How will you vote in this crucial election?

We are less than two weeks away from one of the most important presidential elections in recent history. How should we as Christians vote?  How does the Bible influence our decision making process when we enter the voting booth? Regardless of your political party or persuasion, as citizens of the United States, God has granted us the current freedoms to positively influence our government for the glory of Christ.  According to Wayne Grudem in his book “Politics According to the Bible” he gives five wrong or erroneous views regarding the Christian’s relationship to the government.

The first wrong view states that government should mandate or force citizens to adopt a particular religion. We see this in nations like Saudi Arabia that enforces “sharia law” and compels all citizens to embrace Islam. Nowhere in the Bible do we see Jesus or the apostles using the governing authorities to force people to become Christians.  In Matthew 22:15-22, Jesus tells us that there are two spheres of influence—the government and God. We are to render unto the government what God has ordained the government to exercise and we are to render unto God what God has ordained for Himself.

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DAY FORTY THREE of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

Today is the last day we will focus on being a disciple through practicing the gospel one another’s. Again, being connected to a disciple-making small group is the best context to actually put these into practice.

Let’s explore a few more “one another’s”

  • Encouraging and comforting one another

Read Hebrews 3:12-13

The word for “Exhort” here means to come along side and encourage and comfort. It means to offer your presence as a support. Again, it means to keep on continually doing this.

For how long? EVERY DAY—it’s not just a one time thing were you are this happy clappy cheerleader smiling from the sidelines and urging someone else on with Christian cliché’s you find on mugs or bumper stickers. It means to get down deep in their lives and encourage them.

Read Hebrews 10:24-25

As we encourage one another on a daily basis, we spur or stir up one another to love and good works. We help prevent this drift into this hardening of our hearts due to sin’s deception.

Contrary to popular opinion, I as pastor NEED YOU! Yes, I’m your shepherd and I’ve been called by God to feed and lead you, but I desperately need you. I need your encouragement.

Here’s a sad thing—we are called to encourage each other EVERY DAY. How many days have gone by this week where a brother and sister in Christ who was not your spouse or parent encouraged you?

  • Praying for one another

Read James 5:16

This is a very interesting passage of Scripture because it links confessing our sins to each other in the context of praying for one another and then it adds that little phrase at the end—so you may be healed.

At first we may look at this as physical healing. Of course, when we pray for a person who’s sick or having an operation or is suffering from cancer, we want them to be healed physically.

But is that all this means? Can there be such a thing as healing that is spiritual and emotional?

Think about it this way—if we are bearing one another’s burdens, and encouraging one another, and forgiving one another and welcoming one another and striving for peace with one another, do you think things in our lives will be HEALTHIER!!

As you pray for God’s grace in your life to transform you more into the image of Jesus, we are called to practice the gospel “one another’s” on a daily basis. The best context or environment to do this as believers outside of our homes is in a disciple-making small group.

It is here that you can know others and be known by others. You can receive encouragement and love one another and bear each other’s burdens and pray for one another and express these in practical ways. You can experience the joy of being in a family of believers that loves you and accepts you and wants the best for you.

Dear Father,

I am thankful that you have taken me on this 50-day journey to understand more about my identity, the gospel, and the need to grow in my obedience to you. I know that I need to be in a context where I can learn and obey your word and also practice the “one another’s”. Please open my heart to connecting to a disciple-making small group so that I can truly live out what it means to passionately follow you.

Amen

DAY FORTY TWO of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

  • Forgiving one another and aiming for restoration

Read 2 Corinthians 13:11-12

Paul tells us to aim for restoration. The word he uses here was often used to describe how a doctor would repair a broken bone or a fisherman would repair a net. We need to aim for repairing broken relationships. We are called to live in peace.

Read Ephesians 4:32


The secular world speaks a lot about forgiveness. Just turn on Dr. Phil and you will see him talking about the power of forgiveness and self-forgiveness. So the world sees forgiveness as an important thing.

But yet notice how Paul adds the gospel element. Why are we to forgive? And how can we even begin to forgive someone who has hurt us deeply?

Just as God in Christ forgave you. That makes it more emphatic and powerful. We forgive because of the forgiveness we have received from God in the cross.

In Christ we have complete forgiveness of our sins through His blood and God chose to wipe our slate clean even when we mistreated Him, blasphemed His name, rebelled against Him, and spit in His face time and time again.

Corrie ten Boom was a woman of great faith who survived the Nazi concentration camps during WWII. The war was over and she had gone back to Germany in 1947 to share the gospel of God’s grace and forgiveness. It was in a church in Munich where she was speaking when she saw the balding, heavyset man in a gray. He began to approach her and she remembered the atrocities at Ravensbruck concentration camp where she remembered having to walk naked in shame past this man on her way to the gas chamber. This man coming toward her was the cruelest, most foul guard that tortured them. Her message that night was on God’s forgiveness and how he casts our sins to the bottom of the ocean.

The man reached out his hand and said, “A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that all our sins are at the bottom of the ocean!” She was frozen and didn’t know what to do. All the memories came racing back to her. He told her that he was a guard at Ravensbrook, but had now become a Christian and experienced God’s full forgiveness. He wanted to hear it from her lips as well so he asked her forgiveness. This was the most difficult thing she could do because her sister Betsy had died in that terrible place. She asked for the strength to do it, and the Lord provided her the grace to extend her hand in forgiveness bringing tears to her eyes as she said, “I forgive you brother! With all my heart!”

In our own power, we can’t possibly offer forgiveness to a person who has hurt us, but in Christ we can. We look at the cross and see His extraordinary love for us who have hurt Him beyond measure with our sin and yet He died for us while we were still sinners. He forgave us.

We sometimes do a lousy job of this as Christians. For example, when we go and ask a person for forgiveness, often times what the other person says is “That’s okay”. We say, “That’s okay”. And in reality, we are not practicing gospel forgiveness.

It’s not okay. I have sinned against you and I need to confess to you that it is sin and ask your forgiveness. If all you say is “that’s okay” then you have minimized my sin and are brushing it under the carpet. Instead, we need to say, “I know you’ve sinned against me and it hurt, but in Christ, I accept your confession and I forgive you as Christ forgave you.”

In the cross, God did not just say “It’s okay”—if it was just okay then why did His perfect Son have to die a brutal death. Sin is real and it has been committed and it is real transgression and offense and it needs to be paid for by a real and definite atonement from Christ.

When we forgive one another we need to make sure that we acknowledge sin and call it sin and then actually offer forgiveness to one another by reminding each other that we can do this through the gospel.

Do you struggle with forgiveness? Is there someone in your life right now that you haven’t forgiven and to whom you are harboring bitterness? Spend time in prayer confessing this sin and asking Jesus to shower you with a greater understanding of His forgiveness of you.

Lord Jesus,

I cannot comprehend how you forgave me! I was under God’s wrath and alienated and separated and rebellious in my sin and yet in Your sovereign grace you reached down from heaven and granted me new life. You completely wiped away my sin and granted me complete forgiveness. Because of what You did for me, please grant me the grace to forgive others. If there is any bitterness in my heart, please totally get rid of it. Lord, please do a deep work in my life so that I can be a person who is loving, forgiving, and joyful.

I need Your help,

Amen

DAY FORTY ONE of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

As we have seen over the past few days, loving one another is the first and most important of the gospel “one another’s”, but there are more!!

  • Welcoming “one another”

Read Romans 15:7

As believers, God commands us to keep on continually welcoming one another.

This word “welcome” means to accept or to draw in or to admit into fellowship. It was often used to describe taking a person aside for a personal conversation.

Now before we truly understand what this means, let us see how it is rooted in the gospel. The verse itself shows us.

Why and how should we be welcoming one another? In the way that Christ has welcomed us.

So that makes us explore the implications of this a little deeper. How exactly did Christ receive or welcome or accept us?

Did Christ wait for us to get our acts together before He died for us? Did Christ expect us to get rid of all of our issues and baggage before He decided to come to earth and serve us?

What if Christ had the attitude that He would only accept or welcome us if we were worthy enough or good enough or polished enough or together enough?

Read Romans 5:8

Let’s be honest, we are all broken, confused, have issues, and are not perfect. We are sinners who have been saved by grace. If we are to be accepting and welcoming one another like Christ accepted us then we need to not be afraid of each other’s junk.

We cannot say “I will only welcome or accept you if you have your act together, you are like me, and you are nice.”

If Christ adopted that attitude, none of us would ever be saved.

  • Bearing the burdens of “one another”

Read Galatians 6:1-3

We all have burdens, and problems, and things we have to deal with in our lives and none of us as believers were meant to go this alone.

One of the issues that I’ve seen in Northeastern Colorado, and I think it’s the farming and ranching mentality, is that we are very self-sufficient and don’t need help from anybody else. To admit that we need helps shows weakness and we’ve been taught to not ask for help and that “God helps those who help themselves”–which is not in the Bible by the way.

We need to have the openness here within the family fellowship we call Emmanuel to have the freedom to ask for help. We need to be able to receive help from others—whether that is financial, emotional, and spiritual.

There are many among us who are weak and that is okay. Those who are strong need to help those who are weak. It may mean that we help watch the kids, or we take a meal over to them, or volunteer to help around the house, or just be there to walk through an issue.

Read Romans 15:1

Are you welcoming or accepting others? Are you bearing the burdens of others? Many times we complain that others aren’t accepting us or welcoming us or bearing our burdens, but expressing the “one another’s” in church life is a two way street.

One of the most effective ways you can both give and receive this type of love and support is through a disciple-making small group where you can do this in practical ways.

On Sunday mornings in a worship service, it is very hard to do this on a consistent, personal and practical basis.

Ask God to begin to soften your heart to how you can “do life” with other believers and practice these “one another’s”.

Dear Lord,

Thank you that you accepted me when I was unacceptable. Thank you that you extended grace to me when I was your enemy. You also bore my burden on the cross and for that I am forever thankful. Please by your powerful grace, help me to welcome others and to bear the burdens of others. Show me practical ways I can do this today. Help me to see the value of connecting to a disciple-making small group in order to live these out in real ways in obedience to You.

Amen

DAY FORTY of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

11.  Love rejoices with the TRUTH

This not only means that we rejoice when someone tells the truth and we uphold honesty and integrity, but it also means that we rejoice when God’s Word as the ultimate standard of truth is upheld and proclaimed. Love cannot tolerate false doctrine.

12.  Love BEARS all things

This word “bears” basically means to cover or support or protect. In essence, when you love someone you are willing to protect them from harm or ridicule or the onslaughts of others.

This involves empathy. You are willing to empathize with another to the extent that you walk along side of them, protect them, support them, and seek their ultimate good.  You feel others’ pain and you are willing to carry the burden of that pain yourself.

Think about Jesus in this manner. He was willing to totally sympathize with us to the point of extreme pain—the cross.

Read Hebrews 4:15-16

To what lengths are you willing to go in order to truly empathize with someone you love? To bear all things with them?

13.  Love BELIEVES all things

In other words, love is not suspicious or cynical or doubting. Love is willing to believe the best about a person.  Love is willing to believe a person is innocent until proven guilty. Love gives the benefit of the doubt. Love is willing to take risks even if it means pain or hurt or betrayal. And when someone sins against you, your first impulse is to forgive and restore.

Read Galatians 6:1-3.

14.  Love HOPES all things

Love is willing to hold out hope for those who have sinned against us or who have fallen. Love refuses to take failure as final.

Love hopes that the backslidden child, or the unbelieving spouse, or the wayward sinner will eventually repent and be restored.

Read Romans 8:28

15.  Love ENDURES all things

This word “endures” was a military term used of an army holding its position at all costs.  When we think of true Christian love, we stand with another person against overwhelming opposition and refuse to stop bearing with others, or stop believing or stop hoping. Love will never stop loving.

There is no exhaustion to love. It remains steadfast to the end. It doesn’t give up. It is a constant ongoing activity in our lives and it will be brutal, agonizing, beautiful, joyful, tender, gut wrenching, and powerful.

Read Hebrews 12:2-3

It all comes back to looking at Jesus and what He accomplished and then finding our motivation to endure and love by relying upon the grace that flows from the cross.

Again, what on this list do you struggle with? How do you personally and practically need God’s help?

Father in Heaven,

Thank you for this passage on love! Thank you for clearly showing me what true Christian love looks like.  Help me to bear the burdens of others and to believe the best in others and to have the confidence that you will work all things out according to Your will. Help me to pour my life out to others in love as I follow your example of pouring your life out on the cross for me!

In Jesus Name,

Amen

DAY THIRTY NINE of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

Read I Corinthians 13:4-8

6.  Love does not act RUDELY

The issue here is not caring about the sensitivities of others around you. You act crassly, rudely, and without decorum. The loveless person is often overbearing and just plain crude.

7. Love is not actively SEEK out its own way

The word used here for “insist” really means to pursue hotly or actively. To be demanding. To always have your own way and insist that other come to your beck and call.

Read Matthew 20:20-28

8.  Love does not explode with anger

 The word used here for “irritable” means to arouse anger—a sudden outburst or convulsion of anger. Flying off the handle.

Think about how this relates to seeking your own way.  When you are always intent on insisting on your own way, you can become easily angered and irritable when things don’t go your own way.

The image here is of a person who has a short temper and goes “nuclear” at times. You have to walk on eggshells around them because you don’t know if you’re going to set something off.

Read the following:

Proverbs 15:1

Proverbs 15:18.

Ecclesiastes 7:8-9

9. Love Does not TAKE INTO ACCOUNT a wrong suffered

This is record keeping when we are wronged. It harbors resentment and keeps bringing up records of wrongs. It doesn’t easily forgive and forget but is very calculating in making sure you never forget how another person has hurt you.

How does God treat us when it comes to our record?

Read Psalm 130:3-4

If God has completely forgiven our sins and does not keep a record of our wrongs, then we should by the power of the Holy Spirit through the gospel of grace be able to do the same.

10.  Love does not REJOICE at sin

To rejoice in sin means that you justify it in a way that it doesn’t seem to be all that bad. You are okay with sin. You partake in sin.

You get excited and joyful over the failures of others or you want to see someone else fall.

This most poignantly expresses itself in GOSSIP.

Read 2 Corinthians 12:20

Again, look over the list for today and ask the Lord to reveal to you which areas you struggle in or need His grace to grow in.

Dear Loving Father,

I’m so thankful that you do not keep a record of wrong because if you did I could not stand in your presence. Because of Christ’s love for me in the gospel, I am forgiven, accepted, and righteous. Help me to love others with the love that you have shown me. If I have rudeness in my life, please remove it. If I struggle with gossip or unforgiveness or anger or am self-seeking, please grow Your grace in me to be conformed to your image. I desperately need You today.

In Your Name,

Amen

DAY THIRTY EIGHT of 50-Day Spiritual Journey

Tina Turner’s song in the 80’s entitled “What’s Love Got to Do with it” is a cynical expression of love that defines it as a “second hand emotion”.  In our culture, we throw the word “love” around all the time and we truly don’t understand its meaning.  I love pizza. I love my dog. I love the Broncos. I love my wife. I love to read! I love rock ‘n’ roll! You fill in the blank….

What is the Biblical definition of love?

Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

This is the most comprehensive treatment in the entire Bible on the true definition of Christian love and from this passage we see FIFTEEN aspects or descriptions of love. (Don’t worry, we won’t cover all of them today!)

In our English translations, we don’t get the full force of the original language. In the Greek text, these are present tense verbs. Which means that they are concrete actions that are to be practiced in a continual, lifestyle of obedience to Christ.  In other words, they are not sentimental, mushy feelings that are based on our emotions, but  actions that need to be expressed in practical ways.

Let’s begin to explore these:

1.     Love PRACTICES PATIENCE

This word literally means “long-suffering” and almost always denotes patience with people rather than with circumstances or events.

I struggle with patience. I get irritated when standing in line or when driving or when someone doesn’t do things in a fast manner. And really this stems from pride. In my mind, I think I can do things better than others and that I DESERVE fast treatment and that somehow I am entitled to have things my way. Practicing patience is a hard blow to pride because we feel that we deserve better.

When we think of patience, we need to immediately think of God Himself.

In the Old Testament, there was the famous “credo” or “confession” of faith. It was first revealed by God Himself to Moses on the mountain and later used by many writers to encapsulate God’s very character. This was the John 3:16 of the Old Testament.

Read Exodus 34:6 and Psalm 86:15

 The greatest example of patience is the Lord. If God was not slow to anger and was impatient with us, how could we live?

2.     Love practices KINDNESS

Again, this doesn’t mean to feel kind, but to actually demonstrates kindness in concrete action. It desires the welfare of others. It not only feels generous, but acts generously for others.

The perfect example of kindness again is the Lord Himself.

Read Romans 2:4

If we are honest, the first test for practicing these virtues of love is in the home or among those we are the closest.

Again, this is more than just having kind feelings toward each other. It is actually DOING kind and helpful things for each other to the point of self-sacrificing love.

3.     Love does not ENVY

Envy has two forms:

  • I want what someone else has
  • I wish they didn’t have what they have and I desire evil for them.

Read Proverbs 27:4 and James 3:14-16

4.     Love does not BOAST or BRAG

Boasting makes much of us, instead of making much of Christ. Again, Christ is the ultimate example of humility.

5.     Love is not ARROGANT

There may be a subtle difference between boasting and arrogance.  I think boasting is more bragging about your accomplishments and always talking about yourself, while arrogance is an attitude of smugness and superiority where you look down on others.

Read Proverbs 8:13 and 11:2 and 16:18

John MacArthur says this: “Arrogance is big-headed, love is big-hearted!”

Which one of these on the list so far do you struggle with the most? Which one do you need to grow in?  Spend some time in prayer asking the Lord to grow this love in you.

Father in heaven,

I know that  You are love and that you have called me to love with this sacrificial, intentional type of love that is more than just a feeling, but action. I need patience! I want to practice kindness! Help me not envy others or boast and brag and be arrogant about my accomplishments. I know that pride goes before a fall. I desperately need your grace to produce this kind of love in my life and help me to express it today in very practical ways. Amen