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Posts Tagged ‘Good News’

“(Jesus) personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed.”
(1 Peter 2:24)
This promise of healing is like our promise of salvation, in that we receive both this side of Heaven by faith, knowing that the transaction will be actuated in Heaven upon our arrival. All the while we grasp that we are not healed or saved yet, but the promise of both is so sure, we can claim both with certainty. We’ve been dragged and secured into God’s lifeboat, but we’ve yet to come ashore. Our inheritance has been written into His will, we’ve seen it with our own eyes, and it was probated, i.e., it has been tested and found to be true, by Christ’s resurrection from the grave. This healing is promised and it is permanent.
Another Healing
God also heals our bodies this side of heaven, but these healings are not promised, nor are they permanent. They are not promised and for reasons not fully understood by the church, they aren’t for everybody. God chooses to heal or not heal this side of Heaven to bring Himself honor, glory, and praise, and as a sign that may draw non-believers to Christ for the purpose salvation, keeping in mind that God will also use the strong, faithful testimony of the unhealed saint to get His glory! Regardless, all of these miraculous healings are not permanent. Those who receive them will eventually lose them to declining health and/or death.
So while we’re encouraged to pray for healing for our earth-bound bodies, and often receive them, we must emphasize the importance of the permanent and promised healing that’s to come in Heaven, especially to the unchurched and unsaved souls we encounter. Let us be compelled to share this critical information lest we sow seeds of discouragement to a lost soul who was not healed as he or she had expected. These same folks need the Gospel more than they need short-term wellness.
“But (Jesus) was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

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The one true religion; the components that make up the Christian faith, are not for the atheist, the agnostic, or for followers of other false religions. The Christian religion is only for those who have repented, believe and follow Jesus Christ, and desire to know Him better. The Christian religion does not save a person; our religion is comprised of God-given commandments, doctrines, and directives for the born-again Christian; that is, the person who recognizes Jesus accomplished all the work on the cross and has received by faith Christ’s merciful and gracious salvation. Our religion is the means by which we learn about Jesus, His will for us and the Church, and the method by which we mature in our faith through submission and obedience.
So if the Christian religion is not for the non-believer, what should we be doing?
We should be sharing the Gospel Message and nothing else. If we’re caught up in other biblical topics, we should always aim to bring the discussion back to the Good News. Once they understand (and accept) their sinful condition, grasp how they are separated them from God, recognize their need for a Savior (Jesus Christ) in order to restore that relationship, and once they repent from their sinful ways and receive and believe by faith in Jesus Christ, then they are born-again Christian believers and are ready to partake in the God-given (not man-made) doctrines, rituals, commandments, and assorted teachings of the church.
So should we invite them to church?

I submit to you that unless the Gospel message is going to be preached, the bad news with the Good News, they are not going to comprehend or appreciate the elements of our religion, in fact they might be turned away by them. I believe those who [errantly] teach that Christianity is a “relationship and not a religion,” have suffered to one degree or another of having religion crammed down their throats before hearing and receiving the Gospel, very often for long and sustained periods of time.

Consider 1 Corinthians 2:13b-14

“[W]e speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.”

In other words, non-Christians do not have the Holy Spirit residing inside of them. The King James version refer to these folks as ‘natural men.’  Therefore, the spiritual truths of our religion are foolishness to them. However, the Holy Spirit comes alongside the non-believer for the sole purpose of understanding the Gospel Message! So, while they may scoff at our Bibles stories, our rituals, and our doctrines, they have, by the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit, the capacity to understand their need for a Lord and Savior in their life. Once they take that step of faith, they’ll receive the Holy Spirit within, and can begin to understand, bit-by-bit like the rest of us, God’s Holy Bible and the religion He has provided us.

What is the Gospel?

Go here to learn more.

Question: Does this mean we should not send our children to church?

Of course not, but I also believe that our Sunday School lessons should emphasize the Gospel Message more so than Bible stories. There will come a time that these children will have to make their own decisions and we want those decisions to be based on the full understanding of the Gospel message and nothing else.

We need to remember that the religious happenings inside our churches are primarily for equipping the saints. Sure, non-believers are welcome, but at the same time it could be likened to inviting a mathematical-illiterate to your calculus class. Unless your professor is going to pause and teach this visitor basic arithmetic, what they hear in that classroom will be mostly foolishness to them, much in the way the 1 Corinthians passage demonstrates.

 

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“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20

When I heard the news and saw the magazine cover, I was stunned. Before my heart beat again, the Holy Spirit mutely cautioned, “Don’t caitlynsay it.” He knew exactly what was percolating inside my wicked heart before I did. So I paused, asked Him for help, and promised not to write or post anything that day.

It was difficult. My flesh was chomping at the bit. “Let me at him,” it kept saying (I appreciate it when my sin nature is brash – it makes it easier to recognize). In contrast, the Holy Spirit was communicating tenderly, as usual. Actually it was as if He invisibly gestured no with His head and the maneuver created a holy breeze I somehow felt and interpreted to mean no. Needless to say, His counsel was unobtrusively powerful.

So I began this morning asking the Lord what, if anything, should I say? I felt the Lord immediately unburden me from the notion that I had to be a part of the national dialogue about homosexuality (in general) or transgenderism specifically. There are plenty of good folks out there already lovingly doing that. No, what I felt compelled by the Lord to do was to prepare myself to talk to Caitlyn directly (not literally, because that just isn’t going to happen). I should know what to say to the Caitlyn’s of the world if the opportunity arises.

The first thing I discerned was that I need to say the name Caitlyn. Yes, it pains me, but here’s the reality: as it pertains to a name, people have a right to go by whatever moniker they want and as long as it is not vulgar or obscene (in the traditional sense of those words), we should use them. Generally speaking, names are innocuous and we shouldn’t get too hung up on them and observing their requests give us a common ground where a dialog can begin.

However, re-identifying gender is another thing entirely and that of course is our first sticking point. Caitlyn is a he. Names we can change, but we cannot undo God’s workmanship. We can de-petal a rose and it’s still a rose. We can strip the stem bare of its buds, leaves, and thorns, and it is still a rose. We can toss the pieces into the furnace, collect the ashes, and but still undeniably it was a rose. There are no alterations so great or complex that can overrule the Creator’s design.

So what would I say to Caitlyn in that regard?

Nothing, at least not at this juncture. Caitlyn doesn’t need advanced theology instruction, she needs fundamental Bible lessons, for in Caitlyn’s mind everything I wrote above is foolishness. God would agree. Let me qualify that last sentence: God would agree that Caitlyn’s perception of the account is foolishness. 1 Corinthians 2:14 bears witness to that.

“[T]he natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Caitlyn does not have the capacity to understand these maxims because the Holy Spirit has not taken up residence, therefore these premises are nonsensical; it’s exactly the condition God has told us about in His Word. It’s at this point the church should see the road sign advising us to turn around and take Caitlyn back to the basics; if there’s to be any hope for Caitlyn, we need to share the Gospel.

That’s easier said than done, right? The answer is maybe. It depends if you fully grasp these words of Jesus:

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30

It’s God’s job to draw the sinner to the cross and He often does it through divine appointments. All that is to say that if we find ourselves suddenly having an audience with Caitlyn, it could very well be said that God ordained the encounter. God drew Caitlyn to this discussion, despite the fact that Caitlyn’s flesh is likely doing everything in its power to undermine the exchange. What makes it easier (for us) is that God doesn’t necessarily want us to give a Gospel presentation, but rather engage in a conversation where the soil can be prepared so the Gospel can be presented. In order to do that, we need to talk to Caitlyn, but more importantly, we need to listen to Caitlyn. There’s a door that needs to be opened and the only doorknob is on Caitlyn’s side. If it’s opened we must be careful to not barge right in and throw dirt on the carpet (the not-so-subtle technique used by vacuum cleaner salesmen). Sure, we’re aching to dive into Romans 3:23, but we must listen before we can be heard.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God

I suppose all that is to say [that] we need to be compassionate; the more outraged and incensed we might be, the more grace we need to exhibit. It makes no sense whatsoever to bowl the Caitlyn’s of the world over with Scripture that denounce their actions if they’re not saved. Essentially it’s like teaching calculus to a five-year old before they’ve learned 1 + 1 = 2.

So where do we begin?

If I ever get the opportunity it will go something like, “Hi Caitlyn. My name is Dave… so tell me about yourself.” If an ambassador for Christ can’t get past this first line, then it just might be that they need to return to the rudiments of our faith. If that’s where you are, rejoice! You have just been given an opportunity to grow spiritually.

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Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ “although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. (Hebrew 4:1-11)

Let’s Rest

The previous chapter (Hebrews 3) taught us (reminded us) about Moses and the ‘generation of unbelief’ that could not enter into the JoshuaPromised Land (Canaan). We learned that the thing that kept them out of the promised location was their disbelief; they did not believe that God would want to bless them and that He would follow through on His promises. Their actions bore witness to that truth.

So we see that they (Israel) could not enter in because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:19

Using the Promised Land episode as an example, Hebrews 4 begins by telling us we should fear not entering into our promised rest.  The lesson is simply to believe what God has said by faith, and to not waiver in it. The Good News is of no worth to a person if there is no faith.  Nothing has changed in this regard. Ancient Israel was taught salvation in God alone just as we are today.  If we do not enter in and accept the Spirit-filled life, by faith, then there obviously is no benefit.

We who have believed do enter that rest!

Hebrews 4 is establishing that our rest is in Jesus Christ, despite the fact that the Jews would say that they have a rest; a one-day in seven rest, called the Sabbath Day.

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. Genesis 2:1-3

But the writer of Hebrews is referring to another rest; a future rest, that is better and God sent.  The Sabbath rest established by God in Genesis is merely a picture of the full rest we are to have in Christ; a spirit-filled life we may associate with entering into the Promised Land, being mindful that the Promised Land is not the promised rest.  Joshua took Israel into the Promised Land, but if that rest was sufficient there would be no talk of another day to come, of course pointing to Jesus Christ.  Ultimately, it’s not the Promised Land rest or the Sabbath Day rest we’re promised, they just pictures of the rest to come that commences on the day we first believe and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.

 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, When your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My work.  For forty years I was grieved with that generation, And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ” Psalm 95:8-11

Regarding our rest, we see that Psalm 95 (cited by the writer of Hebrews), demonstrates that God is speaking of a yet-future event.

A Better Rest

JesusI like the way Jon Courson said it (paraphrased here): the rest being spoken of [in Hebrews 4] is not a vacation (a Sabbath Day of rest), nor is it a location (as was the Promised Land), but rather it is a relation with Jesus Christ. For the Christian, the Christ-rest is finally understanding and accepting that there is no work to be done in regard to our salvation—the work has been done and we can rest in His work by faith.

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” John 19:30

It’s worth repeating: the rest that people are truly craving (and God wants to provide) is not a vacation (Sabbath) or a location (Canaan), but a relation in Christ that’s everlasting. Let us not be fooled into believing that a respite or a region (alone) will bring you rest. True rest, a rewarding rest, a blessing and sustaining rest, and most importantly, a saving rest, is found only in Christ Jesus. Locations and vacations are temporary solutions at best, if Jesus is not included.

Don’t be robbed of the blessing—there is no profit, nor is there any rest in the Gospel where there is no faith.

Do Want to Know Jesus?

The blog posted prior to this one might assist you.

I pray you were blessed by today’s blog. If you were, please like it, share it, subscribe to it, or leave a comment. I read and respond to every comment I receive. 

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For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. Jeremiah 29:11-14

Wednesdays are typically Asbury Park Train Station days. I pack up my guitar, drive the five miles or so to the station and settle into one of the pew-like benches. The mission: to share the Good News through song. Talking about Jesus in the train station is frowned upon, but singing about Him is apparently okay; regardless of how well or un-well you sing.

I always pray before I go and ask the Lord to open doors and such, but normally there’s not a whole lot of interaction. Occasionally someone will amble by and give an appreciative nod to the music and/or the Subject matter, but for the most part I’m just praying for some evangelical seeds to be planted. I’m not concerned—God is in control. Today was more interesting than most in that I had two visitors: Rob and Gene.

Rob

I could smell Rob before I could see him. As he sat down next to me it was clear he was inebriated; matted hair hung from beneath his faded cap, stains marked the back and sleeves of his winter coat, and the front of his pants were wet down one side to his knee.

“Music sounds good; mind if I sit down?” he asked.

“Thanks. Not at all.” I said.

He introduced himself as Rob and stuck out his hand. Rob wanted to talk and I wanted to listen, and like drunks do, he repeated the same comments and asked the identical questions over and over. When it was my turn we talked about Jesus.

I knew going in that was going to be a difficult road; talking to intoxicated people for the purpose of conveying a message (any message) is generally an act of futility. Nevertheless, there we were sitting on the same bench chatting away—I’m convinced God had orchestrated this meeting and it really wasn’t any of my business to figure out why He had.

I briefly shared my testimony and Rob was genuinely intrigued that God healed me of my addictions–He then confessed that he hated every aspect of his life. I told him God could heal him right then and there if he wanted Him too. Rob told me all about Jesus Christ and sin and salvation. I told him, “Satan knows Jesus too. The difference is that Christians follow Jesus.”

Sadly he chose not to follow Him this day. Rob got up to leave.

I gave him a tract and told him to put it in his pocket and to read it when he could see more clearly.

Gene

About an hour later Gene joined me on the bench. At first I thought Gene was a drunk too. He wasn’t. He wheeled his large, green plastic garbage can in front of him and sat down. A mop stuck out from beneath the bungeed lid and I spied a shiny toaster through the breach it created.

“Music sounds good; mind if I sit down?” he asked.

“Thanks. Not at all.” I said.

He told me his name was Gene and that he thought it was no accident that he chose to sit down next to me. “God wanted me to hear this music I guess.” He said.

“Are you a Christian?” I asked.

He said that he was and threw in, “And I’ve been clean for four years August 26th.”

Praise the Lord,” I said. “What happened four years ago that set you straight.”

Gene told me his tragic story, one littered with success, drugs, alcohol, and one relapse after another. One night, about four years ago, he planned on killing himself.

“I had a rock about this big,” he said holding up his thumb and index finger to form a circle, “and I was going to smoke the whole thing. I put out nine candles all around me and sat under a blanket in the middle. I broke off a piece and fired it up. Instantly the room got dark and I felt a big black man leaning over me and pushing me down. I knew it was the devil and smashed the pipe against the cement.”

Gene acted out the scenes as he spoke.

“I’m kinda ashamed to tell you what happened next—I prayed for Jesus to save me and immediately the darkness lifted and I was able to fall asleep. But when I woke up, there was the pipe and the crack, so I did it again. And the same thing happened! So I hid under the blanket and told Jesus, ‘If I see the light coming through this window tomorrow morning, I will give my life to you’. The next morning the sun was shining through the window and that was about four years ago.”

Gene went on to tell me how his life is today and about his church and his pastor. The truth of the matter is Gene’s life is still very, very difficult. While he was talking an older teenager walked over; Gene stood up and gave him a hug. If I were to size him up, I’d say the guy was a drug dealer.

“That’s my nephew,” he said hanging his head a little lower, “I shouldn’t be hanging around guys like that, but he’s family. I share with him what I can and pray for him all the time. He’s in God’s hands now.”

The northbound train was announced; Gene said his goodbyes and walked towards the platform.

“I’m gonna pray for you Gene…how can I pray for you?” I asked.

“The whole thing,” he said, “you can just pray for the whole thing.”

Rob and Gene

I don’t know, my heart breaks for both these guys. By his own admission Rob is rarely sober enough to grasp the reality of his situation, let alone God’s grace and plan for his life. Gene on the other hand is saved and his eternal future is secure, but satan is persistently on his heals trying to drag him to an early death. In the middle there’s me trying to understand why the Lord blessed me with an almost effortless faith. It all doesn’t make much sense right now.

If you remember, would you pray for these guys.


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…If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

The Way of Escape

While walking through the streets of Haiti, or sharing a meal at base camp, or as I lay in bed at night, I could not help but ponder, “What’s the solution to Haiti’s problems.” Haiti needs a sound government, a solid infrastructure, and a stable economy. They need leaders of industry and commerce to step-up to the challenge of investing in their nation. They need roads and sewers and running water and workable soil to farm. Haiti needs all these things and so much more, but the reality is that Haiti needs Jesus.

Think about it; without Jesus Christ, what is the relief effort really affording the typical Haitian? We can clothe, and feed, and house these souls in need, but to what end; to make them more comfortable on this earth before allowing them to slip away into hell? Our Lord would not have us offer temporary salvation, which is why everything that is done in Haiti or for Haiti, must be intertwined with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

From an eternal perspective, any relief effort that excludes the Gospel propagates the lie that tells each and every non-Christian, “Don’t worry; you’re going to be okay.” Eternally speaking, it is the cruelest thing a person could convey. At the very least, all secular relief efforts should be combined with those espousing Jesus Christ as the enduring remedy.

Having said that, I discovered my efforts in Haiti were largely secularized because I was unable to speak the language. I found some who spoke English and handed out many Christian-Creole tracts, but I realized the critical importance of being partnered with native pastors who could convey the Gospel message. What a blessing it is to know that long after I left, there will be Haitian pastors ministering to both the physical and spiritual needs of this great nation.

What YOU Need to Do

When this tragedy struck, so many of us were very quick to make a donation towards the relief efforts, but this is not enough. Christians, we need to give something on a regular basis. I would encourage every believer who is reading this now to affiliate themselves with any Christian ministry whereby they could give at least once-a-month. It makes no matter what amount you give and to what ministry you donate, but do it and have it automatically withdrawn so you will not forget.

The sad truth is that America is quickly forgetting Haiti; it is yesterday’s news. The media has set Haiti aside because the news must be fresh and exciting in order to promote advertising slots and relief work (in their eyes) does not sell. In a very real sense we are allowing the media to determine what is important to us; all the more reason why I implore you to search out a Christian ministry where you can give at least once a month.

The Work Has Begun

I chose a good day to leave Haiti; if I had stayed I would not have been able to do any work—the entire country was shut down for three days of prayer. As we drove through the streets of Port Au Prince to the bus station, we found the roads clogged with people walking to local churches or open areas where the Good News was being proclaimed. Where these places were packed beyond capacity, people overflowed onto the streets and plopped down to listen and pray. I have heard reports of thousands repenting and giving their lives to Jesus Christ. In order for Haitians to rise above the ashes, this must continue ~and~ these people must be discipled in their new faith.

All of this makes satan and his demons very mad. Non-believing factions will be rising up to combat the Christian relief and restoration efforts. For the non-believer, satan is a powerful adversary, but for the Christian he was rendered powerless by what Christ Jesus did on the cross at Calvary, therefore the body of Christ must not submit to the secular position; we must be resolute in our determination to bring the Gospel message at any and all cost. The people of Haiti’s singular hope must be in Christ alone.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

 

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We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” Romans 15:1-3

Missions 101

The last chapter (Romans 14) concludes that the compliant Christian’s agenda should be Christ-centered; summarily, we need to care less about the nonessential components of our faith. Recognizing that judging others in these supplementary matters is divisive, frees us up to love on one another and spotlight the mission of bringing the Good News to a lost world. Why does the Apostle Paul pick up the subject matter again? I suspect it’s because most Christians are guilty (myself included) and therefore the message is worthy of a do-over.

We’re reminded that the weak referenced in this chapter are frequently (but not always) the legalistic ones who strive to ram their personal convictions down the throats of others. Paul stipulates that in response to this rhetoric we should not thrust our contrasting convictions upon them, but rather yield in tolerance, demonstrating loving patience towards their principles and/or their insecurities. Additionally we should not exercise our liberties in a fashion that we might cause a weaker brother to stumble.

Case in Point

There was a man who enjoyed an occasional drink. He was not a drunkard or an abuser of alcohol, but enjoyed a glass of good wine with his meal. One day he left his home to purchase a bottle of wine and as he walked the snow-lined sidewalk he took notice that his 5 year old had followed him out of the house. He paused and said lovingly to his boy, “Where are you going mister?”

Looking down at the snow the child replied, “I’m just following in your foot steps.” Discerning the negative inference to his boy’s remark, the man turned and went back into the house, realizing that his liberty could adversely affect his child. This is how Paul proposes we regard our freedoms.

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.

Paul has just concluded emphasizing the importance of dealing patiently with those weak in the faith, but then follows it up with the need to educate them for their own good. This is not a contradiction, nor is it some kind of temperance with teaching balancing act, but an inspired prompt to pursue the leading of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, led by the Spirit, rarely if ever let someone wallow in ignorance, but rather corrected folks in such a way that was both edifying and enlightening. In this, Jesus never snubbed an ignoring soul, but chose to continue about His Father’s business.

And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go. Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” Luke 14:3-5

Likewise, we should walk by the Spirit’s leading and allow the Father to determine how and when we make these applications. There is a time to bear patiently and there is a time to gently and lovingly instruct—those are the only two options we’re given. The stronger in the faith is the one who is connected to the Lord and who determinedly follows His commands.


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