I want to be a joyful person, and I’m not really sure I always am—yet. Now, I’m positive (all of the time), I’m happy (most of the time), and I’m a glass half-full kind of gal. But joyful? I wonder....
I’ve been preparing to speak at an Advent Dinner on the topic of joy, so I’ve been thinking a lot about it. As I study, I am convinced that joy is a choice, which seems untrue because I have always associated joy with emotion, but I now realize happiness is the emotion and it doesn’t automatically lead to joy.
“To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7).
The Apostle Paul starts most of his letters by greeting the recipients in this way. It would be easy to quickly read this as you would any salutation by thinking that the best is coming next. However, Paul does not waste words, and each one is intentional and powerful—after a moment or two of reflection.
Consider “To all in Rome who are loved by God….” Reading this, I wonder: Did the people of Rome ever dare to dream that God would love them? This culture was steeped in worshipping gods who were hateful and vengeful. What a beautiful breath of fresh air this simple statement must have been to the original readers. Today, how many of us dare to dream that God loves us too?
"Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:5-6).
It’s so true: You can’t give what you don’t have.
I’ve learned and relearned this truth over the years. For instance, I recently taught at church, and each time I’ve done this I’ve felt unqualified, unskilled, and woke up wondering, what in the world do I have to say? At those times, I was especially
concerned about the people who are searching, who need Jesus, and who need hope for the next week. I was humbled as I felt like I had nothing to give.
However, early Sunday morning, the Lord reminded me of this exact verse from Romans, “…we’ve received grace…to call…to obedience.” You can’t give what you don’t have. It is God’s grace working in my life and through my experiences that enables me to open
the Word of God uniquely in those moments. He’s been present in my life from the beginning, has given me grace, and now is using my story to support and encourage his church.
Watch this video teaching by Juli entitled I.dol.eyes—Greed*
Idols are dangerous and demanding, while continually over-promising and under-delivering. Just as idols are good things turned into ultimate things, so the desires they generate become paralyzing and overwhelming. If unchecked, these beliefs magnify ordinary
disappointments and failures into life-shattering experiences.
In this teaching, Juli examines the deep idol of greed by showing how the love of money displaces God from His rightful place of worship. Juli unravels the account of Jesus’s temptation by Satan in the desert and explains how He overcame the idol of greed
and then revealed to us the one thing that could topple the idols in our lives.
*Juli taught this sermon at Orchard Hill Church on November 15, 2015.
“Regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:3-4)
It is important to see Jesus in light of his humanity and divinity. Both natures had specific roles to play in the redemption of mankind. This is why Paul opens this letter with the revelation of this duality.
In this letter, we learn the gospel promised beforehand that God’s Son Jesus was a descendant of David. For the Jews, this would have been critically important information. Beginning in Genesis and going forward, there were many prophecies about the lineage of the Christ coming through the line of King David. I doubt few people would have listened to Paul’s claims if Jesus hadn’t been a descendant of David.
However, what I find fascinating is that Christ had any ancestors at all! Simply put, Jesus had ancestors because He had a human nature. And guess what? A human redeemer was also a promise foretold in the scriptures.
"The gospel he promised before hand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures..." (Romans 1:2)
If you look at the account of Paul's life in the Book of Acts, you'll see he was constantly defending the gospel before masses of people, Jewish leaders, the Roman government, and even before the original Apostles who learned directly from Jesus. I think
this was because the gospel was so radically different than anything that had previously been taught and so the natural tendency was to question it.
Here's a beautiful truth: the very same gospel that Paul preached was promised throughout the entirety of the scriptures. Even today, we have a hard time understanding this, as I imagine the Apostle Paul did at first. In his own words, he admits to being
faultless concerning legalistic righteousness (Phil. 3:6)—meaning he followed the letter of the law, which he knew inside and out and lived every moment making sure he was doing all that the law required. Some things don't change, for example,
how many of us are like this today?
Imagine how mind-blowing it must have been to encounter Jesus and then to start piecing together everything the law and prophets talked about, which included everything Paul previously misunderstood while trying to do all that the law required. Imaging
waking up to the fullness of what those things actually revealed—Jesus! This incredible revelation was so profound that Paul immediately set off for the desert of Arabia and spent three years sorting it out (Gal. 1:11-12, 17-18).
"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God" (Romans 1:1)
There is a strange law in the Old Testament. It’s one of those easy to glance at and then forget as it is the guideline for freeing servants. At the surface level, it seems this has little impact today. Here’s the jest of the law.
If a Hebrew man or woman sold him/herself into slavery (most likely because of poverty or circumstances), the term of this agreement was six years. By law, in the seventh year, they were released. Here’s why...It served as a reminder to both parties that
they were all slaves in Egypt but the Lord redeemed them (Deut. 15:15). Bottom line, He wanted them to be free.
This law also made provision for the servants. When released, they were liberally supplied from the master’s flock, threshing floor, and winepress (Deut. 15:13-14). The goal was that it was a win-win for both parties, as indentured servants were to be
treated better than a hired hand.
Here’s the strange part, the law also gives instructions for when a person doesn’t want to be released. What? That’s crazy. If you are an indentured servant, why wouldn’t you want to leave when the time has been served?
Imagine hating Christians so much that the goal of your life is to put an end to their movement. Breathing murderous threats, you set off with the appropriate letters and travel far and wide to arrest anyone belonging to this dangerous movement.
But during this time, you come face to face with the resurrected Lord Jesus and the course of your life takes on a dramatic change. Preaching the same faith you once tried to destroy, your life’s accounts become epic stories of faith, your letters are widely read, and your insights become the topic of debate for centuries to come.
The Apostle Paul was the man responsible for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far reaches of the known world. What he taught was so radical that, even today, the followers of Jesus still strive for understanding.
The Book of Romans is a masterfully written exposition on God’s grace and the righteousness that comes by grace through faith. This book (a letter) is the foundation of the entire Christian faith. It was so radical that the Apostle Paul explains this gospel was received by direct revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-12).
The truth contained in this letter had the power to transform a murderous Pharisee into the man we know as the Apostle Paul. It has greatly influenced men like Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Wesley, and it has profoundly affected my life as well.
If you want to know the Lord Jesus in an intimate personal way, this letter is for you!
Watch this video teaching by Juli entitled Faith Pleases God.*
In this teaching, Juli shares 4 faith principles learned from the prostitute Rahab. Rahab had an understanding of God’s character; an understanding that many of His covenant people lack. Rahab trusted God to save her because she trusted solely in His goodness and His grace. God responded to her faith and forever commemorated her in the lineage of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Her story is one of redemption and restoration. We can learn a lot from Rahab.
*Juli taught this sermon at Orchard Hill Church on August 23, 2015.
I get correspondence referencing how others have used my observations from Romans as they prepared to teach, I am deeply honored by this. I recently taught a Sunday school class on the Book of Romans, so I wanted to make my handouts available to use. These are simple overviews on each chapter along with group discussion questions. Feel free to download, customize, and use them.
Note: Handouts are available for the chapters I taught in class. When other handouts are completed, I will make them available on this page