The readers of Paul's letter to the Romans were primarily Gentiles. Yet, Paul had not forgotten about the Jews, and neither had God. Despite generations of disobedience and unbelief, God wasn't giving up on them. The reason for his persistence is great news not only for the Jews but for all people. Indeed, it is news we all need to hear.
A family member doesn't go to church. A once-faithful Christian drifts away. A classmate or neighbor is a follower of a non-Christian religion. How does it make you feel? What, if anything, do you do or say about it? Paul's words to the Romans this week reveal his reaction to the same situations we see every day. Through his words, God challenges us to examine our own hearts, as we think about the importance of knowing, following, and sharing Jesus.
There are many ways people show love to one another. Flowers, gifts, cards, hugs, or even a simple smile can be great ways to say, "I love you!" Without outward actions, the words, "I love you," are hard to believe. We often need to see love to believe it. How does God show his love to make sure that we believe it? And how does God's love affect our lives in good times and bad? God's Word answers those important questions.
Why? It's one of the most common and most difficult questions that people--even Christians--ask. Why did this happen to me? Why didn't that happen? Why am I going through this? God doesn't always give us specific answers to those questions. But the Bible does gives us one important and incredibly comforting fact to cling to and all the proof we need that it is true. Here we find hope in answer to every "why?" in your life.
Martin Luther once wrote, "A Christian without prayer is just as impossible as a living person without a pulse" (Luther's Works, vol. 24, p. 89). The conversation which God invites us to have with him is an important fruit of our faith and a vital component of our Christian life. But have you ever found yourself at a loss for words when you want to pray? You don't know where to begin. You don't know what to pray for. God's Word speaks to that very situation.
How easily we compare our lives to the lives of those around us. Who has more money? Who works harder? Who endures more hardships? And, when life gets tough, it is tempting to respond with sinful attitudes--questioning God's love, accusing him of injustice, doubting his promises, even growing angry at him. God wants to give hope and meaning to our lives by shifting our perspective.
It seems so simple--just a few drops of water and a few words. If you judge by appearances, you can understand why some see baptism as an optional symbolic ceremony. But, when we listen to what God says about it in his Word, we realize that there is much more than meets the eye. Baptism is a powerful and precious gift from God that changes our lives every day in this world and for eternity in heaven.