Meditation—WINDS OF CHANGE

Today’s headlines tell of wars and famines, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornados, kidnappings, missile launches, and terrorist attacks. Are these the harbingers the Bible tells us would signal the end times and Christ’s ready return, or are they simply our heightened awareness — through 21st century technology — of the death, destruction, and evil that always have been with us since mankind first rebelled against God … and so many in the world continue to do even today?

Today’s headlines tell of wars and famines, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornados, kidnappings, missile launches, and terrorist attacks. Are these the harbingers the Bible tells us would signal the end times and Christ’s ready return, or are they simply our heightened awareness — through 21st century technology — of the death, destruction, and evil that always have been with us since mankind first rebelled against God … and so many in the world continue to do even today?


 “So always be ready, because you don’t know the day or the hour the Son of Man will come.” Matthew 25:13 (NCV)

“For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Revelation 6:17 (NKJV)


WE WATCHED WITH GREAT INTEREST as the artist, brightly clad in a clown’s outfit, carefully painted the little girl’s eager face. 

Unicorns, tigers, kitties, and dogs flourished on the faces of eager boys
and girls at the City Park on this Independence Day.

When the artist finished, the girl was sporting a unicorn character, complete with a horn painted on her forehead from her nose to her hairline and two horns above her eyes.

This was Independence Day at the City Park, and the locals — many wearing festive July 4th hats, shirts, and pants — were gathered to celebrate the country’s birthday. 

For this moment, on this day, time stood still. No thoughts of the evil that plagues our world. No hint this day in this locale of devastating storms, no violence or angry shouts, no disturbances of any kind. No fender benders in the parking lot. No shoving or pushing in line. 

At the City Park, for one day, Americans of varied sizes, backgrounds, occupations, education levels, skills and talents, political views and dreams and hopes, assembled to watch their youngsters pet donkeys, rabbits, and goats, slide down giant blowup sliding boards, and carry colorful balloons twisted to resemble dachshunds and swords.

Missing was any sense of judgment, of end-of-world prophecy, of punishment and reward, of Heaven and Hell. That’s the stuff of Sundays, and this was a Thursday.

+++

 THOSE WHO READ GOD’S WORD know that Jesus Christ will return to the earth, bringing His saints with Him to begin a 1,000-year reign, known as the Millennium. 

The Bible says that will be a time of peace on the earth before the ending battle of Armageddon and the beginning of Eternity, when God will unveil the New Heavens and the New Earth.

“The rider on the horse is called Faithful and True. … His name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in fine linen, white and clean, were following him on white horses.” -Rev. 19:11a, 14 (NCV).

While many of us understandably are eager to see our Savior return and usher in this new world, Jesus told us during His earthly ministry that it was not for us to know the hour or day when He will return.

We are to live in eager anticipation for His return; meanwhile, we are to be prepared for two things: to receive the Holy Spirit into our hearts and to share the Gospel with others. 

+++

SO, WHAT ARE WE TO MAKE of today’s troubling headlines and what they portend for our future? And what about those around us who seem oblivious to the warning signs? 

Are we living in a time warp? We read about end times prophecies and gather in worship with fellow believers. In those moments, all of the Bible’s teachings seem so relevant and comforting.

Yet, when we leave the friendly fellowship circles with hugs and prayers for one another’s wellbeing, we re-engage a world no more concerned about God’s warnings than were the scoffers who watched Noah labor for a century to build an ark, or those whose sinful passions engulfed Sodom and Gomorrah right up until the time God rained sulfur on their towns.

+++

IT SEEMS SO UNREAL. We want to reach those around us with the message of hope, yet they’re so mired in the here-and-now, they can’t see the future. As long as their kids are happy and the bills are paid, they’re content with life. 

For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, … so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. – Matt. 24:38-39, 44b.

Now, beneath the surface, they could be raging with all kinds of emotions, from anger to sadness to hopelessness to depression to betrayal to fear to … whatever … but the screen they put up hides all of that and, moreover, blocks out the message that Jesus offers to each of us.

How do we penetrate that screen? How do we tell them that the Christ Child who came to offer salvation will return a victorious King of kings and Lord of lords to execute judgment on the world and remove His saints to Paradise?

In the world of City Park, with the vendors and rock music, with happy children and amusements, it all sounds so surreal, so otherworldly, so irrelevant to what they care about.

The message dies on our tongues, unable to reach receptive ears. 

+++

WE ARE LEFT WHERE WE STARTED, utterly, totally, and completely dependent on the Holy Spirit … to provide willing hearts to listen, perfect opportunities to speak, and obedient servants to share.

Jesus knew this would happen to us. 

He left us with words of comfort for just these moments. We’re to abide in Him and let Him abide in us.

Here they are:  

“Abide in Me, and I in You. … Apart from Me you can do nothing.”

John 15:4a-5b (NASB)


PRAYER

 O Lord, our Heavenly Father. Sometimes, we just feel so overwhelmed with the task of carrying the Gospel to a broken, unbelieving, cynical world; yet, when we place our trust in You, we labor not with our strength and wisdom but with Yours. We pray for grace and mercy as Your Spirit prepares us for the good work to be done on behalf of the Kingdom, not for our glory, O Lord, but for Yours. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray.  AMEN


Questions for Personal Meditation and Small Group Discussion

  1. Do you believe you are *ready* to provide an oral witness for your faith when the opportunity arises? Do you pray that the Lord will use you to advance the Gospel? Do you look for those opportunities to arise?
  2. Have you *practiced* giving a brief (30 seconds to 1 minute) personal testimony that describes your life before Christ, how you received the Holy Spirit, and ways His grace has changed your life? Are you ready to answer any follow-up questions you might be asked.
  3. Do you accept that all believers – not just pastors, teachers, evangelists, and missionaries – are called by Jesus to tell others about their faith? Is this something you would rather not do? Can you pray for opportunities to share and the wisdom to share effectively? If not, what holds you back? Can you pray about that?

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? If so, please indicate in the Comment field. God bless!

Meditation–WE ARE ALWAYS WITNESSING

Followers of Jesus Christ are being watched. The world knows we are different. We listen to a different Source. We’re children of the living God. The angels are watching. The demons are watching. Unless we’re “prayed in” to God’s strength, wisdom, and guidance, we’ll be nothing more than fish-on-a-hook, struggling for life. With His Spirit in us, we can reflect the love, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness that we already have received from the Son. That is the work He has called us to do.


Followers of Jesus Christ are being watched. The world knows we are different. We listen to a different Source. We’re children of the living God. The angels are watching. The demons are watching. Unless we’re “prayed in” to God’s strength, wisdom, and guidance, we’ll be nothing more than fish-on-a-hook, struggling for life. With His Spirit in us, we can reflect the love, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness that we already have received from the Son. That is the work He has called us to do.


“Two people are better than one, because they get more done by working together. If one falls down, the other can help him up. But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls, because no one is there to help.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NCV) 

Without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5b (NKJV)


 PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS WATCHING US.

Someone is watching us, even when we are pumping gasoline or grocery shopping or eating burgers at a family picnic. How we act shows the contents of our hearts.

The other day I was at the service station, filling my car’s gas tank, when I noticed the driver of the car behind me. He cocked his head, as though studying me. I thought little of it and finished my task.

That next Sunday, as I was making my rounds at church welcoming worshippers, I came upon a young man, who said, “Hey, I saw you at the gas station the other day. I was in the car right behind you. I thought I recognized you.”

Okay, that was great. Immediately, my mind raced to that day and every movement I might have made and, especially, any facial expression — especially those involuntary ones — that could have signaled my displeasure with something.

In other words, what was my witness like? Did he see Christ in me … or did he see … me in me?

+++  

IF WE SAY WE FOLLOW CHRIST, they will watch us. Are we different in the way we act? In the way we talk? Do we model grace? Are we patient? Compassionate? Forgiving? 

Walking in Jesus’ footsteps. We are called to follow Him, even though we are unable – in our own power – to do so. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us.

When we are thinking about our witness, we have the advantage of praying in and seeking the Holy Spirit’s divine guidance for our actions and words.

But what about those moments when we’re not focusing on Kingdom work but just buying groceries or driving along the highway or playing sports at the neighborhood park? Are we displaying the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ then?

I find it very difficult to walk in Jesus’ sandals, to place my feet in the markings left by His feet, to show compassion and grace the way He did, to genuinely feel love and concern for others the way He did.

Every day, the Holy Spirit works in my heart to bring me closer to the person He wants me to be; but every day, I fail to measure up, so I am in need of forgiveness. 

+++ 

THAT EVER REPEATING CYCLE brings me closer to Jesus because I constantly and repeatedly see my need for Him. He tells us that we should abide in Him and promises us that, when we do that, He will abide in us (John 15:4 NASB). He assures us that without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5 NASB).

Our strength comes not from our own efforts but through the Spirit of God. Our humble prayer seeks His guidance, strength, and grace.

Theologian and author Robert A. Cook wrote about this same topic. Here’s what he had to say about it: 

“People do watch you, you know. What you may not realize is that there are individuals right now who are patterning their conduct after yours. Somebody, somewhere, is a carbon copy of you. What if he is reproducing your selfishness, your weakness, your compromise, your sin?” [Robert A. Cook, Now That I Believe, Moody Publishers. Chicago. 1949. 1977]

+++

SO, HOW ARE WE DOING? More import, What is in our hearts? 

Do we want to hear from our Savior that we could have done more to spread His Word to our neighbors and co-workers, and especially to our family and friends, but, instead, our energy was absorbed in personal concerns, and too often we failed to ask the Holy Spirit for  His guidance?

Jesus teaching His closest disciples how to pray, how to serve others, and how to teach about Him. Perhaps here is where He asked them who they say He is. He is the Messiah, the Anointed One of God.

Jesus tells us that it is the evil in our hearts that leads us to say hurtful things and to act rashly toward others, (see Matthew 12:34-35; Matthew 15:11)even while He commands us — commands us — to love one another (see John 13:34; 1 John 3:11).

Since, as Christians, we are born again, and we are new beings (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), we should show that new being to the world.

Here’s Cook again: 

“You don’t need any list of dos and don’ts as a Christian. All you need to keep straight is the thorough knowledge that you’re born again … a real surrender to Christ … a loving concern for your fellows … a genuine hatred for Satan and sin … and a healthy fear of God.”

+++

WANT A QUICK REMINDER that you can carry around with you, something to keep you grounded, something to keep you on track? It’s from the apostle Paul. It said it first to the church in Corinth, but his words echo down the corridor of time to reach our ears.

Here it is:

Imitate Me As I Imitate Christ

1 Corinthians 11:1 (GW)


PRAYER 

God’s Holy Word, which reveals to the world who God is.

O Lord, please forgive when we fail to follow faithfully in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. There is evil and malice in our hearts; there was love in His; there is pride and greed and envy in our hearts; there was compassion and grace in His; there is spite and anger and vengeance in our hearts; there was forgiveness in His. Lord, lead us to become more like Him and less like ourselves. Thank You for Your mercy and loving kindness. Thank You for claiming us as Your own. In Jesus’ name. AMEN


Questions for Meditation and Small Group Discussion

1. Can you understand why unsaved people will watch you closely when you identify as a follower of Jesus Christ? Can you accept that truth and see how God can use you to witness for the Gospel?

2. How do you prepare for those moments when you expect people will learn from you? Do you pray in for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and strength? How faithful a witness do you think you are in those moments when you are not consciously modeling Jesus Christ? 

3. Do you believe, without a doubt, that Jesus has called us — called you — to honor Him by carrying out your life as a living testimony to the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit, which is living in you? Regardless of your answer to that question, what about your answer to this question: What are you going to do about it?


Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? If so, please indicate in the Comment field. God bless!

Meditation–COMMITTING ADULTERY

In the Old Testament, or old covenant, God clearly states in the Ten Commands that He forbids adultery, which violates the marriage covenant between husband and wife. That covenant is so strong and significant because it mirrors the covenant between God and His people. In the New Testament, proclaiming the new covenant, God ramps up His prohibition. Not only does He forbid His people from committing adultery — breaking the marriage covenant — He says, “Don’t even think about it.”


“You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14 (NIV)

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.” Luke 16:18 (NKJV)

“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-29 (NLT)


OUR GOD IS A GOD OF COVENANTS.

Throughout human history, starting with Adam in the Garden of Eden, God established a covenant, or contract between the two of them. The contract was conditional. “If you, Adam, obey Me, I will bless you. If you, Adam, disobey Me, you will be punished.”

The first man and woman in Paradise.

As we know all too well, Adam disobeyed God. Yes, Eve played her part in the disobedience, but it was Adam who was given the charge to preserve order in the Garden, and he failed to do so. 

Fast-forwarding through time and the imposition and dissolution of several other covenants, God instituted a new covenant, inaugurated with the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One of God. 

It is a covenant not of laws but of grace. It is not a conditional covenant, either, based on “If you will, I will; if you won’t, I won’t.” It is a one-way covenant in which God proclaims that He will faithfully execute His part of the deal even though we, His people, often fail to exercise our own role.

+++

LET’S LOOK AT SOME COMPONENTS of this new covenant through the lens of marriage.

As husband and wife go through the trials and joys of living together (The two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. [Mark 10:8 NASB]), they will become tighter in their need for and dependence on one another. They also will conflict when they disagree.

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”  

—Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV)

So, here are some components of that covenant with God’s commentary:

  • FORGIVENESS – Each of us is called to extend grace and compassion to our spouse. We will disagree. We will argue. In the end, we need to forgive and seek forgiveness. GOD SAYS: “Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you.” Colossians 3:13 (GNT) 
  • FAITHFULNESS – Each of us is called to take our covenant vows seriously. We need to trust each other, and that means mutually agreeing to the covenant. GOD SAYS: “Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.” Psalm 85:11 (NIV)
Husband and Wife building a relationship along the lines of God’s plan for families.
  • LOVE/RESPECTThe Bible says the man (husband) is to love and honor his wife, and the woman (wife) is to respect her husband. The husband is responsible for his wife’s safety and wellbeing. GOD SAYS: Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:33 (NIV)
  • SHARPENING – As husbands and wives disagree with each other, and they will, they should do so in a way that encourages them to spend more time together, praying with one another, and sharing God’s will for their lives as revealed in His Word. GOD SAYS: “As iron sharpens iron, so a person sharpens his friend.” Proverbs 27:17 (NET)

+++

THE FAMILY UNIT IS FOUNDATIONAL for our society to function properly. 

Not only does our moral code, given to us by God through His Word, address family issues, but our legal code supported by three branches of government traditionally has enforced that code.

God counsels against sin but will “give us over” to our sin if we continue to reject Him.

Unfortunately, the covenantal relationship at the heart of our civilization is under attack in our land, and throughout the Western world, as “secular progressive” advocates promote marriage stripped of its biblical underpinnings, as God, Himself, is stripped from His pivotal role as originator of our moral code.

Some have reduced our sense of propriety to advance their personal interests contrary to what God has given us in accordance with His creation plan solely to satisfy their individual wants. Many of those seeking high elective office have taken up their cause and promise a continued scaling back of legal protections enforcing that moral code.

+++

WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?

As a country, as a society, as a community, that leaves us in deep conflict. 

However, as individuals who remain faithful to God’s moral code, that leaves us clinging more fervently to the God of our salvation. Our boat may be rocking on top of vicious waves, but just as Jesus’ disciples called out to Him for protection when their boat was taking on water (see Matthew 8:23-27), we can call out to our Savior for His protection.


“Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.” ~ Jesus says

— John 13:34b (CSB)


He has given us the model of faithfulness and endurance that shows us daily how to negotiate the highs and lows of our lives, how to share joy and pull together against sorrow, how to show grace and tenderness and how to swallow pride and selfishness, how to promote harmony and goodwill and how to refrain from discord and dissension.

+++

GOD’S NEW COVENANT with us illustrates this point very well. It is the model we are called to emulate in marriage. It is why adultery cripples the family. 

Jesus goes first. (In marriage, each spouse should commit to going first, although generally it’s the husband role.)

Then we follow Him. (In marriage, this allows the other spouse, usually the wife, to feel free to follow.)

The Lord makes all of this possible because, as Scripture tells us, He loved us first.

“We love, because He first loved us.” 

— 1 John 4:19 (NASB)

__________________

PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, we are so blessed by Your faithfulness, by your new covenant with us in which You promise to forgive sin and, eventually, ensure everyone will know the Lord. We see how our marriage covenant between husband and wife, man and woman, is a symbol of that covenant arrangement, and that we are called to be equally faithful in abiding by it. Lord, that means not only avoiding the physical pain of adultery, but also the emotional sliding away of lust. Lord, help us keep our marriages pure, which are the foundation of civil society. We lift this prayer in the name of Your Almighty Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. AMEN

_______________

Questions for Personal Meditation and Small Group Discussion

1. When Jesus says that even thinking about committing adultery is a violation of God’s marriage covenant arrangement, can you see how wondering thoughts and desires can interfere with the close marital relationship a man and a woman need to become “one body”?

2. Can you see how the faithfulness required of a husband and a wife toward one another is modeled after the New Covenant arrangement between God and man, where God unilaterally pledges His commitment regardless of how man acts, and each of the two spouses is required to pledge his/her commitment regardless of how the other spouse acts? (Jesus noted the exceptions, which are forms of abuse.)

3. Do you accept the foundational aspect of marriage and family as institutions on which to build civil society and that, if the family unit breaks down, it wreaks havoc on the larger body, that the current divorce rate and the large number of adulterous relationships are destabilizing to families, harmful to children, destructive of the marriage partners, and detrimental to the larger society?

4. Are you grateful that God is a God of love, grace, and compassion (yes, and of wrath, too, because there needs to be accountability and judgment), that He is faithful to His promises, and that His promises are designed not to harm us but to prosper us, to give us hope and a future?

__________________

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? If so, please indicate in the Comment field. God bless!

Meditation–GOD VERSUS THE HOMOSEXUAL LOBBY

The homosexual lobby, those forces pushing for “inclusion” of same-sex marriage, normalization of homosexual activity, and insistence on acknowledging multiple genders, is engaged in full-scale warfare with the Christian community of believers. No longer does the lobby argue for recognition; it has left argument and discussion far behind. Now it pushes for legitimization and blatantly maligns anyone who dares stand in its way. Naturally, the strongest counterforce is the community of believers, those who live according to the promises and commandments contained in God’s Holy Word. It is God, and His church, that the lobby wants to dethrone.

___________

Find blog posts at LoveAndGrace … tweets at Twitter. Comments welcomed. Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion. Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?

___________

God left them and let them do the shameful things they wanted to do. Women stopped having natural sex and started having sex with other women. In the same way, men stopped having natural sex and began wanting each other. – Romans 1:26-27a (NCV)

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. – 1 Corinthians 6:18 (NLT)

For this is God’s will: that you become holy, that you keep away from sexual immorality. – 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (NET)

___________

HERE ARE SOME RECENT HEADLINES in which the homosexual lobby has muscled its way into the public sphere to further its agenda:

The key words are: “For this is God’s will.”
  • The San Antonio City Council has banned Chick-fil-A from San Antonio International Airport over “a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior” by the company’s corporate offices as part of a new concession plan for the airport.
  • 2020 Democratic Party candidate Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., once cordial to Vice President Pence when the latter was the state governor, now calls Pence’s religious beliefs “fanatical.” 
  • A Lebanon, Ohio, high school student says she was punished by school authorities for posting Bible verses in the school hallways in response to LGBTQ “pride” flags posted in the school by the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club. 
  • Christian-based adoption agencies, like New Hope Family Services in Syracuse, NY, have been issued ultimatums from government agencies requiring them to cease their policy of placing children only in homes with a married mother and father. (By the way, a progressive leftwing web site, publishing the same story, headlined its account this way: “Hate group files lawsuit to ensure adoption agency can discriminate against same-sex couples.”) 

+++

THE PROPHET ISAIAH WARNS US against reversing God’s created order, where the good things He has created are rejected as evil and the evil things he warned us about are exalted.

Here are his words of warning:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter  for sweet and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20 (NASB)

Jesus said the evil we speak was born in our hearts.

In rejecting an application from Chick-fil-A to establish an outlet at the San Antonio Airport, a city council member said the council’s action “reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion.” Missing all sense of irony, he went on to say: “Everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport.”

The council member said the city’s action targeted the parent company for its “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.” He tried to cover his tracks by saying he did not single out Christian religious beliefs.

The company, itself, which was founded by a family with strong Christian values, has issued statements saying its restaurant chain does not discriminate against any group. 

+++

DESPITE CLEAR BIBLICAL WARNINGS from the Creator, the civic culture in the U.S. and Canada have tilted farther away from the Bible’s holy standard of good and evil within the last two generations.

In the U.S., Democrat Party candidates are running away from the Bible, attacking God’s order and those of their countrymen who worship the Lord. 

By any name, evil is evil. Lucifer was the devil’s name before he challenged God … and lost.

A May 2019 article in the evangelical magazine, Decision, published by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, describes the challengers to President Trump and Vice President Pence this way:

 “As (Democrat party) presidential challengers line up, most, if not all, support the major policy goals advanced by the LGBTQ activists, even to the point of prosecuting religiously motivated business owners whose values collide with the demands of the sexual revolution.” – Decision, Jerry Pierce. May 2019, p. 11. [anot. and emph. mine]

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the Canadian Parliament on Nov. 28, 2017, to issue an apology to the LGBTQ2S “community” for past discrimination, ushering in a policy of “reparations” for those civil servants and military personnel who lost their positions from this “discriminatory policy.”

+++

WHO, OR WHAT, IS DRIVING THIS PHENOMENON?

The Apostle Paul told us in his letter to the Ephesians that we who follow Jesus Christ are battling against demonic forces far stronger than we are: 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12 (NASB)

One columnist penned an article on Satan’s “Ten Commandments,” which he said are being followed by the homosexual lobby:

“The Bible tells us that Satan has the ability to “appear as an angel of light.” Nowhere is this more evident than in the radical attempt to promote homosexuality in society today as something good.” – “Satan’s 10 commandments to the homosexual lobby.” Paul Kokoski, April 10, 2013.

Among those items the author listed as “commandments” are to “never lose sight of the fact that God is your ultimate enemy” and “always see your sexual opponent (anyone who rejects homosexual acts) as your enemy.” 

+++

IF OUR OPPONENT IS STRONGER than we are, what are we to do about it? 

Jesus told us the answer. You invoke an even stronger power on your side.

From Genesis through Revelation, and here in Romans 16:20, the message is clear: In the end, God Wins!

Let me illustrate this further. Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house. – Mark 3:27 (NLT)

To be accurate biblically, we do not invoke a stronger power on our side; we join a stronger power on His side, but the point Jesus made is clear:

Satan is our enemy, he hates us, and he is stronger than we are; however, Jesus is our friend, He loves us, and He is stronger than Satan.

Robert A.J. Gagnon, an American theological writer in a book exploring the Bible’s views on homosexuality, confronted the mistaken argument that homosexuality is an innate condition set at birth, which also needs beneficial protection from the federal government.

He wrote: 

Homosexual passions, however, are almost certainly not primarily or directly congenital. They can be created, elevated, reduced, and sometimes even eliminated, depending on familial and peer influences and macrocultural sanctions. [emph. mine]

[Gagnon is an American theological writer and former professor of New Testament studies at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Taken from Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (co-authored with Dan O. Via. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2003)]

Let’s not be misled. Satan will use any tool that works to delude and deceive, to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10a). 

Jesus came to give us life and to give it to us in abundance (John 10:10b).

God gave us a choice: To believe a lie or To believe the Truth.

Let’s hold onto the Truth.

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”

-John 17:17 (NASB)

___________

PRAYER

Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth – GOD’S Holy Word

Dear Lord God, You are so merciful. You love us so much. You told us how we should live, yet we turn away from Your commandments and instructions. We are stubborn and want to live life on our terms, then we come running to You to ask You to heal us from the hurt we’ve placed on ourselves. Right now, O Lord, our two North American countries are flirting with organized sin, with a sin-crazed, coordinated, highly efficient lobby that seeks to destroy the world You created for us. Lord, fill us with the courage to confront this evil and lead us with Your strength to defeat it. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. AMEN

___________

Questions for Personal Meditation or Small Group Discussion

  1. Although the Bible clearly states that homosexuality is a sin, along with adultery, pedophilia, and bestiality, many advocates claim that people are born with a same-sex attraction, which should place that sexual activity in a different class. Do you agree with that view, or do you hold that the Bible is inerrant and should be followed explicitly?
  2. Do you see Satan’s hand in the homosexual lobby’s push for equality in marriage and work-related spousal benefits? 
  3. Are you troubled about the whole issue of the Bible and homosexuality residing in opposing camps because you know someone intimately who struggles with same-sex attraction? How do you think you can help that person come to a peace with the Creator, who has told us clearly that it is a sin and offensive to Him? Can you see the grace that our Creator and Savior offers to us?

___________

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? If so, please indicate in the Comment field. God bless!

___________

Meditation—WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT HELL

Jesus Christ clearly taught us that Hell is real. It exists. People will go there; in fact, more people than think they are. That should terrify us for our loved ones, especially those who seem unreachable, those who sneer at the Gospel or claim the Truth is actually a fairy tale, and a refuge for life’s losers. Fortunately, God’s salvation plan offers us a way out. Simply believe in Jesus, whom He sent to redeem us.

Find blog posts at LoveAndGrace … tweets at Twitter. Comments welcomed. Please join us for prayer and questions at the end of the devotion. Why not forward this blog post to a family member, close friend, neighbor, or co-worker who might be blessed by it?


In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham from afar, with Lazarus by his side. So he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. For I am in agony in this fire.’ — Luke 16:23-24 (NKJV)

There ‘the worms that eat them never die, and the fire that burns them is never put out.’ — Mark 9:48 (GNT)

Jesus did not shrink from talking about Hell, nor should we.

 HELL IS REAL.

What is it like? The Bible tells us it is like … Hell. 

Dark, lonely, painful … forever.

Hell is hell. It isn’t a party. It isn’t fun. It lasts forever.

Don’t think for one moment that you’ll be joined by your friends, and life will be one continuous keg party, Spring Break without going back to classes, the big corner office with a tremendous view and no meetings, your own forklift that you maneuver on your schedule in the warehouse without a boss telling you when you can take a break. 

It’s not lazy days at the beach, family gathered for a barbecue under deep blue skies, or a paddle boat ride around a nearby lake.

Jesus described it as a place of torment, where the fires never burn out and the worms never die. Eternal. Fully conscious. Where there will be anguish and gnashing of teeth. 

HELL.

+++

JESUS TELLS THE STORY of a rich man, who is unnamed, and a poor man, named Lazarus. On earth, the rich man lived the life of leisure, taking his pleasure whenever he wanted, wherever he was.

Satan hates you. He is the great deceiver. His kingdom is eternal torment. God’s Kingdom offers eternal and abundant life.

Lazarus was a poor beggar, who gladly would have scooped up the crumbs from the rich man’s table, if only the dogs hadn’t got there first. Jesus tells us the dogs licked the sores on Lazarus’ pus-filled body. 

In death, however, their fates were reversed. The rich man was sent to Hades (a holding pen before final judgment), where he was in torment, while Lazarus was shown God’s mercy.  ( Luke 16:19-31)

Jesus tell us the rich man called out to Abraham, father of the Jewish nation, for help, asking him to send Lazarus to Hades for a moment to “dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” (Luke 16:24 NIV) Note that even in death, the rich man sees Lazarus as his “errand boy.”

At the end of history, after mankind has been judged, “death and Hades [will be] thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14 NIV)

The lake of fire is Hell.

+++

WHY DO SO MANY PEOPLE, including those who call themselves Christians, downplay the existence of eternal damnation? 

Web of lies. Father of lies. Great deceiver.

Of course, we don’t want to think about it because the imagery is terrifying.

It’s supposed to be. 

We’re supposed to be so appalled by the torture of those souls consigned to an eternity of torment that we will be motivated to share the Gospel with those people — our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and others — that God places in our lives. 

Problem is, those who do not believe that Jesus is God, or who do not have a personal relationship with Him, do not believe Hell exists.

No matter what we tell them, no matter how we warn them, we’re just noisy gongs and clanging symbols. We’re mouths that move spouting nonsense. 

The Bible warns us this would happen: “For the word of the cross is follow to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV)

+++

HELL WAS NOT CREATED FOR MAN.

The Bible tells us that Hell was created for Satan and the fallen angels — demons. (Matthew 25:41)

However, a holy God cannot allow  sin into His presence, so anyone who cannot or will not admit their sin to Him, repent of that sin, and ask for forgiveness is blemished, tarnished, and banished. (Matthew 25:46)

Grace is God’s free gift to us. This is how God defeats evil. This is how we are saved for eternity.

But our God is a loving God and a merciful God. He created us for His glory and wants us in Heaven with us forever. (Genesis 1:26; Isaiah 43:7; Revelations 4:11)

All who do turn to Him will be saved. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13 ESV)

When we believe in Jesus, whom God sent to redeem, our eternal life is secure. 

The apostle John assures of this with these words:

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. – 1 John 5:12 (ESV)

PRAYER

AN OPEN BIBLE IS OUR GATEWAY FROM GOD.

Dear Lord God, our Heavenly Father, thank You so much for Your healing and saving grace. Thank You for paying the price of our sin. We are so grateful that You can be trusted to save us from wrath and punishment for our sin when we come to You and repent of our sins. Lord, give us the boldness and opportunity to share the Good News of Your salvation plan with a dark and fallen world. In Jesus’ Almighty Name. AMEN

Questions for Meditation or Small Group Discussion

  • Is the idea of Hell real for you? Can you believe it exists on Jesus’ authority? If not, why don’t you believe Him?
  • If you believe in Jesus and what He says is true, does that make it easier for you to tell others about your faith? If you are hesitant to do so, why is that? Can you pray to God to help you in ministry?
  • Does your church pastor teach the reality of Hell and the punishment of God’s wrath? If not, why not? Is he preaching from God’s Word? If not, shouldn’t you switch churches?
  • Is your heart burdened for your unsaved family members and dear friends? Do you pray for God’s saving grace to work on their hearts? Do you pray regularly for their salvation?

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? If so, please indicate in the Comment field. God bless!

Meditation–THERE IS ONLY ONE TRUE GOD

In our pluralistic society, where truth is relative, and every religious tradition is thought to teach the same basics, it is considered rude and bigoted to proclaim: Not True! There is only one true God, not because we, His followers, proclaim it but because He has revealed it to us. All other religious traditions are man-made; only the Jewish and Christian religions worship the God of revelation, and only Christians (for now) believe in His Son. The Bible teaches that, in the end, the Jews also will believe.


Find blog posts at LoveAndGrace … tweets at Twitter.

Comments welcomed. Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion. Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?


“I know now that the Lord is greater than all other gods, because he rescued his people from the oppression of the proud Egyptians.” — Exodus 18:11 (NLT)

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” — John 17:3 (NIV)


WE’VE ALL SEEN THE BUMPER STICKERS.

COEXIST, adorned with symbols representing several religious traditions: the Cross, the Coexist SymbolStar of David, the Crescent, and a peace symbol. Those symbols represent Christianity (Cross), Star (Judaism), Crescent (Islam), pentacle (Wiccan, pagan).

The other symbols on the typical bumper sticker include a yin and yang symbol (representing “balance” and “harmony” in nature), the male-female symbol, and a second pagan/Wiccan symbol.

The bumper sticker, distributed through the Coexist Campaign, claims to represent religious diversity in hopes of fostering tolerance among the various religions, that is, respect for and acceptance of another person’s “religion” even if it is foreign to one’s own religious teaching.

Here’s the problem: God is not a coexist God, and the “coexist movement” is antithetical to Christian teaching because it posits the falsehood that “all gods” are equal and that “all religions” teach basically the same thing and lead to the same conclusion.

+++

67.Jesus_Welcomes_AllCHRISTIANITY’S BASIC DISTINCTION from all other religious systems is that God, Himself, defined the “religion” by revealing himself to us (see Romans 1). All other religions are man-made. They are invented, defined, created, and structured by humans.

Christianity teaches that God reveals himself, first, through nature; that is, through creation. Second, He reveals himself to us through our consciences, which teach us that there is a code of right and wrong. Third, He reveals himself to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is both fully divine and fully human. Fourth, He reveals himself through the Bible, the Holy Word of God.

No other religion can make the claim of revelation.

A second basic distinction between Christianity and man-made religions is that God created humans in His image, that God seeks a personal relationship with each individual, that God comes looking for his creatures, and that God died for our sins and was raised from the dead to show us  what our future looks like if we accept Him into our lives.

No other religion can make the claim of creation.

No other religion can make the claim that God sacrificed himself to reclaim us from our sins. 71. Looking-at-the-Cross

Even Judaism, Christianity’s closest cousin, fails to make those claims because that religion does not recognize Jesus as the divine Son of God, co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

While there are similarities in basic religious beliefs — presence of supernatural creatures, better natures to strive for, presence of sacred rituals, rigid system of “right” and “wrong” — those similarities exist because we all are created by the same God, who created us in His image and breathed life into our souls.

Those similarities do not defeat the statement that Christianity alone worships the one true God, as He has revealed Himself to mankind.

+++

GOD IS VERY CLEAR that we are to stay away from foreign “gods” and worship only Him.

Here is a sampler of familiar passages, as given to us through various English translations:

      • “I am the LORD your God. … You shall have no other gods before me.” — Exodus 20:2a-3 (ESV)
      • “For you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” — Exodus 34:14 (NASB)
      • “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” — John 14:6 (NIV)
      • “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus.” — 1 Timothy 2:5 (CSB)
      • “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” — John 5:44 (NKJV)

+++

IN OUR PLURALISTIC SOCIETY, the notion that there is only one God and that He is the God Christians worship, is not a popular concept.

J9. OPEN BIBLE w IMAGEIn fact, those of us who profess to believe in Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior are ridiculed for our beliefs. We are thought to be “bigots,” “hypocrites,” “legalistic,” “fundamentalists,” “haters,” and probably more.

Fine. That’s okay. Our Lord and Savior was beaten and crucified for teaching the Truth, and His closest disciples were martyred for their faith.

The Bible clearly states that mankind prefers the darkness of sin to the light of Jesus and His Truth.

“And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness [their sin] more than the light, for their actions were evil.” — John 3:19 (NLT, amp. mine)

+++

ONCE WE ACCEPT THAT GOD IS ONE,  that He created us, and that we are His possession and all of creation — from the farthest star to the smallest nano creature — belongs to Him, we can give praise and honor to the Source of life, instead of bowing down to the gods and substitutes that we’ve made.

When we faithfully receive the gift of life from the God of the Bible, we can testify to that truth, as the apostle Paul taught us, without fearing rebuke or torture:

“Do you think I am trying to make people accept me? No, God is the One I am trying to please. Am I trying to please people? If I still wanted to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10 NCV)


PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, You have revealed yourself to us through nature, through our 50. Open_Bibleconsciences, through the testimony of your Son, Jesus Christ,  and through your Word, as inspired through writers from Moses to David to Isaiah to Luke and the Apostles. Finally, you have revealed yourself to us through our hearts, as You speak to us and transform us from nonbelievers with hearts of stone to believers with hearts of flesh. You, God, are the only God, and there is no one like You. To You, O God, goes all the praise, honor, and glory! In Jesus’ mighty and holy name, we pray. AMEN


Questions for Personal Meditation or Small Group Discussion:
      1. Can you accept God’s claim to be the only one and true God, that He exists and that He has revealed himself to us, through nature and the Bible, through our consciences and the testimony of Jesus, so that all of mankind knows of Him and is without excuse if they don’t believe?
      2. Can you understand and accept that the *coexist* movement, while it sounds noble, tolerant, and mutually respectful, actually violates God’s explicit command to place no other gods before Him and that we, His creation, are not to worship or tolerate other objects of worship?
      3. Can you accept God’s truth that He alone is the *Absolute* and worthy of our worship and praise, even while the world teaches differently, that all religious system are essentially the same? Can you see that the world’s teaching is a false doctrine and harmful to our well-being and our salvation?
      4. Now that you see God’s command that He alone is worthy of worship, how would you answer those who hold to the world’s contrary and sinful view? Will you pray for God’s guiding hand in your life?

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? If so, please indicate in the Comment field. God bless!

Meditation–TELLING OTHERS ABOUT GOD

Now that God has restored our relationship with Him through the sacrifice of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, He calls on us to spread the news … to tell others what the Lord has done for us. How? We are to live our lives with patience, joy, and love, and we’re to share a word of encouragement or give a testimony. We should be prepared always for the opportunities and seek His help. He has assured us of two things: He will always be there to give us the words to say and help us through the situation, and we cannot succeed without Him. May all the praise, honor, and glory go to the King!


Find blog posts at LoveAndGrace … tweets at Twitter.

Comments welcomed. Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion. Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?


“But Jesus … said to him, ‘Go to your home and to your people and tell them what the Lord has done for you, that he had mercy on you.’” — Mark 5:19 (NET)

“We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” — Acts 4:20 (NLT)

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20a (NIV)

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” — Matthew 5:16 (NASB)


GOD HAS GIVEN US AN AMAZING JOB TO DO FOR HIS KINGDOM!

Please read those Bible verses at the top again and take them in. They are familiar text Humble-Man-Prayingand easy to rush through, but they are critically important for us to hold in our hearts to help us share the soul-saving message of Jesus’ transformative love.

+++

EIGHT YEARS AGO, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. From that time forward, He has captained my soul, creating a new man, a new person, a new being inside of me. I am grace-bought, and my life belongs to Him.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” — 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (CSB)

So, what am I to do with this wonderful event?

The mandate He has given me is the same mandate He has given you if you also have given your life to Christ.

What are we to do with this wonderful event?

Here’s what Jesus has commanded you and me to do — we are to share the Gospel with the world: “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8 NIV).

That means we are to share the grace of Jesus Christ with family and friends, neighbors and co-workers, and even the strangers we meet.

+++

WE ARE TO SHOW OTHERS — and tell others — about the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Fortunately, God doesn’t leave it to us to figure out how to do this. In His Bible, He tells us:Woman Sharing With Woman

To show others, we are to “let [our] light shine before men that they will see our good works and give glory to the Father.” (Matt. 5:16)

To tell others, we are to “tell them what the Lord has done for you.” (Mark 5:19)

In layman’s terms, we are to act and talk as though we are the regenerated men and women the Holy Spirit has claimed (justified) and is changing daily (sanctified) to become more like Jesus Christ.

+++

WHAT A DAUNTING TASK, RIGHT?

I mean, who are we — you and me — to handle this Kingdom work? Are we equipped as believers to carry the message of Christ’s redeeming work into an unbelieving world?

We saw what happened to Jesus when He took the message of God’s redeeming work to a world that didn’t want to be confronted. His creation rejected Him. (Just read John 1:9-11.)

41.Bible_Words_Spoken_by_God.Consider the obstacles — the Bible tells us that, in this world, men and women love:

  • darkness more than light, (John 3:19, Proverbs 2:13)
  • sin more than righteousness, and (Micah 3:2, Psalm 52:3)
  • lies more than truth. (John 8:44, Romans 1:25)

With that as backdrop, who would listen to us? What is it we can say to them? Are we to quote Scripture at length? Preach to them? Convict them of sin?

+++

FORTUNATELY, GOD’S WORD gives us practical instructions on how to witness for the Lord. Here are some ideas:

    • Be Prayed In — Peter tells us to “always be prepared” to tell others, when they ask us, about the joy that is in our hearts and the hope we have for eternal life with our God. (1 Peter 3:15)
    • Be Spirit Driven — Jesus tells us to be His witnesses, but He also assures us that we “will receive power” when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives. He will not leave us alone. (Acts 1:8; John 14:18)
    • Be Imitators of Christ — We are to act as Christ acted, showing humility and gentleness, but also boldness and righteousness. “Imitate me,” Paul says, “as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

+++

SO, THREE KEY STEPS — we are to pray for God’s grace to guide us, be receptive to the power of God’s Holy Spirit, and model our behavior after Christ’s life.

New Cross Hope

The Bible offers us so many clues as to what the Lord wants from us, “to walk humbly with our God,” “to love one another,” “to forgive one another,” “to be born again,” and, most of all, to “believe in Him whom He has sent.” (Micah 6:8; 1 John 3:11; Ephesians 4:32; John 3:3; John 6:29)

Jesus told us that people would know that we are His followers if we do what He has told us to do (John 15:14). Those are His commands. We are blessed if we do them.

+++

THE APOSTLE PETER SAID it’s one thing to be persecuted for our faith if we model Christ-like behavior and encourage others with our speech; it’s another thing if we’re being persecuted because we come off like judgmental, sanctimonious jerks. (1 Peter 4:14-16)

We all have the potential in our Christ walk to toggle between both worlds.

It’s a humbling conviction to realize that even when we want so much to show the love of Jesus Christ to a world hungry for salvation that — unless we are prayed in and receiving the Holy Spirit — we will try to win souls for Christ under our own power, and we’ll fail miserably.

Jesus warned us (see John 15) to abide in Him and be fed from His energy and direction, because without Him, He said, we can do nothing.

+++

AS A RELATIVELY NEW CHRISTIAN, I take great comfort in knowing that Jesus won’t leave me to fend for myself, that He understands what I’m going through, and that He is ever ready to guide me through the thickets of life whenever I’m humble enough to accept His help.

May all the praise, honor, and glory go to Almighty God!

May we join the psalmist in praising Him as we are called to serve Him (Psalm 100:1-2a ESV):

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!

Serve the LORD with gladness!”


PRAYER

Dear Lord God, our Heavenly Father, thank You so much for Your healing and saving grace. T44. Cross_on_Biblehank You for paying the price of our debt and then empowering us to tell others the joyful news! Lord, please forgive us when we fail to see the opportunities before us or when we shy away from sharing our faith. Forgive us when people thank us for our good works and, like glory hounds, we fail to give You the credit. Lord, Your salvation is too wonderful. You are too lovely. Thank You for making us Your own. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN


Questions for Personal Meditation or Small Group Discussion:

1.  Do you pray regularly that the Lord will give you the opportunities to share the good news of your salvation and be with you as you give a word of encouragement or a short snippet of your personal testimony? If not, what holds you back?

2.  Can you see the beauty of God sharing the salvation story with us and empowering us to tell the world the Good News? Do you see that this opportunity is a blessing and not an obligation, and that all of us, not just vocational Christians, are called to minister to others?

3.  Can you see how we are bound to fail in sharing our faith if we try to do it under our own power, that we need to be “prayed in” and let the power of God’s Holy Spirit work through us? Do you have experience evangelizing on your own? How did that work? Can you see the difference when you count on God’s Spirit to direct you?


Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? If so, please indicate in the Comment field. God bless!