three missionary journeys, planting churches everywhere. Then he would go to prison and accomplish the greatest task of all – writing inspired letters that are still ministering to us today as part of the Word of God. Lord, help us to build carefully on the foundation others have laid – and be faithful to pass on the message of Your grace.
* * *
     But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 NKJV

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A FAITHFUL COUPLE

[83]

AQUILLA AND PRISCILLA

Read Acts 18

     There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Acts 18:2 NIV
* * *
     Leaving the city of Athens, Paul traveled to Corinth where he sought work. He met Aquila and Priscilla, Jewish believers who had recently been banished from Rome. As natives of Pontus, Aquila and Priscilla may have heard the gospel on the Day of Pentecost and fled to Rome during the dispersion of the church from Jerusalem.

     Now by God's sovereign design, He used them in the evangelistic ministry of Paul, traveling with him to Ephesus, where they stayed and worked with the Ephesian church. Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. When Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos' dynamic preaching, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. (18:26)
* * *
     This faithful, mature couple set an example of patient endurance, hard work and fruitful ministry. Lord, I pray that our home will always be a welcoming place where other believers are encouraged and built up in the Word.
* * *
     When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. Acts 18:27 NIV

Sunday, August 1, 2010

SUMMER READING

     On March 31st we began reading through the Acts of the Apostles. These are the stories of the men and women who walked with Jesus and witnessed His resurrection. It is also the account of those who came to know Christ through the preaching of the Apostles and spread of the gospel by believers. 
     The most compelling real life story is that of Saul who was converted after Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus where he carried letters from the high priest  "so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." (Acts 9:2)
     Renamed the apostle Paul, this chosen man went on to become a missionary to the Gentiles, plant churches and write the inspired letters that make up most of the New Testament.
     The book of Acts tells us about the founding of the early churches and the lives of ordinary men and women who trusted Christ.  We will be spending our summer reading through this amazing book and learning to trust Him for great things in our own lives.
     In the fall we will begin with the inspired letters (epistles) written to the churches which were planted during this time. I would like to encourage each of you to read through the book of Acts as we continue this study. I know that many of you will be vacationing during the summer, but all of the weekly posts will remain online and it will be easy to catch up with the readings you miss.
     In September we will begin reading the letters to the churches intended for all who would believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope."  (Rom 15:4  NKJV)
     I want to thank all of you who have been subscribers to THE GOD WHO SEES ME - A Devotional Prayer Journal since we began in February, 2008. For those of you who have just joined us, welcome to our journey through God's Word.