Today’s Meditation … Grace And Sin

Without a guiding light, man is left to his own devices. The Bible tells us … and our experience proves it … that without direction, our actions are base, selfish, and cruel. When God intervenes to show us a better way, too often we reject Him, preferring still our sinful desires. For those who do believe, however, He promises Paradise.

Find blog posts at LoveAndGrace … tweets at TwitterComments welcomed. Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion. Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?

===

“In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” Judges 21:25 (NLT)

“This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19 (NKJV)

===

EVIL. PURE EVIL.

There is evil in the world. There are evil people in the world. There are evil deedscommitted every day in the worl46. Rebellion_Against_Godd.

Much of the evil is unspeakable: torture of political prisoners, rape of women and girls as an act of war, abandonment of born children and abortion of those unborn, acts of terrorism against unsuspecting innocents — all of those in addition to acts of nature that cruelly take human lives.

We yell and scream, “Why? “Why, O Lord, is there such evil in the world?”

Some cry out without naming the Lord because they don’t believe He exists; or, if He exists, that He’s relevant or cares about us.

+++

THE ANSWER SURROUNDS US.

52.SinGod created a perfect world and allowed his prized possession — men and women — the freedom to choose to obey Him and be blessed or to disobey Him and be cursed. We chose to disobey Him. Evil is the result.

Yet, the Bible tells us that God so loved us that He sent His only Son into the world to live as a sinless human being among us and then, being found without blemish, slaughtered for our sakes, to pay the debt for our sins and to restore fallen mankind to Him. (see John 3:16)

The Bible says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” — John 3:17 (NIV)

Men still rejected Him, loving the darkness and their own sin more than the grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness offered by their Creator. (see John 3:19) By rejecting the Creator, men also reject a guiding light; and, without a guiding light — be it a king or priest or prophet — men still do what is right in their own eyes. (see Judges 21:25)

For those who do believe, who are called by His name and seek forgiveness, repenting of their evil deeds and their sinful heart, God promises everything — Paradise with Him forever. The Bible says, “Everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16b (NLT)

+++

PRAYER: Our Father God, how could we  repeatedly reject Your loving and merciful overtures of support? How could we be so blind to the life-giving promises You make, 68. Holy_Bible_Crosspreferring, instead, to live out the sinful desires of our hearts? You have been so gracious and forgiving, so quick to love us and so slow to condemn us. Thank You for being a God of mercy as well as a God of judgment. Lord, hear our prayer of repentance, forgive our sins, and restore us to a right relationship with You — and keep us on the straight path that You have laid out for us. In Jesus’ name. Amen

+++

QUESTIONS:

  1. Is the God of the Bible real for you? Do you believe He created you and the world around you and that He has a plan for your life? If not, what keeps you from taking the step of faith necessary to claim your inheritance as a child of God?
  2. Do you use the excuse of pointing out the sins of others, ignoring the clear fact that God will hold you accountable for your actions?
  3. If you were to die today, do you know (or can you guess) where you will spend eternity — be it with God, without God — or do you maintain there is no after-life? If you were willing to open your heart to God’s saving message, do you know what you should do about it or whom to consult?
  4. Can we at LoveAndGrace pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.

###

God’s Charge to Us: Defend My Word

Throughout the Bible, we see the Word of God attacked, mocked, and disregarded by His people. The ancient prophets were killed; the apostles of Jesus were killed; and through the ages, many of His disciples and followers have been killed or tortured. Many more followers have been rebuked, sued, spit upon, slandered, opposed, or in some other way silenced. His Word is clear to us: We are to proclaim the Good News and do so in a loving and gentle fashion while living lives that testify to God’s grace. While living that out isn’t easy, fortunately, we have help: God provides the strength through His Holy Spirit.

“Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.” — Jude 1:3 NLT

“If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.”      2 John 1:10-11 NLT

Find blog posts at LoveAndGracetweets at Twitter.

Comments welcomed. Let’s share what God says to His saints.

Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion.

Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?

+++

GOD’S HOLY WORD IS UNDER ATTACK.

We know God’s people around the world — in Turkey, Nigeria, China — are in physical peril. Many of them are killed, tortured, or imprisoned for  their beliefs.

But, in the Western world, God’s Word is under attack, as well.71.Hatred_Targeting_Christians

Of course, we can look at FBI “hate crime” statistics, which show violent crime targeting Christians to be low compared to crimes against Jews and Muslims, but the real story for Christians lies beyond the statistics.

To see the real culprit in the Western world, we need to look not to reports of violent crimes against believers — we need to look at how “respectable” people distort the Word of God.

Satan’s ways to punish Christians in Nigeria or Iraq or Turkey won’t work in the U.S. or Canada or other Western countries. His line of attack will be more subtle.

+++

MOST OF THE ATTACK WE FACE in Western countries is “group think” — the mindless, reflexive opposition that can be laughed off. Mention your faith in Jesus Christ or allude to His life-changing impact on your life, and someone is bound to throw out “a bunch of hypocrites” without any more thought behind the comment than a sneeze.

Here are just some more notable examples of this intolerance, notable solely because the Christians impacted are famous, not because the  response is any different from what everyday believers face:71.Hatred_Christians_pin

    • Vice President Pence is belittled for following the “Billy Graham rule” when associating with women in the office, a rule that pastor and author Max Lucado also follows;
    • Later, a television talk show hostess labeled the vice president “mentally ill” for believing the Lord talks to him;
    • Christian bakers are sued and threatened with loss of their business when they refuse to bake cakes honoring homosexual “marriage” ceremonies;
    • Collegiate Bible-based groups are removed from campus for promoting God’s values regarding sexual orientation and marital activity against the college’s or university’s secular values of “inclusion.” Most of the college population would approve of the administrations’ actions, if the “victim” group is Christian.

Social media have become a cesspool of anti-Christian bias and hatred.

The Rev. Franklin Graham’s Twitter posts, offering Scriptural encouragement or asking for prayer in the wake of an earthquake, mass shooting, train wreck, or other tragedy or disaster are routinely met with vitriolic ugliness from the depths of hell, usually from the militant homosexual lobby.

Yes, faithful believers also respond to Graham’s posts with prayers and gratitude, but the hatred gets intermingled with God’s redeeming grace.

+++

SO, WHAT?

Well, that’s the all-important question, isn’t it? What difference does it make to us? How does all of this swirl of activity impact our cozy lives, lived out in our comfortable homes with the love and support of our families and close friends?

What, if anything, are we supposed to do about it?

71.Jesus_Commands_LoveThe Bible — God’s Word — seems to be pretty clear that Jesus has commanded us to take part in the world, to proclaim His message from the rooftops, telling the mighty and the lowly alike, that Jesus has paid the price to redeem us from our sin.

Besides the verses that begin this column, here are just a few more of God’s commandments to us:

    • “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” — Mark 8:35 (ESV)
    • “But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” — Acts 4:19-20 (NIV)
    • “For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” — Galatians 6:5 (NLT)
    • “But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells the Good News?” — Romans 10:14 (GW).

+++

THERE’S NO WAY AROUND IT.

Look for an escape hatch all you want. Search for the asterisk that says “only sometimes” or “when you’re in the mood.” Or even ask for advice from your friends, the ones who are struggling with their own faith commitment, for advice.

When you’re done looking in the wrong places for the wrong answer, Jesus invites you to come back home.

71. Looking-at-the-CrossCome back to the Truth of Jesus’ message. You know what it is: Your sins are forgiven, grace and mercy are offered to you, and the assurance of salvation is yours.

In exchange, Jesus wants you and me to testify to His love in our lives. We will not be measured by someone’s response; only by our giving.

If we offer the truth of Jesus Christ to a loved one, or a neighbor, or a co-worker, or even a total stranger, Jesus will not downgrade us if we’re met with rudeness or disdain or anger.

He will not hand us a demerit or two if this person remains unconvinced, unmoved, or unrepentant.

However, He will scold us if we miss the opportunity to share the Good News that lives in our hearts.

+++

WHY WOULD WE PASS UP THE CHANCE?

We know the world remains as hostile to the saving message of Jesus Christ today as it always was, even before He was born and prophecy told of Him.

Slipping from the truth of God’s Holy Word is an easy and dangerous slope. It occurs within churches that want to re-interpret the Bible to make it “relevant” to a fallen world; it occurs within the hearts of churchgoers who fail to take the teaching of salvation seriously and mistakenly assume their perfect attendance means something.

How God’s heart must hurt for the lives of His broken people.

Before He ascended back to heaven, Jesus told His disciples that the Father had given Him “all authority” on heaven and earth. With that legitimizing statement, He then commanded them — and us — to spread His message of love and forgiveness to everybody in the world (Matthew 28:18-20).

It should be our joy to comply.

+++

PRAYER: O Lord, our God and Savior, please forgive us when we  fail to protect and defend 44. Cross_on_Biblethe Holy Word of God, when we fail to live according to its principles, when we fail to forgive others as we have been forgiven, to love others as we have been loved, and to serve others as we have been served. Strengthen our voices, O Lord, to speak in favor of the Truth that has changed our lives and that can change the lives of those whom You place in our paths. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. Do you see God’s Word under attack from a disbelieving world? Do you see this occur in your life or only in the lives of others? If you don’t experience rejection, disbelief, censure, could it be that you are not witnessing for the Gospel?
  2. Do you believe we are called to defend Jesus’ testimony, or is “religion” something that should be kept private, i.e., it’s just your own business and no one else’s what you believe? Is your answer supported biblically? If not, do you want to change something in your life?
  3. Do you believe universal and eternal truth exists? If so, is this something we can know? How would we know what it is? Jesus said He is the Truth. Do you believe Him? Would you like to? Can you talk to someone (comment on this blog, for example) for direction?

#

Marriage: Are We ‘Too Busy’ For Our Spouses?

Marriage is the first institution created by God. Right after creating Adam and Eve and bringing Eve to Adam to be his partner, He told them that a man should leave his father and mother and join his wife in marriage so that the two of them would become as one. That relationship would be solidified with the addition of children. Yet too often the marriage relationship limps along with husband and wife failing to listen to the other one. Yes, each must work on communication skills, but the skill most lacking is the one of listening, taking in, understanding. Sometimes, it takes patience to spend a moment. Jesus modeled patient, listening behavior for us. 

 

So God created humans in his image. … He created them male and female.” (Genesis 1:27 GW)

“This explains why a man … is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” (Genesis 2:24 NLT)

Find blog posts at LoveAndGracetweets at Twitter.

Comments welcomed. Let’s share what God says to His saints. Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion. Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?

LET’S SNOOP A BIT.

We’re going to drop in on the Johnsons, a young married couple with two children, a heavy mortgage, and very busy lives.

“Dave, can you help me with something?” Sally shouts from upstairs, exasperation in hercouplearguingshadow voice.

“I can’t now, honey,” he replies. “I’ve got to finish this project before noon, or my boss will kill me.”

A few days later, Dave is on the phone with a computer technician who says his network, which he thought was secure, has become corrupted by someone who has turned off his firewall, leaving him without protection.

To fix this emergency, he is told, will cost several hundred dollars.

“Sally,” he calls out from his home office. “Got a sec? We’ve got a problem with our network, and I think we’ll need to invest in getting it fixed. Can you come here?”

“Not now, Dave. I told you I have to prepare cookies for Jamie’s scout group and then we’re meeting Diane and her kids for lunch. Can we talk about it later?”

+++

WELL, THAT WAS ALL TOO COMMON. A busy couple, each caught up in doing his or her manwomanarguespecial projects — all valuable, all necessary — but neither one with enough patience to listen to what the other one is saying, to what the other one wants. Each one demanding some of the other’s time. Neither one actually communicating.

As a result, neither spouse gives his or her mate the support needed in the moment.

Over the years, this pattern becomes engrained so that no one talks about it or notices their own complicity. Yes, each one can recite examples of how the other was seemingly “too busy” to help out, but, when it comes to their own involvement, they can justify every time they failed to help out.

It usually starts with a failure to listen.

So, how does God see this interaction? Is this what He intended when He breathed life into the first man and woman and planted them in the Garden, telling them to have dominion over the earth and its animal and plant  kingdom, to have children together and raise them, and to be so close as an entity that they would become “one person,” instead of two?

+++

GOD CREATED HUMAN BEINGS in the beginning. He made us in His image, and He divided us into male and female, each equal in His eyes but with different traits and characteristics.

jesus_facepalmHe also created marriage and said that men and women should leave their parents and “cleave” to one another as one entity.

The spousal relationship of husband and wife is a unique human institution that closely mimics the Trinity of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: each person equal but with different characteristics.

By becoming one person, both the man and the woman as husband and wife were charged with listening to one another, to helping one another, and to complementing each other’s weaknesses with their own strengths.

They were not created to make demands on one another to satisfy their personal needs but to make pleasing the other their primary goal.

Scripture is clear on that in so many places, including this familiar passage directed specifically to marriage: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. … Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church.” (Ephesians 5:22, 25 ESV).

+++

A PASTOR RECENTLY SAID that he can tell whether a woman’s husband is leading her spiritually the way God intended just by looking at her face.

Is she happy? Does she radiate joy? Does she seem fulfilled? Or, instead, does she scowl a lot or look apprehensive or dejected?

70.Happy_WomanIn God’s calculus, a woman whose husband is obedient to the Lord by leading her spiritually, by being her head, will be a woman who feels safe and protected and, therefore, free to express herself, to open up her loving and vulnerable heart.

A woman whose husband is not obedient to the Lord, who uses his greater strength and loud voice to intimidate her and frighten her, will be more guarded, less sure of herself, and less willing to express her inner feminine side.

A key component of leading a woman the way God intended is for the man to understand and practice sacrificial love, the way Jesus sacrificed Himself to protect and nurture His great love, the church.

+++

THE IMAGE OF JESUS wrapping a towel around His waist to wash His disciples’ feet (John 13) is a very striking one. He told His disciples that no student is above His teacher (Matt. 10:24), so He expected us to carry on as He did. 

He was the perfect model of male headship; He modeled leadership … and sacrificial service; courageous boldness … and gentle caring. He worked hard, never complained, loved the people around Him, and stayed true to His mission.

When Paul says husbands are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave 70. Jesus_Washing_Discipleshimself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25 NIV), he is describing a sacrificial love that places the wife’s interests before his own.

That is why Paul can tell wives to “submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22 NIV). Once the husband is modeling Jesus’ behavior, any woman would submit to him as “to the Lord,” because the husband is acting biblically … and this allows the wife to respond biblically.

+++

SO, HOW DOES THIS relate to listening?

The basic intersect point between husband and wife is conversation.

Sometimes, that interaction is speaking words; sometimes it’s sharing tasks. Other times it’s making plans, handling emergencies, or serving others.

When one party or the other fails to listen to his/her mate, that intersect point becomes disconnected. The disconnect separates them from “being one,” as God planned, into separate individuals, each with separate needs, wants, interests, and goals.

That’s not how Christ interacts with His church, and it most certainly is not how the Christ, Holy Spirit, and Father interact in their perfect relationship in the Trinity.

“Honey, I’m sorry. What did you say?”

Not much, perhaps, but it’s a start.

+++

PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, so merciful and mighty, please forgive us for our prideful 68. Holy_Bible_Crossfailure to listen to our spouses, to give our wives the love and honor you’ve commanded us to, to give our husbands the respect and submission that are your plan. You have set the perfect example for marriage in the life of our Lord and Savior, who taught us of His love for His church, and the love that abounds within the Holy Trinity. Lord, help us to follow that model in our marriages, to Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

===

QUESTIONS:

1. Do you see a failure in your marriage (or other significant relationship) for each person to listen to the other one? If so, do you see that as a problem that should be resolved, or is it just in the nature of things to be endured?

2. How can you do a better job of listening to your husband/wife? Would you need to become more patient? Is that a trade-off you’re willing to make? Should your spouse become less demanding?

3. Regardless of how well you and your spouse communicate, do you see a role for Jesus Christ in your marriage? If you saw Jesus standing behind your spouse, reminding you that he/she is a “child of God,” would that alter your attitude and behavior?