Today’s Meditation … AVOIDING AVOIDABLE DANGER

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” Proverbs 27:12 (NIV)

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DANGER AHEAD!

What could be clearer than a warning sign?

Yet how often do we heed sound advice? How often do we shake off the wise counsel of others, preferring to take our own advice, even when we’re filled with rage, flooded with baseless hope, or propelled by the logic of prior ill-thought-out decisions?

45. Children_Ignoring_ParentsProverbs warns us that wise men and women listen to the warning signals,  the red flags in our lives, and take evasive actions. The foolish among us — including us in our foolish moments — fail to listen.

Then, as the Bible says, we pay the price for our stubbornness, our pride, and our foolishness.

Wise counsel, indeed, given to us for free from our Creator and Life Sustainer.

QUESTION: Why is it so hard for many of us to accept the wise counsel of others, especially when they mean to help us and not insult us? Can it be our sinful pride refuses to recognize an encouraging word? How can we pray for softer hearts that long for wisdom?

PRAYER: Our gracious heavenly Father — Your love for us knows no end. Not only did You send Your Son to pay the penalty for our sins, but You’ve given us a roadmap with Your Holy Word — the Bible — on how to live faithfully this side of glory. Help us, Lord, to overcome our stubborn sinful pride and listen to Your wisdom. Help us to see the dangers that lie ahead when we’re off course and give us the wisdom to avoid the pitfalls. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen

About This Blog …

LoveAndGrace is starting a new feature: “Today’s Meditation.” A short meditation will be based on a Bible passage, with a prompt for reflection and a closing prayer.

“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” — Revelation 1:3 (NIV)

GOD’S WORD was never meant to be hidden. When we receive the glory of God in our hearts, we were meant to share it with the world. We know that God sent His own Son to preach the gospel of salvation, of God reconciling the world to Himself.

Cross Over BibleThrough God’s grace, this blog has grown in readership, but reading the blog is not enough. We invite you to share it with someone you love who needs a word of encouragement.

We’re beginning a new feature. “Today’s Meditation” will be short meditations based on a Bible passage, two to four short paragraphs, a question block to stimulate reflection, and a closing prayer. This feature will supplement fuller meditations that have formed the basis of this blog.

What you can do:

1) Pray it. Please pray. Ask the Lord’s blessing on the blog. Ask Him to lead the author to provide meditations on Scripture that will encourage, comfort, and inspire readers.

2) Share it. — Ask the Lord who in your life should see this blog. Perhaps a family member? Neighbor? Co-worker? Total stranger? You could introduce them to the blog by forwarding a post that touched your heart. Invite them to sign up for e-mails. We won’t flood their in-box, and we won’t commercialize.

3) Talk it. — If you feel the Lord’s leading in your heart to comment on the post, pray about sharing your thoughts with fellow readers. Helpful insights from readers add to our meditations and serve to build Christian community. Stimulating questions also lead to Christian growth.

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

God bless you, dear reader, as Jesus deepens your walk in faith …

LoveAndGrace

Host: Ward Pimley

GIDEON: MIGHTY WARRIOR

God knows that each one of us is weak, yet He has chosen to work through us to reach broken humanity. We cannot do it on our own, but He does not expect us to. Instead, He will empower us through the Holy Spirit. In His Bible, He shows us how He can take a simple man like Gideon and turn him into a mighty warrior.

When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” (Judges 6:12 NIV)

But [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

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GIDEON — YES, THAT GIDEON OF THE BIBLE — was not anyone’s idea of a gifted leader.

Yet, we read that an angel of the LORD appeared to him one day and called him “mighty warrior.”

62. Gideon_And_AngelWhen Gideon heard this word of affirmation, he replied with that famous battle cry: “Pardon me, my lord.” 

Hmm.

Not too commanding, was he?

“Pardon me, my lord” was the ancient world’s equivalent of our “Say what? You talkin’ to me?”

Let’s go back to the scene. Our hero, Gideon, is busy with the post-harvest chore of separating the wheat from the chaff. The best way the ancient world had for doing this was labor-intensive: the farmer stuck a pitchfork into the bale and threw it into the air, where the wind current would blow the lighter chaff away, thus separating it from the heavier wheat, which would fall into a heap.

Normally, this was done in a location where the wind currents were felt.

But Gideon was found in a winepress, which is a depression out of sight of those on the ground. The wind currents were not very strong there, but it afforded him sight protection from the enemy Midianites, who were prowling about.

If they saw Gideon, they probably would have run him through with a sword and taken the wheat.

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SO, HERE’S GIDEON HIDING from the Midianites, when an angel of the LORD comes down and sits under an oak tree. His greeting? “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?”

At this point, Gideon chides the angel, reminding him that if the LORD were watching over Israel, if the LORD were doing His job the way Gideon thought He should, then why were the Israelites afraid for their lives. Heck, why was Gideon threshing wheat in a winepress.

Here’s the angel’s response: “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Can you hold onto that question for a moment: “Am I not sending you?”

Where have we heard that one before?

Was it not Moses at the burning bush asking the LORD who should he say was sending him to free the Israelites from Egypt, and the LORD replied, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Ex. 3:14)

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GOD’S COMMANDS TO US ARE ACCOMPANIED BY GRACE.

He never sends us out without promising to be with us.

The LORD requires us to speak, think, and act according to His will. Our job, according to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), is to teach others that God has come into the world to save us from our rebellion, our hardness of heart, our human pride.

We are to take the message of redemption and forgiveness to a broken world.

All the while, He promises this: “Remember that I am always with you until the end of time.” (v. 20 GW)

62. RedemptionOften we fail. Some of us, quite often. Even when we do the right thing(s), our hearts might be looking for our glory, not His. So we repent, He forgives, He toughens us up, and we grow. Next time around, we do better. We’re stronger … until, again, we fail. The process repeats itself until we’re in glory with our LORD.

How comforting to hear our LORD’s promise to sustain us. He will not forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) nor leave us as orphans (John 14:18). He tells us not to be afraid because He will hold us up (Isaiah 41:13). When He has commanded us to do something, He says He will be with us while we do it (Joshua 1:9).

Our faith is essential to this process (Hebrews 11:1) for without faith, we cannot please Him (Hebrews 11:6).

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GOD CAN TAKE A WEAK MAN LIKE GIDEON and turn him into a mighty warrior, a warrior mighty in battle (Psalm 24:8). God’s will will prevail. His word goes out and accomplishes all that He has tasked it with. It will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11).

Now, it becomes our turn to go, to be obedient, to share the Word of the LORD, to encourage others — in the name of Jesus Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit. When the LORD asks whom shall He send, let’s be like the prophet Isaiah, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8 ESV).

Well, Gideon was no Isaiah, so he didn’t quite say, “Okay, I’m your man.” Instead, he said, “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh [one of 12 Israeli tribes], and I am the least in my family.”

That is where many of us stay. We know there’s Kingdom work to be done, but too often we feel we’re just not qualified to do it. The Lord certainly knows our limitations.

Most of us, if pressed, could readily point to someone else to take our place, someone else whom we think is much better equipped to handle the task the LORD has laid on our shoulders. In fact, we’re very eager to supply names, e-mail addresses, and mobile phone numbers — just to help out. We can be very helpful that way.

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WHEN WE LOOK TO THE BIBLE’S LIST of great leaders — Nehemiah, Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel, Peter, Paul — we find that each one of them was prepared by the LORD to handle the task he was given before the task was assigned.

It’s not our position or title in a group that makes us a leader — not any more than expensive sneakers makes us an NBA star or nifty skates takes  us to the Stanley Cup.

62. Hockey skatesWhat makes a leader is character, and character is developed over time, usually starting with a vision, then denting that vision with adversity, then wrapping the result around perseverance. (Romans 5:3-5) (James 1:2-4)

Other examples of “leaders” were of lesser stuff. We think immediately of Barak, who would lead Israel into battle only if the female judge Deborah accompanied him.

Then, of course, there’s Gideon.

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THE BIBLE’S ACCOUNT OF GIDEON’S TRANSFORMATION is an interesting story.

First, Gideon places God’s messenger under a variety of tests or “proofs” that he is, indeed, sent from God. Of course, the angel passes every test with ease.

Then the LORD tells Gideon to assemble an army. He adds a caveat that if Gideon wants further proof that he was anointed by God, he could sneak up on the Midianites’ compound. When Gideon does — with a companion, of course — he hears the Midianites proclaiming their fear of Gideon and his army!

Yes, there’s also the winnowing down of Gideon’s troops from 30,000 to 300 because God said He wanted Gideon and the Israelites to know that it was He, the God of the Israelites, that delivered the enemy over, not the might of the Israelite army. (Judges 7:2)

First, God let every man afraid to go into battle to leave — that dropped the total by two-thirds — then He wanted only the men who lapped water by scooping it up in their hands instead of sticking their faces in the drink — that whittled most of the rest of them.

With 300 men, Gideon was fodder for a slaughter … except that the LORD’s mighty sword was raised on behalf of His people. They “won” the skirmish without fighting. The Midianites slaughtered one another.

After the battle, the Israelites wanted to crown Gideon their king, but he would have none of it. Not only would he not rule over them, he said, but neither would his son. “The Lord will rule over you,” he said. (Judges 8:23 NIV)

That often happens, too, with leadership.

Once you take the reigns for a time or two, the job is yours forever. People are quite content to let someone else handle the chores.

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EACH ONE OF US CAN BE A LEADER. To do that, we need to take ownership of our jobs. Of who we are and what we can do.

So, what is leadership?60. Faith

Leadership is character. It is not about being the boss or having one’s way. Sometimes, leadership is nothing more than looking around and seeing what needs to be done … and then offering to do it.

A leader — or one who aspires to be a leader — must dig into areas of character, priorities, attitude, and vision.

A leader has to discipline himself not only to set the agenda but sometimes to set the table for others to succeed.

Leadership is not just about our own enhancement or our position or our glory. It is not about attaining our will. It’s about sacrificial service.

Remember our LORD at the Last Supper when he got up from the table, wrapped his cloak around his waist, filled the wash basin, and kneeled down to wash the feet of His disciples — including, we presume, the feet of the man who, within hours, would betray Him.

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WHAT IS THE CALL IN OUR LIVES?

Where is the LORD’s cry in your life?

Has He been laying on your heart a task you think is too big for you, has He given you a word of encouragement that you’ve been hesitant to deliver, has He prepared you for a role in your life that He’s starting to unveil to you?

What does it take for you, for us, to take that first step of obedience?

John C. Maxwell, author of the book, Developing the Leader Within You 2.0, tells us this:

62. Bible_Leaders1. There are never enough leaders.

2. Every leader needs development.

>Moses spent 40 years being educated in the Pharoah’s house, plus 40 years of tending sheep in the desert;

>Joseph spent years in servitude to the Egyptian hierarchy and many years in prison;

>Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the Babylonian king;

>Paul was trained as a Pharisee before he was knocked to the ground by a bolt of light; and

>Jesus was … well, He had spent forever in the Trinity and then 40 days and nights being tempted by Satan.

Every leader needs encouragement, training, prayer, support. Are we giving each other that kind of encouragement? Are we coming alongside each of our brothers in prayer?

If we heed these lessons well, no one will end 2018 asking: Where have all the good leaders gone?

Instead, they’ll ask: Where have all these good leaders come from, and how can I become one of them?

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Cross Over BiblePRAYER: LORD, Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth and all creation, we give You all the honor and praise; O LORD, we take joy in worshipping You. Forgive us weaknesses, Father God; forgive us our hesitation to spread the Gospel of redemption; forgive us when we fail to honor You with our words and our deeds … knowing, O Father God, that at the root of this is our failure to honor You in our hearts. Equip us, O LORD, to be mighty warriors for the Kingdom, knowing that You’ll part the waters for us, that You’ll give us the words to say, and that You’ll hold our hands through every task, every abuse, every questions, every prayer request, every plea for understanding and help. LORD, love on us so mightily that we will love on those you place in our way. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen

QUESTIONS: 

  1. Do you feel God’s calling you to some task right now, something that seems just too big for you to handle? Are you thinking you’d like to recommend someone else for the job? Why do you suppose He chose you?
  2. What would it take for you to step out in faith and say, as Isaiah did, “Here I am, LORD, send me?” instead of what Gideon said, “Pardon me, my lord.”
  3. Who can you turn to for pray support and help in this matter? How can you pray for God’s will to be done on earth, this time through you?

Reaffirming God’s Perfect Design for Men & Women

God created men and women in His image and gave them traits that He, Himself, has. Every bit of courage and grace, protectiveness and nurturing that He gave to men and women, came from Him. He possesses all of every trait, but in His wisdom gave more of some traits to Adam and more of other traits to Eve. In His design, Adam and Eve … and their progeny … were to work together to mimic the Godhead, where Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each one God and equal in status, have different roles, which complement one another.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27 ESV)

When God created humans, he made them in the likeness of God. (Genesis 5:1 GW)

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31 NIV)

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

DOES GOD PROMOTE THE ORDINATION OF FEMALE CLERGY?

This question, and questions similar to it, are taking center stage in Christendom as men and women of faith search their Bibles for answers — and disagree about what they find.

For every person’s reference to 1 Timothy 2:12 NIV (“I do not permit a woman to teach or 64. Man-Woman-Createdto assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”) comes someone’s reference to Galatians 3:28 NIV (“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”)

Not only are the verses used to square off against one another, but the two sides to the question disagree about what the apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, meant when he wrote them. In other words, does one side or the other misread Paul’s words?

Against the backdrop of church doctrine is the secular world’s various opinions about the role and status of women generally, not just in Western countries influenced by Christianity but also in non-Western countries, where Christianity’s reach often is tenuous to non-existent.

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WITHIN THE BODY OF CHRIST ARE WRITINGS from men and women of strong faith and conviction who see the issue from radically different  perspectives — and this difference contributes to disunity within the church.

64. Journal WritingIs that disunity a healthy sign of vibrant thinking, top-notch scholarship, and faithful prayer, or is it the troubling signs of satanic meddling intended to scramble the energies of clergy and lay leaders, alike?

Major church voices — like John Piper, Tim Keller, and Wayne Grudem — argue quite strongly and persuasively that God has laid down a “complementarian” position, where men and woman are equal in their Creator’s eye in spiritual significance but whose assigned tasks in life differ according to the strengths and weaknesses He designed into them.

Other leaders — Bill Hybels and Charles F. Stanley, for example — take a different approach, while not driven by secular culture still more acceptable to it, known as “egalitarian.” This view strips away gender-related differences as nonessential, leaving bare the person’s  individual skills, interests, experiences, and dreams as the driving force in church and family role.

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BECAUSE THE CHURCH EXISTS IN THE WORLD, what happens in the world around the 64. Globechurch affects its theology. That does not mean “changes” its theology, so that church doctrine bends toward the worldly view. It means that it “impacts” the thinking, the questions asked, the answers given, the prayers raised, the interpretations advanced, the factions created.

Paul urges us in his letter to the Roman church “not [to] be conformed to this world, but [to] be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 BSB)

So, it is clear from Paul that the world’s clamor for doctrinal clarity is not the standard by which the church should be led. Instead, the church — both the institutional organizations and the body of believers as individuals — should be directed by God’s pronouncements.

So, what does God say about the matter?

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TWO POINTS SEEM TO BE VERY CLEAR in God’s calculus.

One is His clear assignment of leadership and headship responsibilities to Adam, not to Eve. Also clear is His presentation of Eve to Adam as his helper, not the other way around (Genesis 2:20b-22).64. Male-Female_Brains

The second is His statement that, as a result of Eve’s deception, her desire would be to rule her husband, but he was to have a fiduciary or protective role over her (Genesis 3:16).

Also clear, because of Adam’s disobedience, God decreed that Adam’s toil would be made more difficult (Genesis 3:17-19).

The difference in makeup and role carries starts with the family and carries over to the church.

The marital relationship involving men and women was established by God in Genesis 2:24 NIV (“For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”).

The relationship is explained in detail in Ephesians 5, where Paul tells women they are to “respect” their husbands and men are to “love” their wives. The duties of “loving” and “respecting” set up dual roles — which are complementary but not identical.

A man is supposed to use his physical strength, deeper voice, tougher body, and aggressive hormones to shield his wife from harm, even to the point of laying down his life for her, if required. Of course, the directive to  lay down his life can be analogized easily into self-sacrificial love for his wife, so that he cares for her, ensuring her well-being.

The directive for women to respect their husbands is to recognize the man’s 64. Partnershipsresponsibility to care, protect, and provide for his wife and children. The wife is to acknowledge her husband’s servanthood and the sacrifices he makes, the risks he takes, and the responsibilities he shoulders to keep them housed, fed, educated, insured, and safe.

God’s design keeps men and women in a mutually reinforcing partnership that mimics both the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) as well as God’s relationship with us (Christ and the Church).

Paul called this relationship a “profound mystery.” (Ephesians 5:32a NIV)

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WHY, THEN, IS THERE SO MUCH TURMOIL over the question?

There is no doubt but what our sin-stained lenses distort our vision of God’s creation. When the Almighty says through Paul that “Christ is the head of every man,” and “man is the head of a woman” (1 Corinthians 11:3 NASB), this either sounds, on one hand, as comforting as warm bath water or, on the other hand, as grating as fingernails on a chalkboard.

64. Church_DoctrineThe alignment established by God is completed when the woman submits to her husband, who in turn submits to Jesus Christ, who in turn submits to God the Father (1 Corinthians 11:3b NASB).

No doubt that men and women have sinned their way way from the “love” and “respect” cycle, so that men use their advantages of strength and dominance to disrespect and badger women while women use their advantages of cunning and wile to milk a man of his assets for their own selfish needs.

No wonder few of us can come to the doctrinal table without stained hands and distrustful hearts. After all, who can trust the other sex when the conflicts of our sin-infused world have led us away from the model God created and taught us.

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THE ISSUE OF FEMALE PASTORS and church leaders has been hijacked by those who look not to the Bible for instruction but to their own reasoning. It was never intended to be about superiority and inferiority or higher  ranking and lower ranking.

The complementarianism of God’s creation was designed to enhance mutuality, where 64. Perfectly_Onethe various strengths our Creator gave to men and women were intended to compensate for their corresponding weaknesses — a man’s strengths compensate for the woman’s weaknesses — and the woman’s strengths compensate for the man’s weaknesses.

God created us in His image, so that every strong, noble, and courageous trait that Adam and his progeny possess came from God — just as from God came every graceful, elegant, beautiful, nurturing, and tenacious trait that Eve and her progeny posses.

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WHILE THIS MEDITATION believes the “complementarian” position is aligned better with Scripture, and the “egalitarian” position is a misreading of Scripture, our LORD grieves when doctrinal disputes interfere with church unity.

Perhaps believers were never supposed to have all of the answers to life’s questions, for Moses tells us in Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Jesus reenforced this by saying God’s gift of salvation is based on our faith, not our reason: “At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.” (Matthew 11:25 NLT)

Instead of human pride leading to church spin-offs and hurtful accusations, this could be a moment when humility would lead all believers to join in prayer for God’s direction.

“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)

What is it that is unseen?

“Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 BSB)

God’s grace. Our faith.

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PRAYER: O LORD, we pray that You will open our eyes to  the Truth of Your Word. Humble 44. Cross_on_Bibleour hearts so that we turn to You for direction, not to rely on our own ways, thoughts, and desires. Lead us to see the wisdom of Your creation and to follow and obey You, honoring how You made us. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. When answering life’s deepest questions, do you search the Scriptures as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11) for God’s answers, or do you rely on your own understanding and reason?
  2. How do you handle Scriptural teaching that may conflict with your thoughts? Do you ask God to explain His Word or do you substitute your reason for what you read?
  3. How do you help other people, some who are struggling believers and some who are skeptics and deniers, understand God’s eternal truth?

Today Is … Loving Others as Christ Loves Us

The Bible tells us as followers of Christ to live lives that are 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.

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

Instead, 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.” — 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)

God calls us to witness for Him 24/7/365. We are to live out the Gospel in how we act, think, and talk. While this includes sharing a word of encouragement with a brother or Cross Over Biblesister, and looking for opportunities to do so, it’s also about putting God’s Word to use in how we live our lives.

Then, when someone asks about the joy we feel, we should be ready to explain how Jesus Christ has changed our hearts. That’s when we share the Word in personal testimony.

QUESTION: 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? Whether you answered “yes” or “no,” could you take a moment and pray along with me and other readers of this post the following prayer for God’s guidance?

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PRAYER: O Gracious LORD, our Heavenly Father, we thank You for being a God of love and a God of mercy. 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.