Ruth 1-2, Romans 1

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands.

Ruth 1-2, Romans 1

The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge! – Ruth 2:12 ESV

The sovereignty of God is a difficult concept for most of us to get our hearts and minds around. The idea that He is completely in control of all things can be a comfort at times and a confusing contradiction at others. When things are going well in our lives, it seems to make sense that God is in control. But when difficulty shows up in our lives, we can either begin to wonder where God has gone or why He is doing what He is doing to us. In the story of Ruth, we find a fascinating snap shot of God’s sovereignty over the lives of men. The book chronicles the life of an obscure Moabite woman, who becomes the great-grandmother of King David, and one of the few women whose names appear in the family tree of Jesus Christ found in the gospels. But along with the sovereignty of God, the book of Ruth provides a wonderful illustration of how God uses men to accomplish His divine will. As the title of Paul David Tripp’s book so aptly describes them, men and women can become Instruments In the Redeemer’s Hands. Even in the book of Romans we see Paul writing to the believers in Rome, expressing his sincere longing to visit them. He reveals that he has repeatedly asked God to allow him the privilege of traveling to Rome in order to spread the gospel among the Gentiles there. And little did Paul know that his prayer would be answered in the form of his arrest in Caesarea and a long and arduous boat trip to Rome under Roman guard. He would eventually get his wish and arrive in Rome, but as a prisoner. In God’s sovereignty, He would arrange for Paul to get free passage to Rome as a “guest” of Caesar, with all expenses paid by the Roman government. And once there, Paul would have the opportunity to act as God’s instrument in the lives of the people of Rome.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is in control. We can’t always see it and we may only be able to recognize it long after the fact. In other words, it is oftentimes in hindsight that we best see God’s sovereign hand in our lives. The story of Ruth provides us with a perfect example of that fact. It gives us a 36,000-foot view of the events surrounding the lives of Elimelech, Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, allowing us to see what they could not see at the time. For Naomi, none of what was happening in her life made sense. In fact, she wrestled with God’s actions, wrongly assuming that God was against her. “…the hand of the Lord has gone out against me” (Ruth 1:13 ESV). And who could blame her? She and her husband had been forced to flee from their hometown of Bethlehem because of a famine. They ended up in Moab, where she had to watch her husband and two adult sons die prematurely and unexpectedly. She was left a widow in a foreign land with no source of income and responsibility for two widowed daughters-in-law. Her conclusion, based on all that had happened to her was, “the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away very full, and the Lord has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:20-21 ESV). Noami’s take was that, “the Almighty has brought calamity upon me” (Ruth 1:21 ESV). But while her life had been difficult, her conclusion could not have been more wrong. The sovereign God of the universe was orchestrating events in such a way that what Naomi thought was a curse from God would prove to be a blessing.

Paul’s desire to visit Rome and to “reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles” (Romans 1:13 ESV) was obviously from God. And yet, it would be easy to wonder where God was when Paul ended up sailing on a boat to Rome in the custody of Roman guards. He could have easily questioned God’s sovereignty when faced with a perilous storm and the likelihood of shipwreck and even possible death as they made their way to Rome. But all of this was part of God’s plan. And instead of questioning God, Paul determined to see himself as an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer, ministering to the men on the boat with him. And when he eventually made it safe and sound to Rome, he would continue to operate as an instrument in the Redeemer’s hands, bringing help, hope and healing to all those with whom he came into contact.

What does this passage reveal about man?

One of the most encouraging and inspiring characters in the book of Ruth is that of Boaz. While Ruth is the main character and exhibits some remarkable character qualities, it is Boaz who holds the story together and best illustrates someone who sees himself as God’s instrument. When he finds out about Ruth and her relationship with Naomi, he steps in. After hearing about all that had happened to Naomi and how Ruth ministered to her even in the midst of her own pain and loss, Boaz tells her, “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (Ruth 2:12 ESV). Boaz believed in the sovereignty of God and he also believed in the mercy, grace, and compassion of God. But he also knew that God sometimes expresses Himself through the lives of men. He understood that God had placed this woman in his field and in his life so that he might minister to her needs and becomes God’s instrument to repay her, reward her, and provide refuge for her. He immediately began the process of providing for her needs and arranging for her protection. God used Boaz to bless Ruth and Naomi, just as He used Paul to bless the people of Rome. They were both conduits of God’s blessing to others, willingly allowing themselves to be used by Him to redeem and restore those who were in desperate need.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I don’t always understand how God works. At times I even question His actions, wondering what in the world He thinks He is doing. But these two passages remind me that God is always in control, regardless of what I may see or think. And they also encourage me to see myself as an instrument in His hands, providing help, hope and healing to those around me. God places people in my life at key times to whom He expects me to minister. And He places people in my life from whom I unexpectedly receive His love, mercy and comfort. The moments of pain and sorrow in our lives are difficult to bear, but we must always remember that God has an overarching purpose and plan for our lives and can and does use “all things” to work together for our own good (Romans 8:28). We may not be able to see it or appreciate in the heat of the moment, but given time and perspective, we will always be able to see that God was there, ministering to us and providing for us. And the most amazing thing is that He will typically, if not always, use one of His children as an instrument of His redeeming love in our lives. Our heart’s desire should be to live like Boaz and Paul, willing to be used by God and confident that He is ultimately in charge of the affairs of our life, so that we rightly conclude that there are no unexpected and unintentional moments that ever happen that He has not ordained or intends to redeem for our good and His glory.

Father, make me a Boaz for my day. Let me live like Paul, with a desire to be used by You and the perspective to see Your hand in all that happens in my life. May I live with a attitude of expectancy, willing to be used as an instrument in Your loving, redemptive hands. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Romans 8:18-30

In the Meantime.

Romans 8:18-30

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. – Romans 8:23 NLT

As believers, we live in what Paul Tripp refers to as “The Gospel Gap.” it’s his simple, yet memorable way of referring to that somewhat mysterious and sometimes confusing period of time that began at the point of our salvation and will end with our future glorification, when we die or when Jesus comes to take us home. As believers, we tend to put a great deal of weight on those two ends of the spiritual spectrum – our salvation and glorification – while minimizing what is commonly referred to as our sanctification – the ongoing transformation of our lives into the image of Jesus Christ. We had nothing to do with our salvation and we will play no part in our future glorification. And the reality is, we have nothing to do with our growth in Christ-likeness – our sanctification. It is all a work of God. What happened in the past, at our salvation, was the gracious gift of God, provided by the death of Jesus Christ, His Son. What will happen in the future will also be an incredible gift from our heavenly Father, in fulfillment of His Son’s promise to go and prepare a place for us. Eternal life is the ultimate outcome of our faith in Jesus Christ, and it awaits us in the future.

So Paul reminds us that “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later” (Romans 8:18 NLT). In that one sentence, Paul sums up the reality of life as a believer. We suffer NOW. But there is something glorious that is coming LATER. There is a future day coming when “God will reveal who his children really are (Romans 8:19 NLT). What we look like, act like, feel like and think like NOW, is nothing compared to what we will truly be in the FUTURE. Our transformation or sanctification will one day be complete and we will be glorified. As God’s children, we will experience “glorious freedom from death and decay” (Romans 8:21 NLT). Our bodies will “be released from sin and suffering” (Romans 8:23 NLT). So in the meantime, we “wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us” (Romans 8:23 NLT). This is the hope that was given to us at our salvation. There is a glorious future in store for us. But again, in the meantime, we groan. We suffer. We wait patiently and confidently. Or do we? Oh, most of us groan and suffer quite well. We have that part down. But it’s the waiting patiently and confidently that throws most of us for a loop. We struggle with the here and now. We wrestle with the circumstances of life and wonder how in the world our faith in Christ can make a difference in this lifetime. Our salvation becomes a distant memory and, our future glorification, a nebulous, difficult-to-comprehend hope. When we read the well-known words of Paul in verse 28, we roll our eyes and shake our heads, questioning the validity and veracity of his statement. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:23 NLT). Really? EVERYTHING? For our good?

This verse reeks of the here-and-now. It is all about life in the Gospel Gap. It gives us a way of looking at life and interpreting the circumstances of life as we experience our ongoing conformity to the Son of God. God called us at salvation with a distinct purpose in mind. And it was NOT just to take us to heaven! If that had been His purpose, He would have done so at the point He saved us. But instead, He left us here. Why? Because His purpose was that we “become like His Son” (Romans 8:29 NLT). God had a plan for us, and that plan included our salvation, our future glorification, and our ongoing sanctification as we live out our lives on this planet in the meantime. But we need to know that God is using any and everything in our lives – the good, the bad, the ugly – to transform us into the likeness of Christ. He causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God – in other words, us. God can use our mistakes. God can use our hurts. God can use our darkest moments and brightest days to conform us into the image of His Son. He can use tragedies and victories, gains and losses, joy and sorrow, to achieve His ongoing purpose in our lives – our sanctification. He has given us His Spirit to assist us, comfort us, convict us and guide us. The Spirit intercedes for us, prays on behalf of us, and constantly seeks to motivate us toward our pursuit of God’s purpose for us – our spiritual transformation into the image of His Son. If God plans on completing His work in our lives by someday glorifying us and establishing us as permanent residents in His heavenly Kingdom, then we have to trust that what He is doing here on this earth is part of His divine plan for us – regardless of how it looks or feels. Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NLT). God finishes what He starts. He completes what He begins. Our time on this planet has a rhyme and reason behind it. There is method to God’s seeming madness as we suffer and struggle our way through this life. He is at work in our life, just as much now as He was at our salvation. His purpose is just as clear now as it was when He saved us. He is constantly, faithfully, and lovingly making us more and more like His Son, with each passing day. And some day He will complete His work project in our lives. But in the meantime, we must learn to wait patiently and confidently.

Father, I want to learn to wait patiently and confidently. I lose hope far too often and easily. I run out of steam. I get confused by the circumstances of life and end up seeing them as setbacks, rather than as opportunities and the tools You are using to transform me into the likeness of Christ. Give me the perspective Paul had. Let Romans 8:28 become a verse that I cling to and hope in. Continue to show me the reality of the statement that You really do cause all things in my life to be instruments for good and opportunities for my ongoing transformation. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Romans chapter 16

Smart enough to know better.

“I want you to see clearly what is right and to stay innocent of any wrong.” – Romans 16:19 NLT

We live in a world where right and wrong are often confused. There seems to be no consistent moral standard that governs behavior and it all seems eerily reminiscent of the period of the Judges when “each man did what he considered to be right.” Everybody is doing what they think is right, and even as Christians it can all become confusing. So Paul winds up his letter to the Romans by telling them, “I want you to see clearly what is right and to stay innocent of any wrong.” He wants them to be wise and skilled in righteousness, to be experts in what is good and right. He also wants them to be “pure of the mind, without a mixture of evil, free from guile, innocent, simple.” That’s the meaning of the Greek word akeraios that he uses in this verse. We are to be smart about doing good and innocent when it comes to doing wrong. Paul is simply echoing the words of Jesus when He said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 NASB). And this is not a new theme for Paul. He said virtually the same thing in back in chapter 12: “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9 NIV). Paul also shared this same thought with the believers in Philippi: “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8 NLT).

This isn’t about coming up with a list of dos and don’ts for us to follow. It’s not about the need to establish rules and regulations that everyone must adhere to. It is to be wise of knowledgeable about what is right, worthy, beneficial, honorable, and good. It is to think about these things and to make them a priority in your life. But it is also to “stay innocent of any wrong.” And we do that by concentrating on what is right. Too many of us rationalize our love affair with the world by claiming that we are just trying to be relevant and contextual. But we are called to be in the world, but not of it. We are NOT called to be ignorant of evil or to avoid it altogether, because we can’t hate what is evil if we don’t know what it is. But the best way to learn to hate evil is to learn to love what is good. The more familiar I become with the things of God, the more repulsed I will be by the things of this world. I won’t want to watch the same TV shows I used to watch. I won’t find the same movies as entertaining as I once did. I won’t feel comfortable with the habits that once marked my life.

The reason so many of us still struggle with the same old sins is that we are not renewing our minds, and our ignorance regarding what is good and right ends up showing through. Rather than being wise in what is good and able to clearly see what is right, we find ourselves confused and lacking focus. We become easy targets for false teachers whose “smooth talk and flattery” lead us away from the truth. Paul’s desire is that we be smart enough to know better. But that requires that we be in God’s Word. It  means we need to fill our minds with the things of God, not the things of this world. Or as Paul put it in Philippians: “filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8 MSG).

Father, I want to be wise in what is good and innocent of what is evil. I desire for my life to be characterized by an obsession with those things that are true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, and gracious. I know that will only happen as I fill my heart and mind with Your truth. Continue to motivate me and drive me to Your Word. Surround me with brothers and sisters in Christ who desire the same thing. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Romans chapter 15

Please Please Me.

Please Please Me is the first album recorded by The Beatles, rush-released on 22 March 1963 in the United Kingdom to capitalise on the success of singles “Please Please Me” (#1) and “Love Me Do” (#17). The hit single for which the album was named proved wildly popular on both sides of The Pond – in England and the States. But I doubt the title would have sat well with the apostle Paul. At least not according to what he had to say in Romans 15:

“But we who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not just please ourselves. – Vs 1 NET

This Paul, not the co-author of the tune, would probably have taken exception to the lyrics “Please Please Me.” Instead, he would say that, “we should please others. If we do what helps them, we will build them up in the Lord” (NIV). I know the song has to do with a boy’s frustration with his girlfriend and her seeming lack of reciprocal love, but even so, Paul the apostle would probably suggest that whatever kind of love this young man is expecting in return, he has missed the whole point. For Paul, Jesus was the greatest example of someone not pleasing themselves. “For even Christ did not please Himself,” Paul reminds us. If He had, He would not have gone to the cross – the greatest expression of love there is or will ever be. But listen to the mournful words of the fictitious lover in the song:

You don’t need me to show the way, love.
Why do i always have to say “love,”
Please please me, whoa yeah, like i please you.

I don’t wanna sound complainin’,
But you know there’s always rain in my heart (in my heart).
I do all the pleasin’ with you, it’s so hard to reason
With you, whoah yeah, why do you make me blue.

Last night i said these words to my girl,
I know you never even try, girl,
Please please me, whoa yeah, like i please you.

This poor guy can’t seem to get no satisfaction, to borrow a phrase from another popular British 60s pop group. He was doing all the pleasin’. But all it left him was blue. What if he had taken Paul’s advice? What if he had lived by the maxim “we should please others. If we do what helps them, we will build them up in the Lord?” It might not have improved his love life, but it would have given him a new perspective on what true love really is in the first place. Jesus Himself said, “For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 NLT). He came to serve and to love. To give away Himself on behalf of others. Jesus wasn’t concerned about his own pleasure. Paul says, “He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. ‘I took on the troubles of the troubled,’ is the way Scripture puts it” (Vs 3 MSG). Jesus took on the troubles of the troubled and pleased His neighbors by providing a way to reconcile their lives with God. And according to Paul, that same ministry is our today. “All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him” (2 Corinthians 5:18 NLT).

Life isn’t about pleasing me, it’s about pleasing God and helping others find the pleasure of having their lives restored to a right relationship to a holy God. That’s not always going to be a pleasurable assignment. But it will be a fulfilling one.

Father, I want my life to please please You, not me. I want to live my life to please my neighbors instead of myself. I want to learn to give myself away just as Your Son did. So that my life might be a pleasing aroma to You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Romans chapter 14

Differences that divide.

“Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions.. – Vs 1 NET

“How can he be a believer? Just look at that tatoo!”

“How in the world can anyone worship to that kind of music!”

“I saw him drinking beer in a restaurant. How can he call himself a Christian?”

“I can’t believe all these guys who wear suits to church – like it makes them more spiritual or something.”

“He won’t come over and watch the Cowboys play on Sunday because he says, ‘It’s the Lord’s day.’ What a religious fanatic!”

Differences of opinion and issues over personal preference. They’re inevitable – even in the church. And they can be highly destructive. Paul knew that to be true, which is why he addresses the problem in chapter 14 of his letter to the Roman believers. Throughout his other letters, Paul dealt with the problem of sin in the church. But here he deals with something just as potentially dangerous to the church’s health and unity: the attitudes and behaviors that can destroy fellowship and fruitfulness in a local body of believers.. In a church you will always have mature believers and immature believers. You will have those who have been following Christ since they were children and who were raised in the church. Alongside them you will have those who are new to church life and have no experience with the traditions and doctrinal issues associated with the church. They bring with them their past experiences, habits, hang-ups, and yes, preferences. This blend of personalities, opinions, and personal preferences can be a potentially toxic blend if we’re not careful. And Paul knew this.

So he addressed those in the church who were more mature to “receive the one who is weak in the faith.” Rather than judge him for the things he does that you disapprove of, receive him. That word in the Greek means “to take to one’s self, to take or receive into one’s home, with the collateral idea of kindness.” And this is not a suggestion, it’s a command. Paul is telling the more mature believers to love and accept the newer believer. Stop judging and start loving. How easy it is to sit back and pass judgment on someone who doesn’t dress like me, act like me, or worship like me. Without even knowing them, I can pass judgment on them and categorize them as less-than-serious about their faith. But they may be simply immature. Or they may just have different personal preferences than I do. They may be mature in their faith, but perfectly fine with having a beer with their pizza. They may love the Lord just as much as I do and have no problem with sporting a tattoo. Rather than judge them based on the externals, Paul says I am to receive them. I may be shocked to find that the one I thought was weak in the faith is actually quite strong. But doesn’t share my personal tastes in clothes, music, or worship styles.

This whole chapter is about unity and love. I am to die to my rights and personal preferences in order to show love to another brother or sister in Christ. I am to be concerned about their walk with Christ. I should care about how my actions might influence them. Paul is talking about those grey areas of life that are not explicitly condemned as sin in the Scriptures. If I happen to be the one who sees nothing wrong with having a glass of wine with my meal, I am free to do so, as long as my conscience doesn’t condemn me. But if I take advantage of that right while having another brother in my home who just might struggle with the issue of alcohol in his life, and I cause him to stumble, then I have sinned. I have let my rights become a stumbling block to another believer. This isn’t about letting someone else’s personal tastes dictate how I live my life. It is about being sensitive to the spiritual well-being of those around me. Paul says, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Vs 17 N:T). We worry way too much about issues regarding tastes, style, preference, and opinions. Paul says we should put all that on the back burner and worry more about living lives of goodness, peace, and joy. In other words, living lives of righteousness.

Father, You have called us to live in love. You have called us to put others first. You have called us to die to self. That is hard to do. Especially when others don’t share my opinions and personal tastes. I find it easy to find fault with others because they differ from me. But their differences have little to do with anything other than my own personal preferences. Help me to put those aside and receive them as one of Your own. To love them and care for them. Forgive me for passing judgment so often on those whom I know nothing about. May we be a fellowship where love wins out over differences of opinion. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Romans chapter 13

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

“Love does no wrong to anyone, so love satisfies all of God’s requirements. – Vs 10 NLT

Love has everything to do with it. Love it the key to life within the body of Christ AND within the world in general. As Christ-followers we are called to a life characterized by love. We have been shown love and we are to show love. We are to be loved in the same way in which we have been loved – selflessly, expecting nothing in return. Paul stressed the quality of love in chapter 12 and he expands on it in chapter 13. Listen to what he said in chapter 12:

“Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” – Romans 12:9-10 NLT

Now in chapter 13, in the middle of talking about how we should relate to those in authority over us, Paul once again brings up the topic of love. He’s talking about paying taxes to the government when he says, “Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of God’s law” (Vs 8 NLT). I don’t know about you, but the words taxes, debt, and love just don’t seem to go together. I don’t know that I have ever paid my taxes with any degree of love as part of the process. I just don’t LOVE to pay my taxes. I don’t LOVE to pay back debt. So what is Paul saying? I think his point is that we have a greater responsibility than just being good citizens who pay their taxes on time and their debts in full. We are to be living lives that are characterized by love. How many times have you heard a pastor or speaker use Paul’s statement, “owe nothing to anyone” as a proof text against borrowing money or going in debt? But is that really Paul’s point? I don’t think so. His real message is about love. His point is that “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Vs 10). When we love, we are keeping the law of God in its entirety. You can’t love and commit adultery. You can’t love and murder. You can’t love and steal from someone else. You can’t love and covet what someone else has. You can’t love and refuse to pay your taxes. You can’t love and neglect to pay back money you have borrowed. You can’t love and not honor the government, whether you agree with it or not. And that includes the guy who occupies that oval office whose political agenda you just might not agree with.

All this talk about love makes me think of the great “Love Chapter” in 1 Corinthians where Paul eloquently elaborates on the topic of love.

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 MSG

Then Paul sums it all up with the words, “There are three things that will endure––faith, hope, and love––and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT). When it is all said and done and we find ourselves standing before God in heaven, we will realize that only one thing remains a constant: Love. We will no longer need faith or hope. Our faith will be realized and our hope fulfilled. But we will continue to love and be loved for all eternity. So if that is the case, what should be our greatest priority now? Love. We are to love, knowing… “how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So don’t live in darkness. Get rid of your evil deeds. Shed them like dirty clothes. Clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light. We should be decent and true in everything we do, so that everyone can approve of our behavior. Don’t participate in wild parties and getting drunk, or in adultery and immoral living, or in fighting and jealousy. But let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you, and don’t think of ways to indulge your evil desires” (Romans 13:11-14 NLT). What’s love got to do with it? Everything.

Father, You have called us to be a people who love. But I have to confess that I find that hard to do sometimes. I want to hold back my love. I want to love selectively. I want to love those who love me back. I want to love conditionally. I want my love to always be accompanied by warm, fuzzy feelings or emotions. But You have called us to love one another and to love our enemies. You have said that the primary way the world will know we are Your disciples is because of how we love one another. Love is the key. Help me to love more. Help me to realize that nothing I do has any value if it is done without love. Love really is the key to it all. The same kind of love Your Son showed for me on the cross. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Romans chapter 12


“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. – Vs 2 MSG

This is one of those verses that just about everyone knows or at least has heard on more than a handful of occasions. We’re highly familiar with it, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily live it on in real life. It is a call to be different. It is a command to live a life that is set apart and unique. Paul has just urged us to present our bodies “a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Vs 1). The Message paraphrases his thoughts this way: “Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering.” What strikes me is that Paul is talking to a group of believers, not just individuals. He is speaking of the body of Christ. Together, we are to live in such a way that our everyday existence is a holy sacrifice to the Lord. That’s why Paul spends the rest of the chapter talking about using our gifts in the context of the body of Christ. But each of us is to be going through a process of transformation. Instead of conforming, we should be transforming – going through the process of change from the inside out. In other words, to “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (NLT). In many of the translations of this passage, you will see the phrase, “renewing of your mind.” That word “renewing” can be translated “renovation.” God is out to renovate the way we think, the way we view the world. He is giving us a new perspective on life and how to live in it. We begin seeing things differently. We can suddenly see trials and difficulties as opportunities for God’s power to be revealed and our faith strengthened. We find ourselves “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation” (Vs 12). The command to “abhor what is evil, cling to what is good” (Vs 9) becomes increasingly more a part of who we are. We stop paying back evil for evil, hating our enemies, and taking revenge. We stop thinking so highly of ourselves and negatively about others. We prefer serving rather than being served. We give more than we receive. We open up our homes and our wallets – willingly and gladly. We find out what our spiritual gifts are and use them to minister to the rest of the body of Christ.

We can do all this because we are being transformed – changed from the inside out – in our hearts, our minds, our attitudes, and ultimately, in our behavior. Our daily lives are a test or living proof of the reality of the life change going on within us. When we do all the things listed above, we give evidence or proof of the transformation that is taking place within us. We are living out in daily life the will of God, “that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Vs 2). God is bringing out the best in us. We are walking testimonials to the amazing grace and power of God as He develops well-formed maturity in each of us. And we prove it all in the context of the body as we live our lives together.

Father, thank You for Your transforming power going on in my life. Thank You that You are changing the way I think. You are using Your Word to alter my mindset and how I view life and the world. You have given me the ability to think and live differently. I pray that you would continue to renovate my thinking to such a degree that the characteristics Paul lists in this chapter would becoming increasingly a normal part of the way I live my life and the way we as Christians live our lives together. All for Your glory.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Romans chapter 11

What a God!

“Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor? – Vs 33-34 NLT

Chapter 11 is one of those chapters you read, then re-read and then scratch your head and wonder what Paul is really saying. It is deep and difficult to completely understand what he means. There are as many opinions as there are commentaries. But even Paul seems to reach a point where he simply has to put down his pen and kneel before the throne of God. The closing verses of this chapter seem to be Paul’s acknowledgment that His God is greater than his capacity to understand Him or figure Him out. He says, “How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods!” We can sit and debate and argue over all that Paul has said regarding the future of the Jewish people, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with that, or we can acknowledge that there is so much we don’t know and may never know until the Lord returns. And there is so much of God and His ways that we will never be able to understand and figure out with our finite minds. Isaiah said it this way: “No one can measure the depths of his understanding” (Isaiah 40:28). His decisions are unsearchable. His methods of doing things are undiscoverable and mysterious. We so desperately want to box Him in and figure Him out, but He is the infinite God of the universe.

In the book of Job we read these words: “Can you solve the mysteries of God? Can you discover everything there is to know about the Almighty? Such knowledge is higher than the heavens––but who are you? It is deeper than the underworld ––what can you know in comparison to him? It is broader than the earth and wider than the sea” (Job 11:7-9). Our God is a great and awesome God. He is beyond our ability to understand. Anything we know of Him, He must reveal to us. The Bible is His revelation of Himself to us. In it we can discover His character, His will, and get a glimpse of His ways. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God within us. Without Him we would be unable to understand anything about God or His ways. But even with all that, we will still never be able to figure God out. Like the universe He created, He is without end and seemingly limitless. So what should our response be to the greatness of our God? Paul sums it up in the last verse of this chapter. Listen to how The Message paraphrases it:

“Everything comes from him; Everything happens through him; Everything ends up in him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes.

Father, I praise You this morning for your greatness. You are beyond my ability to understand. Yet You have chosen to reveal Yourself to me. I can’t even begin to understand Your ways and yet You have shown me Your truth time and time again through Your Word. Forgive me when I think I have all the answers or have You figured out. How arrogant. Who am I to try and solve the mysteries of God or to try and discover all there is to know about You and Your ways. Let me rest in the simple knowledge that You are exceedingly great and incredibly good. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Romans chapter 10

I did it my way!

“For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Instead, they are clinging to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. They won’t go along with God’s way. – Vs 3 NLT

This chapter is a continuation of Paul’s thoughts in chapter 9. He expresses his sincere desire that his Jewish brothers and sisters would come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ: “…my heart’s desire and prayer to God on behalf of my fellow Israelites is for their salvation” (Vs 1 NET). He says, “I readily admit that the Jews are impressively energetic regarding God – but they are doing everything exactly backwards” (Vs 2 MSG). They were attempting to achieve righteousness on their own efforts by striving to keep the Law. They had good intentions, but were headed down the wrong path. They had the right objective: pleasing God, but they would never reach their end desire. Back in chapter 8 Paul reminds us that “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8 NASB). In Hebrews 11:6 we read, “Now without faith it is impossible to please him” (NET). Paul makes it clear in verse 4: “For Christ has accomplished the whole purpose of the law. All who believe in him are made right with God” (Romans 10:4 NLT).

But isn’t it amazing how many today are still trying to get right with God through their own futile efforts? And that number includes many of us as believers. We have been saved by faith, but for some reason we keep trying to please God with our enthusiasm and self-effort. Like the Jews, we are “impressively energetic regarding God.” We are busy serving Him, giving to Him, going to Bible studies to learn more about Him, attempting to pray to Him, even telling others about Him. But all our “zeal is not based on knowledge” (Vs 2). It’s not in line with the truth. All the things we are doing are good, but we are doing them for the wrong reason. We think that our efforts are somehow going to make God happier with us. The reverse is also true. We think that if we DON’T do them, God will be displeased with us. But what does the writer of Hebrews say? “Without faith it is impossible to please him.” Faith that Jesus has done all that needs to be done to secure our righteous standing before God. We can’t add anything else to the equation. We can’t please God any more than He already is. When we do those kinds of acts in our own strength, we are reminded by the prophet Isaiah: “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6 NLT). But when we do them out of faith, knowing that they add nothing to our standing before God, then they become an extension of our faith. We do them because we love Him, not in some misguided effort to earn brownie points with Him.

God made the formula for righteousness pretty simple: “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Vs 9 NLT). That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. No added works. No need for any good deeds on our part. Just believe. You can’t replace it with good intentions, hard work, holy sweat equity, or anything else. It is all based on belief in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We can only do it God’s way.

Father, thank You that you gave me another way other than my way. It would never have worked. But because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, I sit here this morning as righteous and holy in Your sight. I am Your Son. I am a fellow heir with Christ. I have an inheritance in heaven that no one can take away from me and that I can’t blow on the stock market. My standing is secure. And all it took was simple belief. How amazing is that? You are a great God and worthy of anything I can do for you in an attempt to show my gratitude for all You have done for me. Thank You! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Romans chapter 9

No love lost for the lost

…for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed – cut off from Christ! – if that would save them.” – Vs 29 NLT

While most of this chapter is about the good news that God made the gift of salvation available to all men who would accept it, the thing that grabbed my attention more than anything else was the opening statement by Paul. He expresses His sorrow and unceasing grief over the fact that His Jewish brothers and sisters had rejected the very One for whom they had been waiting for generations: Jesus Christ. He was there long-awaited Messiah, yet they had refused to accept Him. Instead they arrested Him, and demanded His execution.

But Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, loved His own people so much that he said, “If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I’d do it in a minute. They’re my family” (Vs 3 MSG). Do you hear what he is saying? He says he would prefer to be accursed. That Greek word is anathema and it means, “a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and if an animal, to be slain; therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction.” For something or someone to be deemed anathema entailed them being cut off or forever separated. Paul is willing to be cut off from Christ and God the Father if only His fellow Israelites could experience the blessings of salvation. Now you can see why on every missionary journey Paul went on, the first place he went when he arrived in a town was the synagogue. He may have been the apostle to the Gentiles, but he was not going to overlook the Jews. And practically every time he went to the synagogues, it ended up in him being stoned, threatened, beaten, or chased out of town. But he kept going back.

Paul had a love for the lost sheep of Israel. But what about us? More often than not, we find the lost a roadblock to the cause of Christ. We view them as stubborn and deserving of what they get. We walk past them every day and don’t even think about their eternal state, let alone have the thought cross our minds that we would be wiling to give up our eternal security for theirs. How could Paul think that way? Well, it pretty much sums up the way Jesus Himself thought. He was willing to give up His eternal security to come to earth, take on human flesh, die a sinner’s death, and be separated from God the Father, just so we could be saved. Paul is thinking like Christ. Which is what he calls us all to in his letter to the Philippians:

“…do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:4-8

Have this attitude. Think like this. Let this be your outlook. And that’s exactly what Paul did. he practiced what he preached. He loved the lost. He gave his life to see that they wouldn’t remain lost. Paul gave them every opportunity to accept the free gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. He suffered so that they might not have to. And he was wiling to suffer for eternity if it meant that the Jews could be blessed. That’s amazing and humbling.

Father, give me a love for the lost like Paul. Don’t allow me to walk by, drive by, sit by, and even live by those who are lost without sharing the same sorrow and grief that Paul did for the Jews. Forgive me for seeing lost humanity as a road block to righteousness rather than an opportunity for Your glory to be revealed. Help me see them as You do and as Paul did. Help me to have the same attitude that Jesus did. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men