WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BELIEVE? (Part 2 of 2)

Now that you’re “all in” for Jesus Christ, what are you to do? What comes next? You know the Great Commission tells you to share the Gospel with the whole world, starting with your family and neighborhood and branching outward. You know you are commanded to love one another and to serve others, even “the least of these.” You know that each believer is awarded spiritual gifts, which are different from those awarded other believers. So, what form does all of this take for each one of us?

James 1:1 (NCV): “From James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. To all of God’s people who are scattered everywhere in the world: Greetings.”

2 Cor. 2:14 (ESV): “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8)

Col. 1:28 (NLT): So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.

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LIVING OUT OUR FAITH

You say you are saved?

Wonderful! Praise God!

57. JESUS - Ascension 2What have you done about it?

When we read the Epistle of James, we start with an amazing proclamation in the very first verse, a proclamation so stark we’re compelled to stop right there and meditate on its significance.

James proclaims himself to be the “servant,” or, depending on your translation, the “bond-servant” or “slave,” of Jesus Christ. James is the half-brother of Jesus, a sibling whom Scripture relates not only disbelieved in the Lordship of Jesus but also mocked Him during His public ministry.

Last time, we discussed the significance of James’ coming to faith. This conversion was sparked no doubt by the meeting mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:7, when Jesus “appeared” before James. This was after Jesus was crucified, pronounced dead, buried, and then rose from the dead.

This time, we want to focus on the second part of James 1:1 — what James did after Jesus as Lord intervened in his life.

As we look at James, we need to keep this question in mind: So what? What are we doing after the Lord’s intervention in our lives?

PAYING WITH HIS LIFE

WE’RE TOLD FROM the Bible and other writings that James rose to become the leader of the Jewish believers living in Jerusalem and later suffered a horrific martyrs’ death for his faith.

We read in Acts 15 that it was James who lent the authority of his family ties with Jesus to recognize that God in His mercy had extended salvation through Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.

The apostles Paul and Barnabas had recounted their evangelism to the Gentiles before the Jewish believers meeting in Jerusalem. The council was debating whether Gentiles needed to become Jews before they could be saved or whether they could pass directly from being heathens to salvation.

Luke records the meeting this way (ESV): “After they finished speaking, James replied, ‘Brothers, listen to me. … Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God.’” (Acts 15:13, 19)

That settled the matter for “the brothers, both the apostles and the elders” who then conveyed that message to their Gentile brothers. (v. 23)

FOLLOWING GOD’S PLAN

NOW THAT YOU received God’s Holy Spirit into your heart, what does God expect you to do with it?

We can see what James felt called to do. Here, he is writing a short letter filled with advice and directives on how a new believer should act. Yes, in the Jewish tradition, he focuses on the law and actions, but he ties them in to faith and conversion.Walking_in_Jesus'_Footsteps

“You say you have faith?” he asks. “Well, show me your faith by your actions. Don’t just tell me about your good works. Show me.” (James 2:18 editor’s trans.)

Whereas Paul’s letters focused on creed, James was concerned with conduct. Paul wrote about belief; James, about behavior; Paul was doctrine, James was deed. The two narrative styles complement one another.

Of the 108 verses in James, 54 contain a directive on conduct.

Commentators note parallels between his writings and the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.

BECOMING FISHERS OF MEN

SO WE ARE TO BE mindful of the evangelizing function, referenced in the Great Commission, among other teaching.

image-6Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of  men.” (Matt. 4:19 NKJV)

If you’re not sharing the Gospel, you’re not being obedient.

2 Cor. 9:13 (NCV): “It is a proof of your faith. Many people will praise God because you obey the Good News of Christ—the gospel you say you believe—and because you freely share with them and with all others.”

How do you share the Gospel?

LETTING OUR LIGHT SHINE BEFORE MEN

JESUS TELLS US in Matt. 5:16 (NIV) to let our “light shine before others” that they may see our good works, or our good deeds, “and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Isn’t this what James said by matching our deeds with our faith?

This means acting according to the commandments our Lord gave us: to love one other, to forgive, to serve, to show compassion, to respect, to honor, to refrain from coveting, greed, envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, violence.

Then, when we are given the opportunity, as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT), to explain our “hope as a believer,” we should “be ready to explain it.”

In his book, Talking With My Father, the late evangelical pastor and author Ray C. Stedman, says it this way:

[Lord] Keep us from being ineffective, ordinary Christians. Challenge us to be true followers of you, ready to fling our lives away for Jesus Christ, ready to be utterly careless of what happens to us in order that He may be glorified. We pray in His name. Amen 

—Ray C. Stedman, Talking With My Father

POSTSCRIPT

THESE ARE THE questions each of us must answer:

          • Do you know the risen Lord?
          • Do you worship Him in the way you live your life?
          • Are you ready to explain the hope and joy in your heart?
          • Can you show how the Lord’s message of salvation is important for you and can be for your audience?
          • Are you prepared to share the Gospel?

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PRAYER

OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, we humbly ask You to guide us as we strive to honor You in our image-5lives. Grow within us a softer  heart, one more gracious, more compassionate; more giving; a heart that does not puff up but pours out, one that does not expect but serves; one that shows we are loved by the King. O LORD, our God, to You belong all the Praise, Honor, and Glory. In the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, we pray. AMEN

TEACHING A DIFFERENT GOSPEL (Part 2 of 2)

Today’s Christian church is under attack from within as Satan sets his sights on dividing us between those who see God’s Word as inerrant and infallible and those who want to “touch it up” to make it relevant to a fallen world. God gives us choices, but He also instructs us on where He wants us to go. Those who reject His instruction are headed for doom. Unfortunately, not only do they misrepresent the Gospel, they also lead nonbelievers astray.

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  • Galatians 1:6 (NET): “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel.”
  • Colossians 2:8 (NIV): “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”
  • Titus 2:1 (NIV): “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.”

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PREACHING A NEW FALSE DOCTRINE

ON FACEBOOK a few days ago, I saw an article posted from a self-proclaimed Christian that was very  disturbing. The article was written by a pastor fired from his position at a megachurch to become, as a bio of him proclaims, “a rising star of the religious left.”

The “religious left.” What exactly is that?

In its current form, it is best described by its own term: “progressive Christianity,” the post-liberal phenomenon that poses as “Christian” while espousing the same moral code as the progressive pagan political left.DIVIDED_USA

Progressive Christianity’s poster boy is former Democrat Party presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, a gay man who proclaims that God made him homosexual and that most evangelical Christians—described as far-right white nationalist homophobic, xenophobic deplorable knuckle draggers who support the current President and Vice President—are intolerant of one of God’s creatures.

Really?

“REFORMING” CHRISTIANITY

A WIKIPEDIA ENTRY defines “post-liberal” theology as a movement that seeks to “reform the faith via the insights of post-modernism and a reclaiming of the truth beyond the verifiable historicity and factuality of the passages in the Bible” and so-on and blah-blah-blah. It claims not to be synonymous, “necessarily,” with progressive secular politics.

However, when lining up the major tenets of progressive Christianity alongside those of progressive secular politics, one is hard pressed to spot the difference. Progressive Christianity looks very much like progressive politics with an overlay of God-talk, as if that would make its teachings more palatable to the faithful.

Satan, the master of disguise, is at it again, aiming his arrows at the body of Christ, trying to divide the faithful who believe God’s Word to be inerrant and infallible from those who want to fudge it a bit to bring God up-to-date.

 COORDINATED ATTACK

WHERE DOES THIS take us?

First, the religious movement joins forces with its secular counterpart to form a coordinated attack against the Word of God and anyone who proclaims the veracity of the Holy Bible.

Lucifer

Second, because it promotes itself as “religious,” it becomes a useful tool for the secular progressives to use against Bible-based Christianity.

This is readily seen, for example, in the lineup of secular left-wing publications this pastor’s work is featured in: Slate, Cosmopolitan, and Quartz. The last publication says it rejects  “racism and xenophobia,” which it finds, of course, among faith-based Christians.

“PROGRESSIVE” CHRISTIANITY 

PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY is just one step removed from non-Christianity, with that short stride being shortened by the moment.

Not only do progressive Christians mislead themselves by claiming to be Christian, they also claim a superior form of Christianity, bound in intersectional politics.

It’s not enough to cast doubt on the Bible’s relevance, they join forces with the global post-nationalist forces, which promote what evangelist Franklin Graham calls “a secular worldview hostile to biblical values.”

Progressive politics, Graham says, “is a code word for someone who leans toward socialism, who does not believe in God and who will likely vote against Godly principles” that are part of our country’s foundation.

DIVIDING WALL

I LOVE MY FACEBOOK friend and have no desire to create animosity between us. This person has been nothing but good and decent to me, and it hurts my heart to see thisperson pulled in a direction contrary to what the Bible teaches.64. Church_Doctrine

But the dividing line between Bible-based Christians and so-called progressive Christians is becoming a dividing wall. Maybe that’s how it should be. Those who no longer place their faith in God’s Holy Word are promoting a false Gospel, one that dovetails with left-wing secular politics, while pretending to be God’s Word.

The apostle John wrote: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” — 1 John 2:19 (ESV)

We need to pray for them, of course, and not become discouraged as those—many of whom have worshipped in our midst—go a different path. “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20 (NIV)

It is their choice, but the Bible tells us in Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV): “There’s a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”

POSTSCRIPT:image-8

OUR JOB AS FAITHFUL Christians is to remain faithful to the Gospel as God wrote it, pray for those who veer from the truth, be bold in our witness, and shine a bright light in a darkened world.

 “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” — Galatians 6:9 (NASB)

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PRAYER

Dear Lord, our Heavenly Father, we know that Your  Word is holy and true, just as You, OLord, are a holy God and in You resides Truth. Forgive those who would twist Your Word in a false attempt to make it “relevant” to today’s world, when You have warned us that You are perfect and never change. Your Word does not need modification. May they come to see the error of their way, O Lord, as You bring them back, like lost sheep, to the fold. In Jesus’ holy name we lift this prayer. AMEN

 

TEACHING A DIFFERENT GOSPEL (Part 1 of 2)

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The body of Christ is under assault from those hostile to the Bible’s teaching, but it is under a greater assault from those claiming to be Christ’s followers who insist on disregarding biblical teaching. They are liberals posing as the true disciples of Jesus’ earthly ministry, as opposed to those they disregard as “fundamentalists,” whose fault is to hold firm to biblical doctrine.

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James 3:1 (ESV): “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

Matt. 7:15 (NASB): “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

Isaiah 5:20 (NET): “Those who call evil good and good evil are as good as dead, who turn darkness into light and light into darkness, who turn bitter into sweet and sweet into bitter.”

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THE WORST ABUSE facing the body of Christ today comes not from those who readily admit they are not believers, but from those who claim to be faithful followers of our Lord Jesus Christ but just better  Christians than the rest of us.

Who are they, and why is that a problem for the body of Christ?

They are the so-called “religiousWOLF_SHEEP_CLOTHES left,” and they are a problem because the non-believing world cannot distinguish between the statements and beliefs they make from the beliefs common to our world.

In fact, most of what the religious left obsesses about is the faithful doctrine preached and testified to by their faith-based brethren, whom they dismiss with a variety of pejorative terms, like, “religious nationalists,” “far-right doctrinaires,” or “fundamentalists.”

“INCLUSION” or “REPENTANCE”? 

ONE PROMINENT THEOLOGIAN from the “progressive” left claims he wants churches to be modeled after Christ’s ministry, but then he mischaracterizes that ministry and what Christ tried to do.

He says that Jesus, the God-Man, fraternized with the worst dregs of first-century Israel—tax collectors, prostitutes, derelicts, and other street people—to the consternation of the religious leaders of the day.

This pastor proclaims a desire to emulate that community of “inclusion” in which the outcasts could feel dignity as human beings, asserting it was the high-strung moralists who were appalled by Jesus’ choice of friends.

However, this pastor misstates Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus was not building friendship circles of diversity and inclusion, He was reaching out to the “lost,” to the “least of these,” and to the “sick,” to everyone who needed healing.

His goal was to call them to repentance and salvation and invite them into the fellowship of believers.

      • “The kingdom of God is near,” Jesus said. “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15 NIV)
      • “Jesus heard this and said to them, ‘It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners.’” (Mark 2:17 NCV)

POST-LIBERAL THEOLOGY

HERE’S THE CRUX of the problem.

This left-wing guru of post-liberal theology wants to figure out how to develop spiritual communities “large enough for everyone” but not one based on “strict doctrine,” which he considers “repressive.”

53. Man_Woman_prayingIn other words, creating a church in name-only, one that looks like a church—with steeples, stained-glass windows, and robed choirs—which stops being the church as soon as the preacher steps into the pulpit.

From that post, the post-liberal pastor can water down the Gospel, and morph it into something “relevant” to the congregation’s “itching ears,” a pablum of feel-good Christianity that reinforces the flock’s desire to feel comfortable and self-righteous.

Why open the Holy Bible if you want to avoid “strict doctrine”? After all, where else would you find strict doctrine but in the Holy Bible?

Why open the Holy Bible if you no longer believe or teach that it is God’s Word—eternal, infallible, inerrant, absolute truth, entirely reliable, and totally believable—but you have to reconfigure it a bit to make it palatable to modern sensibilities.

REVISED HOLY SCRIPTURE

LET’S CALL THIS perversion of the Gospel for what it is: promulgation of sin.

Christian author and teacher John R. Cross condemned the new apostasy this way: “The rejection of biblical absolutes has resulted in a callousness towards wrong, with each generation becoming more comfortable with sin.” The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, GoodSeed International, p. 267 Kindle edition

That’s it! That’s the point! Rejection of “biblical absolutes” is synonymous with rejection of “strict doctrine.”

That is why the non-believing world cannot distinguish between the religious left (progressive Christians) and the general worldview of our times: it’s because there really isn’t a difference.

Those who are standing in the breach are not the tightly wound  doctrinaires and fundamentalists of Christ’s body, as the progressives would calls us—today’s Pharisees—but the faithful men and women who worship the living God, clutching our Bibles and prayer journals, raising our voices in praise, and confessing our need for a Savior.

EVER-WIDENING SCHISM

THIS SCHISM WITHIN the church has widened since the 2016 election of President Trump and Vice President Pence because an overwhelming majority (estimated at 80 percent) of the white evangelical vote was cast for them to lead our great country.

Faith-based evangelical believers voted for them knowing two things: one, the candidates would promote social policies fundamental to civil society, which are held dear by most evangelicals, and two, that the Vice President is a strong believer, but the President needs our prayerful help.

That leaves the progressive left in a diminished position, firing off pop guns and water pistols in its effort to change the political landscape. Of course, that makes them the darlings of their cousins, the secular left.

They are dangerous, not because they wield any power, but because, like Satan disguising himself as “an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14), they lob their rhetorical flimflammery from the pulpits, hiding behind the symbols and denominational names that—like sheep’s clothing—hide the wolves within.

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PRAYER

ABBA, FATHER, ALL PRAISE and glory to Your holy name, O Lord. We  humbly ask You to image-6forgive our sins and heal our land, to lead us in all righteousness for Your name sake, to empower us to be Your witnesses, a light in the dark, salt to the bland, an answer to questions. Let us be the Lord’s witnesses to the world around, starting with our marriages and families and then radiating out. Let our testimony, O Lord, be God-inspired and God-honoring so that everyone will know our testimony is from You. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN

TELLING OUR CHILDREN


Psalm 71:18 (NET): Even when I am old and gray, O God, do not abandon me, until I tell the next generation about your strength, and those coming after me about your power.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (CSB): These words I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Psalms 96:3 (NKJV): Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.


THE LORD WANTS US to tell our children about Him.

Even though we all come to faith individually — no one is grafted in because of  his or her parents.

We are to share with our children all the good that God has done for us; how He has forgiven our sins, shown us grace and mercy, and loved us unto salvation. 

So many Christians sadly admit after their children are grown that they told their offspring about church, but failed to tell them the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus.

Jesus told the man cured of a demon who begged to accompany Jesus and His disciples, “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” (Luke 8:39 NLT)

LIVING THE GREAT COMMISSION

SO, TOO, HE TELLS US we are to tell our families all  that the Lord has done for us. It’s called the Great Commission. (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8)

There is no greater thrill, nor greater commandment, than to tell the children the Lord has given us about Him and how He created them for His eternal purpose and glory. 

The day will come when we will stand before the King and give an account of our lives. 

Let’s resolve, with His help and guidance, not to fail this task. 

When He asks us, “Who did you say I am, especially to the children I gave you?” we don’t want to reply, “Umm, well, actually, not much.” We want to proclaim boldly, “We told our children, and those You gave us to testify to, that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

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PRAYER 

O LORD, OUR GOD and our Savior, please give us the opportunity to talk with our children, either  while they are young or when they are grown, about You, and how You have a purpose for their lives. Please give us the words to say and the spirit of boldness to proclaim the Gospel message of redemption and rebirth. Lord, help us not fail in this singular most important task, regardless of their immediate response. Open their ears to hear and their hearts to receive Your blessings. In the saving name, the redeeming name, the loving name of Jesus we pray. AMEN

LEANING ON GOD


Psalm 127:1 (NIV) Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand  watch in vain.

John 15:5 (NKJV) “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”


WE WERE NEVER CALLED to do life alone.

Our Creator made us to have connection with Him, to join Him in community and fellowship. He created us for His glory. 

Sometimes individuals, or even churches, are so busy carrying out plans they are convinced will help fulfill God’s purposes they don’t bother to find out what He actually wants.

They skip the most important step!

LISTENING FOR GOD’S VOICE

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT to listen for God’s voice?

Here are two examples:

  • LET’S ASSUME the patriarch Abraham was so disgusted with the sin he saw in nearby Sodom and Gomorrah that he decided, without consulting God, to begin an intense ministry to the cities … on the very day that God had decided to rain burning suffer on them! Wonderful idea,  we might say, but the timing was wrong.
  • OR THIS: A CHURCH believes God is calling them to relocate their presence from a neighborhood location to a busy thoroughfare. To build the much larger building would require assuming major debt. The congregation votes to proceed, assuming that God will provide for His servants … but this wasn’t God’s will for that church at that time. Again, a wonderful idea, but wrong timing.

ANSWERING GOD’S CALL

HOW IS GOD CALLING YOU in ministry? Are you actively listening for His voice, or are you busy telling Him each day all of your wonderful plans for the Kingdom? Are you asking Him to bless your ideas, or are you asking Him for His plans for you?

Nobody can fault your desire to be useful, but Scripture is full of warnings and advice that encourages the faithful to “wait  on the Lord” and to “obey when He calls.” He’s the engine; we’re not.

BEING SHAPED FOR GOD’S PLAN

WHILE WE’RE WAITING on the Lord, we are to be busy praying for His instructions and for preparation so that, when He does call on us, we’ll be ready to go.

He wants to shape us into the men and women He has purposed for the tasks ahead. 

The pastor and author Henry Blackaby, in his book Experiencing God, said it this way: “He will always work in you before He works through you.” (KINDLE, Loc. 758)

GOD WORKS THROUGH ORDINARY PEOPLE

THE PEOPLE WE READ ABOUT in the Bible were ordinary men and women, much like us. What turned them into giants of accomplishment was not their own intent or design, but God working through them. 

David was just a shepherd long before he became a warrior and king; Mary was a simple teenage girl chosen to bear the Christ child; Gideon led 300 men against 135,000 enemy troops but only after putting God’s angel to the test three times.

And what about Moses, that man of God? He was a shepherd in the wilderness, who had run off from his home in Egypt after killing a man and then begged God to pick someone else to rescue his people from captivity.

Only when David, Mary, Gideon, Moses, and many others agreed to obey God’s command were they able to accomplish God-sized tasks!

POSTSCRIPT:

WHAT IS GOD PREPARING US FOR,  

RIGHT NOW, TO DO IN OBEDIENCE TO HIM?


PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, we pray that You can use us in Your Kingdom work, that our hearts will  be softened to see the landscape around us, the needs to be addressed, the people who need help. Forgive us, we pray, for our self-absorption, our inward-focused lives, when You have called us to come out of the ordinary to live lives accomplishing great things with Your power. In Jesus’ mighty and glorious name we pray. AMEN

POWER OF GOD’S HOLY WORD


The Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword. It is filled with God’s eternal and universal truths; it lifts and sustains us in this life and promises us a glorious future. We are blessed to have several reputable English-language versions, some translating word-for-word; others, thought-for-thought. Becoming familiar with multiple translations is a helpful tool in Bible study because we see the same thought expressed differently. Reading the Word in a non-English language often adds to the richness of our devotional experience.


SOMETIMES, THE POWER of God’s Holy Word comes through with greater force when we experience it in a different English  translation from the one we usually read.

For example, if a believer usually reads the Word in, say, the English Standard Version (ESV), he or she might gain greater insight reading the same passage in the New Century Version (NCV) or New International Version (NIV).

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FOR ME, IT OFTEN COMES through reading the Word in Spanish, a language I have to work through. 

Because of the additional care I take, I often find nuggets of God’s wisdom that I may have missed when reading the familiar words in English.

Today’s text source from Hebrews, where God exhorts us through the writer to care for the salvation of others, is a good example. 

Here are today’s three text source Scriptures in Spanish:

  • Hebreos 12:15 (NTV): Cuídense unos a otros, para que ninguno de ustedes deje de recibir la gracia de Dios.
  • Hebreos 12:25 (NTV): Tengan cuidado de no negarse a escuchar a Aquel que habla.
  • Hebreos 3:15 (RVR60): Si oyereís hoy su voz, No endurezcáis vuestros corazones.

 This is how I would translate each of these verses. Most believers will recognize them:

  • Care for one another, so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. 
  • Take care that you do not fail to hear the One who is speaking. (Or, Make certain that you do not ignore God when He speaks.)
  • If you (this is the plural form of you) hear His voice today, don’t harden your hearts. (Or, don’t harden your hearts when you hear God speak.)

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OUR WESTERN WORLD is blessed with an abundance of translations of God’s Holy Word.

The writer of Hebrews emphasizes that point for us in Hebrews 4:12a. 

Yes, some translations are more reliable than others, and we should be careful that we do not sacrifice the accuracy of God’s Word simply for a “new” translation.

However, guided by the Holy Spirit, we ought to feel comfortable exploring the richness of translations available so that we can maximize our experience. 

  • Here’s the verse in English (NKJV): “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”
  • Here’s the same verse in Spanish (NTV): “Pues la palabra de Dios is viva y ponderosa. Es más cortante que qualquiera espada de dos filos.” 

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POSTSCRIPT

WHICHEVER VERSION(S) of God’s Word you prefer, the most important thing is that you read it every day, meditate on what you have read, and pray over it. 

Then, to the best of your ability, memorize key passages, and live them out as you go about your day.

As you do so, may God bless you! 

(Mientras lo haces, ¡que Dios te bendiga!)


PRAYER

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we thank You for providing Your written Word to instruct us, rebuke us, correct us, and train us in all  righteousness so that we, as believing and obedient men and women, will be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Lord, we give thanks that Your Word is available to us in many translations, both in English and in other languages. May we read Your Word daily, keep it in our hearts, and live out the Gospel in joyous celebration of Your victory over sin and death. We pray in Jesus’ mighty name. AMEN

Christians—Will We Engage In Political Debate in Civil Manner?


God’s sovereignty prevails over the course of men’s lives. His will will be done, regardless of man’s great plans. When countries ignore His moral laws and applaud those who flaunt them, He has said He will withdraw the hand that restrains sin and evil and leave us to our depraved selves. Is that a society we want for ourselves? Christians must lead as “salt and light” of the world, defending God’s moral law and conducting ourselves in civic affairs with love and humility.


Eph. 4:29 (NLT): “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” 

Jeremiah 1:9 (ESV): “Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.’”

Exodus 4:12 (NASB): “Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”


(SLIGHTLY REVISED MEDITATION PUBLISHED IN 2016 BUT APPLICABLE IN 2020)

TWO THOUGHTS ON THE 2016 U.S. political season, a brief  analysis, and then a conclusion: 

 FIRST THOUGHT: The electorate is angry and divided. During the primaries, three candidates (Republicans Donald Trump & Ted Cruz; Democrat Bernie Sanders) led populist assaults against Washington. 

Of the three, Trump alone survived, leading to a predictable result: Old Guard politicians and establishment figures from both parties joining forces against Trump, their common foe. Too soon to tell if the electorate, wearied from a year of politics, will yawn and back the establishment candidate or continue the assault and overturn the status quo.

(Now, we know. They bucked the establishment and elected the populist.)

†††

Second Thought: The real possibility that Almighty God is withdrawing his protective hand as our country’s arrogant leaders—and a growing number of private citizens—ignore His biblical instructions for our lives. 

The apostle Paul wrote: “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.” (Romans 1:28 NASB

He also wrote: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” (Romans 1:18-19 NIV)

Old Testament prophets told rebellious Israel that, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God” (Isaiah 59:2 NLT) and “Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the LORD your God?” (Jeremiah 2:17 ESV) 

King David, who lived under the covenant before the Cross, was so fearful of God’s rebuke for his sins, that he prayed: “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:11 NIV)

 While God after the Cross will not remove the Holy Spirit from His believers, calling His gift “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14), nevertheless, continued disobedience on our parts still erects a barrier between us and the God of mercy. 

This grieves the Lord who has assured us it is our obedience and salvation that He wants to see: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9 NIV)

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Analysis: Christian values, as many have seen, have given modern society so much to cherish — among them hospitals, civil liberties, abolition of slavery, modern science, elevation of women, and regard for human life — against the shameful record of non-believers who tout homosexual marriage, abortion-on-demand, civil unrest, antipathy toward individual rights and private property, and disrespect for all authority.

One difficulty with discussing civic matters from a biblical perspective is that the Bible is clear only that some matters pertain to God and His affairs, leaving a whole array of others to the state and to interpretation.

For example, we are to honor marriage as the union of one woman with a man, but  we’re left without biblical guidance on where to set the corporate tax rate or whether legislators should be term-limited.

Unfortunately for U.S. society, our national government now is usurping the moral sphere, replacing God’s moral law with political policy and defending that usurpation on a false reading of the Bible! 

Followers of Christ cannot let that go unchallenged. 

However, we are still called to be “light and salt” to the world and to express our views with humility and love. While God made it clear He abhors homosexual conduct and abortion, Christians could differ on issues such as developing new energy sources or protecting our nation’s borders.

Christians must boldly defend Scripture, but where the trail is muddled, Christ’s followers must reach their positions through prayer and promote them lovingly, even when disagreeing with one another.

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CONCLUSION: IT IS IMPERATIVE that followers of Christ lead the way this election year in the U.S. by boldly defending God’s laws and by conducting civic affairs in a civil manner. That would preclude the ad hominem attacks so favored by the unfaithful. 

We are called to support civil government (Rom. 13:1-7), but we must pray that whichever party’s candidates prevail in this ugly election, hearts will be softened to hear—and follow— the Lord’s voice.

POSTSCRIPT: This meditation written before the 2016 election seems equally pertinent as we approach the 2020 election. The electorate remains angry and deeply divided. Again, Trump — this time as President — and Bernie Sanders — launched campaigns against the status quo.

Once more, the Democrats muzzled Sanders’ voice, but Trump was not muzzled by Republicans in 2016 and, since then, has remade the party in his image.

As Christians, our jobs have remained constant: be a voice for Jesus Christ in the public square. The Bible even tells us how to do that:

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6 ESV)


PRAYER 

Our Heavenly Father, we pray Your grace as our countrymen  vote this November. We pray that our country’s leaders, and those who seek to replace them, will be open to Your voice and seek Your will, not just rhetorically when it’s politically useful, but in their personal lives and public acts. We also pray that You will lift up men and women who follow the Lord to seek political office at all levels of government so that our country, state, local communities, and school districts will be led by those who seek the Lord’s will. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen

“DO YOU WANT TO BE HEALED?”


We know that Jesus is the “Great Healer,” and He has the power to heal any ailment we have. Yet, when He comes to us, sometimes He asks a question that might sound strange, “Do you want to be healed?” It’s similar to its cousin question, “Do you want your sins forgiven?” In both cases, He’s saying, “I can do this for you, but, first, you must be willing to place your faith in  Me.” So, the question remains open, “Do you want to be healed? Do you want to be forgiven?”


John 5:6 (ESV): “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’”


IT IS EASY TO OVERLOOK the real meat of this story. 

Healing, the Jewish religious leaders said, can be done on six other days, but the Sabbath day is a day of rest, and God has decreed that we’re to refrain from working on that day to keep it holy.

It’s a familiar story in the Book of John, of how Jesus heals a man who has been lame from birth, but the story quickly pivots to the fact that the healing took place on the Sabbath, in violation of Jewish law. 

But Jesus asks a question valid for all people in all places for all time.

“Do you want to be healed?”

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THINK ABOUT IT. We’re apt to say immediately, “Of course, I want to be healed. I don’t want to be lame for the rest of my life … or blind or deaf or … whatever else it might be.” 

Yes, I want to be healed.

So, what does Jesus do for the man? Does Jesus heal him right away? 

According to John, no. Instead, Jesus tells the man to do something he’s never done before. 

He tells him to get up from his pallet (the mat that has been his home for 40 years) and walk, and then bend over from a standing position and pick up the pallet and carry it with him. Implied is that (a) he won’t need it anymore and (b) he can’t just leave it by the side of the road.  

Even carrying the pallet is a violation of Jewish Sabbath keeping. 

Jesus is testing the religious leaders of the day for missing the point of God’s law, but let’s not overlook the real meat of this story because this story is not just a happy tale of how the Great Healer happened upon a man in distress and cured him — remarkably, unexplainably, and supernaturally.

This is a story for everyone of us for every day of our lives.

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IT TURNS ON THE QUESTION Jesus asked the lame man and asks us today: “Do you want to be healed?”

To be healed, fine. 

But will it cost us?

What will we need to give up or do, maybe something:

  • we’ve never done before, 
  • out of our comfort zone, 
  • that will separate us from the crowd or our buddies,
  • from our habits.

Do we really want to be healed?

This question has a cousin, another question Jesus asks: “Do you want your sins forgiven?”

“Well, of course!” We’re going to say. “Yes, please do that, kind Sir. Please forgive my sins, wipe my slate clean, erase my debts, forget my trespasses, start me off anew.”

But, do you really want your sins forgiven? All of them?

The shady business deals that are just part of the way things are. The friendships over the years with your drinking buddies. Those secret pleasures that have become the dessert in your boring life. Your private thoughts. Your wishes. Your dreams. No one’s looking. No one will ever know. 

Do you want those sins forgiven?

What, like being healed, will it cost you?

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IN OUR STORY, JOHN TELLS US that the man gives Jesus a rather strange answer. Instead of saying outright, “Yes, Sir, I sure want to be healed. Can You heal me? Will you heal me?”

No, instead, he tells Jesus a story of woe, of how he lies by the pool day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year — carried to the pool each morning, dropped off, and picked up at the day’s end and carted off, only to repeat the pattern the next day. 

He tells Jesus he’s unable to get himself into the pool when the waters are stirred, when the waters contain some magic potion that will heal the distressed. “I have no one to carry me to the water,” he says, mournfully.

Then Jesus tells him something, seemingly unrelated to the man’s story but actually right on point to the man’s life. “You do something. Do something you’ve never done before. Stand up. Go ahead. Stand up, then pick up your pallet, and walk.” 

This man’s legs did not function. The muscles had atrophied or never developed in the first place. The synopses that connect the brain to the legs were damaged or never functioned. 

But Jesus told him, “Tell yourself to move.”

The man did so. He imagined his brain telling his legs to do something his legs had never done before and, in fact, could not do: to move.

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THERE ARE OTHER STORIES in the Gospels where Jesus has directed someone — someone blind, or a leper, or a woman with a hemorrhage, or a centurion with a sick child, or a man carried to the roof of a house and lowered in front of Jesus and the crowd — and Jesus healed them by noticing their faith. 

Yes, He possessed the power of healing, but the agent He chose was their response to His power. 

Sometimes, He refused to heal the sick because of their unbelief. His power is there to heal, but He heals only where there’s faith, only when someone repents, only when someone truly wants what Jesus offers.

Do you want to be healed? 

†††

RETURNING TO OUR STORY in John, the Apostle tells us that as the lame man on the pallet tried to move, at the very moment that the man determined he would comply with Jesus’ directive, at that moment, Jesus healed him. 

Healed the synopses connecting his brain to his legs, healed the muscles that never grew, and provided the ability for the man to lift himself off the pallet, right himself, bend over to pick up the pallet, tuck it under his arms, and walk away!

To walk … to be healed … required the man to do something he had never done before — to try to walk.

That took faith, and it was the man’s faith in Jesus that led to his cure.

It’s faith in Jesus that leads to forgiveness of sins.

It’s faith in Jesus that leads to eternal life.

Do you want to be healed?

Of course! Really?

It could cost you something. 

Are you willing to pay that price? Will you do what it takes to be forgiven? 

Are you willing to repent?

Are you willing to turn your life and soul over to the Master? 

Do you want to live?

Do you?

How much so?

Enough to trust Jesus … in faith … with everything you have, your life, your soul, your dreams, your future … everything.

Do you want to be healed?


 PRAYER 

O LORD, OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, please heal our broken souls, we pray. Heal our hard hearts, our deceitful tongues, our dishonest hands, our wicked ways. Soften us, O Lord, and make us Your children. Lord, we know that You and You alone are the Great Healer, but You require us to place our faith in You, in response to Your grace, Your calling. We ask for that faith, that faith that can move mountains, faith that proclaims our redemption from the rooftops, faith that shines a light into the dark corners of the world we live in. Lord, for healing, we give You thanks. In Jesus’ precious name, AMEN

The Christian’s Response to the Political Season


Some religious leaders caution Christians against publicizing political views, fearing discord that could split the flock, while others challenge believers to engage in all areas of public life, including holding office or working as staff. What is clear, and all agree on, is that in matters of our earthly lives—including the political—God’s people are called to seek His guidance and direction and then speak the Word of God boldly. How are you called to witness for the Lord during the political season?


Psalms 146:3-5 (NLT): “Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those … whose hope is in the Lord their God.”

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV): “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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Acts 1:8 (GW): “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you. Then you will be my witnesses to testify about me … to the ends of the earth.”


THE U.S. POLITICAL FABRIC IS TORN. 

The last several decades have seen a wedge form within the body, separating families, friends, neighbors, and communities. On one side are those pushing for more government regulation of our personal lives, while their opponents push against more government, saying less government promotes a vibrant private sector.

In both arenas — the role of government and the cultural war — there is no middle ground. If one is not “right,” then one is “wrong” — not partly right or mostly right, but completely wrong.

Overlapping this battle is the divisive “culture war,” pitting secular voices  calling for “progressive” values against Christian voices defending biblical values.

Both major political parties have seen an “ethnic cleansing” of views, where those left-of-center have migrated to one party and those right-of-center have moved to the other party.

The result of this realignment is a political middle nearly extinct, and, with it, any chance for either side to find compromise or common ground.

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WHAT SHOULD BE THE CHRISTIAN VOICE?

The Christian is called to observe two truths. 

One is to follow biblical teaching; that is, to listen for God’s voice and obey His commands where He has made them clear (Lev. 22:31; Matt. 28:20; John 15:14). 

The other is to follow the Lord’s mandate to love God and to love our fellow man. Jesus said we are to forgive our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44).

The Lord was also clear that He created civil government to maintain order and domestic peace, to punish wrongdoers, and to keep us safe from our enemies (1 Pet. 2:13-14; Rom. 13:1). He even calls us to pray for our political leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-3).

In the most famous exchange on secular observance, Jesus told his questioners to “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:7).

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WE ARE REMINDED IN SCRIPTURE that the Lord Jesus will return to earth — the Second Coming — when He will gather the believers to Him and usher in a lengthy earthly reign, possibly for a thousand years, before providing the Paradise He promised that far exceeds the Garden of Eden (Rev. 21, 22). 

Until then, we are called to witness in the way we act and speak that gives the glory to God (1 Peter 2:12).

So, is there a “Christian List of Political Positions” that we could refer to that will tell us the biblical stand on the day’s affairs?  

It might be easier to point to Scripture in defense of marriage between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6) than it is to discern a Christian position on, say, the ideal tax rate (Matt. 17:27).

But looking for “right” positions on earthly concerns doesn’t feel at all biblical, especially in light of the apostle Paul’s statement that “our citizenship is in heaven,” and we are waiting for the Lord’s return (Phil. 3:20).

†††

AFTER JESUS DIED ON THE CROSS for our sins, He rose from the dead to create His church (Matt. 16:18), which He would soon commission his followers to build (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).

The apostle Paul was clear that the Lord’s church should follow “one Lord” (Eph. 4:3-5), so there’s very little room for discord or fractious debate within the circle of believers. That is not to say there isn’t room for disagreement. That is entirely a different matter, as long as the issue is not a clear biblical mandate.

We’ve seen what happens when God’s people fail to consult with God on all matters of their lives, from Adam and Eve’s decision to eat of the  forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6), to Abraham and Sarah’s plan to fulfill God’s promise to give them a son (Gen. 16:1-2), to Korah’s uprising against Moses’ leadership in the wilderness (Num. 16:31-33), and that’s just the tip of the first three books in a 66-book Bible.

The prophet Jeremiah was pretty blunt, wasn’t he, when he put it this way when God’s people stopped asking Him for guidance: “For the shepherds are stupid and do not inquire of the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered” (Jer. 10:21).

†††

WHAT IS CLEAR is that in all matters of our earthly lives, including the political realm, God’s people are called on to seek God’s guidance and direction.

The apostle James, Jesus’ half-brother, says that if anyone lacks wisdom, he or she “should ask God,” who will give it (James 1:5). He says that the wisdom God gives “is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (3:17).

The psalmist tells us (Psalms 118:8-9 CEV) that it is “better to trust the Lord for protection than to trust anyone else, including strong leaders.”

Lastly, we’re reminded in Acts 4:24-26, that God is sovereign, and He will determine the outcome of any event, whether it be a plea for direction in marriage or which job offer to accept — or what the election outcome should be.

That doesn’t mean we will understand or even like the outcome (Isa. 55:9). It does mean that God is in control.

†††

WHEN THE APOSTLES PETER AND JOHN were released from prison, they reported back to the early believers that the political and religious leaders of the day had ordered them to stop preaching the Good News of salvation. 

Immediately, the believing community raised their  arms in prayer: “Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.’”

Their amazing prayer continued: “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”

After they finished, the Bible says (v. 31), “the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”


PRAYER

O Holy and Merciful Father, we come to you in this troubled political season in our country and seek Your guidance. We ask for wisdom on what we, as Your followers, should share with fellow believers and with a fallen world hungry for Light and Truth. In the end, Lord, we know that Your Truth will prevail and that You alone are sovereign. We seek guidance that will help us navigate the coming months in a way that brings glory to You, Lord, and healing to our community. We raise this plea in Jesus’ Name. Amen

GOD TO MANKIND: HONOR YOUR MARRIAGE


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

REPAIRING THE BROKEN BOND

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

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

Both parties must forgive the other.

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

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

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

MARRIAGE:THE FOUNDATION OF SOCIETY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PRAYER

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