Day 1: Romans 11-13
In Romans 11, Paul asks a good question: has God abandoned His chosen people, Israel? After all, Paul is now sharing the good news with the gentiles and they believe. Jesus even said that the salvation would come to the Jew first, and then the gentile. Paul answers his own question – absolutely not, God has not abandoned Israel and even though they have stumbled, it is not permanent. Israel (the nation) still is God’s chosen people through which all of the nations will be blessed. All Christians, Jew or Gentile, are adopted into God’s new Israel – the church universal, the Body of Christ. Verse 11:26 even says that all of Israel will be saved. (There are several explanations offered in commentaries about what this means so we will have to leave that as a mystery, at least for this blog.”)
Depending on the translation of the Bible you are using, Romans 12:1 starts with the word “therefore” or “and so.” THEREFORE, based on what Paul has talked about in Romans so far, we should be transformed from the patterns of the world and we should change the way we think (see verse 2). This will help us know the will of God for our lives. Read on in chapter 12 and 13 to see how we should be transformed. The bottom line: “…love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9)
Day 2: Romans 14-16
“So let’s strive for the things that bring peace and the things that build each other up.” (Romans 14:19 CEB) The Message paraphrase says it this way: “So let's agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words;…” People who are sure in their faith have freedom. If you are sure in your faith, you might think it is OK to do certain activities. However, there are others who are not quite as sure in their faith as you might be. They might not think those same activities are OK. We need to be careful that we who are sure in our faith do not cause those who are not to stumble. In other words, we who are strong in our faith need to be careful what we might say and do around other young Christians (or non-Christians) to make sure that we do not hinder their discipleship. We should always be considering the other person with our words and actions.
Paul states a goal of his which should be the goal of every Christian: “…I have a goal to preach the gospel where they haven’t heard of Christ yet, …” (Romans 15:20 CEB) And this goal has caused Paul not to go to Rome as he wanted. (Romans 15:22) He needed to make sure that he was first going to the places that had not heard of Christ before he went to Rome (where the church had already been started).
Day 3: Acts 20:4 – 23:35
Paul is starting to wind down his 3rd missionary journey and is on his way to Jerusalem, bringing gifts to the Jerusalem believers from the churches in Asia and Greece. He had missed being in Jerusalem for Passover but wanted to get there by Pentecost. He is heading to Jerusalem even though he doesn’t know what awaits him there. He does know that the Holy Spirit has told him that troubles await him. But he is dedicated by his mission to testify to the good news of God’s grace given through Jesus.
Paul arrives in Jerusalem. He does some compromising in this passage for today. Note that he does not compromise on essential beliefs but he was becoming all things to all people so that he might save some. (1 Corinthians 9:22.) We should learn from Paul and do the same. We sometimes split over minor issues or traditions. We should remain firm in essential issues but be flexible over non-essential issues. Augustine of Hippo (an early church father) said (and later echoed by John Wesley and the United Methodist Church): in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty (or freedom); in all things, charity (or love).
Day 4: Acts 24-26
Paul is now under arrest. Because he is a Roman citizen, he is deserving of a trial and therefore, the Romans would not let Paul be punished. (See reading from Acts 22 and 23.) Paul is leaving Jerusalem and will go through several trials on his way to Rome where he will be imprisoned and tried there.
As you read Acts 26, think of this as Paul’s story, in fact it is his story. And when you think that Paul once passionately persecuted the early church and now as passionately, proclaims Jesus, this story can serve as witness to the good news and cause others to change their hearts and lives. Our changed life that others see can serve to do the same thing!
Day 5: Acts 27-28
As Paul is in Rome, he continues to witness to the good news of Jesus. He calls the Jewish people in Rome to come to where he is staying and he testified about God’s Kingdom “from morning until evening.” He tried to convince them that what God had said through Moses and the Prophets was true and came about in Jesus. Some believed and others did not. (The prophet Isaiah prophesied this in Isaiah6:9-10.) But, “Unhindered and with complete confidence, he [Paul] continued to preach God’s kingdom and to teach about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts28:31 CEB) And all God’s people should say Amen, which means “so be it!”
Day 6: Colossians (entire book), Philemon
Paul is now in prison. From prison, he writes several letters starting with Colossians. As you read, listen to his words and remember – he is writing while imprisoned but continues to declare the good news!
Paul says in Colossians 1:24 (MSG): “I want you to know how glad I am that it's me sitting here in this jail and not you. There's a lot of suffering to be entered into in this world—the kind of suffering Christ takes on. I welcome the chance to take my share in the church's part of that suffering.”
And as Paul is in prison, he asks for prayers from the Colossians: “Pray that God would open a door for the word so we can preach the secret plan of Christ – which is why I am in chains.” (Colossians 4:3 CEB)
Day 7: rest