TELLING OUR CHILDREN


Psalm 71:18 (NET): Even when I am old and gray, O God, do not abandon me, until I tell the next generation about your strength, and those coming after me about your power.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (CSB): These words I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Psalms 96:3 (NKJV): Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.


THE LORD WANTS US to tell our children about Him.

Even though we all come to faith individually — no one is grafted in because of  his or her parents.

We are to share with our children all the good that God has done for us; how He has forgiven our sins, shown us grace and mercy, and loved us unto salvation. 

So many Christians sadly admit after their children are grown that they told their offspring about church, but failed to tell them the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus.

Jesus told the man cured of a demon who begged to accompany Jesus and His disciples, “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” (Luke 8:39 NLT)

LIVING THE GREAT COMMISSION

SO, TOO, HE TELLS US we are to tell our families all  that the Lord has done for us. It’s called the Great Commission. (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8)

There is no greater thrill, nor greater commandment, than to tell the children the Lord has given us about Him and how He created them for His eternal purpose and glory. 

The day will come when we will stand before the King and give an account of our lives. 

Let’s resolve, with His help and guidance, not to fail this task. 

When He asks us, “Who did you say I am, especially to the children I gave you?” we don’t want to reply, “Umm, well, actually, not much.” We want to proclaim boldly, “We told our children, and those You gave us to testify to, that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

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PRAYER 

O LORD, OUR GOD and our Savior, please give us the opportunity to talk with our children, either  while they are young or when they are grown, about You, and how You have a purpose for their lives. Please give us the words to say and the spirit of boldness to proclaim the Gospel message of redemption and rebirth. Lord, help us not fail in this singular most important task, regardless of their immediate response. Open their ears to hear and their hearts to receive Your blessings. In the saving name, the redeeming name, the loving name of Jesus we pray. AMEN

LEANING ON GOD


Psalm 127:1 (NIV) Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand  watch in vain.

John 15:5 (NKJV) “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”


WE WERE NEVER CALLED to do life alone.

Our Creator made us to have connection with Him, to join Him in community and fellowship. He created us for His glory. 

Sometimes individuals, or even churches, are so busy carrying out plans they are convinced will help fulfill God’s purposes they don’t bother to find out what He actually wants.

They skip the most important step!

LISTENING FOR GOD’S VOICE

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT to listen for God’s voice?

Here are two examples:

  • LET’S ASSUME the patriarch Abraham was so disgusted with the sin he saw in nearby Sodom and Gomorrah that he decided, without consulting God, to begin an intense ministry to the cities … on the very day that God had decided to rain burning suffer on them! Wonderful idea,  we might say, but the timing was wrong.
  • OR THIS: A CHURCH believes God is calling them to relocate their presence from a neighborhood location to a busy thoroughfare. To build the much larger building would require assuming major debt. The congregation votes to proceed, assuming that God will provide for His servants … but this wasn’t God’s will for that church at that time. Again, a wonderful idea, but wrong timing.

ANSWERING GOD’S CALL

HOW IS GOD CALLING YOU in ministry? Are you actively listening for His voice, or are you busy telling Him each day all of your wonderful plans for the Kingdom? Are you asking Him to bless your ideas, or are you asking Him for His plans for you?

Nobody can fault your desire to be useful, but Scripture is full of warnings and advice that encourages the faithful to “wait  on the Lord” and to “obey when He calls.” He’s the engine; we’re not.

BEING SHAPED FOR GOD’S PLAN

WHILE WE’RE WAITING on the Lord, we are to be busy praying for His instructions and for preparation so that, when He does call on us, we’ll be ready to go.

He wants to shape us into the men and women He has purposed for the tasks ahead. 

The pastor and author Henry Blackaby, in his book Experiencing God, said it this way: “He will always work in you before He works through you.” (KINDLE, Loc. 758)

GOD WORKS THROUGH ORDINARY PEOPLE

THE PEOPLE WE READ ABOUT in the Bible were ordinary men and women, much like us. What turned them into giants of accomplishment was not their own intent or design, but God working through them. 

David was just a shepherd long before he became a warrior and king; Mary was a simple teenage girl chosen to bear the Christ child; Gideon led 300 men against 135,000 enemy troops but only after putting God’s angel to the test three times.

And what about Moses, that man of God? He was a shepherd in the wilderness, who had run off from his home in Egypt after killing a man and then begged God to pick someone else to rescue his people from captivity.

Only when David, Mary, Gideon, Moses, and many others agreed to obey God’s command were they able to accomplish God-sized tasks!

POSTSCRIPT:

WHAT IS GOD PREPARING US FOR,  

RIGHT NOW, TO DO IN OBEDIENCE TO HIM?


PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, we pray that You can use us in Your Kingdom work, that our hearts will  be softened to see the landscape around us, the needs to be addressed, the people who need help. Forgive us, we pray, for our self-absorption, our inward-focused lives, when You have called us to come out of the ordinary to live lives accomplishing great things with Your power. In Jesus’ mighty and glorious name we pray. AMEN

POWER OF GOD’S HOLY WORD


The Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword. It is filled with God’s eternal and universal truths; it lifts and sustains us in this life and promises us a glorious future. We are blessed to have several reputable English-language versions, some translating word-for-word; others, thought-for-thought. Becoming familiar with multiple translations is a helpful tool in Bible study because we see the same thought expressed differently. Reading the Word in a non-English language often adds to the richness of our devotional experience.


SOMETIMES, THE POWER of God’s Holy Word comes through with greater force when we experience it in a different English  translation from the one we usually read.

For example, if a believer usually reads the Word in, say, the English Standard Version (ESV), he or she might gain greater insight reading the same passage in the New Century Version (NCV) or New International Version (NIV).

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FOR ME, IT OFTEN COMES through reading the Word in Spanish, a language I have to work through. 

Because of the additional care I take, I often find nuggets of God’s wisdom that I may have missed when reading the familiar words in English.

Today’s text source from Hebrews, where God exhorts us through the writer to care for the salvation of others, is a good example. 

Here are today’s three text source Scriptures in Spanish:

  • Hebreos 12:15 (NTV): Cuídense unos a otros, para que ninguno de ustedes deje de recibir la gracia de Dios.
  • Hebreos 12:25 (NTV): Tengan cuidado de no negarse a escuchar a Aquel que habla.
  • Hebreos 3:15 (RVR60): Si oyereís hoy su voz, No endurezcáis vuestros corazones.

 This is how I would translate each of these verses. Most believers will recognize them:

  • Care for one another, so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. 
  • Take care that you do not fail to hear the One who is speaking. (Or, Make certain that you do not ignore God when He speaks.)
  • If you (this is the plural form of you) hear His voice today, don’t harden your hearts. (Or, don’t harden your hearts when you hear God speak.)

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OUR WESTERN WORLD is blessed with an abundance of translations of God’s Holy Word.

The writer of Hebrews emphasizes that point for us in Hebrews 4:12a. 

Yes, some translations are more reliable than others, and we should be careful that we do not sacrifice the accuracy of God’s Word simply for a “new” translation.

However, guided by the Holy Spirit, we ought to feel comfortable exploring the richness of translations available so that we can maximize our experience. 

  • Here’s the verse in English (NKJV): “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”
  • Here’s the same verse in Spanish (NTV): “Pues la palabra de Dios is viva y ponderosa. Es más cortante que qualquiera espada de dos filos.” 

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POSTSCRIPT

WHICHEVER VERSION(S) of God’s Word you prefer, the most important thing is that you read it every day, meditate on what you have read, and pray over it. 

Then, to the best of your ability, memorize key passages, and live them out as you go about your day.

As you do so, may God bless you! 

(Mientras lo haces, ¡que Dios te bendiga!)


PRAYER

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we thank You for providing Your written Word to instruct us, rebuke us, correct us, and train us in all  righteousness so that we, as believing and obedient men and women, will be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Lord, we give thanks that Your Word is available to us in many translations, both in English and in other languages. May we read Your Word daily, keep it in our hearts, and live out the Gospel in joyous celebration of Your victory over sin and death. We pray in Jesus’ mighty name. AMEN

Christians—Will We Engage In Political Debate in Civil Manner?


God’s sovereignty prevails over the course of men’s lives. His will will be done, regardless of man’s great plans. When countries ignore His moral laws and applaud those who flaunt them, He has said He will withdraw the hand that restrains sin and evil and leave us to our depraved selves. Is that a society we want for ourselves? Christians must lead as “salt and light” of the world, defending God’s moral law and conducting ourselves in civic affairs with love and humility.


Eph. 4:29 (NLT): “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” 

Jeremiah 1:9 (ESV): “Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.’”

Exodus 4:12 (NASB): “Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”


(SLIGHTLY REVISED MEDITATION PUBLISHED IN 2016 BUT APPLICABLE IN 2020)

TWO THOUGHTS ON THE 2016 U.S. political season, a brief  analysis, and then a conclusion: 

 FIRST THOUGHT: The electorate is angry and divided. During the primaries, three candidates (Republicans Donald Trump & Ted Cruz; Democrat Bernie Sanders) led populist assaults against Washington. 

Of the three, Trump alone survived, leading to a predictable result: Old Guard politicians and establishment figures from both parties joining forces against Trump, their common foe. Too soon to tell if the electorate, wearied from a year of politics, will yawn and back the establishment candidate or continue the assault and overturn the status quo.

(Now, we know. They bucked the establishment and elected the populist.)

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Second Thought: The real possibility that Almighty God is withdrawing his protective hand as our country’s arrogant leaders—and a growing number of private citizens—ignore His biblical instructions for our lives. 

The apostle Paul wrote: “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.” (Romans 1:28 NASB

He also wrote: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” (Romans 1:18-19 NIV)

Old Testament prophets told rebellious Israel that, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God” (Isaiah 59:2 NLT) and “Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the LORD your God?” (Jeremiah 2:17 ESV) 

King David, who lived under the covenant before the Cross, was so fearful of God’s rebuke for his sins, that he prayed: “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:11 NIV)

 While God after the Cross will not remove the Holy Spirit from His believers, calling His gift “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14), nevertheless, continued disobedience on our parts still erects a barrier between us and the God of mercy. 

This grieves the Lord who has assured us it is our obedience and salvation that He wants to see: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9 NIV)

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Analysis: Christian values, as many have seen, have given modern society so much to cherish — among them hospitals, civil liberties, abolition of slavery, modern science, elevation of women, and regard for human life — against the shameful record of non-believers who tout homosexual marriage, abortion-on-demand, civil unrest, antipathy toward individual rights and private property, and disrespect for all authority.

One difficulty with discussing civic matters from a biblical perspective is that the Bible is clear only that some matters pertain to God and His affairs, leaving a whole array of others to the state and to interpretation.

For example, we are to honor marriage as the union of one woman with a man, but  we’re left without biblical guidance on where to set the corporate tax rate or whether legislators should be term-limited.

Unfortunately for U.S. society, our national government now is usurping the moral sphere, replacing God’s moral law with political policy and defending that usurpation on a false reading of the Bible! 

Followers of Christ cannot let that go unchallenged. 

However, we are still called to be “light and salt” to the world and to express our views with humility and love. While God made it clear He abhors homosexual conduct and abortion, Christians could differ on issues such as developing new energy sources or protecting our nation’s borders.

Christians must boldly defend Scripture, but where the trail is muddled, Christ’s followers must reach their positions through prayer and promote them lovingly, even when disagreeing with one another.

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CONCLUSION: IT IS IMPERATIVE that followers of Christ lead the way this election year in the U.S. by boldly defending God’s laws and by conducting civic affairs in a civil manner. That would preclude the ad hominem attacks so favored by the unfaithful. 

We are called to support civil government (Rom. 13:1-7), but we must pray that whichever party’s candidates prevail in this ugly election, hearts will be softened to hear—and follow— the Lord’s voice.

POSTSCRIPT: This meditation written before the 2016 election seems equally pertinent as we approach the 2020 election. The electorate remains angry and deeply divided. Again, Trump — this time as President — and Bernie Sanders — launched campaigns against the status quo.

Once more, the Democrats muzzled Sanders’ voice, but Trump was not muzzled by Republicans in 2016 and, since then, has remade the party in his image.

As Christians, our jobs have remained constant: be a voice for Jesus Christ in the public square. The Bible even tells us how to do that:

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6 ESV)


PRAYER 

Our Heavenly Father, we pray Your grace as our countrymen  vote this November. We pray that our country’s leaders, and those who seek to replace them, will be open to Your voice and seek Your will, not just rhetorically when it’s politically useful, but in their personal lives and public acts. We also pray that You will lift up men and women who follow the Lord to seek political office at all levels of government so that our country, state, local communities, and school districts will be led by those who seek the Lord’s will. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen

“DO YOU WANT TO BE HEALED?”


We know that Jesus is the “Great Healer,” and He has the power to heal any ailment we have. Yet, when He comes to us, sometimes He asks a question that might sound strange, “Do you want to be healed?” It’s similar to its cousin question, “Do you want your sins forgiven?” In both cases, He’s saying, “I can do this for you, but, first, you must be willing to place your faith in  Me.” So, the question remains open, “Do you want to be healed? Do you want to be forgiven?”


John 5:6 (ESV): “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’”


IT IS EASY TO OVERLOOK the real meat of this story. 

Healing, the Jewish religious leaders said, can be done on six other days, but the Sabbath day is a day of rest, and God has decreed that we’re to refrain from working on that day to keep it holy.

It’s a familiar story in the Book of John, of how Jesus heals a man who has been lame from birth, but the story quickly pivots to the fact that the healing took place on the Sabbath, in violation of Jewish law. 

But Jesus asks a question valid for all people in all places for all time.

“Do you want to be healed?”

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THINK ABOUT IT. We’re apt to say immediately, “Of course, I want to be healed. I don’t want to be lame for the rest of my life … or blind or deaf or … whatever else it might be.” 

Yes, I want to be healed.

So, what does Jesus do for the man? Does Jesus heal him right away? 

According to John, no. Instead, Jesus tells the man to do something he’s never done before. 

He tells him to get up from his pallet (the mat that has been his home for 40 years) and walk, and then bend over from a standing position and pick up the pallet and carry it with him. Implied is that (a) he won’t need it anymore and (b) he can’t just leave it by the side of the road.  

Even carrying the pallet is a violation of Jewish Sabbath keeping. 

Jesus is testing the religious leaders of the day for missing the point of God’s law, but let’s not overlook the real meat of this story because this story is not just a happy tale of how the Great Healer happened upon a man in distress and cured him — remarkably, unexplainably, and supernaturally.

This is a story for everyone of us for every day of our lives.

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IT TURNS ON THE QUESTION Jesus asked the lame man and asks us today: “Do you want to be healed?”

To be healed, fine. 

But will it cost us?

What will we need to give up or do, maybe something:

  • we’ve never done before, 
  • out of our comfort zone, 
  • that will separate us from the crowd or our buddies,
  • from our habits.

Do we really want to be healed?

This question has a cousin, another question Jesus asks: “Do you want your sins forgiven?”

“Well, of course!” We’re going to say. “Yes, please do that, kind Sir. Please forgive my sins, wipe my slate clean, erase my debts, forget my trespasses, start me off anew.”

But, do you really want your sins forgiven? All of them?

The shady business deals that are just part of the way things are. The friendships over the years with your drinking buddies. Those secret pleasures that have become the dessert in your boring life. Your private thoughts. Your wishes. Your dreams. No one’s looking. No one will ever know. 

Do you want those sins forgiven?

What, like being healed, will it cost you?

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IN OUR STORY, JOHN TELLS US that the man gives Jesus a rather strange answer. Instead of saying outright, “Yes, Sir, I sure want to be healed. Can You heal me? Will you heal me?”

No, instead, he tells Jesus a story of woe, of how he lies by the pool day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year — carried to the pool each morning, dropped off, and picked up at the day’s end and carted off, only to repeat the pattern the next day. 

He tells Jesus he’s unable to get himself into the pool when the waters are stirred, when the waters contain some magic potion that will heal the distressed. “I have no one to carry me to the water,” he says, mournfully.

Then Jesus tells him something, seemingly unrelated to the man’s story but actually right on point to the man’s life. “You do something. Do something you’ve never done before. Stand up. Go ahead. Stand up, then pick up your pallet, and walk.” 

This man’s legs did not function. The muscles had atrophied or never developed in the first place. The synopses that connect the brain to the legs were damaged or never functioned. 

But Jesus told him, “Tell yourself to move.”

The man did so. He imagined his brain telling his legs to do something his legs had never done before and, in fact, could not do: to move.

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THERE ARE OTHER STORIES in the Gospels where Jesus has directed someone — someone blind, or a leper, or a woman with a hemorrhage, or a centurion with a sick child, or a man carried to the roof of a house and lowered in front of Jesus and the crowd — and Jesus healed them by noticing their faith. 

Yes, He possessed the power of healing, but the agent He chose was their response to His power. 

Sometimes, He refused to heal the sick because of their unbelief. His power is there to heal, but He heals only where there’s faith, only when someone repents, only when someone truly wants what Jesus offers.

Do you want to be healed? 

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RETURNING TO OUR STORY in John, the Apostle tells us that as the lame man on the pallet tried to move, at the very moment that the man determined he would comply with Jesus’ directive, at that moment, Jesus healed him. 

Healed the synopses connecting his brain to his legs, healed the muscles that never grew, and provided the ability for the man to lift himself off the pallet, right himself, bend over to pick up the pallet, tuck it under his arms, and walk away!

To walk … to be healed … required the man to do something he had never done before — to try to walk.

That took faith, and it was the man’s faith in Jesus that led to his cure.

It’s faith in Jesus that leads to forgiveness of sins.

It’s faith in Jesus that leads to eternal life.

Do you want to be healed?

Of course! Really?

It could cost you something. 

Are you willing to pay that price? Will you do what it takes to be forgiven? 

Are you willing to repent?

Are you willing to turn your life and soul over to the Master? 

Do you want to live?

Do you?

How much so?

Enough to trust Jesus … in faith … with everything you have, your life, your soul, your dreams, your future … everything.

Do you want to be healed?


 PRAYER 

O LORD, OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, please heal our broken souls, we pray. Heal our hard hearts, our deceitful tongues, our dishonest hands, our wicked ways. Soften us, O Lord, and make us Your children. Lord, we know that You and You alone are the Great Healer, but You require us to place our faith in You, in response to Your grace, Your calling. We ask for that faith, that faith that can move mountains, faith that proclaims our redemption from the rooftops, faith that shines a light into the dark corners of the world we live in. Lord, for healing, we give You thanks. In Jesus’ precious name, AMEN