Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Daily Readings for TUESDAY, December 19, 2017

Matthew 24:35
Daily Readings

Zechariah 2:1-13
I looked up and saw a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then I asked, "Where are you going?" He answered me, "To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length." Then the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him, and said to him, "Run, say to that young man: Jerusalem shall be inhabited like villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and animals in it. For I will be a wall of fire all around it, says the LORD, and I will be the glory within it." Up, up! Flee from the land of the north, says the LORD; for I have spread you abroad like the four winds of heaven, says the LORD. Up! Escape to Zion, you that live with daughter Babylon. For thus said the LORD of hosts (after his glory sent me) regarding the nations that plundered you: Truly, one who touches you touches the apple of my eye. See now, I am going to raise my hand against them, and they shall become plunder for their own slaves. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me. Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the LORD. Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst. And you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. The LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem. Be silent, all people, before the LORD; for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.

Revelation 3:14-22
"And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God's creation: "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.' You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches."

Matthew 24:32-44
"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.

Prayer of the Day for TUESDAY, December 19, 2017


Oh King of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel, who opens so that none can shut, and shuts so that none can open: Come, bring the prisoners out of the prison, those who are shut in darkness and the shadow of death.

Oh Dayspring, brightness of the light everlasting, sun everlasting: Come, enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

Oh King of all nations, desire of all nations, cornerstone of the single church within which all may dwell: Come, save divided mankind, whom you have formed from clay.

Oh Emmanuel, our King and lawgiver, the salvation of all: Come, save us, Oh Lord our God.
Amen

Verse of the Day for TUESDAY, December 19, 2017


Revelation 22:16 (NIV) “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

Read all of Revelation 22

Listen to Revelation 22

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Morning Devotions with Cap'n Kenny - A Messed-Up Family Tree


A Messed-Up Family Tree

"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

In the first century, Jesus was not a unique name. Many boys were named Jesus, which means “Jehovah is salvation.” But there was only one person who has embodied that name in every way, and that is the Lord Jesus.

The angel Gabriel told Mary, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32). That word great is from the Greek word megas, the same word from which we get our English term mega, conveying the idea of bigness and magnitude. Jesus would be the very definition of the word great—mega, if you will.

Gabriel said, “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David” (verse 32). David is a unique figure in Scripture, described on one hand as the sweet psalmist of Israel and a man after God’s own heart. But we also know of David’s foibles and shortcomings. Two names connected with David sum up his life: Goliath and Bathsheba. Goliath represents David’s greatest victory, while Bathsheba represents his greatest defeat. David was a flawed man, yet Jesus was called “the Root and the Offspring of David” (Revelation 22:16). And as Jesus was engaged in His ministry, He was referred to as the Son of David. Clearly, Jesus was connected to this man.

So if you think you have a dysfunctional family, take a look at Jesus’ family tree. Some of the most unsavory characters who made it into the most exclusive genealogy in human history include prostitutes, liars, cheats, adulterers, and even a murderer.

What does this say to us? Even before Jesus was born into that family tree, His ancestry pointed to one thing: Christ came into the world to save sinners.
Oh King of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel, who opens so that none can shut, and shuts so that none can open: Come, bring the prisoners out of the prison, those who are shut in darkness and the shadow of death.

Oh Dayspring, brightness of the light everlasting, sun everlasting: Come, enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

Oh King of all nations, desire of all nations, cornerstone of the single church within which all may dwell: Come, save divided mankind, whom you have formed from clay.

Oh Emmanuel, our King and lawgiver, the salvation of all: Come, save us, Oh Lord our God. Amen
In Jesus,
Cap'n Kenny


Seeking God?
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Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Do you think you have a dysfunctional family? Look at Jesus' family tree!

Un Dia a la Vez - Recompensa en el cielo


Recompensa en el cielo

Dios, que es rico en misericordia, por su gran amor por nosotros, nos dio vida con Cristo [...] ¡Por gracia ustedes han sido salvados!
~ Efesios 2:4-5 (NVI)

¿Por qué esperar hasta el cielo para recibir algo por lo que hicimos?

Dios ha dejado establecido que nosotros somos salvos por gracia, un regalo inmerecido, y no por obras, para que nadie se gloríe.

¿Quién mejor que Él para conocer nuestra naturaleza? Él nos creó y sabía que tenía que ser de esa manera. ¿Te imaginas de qué iba a depender nuestra salvación si no fuera por su gracia? Pues bien, iba a depender de lo que hiciéramos en la tierra. Me figuro que con esto seríamos unos orgullosos, malagradecidos e ingratos. Además, habría una lucha de poderes, pues tu éxito podría causar envidias en otros y te sería muy difícil encontrar personas que de verdad se gozaran en tus triunfos.

Con esto en mente, recordemos que a Dios nada de lo que hagamos en la tierra le sorprende, ya que lo único que le sorprende es nuestra obediencia.

Así que, a la hora de la verdad, lo que cuenta es su opinión, y Él determinó salvarnos por gracia y recompensarnos con la vida eterna por medio de nuestro Señor Jesucristo..

Un Día a la Vez Copyright © by Claudia Pinzón

Standing Strong Through the Storm - FROM OBSTACLE TO INSTRUMENT


FROM OBSTACLE TO INSTRUMENT

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
~ Romans 8:31 (NIV)

Our Open Doors colleague, Ron Boyd-MacMillan, shares the following insight from his teaching, “Why I Need to Encounter the Persecuted Church.”

The persecuted church teaches us that everyone is either an agent of God’s will, or an instrument of God’s will. Everyone in this world has only two choices: they can choose to do God’s will by co-operating with God, or they can choose to defy God and do his will unknowingly.

“Remember, our God is so great even the persecutors serve him,” said a Chinese pastor wryly. He was referring to arch-persecutor of the Chinese church, Mao Tse Tung, who launched the fiercest anti-Christian campaign of the 20th century in the 1960’s. Called the “Cultural Revolution,” he swept away all churches, burned all Bibles, and imprisoned all the pastors.

Yet all he succeeded in doing was pushing the church deep underground, where it became embedded in the family structure and Chinese culture in a way 300 years of evangelism had failed to accomplish. From this fire emerged the world’s largest revival – where the church grew from 1 million in 1950 to over 80 million today.

“We say,” smiled the pastor, “that thanks to Mao – who thought he was annihilating the church – we have the greatest revival. He thought he was killing the church, but all the while he was doing pre-evangelism. God had the last laugh. Glory be to God – He always gets his will done.”

This truth is also showing up in India. Since 1997 violence against Christians has increased greatly as a result of the election of Hindu extremists. Yet the effect of the extremism has been to drive thousands of low caste Hindus into the church. The more Hindu extremists persecute Christians, the more moderate Hindus are drawn into the church.

It is a glorious truth the persecuted awaken us to. Everyone ends up furthering the will of God! Even those who put obstacles in the way of the church serve God, because God just turns the obstacle into an instrument. This means that we must not despair when we think conditions for the flourishing of our Christian lives or our churches are less than perfect. Take your worst enemy or the one feature of your life, society or church that causes you most despair, then put your mind into gear and think – how would God work his will through this obstacle?

Are you childless? Maybe God is using that to give you a greater ministry, impossible with the responsibility of family? Are you powerless? Maybe God wants to show his glory and make you marvel? We may not get an answer, but it is a thrill to try, because we know everyone is either a willing agent or an unwitting instrument of the will of God.

He’s too great, and he loves the world too much, for it to be any other way! God takes the obstacle, and makes it the instrument!

RESPONSE: Today I will be an agent to accomplish God’s will realizing He can make me an instrument.

PRAYER: Lord, make me an instrument of Your will and work as I choose to cooperate with You.

Girlfriends in God - The Heart of Christmas


The Heart of Christmas

Today’s Truth

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.
~ John 3:16 (NIV)

Friend to Friend

It is the Christmas season – my favorite time of the year! I know many of you are still looking for the perfect gift, wrapping presents, baking your famous sugar cookies, packing the car for a long trip, and wrestling with overly excited children. Ho! Ho!  Ho!

Stop right where you are! Take a deep breath and travel back with me to a time when there was no hope and no celebration. I can’t imagine a world without Jesus and yet, many times I live my life as if He doesn’t even exist. A trial comes and I try to handle it on my own. Loneliness floods my heart and instead of reaching out to Him, I withdraw into the darkness.

He then interrupts my life and fills each black corner with Light. His love flows over the pain like a soothing balm and once again, I experience the manger. Once again, He steps into the smelly, unlikely and very ordinary existence that is mine to change everything – everything! He could have come to us in many ways but He chose to interrupt the very ordinary with the most extraordinary. He could have chosen to be born in a palace. After all, He was a King. Yet His life on earth began in a manger housed in what amounted to little more than a dirty, smelly barn. The simplicity of His birth is one of His most precious gifts to me. It is also one of my most profound life lessons.

I often wish I had been there that holy night when Jesus was born, but then He reminds me I have my own manger; my own holy moment when God became a reality to me, and I worship Him!

Every year I am reminded of the very heart of Christmas -- Emanuel, God with us. God wants to be involved in the simple, ordinary happenings of daily life: where we go and what we do, the smile we give the harried stranger and the patience we wear in the crowd of impatient shoppers, the love that prompts the secret gift and the heart that constantly celebrates His birth through every sparkling light, every beautifully wrapped gift, each special meal, every card, phone call and visit.

Join me in this quest to celebrate Him and His birth in everything we do. Have a birthday party for Jesus. Bake Him a huge cake and invite neighbors to join in the celebration. Adopt a family in need. Reach out to the lonely. Look for Him in the crowd. Emanuel, God with us! Wow!

I pray that your life is filled with God’s peace this Christmas. Don’t let anyone or anything steal your joy. Guard your heart and mind and keep your focus on the birth of Jesus as you begin to prepare for the Christmas holidays. No matter what your circumstances may be, you can celebrate the Christmas holidays because God is with you!

Let’s Pray

Father, today I celebrate the reality of Your presence in my life. I celebrate Your birth, Your life, Your death and Your resurrection. And as I celebrate, Lord, help me to be “God with skin on” to those in need around me. Open my eyes and let me see them as You see them!  I love You. Happy Birthday, Jesus!
In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

Put your faith in action by making a step-by-step plan to keep Jesus at the heart of your Christmas season.  Give a gift to someone you don’t know. Invite a needy family into your home for a special “Friends” dinner. Go through your closet and give the clothes you don’t wear to those who have no clothes.

More from the Girlfriends

Do you dread the Christmas holidays? After a particular miserable holiday season, Mary Southerland went on a diligent search to find the secret of a joy-filled Christmas. In this message, The Secret of a Merry Christmas, you will learn how to prevent and control stress during the holidays and how to give God the gifts He wants to receive from you. And be sure to connect with Mary on Facebook - or through email.

Seeking God?
Click HERE to find out more about how to have a personal
relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God


LHM Advent Devotion - December 19, 2017 "PROMISES TO KEEP"


Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries

"PROMISES TO KEEP"

December 19, 2017

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel" (which means, God with us).

"Keep your promise!" Who hasn't heard those words, either from friends in school or from your own children wanting a treat? We put a lot of weight on promises. "We'll see" is an answer that gives us hope, but "I promise" settles the matter.

That's exactly what God did for us. He gave us the hope of a Savior, and then He went one better-He gave us His own promise. And people have been holding on to that promise ever since the days of Isaiah the prophet, who first spoke it to an unbelieving king.

They were right to trust God's promise, because they knew that the Lord is a faithful God. When He says "Yes," He means it. When He promises to bless, He does it. Even when He promises something utterly impossible, He carries it out. The ancient Israelites saw this when He rescued them from slavery in Egypt. The impossible came true.

And here again, with Mary and her baby Jesus, God is keeping His promise and doing the impossible. "A virgin shall conceive"-yes, indeed, in spite of every scientific law and all the weight of human history against it. "And bear a son"-oh yes, though as a woman Mary had no Y chromosome to give a male baby Jesus. Never mind. God took care of it. He had a promise to keep.

And how wonderfully He kept it! As Mary lay gazing at her newborn Son, did she think of the other promises God was going to fulfill? "Call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21b). "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more" (Jeremiah 31:34b). "And He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord ... And He shall be their peace" (Micah 5:4-5a). "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14). God has kept His promises in the past, and He will keep His promises in the future, to the very end of the world.

THE PRAYER: Lord, thank You for keeping Your promises. Help me to trust in the ones You have yet to fulfill. Amen.

Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin! Used by permission; all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM).
"Keep your promise!" Who hasn't heard those words...

Devociones de Adviento de 19 de Diciembre de 2017 "Promesas a cumplir"


ALIMENTO DIARIO

"Promesas a cumplir"

19 de Diciembre de 2017

Todo esto sucedió para que se cumpliera lo que el Señor dijo por medio del profeta: "Una virgen concebirá y dará a luz un hijo, y le pondrá por nombre Emanuel, que significa: "Dios está con nosotros."
~ Mateo 1:22-23 (RVC)

"¡Debes cumplir lo prometido!" ¿Quién no ha escuchado esas palabras, ya sea de compañeros de estudio o de sus propios hijos? A las promesas les damos mucho valor. "Veremos", es una respuesta alentadora, pero "lo prometo", no deja lugar a dudas.

Eso es exactamente lo que Dios hizo por nosotros: nos dio la esperanza de un Salvador y luego, como si eso fuera poco, nos dio su propia promesa. Su pueblo había estado aferrándose a esa promesa desde los días en que el profeta Isaías la había anunciado a un rey incrédulo.

Hacían bien en confiar en la promesa de Dios, pues sabían que el Señor es fiel y que, cuando él promete algo, lo cumple. Cuando promete bendecir, bendice, e incluso cuando promete algo humanamente imposible, también lo hace. Los israelitas lo experimentaron cuando Dios los rescató de la esclavitud en Egipto. Lo imposible se había hecho realidad.

Y aquí, con María y el niño Jesús, Dios otra vez está cumpliendo su promesa de hacer algo imposible. "Una virgen concebirá", sí, lo hará a pesar de toda ley científica y experiencia humana que dice lo contrario. "Y dará a luz un hijo", sí, a pesar de que María no tenía ningún cromosoma 'Y' para darle al niño Jesús. No importa. Dios se encargó de eso. Él tenía que cumplir una promesa.

¡Y la cumplió de una manera maravillosa! ¿Será que cuando María observaba a su hijo recién nacido, pensaba en las otras promesas que Dios habría de cumplir? "Le pondrás por nombre Jesús, porque él salvará a su pueblo de sus pecados" (Mateo 1:21). "Y yo perdonaré su maldad, y no volveré a acordarme de su pecado" (Jeremías 31:34b). "Se levantará para guiarlos con el poder del Señor... Y él será nuestra paz" (Miqueas 5:4-5). "Porque así como el mar rebosa de agua, también la tierra rebosará con el conocimiento de la gloria del Señor" (Habacuc 2:14). Dios ha cumplido sus promesas en el pasado y las cumplirá en el futuro, hasta el fin del mundo.

ORACIÓN: Señor Dios, gracias por cumplir tus promesas. Ayúdame a confiar en aquéllas que aún habrás de cumplir. Amén.

© Copyright 2017 Cristo Para Todas Las Naciones. Que a través de estos devocionales, la Palabra de Dios te refresque en tu diario caminar.
"¡Debes cumplir lo prometido!"

A Deadly Chain Reaction

A Deadly Chain Reaction
by David Feddes

Once upon a time there was a land where people saw God’s hand in almost everything. They looked at animals and mountains, at stars and rainbows, at sunshine and cornfields, and saw the hand of God. They looked at great events of history and saw the hand of God. They looked at their own lives and saw the hand of God. Most people prayed in their homes. They worshiped in church every Sunday. They sent their children to schools that started each day with prayer and told about God and taught the difference between right and wrong.

But then things began to change. At first, people didn’t deny God openly. They just started to ignore him. Instead of looking at creation and marveling at God’s power and wisdom, they talked about “the laws of nature.” Instead of thanking God for the good things they enjoyed, they spoke of how they had earned it all through hard work. A deadly chain reaction followed.

After a while, the old beliefs about God began to seem rather quaint. Why suppose there was a Creator at all? Couldn’t everything have come into being just by chance? Soon some of the smarter people came up with a whole new theory to explain everything without even mentioning God. Then somebody decided that schools must teach this new theory to all the children and not allow anyone to pray openly. Teachers weren’t allowed to talk about God or to teach right and wrong based on faith in God. Meanwhile, as schools banned all mention of God, churches started producing up-to-date gods and goddesses that would make people more comfortable than they were with the old God who insisted on holiness.

As the old faith faded, there was a sexual revolution. The new commandment was “If it feels good, do it!” It began to seem unfair to insist that sex is for married people. It seemed cruel to deprive single people of such a fun activity. For that matter, why limit married people to the same person their whole life? Divorce became common, as more and more people decided they would be happier with a new mate.

After that sexual revolution came a second. The whole notion of male and female seemed outdated. Women became sexually involved with other women, men with other men. Some had hundreds of different partners. They even had parades and special events to celebrate all this. Such behavior had once been considered unnatural and wrong, but now anyone who spoke against such behavior was considered unnatural and wrong.

Some nasty diseases spread rapidly as a result of the new attitude toward sex, but few people wanted to change their behavior. They just wanted a cure for the diseases.

Somewhere along the line, people decided they didn’t want to recognize any moral absolutes at all. More and more things that were once thought wicked and unmentionable became mainstream. Their favorite motto was, “Nobody’s going to tell me what to do!” People became more and more money-hungry, and in their greed they didn’t care whom they ripped off or stomped on to get ahead. It seemed everybody wanted what somebody else had. Violent crime and murder grew more and more common. Lawsuits jammed the courts; conflict became a way of life at every level of society. Lying became so common that nobody’s word carried any weight; anything important had to be written in a contract, and even contracts didn’t count for much. The whole atmosphere became malicious; gossip and slander were everywhere, in politics and in private life.

It seemed as though people had no conscience anymore. If anyone dared to challenge the “I can do as I please” attitude in the name of God, people just hated God all the more. They hated authority of every kind. Young people became more and more defiant and rebellious toward their parents. Those who bragged the loudest and invented the most outlandish behavior were often admired for having real “attitude.” Whether in a street gang or a business corporation, nastiness was the way to get respect.

In this deadly chain reaction, one thing led to another. Things went from bad to worse until people considered God a joke and applauded ungodliness. There was still a vague memory of God and of his warning that sin leads to death and hell, but most people just laughed at old beliefs about “fire and brimstone.” They not only did bad things but flaunted their behavior openly and made celebrities out of those who “lived on the wild side.”



God’s Wrath Revealed

Does any of this sound familiar? It might sound like a fair summary of what’s been going on in our society over that last several decades. But I didn’t get this sequence of events from reading newspapers or watching TV. I got it from the Bible. Everything I’ve mentioned is found in Romans 1, in the very order I’ve just described. The scariest thing about all this is that when the Bible describes this deadly chain reaction, it says that these are progressive symptoms of a society that is under God’s wrath. Here’s what the Bible says in Romans 1:18-32.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Isn’t is chilling to hear such an exact description of where we find ourselves? First, people know God but suppress what they know and refuse to thank him or give him the honor he deserves. Then they come up with new theories about creation, leaving the Creator out of the picture. Then sexual looseness becomes common, followed by approval of gay and lesbian coupling. Finally, the entire social structure starts crumbling as everybody does what they please. The whole mess reeks of death and decay, but still the people act like this is normal.

What does it all mean? It means we’re in deep trouble. According to Romans 1, these are the progressive symptoms of a society under God’s wrath. In hearing about this revelation of wrath, we hear three times the same dreadful refrain: “God gave them over... God gave them over... God gave them over.” The Lord shows his anger by letting people think their own thoughts and go their own way. The Lord shows his anger by letting people go further and further away from his light, further and further into darkness and ruin.

We are a society under God’s wrath. Politicians and pundits, psychologists and sociologists, can offer explanations for the breakdown of the family and the disintegration of the social fabric, and those explanations may have a bit of truth here and there. But the core of the matter is this: we are a society under God’s wrath. All the symptoms are there, exactly as the Word of God describes them. No other explanation will do.

A lot of people these days are concerned about crime and family problems and the various ways our society and our personal life seem to be disintegrating. And they’d like to do something about it. They’d like to build more prisons, or get rid of guns, or improve education, or emphasize sexual morality, or crusade against drugs and gangs, or teach our children about creation, or get prayer back in the schools. Some of these things might be okay, but they only deal with symptoms. They don’t address the root cause. According to Romans 1, all our problems are part of a deadly chain reaction set off by our most basic problem: we have rejected God and are under his wrath.

The first step in obtaining God’s mercy is seeing our need of it. Before we can escape the mess we’re in, we must know how we got ourselves into it in the first place. We must face the facts without any excuses.

Creation shines with the power and divine splendor of God. But sinful people don’t want to acknowledge him, so they suppress and distort the signals that creation sends them about God. And what’s the result? Romans 1 says that this provokes God’s wrath, and God reveals his wrath by letting them go from bad to worse. He hands them over to themselves and lets them sink deeper and deeper into their own mess.

The whole mess begins with a refusal to acknowledge God and give him the praise and thanks he deserves. That’s the source of all the other problems. Romans 1:18 says that God’s wrath is revealed against godlessness and wickedness. The order in which those two words occurs is very important. Godlessness comes before wickedness. There are many types of wickedness, but they’re all symptoms of the same problem: godlessness--an attitude that God doesn’t exist or, if he exists, that he doesn’t really matter very much in our lives.

When Alexander Solzhenitsyn looked at the shambles Russian society made of itself, he summarized the problem in four words: “Men have forgotten God.” That applies to other societies as well, including ours: “Men have forgotten God.” This means that every type of moralizing, every effort to make individuals more virtuous, or to make a society more decent, isn’t addressing the real problem at all. It’s like using a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound, or taking two aspirin to get rid of cancer. We don’t just need a little something to deal with a particular symptom of wickedness. We need somehow to be saved from God’s wrath and turned from godlessness back to God. Nothing less will do.



Who, Me?

Let’s take another look at the scenario in Romans 1, this time in reverse order. The final verses show the dregs of degradation, where people are so brazen that they openly approve and encourage evil. Isn’t this happening right now? Gossip isn’t condemned; it’s a multibillion dollar industry of trash TV and tabloids. Sexual perversion isn’t condemned; it’s a multibillion dollar industry of pornographic magazines and movies. Abortion isn’t condemned by those in power; they promote it and help pay for it. Mixed up families and rebellious youth are no laughing matter, but we laugh anyway at stupid sitcoms that mock the family. Strife and murder are glorified in film after film. The fashion world even gets into the act, peddling to kids everywhere the style of clothes that gang members wear, and encouraging girls to dress like prostitutes. We know God’s decree of death against such wickedness, but we flout it anyway. It’s the kind of situation God describes in Jeremiah, where he says, “Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush” (Jeremiah 8:12).

But maybe you say, “Who, me? That’s not my attitude at all.” Maybe you’re concerned about this open contempt for decency and this loss of conscience. You’re troubled by the breakdown of families and the violence in society. You’d like to see more love and peace. Meanwhile, though, you’re still convinced there’s nothing wrong with sex between consenting adults. You think it’s okay “as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else.” But Romans 1 says, and history shows, that this attitude toward sex is part of the same deadly chain reaction which produces the violence and heartless behavior you dislike so much. And anyway, how can you say it doesn’t hurt anybody when so many are dying of AIDS and other diseases? As Romans puts it, they receive in their own bodies the due penalty for their perversion.

But maybe you recognize this. You’re troubled by the promotion of gay lifestyles and the widespread promiscuity, divorce, and destruction of marriage. You wish more people would get back to traditional morality, but you’re noncommittal when it comes to faith in God. In fact, you believe an evolutionary theory about human origins that doesn’t say much of anything about God, or you believe that the universe itself is divine. But Romans 1 says, and history shows, that accepting and spreading such beliefs has a devastating impact on sexual morality. Once again, despite your intentions, you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

But maybe you don’t accept any of the evils we’ve been talking about. You’re concerned about crime and societal strife, you support traditional sexual morality, you believe in God, and you think everybody should be taught about creation. But when it comes to your day-to-day living, you don’t pay much attention to God. You don’t marvel at his majesty, and you don’t thank him for the good things he sends into your life. If that’s the case, then you’re an atheist in your behavior, even if you’re not an atheist in your mind. There’s no use believing in God if you don’t honor him as God and give him thanks.

And that brings us back to where we started. Romans 1 says that even though God makes himself known to us, we don’t glorify him or give him thanks. We don’t respond to God’s kindness and love by loving him in return. That’s where all the trouble starts. The heart of the problem turns out to be a problem of the heart. Once our hearts refuse to love and worship and thank God, our heads begin to suppress what we know about him, and our hands start doing things that show how far we are from God.

So let’s not fool ourselves. Let’s not say, “Who, me?” You and I are implicated in all this. Some of us who still have some sense of morality or some religious loyalties would like to think otherwise. But right after Romans 1 describes the deadly chain reaction that results from ignoring God and provoking his wrath, the very next statement is this: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things” (Romans 2:1).

We do the very things that we condemn in others. Even if we don’t commit their exact brand of sin, we’re still up to our neck in the whole situation. Whether you’re a person who flaunts the most heartless or antisocial behavior, or someone who considers yourself basically nice but with a preference for sexual freedom, or a person who wants things to improve and thinks quality schools without God can make it happen, or the respectable type of person who harps on virtue and morality all day long, you’re part of the mess described in Romans 1, and you’re under the wrath of God.



What’s the Solution?

A lot of concerned people are saying that we need a stronger emphasis on morality. Maybe so, but if that’s all we have, it will just make the situation worse. A stronger emphasis on morality will make some people even more rebellious against authority and make the rest of us hypocrites. Why? Because as we talk about morals, we commit the ultimate immorality of ignoring God in our everyday life and suppressing anything we know about God that we don’t happen to find convenient.

A stronger emphasis on moral absolutes is not our greatest need. Our greatest need is to see our degenerating situation as a revelation of God’s wrath, and to realize that the deadly chain reaction will continue unless we are rescued from God’s wrath, changed at the very heart of who we are, and restored to fellowship with the God we’ve tried so hard to ignore. There have been various attempts to say that people aren’t really so bad, that all they need is a little more instruction in morality. Even some churches have downplayed talk about sin and God’s wrath and Jesus’ blood as the only way to be saved, and have said that people just need better role models and more information and education. How naive! Can anyone take such thinking seriously? The Bible’s diagnosis of the situation is 100% accurate, and the Bible’s solution is the only one that’s going to work.

What’s the solution? Nothing less than the power of God himself, unleashed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Romans 1, just before the apostle Paul describes the deadly chain reaction of ignoring God, he writes, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17).

Paul was enthusiastic about the gospel, because he knew that Christ is our only hope. Writing to people who lived in Rome, the capital city of the world’s greatest superpower, Paul could have been intimidated by the trappings of culture and power, but Paul saw through all that to a society that was rotten at its very core. The situation in ancient Rome was much like ours today. Rome’s only hope was the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, and that is still our only hope today. If our future depends on our virtue or on our ability to turn our lives around, the situation is hopeless. But the gospel introduces us to God’s cleansing power in Jesus’ blood and God’s life-giving power in Jesus’ resurrection, and the gospel calls us to faith in Christ.

God’s mercy in Jesus Christ--that is the gospel. That is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith. Just as the source of all our problems is alienation from God, so the solution to all our problems is restored fellowship with God.

I haven’t given a very flattering picture of where we are or where we’re headed in our flight from God. That’s not because I like making people feel rotten, but because it’s God’s truth, and the sooner we face it, the better. The Bible shows that apart from a great rebirth through the gospel of Christ, things go from bad to worse. Without regeneration, there’s only degeneration.

Let’s close with a humble, heartbroken prayer from the Bible, a prayer of sinners have provoked God’s wrath, who have been given over to ever-increasing sin and ruin, and who now long for his mercy and salvation.

PRAYER

Lord, look down from heaven and see from your lofty throne, holy and glorious. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags... you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people (Isaiah 63:15,17;64:4-9). Forgive us and save us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.