GOD TO MANKIND: HONOR YOUR MARRIAGE


Marriage is an institution created by God to bring husband and wife together as equal partners into one unit, much like the Holy Trinity encompasses the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, equal partners, together into one unit.


Hebrews 13:4 (NCV): Marriage should be honored by everyone, and husband and wife should keep their marriage pure. God will judge as guilty those who take part in sexual sins.

Genesis 2:24 (NASB): For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.


MARRIAGE BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN mirrors the relationship between Jesus and His church. 

The apostle Paul makes that point in Ephesians 5:32, right  after saying a husband and wife are to be “united” as one body and before saying the man must love his wife and the woman must respect her husband.

The oneness of man and woman cleaving to one another also mirrors the Trinity, where God exists in Three Persons, equal and distinct but the same Person. So, too, in marriage, the husband and wife are equal and distinct yet form one body.

The marriage bond should not be broken by any means, whether it’s willfulness, or lust, or jealousy, or anger, or resentment, or … well, any other sin we could list.

REPAIRING THE BROKEN BOND

WHEN THE BOND IS THREATENED, both marriage partners are responsible for repairing it. 

As the spiritual head of the family, the husband (man) should take the lead by seeking forgiveness for his part in the fracture; this allows the wife (woman) to feel secure in seeking forgiveness for her part in the fracture.  

Both parties must forgive the other.

Christian marriage counselor Dr. Paul David Tripp counsels us to “fight for your marriage by practicing confession and forgiveness each day.”

Scripture is clear that God designed marriage (Gen. 2:24) and He hates to see a married couple divorce (Mal. 2:1; Matt. 19:6).

He wants Adam to cherish Eve (Prov. 18:22; Prov. 31:10; Eph. 5:25; 1 Peter 3:7), and Eve to respect Adam (Eph. 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1) and calls both husbands and wives to lean on Him (John 15:5) to keep the marriage going strong. 

MARRIAGE:THE FOUNDATION OF SOCIETY

IMMEDIATELY AFTER CREATING THE FIRST WOMAN, God put Adam and Eve together and told them they were to become “one flesh” (Matt. 19:15 NASB). 

This was more than an “iron sharpens iron” moment (Prov. 27:17); it was a unity moment (Gen. 2:22-24; Gen. 3:16). 

Strong marriages — ones built on love, respect, and mutuality, and especially ones built on belief in Jesus Christ — form the cornerstone of civil society. Another way of putting it, marriage is the “backbone,” the “foundation,” the  “centerpiece” of well-ordered society.

When marriages are fragile, adultery abounds, and divorce is rampant, societies crumble, a point made in a 2012 New York Times article by former Education Secretary William Bennett “Stronger Families, Stronger Societies.”

More importantly, the Lord Jesus Christ made the same point is His Matthew 19 discourse on marriage and divorce. 

Bennet said this: “The family is the linchpin of society, both economically and socially.” Jesus said this: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

†††

POSTSCRIPT: A DECADE AGO, I was searching for answers to life’s questions and came to realize that Jesus was and is who He told He is: God!

When I accepted that, I wanted more of Him in my life. I was drawn to Him by watching how Christian men treated their wives. 

They loved their wives, they honored them, they complimented them. No “take my wife … please” jokes, no “can’t live with them, can’t shoot them” comments.

Instead, I heard, “She’s my best friend,” “I married up,” and “She is a good influence on my life.”

Here’s how King Solomon, under God’s inspiration, saw it:

Prov. 18:22 (ESV): He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.

I’m so blessed now. Not only have I found the Lord, but He’s given me a Christian wife. So I join my Christian brothers by declaring that I definitely “married up” to a woman who is “my best friend” and “a good influence on my life.”


PRAYER

Heavenly Father, we thank You for giving us the institution of marriage. Forgive us, O Lord, when we stay from our faithful vows, even when our straying is nothing  more than expressing anger or disappointment or irritation with our spouse. Cleanse our hearts of all evil, O Lord, and lead us to humbly seek to restore marital harmony. Lord, You have given us the perfect image to mirror in the Trinity. Help us, husband and wife alike, to rely on Your wisdom, Your strength, Your patience, and Your love to reinforce our marriage. In the blessed and compassionate name of Jesus we pray. AMEN

TEACHING THE YOUNG


The LORD has given each of His followers the nobel task of sharing the Good News with others, but chief among our potential audience is our own families, especially our children. If we fail to raise the next generation to learn about the LORD, we deny them the greatest life-affirming gift possible — an eternity with their Creator. Unfortunately, even those who teach their children may see their beloved offspring walk away. But, at least, we would have given them the chance at life.


Psalm 102:18 (NLT): “Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet  born will praise the LORD.

Psalm 78:6 (NASB): “That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children.


WE ARE TO TELL OUR CHILDREN ABOUT THE LORD.

Surely, it is better to instruct our children while they are still young and willing, even eager, to learn from us. The task is made more difficult when they reach rebellious teenage years and more difficult still when they are fully grown adults and leave the home.

Once they have passed from our hands, we are left with praying that God would direct others more suitable than us to come alongside them and instruct them. 

In turn, the Lord might well call on us to be the “others more suitable” for someone else’s adolescent or grown children.

†††

IN MY CASE, I did not know the Lord during my  children’s growing-up years, so I could not instruct them in the way of the Lord. 


“You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” – Deut. 11:19 (NKJV)

Yet I know of many adults who admit they raised their children in the church yet failed to connect that teaching with knowing the Lord. So, once grown, their children leave the church and refuse to listen to further instruction.

There is no need for us to despair. When we realize that our children’s fate rests outside of our control, we become more dependent on the Lord and His mercy.

We become more diligent in our prayers, and we become more consciously aware of our duty to other parents’ children.

As long as we remain faithful to the Lord and seek Him out, we will be exactly where He wants us to be—dependent on Him. Jesus reminds us in John 15 that, without Him, we can do nothing.

PRAISE THE LORD!


 PRAYER

Our Lord and Master, many of us have failed to instruct and encourage our children to know the Lord the way You have instructed us. Some of us thought we were leading our children because we took them to church; others of us didn’t know the Lord and so could not instruct them. Please forgive us our failings and help us to share our testimony with them now. Soften their hearts, O Lord, that they may hear us. Please bring into their lives Your saints who can reach them where they are. In turn, O Lord, help us be the saints You place in the lives of other parents’ children, who are more likely to listen to us. We pray, O Lord, that Your name will be praised forever more! In the majestic and beautiful name of Jesus, AMEN

The World Turned Upside Down

As the Western world lurches farther away from its moorings rooted in Judeo-Christian morality, we increasingly enter a Romans 1 world, where God, in His disgust, turns mankind over to its basest desires … until the time of reckoning, when He promises to lower the boom! Meanwhile, those of us who point out the foolishness of our new cultural norms are called “bigots,” and “haters,” even though we sound the alarm out of love, compassion, and obedience to our Lord and Maker. We find truth as God defines it in His Holy Word. We do not make it up. It is His design.


Genesis 1:26a, 27 (NASB): Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. … God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Isaiah 5:20 (NIV): Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. 

Matthew 19:4 (GNT): Jesus answered, “Haven’t you read the scripture that says that in the beginning the Creator made people male and female?”


THE WORLD AS WE CHRISTIANS KNOW IT IS UNDER ASSAULT. 

Let’s be clear. The culprit behind the assault is Satan, who has been behind evil since he deceived Eve, the first woman, in the Garden.  

The instrument of his assault is our sinful desire, and the messengers are the proponents of left-wing political ideology. While the political left, “leftism” as an ideology, is not the only messenger base, its ideology is the antithesis of God’s Holy Bible.

Leftism controls most of the dialogue in the Western world. Leftism has overrun the colleges and universities, as well as the public school system from K-12th grade. It predominates in Hollywood, the entertainment capitol of the world. 

It is the ideology of the major media empires, which determine the news we read or hear as well as shapes how those events are portrayed. Increasingly, it is controlling the social policies of our largest corporations.

Dismayingly, Leftism also has penetrated the Christian churches, yanking once respectable denominations known as “mainline” churches into following the apostasy of the prevailing secular trends.

†††

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS illustrate this. 

Let’s focus on two of them.

The first is legislation in Sacramento, Calif., mandating a radical curriculum required for graduation. It focuses on the “oppression” facing “native peoples and people of color” in the United States.

Here is an explanation from the document, itself: “The field critically grapples with the various power structures and forms of  oppression, including but not limited to white supremacy, race and racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia that continue to impact the social, emotional, cultural, economic, and political experiences of native peoples and people of color.”

†††

ALBERT MOHLER, PRESIDENT of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writing about the curriculum proposal, says the agenda of its authors “is the transformation of the culture. The background is the claim that the culture primarily represents forms of oppression” (emph. mine). 

The document contains no recognition that millions of the world’s population of all races and creeds are eager to enter the United States, many of them illegally, if necessary. 

Those facts, alone, should testify to the idiocy of claiming the U.S. culture “primarily represents forms of oppression.”

Mohler says that what the course curriculum wants is “the rewriting of history, the redefining of reality.”

†††

THE SECOND ITEM is the so-called “EQUALITY ACT” (H.R. 5), which is legislation before the U.S. Congress.

While the California bill would indoctrinate youth in the public schools to accept policies of the political left, the bill in the U.S. Congress would radically redefine what it means to be a “man” or a “woman.”

The Equality Act, which has passed the House and gone to the Senate, would restructure the Civil Rights Act of 1964, designed to correct economic and institutional discrimination based on race, to add alleged discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

It would regulate religious institutions that believe God made two genders: male and female. Nothing else. Nothing in between. Nothing floating or morphing. Nothing malleable.

†††

WHILE THE BILL’S proponents say it would grant legitimacy and recognition to the homosexual and transsexual population, religious objectors say it would neutralize religious liberty  protections because the two spheres cannot co-exist.

The secular recognition of same-sex attraction and gender fluidity clearly violate God’s established order as He has revealed it in nature, through our consciences, and within the text of His Bible.

With this legislation, however, faith-based practices would be held secondary in court to so-called LGBT rights, according to Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of the First Liberty law firm, which argued in favor of religious freedom and free speech in the Obergefell case, the decision that legitimized same-sex marriage.

“The Equality Act,” Shackelford said, “attempts to make sure that in all cases, LGBT rights trump religious freedom—in every situation. It makes religious freedom a secondary freedom or right.”

†††

WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US?

For those of us who try to follow God’s Word, these are surely the last days, spoken of by Our Lord, when He walked the earth. 

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.  But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” —Matt. 24:36-39 (NKJV)

While we’re busy doing our jobs, witnessing in word and deed for the Gospel, all around us is chaos and darkness. Yet, as Christians, we can take heart for our God is sovereign. He remains on His throne, and He will engineer His will. 

GOD is sovereign and in control (Isaiah 46:9-11) and will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7).

We are charged by Jesus in Acts 1:8 to witness for the Gospel without knowing when the end will come. Jesus told us in Matthew 28:18-20 that “all authority in heaven and on earth” has been given to Him, and He wants us to tell everyone the Good News.

POSTSCRIPT: Nothing has changed since the apostle John observed in John 1:9-11 that Jesus came into the world as the Light, but the world, made through Him, neither recognized Him nor wanted Him.

This is what he wrote:

“[Jesus] came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” —John 1:11 (NIV)


PRAYER

 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. We humbly ask Your forgiveness for our lack of faith, our prideful stubbornness, our outright disobedience, our weakness in the flesh. We have no right to seek Your favor except that which You graciously grant us through Your Son, who was given on the Cross to satisfy our sin. In humility, O Lord, we ask Your favor. Give us strength and wisdom to confront the demons of our time, never lagging in zeal, not conforming to the world, but marching faithfully, counseled by the Holy Spirit, into being Your witnesses, both in word and in deed. In the mighty name of Your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. AMEN

GUARDING OUR THOUGHTS

The sin in our lives stems from three sources: our desires, the influence of the fallen world around us, and the devil’s schemes. There is enough motive for us to sin even without Satan’s pull. God speaks into our hearts—our minds and thoughts—with His message of Truth. Our thoughts drive our comments and, eventually, our actions, so, to keep our witness pure, we first need to capture evil thoughts. To do that, we need to stay in prayer. God calls us to pray so that He may pour His Truth into our hearts and minds. 


“Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.” — Proverbs 4:23 (NCV)

“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” — James 1:15 (NLT)

“We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ.” — 2 Corinthians 10:5 (GW)


SO, EVEN OUR THOUGHTS are subject to God’s judgment?

Well, Jesus was pretty clear about it in Matthew 5:27-2), when He said that it’s not just a sin to commit adultery, but that if any man or woman looks upon another person with lust in their hearts, that person “has already committed adultery” (NKJV).  

Does that mean it’s not enough that we not do harmful things … or make derogatory comments …we can’t even think those thoughts even if we don’t say or do them?

Isn’t that a bit much?

Seriously, apart from Jesus, who can go through a whole day without thinking sinful thoughts? It’s tough enough avoiding the actions and comments that follow, but just the thoughts?

†††

MAYBE THAT’S THE POINT.

God knows our sinful hearts. He knows how we work. After all, He created us, and He knows our rebellion.

There’s a well-known misquote of a Bible verse that says “money is the root of all evil,” when the actual verse says it’s “the love of money” that is the root of evil and that “through this craving,” many have wandered away from the truth and faith in Jesus (1 Timothy 6:10 ESV). 

James reminds us that it’s our desires (that is, our thoughts) that “entice us and drag us away” (James 1:15 NLT).

God knows that as soon as we start harboring thoughts, whatever they may be, those thoughts will overtake us and begin to drive our comments and our actions … a little at a time … until they completely take over.

Our Lord Jesus Christ warned us again in Matthew 15:11, when He said it’s not what goes into our bodies that defiles us but what comes  out of our bodies. 

What defiles us is what comes out of our hearts … and our mouths … and our thoughts.

†††

GOD, IN HIS MERCY, has given us the way out.

1. He tells us what we should be thinking about:

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8 NLT).

2. How do we do that?

Paul tells us:

“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV)

Praying “constantly” (CSB) or “never stop praying” (CEV) or “pray at all times” (GNT) are several ways of encouraging us to be in the “spirit of prayer” at all times, not that we should walk around with closed eyes and clasped palms, callouses on our knees, murmuring words that only God can hear, but that we should be “connected” to God throughout the day.

It means opening our hearts to the voice of Almighty God, even when He speaks with a “soft whisper” (1 Kings 19:12 CSB) or “gentle whisper” (NIV) or a “still soft voice” (NKJV).

3. Does God give us any help?

“Do not quench the [Holy] Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19 NKJV)

God places the counselor inside our hearts to nudge us, to convict us, to guide us, and to lead us. He’ll help us through the rough spots, assuming, of course, that we don’t “quench” Him or “stifle” Him (NLT) or “restrain” Him (GNT). In other words, we must be attentive to Him and listen. 

4. Finally, we need to stay in His Word.

“He [Jesus] answered, ‘It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4 CSB)

We won’t know what those “pure,” “true,” and “honorable” thoughts are unless we’re in God’s Word, capturing His “pure,” “true,” and “honorable” thoughts. He is the definition of what is “pure,” “true,” and “honorable.”

Amen! God is good!

 PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, You know our thoughts are impure. You know we wander from the truth. We stay connected for a short time, then go astray. You keep pulling us back … through reading Your Word, through worship, through fellowship. Thank You for Your mercy. Change our hearts, O LORD, to hearts that seek the Risen Lord, that witness to the life-saving power of the Holy Spirit, that spread the message of redemption. We lift this prayer in the name of Jesus, Amen

GOD Says, ‘Forget the Past’

Why does God tell His followers to stop dwelling on the past? Often, we reminisce just to savor the great memories or linger over hurts, perhaps figuring a way we could have avoided them. Aren’t they instructive in some way? Possibly so, if we’re delving back to relive a victory or stave off a defeat, but He doesn’t want us to fixate on yesterday. He has a plan for our lives, and that plan involves pushing forward, opening the door, stepping through, and embracing the challenge. Best of all, He promises to go with us. 


Ecclesiastes 7:10 (NASB): Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.

Isaiah 43:18 (NIV): Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.

Luke 9:62 (ESV): Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”


WHY DOES GOD spend so much energy telling us not to dwell on the past? 

Why does He encourage us, even command us, throughout Scripture, to focus on the “new things,” where He wants us to go? 

This is a very important issue for me, and one where I often come up short … very short … very often.

I constantly revisit the past and wonder how I could have handled events better if I had known the Lord then. Of course, I would have been a different person, with a different mind set, a different heart, and with different priorities. 

Yet God exhorts me to put those idle speculations aside and live the life He is offering me, as His child, to serve the Kingdom and to be a blessing to those He places in my path.

†††

THE ISSUE HERE is clear: It is about our sin, God’s willingness to forgive our sin, and our unwillingness to forgive ourselves.  

We hold onto the moment, lamenting lost opportunities, wrong paths taken, selfish actions, bad decisions. We see the evil in our hearts play itself out in our lives, and we long to rewrite the story.

God tells us He has already rewritten the story, and if we would drop the baggage of the past, we could join Him in this new adventure He has planned for us. 

  • Solomon tells us not to lean on our own understanding but to trust in God’s direction, and He will make our paths straight (Prov. 3:5-6);
  • King David informs us that God’s light illuminates the path before us, so we can see where we’re going (Psalms 119:105);
  • The apostle Paul reminds us that through Christ, we are crucified to our sinful pasts, and with Him living in our hearts, we are open to the challenges and adventures that God has waiting for us (Gals. 2:20);
  • The Lord Jesus admonishes us by saying those who put their hand to the plow and keep looking back, not forward, are “not fit” for the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62 NLT).

†††

SOME MIGHT SAY if we ignore the past, we’ll fail to learn from it. That may well be true, but God is pointing out the difference between learning from our errors and dwelling on them.  

Once He has forgiven us, we need to leave the spot of sin and not build memorials to our past. Otherwise, we’re saying that Christ’s work on the Cross was not sufficient to complete God’s plan, when God said, quite emphatically, that it was sufficient.

He wants us to believe that and embrace it. Remember, Jesus told us that He came to give us life “abundantly” — a full-throttle life experience full of community with Him and each other (John 10:10). When we dwell in the past, God tells us, we’re demonstrating our lack of faith in His good provision.

†††

INSTEAD OF FOCUSING on the past, God exhorts us to focus on the future … because that’s where He longs to take us.

Jesus said God is constantly working (John 5:17), and He wants us to join Him in that effort to spread the Good News to everyone.

Here are a few of His reminders:

  • Isaiah 43:19 (CSB): “Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”
  • Philippians 3:13 (NLT): No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.
  • Philippians 3:14 (NKJV): I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

†††

POSTSCRIPT: 

TODAY’S POST has a few more Scripture citations than I usually use beyond the text source. While each one individually has value, together, they are powerful.

Savor the message. Feel the love. Claim the blessing. 

Remember: Scripture is God talking.

To you and me. 

Two more verses to meditate on:

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV): Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Gen. 19:26 (NIV): But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.


PRAYER 

Dear Lord, our Heavenly Father, we thank You for bringing to our attention our tendency to dwell on past sins and  wishing we could *redo* the past, to avoid making the bad decisions our sinful natures led us to make, that brought ruin and heartache to our lives. We cannot rewrite the script so as to benefit from wiser decisions, but through Your love and grace, You have given us each day a new beginning. Help us, O Lord, to believe so fully in Your promises for our lives that we eagerly abandon the tendency to look back on our sins and hold onto the plow as it moves forward. Lord, we want to be fit for the Kingdom, and we thank You for giving us that opportunity! We lift this prayer in the majestic name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN

Meditation … Restoring the Lost Years


Psalm 90:15 (NLT) Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good.

Joel 2:25 (NKJV) So I will restore to you the years that the  swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust.

Psalm 30:5b (NKJV) Weeping may endure for a night, But joy [comes] in the morning.


GOD’S WONDERFUL PROMISE for those redeemed in Christ — who have received God’s free gift of salvation through faith in Christ — is that He will bring joy and wonder in abundance, more than enough to compensate for the lean years, those years we lived without Him in our hearts.

Anyone who has “come to faith” as an adult, whether in their 30s or 70s or in-between, sees a clear demarcation between the “before” years and the “after” years and may well fall into the sin of remorse, of wishing so much that they had come to know the Lord in a personal and intimate way earlier in life, that they fail to rejoice at the new gift they’ve been given.

†††

WHEN OUR ENERGY is turned from living-for-God to remorse for having rejected Him earlier, God can’t use us for His Kingdom.

We need to focus on how God’s Holy Spirit redeems our hearts and souls and energizes us with a desire to live out the Gospel.

Then, we don’t need to look back with remorse but look ahead with anticipation. The Bible says God will “replace the evil years with good” and “restore … the years … the swarming locus has eaten.” 

Our eternal life starts the day we receive the Holy Spirit into our hearts and lives and extends past our earthly deaths into all eternity. While our yesterday was filled with weeping, the psalmist assures us “joy comes in the morning.” 

Praise God!


PRAYER

 O LORD, we praise Your wonderful name! We give thanks, O Most High, for your steadfast love and bountiful mercy and grace. You not only have promised us an eternity with You in paradise, where we will look upon Your name and You will be our God and we will be Your people, but You have assured us that eternity starts here, in this life, in this world, the day we come to You in childlike innocence and proclaim, “Lord, I’m a sinner in need of Your grace. Thank You, O Lord, for Christ’s work on the cross for me. I believe He died for my sins and rose to glory as the first to be resurrected from the dead.” So, too, we, O Lord, will be raised from the dead at Your command. Thank You. We praise You, O Lord. In Jesus’ powerful and majestic name we lift this prayer. AMEN

CORRECTING OUR FRIENDS

What do we do when our friends — defined as those closest to us, such as family, neighbors, co-workers, buddies — say things routinely that we find disturbing? Disturbing not because they’re offensive to us but because they’re offensive to things we believe in, that we cherish, that we hold to be true? Do we let the moment(s) pass, hoping the hurt will go away? Do we confront the person, ever so gently? If we say something, what do we hope will be the outcome? Renewed friendship? Deeper appreciation for one another’s core values? And if it doesn’t work out that way … then what?


“Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.” — 2 Timothy 2:25 (NLT)

“Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” — 1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV)


THE U.S. SUPREME COURT recently ruled in a 5-4 decision not to uphold a Louisiana state law that would have required abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges.

While the court’s ruling was based on procedural grounds and court precedent, the wider public understandably sees the verdict as a setback for the pro-life movement and a victory for those supporting abortion.

Taking this into the political realm, the decision was seen by many as a rebuke of the Trump/Pence pro-life agenda and, of course, a smack-down of those of us who use the Bible’s words to support the life of the unborn infant.

The deeper reality of the court’s ruling is “None of the Above.”

†††

THE REAL TARGET is Almighty God. The rebuke was to His will for our lives.

So, how are we to engage with our closest friends and associates, and those of a general public that gather on social media to trade their opinions and engage in discussion?

I chose two avenues. One was to post a message to my “wall.” Here it is:

“King David wrote these words 3,000 years ago: ‘You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.’ God inspired that message (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). How do we square God’s message to us with today’s US Supreme Court ruling on abortion? Satan and his demons are rejoicing, but shame on those who rejoice along with them.”

The other avenue was to post the same message on the wall of a “friend” who rejoiced at the decision, especially gloating at a supposed defeat of Trump’s appointees. (Actually, the defection came from an appointee of President George W. Bush. Trump’s  two appointees voted to approve the Louisiana statute.)

I don’t know what my friend did with her post. I don’t see it on her timeline, nor is my comment visible. I know she was unwilling to engage in dialogue with me. That “dialogue,” by the way, would have entailed my being pummeled by her coterie of friends, none of whom know me, and all of whom take glee in saying nasty things to me.

†††

I KNEW THAT going in. I routinely engage in discussion with those whose views differ from mine, not because I am argumentative, but because I believe strongly that I, along with others, are called by the Lord to speak up for values that He has laid out in the Holy Bible.

Recently, I posted a Meditation titled, “Correcting False Testimony,” in which I argued for the faithful to challenge men/women in authority who misrepresent the Word of God, and a fellow blogger mentioned the other dilemma, what if the other person is not a church leader but a dear friend?

Those discussions can be the most difficult because, unlike the post regarding church leaders, we can’t walk away from the moments in which our friends are unbiblical. We can walk away from the church leaders and find another church.

†††

HOW DO YOU handle those situations? Our text source above reminds us to “gently instruct” others and to respond to their questions “with meekness and fear” (other translations say “gentleness and respect”). Another verse (Gal. 6:1 NET) tells us to restore a lost brother or sister with a “spirit of gentleness.”

So, we’re pretty clear we’re to represent the Lord as His hands and feet, not prideful or boasting, not snarky or sarcastic, but loving, gentle, caring, and compassionate.

Who said being a Christian was going to be easy?

I freely admit that I pray before writing anything — my blog, e-mails to friends, postings on social media — because I want to represent the King, not my heart.

Also, I freely admit that I often walk away from a confrontation with friends on social media because (a) we’ve already discussed the issue and they’re unmoved to change, and (b) I don’t have the desire to be a human piñata for their ill-tempered comrades.

†††

POSTSCRIPT:

This post assumes that we are “in the right” and that we are following Scripture’s teaching. That needs to be part of our prayer, that we are living out the Gospel and speaking what the Gospel actually says. 

Then, when we speak, we must be mindful of Paul’s words in Colossians 4:6 (ESV):

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”


PRAYER

 Abba, Father, we humbly come to You, knowing that we are Your unworthy ambassadors. Still, our hearts burn to speak up for the Truth of Your Word, the reality of Your love, the power of Your grace. Help us, guide us, lead us, O Lord, to be faithful servants of the King. In Jesus’ name. AMEN

Expect Your Growth in Christ To Be Gradual

When you give your life over to Jesus Christ, you can expect He will go to work immediately to change your heart to be more like Him, but He will not snap His fingers and make it happen overnight. He wants to build your character and encourage you to trust in Him, so the process will be constant, but gradual. You’ll be in Good Hands!


Hebrews 2:1 (NLT): “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.”

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NASB): “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”


GROWTH IN OUR WALK with Christ can be slow, sometimes exceedingly slow.

But the Lord has assured us that He will be with us every step of the way, guiding and directing, teaching and convicting, disciplining and blessing. He’ll pull us along the path, through storms and rainbows, until He delivers us in glory “without stain or blemish.” (Eph. 5:27)

The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1 (CEV): “Everything on earth has its own time and its own season.”

That means our growth will take place against both a backdrop of failure and success, of sadness and happiness, of sorrow and joy. 

Each turn will bring its own opportunity to learn. As we struggle with obedience and reliance on Him, the spiritual blessings will flow.

Our job through this process is to remain faithful, stay in prayer, and lean into the Holy Spirit, the counselor advisor our Lord promised us before He returned to the Father.

†††

EACH CHALLENGE WILL LAST its season, to be replaced by the next one. At any time, we might be in a period of tribulation, heading into tribulation, or heading out of it. Whichever phase we’re in, the cycle continues, each time growing us closer to the Lord.

The current coronavirus challenge is one challenging season impacting all of us, throughout the world, at the same time. It presents a unique opportunity for the body of Christ to testify to our faith, both by how we act and by what we say.

Perhaps this is the time to renew family acquaintances, meet the neighbors from six feet away, or engage in the productive meditation that leads to service when we are called.

Soon, perhaps, we’ll enter a season of coasting, enjoying the wind beneath our wings. The Lord generously gives us fallow times, resting times, to build us up for the challenges ahead.

Let’s enjoy each season for what it offers. Whether in periods of rest or of turmoil, we should put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6) to protect us against the enemy, who is sure to misrepresent God’s role in this picture.

James tells us we are sanctified through the trials we endure, provided we count on God’s help: “And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”* (James 1:4 (CSB) 

Amazing Grace!


PRAYER

O gracious and merciful Father, all praise, honor, and glory are Yours, O God. We thank You for sending us the Holy Spirit to be our ezer kenegdo — our counselor and advisor. Lead us through the storms, O Lord, and bless us when the storms are over. Thank You most of all, O Lord, for salvation through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. For it’s in His name that we pray. Amen

Challenge — The Bible in 50 Words

I recently saw online and in a recent blog post the “Bible in 50 Words” and wanted to try my hand.

If you’d like, please create your own list! I’m sure I would learn something from other versions. Why “50”? The number has some symbolic value related to God’s tabernacle in the wilderness, but it doesn’t rank with “3” (Trinity) or “7” (completeness).

I walked through Scripture in chronological order, hitting the high points, and without repeating a verb, all of which are past tense, except two in the continuing present.

FAILURE ALERT: I ended up with 60 words because I refused to strike some names, yet I still wanted to add Joshua, Caleb, Samuel, Josiah, Gideon, Mary’s husband Joseph, John the Baptist, Apollos, Barnabas, John Mark, Tamar, Rahab, Mary and Martha. I shortened Mary Magdalene to Magdalene and Holy Spirit to Spirit. 

Hopefully, apart from the fun of doing the exercise, it should help me evangelize if I can present the Bible in short form.

*Since God obviously and clearly loves women, I starred their names to help them stand out. 

______

MY LIST:

God created

Adam breathed

*Eve hid

Noah built

Abraham followed

*Sarah laughed

Jacob deceived

Joseph dreamed

Moses led

*Ruth gleaned

Elijah prayed

Nehemiah governed

*Esther believed

David fought

*Bathsheba bathed

Solomon wrote

Isaiah prophesied

Jeremiah wept

Daniel obeyed

Hosea suffered

Amos challenged

*Mary conceived

Peter walked 

John loved

Judas betrayed

*Magdalene embraced

Christ saves

Paul changed

James taught

Spirit guides

SHARING THE GOSPEL

Our Lord Jesus Christ was pretty clear in His final instructions to His disciples: He expected them to carry the Message of salvation, forgiveness of sins, and God’s grace to the far corners of this fallen world. He told them to start at home and then radiate out to include their extended family, then their neighbors and co-workers and friends, and then to strangers. He also told them He would be with them — and us —  every step of the way. 


1 Cor. 9:16 (NIV): For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Matt. 28:19-20 (NKJV): “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations … teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”

Acts 1:8 (NASB): “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses.”


SCENARIO ONE: You’re sitting in your favorite coffee shop, steaming rich black coffee (or heavily sugared mild blend, if that’s your thing) resting next to your laptop computer.

You’re writing a book destined to be read by hundreds of thousands of Christians — maybe millions — around the world on the perils of Hell, the eternal destination of everyone who spurns God’s offer of grace. 

You’ll call the book Erasing Hell, but in this moment, at this place, you look up as a boisterous group of young people enter the shop, laughing, joking, backslapping one another as they queue up to place their order, mostly for coffees that resemble milkshakes.

You feel a sudden urge to close your computer and go minister to them. You know that if you take your Holy Bible seriously — and, if you’re Francis Chan, the pastor and author writing this book, you do — you assume that many of these young people are destined for Hell. (Kindle edit., Chap. 3, loc. 4306)

Should you continue to write your book and sip your coffee, or should you drop what you’re doing to minister to the other customers?

In Forgotten God, Chan writes an answer to this quandary by noting that too often we try to lead the Holy Spirit when we should be listening to Him. “Sometimes,” Chan writes, “this is exactly how the Spirit leads us. There can be two equally good choices that God lets us choose between.” (Kindle edit., Chap. 4, loc. 2879)

†††

SCENARIO TWO: You’ve just received emergency hospital treatment to correct two blocked arteries that led to a mild heart attack, and you’re being transported to the Intensive  Care Unit for observation. 

The nurse who was assigned to your care tells you it “never” happens that a nurse stays with a patient from receiving through recovery, yet here she is with you, and she opines: “Things happen for a reason.”

As you process this, she asks how you stayed so calm  throughout the procedure, which she notes was “far from routine.” 

You tell her you placed the outcome in the hands of your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and that many people had been praying for you … and for the skill of the medical team, including her!

If you’re Joel Rudicil, president of your company, you send a text to your wife and ask her for prayer support because you’re about to tell your nurse about Jesus Christ. You even show the nurse your cell phone, where she can see those prayer requests. (Rudicil, Heart Attack, unpub. e-mail, April 2020)

As you tell her what the Bible says about heaven, the purpose of Easter, and how to receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, she tells you she wants this gift from God, so you hold her hand and pray with her for the Holy Spirit to come into her heart, forgive her of all of her sins, and begin to remake her in the image of the Savior.

†††

SCENARIO THREE: This one is you. What would you do in these situations?

In one situation, you are doing the Lord’s work. You’re writing a book that will circulate throughout the world, urging readers to take the Lord’s warning seriously: that Hell is real and it’s the default destiny of anyone who refuses to take the Lord’s offer of Grace paid for by His Son’s death on the cross.

Should you stop your work, right now, and minister uninvited in the lives of those around you? Could that nudge, which seems so Godly in one sense, be a distraction that keeps you from doing God’s will?

What would you do?

In another situation, you’re recovering from an emergency heart procedure, and the Lord has provided you with an opportunity to share your faith with someone He has been working with, someone who just needs a counselor, an advisor, to help put the pieces together.

This is not the only nurse you’ve spoken with, it’s just the only  one who is on the verge of a breakthrough. 

What would you do? 

†††

GOD DOESN’T LEAVE US hanging when we’re faced with opportunities to share the Gospel with those He has placed in our path.

He has told us in His Word there is a three-step rule to follow: one, be prepared to testify (1 Peter 3:15); two, look for an opening to share (Matt. 4:19); and three, pray for the Holy Spirit to intervene and work on the lost person’s heart (Matt. 9:38, 1 Thess. 5:17).

Being prepared to share means developing a brief testimony of how God’s loving grace has changed your life, given you a peace you didn’t have before, and is available to everyone who wants it. 

Praying is obvious: Even a quick “Lord, help me” in the moment suffices, but it should supplement a more committed prayer during your devotions, when you ask the Lord to grant you opportunities to speak His name.

Looking for the opportunity is the real skill. Sometimes, it’s obvious, and sometimes, it’s not.

Referring back to Forgotten God, Chan says sometimes the Holy Spirit calls us to do “a particular thing,” and the choice we have is whether or not we’ll obey. What we decide, he says, “is no small matter.” (Ibid. Chap. 4, Loc. 2879)

The Lord could have you exactly where He wants you, and a seemingly God-honoring diversion could look attractive. Maybe recall Nehemiah’s answer when he was prompted to leave his job overseeing construction of the Jerusalem wall: “I am doing important work and cannot come down.” (Neh. 6:3 CSB)

Let God determine your purpose and timing.

Jesus promised to be with us throughout the process (Matt. 28:18-20)

†††

POSTSCRIPT: MANY CHRISTIANS carry witnessing material with them.

It could be a business card giving the location and times of service for their church, a pamphlet outlining the plan of salvation, or even your personal card, giving them ways to contact you with questions. 

However you proceed, know that Jesus warns us not to be ashamed of the Gospel (Luke 9:26; Rom. 1:16).

Evangelist William Fay, in his workbook, Share Jesus Without Fear, gives us this teaching: “Creating witnessing opportunities is His (Holy Spirit’s) work. Our part is to be obedient, to act on these moments that God is creating.” (B&H Publ., Nashville, Tenn., p. 11)

Carry the material … Pray for guidance … Look for opportunities … Share the Gospel.

 PRAYER

Our heavenly and merciful Father, we bless Your name and give You all the praise, honor, and glory. Fill our hearts with zeal for the Holy Spirit, we pray. Prepare our minds and our tongues to speak Your name to a wounded and hurting world. Open our hearts to the suffering and confusion that lies around us. Give us a burden for sharing the Gift of Salvation with those You give us. You promised to be with us to the close of the age, and, Lord Jesus, we claim that promise, for You told us that without You we can do nothing. Glorify Your name as we share our faith with others, and we lift this prayer in the name of the Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN