Read Romans 9

Have you ever read or quoted Romans 12:1? “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice…” That verse is familiar to most of us who have been in church even for a short time. But have you ever stopped to think about the mercy Paul is referring to? What’s that got to do with Romans 9 you might be asking? Everything! We have to remember that Romans 12:1 doesn’t exist in a contextual vacuum, it is the necessary result of the foundation Paul lays in Romans 9, 10, and 11. The thought of Paul urging us to surrender our lives and offer them as pleasing sacrifices to God will seem completely outlandish until we feel the weight of the absolute sovereign mercy that God unconditionally bestows on those who are His. Understanding that mercy begins in Romans 9, so let’s go there now.
​The first thing you will notice in Romans 9 is Paul’s tone. He uses strong language to convey how broken hearted he is that his fellow Israelites have rejected the Messiah, in spite of the benefits they had as God’s chosen people. Which begs the question, if God’s people have rejected the Messiah sent by God, what does that say about God’s ability to keep his promises? Anticipating that question, Paul answers it in v. 6 – “It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” Just because someone was a physical descendent of Abraham, doesn’t necessarily mean they were children of the promise. God had decreed that Sarah would have a son and the promise would be through Isaac, not Ishmael, even though they were both Abraham’s children. In the same way, with Isaac’s children – “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (v.11-13).
​What we see in both of these examples, as well as many others in the Old Testament (David is a great example) is that God’s choice isn’t dictated by human performance. Jacob didn’t determine that the covenant promise would extend through him, God did…while Jacob was still in the womb. While God’s unconditional election is incredibly good news you might ask: Is God unjust? Not at all! (v.14) God is not unjust, he is God. God is sovereign, and as he told Moses “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (v.15) This is the essence of what it means to be God, He is not beholden to us or anyone or anything in the universe, and yet God still demonstrates his sovereignty through absurd displays of mercy to those who don’t possess the capacity to earn it.
​What we see in Romans 9 is that in spite of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah, God’s word has not failed, he has preserved a remnant by pouring out his mercy on the Gentiles (that’s most of us), which is a glorious display of God’s sovereign choice. Because God’s election is unconditional, because it doesn’t “depend on human effort or desire but on God’s mercy” (v.16) no one, not even the worst sinner is disqualified as a potential recipient of that mercy! And it’s in view of that mercy, that mercy that we didn’t earn or deserve, but that we have received, that Paul urges us to offer our lives as a sacrifice to the one who sovereignly gave it.

Today’s author: Joey Sutton

Read Romans 3

The Mother observed her three-year-old daughter about to do something she should not do and said sternly, “NO!” The little girl seemed not to notice and continued. The Mother said more sternly, “I said, NO!” The little girl looked up at her Mother and said, “And I say, YES!” Well, there you have it. “Houston, we have a problem.” We want to do what we want to do without someone telling us otherwise. We want to be our own authority and make our own choices without restraint.
One of the things I was taught as a young Royal Ambassador (R.A.) was how to use a compass to find directions. (For those who may not be familiar with this device, look it up!) As you might know, a part of the R.A. program can be what is called “camp craft”. We learned that God has established a means for one finding the right direction that we call “magnetic North”. Also in the night sky he positioned a point of light called the North Star. So, when we lose our way we can use the resources God has given to find the right direction. Since He is the authority, we can trust Him to help us find our way.
In Romans 3, Paul confronts “our problem”. We want to go our way, not God’s way, in spite of His gracious provision for finding the right way not the wrong way. The problem is SIN. That Greek word we translate into our word sin literally means “missing the mark.” However, it does not mean aiming at something and just missing the target, it means totally aiming at the wrong thing. God has something better for us than what will choose on our own; we will aim at the wrong things. We will go in the wrong direction.
God has given us a “compass” for life, the Bible. He has given us the “true Light of the World”, Jesus. Are you using them to find the right direction for your life?

Today’s Author: Randy Babin

Read Romans 1

“that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭1:12‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Paul writes that he looks forward with great anticipation to being with the believers in Rome, for several reasons, one of which is mutual encouragement. Paul was planning on being an encouragement to the believers there but he also expected to be encouraged himself by them!

Our world, like Paul’s, is filled with people who have a critical spirit, who see and point out our faults. Being critical of others is easy, we all have faults. We all stumble and fall (Romans 3:23). We all mess up. Our natural tendency is to focus on our own faults and weaknesses when we look in the mirror. We know them well. We really don’t really need someone else to remind us of those. In fact, the knowledge of our own faults and weaknesses is one of the things that keeps people from serving God. We feel we are not good enough or that we will mess up, again. That’s one reason so many of us become hearers rather than doers (James 1:22).

We all need encouragement. We all need those people that see the positives in us, or at least the potential in us. And they verbalized these positive thoughts to us. Paul needed those kind of people in his life. You need those kind of people in your life. I need those kind of people in my life. Here’s the point–you and I need to be that kind of people for one another, especially as brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to know that as we see one another that we will experience encouragement in our faith and in our lives.

Make the effort to look for the good in one another. Believe me it’s there. We may just have to look a little harder. And when you find it, verbalized it! Say it, write it, show it! Or as Paul writes later “let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”

Today’s author: Monty Pierce

 

 

Read Matthew 28

Hello, Christians of FBC Hallsville. I am writing this to you knowing full well that I am a failure; not only in the sense that I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but that I have failed in one of the most important orders our Lord has given us. The reason I know this is that there are “less than one percent” of Iran’s population who are Christians, and this is not even the lowest Christian population on the globe. In Matthew 28, Jesus tells us to fulfill the Great Commission, and yet I feel that I, we even, have failed. Not because of some belief deep inside ourselves, but because of the sheer fact that in some countries in the world, the number of Christians only number in the thousands.

I have heard people say, and I have even said, that God has given me a heart for ‘so and so’, whether it be Dallas or Houston or Hallsville. He doesn’t tell us to go just unto Hallsville, or Houston, or Dallas, He tells us to go unto the world, the WHOLE world. Our job is not solely to support missionaries or pray for missionaries (though we should continue doing this), our job is to BE missionaries. I believe that spreading the Gospel is just as important as reading the Gospel, for Christ says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15); thus we must spread the Gospel. If we truly love our neighbors as ourselves, we will share the Gospel.

One may say they are spreading the Gospel when they are helping a neighbor by simply committing the act, and, at most, handing the beneficiary a tract or brochure, thereby following the tried and ‘true’ maxim of, “Spread the Gospel, and if necessary, use words”. However, when Phillip shared the Gospel with the Ethiopian (Acts 8:28-40), he shared the gospel using words. Ok, I’m going to throw out a hypothetical situation for those who disagree. Let’s say a starving man comes to your door in the middle of the night. You give him bread, you say, “Peace be with, and I will pray for you”, but that is all. That is NOT sharing the Gospel. Gospel means good news, and the good news is not “Peace be with you; I will pray for you.” It IS saying, “God came down to earth, died for your sins, and rose from the grave.” So, I’m going to give you that scenario again. The man comes to your door; he asks for bread; you give him bread, and then you say, “I want you to meet my friend Jesus…”. The scenario before was good, yes, but this is BEST, sharing bread then sharing the Bread of Life.

Again, the very fact that there is less than one percent population of Christians anywhere in the world speaks volumes about the extent of our failure. The hard cold truth is that we, as twenty-first century Christians, have botched our job. Some may say that though the Great Commission is an important commandment it is not the most important commandment. This is true, seeing as how the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength (Matthew 22:37). However, doesn’t Jesus tell us that if we love him, we will obey his commands? So begin a revival. I implore you. Start with yourself. Do something drastic, something life-changing, something fanatical. Wait, did I just ask you to be a religious fanatic? If you did not recognize it the first time, then yes, I did. Be fanatical, be insane, and be Christ-like.

Okay, so let’s get on to the encouraging part, through the fire to become gold, eh? Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed! I think sometimes we forget the magnitude of that. Our Lord God, Elohim, the Creator, decided to come down to earth in physical form. Get this, our God, the holy incorruptible God, came down to our fallen corrupted world, to save us, we who were at enmity with God. When you think of the shadows of the night, we were the shadows, and every despicable thing humanity has thought up, we were. But God came down to save us, to save humanity. Then, He conquered death, the unconquerable enemy of humanity, by coming back to life and ending our fear of death forever. So, not only did God save us from our sins, He saved us from death, and only in three days!!! That’s some James Bond stuff right there.

Today’s author: Ethan Jamerson

Read Matthew 27

The crucifixion story is something that we have heard in the church since we were small, and it is central to our faith because it was the pinnacle event in God’s work to redeem the world back to Himself. While it is the most horrifying story to hear, it is also the most beautiful part of the love story between God and His people. I have heard the story hundreds of times, read about it every Easter, watched movies like the Passion of the Christ, and still as a read it today I am overwhelmed by the fact that my King suffered such a death for me…despite all I do each day that makes me so unworthy.

There are different parts of the crucifixion and resurrection story that stick out to me, but one that I never really understood is the release of Barabbas. After listening to a sermon by Judah Smith, I saw the Barabbas story in a new light. In his sermon he describes the scenario of Jesus standing there beaten, bloody, and completely innocent. His only crime is loving people, feeding people, healing people, and sharing the truth about God.

On the other side stands Barabbas, a criminal, deserving of the death that he wouldn’t receive. I can’t imagine being Jesus and standing there listening to my people chant for my death, but he stood there silently like the lamb going to the slaughter.

When I was younger I would always question why in the world God would let these people release Barabbas and crucify Jesus? In Judah’s sermon, he made one statement that I’ll never forget. He said, “God had to treat Jesus like Barabbas, so he could treat Barabbas like Jesus.” That is what makes the story so beautiful. Jesus went willingly, knowing that he had to take Barabbas’s place. And not only his place, but my place and your place too. We are the Barabbas in the story even if it’s hard to admit. We deserve death, but Jesus took our place so that we can have His righteousness.

As painful as it is to think about the crucifixion sometimes, I have never felt more loved than I do in reading these words today.

Today’s author: Kayla Brewer

Read Matthew 26

“Beginning well is a momentary thing; finishing well is a lifelong thing.” I’m in a season of endings in my life. The school year is wrapping up. It was my first year in Hallsville ISD, and my first year teaching Junior High. I’ve made mistakes, learned some valuable lessons, and gotten to know and love many young people in our community. As I finish out my days with this group of students, I wonder if I’ve had a positive impact on them. What more do I need to give them? Are they ready?

At home, our family is about to launch our oldest child into the world. I realize we will always be his parents, but our time of actively parenting him is drawing to a close. Now the true test will come: will he soar? How do I release him gracefully? Is he ready? Am I ready?

Finally, my husband begins his last semester of nursing school next week. Since he quit his full-time job in 2015, we’ve faced many physical and financial difficulties in the pursuit of this degree. Two years feels more like two decades. We’re both weary of the stress and strain of the undertaking. I daily battle weakness and doubt that we can make this final push with food in our kids’ bellies and patience and understanding for one another in our hearts. Are we ready? ABSOLUTELY! But it seems like that day will never come. In all these circumstances I want to finish well.

Matthew 26 chronicles Jesus’s last days before the crucifixion. It’s clear from this passage and numerous others that He was aware of what would transpire in Jerusalem. His days with the disciples were ending and to complete this journey would mean enduring the agony of the cross. So, what did He do? How did He finish?

  1. He taught. Not in bold, sermon-on-the-mount fashion, but as He went. We read that, “He said, “He answered,” “He told,” “He replied,” “He rebuked,” Even in His last moments and facing ultimate suffering and death, He continues to live out His mission by investing in others. His supreme selflessness is our example.

  2. He prayed. He took time to talk to the Father. He sought support from His disciples to join Him in prayer (we won’t go into their total failure in that regard). From the parallel passage in John we know that here, too, He demonstrates His selflessness by praying for His disciples, for you, and for me. In Matthew, we read only that He earnestly and repeatedly asks God to, “allow the cup to pass from me.” When this request was not granted….

  3. He obeyed. “Yet not as I will, but as you will,” were the words he spoke. He submits to the Father’s will in all things and obeys His voice alone.

In looking at my Savior’s final days, I’ve been strengthened to finish well. So that I may say with Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

Today’s author: Jessica Sullens

Read Matthew 25

Be prepared. These two simple words make up the Boy Scout Motto. I have two boys in Boy Scout Troop 621, and at least on the local level, it remains a great and honorable organization. Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of The Boy Scouts, explained, “The Scout Motto is: BE PREPARED which means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your DUTY.”  This simple motto is a good summary of our Lord’s parables found in this great chapter.

First, the parable of the virgins follows ten virgins. Five were prepared for the bridegroom’s return and five were not.  Jesus tells His disciples the point of His story in verse thirteen. “Therefore, be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.” Friends we are commanded to remain in a state of readiness. Are you ready this moment for our Lord’s return? Or have you, like the virgins, fallen asleep?

Second, our Lord told the parable of the talents. In it three servants were entrusted with various amounts of their master’s money according to their own abilities. It was their duty to take the money and grow it for the master’s profit while he was gone. The first two servants were faithful with the money entrusted to them, and they were blessed when the master returned. The third servant was fearful and lazy. He hid his master’s money in the ground.  When the master returned this servant had nothing to show for the money entrusted to him. The master said, “Throw this good-for-nothing slave into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Brothers and sisters our Master has gone away for a long time, but He will come back and settle accounts with His servants. We too will give an account. What has He entrusted to you according to your abilities? Have you been faithful with whatever it is He has entrusted to you?  Or are you more like the third servant? Are you living in fear? Are you just being lazy?

The Boy Scout Motto should also be the Christian’s motto: BE PREPARED which means always be in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your DUTY. BE ALERT, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.

Today’s author: John Sullens