Series: Followers of Jesus
Message: In the Mission
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Jessyka Dooley
Live Adventure: Jessyka Dooley
Live Purpose: Emily Ellis
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 15:1-33 in the New Testament for Everyone (NTE). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: In the translation today, I appreciate the way Romans 15:4 is expressed:
Whatever was written ahead of time, you see, was written for us to learn from, so that through patience, and through the encouragement of the Bible, we might have hope.
It is as if Paul is sitting here in my office in Boulder, Colorado, and talking with any number of the people that I regularly dialogue with. We often return to one of those frequently asked questions, or, better yet, frequently noted objections—that book (the Bible), it’s not really for me! Can we really trust it today? Surely not everything is reliable in that book? I don’t really see how it speaks into my life. It appears that even 2,000 years ago, people struggled with the scrolls of Isaiah and Psalms and with the Torah as a whole. What were the issues then? What were they pushing back against?
I believe it was simply a lack of knowing, of information.
So many things that people get upset about are because they do not know or understand the full picture. Paul pronounces this blessing and is simply reminding his readers of what Jesus has been teaching forever through the Bible. You need patience. You need encouragement. Those two qualities combined will give you hope. Patience is the daily walk with Jesus. It is discipleship. It is a reminder to stay connected all the time to Jesus. When things are going well and when they are not going well. Encouragement is all those stories, prayers, and promises that are scattered through the Bible and that exist to remind you of the truth that you are never alone. It is so easy to read the Bible to prove a point or to defend a statement. But what is the purpose of that statement? Is it just to define who is in and who is out? Or can it help us understand where we come from and where we are going? If we read the Bible to develop faith in Jesus, perhaps that is what hope could start to look like.
Jesus used the First Testament to teach about himself on the road to Emmaus. The husband and wife (my interpretation of the story) heard the story from that text alone. Jesus was able through all those stories to retell His story—which is the ultimate story.
It is the power of the story that we underestimate in our own lives. When I was a child, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), only had two TV channels. One of my favorite programs as a child was Jackanory. It was not a high-budget kids program. It simply involved one individual, invariably sitting in a rocking chair, reading a story to us. I loved it. We have suffocated our ability to stop and listen. We have suffocated our ability to pause long enough to rock in a chair and tell a story. Maybe it is time to read the Bible more for meaning than for data alone. Maybe it is time to allow the Bible to speak not only about Truth, but about the Way and the Life as well—about Jesus.
Recalibrate: Paul claims the Bible brings hope. How do we suffocate the hope out of the Bible? How do we unleash the hope in the Bible?
Respond: Pray for the courage to make more space for Jesus.
Research: Explore some new ways to study the Bible.
Remember: “We, the ‘strong’ ones, should bear with the frailty of the ‘weak,’ and not please ourselves” (Romans 15:1, KNT).
Japhet De Oliveira is senior pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and co-founder of the One project. Originally from southeast London, he served in the South England Conference for nine years—as a pastor and later as conference youth director—before moving to the United States in 2006. He is married to Becky and they have two sons, Joshua (18) and Jonah (14).
Paul tells us that both Jews and non-Jews praised the Lord. Praising God isn’t just for one group of people or for one age group. Create a game with your child where every time something good happens today you praise Jesus in some way. Maybe you do this through a dance move, a prayer, a song, or a shout! Openly praising God isn’t something that should wait; everyone can do this together no matter how old or young!
Paul reminds us that Jesus came to die for all people. Sometimes we put people in categories. What do you think that means? We sometimes say these people are “nice” and these people are “mean.” Or these people are “funny” and these people are “boring.” Or these people like to play soccer and these people like to play baseball. Jesus didn’t like categories very much. Instead, He just loved to love people. Today when you play a game, invite someone to play with you who you haven’t played with before. Maybe you thought this person wasn’t in the same category as you and wouldn’t want to play. Teach them the game and be patient as they learn!
There are so many hilarious, comedic, and knee-slapping stories in the Bible. In what other book can you find stories about talking donkeys, God using a big fish to swallow a guy to teach him a lesson, and frogs filling every inch of a country? But I think the funniest story in the Bible is the story of Gideon. Why, you might ask? Judges 6 says that Gideon was essentially hiding away when an angel comes along and says, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12, ESV). Gideon has done absolutely nothing and God calls him a mighty warrior. It’s like someone who plays video games all day and eats nothing but Juanita Tortilla Chips and whose dad says, “You are a strong and fit athlete.” Or it’s like listening to a family sing “Happy Birthday” at the Old Spaghetti Factory in the most off-key way possible and the waiter saying, “What melodious voices! They are like Pentatonix!” This is essentially what happened to Gideon. God wasn’t worried or fazed by Gideon’s credentials or his circumstances. He wasn’t limited by what Gideon had to offer; in fact, God could work in more radical ways because of Gideon’s inadequacy. Similarly, when Paul wrote to the church in Rome, he asked them to go a step further in faith. He was calling them to be ministers of Christ to those surrounding them. Some of them might have been qualified; others probably had no experience in ministry. Yet Paul still wanted them to be a part of the ministry. And God has this insane desire to use you as well. Whatever gifts you have, God can use them for His glory. You may not feel powerful or adequate, but that doesn’t bother or hinder God one bit. What are some gifts that you have and what are ways that you can use them to draw others closer to God?