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 1:1-7 in the New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Paul could have chosen a man, any one of the dozen deacons, keen to serve and share the Gospel, but he chose Phoebe. He chose a woman. Not for an easy role either. It was not as simple as international travel is today; within twenty hours you can easily be on the other side of the planet. This journey would have required an arduous physically and mentally taxing journey. Once she arrived, she would have had to gather the people, stand in front of them and read the letter. With her voice and body language and interpretive skills, she would translate the passion of all that Paul had written to this audience. They might have even asked her to clarify things, and she might have added her own commentary to provide context. Today we read small snippets of text at a time. But if we were to read the whole book of Romans in one sitting—read it in different translations, to try to comprehend and capture the passion of Paul—we would see what N.T. Wright suggests in Paul, A Biography:
“God has done what He always said He would, Paul is saying, and this is what that means today. The gospel events—the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the spirit—have burst upon an unready world, and also upon a Jewish world that was looking the other way. But God has thereby unveiled His faithfulness to the covenant, the covenant with Abraham and Israel through which He always purposed to put the whole creation right at last.” (p.328)
Paul had one Bible—what we often call the Old Testament and that I refer to as the First Testament. He saw all the texts pointing to Jesus as the “Son of God.” This was a title which Octavian used for himself, as did many others. When this letter was read by Phoebe in public, do you think that some would have seen Jesus as a direct threat to Caesar? Do you think it would have been risky business to be a follower of Jesus? Do you think that it is currently risky business to declare Jesus. All. as a way of expressing our love for Jesus? Do you have the courage to speak truth to power? Is the story of Jesus calling you?
Recalibrate: What are you willing to risk for Jesus?
Respond: Pray for the courage to stand for Jesus.
Research: Read the whole letter of Romans.
Remember: “This letter is to all of you in Rome whom God loves and has called to be his holy people.” —Romans 1:7 (ICB)
Japhet is senior pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, CO, and was co-founder of the One project. Originally from southeast London, Japhet served as a pastor and as youth director in the South England Conference for nine years before moving to the United States in 2006. He was director for the Center for Youth Evangelism (CYE), chaplain for missions, and university chaplain at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI. Japhet has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Andrews University (Newbold College campus). He has taught youth ministry, coordinated a master’s in youth ministry program, and spearheaded numerous conferences and initiatives. He is married to Becky and they have two sons, Joshua (18) and Jonah (14).
Jesus loves through the rough stuff, through the sleepless nights, the teething, and the diaper rash. Jesus doesn’t yell at us to get our act together; instead, He gently holds us close so we know He is there. Gently hold your baby close today, wrap them in gentle love and the knowledge that Jesus died and rose again to wrap us in His love.
You have been chosen as Jesus' sidekick to love more people than just the loveable and cute. You have been chosen to love all. The smelly, the ugly, the mean, and the sick. Jesus did exactly this when He lived on earth, and as his sidekicks, He calls us to do the same. How can you start?
Paul told the people of Rome that they were loved by God and called to be saints. How do you know you are loved by someone? How do you know God loves you? Take the Five Love Languages test to find out how you connect with others. In what ways does God communicate His love to you through each of these love languages?