Debtors to Both God and Man

My friends and I worked our way through the book of Romans for our daily devotions in February and two things that I read in Romans 1 really stuck out to me because I know it is something that I struggle with. I also know that it is something that other Christians struggle with as well. I have heard this struggle talked about in catechism classes, in young peoples and young adults meetings, as well as at the Christian college that I go to. It is a very prevalent struggle, and I wanted to write some encouragement for all of us who do struggle with it.

Romans 1:8 and 14 are the two verses that stuck out to me while reading through the book of Romans. They talk about two different topics that, as I said before, many Christians struggle with. To start, verse eight says, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” This may seem like an ordinary verse that Paul uses to greet the church and tell them how thankful he is for them. This is true, but there is also something deeper that we can get out of this verse.

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.”

Romans 1:8

When I first read it, it struck me how he says that their “faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” This is amazing. The fact that the whole world had heard about and talked about the God-given faith of the Romans is unbelievable and really encouraging to hear, as I’m sure it was for Paul as well. Then I realized that I need to have this as a goal in my own life too. Not in a vain way as the Pharisee shows in Luke 18, but in a God-glorifying way that stands as a witness to His grace.

So often it is much easier to stand aside and stay quiet about our faith even with our own Christian friends. It is much easier to talk about sports or our favorite books or what we had for lunch yesterday than it is to talk about God and everything that we believe and live for. We are called to be witnesses for God throughout our journey in this life. The Roman Christians, through the work of the Spirit, show us how important it is to talk about and be strong in our faith. We need to let the whole world hear and see our faith so much that they also begin to talk about it. Do not hide your light under a bushel, but let it shine and let the whole world be witness to it (see Luke 11:33 and the song, “This Little Light of Mine”).

The second struggle that stood out to me was in verse fourteen. It says, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.” This verse shows how Paul humbled himself just as Jesus did. Jesus and Paul demonstrate throughout their lives what it means to humble themselves and treat everyone with kindness and respect. Jesus, for example, washed the disciples’ feet in John 13, and in verses 13 and 14 he says, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Jesus did not come to earth in order to save or serve everyone. He came to earth to die for God’s elect. However, he still humbled himself among every person he met and treated them with respect, love, and kindness. One example of this that sticks out is how he fed so many people more than once with just a small amount of food available. Jesus provided for them, but that doesn’t mean he served them in a spiritual sense. Jesus’ humility is an example of the Matthew 7:12 verse which says, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets”.

“I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.”

Romans 8:14

Our pride is a sin that so many of us must fight against, including myself. We would never even consider washing others’ feet, instead letting them deal with it themselves. So often we think “Whatever is happening to them is their problem; I have no part in it.” Christ and Paul show us over and over again that we are to humble ourselves. Some example texts are John 13, Luke 22:24-27, Philippians 2:3-8, Philippians 2:17-30, among many others.

In order to live a Christ-like life and in order to be a witness to God and His Word we must live in humility towards our neighbors. Through the strength of the Holy Spirit, we must fight our pride that steers us away from bowing down and helping others and perhaps even causes us to sneer at those who do. We must learn from Jesus’ and Paul’s examples and be witnesses to God by living in humility with our neighbors in order to point them to Christ and give God the glory.

Brittany Bylsma

Extraordinary in the Ordinary

It is really easy, most of the time, at least, to see God in the big things in life. We see Him in the birth of a child. We see Him in the natural disasters and the storms. We remember His power and control over everything when we see diseases take hold of people and viruses take over nations.

We look for Him in the mountains and in the sky during a sunrise or sunset. In everything that is big and powerful, we can say that God was there and in control. However, we forget a lot that God is here with us every second of every day. We forget that we should be looking for God in the “simple” and ordinary things in life.

There is a song called “Hymn of Creation” by Dan Forrest that really captures this truth. You may know this song since it is one that Covenant Christian High School Choirs sang in 2019. The song starts off by talking about how God made the mountains rise, how He spread the seas, and created the sky. It goes on to talk about God’s wisdom in the sun, the moon, and the stars. It lists many of the “big” or extraordinary things of this world, sights that make us catch our breath.

Then the song shifts and starts to talk about the smaller details. The details in which we do not always remember God when we see them. It lists the food that we eat and the creatures that inhabit the earth. It says that no matter where I look I can see God’s wonders – even if it is just at the ground we walk upon.

My favorite line from this song is, “while all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care, and ev’ry where that man can be, Thou, God art present there”. This line reminds us that God is keeping us alive. He is making our hearts to beat and our lungs to breathe and that without Him we would not be here. It reminds us that God is everywhere and not just in those big sights and big moments in life. We need to be reminded that we have to look for and see God in the ordinary, in the things we take for granted.

God’s glory is displayed everywhere, and we can see it everywhere if we just take the time to look. Our lungs breathing, our heart beating, the sun rising, and so much more we take for granted and see as ordinary. But once we start noticing God in everything, including the ordinary, we will start to see everything as extraordinary and that God’s glory is displayed in millions of ways. We will start to thank God and glorify Him for everything.

This is something we should be doing already, but it is easy to get swept up in the world and forget God and everything He has done and is doing for us. This is our old man, our fallen human nature coming into play. Forgetting God is what the devil wants us to do. He cheers everytime we go through a day without thanking God and glorifying Him for anything and everything.

Making a conscious effort, by God’s grace, to do this every day makes every day more enjoyable. Looking for God in everything and seeing all that He has done and continues to do for us makes it easier to be in a good and happy mood. It also helps in prayer and devotions. We have a list of things to be thankful for and can talk to God throughout the day giving thanks for everything. This can really help strengthen our relationship with God.

I struggle with this too, but this song reminds me—and hopefully others—to see God in everything no matter how ordinary. It reminds me to give thanks and glorify God for more than just the big things in life. It reminds me that God is with me all the time. It reminds me to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

(click here to listen to “Hymn of Creation”:

Brittany Bylsma

Is Asking God “Why” Ok?

I grew up with the mindset that asking God “why?” was wrong and that it made me a bad Christian for asking. I found out recently that my brother holds the same view that I used to. Somehow the conversation came up when, as a family, we were sitting around the dinner table one Sunday. My parents were saying that asking God “why?” was fine as long as you are respectful. My brother was arguing that we should not ask God that question because it shows doubt towards God. I piped up a little in favor of my brother but mostly sat in silence since I was caught up in my own thoughts.

As I thought more on this topic, I realized that my brother and I both held to this view based on what we were taught in school. Throughout our schooling we were taught, whether through it actually being said or simply implied, that asking God “why?” is wrong because it shows your distrust in God, and it shows you doubting Him.

I now believe that asking God this question is perfectly fine. I think that people can believe either view of this question, it just depends on whether a person is asking this out of doubt or out of a humble desire to understand. I do not think that asking God “why?” is wrong in all cases.

As someone who has gone through trials and is still going through trials and, like everyone else, will go through many more trials as I go through this life in a sinful world, I think we need to make this a more common question that is ok to ask. Before I came to this conclusion, I would find myself asking “why?” to God and then immediately feeling like I had sinned and that I was a horrible Christian for asking. This made me less inclined to talk to God in prayer and come to Him with my questions and concerns. As a result of this, among other things, my spiritual life became non-existent.

In one of my college classes last semester, there was actually a guy who did a presentation on why it was wrong to ask God “why?”. This made me feel even worse as I resolved never to ask God that question again. However, recently I came across a certain song that really hit home for me. The song is called “Why God” by Austin French. I listened to the official music video and in the beginning, French is explaining that he felt like a bad Christian when he asked that question when his father was dying. He felt like he was not allowed to ask that. But then, he says, he became a dad and his son started asking those “why” questions. And through this God showed him that He is not afraid of our hard questions; and that asking “why God?” did not make him a bad Christian. Instead, it made him a kid. God is our Father; we are His children.

I believe that it was God that placed this song right where it needed to be so that I found it. It was exactly what I needed to hear in a really important time in my life.

I believe it is perfectly fine to ask God “why?” It does not show that we are doubting Him. It shows that we are having trouble understanding our situation or circumstances and that we really do want to understand. It shows God that we see Him as a Father whom we can go to with our questions and concerns no matter how difficult they might be. God is our Father, and we are His children. Ask Him “why?” and listen for the answer.


Brittany Bylsma