Meditation–LIVING FOR ETERNITY: GOD’S PROMISES

How are we living our lives? Are we hyper focused on our personal agendas, striving to get ahead, enjoying our pleasures, and accumulating rewards? Or are we building our treasure in Heaven, as Jesus commanded? We can be assured of this: We are doing one or the other because they are mutually exclusive. We cannot pursue opposing ends at the same time. So, which is it? Jesus … or … us?

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“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)

“Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” Colossians 3:2 (NLT)

 

THE BIBLE TELLS US our days are numbered.

The reminders are numerous. Here are just a few: Job 14:5, Genesis 6:3, Psalm 90:10, Matthew 10:30. 

48.GodsGraceGod knows what that number is for each of us, but we have only an estimation, based on actuarial tables, personal lifestyle, and family history.

That brings us to this question: Knowing that our time is short, what will we do with it?  

For those of us who are believers, we can look forward to an incredibly pleasant eternity with Jesus. Those who are not believers most likely do not foresee the fate that awaits them. 

The Bible says, “For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our everlasting home in heaven” (Hebrews 13:14 TLB).

Jesus told the repentant thief what He tells each of us who come to Him for forgiveness, “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 NIV).

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Knowing this world is not our home, Francis Chan, the noted pastor and author, urges us to live this life in light of all eternity. He says:

“People accuse me of going overboard in preparing for my first ten million years in eternity. In my opinion, people go overboard in worrying about their last ten years on earth.” (Francis Chan, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, Claire Love Publishing, 2014).

How have you lived your life so far? Have you made some mistakes, accumulated some regrets, long for a “do-over”?

Chan offers this ray of hope: “Don’t get overwhelmed by how much time you have already wasted, and don’t dwell too long on past mistakes. Just take the next step. And keep the end in view.” (Chan, Ibid.).

Heaven is our home. Jesus promised He would take us home to be with Him: “After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together” (John 14:3 CEV).

Ask God to forgive you for your sinful past, then put the past behind you. Reach for God’s love through His Son and His Holy Spirit.

Believe in God’s promises.


68. Holy_Bible_CrossPRAYER: O Lord our God and Heavenly Father. You are so faithful and true. You have promised an eternity in Paradise with You if we seek Your face and repent of our sins. O Lord, we do so with grateful hearts and thankful spirits. You are the Great Redeemer, the Creator and Protector of our souls. Take us to Your rest when our earthly journey ends. In Jesus’ name we lift this prayer. Amen


QUESTIONS:

  1. Do you live as though your days are numbered or as if tomorrow will never come? Do you believe the Lord’s admonition that we should place our trust in Heaven, where our possessions are secure, or in our own hands? That is, do you want to live for Christ or for yourself?

  2. Do you believe there is a Heaven? Jesus says there is. He also says there is a Hell. Do you believe that’s true? Do you know where you will spend eternity? It will be one or the other. Do you know how to guarantee you will spend it in Heaven?

  3. Are you being fed sufficiently in your spiritual life? Are you daily reading God’s Word, praying to Him, and gathering with other believers to “do life” together? Do you worship the Lord by singing praises and blessing His name or do you merely “attend” church?

  4. Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? If so, just indicate in the Comment field. God bless!

Meditation: Living in Christ–Fruit of the Spirit

Jesus was clear, that those of us who believe in Him and are saved are to share the Good News with everyone else. We are to do that through living lives that reflect the spiritual nature, not the sinful nature, and we’re to tell others about our faith. We don’t need to worry about what we’ll say because He said He’ll give us the words to use. Also, He said He’ll be with us through the whole process. How cool is that?

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“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.” Luke 6:43 (NIV)

“Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit.” Colossians 1:10 (NLT)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23a (ESV)

THE LORD JESUS CHRIST made it abundantly clear that He expects those of us who believe in Him to witness about His life and mission (Matt. 4:19; Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 9:1-6; Luke 10:1-23: Acts 1:8).

We are to share the Good News.56. Prayer-Partners-men

One problem: How many of us feel comfortable talking about our faith? How many of us feel we can do it well?

An advertisement for a “witnessing tutorial” recently asked whether our efforts fail because we’re:

        • spouting Bible verses, or
        • judgmental and scolding.

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WHEN JESUS SAYS, “You will know them by their fruits. … A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:16a, 18a NKJV), we might assume there is an objective standard by which God will measure us … and, yes, we no doubt imagine His divine magic marker writing a big “F” in a bright color next to our name.

It doesn’t need to be that way.

Part of our witness is the way we comport ourselves without talking — you know, whether we show patience when others are fuming, or whether we extend grace and forgiveness when others vow to get even.

So, first, are we “living out” the Gospel in our daily lives? Staying in prayer as the apostle Paul teaches us (1 Thess. 5:17) is a key to showing the fruit of the Spirit. Without such prayer, we’ll revert to our sinful nature, and that will destroy our witness, regardless of how many Bible verses we spout.

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SECOND, WE STILL NEED TO TALK about our faith, and we need to do it in a way that encourages others to want to know more about Jesus, not push us away.

67.Jesus_Welcomes_AllHow do we do that, especially if we do not feel “gifted” to speak eloquently?

Same as living out our witness — stay “prayed in.”

Ask God for His guidance, and then speak your truth. Speak from the heart. Tell someone how Jesus has made a difference in your life. One or two sentences to describe the “old you,” a transition to say you came to see Jesus Christ as God and the Savior of mankind, and a quick word or two about how you see the change in your life.

Here’s an example:

“Joe, I’m glad you asked me. I wasn’t always this “patient,” as you put it. I used to be an angry man, like there was a storm cloud above my head all day long. I would growl and bite anyone who crossed me.

“You know, I came to realize my marriage was failing, and my kids wouldn’t talk to me, and we were losing business at work. I took stock of my life, and one of my neighbors suggested I go to Bible study with him. For some reason, I said ‘okay,’ and something just took.

“Eventually, I accepted Jesus in my heart and asked Him to cure me of my bad temper. Well, He went to work on me, and here I am. I’ve got a long way to go before I’m where Jesus is, but He and I are making progress.”

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NOTHING POLISHED. Nothing professional. No fancy words or Bible verse memory tests, just a heartfelt confession that becomes a strong personal testimony.

Oh, you wonder where the right words will come from?

How’s this for a Godly promise: “For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” Luke 21:15 (NIV).

That promise came from Jesus, Himself. Yes, He said it in the context of His followers being persecuted, but He added, “This will result in your being witnesses to them.” Luke 21:13 (NIV)

You see, when Jesus call us to act for Him or to speak for Him, He promises to help us through the process.

How’s this for a promise? It’s from Matthew 28, verse 20b (NLT): “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

You can count on it.

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PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, please help us live lives that show the Fruit of the Spirit and not the evil side of us that is worldly. Then, when people see how we live and ask us about the joy in our hearts, would You help us tell them simply and lovingly how Jesus has transformed us. All the praise, honor, and glory are yours, Father God, and we are grateful recipients of Your saving grace. In Jesus name we raise this prayer. Amen

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QUESTIONS:

1. How comfortable do you feel witnessing for Jesus in your everyday life? Do you accept the Lord’s command that we are to show His love, grace, and mercy to others and, when the occasion arises, share a word about our faith experience — or do you think “religion” is a private matter?

2. Even when you sense the Holy Spirit’s prodding, do you feel uncertain of what you would say, even though you have the Lord’s promise that He will help you? Would you feel more comfortable leading your friend or family member to a pastor or other “skilled” Christian, even though your testimony is likely far more effective in reaching someone close to you?

3. Do you believe your Christian faith and your walk with Christ are producing any “fruit”? Do those who know you — family, friends, neighbors, co-workers — know you are a born-again Christian? Do they think you’re just a “nice person”? What could you do to make them aware of your faith commitment?

4. Can we at LoveAndGrace pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.

Meditation: PETER’S THREE ANSWERS TO JESUS

We can learn so much about ourselves by studying the apostles’ lives. The largest character by far is Peter. When Jesus asked the Twelve who they thought He was, it was Peter who declared Him Lord. Later, this same Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Through God’s mercy, Peter was reinstated, proclaiming his love for the Lord, and becoming a lion for the Gospel. We, too, as disciples may vacillate between being bold and being cowardly. With God’s mercy, the Holy Spirit will strengthen our character over time so that, like Peter, we will end up saying, “You know all things, Lord. You know I love You.”

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Comments welcomed. Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion. Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?

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“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  (Matt. 16:15-16 NIV)

“You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” (John 18:17 NIV)

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” (John 21:15a NIV)

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AS BELIEVING CHRISTIANS, who can name our date of salvation and proudly carry our Holy Bibles to worship and weekly Bible study, our hearts beat proudly to read the words of Peter, the impetuous apostle, to the Master’s question.

After Jesus asked His disciples who their families, friends, and neighbors thought He was, He drilled down to the essential question that He asks of all of us:

72.Jesus_Teaches“Enough of this dancing around the issue,” He might have said. “In the end, it doesn’t really matter who these others think I am. The real issue is ‘Who do YOU think I am.’”

Yes, Peter jumps in with the God-inspired response: “You are the Messiah, the Christ of the living God, who was and is and is to come, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. All things were made through You and nothing was made except what was made by You to serve Your glory.”

While Peter didn’t make a speech, in essence, that’s what he was proclaiming.

We love to read his answer over and over because we know that is the correct answer—and in our hearts, it’s our answer, too.

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UNFORTUNATELY, THE STORY doesn’t end there.

There’s a second answer that Peter gives, at a different time in a different place, when the circumstances were different.

It’s one of denial.

“Are you a believer?” the co-worker asked. “Are you a follower of Jesus Christ, the alpha57.Playground-tauntsand the omega, the beginning and the end?”

“Oh, no, not me!” Peter responded. “Whatever are you suggesting? Where would you have gotten that idea? No, I’m just like everyone else. I don’t believe in that nonsense. A bunch of religious kooks, if you ask me.”

Sometimes, we act like the first Peter, but too often we tend toward the second Peter.

Maybe our words aren’t so strongly stated, but maybe it’s because we don’t speak at all.

We remain strangely quiet when the circumstances require us to speak up; we blend into the crowd when the circumstances require us to step forward; we look to “discretion” when the circumstances require us to be bold.

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WHICH PETER ARE YOU?

Truthfully, we probably are both Peters. Sometimes we do speak out our faith and we do so boldly without regard to the reactions of others. At other times, we’re not so sure we should speak out, and so we say nothing.

While being quiet could well be the correct posture at that moment, that moment soon passes, replaced by another moment, and in that second moment, our silence is denial of our Lord.

Fortunately, for believers, there is Peter’s third answer. When Jesus is resurrected, He corners Peter and asks him if he loves Him. Peter says he does. Two months later, when the Holy Spirit is given to him and the other disciples, Peter becomes a lion for the Lord.

After that, Peter never waivers, even unto the point of crucifixion. Legend says he demanded to be executed upside down, considering himself unworthy to be executed head up as the Master was.

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31-jesusteachingreligiousleadersGOD IN HIS MERCY gives us another chance … and another chance … and another chance.

With the Holy Spirit’s prodding, we slowly become more Christlike in our thoughts, actions, and words.

We will have moments of bold witness, and we will have moments when we fail to speak out when we should, but the Lord will give us more moments to share our faith.

Our prayers should be that over time, we’re more like the first Peter more often than the second Peter.

In the end, we should become the third Peter (see John 21:15-22).

“Yes, Lord, You know I love You.”

Then He will tell us what He told the third Peter:

“Follow Me. Feed my sheep.”

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PRAYER: Our Father God, we know that we will  let You down sometimes, even while we will step up boldly at other times. Help us grow in the Holy Spirit so that the bold times outnumber the timid times. Lead us to know when we should act, when we should speak, and when we should remain quiet and in the background. In the end, Lord, we should follow Your lead, not our own. In Jesus’ name. Amen

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QUESTIONS:

1. Are you a Christian who believes your actions speak of your love for God so that it is unnecessary for you to speak about your witness? Can you find biblical support for your position?  

>What do you make of Peter and John in ACTS 4 who proclaimed they were “unable to stop speaking” about the Lord and what they had seen?

2. Do you ever feel you don’t have the “right words” to say or that you don’t know the Bible well enough to witness or that your faith is either too new or too shaky to be a good witness?

>What do make of Jesus’ words in LUKE 12 when He says the Holy Spirit will direct your speech?

3. Have you ever experienced an opportunity to witness — in deed or in word or both — and failed to “pray up” before you began, figuring you had the situation well in hand?

>What do you make of Jesus’ admonition in JOHN 15 when He says that without Him we can do nothing?

4. Can we at LoveAndGrace pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.

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Today’s Meditation … Grace And Sin

Without a guiding light, man is left to his own devices. The Bible tells us … and our experience proves it … that without direction, our actions are base, selfish, and cruel. When God intervenes to show us a better way, too often we reject Him, preferring still our sinful desires. For those who do believe, however, He promises Paradise.

Find blog posts at LoveAndGrace … tweets at TwitterComments welcomed. Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion. Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?

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“In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” Judges 21:25 (NLT)

“This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19 (NKJV)

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EVIL. PURE EVIL.

There is evil in the world. There are evil people in the world. There are evil deedscommitted every day in the worl46. Rebellion_Against_Godd.

Much of the evil is unspeakable: torture of political prisoners, rape of women and girls as an act of war, abandonment of born children and abortion of those unborn, acts of terrorism against unsuspecting innocents — all of those in addition to acts of nature that cruelly take human lives.

We yell and scream, “Why? “Why, O Lord, is there such evil in the world?”

Some cry out without naming the Lord because they don’t believe He exists; or, if He exists, that He’s relevant or cares about us.

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THE ANSWER SURROUNDS US.

52.SinGod created a perfect world and allowed his prized possession — men and women — the freedom to choose to obey Him and be blessed or to disobey Him and be cursed. We chose to disobey Him. Evil is the result.

Yet, the Bible tells us that God so loved us that He sent His only Son into the world to live as a sinless human being among us and then, being found without blemish, slaughtered for our sakes, to pay the debt for our sins and to restore fallen mankind to Him. (see John 3:16)

The Bible says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” — John 3:17 (NIV)

Men still rejected Him, loving the darkness and their own sin more than the grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness offered by their Creator. (see John 3:19) By rejecting the Creator, men also reject a guiding light; and, without a guiding light — be it a king or priest or prophet — men still do what is right in their own eyes. (see Judges 21:25)

For those who do believe, who are called by His name and seek forgiveness, repenting of their evil deeds and their sinful heart, God promises everything — Paradise with Him forever. The Bible says, “Everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16b (NLT)

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PRAYER: Our Father God, how could we  repeatedly reject Your loving and merciful overtures of support? How could we be so blind to the life-giving promises You make, 68. Holy_Bible_Crosspreferring, instead, to live out the sinful desires of our hearts? You have been so gracious and forgiving, so quick to love us and so slow to condemn us. Thank You for being a God of mercy as well as a God of judgment. Lord, hear our prayer of repentance, forgive our sins, and restore us to a right relationship with You — and keep us on the straight path that You have laid out for us. In Jesus’ name. Amen

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QUESTIONS:

  1. Is the God of the Bible real for you? Do you believe He created you and the world around you and that He has a plan for your life? If not, what keeps you from taking the step of faith necessary to claim your inheritance as a child of God?
  2. Do you use the excuse of pointing out the sins of others, ignoring the clear fact that God will hold you accountable for your actions?
  3. If you were to die today, do you know (or can you guess) where you will spend eternity — be it with God, without God — or do you maintain there is no after-life? If you were willing to open your heart to God’s saving message, do you know what you should do about it or whom to consult?
  4. Can we at LoveAndGrace pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.

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God’s Charge to Us: Defend My Word

Throughout the Bible, we see the Word of God attacked, mocked, and disregarded by His people. The ancient prophets were killed; the apostles of Jesus were killed; and through the ages, many of His disciples and followers have been killed or tortured. Many more followers have been rebuked, sued, spit upon, slandered, opposed, or in some other way silenced. His Word is clear to us: We are to proclaim the Good News and do so in a loving and gentle fashion while living lives that testify to God’s grace. While living that out isn’t easy, fortunately, we have help: God provides the strength through His Holy Spirit.

“Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.” — Jude 1:3 NLT

“If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.”      2 John 1:10-11 NLT

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Comments welcomed. Let’s share what God says to His saints.

Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion.

Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?

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GOD’S HOLY WORD IS UNDER ATTACK.

We know God’s people around the world — in Turkey, Nigeria, China — are in physical peril. Many of them are killed, tortured, or imprisoned for  their beliefs.

But, in the Western world, God’s Word is under attack, as well.71.Hatred_Targeting_Christians

Of course, we can look at FBI “hate crime” statistics, which show violent crime targeting Christians to be low compared to crimes against Jews and Muslims, but the real story for Christians lies beyond the statistics.

To see the real culprit in the Western world, we need to look not to reports of violent crimes against believers — we need to look at how “respectable” people distort the Word of God.

Satan’s ways to punish Christians in Nigeria or Iraq or Turkey won’t work in the U.S. or Canada or other Western countries. His line of attack will be more subtle.

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MOST OF THE ATTACK WE FACE in Western countries is “group think” — the mindless, reflexive opposition that can be laughed off. Mention your faith in Jesus Christ or allude to His life-changing impact on your life, and someone is bound to throw out “a bunch of hypocrites” without any more thought behind the comment than a sneeze.

Here are just some more notable examples of this intolerance, notable solely because the Christians impacted are famous, not because the  response is any different from what everyday believers face:71.Hatred_Christians_pin

    • Vice President Pence is belittled for following the “Billy Graham rule” when associating with women in the office, a rule that pastor and author Max Lucado also follows;
    • Later, a television talk show hostess labeled the vice president “mentally ill” for believing the Lord talks to him;
    • Christian bakers are sued and threatened with loss of their business when they refuse to bake cakes honoring homosexual “marriage” ceremonies;
    • Collegiate Bible-based groups are removed from campus for promoting God’s values regarding sexual orientation and marital activity against the college’s or university’s secular values of “inclusion.” Most of the college population would approve of the administrations’ actions, if the “victim” group is Christian.

Social media have become a cesspool of anti-Christian bias and hatred.

The Rev. Franklin Graham’s Twitter posts, offering Scriptural encouragement or asking for prayer in the wake of an earthquake, mass shooting, train wreck, or other tragedy or disaster are routinely met with vitriolic ugliness from the depths of hell, usually from the militant homosexual lobby.

Yes, faithful believers also respond to Graham’s posts with prayers and gratitude, but the hatred gets intermingled with God’s redeeming grace.

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SO, WHAT?

Well, that’s the all-important question, isn’t it? What difference does it make to us? How does all of this swirl of activity impact our cozy lives, lived out in our comfortable homes with the love and support of our families and close friends?

What, if anything, are we supposed to do about it?

71.Jesus_Commands_LoveThe Bible — God’s Word — seems to be pretty clear that Jesus has commanded us to take part in the world, to proclaim His message from the rooftops, telling the mighty and the lowly alike, that Jesus has paid the price to redeem us from our sin.

Besides the verses that begin this column, here are just a few more of God’s commandments to us:

    • “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” — Mark 8:35 (ESV)
    • “But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” — Acts 4:19-20 (NIV)
    • “For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” — Galatians 6:5 (NLT)
    • “But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells the Good News?” — Romans 10:14 (GW).

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THERE’S NO WAY AROUND IT.

Look for an escape hatch all you want. Search for the asterisk that says “only sometimes” or “when you’re in the mood.” Or even ask for advice from your friends, the ones who are struggling with their own faith commitment, for advice.

When you’re done looking in the wrong places for the wrong answer, Jesus invites you to come back home.

71. Looking-at-the-CrossCome back to the Truth of Jesus’ message. You know what it is: Your sins are forgiven, grace and mercy are offered to you, and the assurance of salvation is yours.

In exchange, Jesus wants you and me to testify to His love in our lives. We will not be measured by someone’s response; only by our giving.

If we offer the truth of Jesus Christ to a loved one, or a neighbor, or a co-worker, or even a total stranger, Jesus will not downgrade us if we’re met with rudeness or disdain or anger.

He will not hand us a demerit or two if this person remains unconvinced, unmoved, or unrepentant.

However, He will scold us if we miss the opportunity to share the Good News that lives in our hearts.

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WHY WOULD WE PASS UP THE CHANCE?

We know the world remains as hostile to the saving message of Jesus Christ today as it always was, even before He was born and prophecy told of Him.

Slipping from the truth of God’s Holy Word is an easy and dangerous slope. It occurs within churches that want to re-interpret the Bible to make it “relevant” to a fallen world; it occurs within the hearts of churchgoers who fail to take the teaching of salvation seriously and mistakenly assume their perfect attendance means something.

How God’s heart must hurt for the lives of His broken people.

Before He ascended back to heaven, Jesus told His disciples that the Father had given Him “all authority” on heaven and earth. With that legitimizing statement, He then commanded them — and us — to spread His message of love and forgiveness to everybody in the world (Matthew 28:18-20).

It should be our joy to comply.

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PRAYER: O Lord, our God and Savior, please forgive us when we  fail to protect and defend 44. Cross_on_Biblethe Holy Word of God, when we fail to live according to its principles, when we fail to forgive others as we have been forgiven, to love others as we have been loved, and to serve others as we have been served. Strengthen our voices, O Lord, to speak in favor of the Truth that has changed our lives and that can change the lives of those whom You place in our paths. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. Do you see God’s Word under attack from a disbelieving world? Do you see this occur in your life or only in the lives of others? If you don’t experience rejection, disbelief, censure, could it be that you are not witnessing for the Gospel?
  2. Do you believe we are called to defend Jesus’ testimony, or is “religion” something that should be kept private, i.e., it’s just your own business and no one else’s what you believe? Is your answer supported biblically? If not, do you want to change something in your life?
  3. Do you believe universal and eternal truth exists? If so, is this something we can know? How would we know what it is? Jesus said He is the Truth. Do you believe Him? Would you like to? Can you talk to someone (comment on this blog, for example) for direction?

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God-Honoring Talk: How Are We Doing?

How does our daily speech reflect our commitment to honor God’s saving grace in our lives? Are we encouraging others with uplifting words, or do we use the occasion to stab someone? Too often, especially via social media, those who claim to walk with Christ let their inner heart show. That’s the part Jesus said defiles us. He also said we will be held accountable for every careless word. The stakes are high. Let’s recommit to asking the Holy Spirit to strengthen us so that our light will shine and unbelievers will see our good works and give glory to the Father.

“A fool expresses all his emotions, but a wise person controls them.” Proverbs 29:11 (GW)

“If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:15 (NIV)

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

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Comments welcomed. Let’s share what God says to His saints.

Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion.

Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?

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OKAY, I’LL GO FIRST.

Today, I will admit that I am not at the point where every comment I make is God-honoring.

Nope.

That includes sarcastic asides, judgmental comments, unnecessary silliness, and —72. Man_Tape_Tonguesometimes — just plain stupid.

The Bible says, “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way” (James 3:2 NLT).

So, I am admitting that I have a control problem. I cannot control my tongue.

I try to. I pray about it. I’ve been convicted enough times. Well, apparently not enough times for me, but certainly I’ve been convicted enough times for anyone else, right?

I struggle with this sin.

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HOW OFTEN DO I leave a social occasion, whether a church service or Bible study, whether a family gathering or neighborhood outing, or even a quiet evening at home with my wife when I don’t regret something I said.

No day is complete without my saying something I wish I hadn’t said.

Does that happen to you, too? Maybe I’m alone here, but I don’t think so. There are too 57.Tongue-firemany reminders in the Bible that God takes our speech seriously, and He wants us to, as well.

What do you make of Jesus’ comment that God will hold us accountable for our speech?

Check this out: “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak” [emphasis mine] (Matthew 12:36 CSB).

Don’t miss this one. Jesus Christ, the Second Person in the Trinity, told us that when we die, we will be held to account for every harmful, stupid, judgmental, or silly thing we have ever uttered!

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HOW CAN WE EVER MANAGE?

Fortunately, we don’t have to because that same Jesus Christ bore our sins on the cross.

The Bible tells us that God poured out our sin on His Son (see 2 Corinthians 5:21) to pay our debt so that now — pay attention, please! — “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 ESV).

That means when we are called to account, our Savior will stamp “Debt Paid” across our name, and we will be welcomed into Paradise.

The apostle Paul was clear in Romans 5 and 6 that just because God’s grace — His free gift of salvation — has been granted to those of us who believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, does not give us license to continue to sin.

Instead, we are called to live righteous lives that reflect His glory. We are to be His witnesses.

Want proof? Please take a moment and just look up in your Bible these three comments 72.Jesus_Teachesfrom Jesus — not comments from an apostle or an esteemed teacher or a famous author, but from the Master, Himself — that speak of our witness and obedience to Him: Luke 6:46, John 15:14, Matt. 5:16. Seriously, look them up now.

They should convict everyone of us to be mindful of every action, word, and thought we have.

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FRIENDS, OUR WITNESS IS TARNISHED by our course talk, gossip, judgments, and downright careless remarks.

What must break God’s heart is the circular firing squad within the Christian community.

Can you even read an account — either from a church-based organization or the secular press — where various factions aren’t complaining about the lack of Christian witness of someone else within the body of Christ?

That’s just the mild stuff. The really heartbreaking reality is that whole  denominations have split and are splitting over doctrinal differences and interpretations of God’s Holy Word. Many within the church are leaving the Bible’s timeless truths to find something more “relevant” to modern culture, leaving a fractured testimony in their wake.

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WHAT MUST THE SECULAR WORLD — the world of doubters, self-centered, and darkened souls — think when they see how we act.

Okay, for those of you who didn’t look up those three verses from Jesus’ lips, here are some key words: “Why do you call me Lord,” “You are my friends,” and “Let your light shine.”

72.Family_Bible_StudyNow, look them up. Read them. Pray over them. Ask God to place them in your heart every day.

Ask Him to help you live them out as you live out the Gospel of God’s forgiveness and mercy.

I know I am going to try.

I’m tired of adding misery and conflict to a world that has too much of it, already. I’m tired of boarding that ship to Tarshish when I’m supposed to be riding a donkey to Nineveh.

I’m signing on to God’s great mission field.

I am going to pray daily that God will continue to do the good work in me (see Philippians 1:6) that He has purposed (see Ephesians 2:10, Hebrews 13:21).

Then, I am going to watch my tongue.

How about you? Want to join me?

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44. Cross_on_BiblePRAYER: Dear Lord, our Heavenly Father, the Creator and Judge of the  Universe, we praise Your holy name; we ask forgiveness for our self-centeredness that leads to pride, to foolish talk, to broken witness. Lord, lead us to guard our tongues from slander, gossip, sarcasm and all manner of speech that does not honor our Savior. In Jesus name we pray. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. Do you ever find yourself making comments that you wish you hadn’t made? Were they gossipy, slanderous, judgmental, or even just silly or useless or even downright stupid? Where does that come from? Can you pray that God will take away your words that do not honor Him?
  2. Do you cringe to see how other Christians treat other members within the body of Christ? Is their behavior God-honoring? What do you think the secular world thinks when it sees the critical way we see one another within the church? Can you pray that God will take away the division and pettiness that do not honor Him?
  3. Do you see how your sinful pride makes you prone to saying hurtful things to others or becoming petulant? Can you pray that God will take away the prideful arrogance that causes you to dishonor Him with your words?

God Says, “I Am With You”

God’s promise to be with His people is a comforting thought. From our earliest days, knowing that mommy and daddy were within a cry’s sound helped us face our darkened room and sleep with peace. As we grow and mature, we long to replace that loving protective presence. Fortunately, God is there. He created us, He has promised to love us, and He will save us from the consequences of our rebellion … if we let Him. That is grace, that is mercy, that is love. Praise God!

The Lord answered, “I will be with you.” (Judges 6:16 NIV)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NIV)

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, `Do not fear; I will help you.’ “ (Isaiah 41:13 NIV)

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GOD IS WITH US.

What an amazing thought! What an incredible concept! The creator of the universe, the 69.GOD_With_UsOne who designed all life forms and brought them into being, takes a personal interest in each one of us.

He says He is with us.

Jesus tells us that not even the lowly sparrow falls to the ground without the Father’s knowledge and against His will (Matthew 10:29), so how much more precious in His sight is the life of men and women, whom He made “in our image, in our likeness” (Gen. 1:26 NIV). Why, even the hairs on our heads “are all numbered” (Luke 12:7 NIV).

In that most famous psalm, David exalts, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4 ESV).

In the Old Testament, God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah proclaiming, “You will be my people, and I will be your God” (Jeremiah 30:22 NLT).

Finally, at the end of the New Testament, the apostle John writes, “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them’” (Revelation 21:3 NLT).

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69. ValleyOfDeathTHERE IS NO MORE SATISFYING feeling than knowing God Almighty loves us.

Consider this: God exists, and He made us. He did not need to make us. He did not need us to complete Him. He wants us.

How horrifying, how completely terrifying it would be if God were not a loving and merciful Being! Let’s not even start to think about what kind of an existence we would have, if that were the case.

Praise God that He is merciful and loving. Yes, He is just, as well, and we cannot forget that. He will repay evil for evil, and He will punish those who have refused to listen to Him and obey Him.

But it is His justice that makes His mercy so meaningful. His justice gives meaning to our lives — there is a system of rewards and punishment for how we live — but His mercy is what allows Him to forgive us over and over again, when we repent of our sins.

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WITH SUCH A GREAT OFFER, why do so few people seem to recognize it or claim it for their lives?

What motivates the vast majority of people to forego the richness of a personal relationship with the Almighty in favor of “going it alone.”

Pride.

The Bible says pride is the original sin. Pride is what led Eve, and then Adam, to ignore God’s warning against eating the “forbidden” fruit (Genesis 3:1-7).69. Narrow_Gate

The book of Proverbs tells us, “Arrogance causes nothing but trouble. It is wiser to ask for advice” (Proverbs 13:10 GNT). James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote a short book in the Bible full of good advice, one of which is this: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10 ESV).

Jesus even warned us against making the wrong choice. He told His disciples (and us) to “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matt. 7:13 NIV).

How tragically sad that so many of our fellow humans choose the broad road that leads to destruction instead of the narrow road that leads to glory and peace with God.

How sad it must have been for Jesus, knowing He came to earth to die for our sins, to utter those words, proclaiming that most of the people He created and loves are not interested in choosing Him back.

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ONE OF OUR LORD’S most endearing traits is that He is “long-suffering.” Some translations say “patient,” or “slow to anger.”

One of my life verses testifies to the Lord’s patience with even those who, like me, are stubborn:

69.Love_God“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 NASB).

The Bible is clear, however, that “patience” does not last forever.

“But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom. 2:5 NLT).

“For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” (Rev. 6:17 NIV).

For those of us who do believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, God spares us from that wrath.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1 ESV).

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9 ESV).

Listen to these comforting words, spoken by Jesus Himself:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17 NIV).

God truly is with us, so much so that He comes looking for us (Gen. 3:9), stands patiently at the door of our hearts, waiting for us to let Him in (Rev. 3:20), and guarantees, promises, and covenants that He will provide us an eternity with Him if we just turn our hearts to Him in repentance (Acts 2:21).

What an amazing deal that is. What an amazing God He is!

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68. Holy_Bible_CrossPRAYER: O Loving and Merciful Father, Your goodness is well beyond anything we could ever imagine or hope for. Your unmerited grace is more than we could ever earn or deserve. Lord, we love You, we honor You, we praise You. Thank You, Lord, for Your mercy and for the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins. In His precious name we pray. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. What does God’s promise to be with us mean to you? Do you realize that His promise is good only for those who are “saved” through His Son’s blood? Salvation is a free gift of God for those who repent of their sins. Is this something you want in your life? If not, why not?
  2. Do you instinctively hesitate whenever anyone mentions God might have a plan for your life? Are you unsure you want someone else laying a claim on you? What if He wants you to do something you absolutely refuse to do. Is that a real concern for you? What if He has prepared you for the task? Does that change your answer?
  3. When God tells us He is patient with us, do you wonder if He ever gets around to punishing the evildoers and rewarding the good ones? Do you think He might be too patient to suit you? Can you learn anything from His patience? Would you like to?