The Unborn (James 2:14-17)

“The unborn” are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. It’s almost as if, by being born, they have died to you. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe. Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.

This was posted by Methodist Pastor Dave Barnhart from Alabama on his Facebook page. 

Source: (Facebook June 25, 2018) It is reposted here as the raging controversy of the legal right to an abortion is once again back on the daily headlines. This message has been reposted on numerous social media sites, mainly by individuals seeking to disparage and mock Christians who advocate for the rights of the unborn but ignore the social consequences and cost of caring for these children after they are born. Christians should advocate for the rights of the unborn AND the born. Every group is important; none should be thrown under the bus. The Apostle James pointed out that our faith must be accompanied with actions. 

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 

James 2:14-17 (NLT)

The hard truth is everyone, not only Christians, are selfish. We do not love perfectly. We need a supernatural intervention to change our nature. This can only come by confessing and repenting of our sins and allowing the Holy Spirit to change and conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. 

Words are powerful and they cannot be spoken for expedient purposes. When this happens, cynics, even from those within the Church, should be heard. St. Augustine elegantly summarized where our priorities should be. ”In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”

Amen.

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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It’s Your Turn (John 16:33)

“1…2…3…!”

The familiar music of the waltz filled the room as my son danced with his mother. It was the last rehearsal before the grand event in four days. It was a gala celebration replete with tuxedos and evening gowns. 

I know. Three years earlier, I did the same event and danced a waltz with my then teen-aged daughter. It was a glorious experience but it involved several weeks of tense practice alone and with my daughter to master the four minute waltz. Tightly precisioned with twelve other couples simultaneously dancing on the same ballroom floor, any mistake would be easily spotted. Thankfully, all of us performed beautifully and we eagerly celebrated at the evening’s end.

That was then, now it was my wife and son’s turn! As I watched both of them rehearse and experience the same jitters that I experienced, I knew exactly what both were experiencing. In spite of their anxiety, I knew they would be just fine. Once the music began, my son and wife performed brilliantly along with the other participants. I was confident they would be successful since I had experienced the same.

…Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

John 16:33 (NLT)

Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke these powerful words of encouragement to His disciples on the eve of His Crucifixion. In a few hours, He would experience the most horrific death that anyone had or will experience in eternity. Jesus Christ did not simply die on the Cross. During the six hours he hung there, all of the sins of the world that were or would be committed were borne by His broken body. By dying and being resurrected three days later, He forever conquered death and restored the sacred relationship between us and God that was broken by sin. 

When it is our turn to face a trial or sorrow, we can do so with confidence that we will prevail because Jesus has already faced it for us. He promises to see us through it for the glory of God. He will never leave nor forsake us.


Praise God for His grace and mercy to all who place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. It is our turn to witness to the world that a life transformed by Jesus Christ will always be victorious through the power of the Resurrection.

Amen!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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“He’s A Natural!” (1 Samuel 9:1-2)

“Look at him! He’s a natural!”

I was overhearing a conversation between two basketball coaches marveling at the natural talent of one of their players. Some of us are fortunate to be blessed with superior natural abilities, allowing us to excel in certain sports or job skills. However it also requires the person to utilize it and continue to build upon their natural skills. Unfortunately, some very talented individuals have squandered their gifts. Mike Tyson. Aaron Hernandez. John Daly. The list is only limited by one’s persistence in searching for these stories.

Why would such gifted persons turn their back on their talents? The answer is as complex as the individuals. Pride, arrogance, and drug addictions are just a few of the reasons. The Bible records one individual whose life entered a similar downward spiral.

There was a wealthy, influential man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin. He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, of the tribe of Benjamin. His son Saul was the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land. 

1 Samuel 9:1-2 (NLT)

If there was ever someone who would be deemed a natural it was Saul. Born into a wealthy and powerful family in Israel, Saul was acclaimed as a tall and handsome man. A natural born leader! The Prophet Samuel was instructed by God to anoint him as Israel’s first king. However, after a promising start, he turned his back on God. He squandered his gifts and tragically was killed by his enemies. 

Are you a natural? Are you blessed with talents and gifts? Thank God for bestowing these upon you. Honor and thank God by using them to serve your Creator who gave them to you. Bible teacher and Preacher Warren Wiersbe eloquently stated, “Thank and think also come from the same root word. If we would think more, we would thank more.”

Amen!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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A Thousand Days (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

My smart phone app alerted me to my achieving a major personal milestone. I exercised for one thousand consecutive days. Every morning, I exercise on my elliptical for at least 45 minutes. This would be added to the usual steps that I take doing my daily activities to reach a minimum of 10,000 steps a day, sometimes reaching over 20,000 steps. Even when I travel, I kept the same routine. Inevitably there were days when I did not get enough sleep or was stressed by external events and thought to myself, “Maybe this one day, I will take a break.” However, I knew that I would descend a slippery slope if I accepted this excuse. One day off could quickly become two days and before I knew it, a week. I know. When I was much younger, I attempted an exercise routine only to fall victim to this mindset. After a few months, I stopped. So, regardless of how I feel when I awaken, I commit to the exercise. I am pleased by my achievement. However, my spiritual life requires even greater discipline. 

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)

The Apostle Paul encouraged his followers with these high goals. Always! Never stop! These were not activities to be done every morning, it was to be done every waking moment! Living these spiritual disciplines was not simply an exercise, it was our very sustenance. What is the goal of these spiritual exercises? Paul answers this a few verses later. 

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful. 

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NLT)

If we remain faithful, we will receive more than an app congratulating us on our achievement, we will receive a crown of righteousness, bestowed upon us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

We are working to be holy, set apart from the world to be set aside with God. 

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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Random Acts Of Kindness (Psalms 112:9)

“Hello! We heard about your situation and we would like to pay for your rent for the next three months!”

“Oh my goodness! Thank you so much! This will help our family so much!”

It was a random act of kindness. These scenes are increasingly being played out in communities across the country. Large and small businesses, public servants, and anonymous individuals randomly select individuals they deem worthy to receive money and resources to give them short term assistance. What motivates them? For many it is a way to give back to the communities in which they live. For others, it is to help others less fortunate than they are. However noble these causes, there may also be financial gains in the form of tax deductions and advertising for their respective businesses. 

Christians should also embrace random acts of kindness. The Bible definitely supports this.

They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor.

Psalms 112:9 (NLT)

What motivates them?

…How joyful are those who fear the LORD and delight in obeying his commands. 

Psalms 112:1 (NLT)

Christians should be willing to perform random acts of kindness. It is not for recognition or financial gain. It should be motivated only by gratitude for what God has done for them. 

…Freely you have received, freely give.

Matthew 10:8 (NKJV)

Amen!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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Faith And Works (James 2:17)

During our vacation to several national parks, one of our guides was describing her experience participating in the Grand To Grand Ultra Walk. It was definitely not for the novice or unprepared. Over seven days, participants will walk 171 miles, beginning at the North rim of the Grand Canyon, stopping and camping each night, before finishing at the summit of the Grand Staircase. The only gear allowed is what can be carried in one’s backpack.

Grand to Grand Ultra – Course (g2gultra.com) 

Our guide, an experienced hiker and mountaineer, spoke of the fatigue she experienced as she fought through the grueling experience. She brought two walking sticks with her which she named Faith and Works. As she traversed the challenging trails and ascended the heights of the many canyons, she kept saying aloud, “Faith and Works! Faith and Works!” It encouraged her, propelling her forward, allowing her to successfully complete the walk. I did not know the religious background of our guide but it reminded me of the well known Bible verse from the Book of James. 

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:17 (NLT)

A clarification of this verse was given by the great Protestant reformer, John Calvin. “Faith alone saves but the faith that saves is not alone.” A true saving faith will always lead to action. As James wrote in the preceding verses. 

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 

James 2:14-16 (NLT)

What good does that do? Truth, indeed! If we confess by faith to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, only God knows whether our confession is genuine. One unmistakable sign and confirmation is a changed life. 

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift ​— ​ not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do. 

Ephesians 2:8-10 (CSB)

Faith and works. 

Thanks be to God that He equips us to live a life dedicated to serving Him in gratitude for what He has done for us through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ! By grace alone we have been saved through faith so that we may perform good works for His Kingdom. 

Amen!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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How Did He Do That?” (Psalms 8:3-4)

The handsome young man flashed a knowing smile to his audience. With dramatic background music filling the hall, he proceeded to make entire decks of cards disappear, change color, and reappear.

It was Shin Lim.

Most of the world knows of this extraordinary Canadian-American magician. Here is one of his earliest performances which introduced him to world-wide audiences.

Penn and Teller Fool Us // Shin Lim – YouTube

Shin Lim is a master at sleight of hand. In fact, he states in other videos that he taught himself magic by watching other magicians on social media. Many of these techniques are readily available for others to learn. However, as evidenced by the video above, even some of the top magicians are still baffled by the artistry and skill of magicians like Shin Lim. As I watched his performance, I repeated this phrase verbally and in my mind at least a dozen times. 

“How did he do that?”

What people once thought was magic and supernatural occurrences can now usually be explained by knowledgeable observers. The same has been said of God and religion. Primitive cultures once thought the rising and setting of the sun were due to magic and supernatural actions of the gods. Thanks to advances in science, we can now explain many natural phenomena. So confident and secure is man in his knowledge that many think they can explain everything that was previously attributed to God Himself.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? 

Psalms 8:3-4 (NLT)

Science and technology are the tools that God has given to help us to understand His Creation. While we may be able to explain some processes, the unanswerable question is how? We can describe the process that happens at the molecular level where DNA sequences are arranged in genes coding for specific proteins. But how did this occur? The structure of DNA is quite complex and precise. There are billions upon billions of permutations that DNA can be arranged. Simply stringing together sequences of DNA does not guarantee it will be able to convey genetic information. It must be organized into genes which will code for proteins. Multiply that number by at least 25,000, the number of genes each human has. Now, what is the likelihood that all these combinations can precisely come together to form a cell that has proteins and enzymes to control other cellular processes? How about individual cells coming together to form an organ? How about all of these organs forming a plant, an animal, or a human? This process cannot be a piecemeal and sequential process, it must come together at once. It is easy to see that the probability of all this happening so precisely to allow a single cell to evolve to complex life forms is staggeringly high. Nonetheless, some scientists hypothesize it may be possible for simple DNA sequences to come together and even form a simple cell-like structure. How will this evolve to become an intelligent creature? 

How did He do that?

It is not magic. It is supernatural! God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent! He is beyond understanding for our limited senses. Praise God that we still do not know! Someday in Heaven, all who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will have all the mysteries of God revealed. 

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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Autographed Guitar (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)

In the frenzied world of the buying and selling of vintage guitars, there is a special category that commands a much higher price than others. These are guitars that were either owned or played by a famous musician. If the guitar was autographed by the musician, it becomes even more valuable. Any other guitar would be severely marked down in value if an unknown person autographed it. It is this unique sign of authenticity that makes the guitar special. The Bible speaks of a similar signature of authenticity. 

The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. 

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (NLT)

If one confesses and repents of our sins and accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit immediately dwells within us. Jesus Christ is literally signing our heart with His Spirit. If the autograph of a famous musician will elevate the value of guitar, what will the signature of Jesus Christ upon our heart do for our worth? Precious and priceless!

Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. 

Isaiah 43:4 (NLT)

We are so precious to God that He sealed His promise of love by sending His Son Jesus Christ to live on this earth. Our souls were purchased by His blood and redeemed by the power of the Resurrection. Our hearts are autographed by Jesus Christ. 

Praise God!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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How Do I Love Thee? (Psalms 106:2)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints―I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life!―and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Many are familiar with the first lines of this famous love poem penned by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. What is less familiar is the background to this poem. Elizabeth Browning was writing to the man who later became her husband, Robert Browning. She confessed her undying love to him and even beseeched God to grant her the ability to love him even after death. If love can continue beyond death, this would be the ultimate affirmation that love is eternal. Evangelist Ravi Zacharias eloquently summarized this longing. “If relationships bring meaning to life, then the ultimate mockery of life is the reality that all relationships are either ruptured by sin or severed by death. Each of us longs for a relationship that cannot be victimized by sin or destroyed by death. That relationship can only be found with God.”

Who can list the glorious miracles of the LORD? Who can ever praise him enough? 

Psalms 106:2 (NLT)

The Psalmist who penned these words was in love as well, with His Creator. Yet, the Psalmist did not lament that his love would end with this life. He was confident that he would see His Lord even after he died. His words looked ahead to the Savior that God promised He would send to redeem His people. Thousands of years later, God sealed this promise through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the most glorious miracle and act of love that God has bestowed upon His creation. 

How do I love thee?

We can never praise Him enough!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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Love Canal (Luke 18:1-5)

I was reading a distressing story about 100 people who were all diagnosed with rare brain tumors. One of the persons who was afflicted reached out through social media and to his horror, discovered other people who were also diagnosed with this same brain tumor. The common link appeared to be they all attended or worked at the same high school in New Jersey over the previous fifty years. There was speculation that some of the soil used to build the school in 1967 may have originated from an area that had previously been used as a landfill for radioactive waste products. A local and federal investigation is now underway.

Source: Fox News

The story evoked memories of another tragedy from an earlier generation. Love Canal is a neighborhood in upstate New York. Unknown to the inhabitants, it was constructed on a landfill that was the site of decades of the dumping of toxic chemicals. Families began raising alarms when many of inhabitants began experiencing health problems including leukemias, cancers, and miscarriages. Reporters picked up the story and wrote an expose in 1976 documenting the disaster. The clamor culminated with then President Jimmy Carter declaring a federal health emergency in 1978 leading to a massive cleanup and a fund to help the afflicted citizens. 

Environmental tragedies are increasingly common and many undoubtedly are either never discovered, under-reported, or a true causal connection cannot be established. Sadly, it often takes one or more determined individuals to bring attention to the matter and clamor for action before help and justice are received. 

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’” 

Luke 18:1-5 (NLT)

This parable that Jesus Christ told His disciples illustrates several points. While we are commanded to follow and obey those in government, it is an imperfect system and sometimes requires us to be persistent in bringing demands and problems to the attention of those in authority. The beautiful solution that Jesus gave is how He contrasted the actions of the unjust judge with God, our Heavenly Father. 

Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” 

Luke 18:6-8 (NLT)

Jesus Christ was emphasizing the importance of persisting in prayer. If even an evil, uncaring judge will listen to a persistent woman and grant justice, God, the Almighty Judge, will surely answer our persistent prayers and grant justice.

We should all continue to pray for the families in New Jersey as well as all who have suffered health problems secondary to environmental neglect or disasters. As Christians, we have a responsibility to advocate on behalf of those who are unable or who have succumbed to these tragedies. It requires persistent prayer and action. Thanks be to God that He continually hears us and promises to answer our prayers for all those who placed their trust and faith in Jesus Christ. 

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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