Meditation: GUARDING OUR THOUGHTS

The sin in our lives stems from three sources: our desires, the influence of the fallen world around us, and the devil’s schemes. There is enough motive for us to sin even without Satan’s pull. God speaks into our hearts — our minds and thoughts — with His message of Truth. Our thoughts drive our comments and, eventually, our actions, so, to keep our witness pure, we first need to capture evil thoughts. To do that, we need to stay in prayer. God calls us to pray so that He may pour His Truth into our hearts and minds.


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“Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.” — Proverbs 4:23 (NCV)

“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” — James 1:15 (NLT)

SO, EVEN OUR THOUGHTS ARE SUBJECT TO GOD’S JUDGMENT?

Well, Jesus was pretty clear about it in Matthew 5 (27-28), when He said that it’s not just a sin to commit adultery, but that if any man or woman looks upon another person with lust in their hearts, that person “has already committed adultery” (NKJV).

Does that mean it’s not enough that we not do harmful things … or make derogatory comments …we can’t even think those thoughts even if we don’t say or do them?

Isn’t that a bit much?

Who can go through a whole day without thinking sinful thoughts? It’s tough enough avoiding the actions and comments.53. Man_Woman_praying

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MAYBE THAT’S THE POINT.

God knows our sinful hearts. He knows how we work. After all, He created us, and He knows our rebellion.

There’s a well-known misquote of a Bible verse that says “money is the root of all evil,” when the actual verse says it’s “the love of money” that is the root of evil and that “through this craving,” many have wandered away from the truth and faith in Jesus (1 Timothy 6:10 ESV).

James reminds us that it’s our desires that “entice us and drag us away” (James 1:15 NLT).

God knows that as soon as we start harboring thoughts, whatever they may be, those thoughts will overtake us and begin to drive our comments and our actions … a little at a time … until they completely take us over.

Our Lord Jesus Christ warned us again in Matthew 15:11, when He said it’s not what goes into our bodies that defiles us but what comes out of our bodies.

What defiles us is what comes out of our hearts … and our thoughts.

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GOD, IN HIS MERCY, has given us the way out.

He tells us what we should be thinking about:

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8 NLT).

How do we do that?

Paul tells us:

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV).

Amen! God is good!


68. Holy_Bible_CrossPRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, You know our thoughts are impure. You know we wander from the truth. We stay connected for a short time, then go astray. You keep pulling us back … through reading Your Word, through worship, through fellowship. Thank You for Your mercy. Change our hearts, O LORD, to hearts that seek the Risen Lord, that witness to the life-saving power of the Holy Spirit, that spread the message of redemption. We lift this prayer in the name of Jesus, Amen


QUESTIONS:

  1. Are there thoughts that you’ve been struggling with that you would like to turn over to the Lord? He says He’s faithful and just and will forgive us when we own up to them. What stops you from confessing your sins to Him right now?

  2. Why do you think our Lord insisted that our thoughts (and hearts) defiled us? Do you agree with the Bible’s teaching that our sinful behavior comes from our desires? Do you believe our sin is solely traceable back to Satan or the world’s pull on us?

  3. Do you believe that harboring only pleasant thoughts is something you can control on your own, or do you recognize that you need the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, both to convict you and to instruct you?

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

 

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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“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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