Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love – Romans 8:35-37 Devotional

The end of the semester is quickly approaching. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by everything that’s due over the next two weeks – studying for exams, finishing projects, preparing for presentations, etc.

But the good news is that we’re never alone. God goes with us, wherever we go. 

It’s hard leaving friends behind in the summer, especially for those who are graduating. But we can be sure that God will be at the mission field, at home, at a full-time job, or at summer classes with us.

Romans 8:35-37 (NLT) says, Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

Honestly, human love is very circumstantial. It’s easy to love those who love us and treat us well. It’s harder to love those who constantly let us down or ignore us. Sometimes we feel unloved by those closest to us.

But no matter what we’ve done in the past or what we will do is the future, God’s love for us is unchanging. Whether we have a six-figure salary or are struggling to make ends meet, God loves us. Whether we stay close to home or move to a foreign country, God loves us. Despite any mistakes we’ve made, God loves us.

My favorite part of this verse is the phrase “overwhelming victory is ours through Christ”. God not only loves us, but he also gives us victory. Victory over failures, victory over fear, victory over circumstances — overwhelming victory!

I hope that everyone has a great rest of the semester here at Cedarville and a fantastic summer break. I’m excited to see how God will work through each and every one of us this summer. And no matter where He leads, His love and overwhelming victory go with us!

Chains Will Break

“But I do the very thing I hate…”

Sin is always so appealing. Whether it’s cheating on an exam to get that grade you want, stretching the truth to earn trust or approval, spreading gossip, it could be anything. The attraction lies in the benefit. A satisfaction seemingly so good that boundaries are crossed, mistakes are made, lies are told, tracks are covered, and consequences are ignored. A temptation that is so strong that we no longer care what is right or wrong and then we cave in.

I know I can relate to this. I try to break a habit and soon find myself returning to the very habit I was trying to break. I understand the error of my action, realize the mistake, and what do I do? The very sin I thought about and considered the error of. Why? Why do I return to my sin? Why do we do what is wrong even though we’re aware of the error? But the more concerning question is, even though I make the same mistake over and over, can I still find forgiveness?

About 2000 years ago, Paul wrote a letter to the Romans that holds undeniable truth that is relevant still today. A letter that sparked a revolutionary fire in many souls through the message it shares. A Gospel message of conviction, redemption, and freedom. In the middle of this letter, Paul shares with us something I believe we all can relate to. Romans 7:14-15 says, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Here, in this Scripture, Paul expresses his understanding of the very same issue I face.

We all struggle with sin. I mean, Paul, a well known apostle and example for the Christian faith confessed to this, which is proof that even the strongest heart faces times of weakness. The expectations of God lie within our Spiritual strength and persistence, but this world we live in and the bodies we’ve been given have been stolen by sin. The flesh in which we reside is a weak, disobedient, sin-tainted flesh. A flesh that is bound and destined to make mistakes.

So, now that we have an idea of why we continue life in sin, we need to consider the next question. Is there hope for us to hold on to?

I sure hope so, because if there isn’t, then I’ve got a lot to worry about! The beauty of the cross is the sacrifice made for my sins (and yours). The renewed grace, mercy, and love of God are given to us unconditionally. Well. There is one condition: That it is received. God knew that we would stumble and He knew that we would make mistakes. That’s the whole point of the death and resurrection of Christ. The fulfillment of a promise of hope and restoration. A works-based faith doesn’t work because our sinful nature makes it impossible for us to be “good enough,” and what a relief that is! Praise God that we don’t have to meet that requirement on our own, because I know my track record certainly speaks of my inability to. All we have to do is ask for and receive the forgiveness He has for us. The robes of Christ cover our sins. When we ask for forgiveness, we are no longer responsible for due judgement. The wrath of God was satisfied by the blood of Jesus, and, as Paul later mentions in Romans, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” NOTHING can EVER separate us from the work of Christ so long as we are willing to accept the free gift offered to us.

That covers two questions. Now that we are beginning to understand why we continue to sin and have reflected on the forgiveness always available to us, there is one more question to answer. How do I respond to all of this?

Despite the forgiveness we receive, sometimes we still hold on to a feeling of guilt, or maybe even God-given conviction. The consequences of our sins still remain. Lies can hurt and actions have consequences. How can we begin to heal if we have to face the result of our sin? Despite what you may feel, keeping it secret is not the answer. I am convinced that silence is a tool of the Enemy to keep us from true Spiritual healing. Silence is a fear-driven response. To find peace and joy, there is only one answer, especially when considering those sins which are exceptionally binding. To confess. James 5:16 says to us, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Though it might be the most terrifying option, there has never been a time that I regretted bringing my sin to light. Every instance brought forth a response of love and acceptance, but more importantly, people who are willing to walk with me and carry me when it gets hard and when I stumble. Even if there is healing for our mistakes, should we live like they don’t matter? Again, we can look at Paul, in Romans 6:1-2, where he responds to this very question with, “By no means!” Instead, we should follow the direction of 2 Timothy 2:22 which tell us to, “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

So, don’t let yourself be discouraged by the struggles you face. There is forgiveness. Don’t let your sins be kept in secret. In confession is healing and unmatched peace, joy, and freedom through the prayer and support of those who love you. Break the chains that bind you through the strength of the Lord. Lean on those around you, and know that as I type this, I am praying for this message to reach into the depths of your heart and soul that you may find the abundant love of Christ and grow in ways you never thought possible.

When it Rains, it Pours…

Sometimes, things just don’t seem to go right.

This week has been one for the books. Between failed experiments in lab, questioning friendships, midterms, and a host of other things, life has been one heck of a storm. Honestly, it feels like nothing has gone right in a long time. My plans failed and my schedule was completely trashed aside from my classes. And all of this leaves me with one question…

What is going on?

When one unexpected thing comes after another, it can feel like there’s no use in trying to make more plans or make adjustments to fix the current situation. But. I think there might be some beauty in this realization. How often are we apt to take on more commitments than we can handle? To say yes to more than we realize? To load up our calendar with an impressive list of interests, activities, and one-on-one time with friends? The answer for me would have to be, “far too often.”

Now the question we have left with is, “What do I do now?”

The first and most cliché answer I can give you is to lay your worries at the feet of the Lord. In the Gospel of Matthew we find a very direct question to ask ourselves, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” While there is scientific evidence that could suggest that letting the overwhelming events and concerns of life is not adding time to your life, I think there is something else to consider. At what point in time has worry added to the minutes of enjoyable life you have had the opportunity to experience? Here, I’ll give you a hint.

It hasn’t.

While it is important to not worry, there is a difference between worry and concern. As I advise you not to be filled with worry, I also want to say to you that having zero concern is just as dangerous. If you have exams, study for them. If your friends need you, talk to them. If you have something going on in your family, love them and offer support, but know that everything in this world is working together for good and not for evil. Remember, also, that if things go wrong, it isn’t the end of it all (and for those of you staring Spring Break in anxious anticipation, don’t let anything that may happen this week get in the way of enjoying your break).

God is holding all things together and working to magnify Himself. He is working for your good and His glory, and if He loves you so dearly that He would be willing to lay down the life of His only son, what, do you think, would ever be able to get in the way of that? I’ll give you another hint.

Nothing.

So go on this week knowing that God is behind every step you take, mistake or otherwise, to remind you of His sovereign and steady hands.

Fresh Encouragement for a New Start

Opportunity can be Overwhelming…

It’s the start of a new semester and we’re starting our second full week back from break. We’ve started new classes in new schedule with some new friends, and for some of us we started life in a new room. After three weeks of rest I would argue that there is something refreshing about coming back to campus to meet up with friends and prepare for a new set of challenges. Unfortunately, though, these new opportunities don’t come without cost. Some of us are staring at the hardest semester of our college career right in the eyes, some of us will be filled with new anxieties, others will fight to maintain academic performance, fail to balance social and school life, and some will just struggle.

I know some of you reading this are trying to understand what my point is or why I would bother to dig any of that up. The truth is, at first, I had no idea why I did either. In the end, that might just be the point. With so much “new” being thrown on our plate we can get lost and overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. It’s so easy to worry. While I hate to be the bearer of cliché suggestions, when these challenges come your way, the best place to turn to is God.

When you’re anxious: Psalm 43:5, Matthew 6:34, Philippians 4:6-7

When it feels like what you’re doing isn’t good enough: 2 Corinthians 12:9, Romans 8:39, Psalm 138:8

And, of course, never be afraid to go to your friends, or even your professors, when you just need a friend, because “…if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12).

Whether it’s just another semester or the final semester leading up to the rest of your life, we’re all experiencing some kind of change approaching at breakneck speed. And if it gets to be too much, never be hesitant to ask for prayer.

Many blessings to you all as we start another semester!!

Photo taken and edited by Zach Bevins

“I turned around and God was right there…”

Your Story Rae

When looking back on your life and the trials that have been stepping stones in your faith it becomes clear that God has been preparing you for this all along. The things that may have been learned because of good times or even bad are all ultimately used by the Lord for His story. It’s funny that at the time of the trial or the “prep” for trial we don’t see how intricately the Lord weaves himself into our lives.

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When we finally open our eyes and catch a glimpse of what the Lord is doing we can’t help but be filled with adoration of a God who pursues us relentlessly.
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If you heard Rae’s story last night you can see how true this is in her story. However, if you did miss it I can give you a quick rundown. Rae shared three important things: the foundation of her faith, how that foundation helped through a trial in her life, and how God continually pursues. Rae accepted Christ in her life at a young age, but it wasn’t until the age of 13 that she actually understood what a relationship with Christ included.  She realized the first step to really get to know God was to dive into His word

God’s Character. How many of us can truly say we know much of who God is? I mean to be very transparent with you, I did not exactly spend a lot of time in the Word learning who God truly was. There is a reason why in my story I pushed God away, believing that He could not help me. I believed that because I did not truly understand how great He actually is. If you do not take the time to figure out the God who you are supposed to have this deep, intimate relationship with, how are you supposed to allow him to do what he needs to in your life?

At the age of 19 Rae had to watch her parent’s marriage crumble and ultimately end in divorce. She had to watch all of this from afar, and the advice she got from home was just to pray a little bit harder and hopefully things would get better. This helplessness and sadness lead to doubting if God really was who He said He was. However, the words that had been engrained on her  heart from the time spent in the Word resurfaced to remind her that God was there. A verse that she mentioned multiple times was Psalms 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Words that she had forgotten showed themselves again. The Lord was reminding her of His goodness.

As I mentioned before the lack of that foundation in my life caused disasters during trials that came. The Lord gave us in His Word the things to keep us going when everything around us is falling apart. So, those of you who are going through trials take heart, God has you. 

I think that last thought honestly comes from the idea that God pursues. The amount of times I have given up and just said, “To heck with it all” has been a lot. However, God continues to seek me out and remind me that, “He loves ME. He wants ME. He will help ME.” Rae was reminded of this when she went to Peru trying to run away from her problems, but God used the loss of her appendix to remind her that He was there and that He would chase after her because she was HIS. How beautiful is that? The love God has for us honestly makes me speechless and makes me want to sing and dance and do all sorts of things for HOURS. Honestly I cannot express to you how much I love God pursuing us so I am just going to leave it at that.

Actually I lied. I want to end on the thought of God pursuing us. God has given us a great tool to help us in our trials. That tool, the Bible, is sort of his pursuit manual. It explains how He is faithful and why we should feel free to just fall into His arms. God is not leaving you alone during your hard time. —> Even when you feel like you are all alone, and trust me I know that feeling firsthand, God is right behind you asking you to let Him in and be who He says He is.