PROCLAIMING GOD’S TRUTH … WITH LOVE (Part 1 of 2)

The Bible—God’s Holy Word—reveals God’s Truth to mankind. While written by men, each word is inspired by God, according to its own claim, with more than 300 Old Testament prophesies already fulfilled. Its chief prophecy was the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. To thwart God’s plan to redeem mankind, Satan deceives and distorts God’s Word. Faithful Christians must be aware of that and must defend the Bible’s truth claims against false teaching.

2 Cor. 10:5 (NLT): “We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”

Titus 2:1 (NIV): You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.”

James 3:1 (NET): “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly.

John 17:17 (NASB2020): “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”

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 FIGHTING AGAINST FALSE TEACHING

THE BODY OF CHRIST is under assault. That assault naturally comes from outside the church as Satan tries to thwart God’s plan to redeem fallen mankind.

More dangerous, however, is the daily assault from within the church. That danger is “false doctrine,” being preached from the pulpits in many churches.

That false doctrine comes under the heading of “Jesus Is Love,” which is true, but the false message being preached is that “Love” fully describes Jesus, when He described Himself as “Holy.”

The difference? “Holy” includes “Love,” but it also includes “Just.”

HOLINESS VERSUS SIN

A HOLY GOD cannot abide sin, and, yes, sin is real, and the Bible — God’s inspired and true Word — clearly spells out sin  as “actions, words, and thoughts that violate God’s commandments.”

Let’s examine some of the sins God names: drunkenness, slander, envy/jealousy, bearing false witness (lying), disrespect toward one’s parents, disobedience to governing authorities, and sexual sin.

Sexual sin, the Bible notes, covers sexual acts involving children; family members or close relatives; the neighbor, co-worker, or total strangers; and animals.

Then, there’s one more category, one that God highlights throughout the sacred text: physical relations with someone of the same sex.

Instead, God’s Word proclaims that proper sexual unions are confined to marriage partners, where one partner is male and one is female.

SAME-SEX ATTRACTION

SAME-SEX ATTRACTION has been siphoned out of the list of biblically named vices and presented, even within some churches, as an alternate “life choice,” considered to be as valid a  choice as opposite-sex monogamy.

In fact, many churches are teaching that the body of Christ must accept and validate behavior that the Bible clearly labels “deviant” and “unnatural.”

Churches that do so are peddling the false doctrine that God will condone homosexual behavior because “God is love,” and He wants His creatures to be happy and connected physically and emotionally with “the one they love.”

Some churches even teach that God’s Word is not to be taken “literally” and, thus, can be revised by the reader, according to his reason and experiences.

However, the Bible warns teachers not to deviate from “sound doctrine” nor to teach a false message, one contrary to God’s clear teaching (Titus 2:1 NIV). In his letter to the church in Galatia, the apostle Paul said those teaching a false message should be “accursed” (Galatians 1:9 NKJV).

This is God’s teaching about sexual sin, through Paul’s writing:

1 Thessalonians 4:3,8 (NLT): “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. … Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”

LEADING CONGREGATIONS ASTRAY

HOW DO OTHERWISE well-meaning people go astray? How? Little by little, one step at a time … until the apostasy goes unnoticed. 

The apostasy starts in the pulpit and radiates out to encompass the congregation and, from there, spreads out to the community. 

The writer Brandon Medina, in his TheologyThink Tank article “Is the Bible the Literal Word of God?” poses the question rhetorically of whether anyone rationally believes the Bible is the “literal word of God.” He then says:

“This is a common refrain Bible-believing Christians hear, usually from the unsaved but increasingly from those even inside the church community: pastors, seminary teachers, and laypeople alike.”

Don’t miss that point: “Increasingly from those even inside the church community: pastors, seminary teachers, and laypeople alike.” 

Those “laypeople,” to be influential, are the elders, deacons, teachers, home group leaders, and other respected members of the local assembly. They may be the business leaders or other accomplished persons, at least by worldly standards. 

POSTSCRIPT

FOR THOSE WHO WANT to sound the alarm against false teaching, the Bible clearly says we must do so with love and gentleness, and for those of us who are not Jesus, that balance often is difficult (or nearly impossible) to do well. He did it perfectly; we’re called to imitate Him.

That makes it doubly important that we “pray in” so we’ll be connected to the Holy Spirit and then we can approach our brothers and sisters in an act of love.

May the Lord’s blessing rest upon those who obey His command to avoid sexual sin and may it rest upon those who, in love, speak the truth to those violating God’s order.

(Part 2 will be published after Christmas)

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PRAYER

HOLY AND MIGHTY GOD, please forgive us who claim to belong to the body of Christ for our sin. While some in our midst teach, or practice, false doctrine, others of us fail to call them to account. 

MANY, EVEN IN the church, sin by following, promoting, or teaching false doctrine, especially in the area of sexual sin; while others of us sin in our pride, arrogance, and judgmental attitude when pointing it out, as though we, ourselves, are without sin.

BECAUSE OF our sin, our message of repentance often goes unheard. This allows those who practice sexual sin, whether same-sex or opposite-sex behavior, to continue in their deviant and disobedient actions because our testimony is tainted. Lord, only You can save Your children. Only You can calm the storm and right the ship.

WE PRAY, LORD, that You will charge us who follow correct teaching to do so with humility and compassion and for those who promote and participate in a false doctrine to find a loving home within the body of Christ for them to return and to do so soon. 

LORD, WE LIFT this pray in the loving, holy, and just name of Jesus Christ. AMEN

MY WALK: A PERSONAL ACCOUNT

Sometimes, it’s good to be bold, to try something new, so writing about myself is my Christmas challenge to myself. This is not what I “do,” but it’s okay this time. We’ll see. Merry Christmas to everyone! God bless.

2 PETER 3:9 (NASB): “The LORD is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”

JEREMIAH 29:13 (NKJV): “And you will seek Me and find Me, when  you search for Me with all your heart.”

JOHN 17:20 (ESV): “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”

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A CHRISTMAS TALE

“WHY DON’T YOU tell your readers something about your personal life?” my wife asked me recently. The question seemed innocent enough, but I scowled anyway.

“That’s not what I do,” I replied, sounding a bit more smug than I needed to be.

I thought quickly of some of the blogs I’ve read that I really found enjoyable, and many of them — gasp! — were personal columns.

“Mine have been more ‘teacherly,’” I continued. “You  know, the kind that give a message of encouragement for anyone. I don’t really want to share what I had for breakfast.”

Well, as I thought about it, another blogger, PK Adams, encouraged me further, so I’ll make the stab. Bear in mind, I’m of mixed opinion about this, but this is Christmas, and maybe this time, I could share just a slice of who I am.

HERE COMES THE DOG

AFTER A LIFETIME of “dog avoidance,” I’ve recently become the co-parent of a puppy Shih Tzu, possibly the cutest individual animal God ever created.

Here’s me with our dog, named Gracie. I call her “Puppy,” and I’m totally in love with her.

She has taken over our home in quick order: watches TV with us, sleeps in our bed (oh, yes, that didn’t take her long), enjoys outdoor walks, chases leaves, barks at herons, loves to play “toss and retrieve,” and goes bonkers when another dog is around. 

My wife’s daughter has Gracie’s sister. The two dogs wrestle and bark and run rings around the room, like two crazed animals. They are adorable (but ours is cuter :-))

CAROLINA IN THE MORNING

NOTHING COULD BE FINER, as the song goes, than Carolina in the morning, and I can agree. Here’s the  view out our patio window as the Sun rises over the lagoon. 

I guess those are pine trees of some sort, but I don’t really know and in our five years of living here, haven’t bothered to ask anyone. They look strange to me, unlike the trees we saw up North that shed their leaves every autumn.

We moved to South Carolina from the Washington, DC, area to enjoy a warmer climate, lower taxes, and fewer traffic jams. Now that I see what it’s like, I kind of wish we had made the move earlier. Of course, there was that thing about our jobs, but … 

Although I’ve lived most of my life along the southern rim of the Great Lakes, Southeast New England, and DC, I love the “New South.” 

THEN THERE’S FLORIDA!

ONE YEAR AGO, we bought a condominium in South Florida, oceanside, partly as an investment,  partly to be near family, and partly because it’s a great place to be!

Here’s the view through our screened-in balcony overlooking a tributary of the Intercostal Waterway. I love to sit on the balcony early morning with my Bible downloaded onto my iPad, sip my fresh brewed coffee, and enjoy God’s Nature while I study God’s Word. 

Life is good! 

But there’s more, and I’m running out of space, so maybe there’s hope for another personal column. I didn’t get to talk about this blog … or blogs in general. That could be interesting.

We’ll see. 

ABOUT THOSE VERSES

I LOVE BASING my blog posts on Scripture. Usually, I select three verses that “work together,” at least as I believe the Holy Spirit guides me.  

I also love grabbing verses from different translations. Maybe it’s the academic in me, or the journalist, which is how I earned my living before journalism became corrupt and one-sided (oops, I digress). 

The three I chose for this piece are as close to “life verses” as I can get. Each tells of the Savior’s love for me (and all of us who know Him). They comfort me in knowing that my salvation is secure because He wants me to be with Him. (John 14:3)

Praise God! I am so blessed.

PRAYER

O LORD, OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, how grateful  we are that You’re a God who loves us, who cherishes us, and who literally would do anything — even sacrifice Your only Son — to reclaim us. We are blessed, indeed. Forgive us when we are disobedient, and guide us into Your loving arms, then empower us to share the message of redemption with those You put in our paths. In Jesus’ Name we pray. AMEN

GOD’S GOOD GIFTS TO US

God’s goodness overflows in our lives. Sometimes these gifts manifest themselves in saving us from the effect of our poor decisions; sometimes they are long in coming, almost as a “life achievement” award. Yet, also, we are taught by His Word that for many of us, our rewards will not be apparent in this world but, as Romans 8:28 assures us, they will be showered on us in glory. What we all assured of in this world is the Lord’s promise in John 10:10b that He came to give us life in abundance.

James 1:17a (NCV): “Every good action and every perfect gift is from God.”

John 3:27 (KJ2000): “John [the Baptist] answered and said, ‘A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.'”

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THE LORD’S BENEVOLENT HAND

THE OTHER DAY I nearly lost my left eye.

OIP.WTKqPq5kyy4FCViBQ1c-9QAAAAI bent over to pick up a dead leaf from one of our indoor plants and failed to see a stabilizer stick jutting up that struck my forehead.

Barely an inch from my eye.

Surely, God’s angels were watching over me.

That incident is not even the most dramatic one in the last few days affecting me or members of my family, but just one example in my life.

God is good to us, and we see reminders of that every day.

NOT PROSPERITY GOSPEL

LET’S NOT MISTAKE God’s good gifts for the so-called “Prosperity Gospel.” God’s Word promises He’ll go through our trials with us, not that we will skate through life without them.

However, each one of us can cite numerous examples where we experienced a “near miss,” something that easily could have turned into one of those tragedies we all read about and say, “Hope that doesn’t happen to me.”TRAFFIC_DRIVING

There are many times we’ve been saved from a car running a red light, a flying object that misses our face,  or a heavy object that falls harmlessly beside our foot.

Often for me, it has manifested itself in driving situations, where I’m about to turn into the passing lane and am alerted by my car’s alarm of an oncoming vehicle that I failed to see in the mirror. I immediately thank God for watching over me.

When turning left in front of oncoming traffic, I pray for patience so that I don’t end up scooting in front of a car, a car that I swear has just sped up, but allow myself to wait for a clearer path.

“Love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” I recite the Fruit of the Spirit (Gals. 5:22-23 ESV) as a prayer, each time emphasizing the fourth word to restrain my impulses.

Not only in my own life, but how often has a loved one experienced God’s protective grace, and I don’t even know about it? If they don’t relate the story, I’ll never hear of it, but I still “know” that God’s protection abounds.

I did hear of one story. In July 2019, my daughter in Texas was struck by two cars — one from behind her and one from in front. While the car was a total wreck, she escaped with a concussion, and the children were unharmed.

I still thank the Lord for sparing their lives.

JESUS’ GREATEST SERMON

JESUS IN THE SERMON on the Mount tells us about God’s goodness … by contrasting His goodness with  man’s goodness.SERMON_ON_MOUNT

He tells a story of how mankind, being inherently evil, still has the capacity to do good things. He says a father, for example, will not give his son a stone if the child asks for bread, nor will he give the child a snake instead of a fish (Matt. 7:9-10).

The Master uses the example to assure His listeners that, if earthly fathers can give good gifts to their children, surely a good and loving Heavenly Father would “give good things to those who ask him” (Matt. 7:11 ESV).

I’m often amazed at stories of Good Samaritans who quickly doff shoes and clothing to dive into a pool or lake or ocean to retrieve another person they may not even know, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. (Just Google, “Good Samaritan dies saving another person” to see numerous examples.)

GOD’S GOOD GIFTS

A SPIRIT-FILLED PASTOR in the DC area a few years ago related a story of how, when their  children were young, they would stop by the roadside on the way to the Washington Zoo to pray for a good parking spot.

When the congregation registered surprise, he said, “Oh, yeah! God loves to give His children good gifts, … and we managed to find some pretty good parking spots, too!”Meditation.Raised Hands

All good gifts come from the Father, but how often do most people think to ask God for help in their everyday lives, even when the Bible (1 Thessalonians 5:17) exhorts us to stay in prayer throughout the day?

There are many times we can thank Him for His provision, like asking Him to bless the food we’re about to eat or help us find our car keys or pray that He’ll keep our dropped mobile phone from a cracked face.

While God is not a genie who grants our every wish, He is a personal God who created us to be in fellowship with Him and wants to provide for us.

Jesus said He came to the earth that we would “have life,  and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b NASB).

How sad for so many who cannot accept the existence of our Heavenly Father nor enjoy His loving goodness toward them.

When we stay in prayer all day, asking Him for favors, seeking forgiveness for something we’ve said, or asking Him to help us decide how to handle a thorny situation, we open the communication channels so God can speak to us … and that’s really the point of it all, isn’t it?

REJOICE IN THE LORD

THE APOSTLE PAUL exhorts us to “always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again — rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4 NLT).

Nearly 1,000 years earlier, the psalmist gave us the same message: “Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! … For the LORD is good.” (Psalm 100:1, 5a NKJV)

The Doxology, sung each week in many churches, says this: 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

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PRAYER

image-13

OUR GOOD AND GRACIOUS HEAVENLY FATHER,  we thank you for Your loving kindness, Your mercy, and Your provision. Please forgive us when we take Your gifts for granted. Give us hearts that appreciate Your goodness. Praise the Lord! In Jesus name, AMEN

THE BODY OF CHRIST CONFRONTS A RIGGED ELECTION: WHAT NOW?

In light of what is likely to have been a rigged national election, what is the Bible-believing Christian — the true body of Christ — to do? How should we act? We are called by our Lord to witness for Him boldly. As citizens of Heaven, we must do that. However, we are also told to respect temporal leaders and pray for them, so we must do that, too. What happens when the church, itself, becomes the target?

Philippians 1:12-13 (CSB): “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is because I am in Christ.”

Matthew 13:24-26 (NKJV): “Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.’”

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“DARK WINTER” AHEAD

THE APPARENT VICTORS of the recent U.S. election for President and Vice President have promised a “very dark winter” is coming.

TWO CONCLUSIONS ARE EVIDENT.VOTING

FIRST CONCLUSION: The election results are highly suspect, leading 73 million Americans convinced the tabulation was fixed, and the election was stolen, meaning the “victors” are imposters.

SECOND CONCLUSION: The new administration will use the apparent “health crisis” as a pretext to implement draconian regulations over every area of our lives.

OBSERVATION: Polling shows that 99 percent of white evangelical Christians voted for the “losing” candidate, the incumbent President, not because of the individual’s personal qualities but because his policies were consistent with Christianity’s — and a well-ordered society’s — foundational values.

QUESTION RAISED: How do committed Christians, those who profess a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, react to the prospect of a rigged election giving sanction to strong foes of Christian values unfettered power to exert their will in response to a “crisis”? 

GLOOMY ASSESSMENT

GIVEN THE NATURE of the election’s outcome, credulity is stretched to the breaking point to believe the election was conducted “fair and square.”FRAUDULENT_MISREPRESENTATION

CONSIDER:

  • The apparent “victor” never campaigned,
  • The incumbent President increased his vote total by 10 million over the prior election, with the most votes of any sitting President in U.S. history,
  • Massive campaign to ensure one party casts its votes by mail-in ballot, which Democrats, like actor Rob Reiner, said would give them a landslide victory, 
  • The “victor” could not bring in with him one member of either the House or the Senate, while the apparent loser did,
  • Vote counting in several swing states stopped for three hours in the middle of the night while additional “ballots” were trucked in,
  • Credible reports were lodged, with supporting affidavits, of
    • Malfeasance in counting, with some voters being afforded an opportunity to fix or “cure” errors in their ballots, while others were not, 
    • Failure to account for different signatures on the ballot and envelope,
    • Numerous ballets counted in which the voters only chose a presidential candidate, ignoring down-ballot candidates,
    • Votes for the winning candidate run through the vote-tabulating machinery multiple times,
    • More people voting in a district than are registered,
    • Coding irregularities in the electronic systems used in some districts that reportedly switched votes cast for the losing candidate to be recorded for the victor.

This is the stuff of third-world banana republics. If the voting irregularities are not clearly identified and fixed before the off-year election in 2022, our republic may be irretrievably lost. 

Certainly, the era of two-party politics, as we have known it since the Republic’s beginning, will be damaged or even destroyed.

ANTI-CHRISTIAN AGENDA

WHILE THIS GLOOMY assessment of a dark winter coming was based on reaching a total of 10 million American citizens having been diagnosed with Covid, the phrase could serve as watchwords for the draconian specter of intense and overreaching government regulation of nearly every facet of our lives the administration-in-waiting represents.LEGISLATION

As such, it is a pretext for the new administration’s real agenda

Headlines tell us that Biden/Harris promise a four-year reign of terror by promoting:

  • Abortion-on-demand  
    • Allowing babies that survived abortion to die naturally
    • Rescinding “freedom of conscience” exceptions allowing health care providers to avoid performing abortions
  • LGBTQ+ “rights” being ratified into law
    • Requiring churches to perform “marriages”
    • Requiring court clerks to issue “marriage” certificates
    • Requiring vendors to support “marriages”
    • Requiring employers and insurers to honor “marriages”
  • Roll-back of religious liberty
    • Stifling freedom of expression
    • Regulation of personal energy use
    • Socialized medicine (Medicare-for-all)
    • Tipping the election machinery to benefit themselves:
        • Eliminating the Senate filibuster
        • Adding 1 or 2 new “states”with assured Democrat Senators
        • Giving amnesty to millions of illegal residents, whose amnesty will be a “gift” from the Democrats
        • Packing the US Supreme Court to ensure a liberal “progressive” majority
        • Opening the borders to increase the flow of illegal immigrants-to-amnesty status
    • Increase in racial tension
    • Harassment and punishment of those working for, and those supporting, the former President.

DIVIDED_USAIn other words, “everything is on the table,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate’s minority leader, vowed. He said, if his party wins the two Georgia run-off elections on Jan. 5, 2021, Democrats will “change the world.” He later scaled it back to “change America.”

The phrase “never let a crisis go to waste,” used by many but popularized in the United States by left-wing activist Rahm Emmanuel, is the strategy governing the activities of the incoming Biden-Harris Administration.

The slang expression this scenario best fits is this: “You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.”

JESUS IS SOVEREIGN

DESPITE THIS GRUESOME picture, there is no reason for committed Christians to despair, even in the midst of trials and tribulations, because our Lord Jesus is on the throne. He remains sovereign over all.

The Book of Revelation tells us that, in the end, Jesus wins, and his children will be victorious along with Him.

Revelation 15:4 (NKJV): “Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.”

Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi also sounded a note of pure optimism and hope:

Philippians 2:9-11 (NKJV): “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

J3x.Turning From God-WorshipAs antipathy toward conservatives grows, especially those conservatives who are seen to be Christian, there could be a beneficial outcome to the Christian church, which has become too complacent in modern America. 

The fissures within denominations over doctrine, and the factions within non-denominational churches, could escalate as Bible-based members separate from the “cultural Christians” among them, just as in the Judgment Day, the wheat will be separated from the weeds. (Matthew 13:24-30)

In some cases, the casual Christians could “wake up” to the challenges; while in other cases, they would melt away to join their unchurched neighbors. In either case, what is left could be a more vibrant, alive church of Christians committed to their faith. 

Paul, from a Roman prison, writes: 

Philippians 1:14 (ESV): “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

The faithful may well find themselves persecuted. What form that might take in the United States is yet to be determined, but, based on recent events, it certainly will entail branding, shaming, doxing, harassing at home or on the street or at restaurants, and even opposition at work.

Paul tells us: 

Philippians 1:29 (CSB): “For it has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.”

We need to stay in prayer (1 These. 5:17) and know that our Savior will be victorious:

Job 19:25 (NET):As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that as the last he will stand upon the earth.”

David Schopp, a member of Community Bible Church in Beaufort, SC, characterized our circumstances this way:

“Right now, we can feel like darkness is closing in all around us. The challenges we are facing just seem to keep coming.  The best way for us to do battle and shine our light in the darkness is on our knees.” — David Schopp, 12-10-2020

On our knees. Indeed.

The apostle Paul again:

Philippians 4:7 (CSB): “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”lone_cross

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PRAYER

OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, we find ourselves in a gruesome situation in the U.S. where an incoming administration may have gamed the system to win the election and then promises to oppose every foundational issue sacred to Christianity. We know You remain sovereign, and we are to pray for their faithfulness to Your design. Strengthen us, O Lord, to be bold in our witness for Christ, even in the midst of harassment and possible persecution. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN

CAN WE KNOW WE’LL GO TO HEAVEN?

Are you going to Heaven when you die? Polls show most people believe there is a Heaven and they’re on their way. Why? Because, they say, basically they are “good” people. But what does the Bible say about that? Pastor and author Author Randy Alcorn in a new tract explains that Heaven isn’t our “default destination” and that important changes must be made in our lives if we are to spend eternity with the Lord in His rest.

Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV): “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

2 Peter 2:9 (CEV): “This shows that the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their sufferings and to punish evil people while they wait for the day of judgment.”

Revelation 22:17 (ESV): “Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”

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MISSING THE TRAIN TO HEAVEN

RECENTLY, I WAS DRIVING one of our church elders to Sunday morning services. He turned to me, his thumb and index finger nearly touching, and said words that still ring in my ears: “Ward, I came this close to spending eternity in Hell.”

HELL. HELL

What a terrifying thought. An eternity of darkness, aloneness. Fire. Worms. Without hope. Without love. Without end. It’ll be hellish. Really.

Yet, a recent poll showed that for every American who believes he or she is going to Hell, 120 believe they are going to Heaven. 

The Bible tells an entirely different story. It says a person must believe in Jesus Christ to enter Heaven. (A different standard applies to those who have not heard of Him.)

Unfortunately, that means that most of the self-described Heaven-bound are wrong.

In fact, the optimism expressed by most Americans, even those who do not profess to be Christian, stands in stark contrast to Jesus Christ’s own words: 

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”Matthew 7:13–14 (ESV).

According to the Bible, most people are not going to Heaven.

They’re going to Hell.

THREE SCENES

IMAGINE THIS:

  • IT’S WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON — You’re at the grave site of a good friend who has BURIAL_SCENEsuccumbed to cancer. You cast your gaze to his survivors and notice his widow and daughter clutching each other through tears. You share their grief. You don’t know where your friend will end up, but you suspect from the way he lived and talked that God, salvation, and repentance were far from his mind. You’re terrified for him.
  • IT’S FRIDAY EVENING — You’re at a high school football game, and the home team is marching down the field toward the end zone. You look around at the stands. You know by sight most of the onlookers. They’re your neighbors and friends. On this Friday night, there’s not a single thought among them about  their eternal destiny. You don’t know where they’ll end up, but you suspect that, come Sunday morning, eternity will not be on their minds, either. You’re terrified for them.
  • IT’S SUNDAY MORNING — You’re at church, and the pastor is wrapping up his weekly altar call, and you look around the congregation. Nobody moves. They must all be saved! Well, maybe so. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! You don’t know their status, but you suspect that most of them think they’re saved or at least don’t need what the pastor is preaching. You’re terrified for them.

How do you handle the horrible thought that most of the people you meet and talk with each week — most of the people you know and most of the people you don’t know — are not on God’s saved list? Their names are not found in His Book of Life. HS_FOOTBALL

What do you do when you consider they have no clue what they’re missing?

DEFAULT DESTINATION

THE TRUTH IS, according to the Bible, we don’t automatically go to Heaven. 

In fact, our default destination is not Heaven — but Hell. Unless our sin problem is solved, we can’t enter Heaven. 

That’s the bad news.

Aahh, but there’s good news, too. In fact, it’s so good, it’s called “Good News”! 

Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, came to our rescue. At the Cross, He took on the Hell we deserve … so that, believing in Him, we can experience for eternity the Heaven we don’t deserve.

TWO DESTINATIONS

THERE ARE ONLY TWO possible destinations when we die: Heaven or Hell.

Can we really know in advance which one we’ll go to? Yes, we can.

The apostle John, one of the writers of the Bible, said this: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13 ESV). image-17

How do we know? 

  • The Bible tells us that all of us, like our first parents, Adam and Eve, are sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV).
  • Because of our sin, the Bible says, our default destination is Hell. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 NASB).
  • Our sinful hearts make it difficult for us to chart a correct course on our own power. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12 ESV).

GOD’S PLAN

BUT GOD PROVIDED an escape clause. A way out. A get-out-of-jail-free card. 

Simply believe that Jesus Christ is God, that He came to die for sinful man, and that those who believe this … and call on His name … will be saved  from God’s wrath (Rom. 10:9-10, 13). image-2

When Christ died on the Cross for us, he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). 

In those days “It is finished” was commonly written across certificates of debt when they were canceled. It meant “Paid in full.” Christ died so that the certificate of debt consisting of all our sins could once and for all be marked “Paid in full.”

What about those who don’t believe?

Jesus said that unless we believe He is the One who redeems mankind, we will die in our sins (John 8:24). 

REPENT OF SIN

ONLY WHEN OUR SINS are dealt with in Christ can we enter Heaven.

We cannot pay our own way, and contrary to popular opinion, there is only one way to get there.

  • Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 NKJV). Because of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross on our behalf, God freely offers us forgiveness: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 CSB). 
  • To be forgiven, we must recognize and repent of our sins. Forgiveness is not automatic. It’s conditioned upon confession: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NKJV). 
  • Christ offers to everyone the gifts of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. Jesus died on the Cross as the only One worthy to pay the penalty for our sins demanded by the holiness of God: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).
  • There’s no righteous deed we can do that will earn us a place in Heaven (Titus 3:5). We come to Christ empty-handed. We can take no credit for salvation. It is a gift from God: “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9 NET). 

This gift cannot be worked for, earned, or achieved. It’s dependent solely on Christ’s generous sacrifice on our behalf.

CRITICAL DECISION

THIS IS THE MOST important decision of your life.

Far more important than who you’ll marry, or what career you’ll follow, or how many children you’ll have; more important than your next car or the house you buy or your dream vacation plans.

More important than anything else you can think of. 

It’s the decision of where you’ll spend eternity.image-26

Eternity is forever. Once it starts, there’s no turning back. No do-over. No second chance. No course correction. 

Now is the time to make things right with God:

  • Confess your sinfulness;
  • Accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on your behalf.

If you haven’t come to terms with your relationship with God, please pay special attention to the words that follow. Author and Pastor Randy Alcorn sums it this way:

“You are made for a person and a place. Jesus is the person, and heaven is the place. They are a package — they come together. You cannot get heaven without Jesus or Jesus without heaven. Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near’ (Isaiah 55:6 ESV). For all eternity, you’ll be glad you did.”

[For more information on how Heaven isn’t our “default destination,” please see pastor and author Randy Alcorn‘s tract, “How Can We Know We’ll Go to Heaven?”]

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SAVING PRAYER

Here’s a prayer you can use if you want to confess your sins to God and receive His gift of eternal life … or substitute your own words, spoken from the heart.
May God bless you richly as you do.

O GOD, YOU KNOW ME, but I haven’t known You. I’ve come to realize I am a sinful man (woman), and I need a Savior. O God, thank You for the gift that Jesus Christ gave me when He took my sins to the Cross. I am sorry for my sin, and I repent of my sinful ways. O God, please send Your Holy Spirit into my heart to change me and redeem me and make me Yours for all eternity. I want to live for You and with You. In Jesus’ name I lift this prayer, knowing You will hear my plea. Thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness and Your gift of life. AMEN

THE WORLD’S HATRED OF CHRIST’S FOLLOWERS

Once again, we see the hatred and intolerance of the world toward the body of Christ. In New Jersey, a Christian woman who worked as a barista at Starbucks Coffee Shop said she was fired from her job when she refused to wear the company-sponsored “Pride” T-shirt, glorifying homosexuality. She said Jesus condemned the practice as being “unnatural.” The company’s official response was that the shirt reflected Starbucks’ commitment to “inclusion and diversity” and proclaimed the company “does not discriminate on the basis of religion.” Really?

Isaiah 5:20 (NKJV): “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!”

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (ESV): “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Rom. 12:2 (CSB): “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

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“WE’RE ‘INCLUSIVE,’ SO YOU’RE FIRED!”

A RECENT ARTICLE in the New York Post reported that a Christian woman in New Jersey was fired from her job in August 2019 for refusing to wear a company-sponsored homosexual “Pride” T-shirt.

STARBUCKS_LES_PRIDE2019jpeg
Starbucks Pride T-Shirt 2019

The woman, who filed a wrongful termination lawsuit  in November 2020, said she told her employers she wanted to follow the Bible’s teaching, which condemns homosexuality, but her employer said her position violated the company’s “core values.”

LoveAndGrace blogged last week about the world’s discrimination against Christians in the name of “inclusion.”

The woman, Betsy Freese, was employed by Starbucks Coffee Co. as a barista from December 2015 until her termination in August 2019. 

Freese charged that being forced to wear the T-shirt as a condition of employment was “tantamount to forced speech” because the Bible defines marriage as the permanent and monogamous union of one male and one female, a message counter to that proclaimed on the T-shirt.

She said store managers were aware of her religious beliefs because she regularly asked for time off on Sundays and certain evenings to attend church.

‘THEY KNEW MY BELIEFS’ 

WHILE FRESSE SAID the store’s managers knew of her religious beliefs, she was fired for refusing to wear the “Pride” shirt. 

The newspaper said the company told NBC News that the lawsuit was “without merit” and stated in the woman’s termination notice that the company’s corporate policy endorses the core values of “inclusion and diversity, and [that we] welcome and learn from people with different backgrounds and perspectives.”

(NBC further reported that in September, two workers at Kroger supermarket in Arkansas filed a similar lawsuit, claiming they were fired for refusing to wear a store apron with a rainbow heart emblem on it.image-20

(The plaintiffs, Brenda Lawson and Trudy Rickerd, maintained the logo was an endorsement of the LGBTQ community, which violated their belief “that homosexuality is a sin,” according to their complaint. After being disciplined for violating the store’s dress code, both Lawson and Rickerd were ultimately terminated.)

Starbucks further stated that it “does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.” The federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says it is unlawful for a place of employment to discriminate on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

The newspaper article picked up by ChurchLeaders.com said that on Aug. 22, 2019, Fresse was told by a company district manager that she was being fired for “violating Starbucks’ ‘core values.’”

Fresse said in her lawsuit that “every Christian is called to love and treat everyone with respect and compassion” regardless of their religious or other beliefs. 

DEATH OF ‘ABSOLUTE TRUTHS’

WHAT IS HAPPENING is the “death of ‘absolute truth’” in a culture that elevates human reason and experience above God’s laws and His design for our lives.

This is the hallmark of the “postmodernist” thought process, where all values and goals are relative, without any being absolute or perfect. So, the thinking goes, what is true for you might not be true for me, and what is true for me might not be true for you.COFFEE.SHOP

It’s the theory behind several popular refrains: “Follow your bliss,” “Whatever floats your boat,” “Whatever works for you,” “Do what’s inside of you,” “You’re okay; I’m okay,” and “You do you, Bro; I’ll do me.”

In his article “Postmodernism,” in the creationist website, AnswersInGenesis.org., Dr. Carl J. Broggi concluded that in the postmodernist view of the world, “no one is really wrong except for those who hold to absolute truth.” Broggi is senior pastor of Community Bible Church in Beaufort, SC. 

“Because truth cannot absolutely be known in their religion, the highest virtue for the postmodern man is tolerance, but not as the word has traditionally been defined. In the past, when Americans used the term tolerance, it was understood to mean that everyone has a right to have their viewpoint respected,” Broggi writes.

He concludes: “‘Tolerance’ for the postmodernist is to be extended only to those who embrace a relativistic worldview. In practice, since postmodernism cannot possibly coexist with a worldview that embraces absolute truth, they are intolerant of those who do not agree, particularly Christians.”

Broggi says that what the world believes, according to its postmodernist viewpoint, is that “because Bible-believers insist their point of view concerning moral absolutes and salvation in Jesus Christ is correct and other views are aberrant, they [the Christians] should be defined as intolerant.”

POSTSCRIPT

THIS, IN FACT, is what we see. It is the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. 

Look again at the text source for this article, particularly the verse from Isaiah 5:20, warning us against labeling as “good” or “benign”  those things that God calls “evil.”

J33.Suffering for the GospelOr consider 2 Timothy 4:3, where God says that men will “turn away” from the truth and follow falsehoods of their own design.

As they do so, the will run afoul of Romans 2:2, where God tells us not to be conformed to the world and its beliefs but that we should hold fast to that which is the “good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

That is what Betsy Fresse tried to so, at least according to the public record as explained in her lawsuit. It is a story of “inclusion” — which should mean embracing everyone — but always excludes the Bible-believing Christian because the Christian believer, unlike non-believers, embraces the truth that God has revealed — not man’s truth, but the Creator’s truth.

As Jesus termed it in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His crucifixion (John 17:17 NIV): 

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

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PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, God of all Creation, Maker of Heaven  and Earth, You created man in Your image to reflect Your glory and to worship You. We OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAconfess, O Lord, that too many of us have been arrogant, prideful, and willful, ignoring You and Your design for our lives. Those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus repent of our sin, and we pray for those among us who are lost in spirit and destined for eternal separation from You. O Lord, burden our hearts to reach out to them and share with them the Truth of Your Word, the saving grace of Your love for us. In Jesus’ almighty and magnificent name we pray. AMEN

BEWARE OF THOSE WHO PREACH ‘INCLUSION’ BUT EXCLUDE JESUS

Regardless of whether you call it Orwellian, Alice-in-Wonderland, or the Last Days, the modern era is overrun by double-speak, where one term means its opposite, and if you don’t understand that or accept it, then you’re part of the problem and need to shut up. You’re not wanted. This is particularly challenging for believing Christians, who are under mandate from our Savior to speak boldly for the truth.

Isaiah 5:20 (NKJV): “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!”

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (ESV): “For the time is coming when people will not  endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Rom. 12:2 (CSB): “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

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EXCLUDING CHRISTIANS TO BE “INCLUSIVE”

THE HEADLINE SCREAMED the righteous indignation of actress Melissa McCarthy, who loudly proclaimed she was withdrawing financial “support” from an anti-trafficking group, Exodus Cry, that is a faith-based Christian organization.

The reason?SEXUAL_TRAFFICKING

The organization, which rescues girls and women from sexual exploitation, is founded by, and operates on, principles gleaned from God’s Holy Word. 

Specifically in relation to sexual practice, the group not only opposes the exploitation and forced prostitution of females, but it also, in keeping with God’s Word, opposes abortion and LGBTQ “rights.”

The actress is staring in a new movie, “Superintelligence,” to be released Thanksgiving Day. As part of the pre-release promotion, McCarthy launched “20 Days of Kindness” to support 20 charities, among them Exodus Cry and Planned Parenthood.

A Nov. 16, 2020, article in ChurchLeaders.com, said the actress pulled the funding once she found out from social media that the organization is “hostile” to gay rights and abortion procedures.

FAVORING WORLDLY VALUES

IN A PUBLIC STATEMENT explaining her action, McCarthy said the Christian organization “stands for everything that we do not.”

Melissa McCarthy
Melissa McCarthy

She further said she wanted to “thank everyone” on social  media who asked, “‘What are you doing? Are you sure you want to back this?’ Because the answer is, ‘No, we do not.’”

Her final comment was, “Thanks for helping us correct a big mistake.”

A big mistake? Really?

What is going on here? Isn’t this a case of calling what’s “up” “down” and what’s “good” “bad”?

Yes, that’s what it is.

It’s the very thing the prophet Isaiah warned us of 2,700 years ago: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:20)

OPPOSING GODLY VALUES

UNFORTUNATELY, THIS has become a commonplace story. 

The apostle Paul issued this warning 2,000 years ago: “Don’t be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom. 12:2)

The Dec. 18, 2018, Washington Examiner ran an article from Syracuse, N.Y., saying New York state officials told an adoption agency, New Hope Family Services, to close its doors unless it violated its religious beliefs to place children only in homes with a married mother and father.

In fact, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services congratulated New Hope for “a number of strengths in providing adoption services within the community.”OIP.mQPtvzMH5-XFwQJ_1w4hJAHaE8

The organization has placed more than 1,000 adoptions throughout the state between 1965, when it opened, to 2018, when the article ran. Since then, according to its website, it has expanded its adoption services to include a full-range of pregnancy counseling, excluding performing or referring for abortions.

TRANSFORMING BUSINESSES

THE GRAPHIC DESIGN Circles Conference in Texas announced in 2019 that it was cancelling a church leader from its list of speakers after a member group complained he might make others feel unsafe.

David Roark, the communications and resources director for The Village Church, a megachurch based in Flower Mound, Texas, was uninvited from the September conference after the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) refused to participate because of his inclusion. 67.Conference_Lecture

AIGA claimed that The Village Church “does not meet our standards of inclusion because of openly discriminatory policies and practices towards women and the LGBTQ+ community.” The Circles Conference agreed with the group and scrubbed Mr. Roark’s profile from their website.

In a statement announcing the change, Conference founder Ismael Burciaga said, “When you walk through the doors of Circles Conference, we want you to feel welcome.” 

The statement concluded by noting the conference’s continued commitment to “assemble a diverse, inclusive, and innovative lineup of speakers.”

Paul referenced this very thing in an apostolic letter to his disciple, Timothy: “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching … and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4)

POSTSCRIPT

IN ALL OF THESE examples, and the many more that could be assembled, one maxim stands out: 

In the name of “diversity and inclusion,” the buzzwords of the modern secular era, conservative thinkers — especially those who are Christian faith-based — need not apply.

There’s a very significant reason why. 

The Christian believer holds God’s Truth to be an absolute, which makes His Word both eternal and universal. His Word was good yesterday and today, and it will be good tomorrow. 

Plus, it is good and right for everyone, not just one person. The Christian faith is not about “You do you, bro.”

71.Hatred_Christians_pin

The “modern” thinker, who is drawn by the wisdom of his own observation and reasoning, will not allow for absolutes, because, for the non-believer, they don’t exist.

While various modern groups can differ in their beliefs, they can align around the shared value that all truths are relative and personal. 

The strongest exception comes from the Christian believer, who holds onto a set of values that does not allow for compromise or dissent.

As the Lord proclaimed in John 17:17 (NASB2020):

YOUR WORD IS TRUTH.

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PRAYER

O LORD, OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, sometimes, we just feel so overwhelmed with the task of carrying the Gospel to a broken, unbelieving, cynical world; yet, when we place our trust in You, we labor not with our strength and wisdom but with Yours. We pray for grace and mercy as Your Spirit prepares us for the good work to be done on behalf of the Kingdom, not for our glory, O Lord, but for Yours. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. AMEN

I AM SO NOT LIKE JESUS – I WISH I WERE

God initially chose the Jewish people as a conduit through which He would reveal Himself to the world He created. When they rejected His Son as their long-anticipated Messiah, God then called the Gentiles to join His movement through the church. We are privileged to play a part in God’s will, and it becomes our responsibility to follow His lead. Today, God is calling Jews and Gentiles alike, and He will hold us responsible for how we respond.

Ephesians 3:6 (CSB): “The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” 

Acts 1:8 (NASB2020): “You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.”

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MY STRUGGLE TO BE LIKE JESUS

LET ME ADMIT UP FRONT that I find it difficult to be like Jesus, especially when it means being like Jesus 24 hours a day, every day.

I cannot match the incredible love He displayed toward everyone, even his  enemies. He 69.Love_Godforgave the Roman soldiers nailing Him to a cross because they did not know what they were doing! (Luke 23:24) 

I’m more like the Bob Dylan song of old: “You say you’re lookin’ for someone … Someone who’ll die for you and more, but it ain’t me, Babe; it ain’t me you’re lookin’ for.”

The more you follow Jesus, the more you’ll see that He takes what we do, that which seems natural to us, and turns it upside down—turn the other cheek, walk the second mile, pray for those who harm you, love those who hate you, be last instead of first, serve others instead of expecting others to serve you, bear one another’s burden. 

Everything Jesus did — and expects us to do — is completely opposite, upside-down, and inside-out from the way most of us live.

The problem is this: Too many Christians have turned following Jesus into a religious pursuit instead of a life pursuit. To them, He’s a Sunday morning ornament to decorate their self-image, when He wants to be a guide who leads His people in all righteousness.

JESUS HOLDS US ACCOUNTABLE

With great privilege comes great responsibility.

Jesus proclaimed it this way: “Much is required from the person to whom much is given; much more is required from the person to whom much more is given.” Luke 12:48 (GNT)

In His Great Commission, Jesus gave His disciples — and us — the task of taking His message of salvation and reconciliation to the entire world, but He assured us that He would stay with us and help us through this  process.

That brings us to the critical question: During times of trouble, what are Christians called to do? 

THE ISSUES OF OUR DAY

What should our response be, as believers, in the aftermath of, say, a mass shooting?

CLASSROOMWe watch in horror as news reports come in of young lives being snuffed out at a school, or worshippers at a church or synagogue being shot, or shoppers at a suburban mall mowed down like ducks at a county fair.

What do we say about the images of left-wing rioters breaking storefront windows, while scores of looters cart off electronics, sneakers, and other coveted items? 

How do we handle the often acrimonious postings and counter-postings on social media? Do we speak up? Let comments slide? Rebuke the intemperate?

Many of those comments come from unbelievers, who have not received the Holy Spirit, but believers also express themselves publicly, and there should be a difference in tone and substance, but is there?

Are we Christ-like in our reactions and comments about the affairs of our time?

FOLLOWING GOD’S PLAN

How would our culture differ if we lived the way Jesus lived?

Our text source reminds us that God grafted the Gentiles (non-Jews) into the “natural olive tree” of His people when the Jews rejected His Son as their Messiah. 

God, speaking through the apostle Paul in Romans 6:22, tells us that through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, we are freed from the power of sin and live under God’s grace … so we should resist the natural temptation to “act out” as the unbelievers do.pointing_to_gods-word

Instead, we are called to show grace. Grace in our actions, grace in our speech, and grace in our thoughts. Why our thoughts? Because we learn in James 1:15 and Matthew 15:18 that the evil that grows in our hearts  drives our actions and words … unless we come under God’s restraining power. (See “Exposing Our Secret Lives”)

 EMBRACING THE PRIVILEGE

It’s a Privilege for God’s People to be a part of His Plan, even though God’s plan often does not line up with our plan. 

God’s love is for everyone. God is calling on both Gentiles and Jews to proclaim His will for the world. (Ephesians 3) Once God allowed His Son to die on the Cross for our sins, we should see everyone we meet as a potential child of God, not to judge them or condemn them, but to show love and grace toward them.

God wants Jew and Gentile to “share equally in the riches” of being God’s children. (Eph. 3:6) The body of Christ would have Jews and Gentiles together. For centuries, we’ve lived in animosity toward one another, but God wants us to come together under the banner of Jesus Christ.

POSTSCRIPT

Jesus calls us to engage in ministry with Him to reach lost souls.

That is a privilege! The apostle Paul praised God for the privilege of his calling to take the message of salvation to the Gentiles, a people despised by him and his fellow Jews.image-16

Imagine. The God of the Jews proclaimed His love for all of His people. He calls us today to reach all of the “others” we see with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and to treat them with love and grace.

For me, it means stretching beyond comfortable limits if that’s where God is calling me.

What does it mean for you?

PRAISE GOD!
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PRAYER

FATHER GOD, all praise, honor, and glory are yours. Thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your Son to die for our sins. Forgive us, Lord, for judging others, for harboring hostility in our hearts, for distancing ourselves from others who do not look like us or think the way we do. That is our sin. O Lord, make us Your disciples, spreading the love, compassion, forgiveness, and grace that You shower on us so that the world will see You in us and give You the glory. In the mighty name of Jesus, AMEN

GOODBYE MARTINIS — HELLO HOLY SPIRIT

God’s Word (Eccl. 3:11) tells us that our Creator has placed an emptiness in our lives that only He can fill satisfactorily, yet so many people choose instead to fill that hole with substitutes: alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, risk-taking, or other addictions such as excess work, service, exercise, or pleasure. He invites us to exchange our demons for His refreshing peace (Matt. 11:28). Here’s one man’s tale of redemption from blessed Martinis to blessed Holy Spirit.

Prov. 23:35 (NKJV): “They have struck me, but I was not hurt; They have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”

Rom. 8:6 (NLT): “So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”

Phil. 4:7 (CSB): “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

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MARTINIS ARE OUT; HOLY SPIRIT IS IN

FOR MOST OF MY LIFE, I lived without the Holy Spirit in my heart. I did not know the Lord in a personal way. 

IF I WORSHIPPED anything besides myself, it was an extra dry Bombay gin Martini, with properly chilled glass and garnished with a queen-sized olive.CHILLED_MARTINI

When I went to church, which was rare, it was more out of a sense of duty than of worship … and it certainly was not to offer thanksgiving or repent of sin!

Mostly, I slobbered over young attractive women, especially the ones who sat in church without a boyfriend groping at them throughout the service. I was a strong proponent of immodest clothing and loved watching the women play with their hair. 

For 20 years, comprising the time of my first marriage through the wilderness of divorce, I was a “devout Unitarian Universalist,” if there was such a thing. Once I became convinced the UU church was a dead end, I left … and I struggled some more.

DROWNING MY DEMONS

WHEN MY DEMONS became too numerous to handle, I turned to alcohol to deaden the pain. Frankly, that happened every day.

That was an “easy fix,” and, over the decades, I became very adapt at maintaining an adequate supply of gin and vermouth and olives, chilling my glasses to keep them at the ready, then chilling the gin in easy-to-pour bottles so I would not have to waste time mixing the liquid with ice cubes. Even the vermouth was stored in  the refrigerator. I never ran out of olives. 54. Broken-Heart-Hand

Within minutes of arriving home after work, I could fix a strong drink even during winter months when that drink would be made before I took off my coat and scarf.

As time went out, year after year, my life turned downhill, and my future turned bleaker. 

In lucid moments, before the sweet relief of alcohol dulled my senses, I looked into the crystal ball of looming retirement and could only see blackness — a broken man, solitary, with minimal funds, and no hope.

TURNING A CORNER

IN NOVEMBER 2006, my life’s journey turned a corner. I met a single woman for lunch, and she asked me, “Ward, do you have a church home?” I said I did not. She then gave me a testimony regarding the importance of church.

As she talked, I determined to try church provided it could be with her. She allowed me at first before ditching me because I was not a Christian. I left her church for another one and two years later met a woman who led me to yet a third church.

There, I met the Holy Spirit.47.Changed Hearts

Everything from the friendliness of the worshippers to the welcome coffee in the atrium to the upbeat praise and worship music to the doctrinally sound pastor’s message showed me a vision of God that I had never seen before.

Yet, through my stubbornness, it still took me another two years — four years from the time I was asked about having a church home — before I turned my life over to Jesus Christ and received the Holy Spirit into my heart.  That was November 2010 — 10 years ago this month. Happy Anniversary to me!

I begged Him to do what He long wanted to do — captain my life, steer me in the right direction, and restore love and peace to my troubled soul.

That day merely began the course correction. 

COMPLETE OVERHAUL UNDERWAY

THE LORD IMMEDIATELY went to work, healing my brokenness and giving me hope for a future, not just in this world but, more importantly, in the world of eternity.

Yes, wouldn’t you know, His first order of business was to convict me of alcohol abuse and encourage me, and then demand of me, that I stop drinking altogether. 

67.Jesus_Welcomes_AllThat involved another three-year struggle, but He won that battle, and now I’m free of the devil’s solution to my emptiness. At the same time, He introduced me to a Christian woman, who became my wife.

As each day, week, month, and year passes, I learn more and  more about God’s promises and how He wants to lead me (and all of His children) into an abundant life (John 10:10b).

Today’s text source speaks volumes into my heart. My sinful nature was leading me into death, and God’s Holy Spirit was the rescue mission to redeem me.

The Lord’s love for His children gives meaning to my life in a way that I never could have imagined before surrendering my will for my life to His will for my life. 

His Spirit fills my heart with joy even when I’m hurting. Even though I am not always happy or content, I am always joyful.

HEALING EVERYONE’S HEART

BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR HEART?

Do you fill the empty spaces with something other than God’s Holy Spirit? 

It could be alcohol … or it could be something else … illegal drugs, promiscuous sex, uncontrolled gambling, pursuit of pleasure, excessive devotion to work or service projects or exercise or children’s activities … anything that takes the place of our loving God.

image-14If so, remember that God said anything that takes His place in our hearts is wrong and sinful: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3 NET) 

Yes, filling that place God intended for Himself to fill with anything other than His Holy Spirit is worshipping a false god. Satan would love to help you find a substitute to deaden the pain, when only God can provide a solution to heal the pain (Matt. 11:28).

If so, I invite you to claim the promises of our loving and gracious God, who loves each of us so much “that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16 NIV) to die for our sin that we might be reconciled to God and live … really and truly live.

~All the praise, honor, and glory
 go to the King of kings
 and Lord of lords.~

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PRAYER

OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, we thank You for loving us with a rich love that surpasses our understanding, even our imagination! We thank You for your rich mercy that floods us with grace. We thank You for your rich compassion that forgives our sins. We thank You for your rich generosity that gave us Your Son, who died for our sins and lives again so we, too, can live forever in Your presence. In His name we pray. AMEN

U.S. CHRISTIANS FACE HOSTLE INCOMING ADMINISTRATION

In the wake of an apparent US election victory by the Democratic duo of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president/vice president, the body of Christ will shift from a faith-friendly federal government under Trump-Pence to a faith-hostile administration. Ironically, this could be very good news for the church as the growing rift between church and state will divide Christians into warring camps: those who hold true to the values of God’s Word versus those who profess allegiance to Christianity but don’t have a personal relationship with the Lord. The result could be a much smaller, but bolder, force proclaiming the Gospel without the counter-force of lukewarm Christians.

Romans 5:3 (NKJV): “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance.”

1 Peter 4:16 (NET): “But if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God that you bear such a name.”

1 John 3:13 (CSB): “Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.”

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PROCLAIMING UNITY WHILE PRACTICING ENMITY

ALTHOUGH THE 2020 US presidential election results have not been finalized, the apparent winning team of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president, respectively, could usher in a much harsher environment for believing Christians.

I look forward to the battle.

I must be crazy, right? 

CHURCH_CONGREGATION_MEETINGMaybe so, but my thought is that the Christian church in America is too lazy. We need a wake-up call. We need to become bold  witnesses for our Lord and Savior.

Professing Christians are lazy Christians. Most are unwilling to do more than squeeze into the pews or comfy chairs on Sunday morning, enjoy some music, half-listen to a sermon (preferably short, with jokes and stories), and spend most of their energy greeting friends, neighbors, and business associates. 

That’s not Christianity as our Savior commissioned us in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8 … not by a long shot. He told us to “go” and “tell” everyone we meet, the whole world, about Him and what the Lord has done for us. (Mark 5:19) 

How many professing Christians are sharing their faith with anyone? How many professing Christians understand the basic doctrines of their faith? How many professing Christians even care to change?

GOD’S WAKE-UP CALL

THIS COULD BE God’s wake-up call for His church.

After dislocating us from our comfortable church buildings because of Covid restrictions, His next move might well be dislocating us from our comfortable federal government administration because of election results.GOD_WAKUP_CALL

A double whammy smack alongside the head to send some sense into us. 

There’s plenty of precedent for this. God’s judgment of the Israelites permeates the Old Testament as God tried to mold His chosen people into the evangelizing force He had envisioned for them. 

Instead of showing God’s blessings to the world, they wandered from their calling, and when they were faithful, they kept their values and traditions to themselves instead of sharing with their neighbors.

So, God would punish them until they caught on to their dilemma and turned back to Him in sorrow and repented of their sins and faithlessness, begging God to hear their prayers and bless their land and give them peace.

HERE’S WHAT’S COMING

DO WE KNOW what an incoming Biden-Harris administration would mean for the Christian church? Well, we don’t “know” the future, but we can “project” the future based on statements the Democratic Party has published regarding its intentions.ANGER_HOSTILITY

In his article, “Last Call for America?” in Decision magazine’s November 2020 issue (pp 2-3), evangelist Franklin Graham wrote this: 

“The Democratic platform appears now to fully represent the progressive left, whose liberal agenda seeks to dramatically remake our nation in their own radical image. It is unapologetically pro-abortion, it staunchly advocates LGBTQ rights and it is hostile toward the Biblical view of marriage as between one man and one woman.” 

It’s not just evangelical Protestants who will be targeted. 

A Christian website with a conservative Catholic perspective, LifeSiteNews, published an opinion piece, “How a Biden Presidency Would Unleash Christian Persecution,” opposing the so-called “Equality Act,” H.R. 5, which House Democrats have passed, that would demolish legal protections for practicing Christians. 

Along party lines, Democrats defeated Republican amendments intended to weaken the draconian legislation. Among those amendments were to:

  • exempt biological females from being forced to compete in spots against biological males who identify as female;
  • shield healthcare workers from being compelled to affirm a patient’s subjective sense of gender identity;
  • allow medical personnel to refuse to participate in abortions;
  • protect parents’ legal rights to direct the medical care of their minor children.

Referring to the Equality Act, Dr. Carl J. Broggi, senior pastor of Community Bible Church in Beaufort, SC, said this in his Nov. 8, 2020 sermon: “We are living in a day of ‘sheer wickedness.’”

THE BALL’S IN OUR COURT

IF WE TRULY THINK God is calling us to reach His broken creation with words of healing and salvation, the very words that He has given us and we profess to believe, then why  would we shy away from a grand fight?66.Jesus_Changes_Everything

If Satan’s forces are on the ascendancy in our country, then the battle lines will be drawn more sharply than the muddled lines we’ve always known. Neighbor will turn against neighbor; friend against friend; family member against family member (Matthew 10:21-22). 

Even the churches will be split as the “complacent” and “complicit” Christians exit (1 John 2:19), leaving “committed” Christians to remain, carrying Christ’s banner.

It’s that sharp divide that I find so energizing. 

There is very little emotion or adrenaline involved in weak battles with minimal outcomes … but once the divide becomes significant and the results are magnified, then the blood rushes through the body and the Holy Spirit invigorates the soul.

Game On! 

We know that, in the end, Jesus Christ wins. We could be facing that battle now … or soon. Hear these words from (Revelation 22:20 NKJV):

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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PRAYER

FATHER GOD, YOU told us the world would hate us if we follow You  because the world hated You first. Okay, lead on, Lord Almighty. Take us where You want us to go. May we be found worthy ambassadors for Christ. May we boldly declare what the Lord has done for us, how He has redeemed us in His sight, forgiven us our sins, and washed us clean in the Lamb’s blood. May we never fear those who can only hurt our bodies but not touch our souls. To You, Lord, goes the glory! In Jesus’ name. AMEN