Today’s Readings: click here – Psalm 77; Nehemiah 9:9-15;Romans 14:13-15:2 (to open the scripture links – hover over, right click, open hyperlink)
I recall times, days periods when I have felt that same state of deep distress as Asaph in Psalm 77. Most often our deep distress stems from our doubt. God is not listening, not caring, not present at all as I cry out searching and wandering for Him. This describes my own ‘Pity Party’ looking to God to bring me through. But keep reading, Psalm 77:11 clearly describes my next scene. When I am weary, dismayed and crying out to God, it’s a song, a scripture, a familiar voice, a long-lasting hug, or a cherished memory shakes me, shifting my focus from me to Him and clarity emerges again, remembering God’s amazing awesomeness of love, care and guidance. I realize that He had never left, that my head and heart become clouded with doubt that paves the way for fear, heartache and paralysis to set in, but in the end, GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME, AND ALL THE TIME GOD IS GOOD! I love scripture that reveals my very own story.
Nehemiah 9:9-15 expounds on a collective summary of God’s past works, reminding the Israelites of their miraculous heritage and God’s many promises. When we encounter such energizing scriptures, they become a tool for recalling our own history, helping us to avoid repeated mistakes and to enable us to serve God better. Examining our past, the past of our ancestors and those who have traveled this road, opens our eyes to recognize missed opportunities and unhealthy behaviors that reveal patterns of our spiritual growth and channels us to learn from the past, grow in faith, live life in the light of God’s plan for us and become the person He has created us to be.
Our Romans passage today is long and rich in several areas, so I will try to bring light to it all. First, let’s back it up to verse 12, that explains how we are accountable TO Christ NOT to others and to not base our moral judgements on one’s opinion, personal dislikes, cultural bias rather than on the word of God, because I know that when our time comes to stand in judgement giving full account of our life, we won’t be worrying about what our fellow Christian neighbors have done 2 Corinthians 5:10 . It’s affirming that our main efforts must be to first align ourselves with God’s plan for us and with the two greatest commandments, ‘Love your God with all your heart, your mind, soul and strength AND love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:44).
As we continue in Romans 14, I’m pretty sure this is where we can see where the world around is failing, because every day we are falling farther and deeper into a society of ME FIRST, IT’S MY RIGHT, AND I’M OFFENDED and those with the LOUDEST voice are being heard while the rest of us remain prayerful, silent, and frustrated. Our behaviors matter. They matter to us, to others and to God, and given our individual strengths and weaknesses, we are called to be strong in faith and sensitive to others needs, constantly monitoring the effects of our behavior to others. We do this by being kind, showing compassion and empathy towards one another, not proving to be better than others. Paul uses food as an example of honoring one’s sensitivity, without sacrificing or compromising our faith. This example is applicable with anything. For example, outdoors or in designated areas, it is one’s right to smoke, but perhaps you are with someone and you ask if they will be bothered if you smoke. They answer yes. The right and considerate thing to do, to honor that is NOT smoke. Be considerate and be kind.
This passage addresses the fact that we all have varied opinions on everything, and how do we handle these differences? To accept one another without judgement and to act in LOVE, patience and self-restraint, so as to maintain peace. Sin is not a private matter, everything we do affects others, which in return, as Christians we are called to think of others first and foremost, always. It’s not easy or comfortable, but to be obedient to God’s law, it should be a part of who we are in Christ Jesus.
Scripture is not always screaming out in our ear or flashing warnings in front of our eyes, and so, by our Holy Spirit fueled instinct, we tend to stay clear of those actions of forbidden scriptures and tune into what we know to be right and acceptable. But sometimes we are called to rely on our instincts, and those GUT FEELINGS. You know those… The famous words as parents we use, our parents used, and their parents used; ‘If it feels wrong, it most likely IS wrong, so don’t do it’, or vise-versa; when compelled TO DO something. Yep, we’ve all experienced them, but how have we acted on them? Do we follow and act on the instinct, trusting God that He is the guiding force? YES-we should…every time! Not always is it very clear or obvious, but when we are patient and prayerful, God is faithful!
As a Christian, I am called to be considerate of others, be kind, and show love to all, even those who are sensitive, different, who follow Jesus or not. To help others do what is right and build them up in faith is our call to serve. (vs. 15;1-2), because it’s not about me!
Matthew 7:13-14 reminds us; ‘Enter through the narrow gate [path, way]. For wide [easy] is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life [salvation, eternal life] , and only a few find it.’ In being the peace makes, we are called to honor the convictions of others with humble endurance and perseverance that illuminates the love and saving grace of God through Christ Jesus. Hold on, be strong, stay faithful and close to Jesus because this road is not easy… BUT IT IS SO WORTH IT!
Here are a few songs for your spiritual listening pleasure!
Prayer: Lord, help me to be obedient to the call of living for Your sake, loving others without judgement, understanding with compassion, and selflessness. Give me eyes to see the needs, ears to hear the cries, a heart to feel their pain, and strength to carry through as you would have it. I am your vessel, use me for your glory and kingdom. In the name of my mighty savior Jesus. Amen.