Meditation–AVOIDING FOOLISH PURSUITS

Jesus mercifully shows us how to guard ourselves from straying into sinful situations. One pastor likens it to erecting “guardrails,” that keep us on the straight path. Others call it a “conscience” or “inner voice” that tells us that what we’re about to do is not a good thing, or will bring harm to us or to another. Yet, how often do we ignore that voice in pursuit of what we, in our pride and stubbornness, want in the moment. Jesus offers us a better way — it’s to place our faith and trust in Him.


“A shrewd person sees danger and hides himself, but the naive keep right on going and suffer for it.” Proverbs 22:3 (NET)


WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE.

We do something we know we shouldn’t do. We can see disaster coming, yet we persist doggedly in doing something that, even while we’re doing it, we know is wrong.J21.EATING_DONUTS

Sometimes, it’s as little as eating an extra doughnut; other times it’s cheating on our income taxes, gambling money we don’t have, or cheating on our spouse.

Proverbs tells us that it is “naive” or “foolish” — depending on the translation — to see danger ahead and persist in our activity. When foolish actions are repeats, and become a life habit, then we have passed the line from doing something foolish to being a foolish person.

Wisdom tells us to alter our course. It only takes a little will power to leave the jelly-filled doughnut on the tray, but those other infractions — spousal abuse, stealing from the government and community, or risking our children’s college funds — may be illegal and most certainly are immoral.

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LIKE MOST HUMAN SINS, we can lay the blame for our actions on “society,” i.e., “everyone else does it” or “it’s no one else’s business,” but the real fault lies within — it always goes back to human pride and willfulness. We do what we choose to do because … we want to do it. That’s true for the little things, like eating the extra doughnut, as well as the big things, like lying or cheating or showing anger.

J21.STUBBORN_COUPLESo, why throw the doughnuts example in with the recognized sins? Certainly, God hasn’t weighed in on whether glazed or jelly-filled are counter to His eternal and universal laws. Just for illustrative purposes. It’s easier for us to identify the stubborn willfulness we display in the little things, those things that do not violate God’s laws. We can see them and recognize them.

Most people, though, find it difficult to see themselves willfully violating God’s laws, what we’re calling the big things. We would not even consider committing murder, theft, or adultery, yet Jesus gave us a far stricter standard when it comes to violating the Law. Mere speech can violate God’s holy standard. Not even that — but thoughts — those ideas or feelings that we keep inside, never to speak of or act upon — violate the perfect standard of the King.

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PASTOR ANDY STANLEY URGES US to erect “guardrails” in our personal lives to keep us from straying into sinful situations. Our personal guardrails, he says, function much like the guardrails along the sides of our highways to keep us from driving off the roadway into a ditch.

“But where are the guardrails in our actual, everyday lives?” Stanley says. “We have to establish those personal guardrails ourselves so that we can back up and stay on the safe side of a potentially dangerous situation.”

67.Jesus_Welcomes_AllSo, what “guardrails” do we put into place in our personal lives to keep from inching over, slightly more and more, from respectability to violation of God’s laws?

Just as we grab the last cream-filled doughnut, ignoring the voice that tells us we don’t need it, so, too, we are prone to violate God’s laws because it pleases us. We may well hear His voice, but in our haste to satisfy our immediate desires, too often we ignore Him.

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HOW CAN WE EVER MANAGE to please a holy and perfect God? (This question applies only to believers. Non-believers already fail to please Him because of their unbelief. (see Hebrews 11:6))

The Bible tells us there is a way to please our holy God. The Bible says there is only one way to remain obedient to God. That way is through Jesus. Jesus tells us in John 15:5 CSB: “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me” (emph. mine).

Jesus gives us the power and the strength to withstand temptation. Jesus provides the “guardrails” for our lives.


PRAYER

O Lord, our merciful and heavenly Father, we fall on our knees in praise and honor for 68. Holy_Bible_Crossyour holy name. O Father God, your mercy and patience are more than we can fathom, your forgiveness is more than we deserve. Your love is overpowering. Pour your goodness into our hearts so that we may pour the overflow into the hearts of everyone we meet, and may men and women see that goodness and give you the glory. We pray in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. AMEN


QUESTIONS:

1. Do you ever struggle with obeying that quiet inner voice that leads you away from something you want to do, but you know you shouldn’t? If you disregard that voice, how do you drown it out? Through a hardened heart? Through substance abuse? Through entertainment and diversion? How do you feel the next day?

2. Can you trust Jesus to fulfill His promise that He will give you the strength to resist temptation, that He cares about you personally and knows your name, and that He has the power to step in? Do you believe Jesus, as a man, was able to avoid all sin?

3. What does God’s offer of eternal grace mean to you? Does it sound somewhat fanciful, like a wish for eternity conjured up by mankind or does it sound to you exactly like what God says it is: an offer to spend forever in His presence? Are you willing to turn your life over to Him now so you can lay claim to that offer? Are you willing to admit your sins and acknowledge your need for His forgiveness?

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.

Meditation–GOD’S GLORIOUS GOODNESS

God clearly tells us that earth is not our real home. For those of us who believe in the Lord, that “real home” is in Heaven. Still, our lives on earth are blessed with many moments of sheer grace, where beauty reigns, and smiles are abundant. Yes, they often are followed by the distresses caused by sin, but the sin part is our fault. The blessings are kisses from an almighty and loving Father who cares for us deeply. 

 


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“Do good, O LORD, to [those who are] good, And to [those who are] upright in their hearts.” Psalms 125:4 (NKJV)

“The LORD has done great things for us, and we are very glad.” Psalms 126:3 (NCV)


GOD IS GOOD TO US!

Throughout the Psalms, human emotion is laid bare, as David, Anselm, Moses, and other Meditation.Writing Psalmspoets alternate among pain and suffering, on the one hand, and joyful praise and worship, on the other.

The sum total is that our earthly lives can be difficult (the result of falling out of God’s favor), yet rays of God’s goodness and mercy shine upon us (like the sun’s rays piercing a cloudy sky).

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WHEN TROUBLE STRIKES, we are to call on the Lord. When fortune envelopes us, we are to give praise to the Lord.

The Bible says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” (James 5:13 ESV)

In another place, the Bible says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV)

Paul tells us that he has experienced the full gamut of what life offers, from hunger to plenty, from sickness to health, from cold to comfort. Through it all, he never fails to thank God for His everlasting goodness. Here’s his voice: “I am not saying this because I am in Meditation.Raised Handsneed, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11 NIV)

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IN OUR PASSAGE TEXT, the psalmist calls out to the Lord to provide richness and mercy to those who call on His name by virtue of their good standing.

While it’s an Old Testament tribute to salvation through good works (obeying the Law), it’s still a plea for the Almighty to smile graciously on those who love Him. Shortly afterward, we read that God “has done great things for us,” and we recognize it and rejoice in the Lord’s benevolence.

Those of us who are believers in the Lord, can claim this promise from Revelation 21:4 (NIV): “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Indeed, the Lord has done — is doing, and will do — great things.

Let us rejoice!


~PRAYER~

O FATHER GOD, our Heavenly Father, we rejoice that You have made us in Your image and 68. Holy_Bible_Crossfor Your glory. We rejoice that you who have made us neither slumber nor sleep but keep watch over us day and night, reassuring us that no one can snatch us from Your hand. We know that You are with us when the times are troubling and when they are pleasant; when we are broken and hurting, and when we are at peace and feel blessed. O Lord, Your steadfast love endures forever. We will wait on the Lord and be renewed like eagles. May Your face continue to shine upon us. In Jesus’ almighty name, AMEN


QUESTIONS:
      1. Is it difficult for you to imagine an eternal God who is bigger than the universe who also cares about you individually and knows everything about you?
      2. Can you trust His word, as revealed in the Holy Bible, that He loves you and wants a personal relationship with you? Can you accept that He wants you to place your trust in Him, and that, if you do, He will give you freely a life that stretches into eternity?
      3. If you haven’t accepted His invitation to grace, can you do that now? All you need to do is confess your sins to Him, repent of your sinful life, and ask Him to cleanse you and come into your heart as captain of your soul. The words are less important than the total surrender.

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.

~Meditation~ OUR LIFE’S WORK

One of the more difficult lessons to learn — besides learning that God’s grace covers all of our sins and that He was willing to let His Son suffer and die to pay our debt — is this: God has done all of the work for our salvation. All we’re required to do is believe Him. So many of us still look for a chore list or tabulation of our good and bad moments. No, God has made it clear: We never can earn our salvation, but, by His mercy, we don’t have to. It’s a free gift of God’s grace. Our job is to accept it.


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“What can we do to perform the works of God?” they asked. Jesus replied, “This is the work of God—that you believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:28-29 (CSB)


HOW CAN WE EARN OUR SALVATION?

That is a normal question that most of us have asked.

Some really don’t ask the question because, most likely, they’re afraid of the answer. It might be along the lines of Jesus’ statement in Luke 18:22 NIV:  “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” They don’t want to give up their possessions or their “lifestyle” for Jesus.

Or else they imagine they’ll feel “called” to some remote jungle where the natives will spear them and feast on their remains. They don’t want to make a life-changing sacrifice.

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STILL, IT IS A normal question because it mirrors our life experiences on earth.

59. Woman-prayingEvery task we perform; every job we’re given; every responsibility we hold requires us to perform at a satisfactory level as judged by someone else. If we don’t measure up, then we’ll lose our position, whether it’s to lose a business we started or a position to which we’ve been hired or appointed, or even to lose a marriage or friendship or even our freedom.

Yet, in God’s world, the equation is turned up-side-down (or, perhaps, it’s turned right-side-up).

God is the judge, but God also is the only actor. In terms of salvation, God is the only one doing anything. There is nothing for us to do; indeed, there is nothing we can do. We are incapable of earning our salvation because the ticket price is too high. We cannot pay it.

So God earned it for us and then gives it to us as a free gift. All we need to do is accept it.

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AHH, SO EASY … yet so few manage to accept God’s free gift.

43. Jesus-Praying-for-MeThe Bible says that Jesus is the only path to salvation (see John 14:6), that He is truth (see John 17:17), that His name is the only one given to us for salvation (see Acts 4:12), that all who call on Him will be saved (see Joel 2:32, cf. Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13) and that, once saved, no one can snatch them from His hand or the Father’s hand (see John 10:28-29).

Yet, despite all that Our Lord Jesus Christ says to assure us that He wants us to live with Him always (see John 14:3, John 17:24), it is still natural for people to assume they have to earn salvation, to work hard enough to please God because that’s the way everything is done in this life.

Praise God that He has lifted the burden from our shoulders and placed it on His own. Paul, as usual, says it right (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV): “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”


PRAYER 1

Our Heavenly Father, please forgive us when we find it so difficult  to see You as 44. Cross_on_Biblesomeone who can forgive our sins, that You could love us so much that You would send Your Son to bear our punishment, and that You would guarantee us eternal life in Paradise if we would just believe in Your Son. Help those who are struggling with that amazing grace and help those of us who believe to testify to the truth with humility and love. We pray this in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, AMEN

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PRAYER 2: O Heavenly Father, our Father God, our Dad, even our Daddy, thank You for Your magnificent love, for Your mercy and grace, for Your eternal faithfulness. You have given us the eternal gift of life, of peace. We endlessly praise Your holy name. Instill in our hearts a measure of love, forgiveness, patience, and grace so we might extend it to others. Lord, may they see Your light shining through us and give You the glory. In Jesus’ name we lift this prayer. AMEN


QUESTIONS:
      1. How difficult is it for you to accept God’s free gift of grace as your sole obligation to ensure your salvation and eternal life in His Kingdom? Does it seem so easy that there must be “a catch”? Does it seem so difficult that you might be required to sacrifice more than you feel you are able?
      2. How important is it to you to know and understand God’s plan for your life? Do you even believe God has a plan for your life? Do you think you could learn more by reading the Holy Bible, His inspired Word?
      3. What, if anything, stops you from learning more about God’s will and His role in human history? Does it stem from a back experience years ago … or does it come from the incredible gift of grace that exceeds our human ability to comprehend?

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.

~Meditation~GOD RESTORES LIFE

No matter how bleak our lives look like at certain seasons, God is with us — if we will allow Him. He can turn the lean times into a great harvest, all for His glory. He does the work — we accept in faith.

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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?


“Remember how short my life is. Have you created everyone for nothing?” Psalm 89:47 (CSB)

“Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good.” Psalm 90:15 (NLT)


DURING THE LEAN TIMES, when it appears as if our lives are a wisp of smoke that evaporates and leaves no trail … when misery encompasses us, suffocating us, as we struggle to survive, during those times, it is very easy to wonder if God exists or, if existing, really cares.

The Bible (*see Romans Chapter 1*) clearly states that men everywhere for all time know that God exists, so there is no excuse for not honoring Him. Yet, believer or not, life is a struggle, and many times exist when our faith is tried.

Before I became a Christ follower (November 2010), my life meandered along one rocky path after another, so that, in sober moments, I wondered if there was any point to it.

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AFTER I TURNED  to Jesus Christ, He breathed life into my dead soul and showed me a53. man-power-of-prayer better way to live. He told me my life and conversion were an illustration of His Truth in John 10:10 (ESV): “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.”

He certainly transformed my life from a wasteland into an oasis. Yes, an oasis of life, water, sunlight, and joy, surrounded by the empty lives of others who still walk in darkness.

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GOD ORDAINED THAT I would read both verses above from the Psalms today, each speaking to me from a different translation. In one Psalm, the author bemoans the futility of his life and wonders if God’s creation amounts to anything. Certainly, I have walked along that road for most of my life.

Yet God, in His boundless mercy, gives us the second verse, where the Psalmist (possibly Moses) prays that God will give us gladness, joy, and life to compensate for the years of suffering.

This Psalm recalls the promise God already made. You can find it in Joel 2:25, 27 (NKJV): “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten. … I am the Lord your God and there is no other.”

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CAN THERE BE any response to God’s mercy and love but one: “Yes, Lord, I believe! Thank You, Lord Jesus! You gave me life, and now I can truly live. Lord, save even me.”

From Psalm 89:52 (NASB): 

“Blessed be the LORD forever! Amen and Amen”


PRAYER

O Heavenly Father, we are so grateful for Your love and mercy. You have promised to68. Holy_Bible_Cross restore the lost years of our lives — those years when we wondered in the wilderness without Your Spirit in our hearts. Now that the Holy Spirit has sealed us for the Day of Redemption, please use us to further Your Kingdom by our actions and our speech. All the praise, honor, and glory are Yours, O Lord. In the mighty name of Jesus we pray, AMEN


QUESTIONS:

1. Have you ever felt abandoned by God or that, just maybe, you aren’t good enough for Him to bother with? Can you start to believe that the Holy Bible – the Word of God – says you do matter to Him, that He knows you and cares for you?

2. Could you start to explore His Word on your own, reading 15-30 minutes a day whenever you can to see what message of reassurance, of grace and forgiveness, of unqualified love He has promised just for you?

3. If you don’t think you have the time, could you just ask Him to provide it for you? Let Him show you where you have 15 minutes to spend in His Word.

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.

Meditation–SAVED BY GOD’S GRACE

Salvation is a gift from God. The Bible clearly states it. Yet, our verbal testimony — explaining the joy in our hearts or the saving power of Jesus’ Christ — goes to reason. We “take in” what was said and process it. Jesus urged his followers to hear what He told them and think about. For us to make any sense out of the Gospel message, the Holy Spirit has to be working in our hearts and minds, even though we may not be aware at the time of His presence. The entire process from death to life, from sin to salvation, is choreographed by God the Spirit as a loving, generous gift to us. Our job is to receive the gift with thanksgiving


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“For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9 (NET)


GOD SAVES US BY HIS GRACE FOR HIS GLORY.

You can just picture the shame and humiliation of the young Jewish woman as she was dragged out her home — or maybe it was the young man’s home — and brought before J. Woman.AdulteryJesus.

What little clothing she wore no doubt was ripped, exposing more of her body than was appropriate for outdoors. All of her accusers were male.

She raised her arms to hide her face as though her identity was a secret. In a tight-knit community, everyone knew who she was and knew her reputation. Fingers were pointing and tongues were clicking.

“Teacher, we caught this woman in the act of adultery,” one of the accusers shouted. “Moses told us that the punishment for adultery is stoning to death. What do you say we should do?”

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THE APOSTLE JOHN TELLS US (John 8:1-11) that upon hearing the charges, Jesus bent down and, with his finger, wrote something in the dirt. The Bible doesn’t tell us what He wrote, but that doesn’t stop us from  speculating.

Perhaps Jesus, noticing that the accusers brought only the female partner and not the male, scribbled from Leviticus 20:10, “the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death” (NKJV).47.Open_Bible

Before finishing, Jesus stood up and exhorted them to let whichever one of them was without sin cast the first stone. One by one, starting with the eldest, the accusers walked away until only the woman, shamed, shaking, humiliated, and frightened was left with the Master.

Jesus told the young woman with love and compassion that He was not condemning her for her sin but encouraged her not to sin anymore, to use this moment as a point of redemption. We can assume this was a life-changing moment for her.

Yes, God saves us by His grace for His glory.

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JESUS’ PROMISE TO REDEEM US because He is the Lord is an amazing guarantee.

From our human perspective, we want Him to redeem us for our sake, yet the greater guarantee is the one the Lord gives us, that He will save us for His sake because He is the Lord, and He will not share His glory (Isaiah 42:8).

He assures us in both the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 5:9) and the New Testament (2 Corinthians 11:2) that He is a “jealous” God, jealous for His glory, and that jealousy is our protection. In the vernacular, we can “take that (promise) to the bank.”

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LIKE THE YOUNG WOMAN, her male companion, and her accusers, we were dead in our sins, unable to save ourselves; unable, even, to seek salvation. Yet God’s gift to us is the same one Jesus gave the shamed adulteress: Grace.

J.Woman-Jesus-AdulteryGrace is God’s gift to us. Grace is not a reward we earn for the good things we’ve done, nor even if those good things outweigh the bad things.

Even our best deeds are seen by a holy God as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) and that’s without counting the purity of our hearts. God sees into our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7), so He knows whether our wonderful acts of service were to help others and spread the Gospel or to earn kudos from our neighbors.

“Look at Bart!” we imagine the crowds exclaiming. “He’s such a Godly man; and what about Janice, isn’t she just an angel?”

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THIS IS WHERE JESUS ENTERS OUR WORLD.

The Master steps into human history to save us from our sin. He tells us in John 10:10 that, unlike the thief who came to steal, kill, and destroy, He came to give us life and to help us experience that life with abundance.

Paul tells us the Holy Spirit — the Counselor the Lord promised (John 16:7) — continues to do a “good work” inside us, and that work will be perfected when we’re in Glory. (Philippians 1:6)

God’s grace is sufficient to cover our sin — all of it — past, present, and future.

God’s amazing provision for us is all His doing. He conceived the plan; He did the heavy lifting; He made all the preparations.

Then He let us make the decision.

Whether to accept the gift … or reject it.


PRAYER

68. Holy_Bible_CrossO merciful and bountiful Father, we humbly fall to our knees, physically and in our hearts, thanking You for Your grace. Lord, without Your gift, our lives would be meaningless. We are in awe. Who are we, Lord God, that You should care about us, and yet You made us in Your image and sent Your Son to redeem us. Forgive us, Lord, and grant us Your peace. In the mighty name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray. AMEN


QUESTIONS:

1. How real for you is God’s promise of grace-filled salvation? Is that something you can understand? Do you believe it’s even true? Do you believe God’s love can encompass your sin?

2. In your life’s experience, has anyone ever offered you something without “strings attached?” Do you believe, in your heart, that God has attached “strings” to His offer of grace? Do you believe “faith” is a condition too high for you to bridge?

3. Do you believe the Bible is correct when it tells us that our best deeds, when seen by a holy God, are considered as “filthy rags”? Can you accept the Bible’s statement that that same holy God, seeing our sinful natures, could still love us enough to pay our debt to reconcile us to Him forever?


Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.

GOD CHOSE US—AMAZING LOVE!

God reveals Himself to us through His creation and through Scripture. He lays claim to our lives, not to dominate us but to give us life to the fullest! We are in a tug-of-war between a world that hates the Eternal Light and pulls us down and the loving grace of our Creator who sacrificed His Son to redeem us. What should be an easy choice for everyone to accept turns out to be an easy one for most people to reject. How sad for them, but how glorious for us who believe!

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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?


“You did not choose me; I chose you.”  John 15:16a (NCV)

I chose you to come out of the world.” John 15:19b (NLT)


GOD CHOSE US!

These words of Jesus must be the most reassuring words ever spoken.

We are born and slowly become consciously aware of our existence … and soon we realize just how fragile life is.

54. Man.Asking.QuestionsWho am I? Why am I here? Do I have a purpose? What is to become of me?

Will I die? What is that like? Is there life beyond … well, you know … beyond the end?

All normal questions. Down through the ages and throughout the cultures, humans have tried to answer those questions.

For most people, the answers are made-up, fabricated, mere fairy tales, concocted by medicine men, self-anointed priests, great warriors, and then passed down to each new generation. Worship ceremonies built around ritual and superstition solidified the “religion.”

But for God’s people, the ones who believe that He created all of the universe, including us, the answers are different.

God has revealed Himself to mankind.

He also has told us who we are (Gen. 1:26 ESV): Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” 

We are God’s creation, and He fashioned us after Himself.

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IN THE BEGINNING, when God began this life-on-earth adventure, He took qualities of His being — courage and strength and bravery — and scooped up some dust from the ground and combined them into the first man — Adam, which in Hebrew means “earth.”

After showing Adam that he was one of a kind — higher than the animals but far lower than God, Himself — He took a rib from Adam’s side.

41. Jesus_Adam_EveHe mushed the rib together with a different set of qualities that God  possessed — grace and beauty and empathy — and created the first woman as companion and helper to Adam. Adam called her Eve, meaning “mother of all living things.”

Such a glorious start to God’s perfect plan. Yes, there was a quick downturn when Adam and Eve failed to obey God, but God didn’t give up on them.

He came looking for them and pronounced his plan for salvation through Jesus Christ.

When Jesus walked the earth, He saw the multitude in need of a shepherd and declared in John 15:16 (NCV):  

You did not choose me; I chose you.”

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THE APOSTLE JOHN, who referred to himself as “the one Jesus loved,” stressed the divine commandment to love God and one another. In his first letter, he wrote: “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19 ESV).

That concept should give us such reassurance, that the Creator not only fashioned us, but fashioned us after Himself and pours love onto us.

There’s more. It’s even more profound than that. This is how God rescues us from sin and temptation. Here’s what James (the half-brother of Jesus and leader of the early church) has to say in James 4:7-8a (CSB):

“Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Indeed, those are  comforting words.

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YOU PROBABLY KNOW friends and family members who “worship” some idol or god of 43. God's-Gracetheir own creation: their family, job, status, boat, computer, house, or even a trait or characteristic—witty, attractive, intelligent, personable.

How do those gods stack up against the God who is Creator of the Universe, the One who comes looking for us, the One who allowed Himself to be tortured and executed for our eternal benefit, the One who draws us close with protective arms when we seek shelter from life’s storms.

Yes, God intervenes in human affairs, from beginning to end. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, God says He chose us.

Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, quotes God in Jeremiah 1:5 (NET):

 “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb I chose you.”

Luke, writing of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:15 ESV, quotes God,

“He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”

No other god devised by man’s imagination has ever done any of those things. No, they’re all inanimate objects, or nothing but the creation itself, or mythical creatures concerned mostly with their own sinful pursuits.

We worship a God who reveals Himself to us! A God who seeks us. A God who comforts us and protects us.

We did not choose God. He — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — chose us.

He continues to choose us!

Glory to God in the highest!


PRAYER

O Loving and Merciful Father, please forgive us for our  stupidity and sinful pride that keep us from fulling giving ourselves to You in a life-affirming manner. We hold something back, 44. Cross_on_Bibleafraid to let go of every piece of our selves, yet You gave up the glory of heaven to assume the likeness of man, and then gave up the desire for life by humbling Yourself to die on a cross — for us. LORD, show us the way back to You through the Holy Spirit, that we might walk hand-in-hand with our Creator in the Paradise of love that He creates. Heaven is now for those of us in the LORD. All the praise, honor, and glory are Yours. In Jesus’ name. AMEN


QUESTIONS:
  1. Can you relate to a supernatural Being who says He created you, wants a relationship with you, and even sent His Son to pay the debt for your rebellion against Him, so that by believing in Him, you will be reconciled to that supernatural Being? That Being is God. He chose you. He still does. Will you choose Him, too?
  2. Do you find yourself “worshipping” things more than God? Maybe it’s your car or your computer or your video equipment, or maybe it’s your job or your house or even your family? God says to place Him first in your life. Do you find that hard to do?
  3. Does knowing God chose you give you more sense of your purpose in life, of who you are and what might be expected of you? Do you like knowing that God has a plan for your life … or would you rather just live your days following your own dream? Would you be surprised if God gave you the aptitude and desire that He can use to shape you into the man or woman He intended? Can you see how you could be useful in His eternal plan?

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.

 

Meditation–Loving Others As Christ Loves Us

The Bible tells us as followers of Christ to live lives worthy of respect so that we will reflect well on the Holy Spirit’s presence in our hearts. We’re also to be ready to testify to the life-changing power of Jesus’ love. If we are “salt and light” to a sin-darkened world, people will notice. Those whose hearts are touched by the Holy Spirit will want to join us; the rest will turn away. However, how we act and talk should never be the reason someone turns from Jesus.


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“My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring.” 1 John 3:18 (NCV)

“Most importantly, love each other deeply, because love will cause people to forgive each other for many sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 (NCV)


GOD CALLS US TO WITNESS FOR HIM 24/7/365.

We are to live out the Gospel in how we act, think, and talk. That is not just in sharing a word of encouragement, although it certainly includes that – it’s also about putting God’s Words to use in how we live out our lives.72. Jesus_Teaches

Pastor Rick Warren, in a Daily Hope devotional, said God commands us, as His followers, to show love and compassion for other people. In God’s world, loving others is not an option. Here’s what Warren writes:

“If you are a follower of Christ, you must love everybody — whether you like them or not — in the same way that Christ loves you.That means you are to accept them completely, love them unconditionally, forgive them totally, and consider them extremely valuable.”

Then, when someone asks about the joy we feel, we should be ready to explain how Jesus Christ has changed our hearts. (see 1 Peter 3:15) That’s when we share the Word in personal testimony.

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THERE IS A DIFFERENCE between being a Christ-follower and a humanitarian.

All of us have the breath of God within us and, thus, the capacity to extend concern even for total strangers. Witness the outpouring of funds and volunteer effort to help victims of tragedies, whether from nature or man-made.

The calculus among humanitarians, which is rarely stated or even recognized at the time, is “enlightened self-interest” or payback — if I help someone today, tomorrow someone will help me.

However, as Christians, our giving is to be modeled after Christ, who said He came to serve, not to be served (see Mark 10:45).

In other words, for us, serving others comes41.FemaleHoldingPlantfrom the overflow of love and mercy that we have received from the Creator, without regard to whether others will pay us back (see Luke 14:13-14).

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TO SERVE OTHERS properly, the way Christ calls us, requires a heart for those we help.

Here are a few verses where God makes that point clear:

“A person thinks all his ways are pure, but the LORD weighs motives.” Proverbs 16:2 (GW)

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b (ESV)

“God would have known, because he knows what is in our hearts.” Psalm 44:21 (NCV)

“But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature.” John 2:24 (NLT)

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SO, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US AS BELIEVERS?

We need to see every moment of every day as an act of worship. We need to take in the words that start every translation of God’s Holy Word, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) and celebrate that as a “wow” moment, no matter what is happening in our lives.

Peter neatly tied in this act of worship of God’s splendor and glory with God’s command that we honor Him through our witness (1 Peter 3:15 NLT):

“You must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”

Are you ready?


PRAYER

68. Holy_Bible_CrossO Gracious LORD, our Heavenly Father, we thank You for being a God of love and a God of. Work on our hearts, O LORD, to turn them from stone to flesh, from hard hearts that are self-centered and prideful into hearts of love, hearts of mercy, hearts of service, hearts of encouragement, hearts of teaching, hearts of testimony. Lead us to serve You, for Your glory. In the name of Jesus. AMEN


QUESTIONS:
  1. Are you ready to share with someone — a family member, co-worker, neighbor, or even a stranger — your faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
  2. If you aren’t, what’s stopping you? Is it a lack of faith, a lack of confidence, a lack of belief? Remember, we are commanded by Jesus, Himself, to spread His Word to all nations (see Matt. 28:18-20, Acts 1:8).
  3. Does your life — the way you act and speak — reflect well on God’s glory? If not, do you see the need to repent of your sin and accept the gift of His grace and forgiveness?

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.