LoveAndGrace, my Christian-theme blog and baby, closes out its first year of publication, and I give thanks to God for His trust in me to spread the Word to those He places in my path. My prayers have migrated from asking His help in launching the blog to where they should be: seeking His direction in helping me write them. So far, 32 blogs have been posted in 2016 (the 33rd is going up tomorrow), and the stats are interesting. The two blogs I felt the least comfortable writing —“The Christian’s Response to Politics” and “Will Christians Lead the Political Debate or Abdicate Responsibility” — were by far the most viewed, while the most important blog I wrote, “Praying Boldly,” was the least viewed, and my favorite post, “God’s Key Question,” also ranked near the bottom in total views. Stats show the blog was seen in countries outside the U.S., including China, South Korea, Venezuela, Spain, and Australia. Aah, the Internet. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,” Jesus said (Matthew 28:19) and “You will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth,” (Acts 1:8). Pray with me in 2017 that God will continue to bless this blog and pour His Grace into it and into the hearts and lives of those who read it. Be blessed, my friends.
Category: God’s Grace
Jesus, Who Is My Neighbor?
When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, He placed us in the story. Typically, we think we’re cast in the role of the Samaritan, the good man, the benefactor, but actually He left it open if we would be the benefactor. We also could be the innkeeper, who provided aide without certainty of full payment. Certainly, we are the two religious leaders — the “good” people in our community — but we’re also the victim in need of help. But there’s a sixth person in this story, the expert in Jewish law who asked who his neighbor was. Moses answered that question in Leviticus, written 1,300 years earlier. The legal expert should have known that. Since Jesus’ told the story, another 2,000 years have passed. Are we any closer to answering the question?
A teacher of the law, seeking to trap Jesus, asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to love God and obey His law, including loving his neighbor as himself. The legal expert then asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-29 (edited)
IT’S CALLED THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN.
We think we know the story because it’s an easy tale to follow. We can readily pick out each of the four main characters — victim, priest, Levite, benefactor — and place ourselves in whichever role we wish to accomplish whatever result we favor.
Most of us probably see ourselves as the benefactor. He was described as a Samaritan, which means little to us, just a slight reference to nationality, nothing significant, so we let it pass.
The holy men who passed by the victim without offering assistance are easy enough to place also — they’re the hypocrites, and surely we see many of those around, you know, people who say all sorts of good things but who don’t follow through. We even have an expression: “talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.” They might be called the “good people” in our community.
Do we ever look at the victim?
Jesus describes him as a man walking from Jerusalem to Jericho, who was attacked by robbers, beaten, and left for dead. He gives us no other description, so we tend to ignore him. Continue reading “Jesus, Who Is My Neighbor?”
God Hates Sin, Man Loves Sin
God hates sin; man loves sin. We’re on a collision course. God says the wages of our sin is death, but out of His abundant love, He provided a way toward salvation. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay our price. Our belief in Him restores us to a right relationship with the Father.
“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4 NIV)
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:18 ESV)
“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25 NASB)
“Let those who love the LORD hate evil.” (Psalm 97:10 NIV)
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires.” (Romans 6:12 HCSB)
GOD TAKES SIN SERIOUSLY. MAN DOES NOT.
That puts mankind on a collision course with the Creator of the universe.
There is no good outcome for mankind when God wants us to go one way, and we want
to go another, when we continue to sin and God hates our sin. Continue reading “God Hates Sin, Man Loves Sin”
Doing Good Without God? Huh?
What does it mean to be a “good person,” and how good must we be to merit eternal life with the God of the universe? Man often compiles his own list of “dos” and “don’ts” that seem reasonable to him, without wanting to give credit to the eternal God for having compiled the ultimate list in the Ten Commandments, which He fleshed out in the Sermon on the Mount. The problem is that no amount of willpower or positive energy is sufficient to keep us on track: every time we fail, we see how much we need a Savior.
“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6 NASB)
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40 ESV)
THE STORY GOES THAT Benjamin Franklin created his own non-doctrinaire guide to “good works” that emphasized the virtues associated with the Christian faith’s walk with Christ but eliminated the role of God as the source.
The idea behind this, no doubt, was the rationalist’s view that most moral platitudes — the variety of “dos” and “don’ts” — are self-evident and that ascribing their origin to an unseen Diety — holy, perfect, and judgmental —was both unnecessary and unwise!
After all, the rationalist would argue, if the ideas were generated by some source superior to oneself, there’s no telling what additional platitudes might be lurking behind the ones we’ve identified.
Once that happens, well, look out because we might not want any of THOSE platitudes. Nope. We want complete control over the list. This will be our list, not one handed to us by an outside source.
OKAY, SO WHAT WAS on the list that Mr. Franklin compiled and what was his point in compiling the list in the first place? Continue reading “Doing Good Without God? Huh?”
Stepping Out In Faith: LoveAndGrace 2017
LoveAndGrace began in 2016 as a step of faith and needs enhancements for 2017. Readers are asked to pray for its success in reaching the lost, the struggling, and those looking for a friend to share their daily walk with Christ.
When the priests who were carrying the chest came to the Jordan (River), their feet touched the edge of the water. The Jordan had overflowed its banks completely, the way it does during the entire harvest season. But at that moment the water of the Jordan coming downstream stood still. (Joshua 3:14-16a CEB)
“But may those who love the Lord be like the sun when it rises in all its brightness.” (Judges 5:31 GW)
SOMETIMES, THE LORD ASKS US TO STEP OUT IN FAITH.
This blog is one of them. At the start of 2016, I began to write and publish a Christian-themed blog, which I believe the Lord has equipped me and led me to write.
LoveAndGrace was not to be a testament to my thoughts or experiences or dreams but a willing vessel for the ideas that I felt the Lord giving me to share. I’m taking seriously the biblical testimony that each of us is called to witness to those whom we are uniquely suited to reach. So, if Billy Graham reaches 50 million people, and I reach 5 people, my 5 people are added to his 50 million people–that’s 50 million +5 who will enjoy eternal life with the Creator. Continue reading “Stepping Out In Faith: LoveAndGrace 2017”
Avoiding All Those Arguments
We argue because of our human pride. We argue because someone — usually someone very close to us — has violated our personal laws of convenience and preference. We argue because we want to control the situation so that our individual, self-centered needs are met. God’s Word warns us about anger, impatience, arguing because God, who made us in His image, knows we flourish better as His children when we are humble, and patient, and forgiving. We cannot do this on our own, but, with Him, we can do all things.
It is honorable for a man to resolve a dispute, but any fool can get himself into a quarrel. (Proverbs 20:3 HCSB)
A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1 NASB)
WHY DO WE ARGUE?
People argue. We know that. God knows that. That’s why He put so many verses in the Bible reminding us to be slow to anger and quick to forgive. He tells us that in our anger, we should not sin nor should we let the sun set while we are still angry (Ephesians 4:26 NIV).
To make it clear to us, He tells us that he is a loving God and that He models what He wants us to do: “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Nehemiah 9:17 NIV).
We know what the antidote to anger is. It is love. In one of the most poetic chapters of the Bible (1 Corinthians 13), the apostle Paul reminds us that among love’s many attributes is this one: love “is not easily angered” (v. 5 NIV).
We get angry as a tool to get our way in a broken world, and so we lash out at the people who stand in our way, you know, the ones standing right there in front of us who express their needs — legitimate needs — that conflict with our needs.
Here’s the dilemma: Those people who most often stand in our way are the ones we are with the most … and the ones we are with the most are the ones we love the most. Continue reading “Avoiding All Those Arguments”
Trusting in the Lord’s Promises
The Lord holds out His promise of eternal life for those who believe in His Son and who hold on until the end, even though our earthly pathway may be rocky. He tells us to focus on the heavenly (that which is “unseen”) instead of the earthly (which is what we “see”). The “unseen” is eternal, but the “seen” is temporary.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV)
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)
THIS MEDITATION HITS HOME.
Like many people who reach adulthood before accepting Jesus’ love and grace into their hearts, I responded to the Master’s promise of what He could do for me — that He would provide rest for my troubled soul and eternal life with Him in Paradise.
I did not “sign up” for the rest of it — spiritual warfare, condemnation from loved ones, or conviction for sinful thoughts and behavior. In other words, I wanted what Jesus could do for me, without thinking I would be called on to do anything in return.
Oh, yes, I assumed I would be made more aware of other people’s hurts and needs and maybe asked to do something about it, you know, from time to time. Nothing really inconvenient and probably nothing right away.
I had no idea. Continue reading “Trusting in the Lord’s Promises”
Keep Your Faith Out of My Face!
The Word of God tells men and women of faith to share the Good News of Jesus’ redeeming love for those who believe in Him, but the world tells us to keep our “religion” to ourselves and not bother them with it. This tension will mark our lives from the moment we accept the Holy Spirit into our hearts. Our job is to listen to God, not to man.
“You will receive power when the Holy spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV)
THERE ONCE WAS A MAN who was a new convert to Christ and His teaching. This man held a job where he had been employed for 20 years. Once he became a Christian, the Lord started doing some housework in his heart, sweeping out the dust and cobwebs, discarding the trash, and washing the windows.
Each morning the man came to work with a smile and a greeting for everyone — even on Mondays! He noticed the contributions his co-workers made and dropped compliments their way, focusing on work-related items and carefully avoided personal areas, like appearances, for example. Continue reading “Keep Your Faith Out of My Face!”
Depending on God for Our Sanity
When life’s difficulties strike, we need to rely on the healing grace of our Lord, who offers us comfort. While we are focused on this life and this moment, we should realize that His purpose is to prepare our character for eternity with Him. What an amazing blessing!
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statues. (Psalm 119:71 ESV)
HOW MANY OF US who have become Christians, who have asked Jesus Christ to come into our lives as our Savior, have done so looking to suffer for that decision?
Most of us probably have resonated to Jesus’ promise in Matt. 11:28-30, which starts with these words: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” and ends with these: “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (BSB).
When it came to that moment when we raised our hands and marched down the aisle, or dropped to our knees and raised our faces to the ceiling, or even placed our foreheads to the ground in agony, most of us were not thinking of Ephesians 6:10-13, which includes these stirring words: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (v. 12, NIV).
Nor were we likely thinking of James 1:2-4 (NIV), “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
WHAT, THEN, ARE WE TO MAKE of Bible verses that clearly foretell of suffering in this world as a result of our conversion? Continue reading “Depending on God for Our Sanity”