Romans 16. Enjoy the Best of Jesus!

The setting sun behind Mt. Arbel, along the Sea of Galilee. Jesus prayed here with his followers.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

You may play today’s devotional message here. (4:43)

Romans 16.
Congratulations! We’ve read through Romans together. So much we have learned about God’s plan for us and His grace. And, about Paul.
This is a full chapter of greetings to those in the church at Rome. Almost 30 people. And they are likely from more than one congregation. I’ve wondered about Peter. It seems his name is conspicuously absent? Tradition says he was the first Pope in Rome. But that’s a conversation for another day. I do love that Paul calls out by name many women who love and serve God. I think that’s significant. Think about Paul as a former pharisee. His old tradition would likely not have given much attention to the women of the synagogue. I believe this acknowledgment is evidence of real life transformation in his new walk with the Messiah!
He also includes a warning to watch out for those who say they follow the Master, but who’s actions are deceptive. And he affirms their obedient discipleship. They are following his call to spiritual maturity (which we talked about yesterday): I am glad that everyone knows how well you obey the Lord. But still, I want you to understand what is good and not have anything to do with evil. (v19, CEV).
My big takeaway from today’s reading: “Enjoy the best of Jesus!” (v20, MSG.) What a great way to conclude a letter!
He states again the reason he has written this dispatch. And it is a source of strength for us all:
Praise God! He can make you strong by means of my good news, which is the message about Jesus Christ. For ages and ages this message was kept secret, but now at last it has been told. The eternal God commanded his prophets to write about the good news, so that all nations would obey and have faith. And now, because of Jesus Christ, we can praise the only wise God forever! Amen. (v 25-27, CEV).
“Enjoy the best of Jesus!”
What is this Good News? Let’s review the Gospel Message along this Romans Road, a map to our salvation through the pages of this single letter:
1. The Human Condition —  We are all sinners.

All of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it: There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. No one’s living right; I can’t find a single one. (Romans 3:9-10, MSG).

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, NIV).

Sin pays off with death.  (Romans 6:23a, CEV).

2.  We Have Hope — Thanks to Jesus. “But God…”
But God’s gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23b, CEV).
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8, NLT).
3.  Our Response — Calling Out to Jesus.
If you acknowledge publicly with your mouth that Yeshua is Lord and trust in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be delivered. For with the heart one goes on trusting and thus continues toward righteousness, while with the mouth one keeps on making public acknowledgement and thus continues toward deliverance. (Romans 10:9-10, CJB).
“Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.” (Romans 10:13, MSG).
4. The Result of Salvation — Peace and Grace.
By faith we have been made acceptable to God. And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace with God. (Romans 5:1, CEV).
So there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit—and this power is mine through Christ Jesus—has freed me from the vicious circle of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2, NLT).
It’s our power too!
I’ve really appreciated your joining me on this journey. Thank you! Looking back over my journal, I want to go back to Chapter 1 and start it all over again!
Enjoy the best of Jesus today!
(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Romans 3. We Were All Going to Drown. But There is Hope.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 3:1-20.

As the previous Chapter concluded, Paul began to unravel the Law, and make the case that because of Jesus, religion in itself is not where our salvation is found. No, God is truth. And in God alone is our salvation.

“Depend on it: God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth. Scripture says the same: “Your words stand fast and true; rejection doesn’t faze you.”” (Romans 3:4, MSG). When the time comes to put God’s promises on trial, they will remain steadfast, from the beginning of time to the end of time.

He’s the one who is faithful even when we’re faithless.  We can trust Him. We can count on Him. He will guide us. He will direct our paths. He will comfort us — even when we’re faithless. And how much more so when we are doing our best to be faithful, seeking after Him with our whole heart! That is amazing, isn’t it? He loves us when we’re in a tight relationship with Him AND when we’re not.

It helps when we earnestly try to listen to Him, right? Remember the old analog days of radio, when you had to turn the dial just a little this way or that to get the signal to come in loud and clear? Some times, hearing God can be that way too. We need to regularly tune in, removing every distraction, to hear Him clearly. So, my encouragement to us all today is to take time to listen and I’m pretty sure we’ll hear. That’s good news!

Keep your hearts tuned into God!

At the same time, we have to remember that we are going to drown in our sin. You are. So am I. And so is everyone you know.  Following the Law won’t help you, either. Even if you could keep all the laws. Which you can’t. 

He’s the one who is faithful even when we’re faithless.


Paul, the accomplished rabbi, knows his Torah. Nine times Paul quotes from the Old Testament.  Nine times we hear that we are all condemned because of our sin. Can you imagine being a Torah following Jew, or even a new believer in Rome (the folks to whom this letter is written), and reading all these discouraging words that Paul quotes here? How did anyone have hope?

“Scripture leaves no doubt about it: There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. No one’s living right; I can’t find a single one.” (Romans 3:10-12, MSG).

And this might have been written about people today: “They don’t know how to live in peace. They don’t even fear God.” (Romans 3:17-18, MSG). Paul is quoting from Isaiah 59 and Psalm 36.

I love how Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase draws a sailing analogy:

“And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.” (Romans 3:19-20, MSG).

We’re all destined to drown. That’s a horrific image, isn’t it? Probably one of the worst ways to die. Think about it though, as Jesus spent many of His days around Lake Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, we see in our mind’s eye images of fishermen-turned-disciples and storms out on the water. I’m reminded of a story in the Gospel of Mark.

“Suddenly a windstorm struck the lake. Waves started splashing into the boat, and it was about to sink. Jesus was in the back of the boat with his head on a pillow, and he was asleep. His disciples woke him and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re about to drown?” Jesus got up and ordered the wind and the waves to be quiet. The wind stopped, and everything was calm.” (Mark 4:37-39, CEV).

Under our own efforts, when we attempt to captain our own ship, when we strive to follow all the rules about living life as a Jesus follower, we will surely drown.  Be assured, however, Jesus offers a Good News lifeline to everyone! He offers calm in our storms. 

Yes, here’s the Good News we’ll read more about tomorrow: “God treats everyone alike. He accepts people only because they have faith in Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3:22, CEV). I’m so thankful for this live-giving hope!


(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 50. God is our Champion.

As certain as Spring follows Winter…

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 50.

This is the beginning of some of the prophecies of Jesus as “the suffering servant.” Verse 6 is fulfilled in Matthew 26 and Mark 14.

“I let them beat my back and pull out my beard. I didn’t turn aside when they insulted me and spit in my face.” (v6, CEV).

Then: “I refuse to give up because I know God will never let me down.” (v7, CEV). Certainly, our Messiah had to be thinking this on the day He went to the cross.  God didn’t let Jesus down even though He had to suffer. And for those who repent, He will never let us down either!

Having faith that God is with us, we can boldly take on His daily assignments, as Jesus did: “Therefore I set my face like flint, confident that I’ll never regret this. My champion is right here. Let’s take our stand together!” (v7, MSG).

God IS our champion! Look at the attitude of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, despite trials and persecutions, he pressed on daily, knowing that God was with him.

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” (Philippians 3:12-14, MSG).

Jesus, our suffering servant, while on the cross kept His eye on His ultimate destination by way of the empty tomb.

Isaiah’s words today end with a stern warning, though, for those who choose to not repent.

However, can we continue to choose obedience and trust? Onward, with our face towards the LORD? Just like we can be confident that Spring arrives after Winter and the sunrise dawns each new day, we will see God’s blessings flow from Heaven. Because He is our champion. He will never let us down!

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.