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

TEACHING THE YOUNG


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


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

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


WE ARE TO TELL OUR CHILDREN ABOUT THE LORD.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

PRAISE THE LORD!


 PRAYER

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

The World Turned Upside Down

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


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

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

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


THE WORLD AS WE CHRISTIANS KNOW IT IS UNDER ASSAULT. 

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

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

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

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

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

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RECENT DEVELOPMENTS illustrate this. 

Let’s focus on two of them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US?

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what he wrote:

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


PRAYER

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

Expect Your Growth in Christ To Be Gradual

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazing Grace!


PRAYER

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

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

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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