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.
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.
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)
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
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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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 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)
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.
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 addressedthe 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.
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.
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)
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
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?
Do you see Satan’s hand in the homosexual lobby’s push for equality in marriage and work-related spousal benefits?
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. 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.
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.
The 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,” thePharisees thundered, “and they must keep the law of Moses.”
Nowhere 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.
So far, the apostles Paul and Barnabas had spoken, the Pharisees had had theirmoment, 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.”
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
Raising our voices — and our hearts — in joyful worship of the Risen Christ is the greatest experience we can have in this life. How sad when “church-goers” head for the pews each week out of a sense of duty. God gives us eternal life through His Son, and for that gift, we should be eternally grateful and eager to sing praises to Him.
“O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.” (Psalm 95:1 NASB)
“Worship the LORD with joy! Enter his presence with joyful singing!” (Psalm 100:2 NET)
“And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” (Luke 24:52 ESV)
DO YOU EVER GO TO CHURCH and wonder why you’re there?
You know, you’re sitting in the pew listening to the preacher drone on about something that may or may not have happened, like, 2,000 years ago, and you’ve got better things to do. Your cell phone is buzzing, and you realize at least someone in your life actually has a life.
And what’s with the singing? You’ve been to churches where a choir of 50 or more senior citizens sing some old dusty hymn to a pipe organ, and you’ve been to churcheswhere they rock to something that could be on the radio, except, well, they’re singing about God and that dude, Jesus, and that would never fly on the radio, for sure.
Then, your clothes itch. Seriously, like who can sit there for an entire hour dressed in something you wouldn’t wear to a costume party.
LET’S WATCH A TYPICAL FAMILY alight from their car in the church parking lot.
First, there’s some pushing and shoving from the back-seat occupants. Then, there’s the stern shushing from one of the front-seat occupants, before the driver gets out and tries to replace his scowl with a grin. You never know who you might run into in the church parking lot, and it’s never good form to make a bad impression. Not good for business, really.
Finally, in single file, they make their solemn way from the car to the church’s front door.
So, let me ask you: Do you ever go to church and not feel joy?
Unless you rephrased the question, your answer probably is “Yes.”
Rephrase the question? How?
Let’s examine the question. “Going to church” is an expression similar to “going to the dentist.” It’s something you know you should do, but it’s not something you enjoy doing, at least more than twice a year. For the dentist, it’s called a semi-annual checkup. For church, it’s called Christmas and Easter.
Instead, what about this question: Do you ever go to worship God, the Creator of the universe, and not feel joy?
The answer is: “No.”
It’s impossible not to feel joy if you’re worshipping God. There is no joy in merely attending church — there’s an abundance of joy in worshipping Almighty God.
SO, WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT WORSHIP?
Worship is praising God, thanking Him for what He has done for us. God created us in His image for His glory, to have communion with Him and to have dominion on His behalf over the creation. Yet, through pride and rebellion, man threw that connection away. God, in His mercy and love, reconnected us through the lifeblood of His Son. In thanksgiving, we praise His Holy Name.
Now, that’s joy.
The book of Matthew records a conversation Jesus had with His disciples in which He asked them who men said He was. Jesus was asking for the scuttlebutt. You know, the guys in town, the ones you know, your buddies, what do they say about Me? Who do they say I am?
The disciples offered some feedback — like Elijah or John the Baptist — basically, responses that missed the mark. Then the Apostle Peter offered this gem, recorded in Matthew 16:16 (NASB): “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Once we can say with total conviction, as Peter did: “You are the Christ,” we are freed from all of life’s uncertainties, its hardships, its troubles. We are free to express our eternal gratitude to the God who, in His mercy, gave us a way back to Him, despite our rebellion.
THIS IS TRUE JOY IN WORSHIP: Singing and praying our thanks to Almighty God, because, in the end, it’s all about us and Jesus.
PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, You are from everlasting to everlasting. You created us in Your image as Your greatest creation, for your glory. Help us to praise You and Your Holy Name with joy, with thanksgiving, with our hearts singing to You. In Jesus’ name.Amen