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)

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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.

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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? 

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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)

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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

GOD DESIRES COMMITMENT

As we slip past the Easter weekend, which marks the greatest event in human history — the rising of our Savior, Jesus Christ, from the dead —we are moving toward the next big event on the Christian calendar: Pentecost and the presence of the Holy Spirit. With the ammunition of a risen Savior, a loving Father, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we are well armed to do battle by sharing our faith — the story of forgiveness and redemption, the granting of peace and joy, and the promise of eternal life — with a disbelieving world. We can do this if we’re fired-up for the Lord, not “lukewarm” as are so many so-called Christians.


Daniel 12:3 (NCV): The wise people will shine like the brightness of the sky. Those who teach others to live right will shine like stars forever and ever.

Revelation 3:16 (ESV): So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.


OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST does not like lukewarm, uncommitted, lackadaisical, worldly Christians claiming to represent Him and His message of redemption to the world.

Instead, He wants us to be as committed to the saving power of the Gospel as He was committed to dying on the Cross for our salvation.

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus said to the church in Laodicea that their lack of passion and zeal for the Gospel was annoying. He wanted them fired-up for the Good News! He wanted them to sing His praises!

Instead, He found the Laodiceans to be, like many Christians today, indifferent to the message of salvation. Too many Christians, He is saying, occupy the pews on Sunday morning, then return to their secular lives after the Benediction.

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EVANGELIST WILLIAM FAY calls this indifference “living in the middle.” Here’s what he writes:

“Trying to live in the middle is living a lie. The truth is, either you follow God, or you follow Satan. Either you are in a relationship with Christ, or you’re not. You are either God’s child or God’s enemy. … No one is in the middle. … Those who have chosen to reject Christ are condemned.” (William Fay, Share Jesus Without Fear Workbook, B&H Publishing, Nashville, Tenn. 2019, p. 13)

In his book Crazy Love, pastor and author Francis Chan says this about lukewarm Christians:

“As I see it, a lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron; there’s no such thing. To put it plainly, churchgoers who are ‘lukewarm’ are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven.” (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, Chapter Five, Kindle edit., Loc. 793)

Chan writes that Jesus is clear in His denunciation of indifferent Christianity. He says that Jesus “wants all or nothing. The thought of a person calling himself a ‘Christian’ without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd.” (Ibid., loc. 820)

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THIS BRING US to our most important question: So What?

Where are we in this equation? Are we sold-out for Jesus Christ or are we indifferent, casual, part-time Christians who neither follow our Lord with passion nor share our faith with those He places in our lives?

If we are committed to following Jesus, really following Him, then how committed are we to sharing the Gospel message with others? 

How often do we pray God will give us an opportunity to share? How prepared are we when given that opportunity to share what we believe to be true, that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Or that Jesus Christ has forgiven us and transformed our lives?

When we do share the Message, how often do we pray afterward for the people we talked to, give them our names to answer any questions they might have, or follow up with them?

How many of us actually know how to do any of this … or really care to learn?

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POSTSCRIPT: Our Lord has given us both a commandment and an encouragement to do this very thing. 

In Matthew 28, Jesus gives us the commandment, known as the Great Commission, to go into all the world and tell people to do “all that I have commanded you.”

Jesus also has given us encouragement. In our text source today from Daniel 12, He tells us those who teach others the message of salvation “will shine like stars forever and ever.”

He tells us in His Word what He wants from us. It’s this:

“Come, Follow Me.”


PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, forgive us for our lack of commitment to Your commandment to tell others about Jesus Christ, the Good News of the Gospel and our salvation. Forgive us, please, for our failure to share the story of forgiveness, compassion, and love with those we meet. Our excuses, which seem so real to us in the moment, vanish into thin air when compared with reality, that those who don’t know You or who know of You but have rejected Your offer of grace, are doomed to an eternity of pain. While that should burden our hearts, Lord, somehow we can live without the trouble. Forgive us, Lord, and change our hearts to care for those You call. When You give us that chance, that moment to share, may we call on Your power and speak from our hearts to their hearts. Lord, we pray our words, like seed on rich soil, will fall on open hearts. For this, we thank You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN

AN EASTER MEDITATION

SHINING FAITH

But [the angel] said to [the women], “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here.” — Mark 16:6 (NKJV)

“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.” — Matt. 5:16 (NASB)


LIGHTING A SINGLE CANDLE in a very dark space makes a difference, but if you light 20 to 30 candles, the difference is amazing! 

Likewise, when we join with others to share our faith story, the results can be profound.

It is easy to remain focused on ourselves. We are busy with our own personal cares, our desires, our things-to-do list, our jobs, our families, even our health, finances, and entertainment. 

But part of love, the real love that Christ calls us to feel, is bearing a concern for the well-being of someone else, especially for that person’s eternal destination. 

If we want to see people in our lives become part of God’s kingdom, then those of us who claim to be God’s followers must be willing to share our faith stories.

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GOD CALLS US to be a witness to the world, a light in the darkness.

He also calls us to be an encouragement to other believers — those we find in our worship, our Bible studies, Christian service, and mens’ and womens’ fellowship groups — to spur them on toward love and good works. 

Consider today how you can be an encouragement to another believer … and a light to a darkened world looking for answers. 

Pray that God will show you what He wants you to do, which is different from asking Him to bless what you’ve decided, on your own, to do for Him. 

As we close our eyes, let us pray God’s plan for our lives; as we open our eyes, let us see where God is working in the world … and then let’s join Him where He’s already at work. AMEN

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May God’s rich blessings be with you.


*Note: This meditation is an adaption from a You Version Bible Plan, “Inspire Others to Share,” Day 2. You can see the original here.

A Personal Story … GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS

God often answers our prayers in ways we hadn’t expected with a result that far exceeds what we imagined. Yes, I know, that’s what the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:20. Well, he was right! What follows today is a personal story illustrating that point.

 God often answers our prayers in ways we hadn’t expected with a result that far exceeds what we imagined. Yes, I know, that’s what the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:20. Well, he was right! What follows today is a personal story illustrating that point.


Psalms 34:18 (NCV): “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted, and He saves those whose spirits have been crushed.”

Psalms 46:1 (CEB): “God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble.”

Ephesians 3:20 (NIV): “[God] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”


GOD HAS NOT PROMISED US a smooth path when we receive the Holy Spirit into our hearts. 

That’s the prosperity gospel, and it is a false teaching. However, He does promise to walk with us through our earthly travels.

In one of the lowest points of my life, when I felt deep emotional and physical pain — from disharmony in my family and a twist in my back — I heard the Lord’s voice.

I had reached out to Him from my depths, begging Him to relieve my suffering, when I asked, “Lord, are You trying to tell me something?”

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HE SPOKE TO ME, telling me He wanted me to start a men’s Christian-based fellowship in the neighborhood where my wife and I had recently moved. 

“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” — Jeremiah 29:12 (NKJV)

“Now?” I asked, incredulously, wondering if He was unaware that I was reaching out because of my emotional and physical pain, not because I was looking for more work.

He said, “Now.”

“Who would I invite?” I asked. Since we had just settled from another state, we didn’t really know anyone.

He said, “You know.”

So, I thought. 

I barely knew of two men in our neighborhood I could invite, plus one man I had met a few months earlier during a walk, but I didn’t recall his name.

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HAVING LEARNED OBEDIENCE, I immediately left the comfort of my ottoman and hobbled over to my desk, where I opened my computer. As I moved, I felt the pain in my back and the hurt in my heart.

I searched a name directory for our neighborhood and located the “mystery man” from several months earlier.

After praying for God’s direction, I typed out an e-mail inviting the three men to join me in forming a neighborhood Bible-based fellowship.

I left the format open, although I encouraged each man to consider the group his own, with shared responsibility for leading discussion.

Once I sent the e-mail, I was done with the venture.

Or, so I thought …

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THE NEXT DAY, as I opened my tablet for devotions, I read an e-mail from “mystery man,” proclaiming he was “all in” on forming a group! His exact words: “Ward, I’m in!” As a bonus, he sent along an agenda to help us organize.

He was the only one of the three to respond, but it only takes two or three gathered in the Lord’s name, and we already had two.

As the next few months evolved, I watched the Lord’s hand at work in my life.

My back pain went away, and I could stand up straight and resume active exercising. The emotional strain was healed through understanding and forgiveness.

Our men’s group faced various setbacks, probably because Satan challenged us, but, with the Lord’s help, we plugged away.

“But truly, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD.” — Numbers 14:21 (NET)

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 THREE YEARS LATER, our men’s group has reached some 50 men — more than half of them active — a much healthier turnout than either “mystery man” or I could have imagined. Both of us credit the Holy Spirit for our group’s growth and vitality.

Yes, that’s a true Ephesians 3:20 testimony, where the Lord can bless us in ways beyond our ability to ask or imagine, and He definitely was building Christian encouragement into the lives of men who hungered for His Word.

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TO BE HONEST, I would much rather tell this story by saying it started on the mountaintop, when I was filled with the Holy Spirit and glowed with light and glory.

Instead, it started in the valley, when I wondered if my life meant anything.

Pastor and author John Ortberg says this connection between our lowest moments and greatest gain is not uncommon.  “Often our mountaintop moments are connected with our lowest valleys.” Ortberg, Faith and Doubt, Kindle edit., p. 69. 

The only action I took to relieve my suffering was all that I really had to do … I reached out to the Lord. He heard my prayer, and He blessed me to do His will.

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POSTSCRIPT: SO, WHAT STARTED as a plea for grace ends up with a song of praise.

Doesn’t it always?

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. — 2 Corinthians 1:3 (NLT)

For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” — Isaiah 41:13 (NKJV)

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PRAYER 

O LORD God, we are so grateful for Your loving grace and tender mercy, Your faithfulness, Your patience, and Your forgiveness. Help us to stay in prayer throughout the day, O Lord, giving thanks in all situations, and praising Your loving kindness. In the redeeming name of Jesus Christ we pray. AMEN 

Meditation … CARING FOR ONE ANOTHER

Especially during times of stress, we in the body of Christ should serve as a model for gracious service. Jesus said He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for our sins. He commissioned us to consider the needs of others before our own. We can accomplish this by staying in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is renewed within us by prayer.

Especially during times of stress, we in the body of Christ should serve as a model for gracious service. Jesus said He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for our sins. He commissioned us to consider the needs of others before our own. We can accomplish this by staying in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is renewed within us by prayer.


Hebrews 12:15 (NLT) Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God.

Hebrews 12:25 (NCV) So be careful and do not refuse to listen when God speaks.

Hebrews 3:15 (CSB) Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.


50. Open_Bible
God’s Holy Word speaks into our hearts … if we allow Him in.

THE WRITER OF HEBREWS gives two instructions: one to those who have received God’s redeeming grace and one to those who remain outside His grace.

To believers, he says we should care for one another so that no one will fail to receive “the grace of God.” To unbelievers, he admonishes them not to harden their hearts when they “hear his voice.”

WE OBEY THROUGH PRAYER

HOW DO WE, as believers, work to ensure that both instructions are followed?

Through prayer and only through prayer. We pray for our continued fellowship and obedience, and we pray for the opportunity to share the Gospel in word and deed with others.

Jesus reminded us (John 15) that we are to “abide” in Him and promised He would abide in us; that He is the vine, we are the branches, and that, without Him, we can do nothing.

ASK FOR OPEN HEARTS

SO, WE CANNOT guarantee or ensure that unbelievers will listen to the Good News when presented, but we can pray in advance that God will give us the words to say, the opportunity to say them, and receiving hearts to hear them.

The rest is up to God’s Holy Spirit and the unbeliever.

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PRAYER

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O LORD, help us to be faithful to Your command for our lives. Give us the people You want us to reach, the opportunity to reach them, the right words to say, and the right tone to say them, and give them open ears and willing hearts to listen and believe. We lift this prayer in the redeeming and sanctifying name of Jesus Christ, AMEN


JESUS PROCLAIMED: “REPENT AND BELIEVE”

When our Lord began His public ministry, His message was simple and direct: “Repent and believe, because the Kingdom of God is at hand.” That’s still the message we, His followers must take to the world. “Repent of your sins and believe that God is here.” That command from the Lord is even more pressing today when God’s people are opposed so viciously by counter forces. 

Mark 1:15 (NLT): “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV): “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”


OUR COUNTRY IS BROKEN. It is severely conflicted, sharply divided into opposing camps. 

This plays out in many areas of public life where is no possibility of compromise or consensus.

  • There is no compromise between those forces who accept God’s teaching that life begins at conception with those forces that believe life starts only at birth … with the caveat that the newborn can still be allowed to perish, if that was the mother’s intent.
  • There is no compromise between one side that views marriage as the union of one man and one woman with those who replace that structure with alternative arrangements.
  • There is no compromise between one group that says “religious liberty” means the opportunity to live out one’s faith during the week with the other side that restricts that definition to cover one hour of worship on Sunday mornings.

Those are just a few examples.

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Isaiah 5:20 (NLT): What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.

Romans 1:21 (CSB): For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened.


The Bible warns against this, calling those things “good” that God says are evil or calling “evil” those things He says are good. 

Is marriage between two women or two men good … or is it evil? 

One side says it is “evil” and cites to God’s Word for His commandment.

The other side calls it “good” and relies on human reason and experience as witness. Not only that, but this side calls those who stand by God’s Word “bigots” and “haters.” 

Really?

God told the prophet Isaiah nearly 2,800 years ago that “sorrow” awaits those who switch good and evil from what God ordains to what man desires. God also says (Malachi 3:6) He never changes. He remains the same (Hebrews 13:8) throughout eternity.

That means what God declared as “evil” three millennia ago remains “evil,” and vice versa with “good,” regardless of man’s “progressive” wisdom.

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Mark 4:9 (BSB): Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Isaiah 6:9 (NET): He [God] said, “Go and tell these people: ‘Listen continually, but don’t understand! Look continually, but don’t perceive!’”


TALKING TO THE “OTHER” SIDE is like talking to a brick wall.

  • Heterosexual marriage? No, that’s an outdated construct benefitting the “patriarchy.”  Besides, God (or the apostles) could not possibly have foreseen the love relationship that can bind two peope of the same sex.
  • Religious liberty? No, there’s separation of church and state, and your “religion” becomes the building block for a theocracy, rather than a secular republic. 

Each of those points can be refuted easily, but the self-styled “progressives,” those who claim they are not caught in the quagmire of the past, refuse to listen to their moral inferiors, to those they consider less literate, less worthy, and less moral than they are. 

Why, they ask, should they listen to the great unwashed, who basically are “bigots” and “religious nuts.”

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THERE’S NO JOY in pointing to the sad outcome awaiting those who spurn the Word of God in the latter days. For the time being, they are part of the mission field. 

So we shall.

Still, we, as a country, remain deeply divided. … with a divide that grows deeper with each passing year.

There is no reason to believe that another election, which occurs in November 2020, will change that dynamic. 

Regardless of who wins the White House, the Senate, and the House, the division will grow. 

Only the return of Jesus Christ will alter that dynamic.


PRAYER

ALMIGHTY GOD, have mercy on this country, we pray. Guide our leaders to be men and women of great faith, who hire top staff who share that faith and who serve honorably as public servants, beholden first to You and then to us. Forgive us, O Lord, for our failure to listen to Your Word and the hardness of our hearts. Direct and strengthen those of us who are Your children to lead by example, living our lives as Christ taught us to. We ask this is the loving, merciful, and magnificent name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN

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.

†††

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!