I got a new Bible the other day. It felt right to spend a birthday gift card on something special. Something to mark my new start back in my hometown.
Boy, they have lots of choices in the Bible department! Study Bibles, large-print Bibles, pocket Bibles, bullet-proof Bibles. After a bunch of aisle wandering, I chose a classic brown leather ESV with wide margins and an ample concordance. I thought about snagging one of those trendy journaling Bibles that comes with colored pencils, but then I remembered a tiny tidbit of truth about me…I can’t draw a decent stick figure, much less John 3:16 in fancy lettering. The Bible I chose has plenty of room for my aha-moment scribbles. I’m tickled with my choice.
Last week, First15, an online devotional I read daily, led me to Romans 12. I can’t think of a chapter more worthy of my first markings in my new Bible. The first two verses are in my collection of life verses, especially this year while I’m focusing on letting God sharpen up my mind.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Those are some good words to live by, right? They prompt me to pray:
Lord, here I am. I’m all Yours. Do whatever You need to do to make me a holy, acceptable offering. I refuse to let this world squeeze me into its mold. Renew my mind and transform my life, Lord! Make Your beautiful, perfect will abundantly clear, so I can know it and do it every day of my life.
You know, I don’t remember spending much time in this chapter past those two gem verses.
The heading title in my ESV translation drew my eyes to Romans 12:9-21: Marks of a True Christian.
Now, I know the heading titles aren’t part of the original text, but titles give a glimpse of what’s ahead, and I, for one, want to behave like a true Christian. A true follower of Christ. A true “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”
What about you, friend? You want to pray through these verses with me?
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written,“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I want to be like You. May these practical words You penned through Paul make a lasting mark on me.
Let love be genuine.
Show me how to love Your way, Lord, with no conditions or pretension.
Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Help me flee without pause from anything that would lead me to sin. May my heart be drawn to goodness because that’s where I’ll find You.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Give me a tender heart toward my brothers and sisters-in-Christ. The ones I get to see and hug and the ones I’ll only see in heaven. May my days be brightened by opportunities to spur them on in the faith, to pray for them with power, and to serve them in big and small ways.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Stoke the fire in my spirit, Lord, and burn off the laziness and low motivation. Ignite my want-to, Lord, so I will serve You with glad energy every single day.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Hard times are always either here or on the horizon. It’s the nature of this broken world. That’s why You’re training me to pray without ceasing. The more I communicate with You, the more I know You. The more I know You, the more I trust You. The more I trust You, the more hope swells in my soul.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Giving and serving isn’t always convenient or comfortable. Help me to do it anyway. Give me eyes to see the needs You want to meet through me.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Help me keep all sins and slights against me in the perspective of the Cross where You died all our sins. May I fight unforgiveness by praying blessings over my offenders. Bitter roots can’t grow in soil fertilized by prayer.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Lengthy seasons of hurt and loss can make us self-centered. Wake up my compassion, Lord, so I can cheer and cry with the people You’ve given me to love.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
Help me see myself and others through Your eyes and Your heart. When I love on folks who’ve fallen on hard times, help me to do it with true humility and servanthood. You always lifted the lowly, and I will follow Your example.
Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
In every situation, I want to do what’s right in Your eyes. Not what seems right to me at the time. Not what the socially-approved thing is. And surely not what my faulty emotions scream at me to do. Prince of Peace, be all over my relationships, especially the prickly ones.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written,“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Lord, You don’t miss a thing. I can trust You to make all things right in Your way. All I need to concern myself with is loving You and loving people … all people. Show me how to demonstrate genuine kindness to the ones that withhold it from me, but help me do it for Your pleasure not for their seal of approval.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
It seems this world grows more evil by the minute. Sometimes, right living feels like trudging upstream. But You are greater, Lord. Your love is greater than all manner of hate. Your light is greater than the deepest dark. Your grace is greater than every sin.
Make Your mark on me, Lord.
In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN
Are you marking up your Bible, so God can make His mark on you? If you need a little help getting started, I recommend subscribing to First15.org. Check it out and let me know what you think!