Called to Live!

Romans 12:1 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. NKJV

A Living Sacrifice, holy, and acceptable!

When I read or think of this verse, I always see it in reference to this life we are to live before God. Sometimes I even remember the missionaries of the faith who forsook all the comforts of their home, even leaving family, to share the gospel. I want to share a couple of those stories today!

James Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, served China in a way that became a blueprint for those following him. He realized early in his time in China that the evangelistic outreach was a bust! As he was “learning” from the missionaries already in China, he realized they were ineffective in reaching the Chinese and had basically established a country club environment. So one day he decided that he needed to immerse himself in the Chinese culture to reach them. His colleagues thought he was a bit extreme, but he begin to really reach the people of China with the gospel, especially those in rural areas. Although his first wife, Maria, and their oldest daughter, died in China, he continued his work there. Once when the Chinese people were in an uproar, they set his home on fire with his family inside. They escaped with the clothes on their backs, but even in this, he continued to serve. His life, and those of his family would certainly qualify as a living sacrifice!

Another impressive missionary is Amy Carmichael, the Rescuing Mother of India. She never got married, but spent all of her adult life in India. She tried to go to China to work there, but her health did not allow her to be able to live in that environment. A friend encouraged her to join them in India. She found her life’s calling, rescuing girls and then boys from temple prostitution. Even at the threat of placing her own life in jeopardy, she continued to rescue these children. The first one, just happened, but after that she withstood officials, temple priests, and others to save those children. She provided a safe place for them to live and learn, and she did it for the Lord! She never returned to Europe after arriving in India, and she died there. What a sacrifice!

As I began to write today, I thought of Jesus! Everything about His life was a sacrifice. Yes, He died on the cross for our sins, but He also demonstrated to us what a life of sacrifice would look like. He left His home in glory and took on the form of man for us. He taught the word daily, withstanding religious order and authority, all while meeting whatever needs the people had around Him. He was and is the epitome of a living sacrifice.

Every individual isn’t called to be a missionary in a foreign land, but we are all called to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. What does that mean, if it doesn’t mean a life of missionary work in the kingdom?

Paul wrote:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1 NKJV

The Hebrew word for “beseech” is “parakaleo” and it literally means to call to one’s side, or to call to one’s aid. In this particular verse it means to “admonish, to urge, to exhort one to pursue a particular conduct”. Paul is not trying to force his will on us, as some religious authorities may do, but he encourages us, knowing that we have a free will and a right to choose. So he encourages us to choose this course of action because of all of the mercies that God has shown us. In other words, God has been so absolutely good to us, that our only response really is to live our lives for Him.

The Hebrew word for the phrase, “a living” is “zao” and it simply means to live. The Hebrew word for sacrifice is “thysia” and it also means sacrifice. Paul makes a comparison of our life to a sacrifice. Not a dead one on the altar, but one that is lived as a sacrifice! When others see the life that we are living, they should see that there is a cost to living this life in Christ! Not a “woe is me, and my life is so miserable that you probably don’t want any parts of this life” life; but a life that displays the real decision it is to commit ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus! This Hebrew phrase is the same phrase used in Hebrews 13:15,

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 

Hebrews 13:15 NKJV

A sacrifice of praise is something that we can all make! And sometimes, giving of praise is indeed just that, a sacrifice! When we are hurting, or sick, or tired, or frustrated, it can be a challenge to lift up our voice and our hearts in praise, but then, that’s why it is called a sacrifice!

Paul said that our lives should be holy! Here’s a thought: Christians shouldn’t be living like the people in the world! If our lives look exactly like their lives look, something is wrong! I know it is unpopular to address that we must be holy, but it has always been a criteria for living for God:

And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

Exodus 19:6 NKJV

Everything about Him is holy! He is holy! His name is holy! His Spirit is holy! His mountain is holy! His church is holy! His calling is holy! Therefore His people must be holy! That doesn’t mean we walk around covered from head to toe with our heads hung down never speaking above a whisper! But it means that our life, is a life of holiness. We don’t follow the crowd, we follow the Cloud, of His Glory!

Acceptable to God! Isn’t this the bottom line of our life? A life that is acceptable to our God! A life that is well-pleasing before Him is a surrendered life! A life that represents Him well! A life that says, I live to please God, and not man! If in the process man is pleased, that is good; but ultimately His validation is all that I need or want! Cain gave an unacceptable offering to God and had the nerve to be upset with God because He deemed it unacceptable!

Many today feel that whatever they give or do to the Lord should be acceptable. Nothing else matters! Just that they gave it to the Lord! He doesn’t matter! His desires doesn’t matter! Just them, and the fact that they gave it to Him should be the only requirement! But sins lies at their door, just as it did at Cain’s door!

Truly, each of these phrases deserve to be looked at individually, but I will move on. This last phrase, “which is your reasonable service” sums it all up! God isn’t asking us to do anything that we cannot do. He isn’t asking us more than we can provide. He only wants that which is reasonable! But here is the catch: it’s His call! I have to close now, but suffice it to say, we don’t make the call for what our lives should like, God does! And the word is His expressed will for that criteria! Wonderful Jesus!

The Olive Tree

Romans 11:11-12- “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” NKJV

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

 In Romans chapters 9 through 11, we have been looking at the state of Israel in relationship to their belief in Jesus as Messiah. In chapter 9 we saw that Paul was in distress over their rejection of the Messiah as a whole; making it perfectly clear, that being born an Israelite did not make you a part of the chosen people of God. As a matter of fact, Paul spoke of God’s choice of Isaac over Ishmael and of Jacob over Esau! In each situation, both men were physically born an Israelite, but God had plans for a chosen people through Isaac and later through Jacob.

In chapter 10, Paul wrote that the Israelites were so intent on ignoring the righteousness of God that they sought to establish their own righteousness. Yet, Paul made the point that it was not possible to become righteous outside of faith in Jesus. And in order to believe in the Savior you had to hear about Him; and you couldn’t hear about Him without a preacher who was sent. And if you didn’t have a preacher who was sent, it really posed a problem, because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Preachers need to preach the word of God for people to believe and get saved! Shouldn’t we know this?

It is said in a commentary that chapter nine refers to Israel’s past, chapter 10 referred to their present condition at the time of the writing, and chapter 11 refers to their future, where Paul has another question to pose:

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!

Romans 11:11-12 MSG

I like the way it is stated in the Message Bible. Are they down for the count? Paul makes it clear that the nation of Israel has not been totally counted out of the plan of salvation. After all, God made a forever promise to Abraham and His descendants. Paul even believed that although he was assigned to the Gentiles, he would in fact be used to provoke the Jews to jealousy!

For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.

Romans 11:13-14 NKJV

Paul begins a lesson on pruning an olive tree. Since agriculture is not my thing, I’ll just simplify this for myself and others like me. Paul speaks of two olives trees, one is cultivated and represented the Jews, while the other is a wild olive tree representing the Gentiles.

If the first portion [of dough offered as the first fruits] is holy, so is the whole batch; and if the root (Abraham, the patriarchs) is holy, so are the branches (the Israelites). But if some of the branches were broken off, and you [Gentiles], being like a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among them to share with them the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the [broken] branches and exalt yourself at their expense. If you do boast and feel superior, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root that supports you.

Romans 11:16-18 AMP

Sometimes I need another version. In the Amplified Bible it speaks of the root of the olive tree being Abraham and the patriarchs; and since they are holy, so are the Israelites. But some of them were cutoff because of their unbelief, causing the Gentiles (the wild olive tree) to be grafted in. Zechariah also mentions two olive trees:

And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side [supplying it continuously with oil].”

Zechariah 4:3 -AMP

Zechariah’s olive trees were releasing a continuous flow of oil into the candlestick. I believe these two olives trees also represent the Jews and the Gentiles collectively fulfilling the vision of God, becoming one. That was free!

Scientifically speaking, one commentator spoke of the wild olive tree branches being grafted into a cultivated tree that was no longer producing fruit to bring life and production back to it. Spiritually, the Jews rejected Jesus, and He found a “people who were not a people” to become His people, the Gentiles. But He still has a plan for their salvation.

Paul warned that this was no reason for rejoicing and pointing a finger at the Jews, criticizing and judging them, thinking that they have been cast off from God forever. It simply wasn’t true and the Gentiles needed to remember, but for grace!

The bottom line, Paul explains, is that in the end, when the Jews received Jesus as the Messiah, they will be welcomed back into the tree, that they too can produce good fruit! Now for those of us who are living thousands of years after Paul wrote this, we may be thinking that it won’t happen! Or that it will take a miracle! Well, our salvation was miraculous, so why wouldn’t the salvation of Israel be miraculous? God can do just what He said He would do!

Paul calls this situation a mystery:

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in…

Romans 11:25 NKJV

But the mystery, Paul states is quite simple:

Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy.

Romans 11:28-31 NKJV

Paul is clear on this thing: Israel was disobedient to the word of God that the rest of the world could be saved, but His gifts and calling of the Israelites as His own special people was irrevocable. God had a plan for the whole world from the beginning. Jesus came because He loved the whole world! His plan isn’t off track! He wasn’t surprised by anything! But with the foresight of a loving Father, things fell into place that we might all have access to His wondrous salvation! But don’t be fooled, Israel still holds a special place in the heart of God! Wonderful Jesus!

I’m the Only One!

 Romans 11: 3-4 -“Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

Photo by niko photos on Unsplash

We’re in chapter 11 of the book of Romans, and Paul continues with Israel’s rejection of Jesus, the Messiah. As I was pondering on the chapter, I thought, what more is there to pull out about their rejection of the Savior? It’s plain as day to every Christian alive that the Jews still don’t accept Jesus as a nation. But when I tried to figure out how the key text fits in this discourse, the Spirit of God spoke to me! I love it when He does that!

Being the only one in anything has both its advantages and its disadvantages. Being the only one with a copyright on a new piece of technology can catapult you into fame and riches! Being the only one in a jungle when you meet a pack of wolves could be your demise. But when you are the only one to stand for Jesus, or think you are, know that in truth, you really are not!

In order for us to get the picture, we must turn our attention to Elijah, the prophet, in 1 Kings 18. Elijah was alone when he faced Ahab and Jezebel’s 450 priests that day on Mt. Carmel. Although, Obadiah had already told Elijah that he had saved the life of 100 prophets, Elijah announced that he was the only one to Ahab:

Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. 

1 Kings 18:22 NKJV

At this point, Elijah is feeling pretty good to be the only one. 450 false prophets against one prophet of the only true God. Those false prophets did everything they could: dancing, cutting themselves, and wailing to get their god to respond with fire. Nothing happened. Elijah repairs the altar, cut the bull, and have the men pour twelve buckets of water over the wood and the sacrifice. He prays a simple prayer and “voila,” fire!

Now in actuality, Elijah wasn’t the only prophet. Obadiah had just spoken these words to him:

Was it not reported to my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, how I hid one hundred men of the Lord’s prophets, fifty to a cave, and fed them with bread and water? 

1 Kings 18:13 NKJV

So there were others he could have had there assisting him. But at that time, it didn’t feel so bad to be the only one, this was his advantage! But then Jezebel heard of what he had done:

 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

1 Kings 19:2-3 NKJV

I have never understood how Elijah was able to withstand 450 prophets, see fire from heaven fall on water and dry it up, and then run from Jezebel! Nevertheless, that is exactly what happened. The bible is clear in letting us know that at this point in Elijah’s life he is feeling pretty defeated, to the point of wanting to die. Twice God sends an angel to him to feed him and provide water for him. The second meal lasted for forty days until he arrived at Mt. Horeb, and then God asks him, what are you doing here?

So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”

1 Kings 19:10 NKJV

Now Elijah, in his solitude is feeling pretty sorry for himself. His disadvantage. He has already forgotten that Obadiah told him that there were 100 prophets of the Lord! I often wonder how things would have been different for Elijah if he had connected with the other prophets that Obadiah had told him about! That’s for another blog one day! Suffice it to say, God was not pleased with Elijah’s attitude! He told Elijah to get up and to go and anoint a new king and a prophet to take his place! Can you imagine telling God you are the only one serving Him and He responds by telling you that He is done with you? And then He tells Elijah:

Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

1 Kings 19:18 NKJV

Now let’s return to Paul. Paul reminds the Israelites of this very incident in their history that they were all aware of. Why? As a nation they were not serving the Messiah, but there was a remnant! Thank God for the remnant! That remnant was being persecuted, (not by being talked about and made fun of), but actual life taking, in a murderous rage, persecuted!

  • Peter and John were thrown in prison for sharing the gospel, after the lame man was healed at the gate called Beautiful! Then they were beaten and released!
  • The apostles were arrested and put in jail, but an angel released them!
  • Stephen is martyred at the feet of Paul!
  • James the brother of John was killed with the sword!
  • Christians were placed in the Colosseum with wild animals to tear them apart!

Paul knows this, because for us it is history, but for him it was the reality of the day to day, life concerns, as a believer in Jesus! It was tough being a believer!

“Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

Romans 11:3-4 NKJV

This text was relevant then, and it is relevant now! Paul was reminding them that there would be times that they would feel like they were the only ones facing the attacks of the enemy, but in reality, they were not! Just as God had 7,000 men who had never bowed when Elijah was whining, He has a remnant, from Israel, who is standing strong in their conviction about Jesus! Yes, it is tough! Yes, some have given their life, and others still will, but you are not standing alone in your faith! So don’t give up, and don’t give in to the pressures of the enemy! God sees you and God knows! I believe that was the purpose of Paul’s reminder of Elijah.

Isn’t that truth still pertinent for today? How many times have you felt like you were the only one standing? The only teen in your church who was truly committed? The only one in your family who truly loves God? The only one on your job who is living for God? The only one in anywhere you are at, who truly believes God?

Well, I have good news for you! Keep standing alone in your situation, because you are not alone in your faith! While there may be only one third of the world’s population who profess Christianity, that is still a whole lot of people! And just like with Elijah, God didn’t need 450 prophets to make a point, He made it quite well with just Elijah! So what if you are the only one standing? God may have an assignment that you are the only one who can complete it! He doesn’t need a lot of people to do great things! And if He doesn’t use you to do great things, I commend you and encourage you to keeping standing and to stand strong! Wonderful Jesus!

Who Believes?

Romans 10:16-17- “But they were not all obedient to the good tidings, for Isaiah saith, `Lord, who did give credence to our report?’ So then the faith [is] by a report, and the report through a saying of God” YLT

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The book of Isaiah is a favorite of mine. In the verse for today, Paul is quoting Isaiah in what we refer to as the 53rd chapter. I want to share it in the NKJV:

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

Isaiah 53:1 NKJV

Isaiah asked a question that Paul felt a need to echo: Who believes what we are saying? Pastors, teachers, preachers of the gospel are still echoing this same sentiment: Does anybody believe us? Not necessarily us, but this gospel message, this message of hope? Why are people struggling to believe the gospel?

Well, for the Jews, they struggled with Jesus the Messiah, who didn’t come to overthrow the Romans. And they struggled with Jesus the Messiah, who was a servant and not a dictator or king! And they struggled with Jesus the Messiah and His teachings that were contrary to their laws they had added to the Law. And they just plain struggled, even before Jesus showed up!

Unfortunately, people still struggle with the concept of God and His abundant grace and love towards them. Believe it or not, that takes faith!

I believe in evangelism, and I know there are all kinds of ways to evangelize; but people who truly grasp the concept of their salvation, must hear the word, and keep on hearing it, in order to grasp the concept of God Himself!

When I think about the Old Testament, and the supernatural, no other explanation miracles, that God performed for His people, I wonder how in the world could they stray so easily from Him? After that powerful Exodus from Egypt, they made a golden calf! After conquering Jericho, they worshipped the Baal. After being delivered time and again, they turned from His love. Then they asked for a king, when they already had the King!

When I think of the New Testament, the Jews still didn’t believe. Although it was prophesied that they wouldn’t, in order for the other nations to gain access to the kingdom, it is still amazing to me that they rejected Jesus. He fulfilled the prophecies right before their eyes. He performed more miracles than they could write about, according to John. And they cried with one voice, “Crucify Him!”

Today, two thirds of the world don’t believe in Jesus. Of the one third that does believe in Him, most don’t have a relationship with Him, they just believe He exists and profess Christianity. In a world where we have the internet, and the countless platforms for sharing the gospel, the world as a whole is faithless!

Martin Luther saw a problem in his era of the papacy, the Church, dictating people lives, steering them through the challenges of life, with control being the dominant factor. He and others began to realize the importance of people having access to the Word of God for themselves and went on a campaign to translate the word of God from Latin, the language of the elite, to German, the language of the common man. As people began to read the word for themselves, they began to understood God like never before.

Today, we have the bible, in every version and format imaginable, but we are not reading and studying it with a heart for God to reveal Himself. We may have a cursory, ritual of reading the Bible. We may read it when we are troubled. We may read it when we are in church. But until we open the bible and begin to read it to know God, faith won’t be activated!

Paul asked, as Isaiah did centuries before him, who has believed our report? The word Paul used for “has believed” is pisteuō, a Greek term that means “to be persuaded of” or “to place confidence in, to trust.” Paul was not concerned with people having a cursory faith in the Lord, but with them believing to the point of placing their absolute trust, or confidence in the Lord! Paul understood the level of trust needed to have a faith that couldn’t be destroyed. Who believes?

Paul said faith comes by hearing! I believe my husband loves me because He shows it to me everyday. But there is something powerful about him making that verbal decree to me that he loves me. Reading God’s word is key to anchoring our faith in Him! We must know what the word says in order to have biblical faith. Then when you hear the word preached, your faith is stirred! When you hear a testimony of the goodness of God, the flame of faith is lit, or the embers are rekindled!

Both are needed: reading and hearing of the Word! Not once, not twice, but regularly for faith to be kept strong. Paul understood that the early saints had real persecution to go through. He was in the thick of things himself. And he understood the power of hearing the word. They were being told things to counter their faith! They were experiencing things contrary to their faith! They were being encouraged, at the threat of the loss of life, to reject their faith! But Paul was letting them know that faith lies in the word of God, and that they must hear it, and hear it, and keep on hearing it to counter the affects of the negative things they were hearing!

I remember a time at church when I saw the power of hearing the word. I had gone to the orthodontist to have a surgical procedure done. After the surgery they prescribed pain medications, gave instructions for care, etc. Well, before the surgery I had decided that I would not be taking pain medication because I was trusting God to be with me during the surgery. (After praying about whether I should have the surgery or not, and getting the go ahead in my spirit, I challenged myself to believe for no need for medication). Well, as I believed, I received! Just as Jesus had said!

 Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.”

Matthew 9:29 NKJV

That following Wednesday in Bible study, I shared how God had miraculously kept me from pain or having to taking the medication. A few weeks later, one of the members of the church gave a testimony. To my surprise, he started out talking about my testimony that I had shared and how it caused him to believe for the same thing when he had a minor surgical procedure. And guess what? He needed no pain medication because he had no pain. I’m not talking about having pain we could endure, I am talking about having no pain!

Faith comes by hearing! And hearing comes by the word of God. What word did we stand on?

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:4-5 NKJV

How did we get faith to believe for there to be no pain? We heard it preached, we searched the scriptures and found it to be true; and when we experienced it, we shared it that others would hear. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God!

I don’t know why people are struggling with the gospel message in every situation, but I do know that if faith is to be had, it will only come through the hearing of the Word! Wonderful Jesus!

Beautiful Feet!

Romans 10:14-15- “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”’ NKJV

Photo by Robert Stump on Unsplash

I’ve been looking forward to writing this blog! As soon as I hit chapter 10, I knew that I would take this verse and share my heart regarding the men and women who preach and teach the gospel! Today, I’m talking about you!

Every single one of us is responsible to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some of us will only share in our school, at our job, in our neighborhood, or in our family. But others of us will have a greater sphere of influence that will involve a local church, or many churches in a state, our nation, or world-wide. Wherever your feet are led to go, God looks from heaven and call them “beautiful”!

Paul asks some questions that are true on every level! How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? Only one third of the world’s population profess to believing in Jesus! That is not enough! We have work to do in His kingdom!

How shall they call on Him in whom they have not heard? Can you truly believe that there is anyone in the world who has not heard the name of Jesus? With access to technology today, it doesn’t seem possible! But until the gospel has been preached in every corner of the world, that every individual has been given the opportunity to hear Jesus, we have to continue to see the value of sharing the gospel! Jesus said:

‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 

Luke 14:23 NKJV

A commission He has given to every disciple, every believer. We are all responsible for carrying the gospel to others! But Paul wants to know how can they believe or hear without a preacher? How many sermons have I preached one-on-one? Countless! I didn’t have a key text, per se, and I didn’t have five points, but it was a sermon nevertheless. Many are confused into thinking that the only preachers are the ones with licenses and congregations, but we can all preach a sermon. Most of the great ones are preached with our lives!

And how can they preach unless they are sent? Hear the words of the Master:

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

Mark 16:15 NKJV

This is a scripture that is called the Great Commission. It has always been shared as the responsibility of the believer, not just the pastors and ministers. So, Jesus Himself sends us out to preach! Face it! You’ve been sent! I’ve been sent! It’s time to get going!

Paul said that your feet are beautiful! As you go around announcing to those in your sphere of influence, the message of the gospel, your feet are popping!

I remember that during one of our evangelistic efforts, we had a theme: Each one, reach one! The pastor sent all of us out to reach just one soul for the kingdom. Had we all done our assignment, we would have doubled in size. Maybe tripled. But enough of us are not responding to the clarion call to “go”!

I think it is important for every believer, world-wide, to realize that we have all been called to preach the gospel, just in different ways. As I stated before, some will preach to their family members, and their feet are beautiful! Then there are those who will preach on their jobs, gorgeous feet in action! And yet there are many who will preach wherever their feet take them, dazzling feet! But our feet must be moving to be effective. People need the Lord!

Then there are the men and women who preach to the Body of Christ! Encouraging, inspiring, challenging, teaching, leading the Body with the word of God! Yes, their feet are beautiful also!

These men and women are called especially to their assignment. No one should just wake up one day and decide to go into ministry! This is an assignment from God, and if you can’t confidently state that you have been given that assignment by Him, you should not set your feet in that direction!

Having said that, I have much respect for the men and women who preach the gospel message. It is my absolute pleasure to have been given the privilege to pray for them through the years. Sometimes by name, sometimes in general, but I have prayed faithfully, throughout the years, for our church leaders, and their feet are beautiful!

I pray that they will honor the Savior with their lives and with their handling of the word. I pray that they will be kept from temptation. I pray for their lives, their finances, their health, their families and their assignments. I pray they will live with integrity and that Jesus will always be their Lord, and not money and fame. And I pray that they will fulfill the call on their lives. Regularly!

Here of late, I have felt that my prayers are not being answered! I see so much in the news on a regular basis. But I have just determined that when a pastor, minister, or evangelist comes to my mind, I’m going to pray. When I hear of a bad situation that is happening in their life, I am going to pray. When I participate in a conversation that I should not have had regarding one of God’s ministers, I am going to repent, and then pray! Because God said their feet are lovely before Him as they carry the message of salvation!

We have been given an assignment by the Savior. If we are not clergymen, we are still to preach the gospel message. If we are clergymen, we are to preach the gospel message. It should be proclaimed more than any other message because they can’t hear without a preacher! And if they don’t hear, they won’t believe! Again, I will say that people need the Lord! Beautiful feet that have been sent by God, it’s time to get stepping! Wonderful Jesus!

Confession Time!

 Romans 10:9 – That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” NKJV

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

When you think of the word, “confession”, what comes to your mind? Is it the confessional booth in a cathedral? Maybe it means getting caught, and telling the truth (confessing) about what you did! Or is it something entirely different?

In my previous post, I wrote about watching what we say! Today, I want to talk a little about biblical confession! First, let’s look at the Hebrew word for confession. The Greek word “homologeo” literally means “to speak the same thing”. In relationship to our key text it means, “to declare openly by way of speaking out freely such confession being of deep conviction of facts”.

Have you ever met a Christian that had a negative viewpoint about the things of God? Have you had a Christian discount the way Jesus was born? Have you felt conflicted about the resurrection? Well, it is time to get your confession right and then hopefully you can help them get their confession right!

Paul said that it was with the mouth that confession was made to salvation(v.10). The word for “confessing to salvation” in verse 10 is the same word in verse 9, “homologeo”, saying the same thing!

Saying the same thing as who? Saying the same thing as what? That’s an easy answer! We are to say the same things about Jesus that God, in His word, has said about Him. It makes no difference who we are talking to, or what we are talking about, we should have a deep conviction in our heart about what we believe about Jesus, and should always find ourselves saying those things!

What you believe impacts what you say! I tried to convey that in my last post. If you believe negative things about yourself, you will say them. And as you say them, you will believe them even more, until you find yourself living them!

The same is true about God and His word. What you believe about God and His word, should impact what you say about Him and His word, which ultimately will impact how you live!

You know I have an example! Paul speaks of confessing the Lord Jesus Christ!

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9 NKJV

When we confess the Lord, many think it is a simple matter of saying that Jesus is Lord. However, when we use the literally translation, to say the same thing, then confessing Jesus means to say the same thing about Him that God says about Him! So what are some things that God says about Jesus? He says:

  • Jesus is His Son- Matthew 3:17
  • Jesus was born of the Holy Ghost- Matthew 1:18
  • Jesus would save His (God) people from their sins – Matthew 1:21
  • He was born in Bethlehem of Mary- Matthew 2:1
  • Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one can come to God except through Him – John 14:6
  • Jesus died for our sins- 1 Corinthians 15:3

This is a short and important list about what we must confess about Jesus! He came in the flesh, He was born of a virgin, He is the Son of God, and He is the only way to the Father. We confess it, and we believe it in our heart, and we confess what we believe to obtain salvation! When we are talking to others about what we believe about God, these are the things we should be confessing. If we are confessing that other stuff, then we can’t possibly believe what we say we said to be saved! If we did believe it at one time, but now find ourselves confessing the wrong things to others, we will talk ourselves out of what we say we believe!

The other important thing Paul said that we must confess about Jesus is that He was raised from the dead. Paul explained the importance of this truth when he wrote:

For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 

1 Corinthians 15: 16-17 NKJV

In other words, it is the resurrection of Jesus from dead that gives potency to the gospel message. His resurrection is proof that He is alive, and no longer dead! His resurrection is proof that He defeated Satan! His resurrection is proof that we are free from our sins!

Is that your confession of faith? Is that what you say about Jesus? Because if you say these things, because you believe these things, then you have been saved. And if you have been saved, then these are the things that you should be saying about Jesus. And if you say these things, and believe these things, and are saved, then righteousness should manifest in your life! Remember! What we say, we believe, and it produces fruit in our lives! Good and bad!

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Romans 10:11-13 NKJV

Whoever! Doesn’t matter if you are Jew or Greek, rich or poor, male or female! If you call on the name of the Lord, you shall be saved! And Jesus, who is Lord over all, is rich to all who call upon Him!

 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

2 Corinthians 8:9 NKJV

In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us that Jesus became poor that through His poverty we might become rich. Many people think that this poverty is the poverty we are familiar with, the place of lack! But when you are God of the universe, and all things are made by you and for you, when you leave heaven to come to earth, your status changes. Any human status is poverty to His deity! So I don’t think that He had a vow of poverty, I just believe that because He became a man, and left heaven, it was a lowly state in comparison! But this lowly state of humanity/deity was an extension of the grace of God towards us that we might experience all of Him, at His expense!

The Bible speaks of all types of ways that we can “say the same thing” that the word of God says. As a matter of fact, that was my original plan for the blog! But I thank God for Jesus, and the leading of the Holy Spirit!

Confession time is not in a booth, to an individual, that your sins may be forgiven! Confession time is saying what God says about Jesus that you might be saved! If you have already made this confession, I am so grateful that you are a part of our family! If you have not made this confession, my heart is that you now want to make it! It’s simple, and you will find a prayer at the end of this page to assist you with that! Please drop me a comment to let me know if you are in the family already or if you have joined the family! Wonderful Jesus!

What Are You Saying?

 Romans 10:8- “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach)” NKJV

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

If there is anything I have learned in life, I have learned that what I say matters. As a matter of fact, what I say plays an important role in what I experience in life.

When I was in high school, my English teacher taught a lesson on the principle called “self-fulfilling prophecy”. What this basically meant was that we have a tendency, or an ability to fulfill the words of our mouth. What she wanted to instill in us, as young people, was that it was very important that the words we say about ourselves be positive words and not negative words, for it was human nature to fulfill the words that we say!

Paul believed this principle, for as a young boy he was taught the scriptures. In Deuteronomy chapter 30, Moses spoke similar words to the children of Israel:

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14 NKJV

Moses said that the word, or the commandment was not far off, nor mysterious, but very near, in our mouth and in our heart! Paul is referencing this scripture when he says the righteousness of faith speaks!

Over the years we have heard others criticize word of faith people. You know, “name it and claim it”, or “blab it and grab it”! And whether they seem flaky or not, or whether they get it a little twisted or not, it is scriptural that faith speaks! I’ve lived it for decades! Not every word that I speak comes to pass, thank the Lord, but words of faith manifest!

Think about your life. What is it like today? How do you feel about where you are at? Now, think about what you say? Do you listen to your words? Are you speaking life, or death? Are you speaking gloom and despair, or hope? Are you speaking fear and worry, or faith?

In Proverbs we find these words:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.

Proverbs 18:21 AMP

Your tongue hold the power over life and death for you, your family, your situations. Those who love their tongue and indulge their tongue will eat the fruit of their tongue and bear the consequences of the their words! Isn’t that pretty straight forward?

God said that He has placed life and death before us, but it is up to us what we choose:

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live

Deuteronomy 30:19 NKJV

How do we choose? By our words! Now Paul is leading us to understanding how we come into a relationship with Jesus! With our words, that are in our mouth and our heart, we are born again and step into a right relationship (righteousness) with God through Jesus Christ!

 That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 

Romans 10:9-10 NKJV

What you say about what you believe about Jesus is vitally important to your salvation. And what you continue to say about Him, the word, and your life in Him will be the compass of your existence! Let me share a few examples!

Remember the story of Ruth? Naomi was intent on being bitter, to the point of calling herself Mara, which means bitter. That bitterness followed her life, until Obed was born to Ruth and Boaz. After Obed’s birth, the women of Bethlehem reminded her of the goodness of God in her life. I believe she probably stopped calling herself Mara, and stopped seeing herself as bitter, to become blessed!

When our children were small, (I’ve probably shared this in a blog), people told us to wait for the terrible twos, but they never came, because we never joined our words or faith with that! Then we were told about the turbulent teens, something else we didn’t get with, and we didn’t see it! We spoke different words over our children, what we believed and wanted to see, not what others expected!

But on the other hand, when I am working and I start talking negative about my job, I experience negativity! Then I have to stop myself and say, “what are you saying?” Sometimes God will bless us in spite of ourselves, but the vast majority of our experiences in life can be traced back to what we say!

Jesus said it like this:

For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 

Mark 11:22-23 NKJV

Are there mountains in your life that won’t move? Speak words of faith to it, and watch them jump in the sea! Are there situations that need to be turned around in your life, begin to speak God’s word over the situations, and watch them turn!

How do you do this? Well, I do it in this manner! When things are going south at work, and I realize that I have been speaking negatively about my job, I repent! Then, I begin to speak what I believe about how things are supposed to look at my job! I always, always find a word in the word, and as I speak it over my job, I meditate on it. And as I meditate on it, my faith builds when I speak it! It gets in my mind, and in my heart, and as it comes out of my mouth, I begin to speak words of faith! Then I see the manifestation of it come to pass!

As Christians, we may know these things, that we need to watch what we say! But sometimes we need to be reminded of this simple truth! I don’t speak negative words over my marriage, and thus I have been happily married for decades. I watch what I say about my husband and our daughters, and we have healthy relationships! I choose life and not death, so I speak life and not death! When I hear myself say something that’s contrary to the word, or see things happening, contrary to the word, I repent, and get it right!

So what are you saying? Are you speaking God things over you and your family, or are you speaking like the world? Whatever it is that you are saying, if you need to change it, it’s an easy fix. Just stop saying it and say what God says! Then enjoy the fruit of your lips for God has said:

As I create the praise of his lips, “Peace, peace, to him who is far away [both Jew and Gentile] and to him who is near!” Says the Lord; “And I will heal him [making his lips blossom anew with thankful praise].”

Isaiah 57:19 AMP

Let’s give God something He can work with! What are you saying? Wonderful Jesus!

Prayer of Salvation

Zeal Doesn’t Equate Truth!

Romans 10: 2- “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” NKJV

Image by Jackelberry from Pixabay

Paul spends a lot of time in Romans addressing Jewish beliefs that should have led to Jesus, but only led to the keeping of the Law. His heart was burdened for the Jewish nation, as he once again expresses his pain at their spiritual condition:

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.

Romans 10:1 NKJV

Not only does Paul desire for them to get saved, but he prays to God for the salvation of Israel. He realizes with clarity, that if they continue down the path they are on as a nation, they will not be saved. So his prayer is for them to see the truth that they might be saved.

Paul then address a very important point, that I will camp at today. They have a lot of zeal for God, but it is not zeal based on knowledge:

“For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.”

Romans 10:2 NKJV

If anyone can recognize zeal that is not according to knowledge, it is Paul.

As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.

Acts 8:3 NKJV

Luke wrote that Paul created such havoc in the church, that he was personally responsible for finding those who believed in Jesus, going into their homes, and dragging them off to prison, both men and women. He was no respecter of persons.

Paul explains what he did and why he did it:

 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.

Acts 22: 4-5 NKJV

Paul admitted to going after those who believed in Jesus, the Way! He even referred to the high priest as his witness. He spoke of going to Damascus to do more of the same that they may join fellow believers in Jerusalem to be punished and put to death. So when Paul refers to having zeal but not according to knowledge, he is not criticizing or judging them, he is just stating facts based off his own experience of what he had done.

But this is not the only reason Paul was saying this about zeal for God that was not based on knowledge. In Acts 21, the mob was ready to stone him to death for defiling the temple:

“Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”

Acts 21:28 NKJV

Paul was a devout Jew and understood Jewish customs better than most. They accused him of teaching everybody, everywhere he went, against the Jewish people, the Law, and Jerusalem. And on top of that, he had brought Gentiles into the temple and defiled it. Shame on him! These things were not true, but the mob was supposedly zealous for Judaism, like Paul before them, and they wanted to deal with all those who opposed it.

Zeal in the Vine’s dictionary means a fierceness of fire, and this fierceness is because of a jealousy for God. But this type of passionate zeal, especially as demonstrated in this chapter was not about God. Look where this zeal led them:

And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy. They came to the chief priests and elders, and said, “We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul. Now you, therefore, together with the council, suggest to the commander that he be brought down to you tomorrow, as though you were going to make further inquiries concerning him; but we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”

Acts 23:12-15 NKJV

Can you believe this? They went to the church leaders, told them of their plot, and asked for help. And guess what? The church leaders were on board! The killers were “fasting” to kill Paul, and the church leaders added their support! Unbelievable! Or is it?

Throughout church history and even today, people have gotten caught up in some cause or another that they attributed to God, which was harmful to others. Those people had a zeal to stand against some “wrong” that they felt was intended towards God or the people of God, and in His name have done some shocking things. Why did I choose a picture of the Capitol? Because after all of the violence of breaking windows and doors, climbing the building, and preparing a noose for our Vice President, they had the nerve to bow their heads in prayer and thank God for what they had done!

We may not be willing to admit it, agree with it, or believe it, but God doesn’t need us to be involved in violence against others to defend Him. And in doing this violence, based on a scripture, that doesn’t make it biblical or godly! It just makes it violence!

I agree with God’s word that homosexuality and abortion is a sin. But I know that He isn’t for us attacking them physically, calling them the scum of the earth, or treating them as if they are not worthy of respect because of their sin. Can you have a zeal, or a burden against sin and not sin? Yes, you can! But if it is Christ-like to attack them, then there are some other things that are an abomination to God that should be on the list of things and people to attack! Be careful, you just might find yourself in this list:

  • These six things the Lord hates,
  • Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
  • A proud look,
  • A lying tongue,
  • Hands that shed innocent blood,
  • A heart that devises wicked plans,
  • Feet that are swift in running to evil,
  • A false witness who speaks lies,
  • And one who sows discord among brethren. Proverbs 6:16-19 NKJV

News flash! God doesn’t have or need a vigilante committee; and if He can fight our battles, He most certainly can fight His own! And He did! On the cross! Those who promote violence, even if they are church leaders, are WRONG!

Zeal is a beautiful thing in accordance to knowledge. Paul took his zeal against the church and used it for cause of Christ:

If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.

Philippians 3:4-7 NKJV

After Paul came to Christ, he no longer participated in the type of activities he had previously participated in. He didn’t stop persecuting Christians and then started persecuting Jews! Certainly not! God forbid! And absolutely not!

Paul gave us a way to get things done in the kingdom of God, prayer and a life of truth. That should be our strategy for the entire population that is lost! Our zeal should always be according to knowledge, the knowledge of Jesus and His word! Nothing else! When the church connect the two, zeal and the knowledge of Jesus, we will become that light in the midst of darkness, that city set upon a hill! Wonderful Jesus!

Rock of Offense

Romans 9:30-31- “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.” NKJV

Jesus! The Rock of Offense

Can I just be honest and say that a lot is going on in this chapter. I don’t mean to overlook verses, but when I am not sure of how to explain what is being said, I don’t plan to make stuff up.

Paul talks about God using Pharaoh for His own purpose, a purpose that resulted in his demise, and God’s glory! I know that God created Satan, and he’s a horrible creature, filled with hate and destruction. I know that Satan thinks his will is being done, but ultimately God’s will is being done. Does that mean that God create evil people to work evil in the earth? I don’t agree necessarily with that thinking!

God created Adam and Eve and the rest of us were born. Since God is omniscient, knowing everything, He knows our end from the beginning. Could that explain why God “uses” certain people to accomplish His will? Again, this is all a supposition since I don’t agree with the doctrine of predestination, especially in relationship with salvation. Jesus said that “whoever” believes on Him, not “the ones we have chosen” to believe. So I have a little problem with that.

But in my previous post, I did mention that some of us are “predestined”, or chosen by God for certain roles, mentioning Paul, Jesus, and Moses. So I believe God can and will choose us for certain missions, or callings, He places on our lives.

Paul’s analogy of the potter and the clay reminds me of Jeremiah, when God told him to go to the potter’s house:

Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying:  “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!  The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.

Jeremiah 18:6-8 NKJV

We are in the hand of God, as clay is in the hand of the potter. God can do as He wish with us. But what Jeremiah says here is more of what I think about God. God says through Jeremiah that He can pluck up, pull down, or destroy a nation, but if that nation will repent, He will turn away His wrath.

When I think about Pharaoh, I think he had many opportunities to get it right before God, and chose not to do so. Even during the plagues, he kept hardening his heart, until God had enough and hardened it for him. And while He said that Pharaoh had been prepared by Him, I believe that Pharaoh could have cried out to God for mercy. But we shall never know because he didn’t cry out, so he didn’t receive mercy, he received judgment! God was long-suffering towards him in the process but his heart just kept hardening.

Paul makes several observations about God’s mentioning of the Jews and the Gentiles in the prophets:

  • In Hosea, God told the Jews that He would embrace a people who were not His people, and He would say to that people they would be called the sons of the Living God!
  • In Isaiah, God told them that though they be numbered as the sands in the sea, only a remnant of them would be saved.
  • And again in Isaiah, God told them through the prophet that if He didn’t save a remnant, they would disappear like Sodom and Gomorrha.

Which leads us back to our key text:

“What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.”

Romans 9:30-31-NKJV

The Gentiles, Paul states, did not pursue righteousness, but they have received righteousness, the righteousness of faith! But Israel, in their pursuit of righteousness did not obtain righteousness. Why?

 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

Romans 9:32-33 NKJV

Because they did not seek righteousness by faith, but they sought it through the works of the law. And they stumbled at that stumbling stone: Jesus! The One who was sent to save them became their stumbling stone and their rock of offense.

Peter echoed this sentiment in his letter:

Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone”, and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumbled, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

1 Peter 2:7 NKJV

The bottom line of chapter 9, is that regardless of the privileges the Jewish nation had as God’s chosen people, they were offended at His Son, and therefore were not able to attain righteousness by faith! They had a responsibility to be prepared, to be waiting, to be ready, but they missed Jesus because He didn’t come like they thought He should have come.

Many today, fail to realize who Jesus is. They are offended because He doesn’t operate like they want Him to operate. They want Him to love them and their sins. They want Him to be inclusive, and not discriminate! They want Him to look like them, understand them, accept them, and not make them feel bad about themselves. They want validation and acceptance, and when they don’t get it, they reject Him. He becomes their stumbling stone. They become offended, turned off, and they look for a god more accepting, even if they become their own god.

Well, like Paul, my heart hurts for them because they reject the Savior, and I know He wants to accept them in His family. But it will be on His terms, or no terms. And that applies to all of us!

This one was tough, but I hope you got something out of it! Wonderful Jesus!

Curveball

 Romans 9:6-7- “But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” NKJV

Photo by Jose Francisco Morales on Unsplash

God is the great and merciful God! He loves humanity and has made great plans for humanity. However, Satan hates humanity and he has also made plans for humanity. The interesting thing about it all is that we have a free will to choose who will govern our lives and that plays a huge part in how plans work out for us.

In our key text, Paul throws a curveball at us. He tells us that everyone who is a part of Israel is not an Israelite, and that everyone who is born from Abraham are not children of Abraham.

In the game of baseball, a curveball is a pitch thrown with a strong downward spin, causing the ball to drop suddenly and veer to the side as it approaches home plate. In the game of life, a curveball is something that is unexpected, surprising, or disruptive. In this verse, Paul’s curveball is surprising and unexpected to the hearers, readers, and listeners. What do you mean Paul? All are Jews who are of the seed of Abraham, who are citizens of Israel!

God is pretty interesting to me. He always has been. I am fascinated by Him and spend a lot of time thinking about Him, or something He has said or done. And whenever I would read the story of Ishmael and Isaac, I would feel a little bad for Ishmael when he wasn’t counted as a son of Abraham. After all, Ishmael was born first. He was with Abraham for 13 years before Isaac came along. Abraham and Ishmael were circumcised together. And Abraham was really glad to have Ishmael as his son because he cried to God on Ishmael’s behalf. Later, when Abraham died, both sons were at his burial:

And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite

Genesis 25:9 NKJV

So what is Paul referring to? Let’s read a little further in the chapter:

That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”

Romans 9:8-9 NKJV

Paul makes the same distinction between Ishmael and Isaac that God made in Genesis. Ishmael was the son of the flesh and not of the plans of God for Abraham and Sarah. God wasn’t taken by surprise, but He also wasn’t changing His plan to fit Abraham’s.

When God spoke to Abraham on Mt. Moriah, He mentioned Isaac as Abraham’s only son:

 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Genesis 22:12 NKJV

So in agreement with God, Paul wrote that not every person born of the seed of Abraham was a part of God’s chosen people. Yes, Ishmael was the oldest natural son of Abraham, but it was through Isaac that Abraham’s seed would be called and blessed.

Paul continues with his curveball by stating:

And not only that, but this too: Rebecca conceived [two sons under exactly the same circumstances] by our forefather Isaac, and the children were yet unborn and had so far done nothing either good or evil. Even so, in order further to carry out God’s purpose of selection (election, choice), which depends not on works or what men can do, but on Him Who calls [them],  it was said to her that the elder [son] should serve the younger [son]. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated (held in relative disregard in comparison with My feeling for Jacob).

Romans 9:10-13 AMP

I chose another version, to try and help us navigate what Paul was saying about God. First, Paul reminds us of the fact that God chose Jacob over Esau. As ministers, we point out all of Esau’s flaws and say that is why God chose Jacob over Esau. We even go so far as to say that Jacob and Rebecca stole the birthright from Esau. But God had already told Rebecca that Esau would serve Jacob. Could this have influenced the parents love for each son? Possibly. But God made the selection!

Many of us go through life thinking that God isn’t fair. Let’s just keep it real! We look at a singer like Cece Winans and we may think that we can sing just as good as she can, so why aren’t we traveling, singing, being invited to engagements? Or we may think, like I have (just keeping it real) that I can definitely preach and teach the word better than certain individuals, but I am not preaching anywhere but on my blog! Or we may think a whole lot of things about the people we see around us and how they are doing what we thought we would be doing, or should be doing. Why is God using him and not me, or opening doors for her, but not for me? Well, here’s a curveball that might shock you:

 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV

You see, it really is hard to believe that God has, what seems to be, a greater plan for Bobby than He does for Betty. Or a greater plan for Billy than He does for Patty. After all, if we are all saved, and obedient to His plans, and doing what He has placed in our hearts, shouldn’t it take us all in the same direction? Yes! But it doesn’t look the same way for each us!

The plan that God has for us, is for us! Only Paul could have been Paul, for he was chosen from his mother’s womb to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Only Moses could have been Moses, for God had already determined he would be a deliverer. Only Jesus could have been Jesus, and the Savior of the world. And only you can be you!

Whatever God has planned for us needs to be enough! Paul speaks of this later on in Romans and again in 1 Corinthians when he speaks of the body of Christ and us all having a part to play. The finger has its job and does it well, just as the head has its job to perform. We can’t all be world travelers, famous, heads of mega churches, with millions of followers on Facebook! But we can all be the very best “me” that God called us to be. And we can all be obedient to that call!

This isn’t my original plan for this blog! Not by a long shot. But as I was going in my direction, I felt a tugging in this direction. As I have desired more in Christ for my life, and continue to desire, I remind myself that I need to remain diligent in my walk and service to Him, obeying all that I know to do. As I do this, He will continue to lead me to all that He has for me. I will short circuit His plan if I produce an Ishmael, but if I remain faithful to Him, nothing will stop His plan for me. Just as it didn’t stop His plan for Abraham.

Did God really hate Ishmael or Esau? I like the way that the Amplified Bible states it:

As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated (held in relative disregard in comparison with My feeling for Jacob).

Romans 9:13 AMP

It may have looked like it and felt like it to Esau because God chose Jacob. Sometimes, it may feel like He hates you and love your friend, or brother, or neighbor, but we have to get to the place where we are willing to trust God and His plans for us!

Ishmael was no pauper. He had 12 sons of his own and started a great nation of people. Esau was no pauper. He was very wealthy and had a large family. They, however, were not in the plan that God had in place for Abraham, and it was what it was!

We don’t have the same problem as Christians. We all have equal access and value to God! But we don’t all have the same assignments, the same sphere of influences, or the same calling. And that’s ok! Wonderful Jesus!