I’m just going to say it.
Some of you may not like it.
However, I’m going to say it anyway.
I am ready to go back home to South Africa.
It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed our family’s home assignment here. We have. We have loved being with our family and friends.
We’ve been able to get some things done that we could never have completed during a shorter furlough period. We have connected with more of our friends – some on more than one occasion – and been able to continue conversations in person rather than on email, Skype, Facebook or other media channel. And family time has proven to be the most precious time of all for every member of our family. These are the kinds of gifts that have kept on giving and giving and giving these past six months.
And yet, I am still ready to go home to South Africa.
I’m ready to engage with my God in a stronger, more passionate, and more humble way. That’s one of the resolutions I have made since being Stateside. I confess that my walk with my God has been a different one since being here.
Less fun, if I were perfectly honest with you.
My routine has been so different here that it has been much more challenging to get my ‘spiritual groove’ on – if there is such a thing!
I want to return to a place where I have space to carve out significant one-on-one time with my God.
It’s not that I haven’t been praying, studying, or the like – it’s just that the patterns I have for myself have been altered quite a bit since living in the States.
Recently, I made a promise to some one to read and then pray Romans 12 over their son for the month of December. As I have been following through with this commitment, something stirred up inside of me. And I posed a question to myself:
Why haven’t I been reading these words more often????
I’ve read Romans 12 daily in the past. There have been times during the previous 20 years that I have challenged people to join me in reading Romans 12 for thirty days. I’ve called it the Romans 12 Challenge. I asked people to see how the Lord would speak to them each day through these amazing 21 verses of exhortation. And they showed up for the challenge. And guess what? God showed up, too!
So, as I’ve been reading these verses recently, day after day, more questions have been swirling in my mind:
Am I taking personal responsibility for how I live my life and for how I may draw others towards a transformational life in Jesus Christ?
Do my thoughts, words, and actions invite others to know Jesus better – or do I turn people off?
Does my life exhibit faith and ruthless trust?
What would happen in my life and perhaps in the lives of those with whom I interact if I really, really, really lived out a Romans 12 life?
For. One. Whole. Year.
Would my love for others be proven sincere?
Would I stop thinking so highly of myself?
Would I be more generous?
Would the passion I have for God and His Son Jesus become stronger?
Would I really be careful to do what is right in the eyes of all who are watching me?
Would I truly become a living sacrifice? What is that, anyway?
Would I cling to what is good?
Would I show more devotion to my husband and my children?
Would I be less resentful of others – no matter what they did or did not do?
Would I be more patient?
Would others be interested in knowing Christ more because of what they see in my life?
Honestly, I don’t know yet.
Yet, as I prepare to return to South Africa and begin a new year, I’m determined more than ever to live my faith out in a practical, honest, and transformational way. Honestly, the world we live in is a very dark place and seems to be growing much darker day by day. It seems like we are drowning in a harsh, offensive, and dangerous sea where people really have grown more heartless. If there was ever a time in my life to cast out a buoy of love, hope and grace, that time is now. I cannot change others. However, I can take personal responsibility for how I will live during such ugly and disheartening times.
The words of Romans 12 go like this in The Message
Place Your Life before God
12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 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.
3 I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
4-6 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
6-8 If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
So, Friends, I’m jumping in with both feet! Even before the start of the New Year, I am going to read Romans 12 each day – in addition to whatever else I am studying in God’s word in 2016.
You’re welcome to join me if you like. I just can’t help but wonder how the world and its interwoven fabric of relationships would be affected if Christ followers truly placed their lives before God and lived out every single word of the personal and practical exhortation of Romans 12. If we did it, we truly would be known for Someone Special.
I’m going to try.
I’m ready to get my Romans 12 life groove on!
And you can hold me to it!
Image Retrieved from Romans 12 Images Google Search