BUILDING BETTER MARRIAGES (Through "Love" and "Respect")

God created the institution of marriage when He created Adam and Eve. He told us through His Word that men are to love and honor their wives, and women are to respect their husbands. Our marriages work better when we follow God’s design. Even our conflicts are useful, if we encourage one another to be more like Christ — more loving, compassionate, forgiving, and patient.

 

Ephesians 5:33 (NKJV): Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. 

1 Peter 3:1, 7 (ESV): Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands. … Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel.


MODERN MARRIAGES ARE IN TROUBLE … EVEN  CHRISTIAN ONES.

WHY IS THIS?

Some marriage counselors point to the obvious culprit of “selfishness,” in which both the husband and the wife marry their partner for self-centered reasons. 

Their energy is focused on making certain their spouse makes them happy.

Yet, a marriage that survives in a loving and tender way requires  the opposite energy — selflessness, in which the husband and wife are asking, “What can I do to make you happy?”

So, instead of husbands and wives taking from their partner, they give to their partner.

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GOD INTRODUCED MANKIND to the marriage covenant while he was in the state of innocence, in the Garden of Eden, before sin entered the world.

Marriage was a “good” thing that God designed to bring one man and one woman together “as one body,” in which each partner brought his/her strengths to the relationship, covering the other’s weaknesses.

The Holy Bible tells us that God made man and woman in His image, so we know that in creating Adam, the first man, He took some of His characteristics (such as courage, bravery, and strength) and gave those traits to him. 

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WHEN HE MADE EVE, the first woman, He took other characteristics of Himself (such as beauty, grace, and charm) and gave those traits to her.

Both were created to be equal in God’s eyes but with different characteristics and abilities so as to complement each other and prepare them for different tasks.

God didn’t leave the marriage life to chance.

No way!

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GOD GAVE US DIRECTIONS on how husbands (men) and wives (women) should act and react, think, speak, and desire in this intricate and delicate relationship.

The marriage relationship, the Bible tells us (Eph. 5:32) is so fundamental that it mimics the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Church. 

In that model, the husband takes the sacrificial role of Jesus, while the wife takes the obedient role of the church.

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UNFORTUNATELY FOR MANKIND, most of marital history has occurred after the Fall, when sin entered the world.

Part of the curse God proclaimed was that Eve (and subsequent women) would desire to rule her husband Adam (and subsequent men), while God placed ultimate responsibility for the marriage’s success on Adam (and his successors).

This tension set up the current difficulty in marriages, where the husband and wife wrestle with each other, usually in quarrels, arguments, and ultimatums, to gain the upper hand, when God wants us to work out our issues peacefully. 

Yes, our struggles are useful for smoothing the edges in our relationships, but in the end, we’re to find a common level of accord. That can happen either by chance (not effective) or by following guidelines set by God (effective).

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GOD SPOKE THROUGH HIS APOSTLES to guide men and women in their marital roles.

Both Paul and Peter point to this maxim: Men (husbands) are required by God to love their wives, and woman (wives) are  required by God to respect their husbands. 

Why?

Well, counselors tell us that men crave respect more than love, while their wives are more willing to offer love; and women crave love more than respect, while men are more willing to offer respect. 

So, God tells us to focus on the trait our spouse most desires and that we have the most trouble giving.

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VARIOUS AUTHORS HAVE EXPRESSED this point in recent books.

In Sacred Marriage (Zondervan, 2000, 2015. p. 11), Gary Thomas asks: 

“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

Emerson Eggerichs, in Love And Respect (Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2004), said this about what God expects of husband and wives:

“Wives are made to love, want to love, and expect love. Many husbands fail to deliver. … Husbands are made to be respected, want respect, and expect respect. Many wives fail to deliver.” (Kindle, p. 5)

What happens, Eggerichs asks, if husbands and wives fail to act according to God’s design? He writes:

“[W]ithout love from him, she reacts without respect; without respect from her, he reacts without love.” (Kindle, p. 6)

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WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?

In every case, when we are obedient to God’s design, we benefit; when we chart our own course, we fail.

God knows us. He created us, so He can tell us what will work and what will not work. 

We need to listen.

We can use the wisdom that God gave to Solomon as our guide:

“Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17 (NASB)

Another translation says it this way:

“As iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other.” – Proverbs 27:17 (NCV)

Our marriages are designed for husbands and wives to challenge one another to become more holy, more committed to God, and more committed to one another. Through that connection, we are to become the “one flesh” He intended.


PRAYER

OUR GRACIOUS HEAVENLY FATHER, we humbly come to You, repenting of our selfishness, as we (husbands/wives) seek our own pleasure, our own happiness, our own needs from our spouse, when You have designed us to serve our spouse, to seek his/her happiness over our own. Lord, You showed us how to do this when You stooped before the Apostles and tenderly washed the encrusted dirt from their smelly feet. O Lord, how much love the Savior has for His creation. Create within us, Father God, a new heart. Remove our hearts of stone, O Lord, and give us hearts of flesh. In the matchless name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray. AMEN

BATTLING SPIRITUAL WARFARE

God created men and women to honor Him and to fellowship with Him. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin entered the world and destroyed that relationship. God, in His mercy, gave us a way out of our mess, but our lives in this world are in constant turmoil, as we struggle against our hearts, the world, and the devil.


  • Gen. 2:16-17 (GW): The Lord God commanded the man. He said … “You must never eat from the tree of the knowledge of good  and evil because when you eat from it, you will certainly die.”
  • Gen. 3:1, 4 (NCV): One day the snake said to the woman, “Did God really say that you must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?” … The snake said to the woman, “You will not die.” 
  • John 11:35 (NASB): Jesus wept.

GOD’S intent was to give man and woman Paradise.

I FELT LIKE I WAS FALLING THROUGH A BLACK HOLE.

It was an ugly feeling, as though Satan had his icy grip on my soul.

Even stranger, I thought, was how evil could torment my soul while I was in church, supposedly worshipping the risen Lord! Wasn’t that supposed to be a “safe zone,” an oasis from spiritual warfare?

Apparently not. We’re not exempt from the spiritual battles, no matter where we are. 

I recently read a post from a woman in Australia, who writes as “Perth Girl,” who experienced something similar, a feeling of doubt and confusion when confronted in church with the grim news that a dear friend’s cancer had returned. (You can read it here: “Doubts“)

So, the apostle Paul was right, there “isn’t any temptation that you have experienced which is unusual for humans.” (1 Cor. 10:13 GW)

Her experience was similar to mine, and her remedy was identical to mine: Go to God in prayer.

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Without fellowship with God, we feel isolated and alone.

 IT WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THIS.

God created man and woman to unite in marriage and live in harmony with the world He made and in fellowship with Him.

Instead, our forebears disobeyed God, ate from the forbidden tree, and immediately suffered the consequences … which have passed down to each one of us.

We have fallen out of fellowship with God, our marriages are filled with conflict, and our personal lives are a daily struggle.

We didn’t listen to His warning, but fortunately, He gave us a solution. 

We can find it throughout His Word, but James, the half-brother of Jesus, said it best: 

“Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:7-8a CSB)

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MY EXPERIENCE this time with spiritual warfare had a happy ending.

I told God from the depths of my anguish that as soon as we got home, I was going into my office and, in solitude, reach out to him,  pouring out my soul.

I did. I told Him of my anguish. I told Him of the evil that filled my heart. I told Him how frightened I was of that feeling. I told Him I felt distanced from Him, and that I knew I was the one who had moved … not Him.

In response, He bathed me in His love, His reassurance, and His presence.

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POSTSCRIPT: HE WAS PREPARING ME FOR THE WEEK AHEAD.

There is no doubt in my mind but what God allowed the devil to mess with me that recent Sunday in church because He knew that I, like Job in years past, would call out to Him.

He reassured me of His love for me and of my salvation. That reassurance has blessed me in the two weeks since. 

Yes, I will need frequent reminders of His love. That was just one bright spot on God’s sanctification highway.

Here’s His reminder for us:

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13 NASB)


PRAYER

O HEAVENLY AND MERCIFUL FATHER, we are so grateful for Your everlasting and unmerited love. You bath us in glory. You breath life  into our bodies. You restore our souls. You refresh our minds. You deepen our faith. There is no evil that can befall us that is greater than Your power to control and defeat. We are safe in Your arms. O Lord, keep us from wandering. We know You’ll look for us and bring us back, but we don’t want to leave the sheepfold. Bless us and keep us, O Lord, in Your warm embrace. In Jesus’ holy and majestic name we pray. AMEN

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.

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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?

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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)

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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.”) 

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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. 

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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.”

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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.” 

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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)

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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

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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?

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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!


Meditation — LIVING BY FAITH, NOT REASON

God’s promises to mankind are based on His good provision but require our acceptance. Why? Because He graciously gave us the gift of free will. That means we can accept — or reject — life. We cannot reason our way into salvation, where we take control, connect the dots, and conclude that salvation is possible and that we possess the means to attain it. It is a matter of faith, where we place our total confidence in the Lord to provide for our needs. Because we cannot attain salvation on our own, we also cannot lose it on our own. God keeps us for His glory.

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?

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 (CSB)

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NET)

WE COME TO GOD T56. Prayer-Partners-menHROUGH FAITH, NOT THROUGH REASON.

Our sinful natures and finite minds cannot combine to produce within us a saving power apart from the grace of God. It is His will that we may be reconciled to Him. It is not of our own doing, that we might boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

LET’S SEE HOW THIS WORKS.

A man (or woman, if you’re a woman) comes into your life and asks for some help. He (or she) is struggling with life and thinks you might be able to help. Why? Well, because you’re a bit older, more mature, more settled in your life, which is a good indicator that you may have experienced whatever it is that he (or she) is going through now and lived to tell about it.

So you set up shop, share a cup of coffee and a Danish, and sit back to listen to this person’s tales of woe.

You say: “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”

Other person says: “?”

He (or she) is stumped.

He (or she) mumbles something about going to church or having spent a couple of weeks one summer at church camp and, then 20 years ago, memorized a few verses before his (or her) grandmother got sick … and, basically, that’s it.

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NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY, you’re unable to get this person to acknowledge, beyond some lame comment, that he (or she) even has a need for such a personal relationship, assuming that such a thing actually exists.

72.Family_Bible_StudyThe Bible is clear that such a thing actually does exist and that we are ~commanded~ by God to seek it. He promises this: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” — Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV)

Yes, God draws us to Him first (John 6:44), but we have the privilege — and responsibility — to respond through faith (Ephesians 2:8).

Jesus said to store up for ourselves “treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20), not in this world, because our heavenly treasures are under God’s faithful keeping and will not be tarnished or broken or lost. They will be ours forever.

We then pray with our young charge and exhort him (or her) to begin praying to Jesus Christ to ask that He would intervene in their lives and show them where they have 15 minutes a day they weren’t aware of to spend in prayer and Bible reading. You say that if he (or she) is sincere in that prayer, Jesus will deliver.

You remind them of what the Bible says: “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).

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AS YOU PART FOR THE DAY and watch this child of God drift away, you raise a silent prayer on their behalf, asking God to give them eyes to see and ears to hear. You know that if he (or she) does not turn to the Heavenly Father, whatever difficulty they may be facing will not end well.

If, however, this person does turn to the Lord, then he (or she) can lay claim to God’s promises to be with them and protect them through the storms of life (John 10:10).


PRAYER

O LORD, our merciful and majestic Redeemer, our Creator and Sustainer,  our Savior, we 44. Cross_on_Biblethank You for the opportunities You give us to reach out to others when they are in need, when they come to us for help. Lord, may we always point them to You, to Your sustaining grace, to Your everlasting love, to Your merciful justice. We pray also, O Lord, that as they ask You in prayer for time in their day to spend personally and intimately with You, that You will shower them with time and desire and so change their lives. In Jesus’ powerful name we pray. AMEN


QUESTIONS:

1. Do you find it difficult, if not impossible, to find a regular time each day for prayer and Bible reading? Do you think it’s even necessary to spend time alone with God every day? Would you feel comfortable asking God to find the time for you, or do you think He’s way too busy with more important stuff?

2. Why do you think it might be a good idea to hear from God’s Word each day and enter into prayer with Him regularly? Do you believe He intervenes in human affairs and longs to intervene in your life?

3. Are you uncomfortable with the idea that our response to God’s gift of salvation is a matter of faith and not of reason? Do you see that faith means we’re placing all of the burden on God, whereas reason means we are the ones who have earned salvation?


Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.


 

Jesus and the Two Blind Men

What a difference between Jesus and those who profess to follow Him. When He was on the road to Jerusalem to be beaten and executed for our sins, He had time and love and patience and compassion enough to help two blind men regain their sight. While He showed this love, His followers, who were not about to sacrifice anything for anyone, told the beggars to leave them alone. While we are called to live lives that are holy, no one comes to the Cross because of us; they come to the Cross because of Jesus and His love for us all.

Two blind men were sitting by the road. Hearing that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd following Jesus sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more. Jesus stopped and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” “Lord,” they said, “we want our eyes to be opened.” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately, the men regained their sight and followed Him. (Matthew 20:29-34 NIV, edited)

IF EVER THERE WERE a Bible story that pointed out what’s wrong with the church and its mission outreach, this is it.

Here was Jesus walking along a dusty road followed by, what various translations call “a large crowd,” “a great multitude,” “an immense crowd,” — basically, the church at the  time — when they passed by two beggars on the side of the road. The beggars were blind and seeking alms.

jesus-heals-two-blind-menWhile they could not see the proceedings, they could hear the pounding of sandaled feet, the excited murmur of voices, and the general hubbub associated with the assembly of many people.

When they heard the commotion was caused because Jesus was present, they reached out to Him for help. “Lord, Son of David,” they called out. The phrase, “Son of David,” was the Jewish phrase for the long expected Messiah, so, in truth, they were acknowledging the Divinity of Jesus.

And what was the multitude’s response? The Jesus followers. The disciples, groupies, hangers on, and wannabes. You know, the church!

They told the blind men to “shush,” that they were a bother. Jesus’ followers (the church, at the time) was too busy following Jesus to pay attention to human suffering along the roadside.

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AHHH, BUT NOT JESUS.

He wasn’t too busy. He heard their cries for help. He stopped the action and called them over, and then, to check their faith, He asked what they wanted Him to do for them. Imagine that — the Son of God asking His creation what He could do for them. Continue reading “Jesus and the Two Blind Men”

Demons and Disciples: Two Responses to Jesus

Jesus shows us two responses to His earthly ministry. One is from the demons, who knew who He was and rejected Him; the other is from His disciples, who, through faith, followed Him, even without full knowledge of His person. Today, He invites us to follow Him on faith, not on knowledge.

The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him!’” (Matthew 8:27 NLT)

“And (the demons) cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’” (Matthew 8:29 NIV)

TWO VERSES APART. TWO SEPARATE RESPONSES.

In Matthew’s account of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, two radically different responses to the man Jesus were presented a mere two verses apart.

In the first case, His disciples — that is, followers of Jesus himself — expressed amazement that Jesus could be awakened during a storm and, 

Two Responses to Jesus - Winds
Jesus calms the raging sea.

with a single word, stop a storm that threatened their small boat. They wondered who He was!

In the second case, evil demons — that is, followers of Satan — cried out in anguish that Jesus, whom they knew as the Son of Almighty God, had come to send them to eternal punishment before their allotted time. They were inhabiting a man who lived among the tombs and, knowing Jesus would heal the man, begged Him to send them to a nearby herd of pigs.

How strange that those who knew Jesus were following the wrong guy and those who one day would shape the world for His Kingdom still hadn’t caught on that this was God’s Son.

True enough, the disciples knew Jesus was special. After all, they had obeyed His call to follow Him and had seen Him feed 5,000 men (and many more women and children) from a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Top that off when, in a desperate panic, they had just awakened Him from a sound sleep to tell them their boat was taking on water in a sudden storm.

Jesus-heals-troubled-man
Jesus heals a troubled man.

Even so, they weren’t quite sure what to make of it all.

The demons knew. James, a half-brother to Jesus, assures us in his New Testament letter that “the demons believe … and shudder” (James 2:19 NIV). So, the point is made that, at least with Jesus Christ, seeing is not the same as believing.

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AT FIRST GLANCE, it would seem that the demons were more in tune with the Creator of the universe than the apostles were, even though the twelve men watched the Lord daily heal the physically and mentally ill and teach with authority in the various synagogues. Continue reading “Demons and Disciples: Two Responses to Jesus”