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Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance. Psalm 33:12 (NASB)

It’s been said, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

During Old Testament times God repeatedly warned his people that judgment would come if they refused to heed him as the one and only true God.

As they entered the Promised Land they were warned not to engage themselves in the rituals and customs of the people who lived there. They were to remain true to the teachings of Moses, remain true to the covenant of Abraham.

They didn’t learn, of course. Throughout the ages history has proven that when a nation followed the principles laid out in the Holy Bible, God blessed them. When that nation strayed from those principles, decay began. People began to question the harsh expectations of God, or even doubt his existence. People looked to government for provision instead of relying on and trusting in God. They trusted their own consciences over the teachings of God’s Word.

There is a positive side, however, to dwelling in a land where the government refuses to acknowledge God. The church of Jesus Christ tends to thrive. Throughout history godless dictators and leaders have tried to squash the church. The early Jewish leaders tried it through persecution; Nero tried it with horrific slaughter of those who followed ‘The Way’.

God isn’t as concerned about the spiritual condition of government systems as he is the faithfulness of his people. The churches most famous persecutor, the Apostle Paul, tells us, Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.” Timothy 2:23-26 (NLT)

Do followers of Christ have a responsibility to involve themselves in political and social activity in order to show Christ’s love and share his grace and forgiveness? Certainly. But our main focus should be to bring our hearts, minds and passions into conformity with Christ.

Recently I’ve been reading “Throw Me Another Brick” by Charles Swindoll. The most important nugget I’ve taken thus far from his study of Nehemiah is that God changes leaders through prayer more than protests and outspoken criticism. A nation that refuses to acknowledge the God of the Holy Bible will fall, but the churches responsibility is to pray for its leaders (regardless of their religious affiliation) and show the world the love of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Most gracious and powerful Heavenly Father. I remind myself today that you are the supreme commander-in-chief of my life. No earthly power will change my allegiance to you. I pray for our leaders that they may follow your precepts, but more importantly I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ, that we may show your love and grace daily to those around us, especially those we disagree with. Amen.

I pray also that you will have greater understanding in your heart so you will know the hope to which he has called us and that you will know how rich and glorious are the blessings God has promised his holy people. Ephesians 1:18 (NCV)
It wasn’t the teachings of Jesus that drew people to him. It was his character. That may seem strange to say. We focus our energies on what Jesus taught, and to be sure, those teachings are the basis of life. The things Jesus taught us bring hope from despair, confidence when we are afraid; wisdom when we are worried; direction when we don’t know the way. But the reality is, the blind man wasn’t able to fully understand the spiritual blessings Jesus had to offer until his vision was restored. The parents who lost their little girl no doubt knew that God was a mighty and powerful God, but the full realization of what that meant didn’t come until their little girl sat up in the very bed she’d died in moments earlier. The father who sought Jesus out for healing for his demon possessed son knew the power of prayer. Why else would he seek Jesus out? Still, until he saw his son in a normal, calm state of mind, he didn’t fully grasp the significance of the hope Jesus offered.

Jesus’ teachings simply backed up, clarified, and verified what he’s already done in the lives of people who were in need. No wonder that in the garden he prays for those who will seek him after he is gone. He understood the difficulty we have as finite humans to believe without seeing; to hope in the unseen; to live by faith when prayers seem unanswered, and life is unbearable.

As Christ-followers we are called to show others the hope they can have in Christ. What an awesome privilege! So many are looking for hope in today’s world. Hope to get through physical pain and illness. Hope to endure the pain of relational disaster. Hope to endure one more day of starvation or the ravages of natural disaster.

Paul prays that we will understand the hope Jesus has called us to. Why this prayer? Paul also knew, perhaps better than any of us what it meant to be rejected, alone, in danger, despised and rejected. But he also knew the hope only Jesus can offer. People around us aren’t seeking profound teachings or messages of a better tomorrow. They are seeking strength to get through one more day. What can we do to show them the hope of Christ? That answer is different for each of us because we each live in different situations, different circles, and different circumstances.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I am surrounded by people who are seeking hope in a world where hope seems dwindling at best. I praise you for the hope you have shown me and the blessings of living in you. Empower me with strength, courage and wisdom to lead those around me to the hope I’ve found in you. Amen.

In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” Luke 15:10 (NLT)

He was in his early 20’s. He had quite a reputation around the small town I’d just moved into. Most of his activities revolved around multiple girlfriends and marijuana. Jim (not his real name) and I struck up a friendship as the result of an old man we both worked with at a small factory in town.

The old guy, I’ll call him Richard, was a Bible-thumping Presbyterian who always had a good word for everyone and usually it came from the Bible. Richard had a been a Christian for over 40 years at that time and read the Bible through every one of those years. Richard didn’t just ‘love the Lord’; he walked and talked with him on a daily basis!

As time passed, Richard and I decided to make Jim our very own prayer project. Jim was interested in the Bible, but most of the time it seemed like it was just a good discussion tool and not something he took seriously.

Perhaps that’s the reason why I was so surprised one morning when he showed up at church. I’d invited him but had no thought that he’d actually attend, but there he was at Sunday School in jeans and a t-shirt (which, in this church was simply unheard of and inappropriate).

After Sunday School we talked a bit before I had to excuse myself to tend to some of my responsibilities at the church. I lost track of Jim and couldn’t see him during the worship service either. I assumed (sadly) that he left for home. At the end of the service the pastor announced that he had an introduction to make. He invited Jim to the front of the auditorium. Jim had been sitting up in the front row the whole time. The pastor told how this young man had come to him after Sunday School and prayed to accept Christ as his Savior.

I was moved to tears to say the least. As I made my way through the crowd to try to reach Jim (who was now surrounded by a crowd of ‘welcomers’) one of the deacons stopped me and said, “Say, I see you are painting your house!”

His statement still amuses me in a sense. I tried, as I was choking back tears, to engage in the small talk but on the inside I was screaming “Who cares about my stupid house! Do you realize what just happened here? A soul has come home! A life has been changed! A lost sheep has returned to the fold!”

I think of this story whenever I hear this verse from Luke. Do we, as followers of Jesus Christ, really realize the impact we can have on someone’s eternity? We admire great evangelists who can win 1,000’s to Christ, but the angel’s party in heaven over just one soul. We weren’t put here on earth to make money or to raise families. As Christ-followers, we are here to show those who need the Savior the way to repentance and joy and eternal life.

Let your light shine! Be a part of changing just one persons life today by showing them the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Rejoice in the privilege God has given us to make a difference in someone for eternity!

PRAYER: Lord I thank you for Jesus. It’s amazing to me that the angels rejoice over even one person who comes to you. Empower me to see the great privilege I have to make a difference today. Help me to show someone what Jesus is like and perhaps even have the great privilege of leading them home. Amen

When you pray, don’t talk on and on as people do who don’t know God. They think God likes to hear long prayers. Matthew 6:7 (CEV)

Two men prepare to enter the sanctuary. One walks boldly to the front. Well dressed and confident he lifts his eyes to heaven and begins to talk. Those around him listen carefully and are impressed with his words. He is, to them at least, obviously a very spiritual man. A few in attendance nod in agreement to his words. Others hope that one day they too will be able to pray like he does.

The second man goes largely unnoticed. He walks, almost stumbles as a drunk, towards the front. His chin rests on his chest. He dare not look up. He quietly finds a place in the corner pew. A few give him a passing glance and look away. He’s recognized but not acknowledged. It’s been years since he was here. It’s been longer than that since he’d prayed. Looking at the floor he looks for the words. They don’t come. How did he get here? More importantly, how can he come back? Will God even accept him?

Finally he speaks. His words go unnoticed for they are quiet, humble and simple words. “Oh God…I’m sorry,” was all he could muster up to say.

Jesus says the second man, not the first will have his prayer heard. The pious prayer, the lengthy prayer full of theological mumble jumble may impress men, but not God. Listen to your prayers sometime. If you talked with your lover the way you talk with God what would your love relationship be like? If during your times of passion with the one who means more to you than life itself you said the same words, in the same tone as yesterday and the day before and the day before, would you be sincere?

There are some that say God doesn’t answer prayer, that he’s distant, uninterested or that their prayers never go beyond the ceiling. The sad thing is, they are probably correct. For unless we have a personal relationship with Jesus, the Father can’t hear our prayers, unless they are sincere, heartfelt prayers of repentance. They are meaningless babble.

Even those of us who are Christ-followers need to evaluate our prayer life.  Your Heavenly Father would rather you just talk with him than have you pray to him. I’ve heard parents pray with their children and use it as an opportunity to tell their child what he needs to do. I’ve heard pastors use the ‘closing prayer’ as an opportunity to get the last point of their sermon in. I’m embarrassed to admit that at times my prayers turn into a wandering treatise with no direction.

What would our churches, our homes, our families be like if we as Christ-followers learned how to talk with God as two passionate lovers talk during those intimate times of life? How would we change? How would our view of God change? How would we see God move in miraculous and powerful ways?

One of the most meaningful prayers I’ve ever heard was the time a friend of mine laid his hand on my shoulder and in broken words said simply, “I…I…don’t have words. God, I pray for Mike.” It wasn’t fancy. It was a prayer of love from the heart that rose to heaven like a sweet aroma to the God of the universe.

PRAYER: Father God. Daddy. I come before you humbly. I pray for me. I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I ask that you would forgive those of us who have never learned to sit and passionately talk with you. Empower us with your Spirit to have the desire to sit and chat with you so that we can see your power manifest in us like we have never seen before. In your most holy and righteous name, Amen.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. Romans 6:22

Harry was your stereo-typical bachelor. He lived alone in a modest home. His yard was seldom mowed. If Christmas decorations were put up, they were put up on December 24 and taken down sometime in July, if they were taken down at all. Harry wasn’t necessarily a slob. He just had better things to do than clean house. So his house was usually dusty and cluttered. He’d wash dishes when he ran out of them. But Harry was happy with this life, for the most part.

Then, Harry met Sally. (No not the movie by the same name!) The more Harry hung out with Sally the more things began to change. The changes were subtle at first. He would shower and shave every day. The clothes he wore were more in tune with the requirements of the social police. He was even known to dust the house and wash dishes on a more regular basis. Not only was his lawn mowed weekly, he even made a few lame attempts at planting some flowers.

What happened to Harry? Was it because Sally nagged him? Nope. Did Sally come over every day to make sure he was dressed appropriately? Not a chance. Did the neighbors complain about the lawn? Well, actually yes, but that wasn’t what motivated him to clean it up.

What was it then the caused the change? One simple word: LOVE. Yep. That’s it. Love. The closer Harry grew to Sally, the more he saw life in a different perspective. He didn’t change because he had to. He didn’t change because it was the only way Sally would hang out with him. Harry changed because he had a new perspective on life. One other thing happened with the change. Harry felt better about himself. He realized that one reason he stayed away from home is because the place bothered him as much as it did his neighbors. Harry had no desire to let his life get stuck in the same rut as it did before Sally came along.

The story of Harry and Sally is a very simple example of what should happen in the life of a person when they decide to say ‘yes’ to Jesus. The change within comes because we are tired of the way we are living and want to change. The closer we walk to Jesus, the more we see areas in our lives we need to clean up. Oh sure there are days when we regress. There are some areas that we may struggle with for a long time. But we earnestly want to see a difference in our lives.

One of the things I struggle with the most in the area of Grace is how easy it is to take the issue of sin lightly. We don’t even like to talk about sin anymore. It’s too negative. Too harsh. Too unbending.

Fact of the matter is, sin of any sort hinders our relationship with Jesus. Does he hate us? NO! Will we lose our salvation? I don’t believe we will. Will our relationship with God and others suffer? Definitely.

Too often we as Christ-followers take the issue of sin too lightly. Believe me, I’m just as guilty or more so than most on this point. We want to change but it comes hard. We may give up and rationalize. “At least I’m not as bad as (the name of a bigger sinner than you). Or, “Thank Jesus I’m forgiven. I’ll just have to confess when I get home.” Until we fully realize the effects sin has on our relationship with God change will not happen.

Don’t let yourself get tricked by the enemy into taking sin lightly. Let the Spirit of God work in you to show you areas that need change. Trust him to direct you. Don’t beat yourself up for failing. Confess that sin and try again.

PRAYER: Father God. I confess that too often I’d rather compare myself with others worse off than I am than to deal with the issues in my own life. Help me to take sin seriously. Empower me to want to change and protect me from the lies Satan tries to feed me to keep me defeated. In Jesus name, Amen.


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April 2023
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