Meditation … LIVING WITH GOD On EARTH Or In HEAVEN

When you accept God’s gracious gift of salvation, offered through His grace and your faith, your eternal life begins at that moment. That should bring you great peace and joy. Each day on earth, we should thank Him for our health and our lives, but we should hunger for the moment He calls us home to be with Him … in Paradise.

When you accept God’s gracious gift of salvation, offered through His grace and your faith, your eternal life begins at that moment. That should bring you great peace and joy. Each day on earth, we should thank Him for our health and our lives, but we should hunger for the moment He calls us home to be with Him … in Paradise.


Psalm 84:2b (NCV): “My whole being wants to be with the living God.”

Philippians 1:21 (CSB): “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” 


 THIS SEEMS SO WRONG, YET IT’S SO COMMON — EVEN IN CHURCH.

You go to worship the living God and praise His holy name when there, right in front of you, is an esteemed brother or sister in Christ.

Gathering to worship the King!

You give a hearty greeting, like, “It’s good to see you!” and the person responds, “It’s good to be seen. Sure beats the alternative.” Then he or she chuckles.

“Really?” you say, “and, just what do you think IS the alternative?”

“Death,” the other person replies, looking at you as if a spider is climbing down your cheek. “You know, pushing up daisies. Right? Don’t you get it?”

“Sure, I get it,” you want to say, “but do you?”

†††

 THIS IS IN CHURCH, mind you, and it happens nearly every week. 

It’s ridiculous. Here’s why: If you are a believer, God promises you an eternity in Paradise with Him. So, if you are done with this world, you’re happily in place in the next.

If you’re a believer. 

The apostle Paul, who testified to having seen the “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2), said he would rather be in Paradise with Jesus in his glorified body than remain on earth in his “weak, dishonorable” body.

†††

THIS IS SAD TO ME. Let me explain.

In November 2010, the most amazing event happened to me. Mid-month, on a Wednesday evening, I received the Holy Spirit into my heart.

Immediately, Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, went to work on me. One pastor described the transformation process this way: While we think we need a minor tune-up, the Lord is working on a transmission overhaul.

God reaches out for us. We are His special creation.

Big time changes. Heart change, attitude change, habit change. Out with the old; in with the new. 

Scripture backs that up. Check out 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (KJV 2000)

Or read Colossians 3:10 (NLT): “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”

†††

SINCE MY CONVERSION, my peace and joy come from knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. I take seriously His statement in John 14 that He was going to His Father’s house to prepare a room for me so that where He is, I may be also (John 14:2-3, paraphrase).

Because of that joy, it strikes me as supremely odd and disappointing when those joining me on Sunday morning to praise the Lord and worship His mighty name take the same position regarding their life-and-death cycle as do those who skipped church that day for an outing on the golf course or just to sleep in. 

“Sure beats the alternative!”

True enough if the alternative is that place reserved for the ones who reject the Lord’s saving message; however, no where near true if the alternative is to be with the Lord in His Father’s house.

†††

THAT BRINGS US back to you, really, the most important person in this message. 

How do you envision your destiny? Do you see yourself enjoying God’s promise of eternal life right now, as you exist in this world, only to see it bump up in glory when the Lord calls you home … or do you see that every day you’re on this side of the ground is a good day because, you know, it beats the alternative? 

As God’s children, we are citizens of Heaven.

There’s nothing wrong with loving the life the Lord has given us and thanking Him daily for His gifts of grace. The problem is when we hold onto this part of eternity because … deep down … we don’t really trust Him to deliver on the post-death part.

Our two text source verses above, Psalm 84:2b and Phil. 1:21, testify to man’s desire to be with His maker. We can lay claim to that desire just as we can lay claim to the Lord’s promise.

It’s in John 10:10 (NASB), the “b” part: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

With Christ, your eternal life starts the day you receive Him into your heart. When this life is over, you’ll join Him immediately in His arms. 

QUESTION: Now do you think this life really beats the alternative?

________________________

PRAYER  

O Blessed Redeemer, how mighty is Your name, how majestic is Your power, how great is Your love. We thank You and bless You for Your goodness and mercy. Empower us, O Lord, to serve You through our lives, then, when our walk is done, please call us home and let us rest in Jesus’ bosom with the other saints. We pray in the name of Jesus. 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.

________________________

PRAYER

image-5

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.

†††

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.

†††

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.”

†††

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

BATTLING SPIRITUAL WARFARE

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


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

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

I FELT LIKE I WAS FALLING THROUGH A BLACK HOLE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

†††

Without fellowship with God, we feel isolated and alone.

 IT WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THIS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

†††

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

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

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

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

†††

POSTSCRIPT: HE WAS PREPARING ME FOR THE WEEK AHEAD.

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

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

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

Here’s His reminder for us:

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


PRAYER

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

Meditation–GOD VERSUS THE HOMOSEXUAL LOBBY

The homosexual lobby, those forces pushing for “inclusion” of same-sex marriage, normalization of homosexual activity, and insistence on acknowledging multiple genders, is engaged in full-scale warfare with the Christian community of believers. No longer does the lobby argue for recognition; it has left argument and discussion far behind. Now it pushes for legitimization and blatantly maligns anyone who dares stand in its way. Naturally, the strongest counterforce is the community of believers, those who live according to the promises and commandments contained in God’s Holy Word. It is God, and His church, that the lobby wants to dethrone.

___________

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?

___________

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)

___________

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.”) 

+++

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. 

+++

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.”

+++

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.” 

+++

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)

___________

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

___________

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?

___________

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

___________

God Hates Sin, Man Loves Sin

God hates sin; man loves sin. We’re on a collision course. God says the wages of our sin is death, but out of His abundant love, He provided a way toward salvation. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay our price. Our belief in Him restores us to a right relationship with the Father.

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4 NIV)

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:18 ESV)

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25 NASB)

“Let those who love the LORD hate evil.” (Psalm 97:10 NIV)

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires.” (Romans 6:12 HCSB)

GOD TAKES SIN SERIOUSLY. MAN DOES NOT.

That puts mankind on a collision course with the Creator of the universe. 

There is no good outcome for mankind when God wants us to go one way, and we want
to go another, when we continue to sin and God hates our sin.
Continue reading “God Hates Sin, Man Loves Sin”

Don’t Make It Difficult for Those Turning to God

All to often, we Christians are poor ambassadors of the message our Lord left with us. We should not stand in the way of non-believers searching for Truth in their lives. We should make it easy for them to seek — and find — the Lord’s saving grace. He made salvation easy. He did all of the hard work. We just need to point the way.

“And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” Acts 15:19 (NLT)

“I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” Acts 20:21 (NIV)

THIS MUST HAVE BEEN AN EXCITING MEETING!

The glitterati of the Jewish Christian world — Jesus’ remaining apostles and church elders — were gathered in Jerusalem to hear a progress report from two missionaries, Paul and Barnabas, who had been evangelizing the Good News to the Gentiles.

Girl Praying - Turning to GodThe whole idea that God wanted the non-Jewish world to be saved from eternal damnation was a difficult enough concept for many of the Jews to understand, but worse, they were hearing reports that Paul and Barnabas were teaching salvation by faith, not by good works. Moreover, they were teaching that Gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism before becoming a follower of Christ and that they were not bound by the Law of Moses. 

No, the Gentiles would be saved by God’s grace and their belief that Jesus was God, died sacrificially for their sins, and was raised from the dead to sit at God’s right hand.

There was a lot of ground for the church elders to cover.

The Book of Acts, written by the doctor, Luke, tells us that Paul and Barnabas reached Jerusalem and were “welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders” — that is, until the Pharisees swung into action. That was the same crowd that Jesus said “woe to” on many occasions, accusing them of substituting their rules, their regulations, and their mandates for God’s law of love and forgiveness.

“The new believers must become Jews first,” the  Pharisees thundered, “and they must keep the law of Moses.”

+++

INTERESTING.

Man Praying - Turning to GodNowhere in the four Gospels does Jesus ever say that His followers must convert to Judaism and follow Moses’ law to be saved from God’s wrath. Instead, in John chapter 3, Jesus says His followers must be “born again.” In Luke chapter 9, He says His followers must “take up their cross daily” and follow Him.

But the Pharisees, as usual, were adamant.

The apostles and elders kicked those ideas around, when Apostle Peter stood up to address them. Naturally, Peter would speak first. There was a hush as he looked around the room, waiting for order.

He reminded them that “some time ago,” God made it known that the gospel of Jesus Christ was to be preached to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews and that He would accept all into His Kingdom “by giving them the Holy Spirit,” the same as He gave to the Jews.

Peter rebuked the elders, saying God would purify the Gentiles’ hearts by faith. “Why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” Peter asked.

You can feel his exasperation.

“No!” he told the stunned assembly. “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

After Peter sat down, Luke tells us that Paul and Barnabas related their experiences and how the Gentiles were responding warmly to the salvation message.

+++

YOU CAN’T BEAT WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.

For shear drama, this must have been the top moment.

God Reaching Out to ManSo far, the apostles Paul and Barnabas had spoken, the Pharisees had had their  moment, and Peter had spoken.

Could it get any more dramatic?

Yes, actually, it could.

The next man to stand is the one Luke tells us had the final say.

It was James.

Not just any James. This was James, the half-brother of Jesus Himself. The one who Luke tells us in chapter 8 accompanied his mother, Mary, and siblings to tell Jesus He was embarrassing the family with His teaching and should return home and tend to His carpentry business.

The James that Luke tells us in chapter 4 was sitting in the temple in the family’s hometown of Nazareth when Jesus read from Isaiah that “the Spirit of the Lord is on me” and proclaimed to all of their neighbors that the verse was about Him. Yes, the James who watched as the townsmen wanted to stone Jesus!

Yup, that James, but not that James.

The James who stood up at that moment in that meeting knew who His Lord and Savior was. In human terms, he knew his older half-brother was God.

That James stood up and closed the argument with these words inspired by the Holy Spirit — words of grace, mercy, and wisdom: “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. It is my judgment that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

+++

DON’T MAKE IT DIFFICULT TO WIN CONVERTS TO CHRIST.

James’ words trickle down the centuries to the present era, where we also are called by Almighty God not to make it difficult for those who hunger for the Truth of salvation, whether by our actions or our words.

Instead, we should make it easy for them to ask God for His forgiveness, to thank Him for the gift of grace, and to ask Him to live in their hearts.

When James’ words were relayed to the Gentile community outside Jerusalem, Luke tells us in Acts 15:31 (NIV) how they reacted:

“The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.”

Praise God!

+++

PRAYER: Our merciful and loving Heavenly Father, we just praise your holy name. We give thanks that You are a God of love and compassion, of patience and caring. Your gift of eternal life with You is too wonderful to comprehend. Help us in our witness to avoid placing obstacles or barriers of any kind in the way of your lost children. Rather, help us to extend loving, accepting, benevolent hands to those reaching out for Your Word. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen