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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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?


“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.

Meditation–PRAYING FOR OTHERS

Jesus set a difficult standard for us to emulate: He prayed for his executioners. He calls on us to love (care for) our enemies and pray for those who would harm us. We are to pray for their hearts, asking the Holy Spirit to exchange hearts of stone for hearts of flesh. Most of us pray daily for the health and safety of our family and friends, but how often do we engage in earnest prayer for those we despise? Gulp. Not often.

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?


“But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.'”  Luke 23:34 (NASB)

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Matthew 5:44 (NIV)


THE LORD CALLS US TO PRAY FOR OTHERS.

Most of us find it very easy to pray for others … as long as it involves praying for our families and those closest to us.

Prayers abound to the heavenly throne for wives and husbands, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and the closest of our friends and neighbors.53. man-power-of-prayer

The Bible also tells us to pray for those who are physically sick, mentally unbalanced, emotional distraught, and spiritually lost. We do that, too.

However, there’s more.

We’re also to pray for those we don’t like, and those who don’t like us. We’re even to pray for our government leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2), both those we admire … and those we don’t.

Oh, yes, we are.

Remember that on two occasions David could have killed King Saul, who was trying to kill him, but he refused to kill Saul because Saul was “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 24:6; 26:9). While most of us never face life and death choices from our government, we do face many annoying circumstances.

The Bible is clear we are to offer prayer for our elected and appointed officials at all levels of government, regardless of whether we like them.  (see Romans 13:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-14)

It is very hard to extend God’s grace to those we despise.

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RECENTLY, I TRIED PUTTING THOSE WORDS into practice by listing some political figures I find loathsome.

The commandment to pray for others is far wider than the political arena, but this, I figured, was a good place to start. God knew my list before I compiled it, so I just acknowledged to Him in prayer what He already knew was in my heart.

I gritted my teeth praying for the lowest of the low, but when I was done, I knew I had to keep doing it. God wants to change me; He wants to change my heart; and He does that through our prayers.

God tells us to pray for those officials’ health and safety, for their well-being, and most of all for their salvation. It is God’s grace that gives us the grace to care for others and desire their comfort.

47.Changed HeartsIn those moments, God is more likely to answer our prayers by changing our hearts than He is in changing the hearts of a rude government official or a politician who opposes our wishes, but we don’t know for sure.

He could be doing both. God’s timing is not our timing. Besides, our attention spans are short, so we drift away, while He remains present.

The Bible is clear that we must be diligent in lifting prayer for those God places in our paths. James, the half-brother of Jesus, said it this way in James 5:16b (NIV):

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” 

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THERE IS EARTHLY COMFORT, and there is heavenly comfort. We enjoy more or less earthly comfort at different times in our lives as well as in relation to others.

But the earthly comfort is transitory; the heavenly comfort is permanent.

The Bible says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:18 (BSB)

Or this, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.”  Matthew 6:20 (CSB)

Jesus said we will experience many troubles in our lives, but God is our refuge (see John 16:33; Psalms 46:1). In Him, we find solace. He, and He alone, takes us through the storm.

We are to share that solace with others, both those we love and those we do not love, those we know intimately and those we’ve just heard about, those who directly impact our lives and those who impact us tangentially.

When we feel overwhelmed by it all, by the sheer vastness of prayer requests and the awesome responsibility of caring for the lives and souls of others, let us recall the encouraging words of the apostle Paul in Galatians 6:9a (ESV):

“Let us not grow weary of doing good.”


PRAYER

Our Heavenly and merciful Father, we confess that all too often we fail to consider the 68. Holy_Bible_Crossneeds of those around us, especially of those we don’t know well or don’t like. Our Savior set the example for us when He prayed for those who drove the nails into his hands and feet. At this time, as our nation has elected a new government at federal, state, and local levels, we raise prayer for those elected — and those appointed — to carry out Your will. Soften our hearts, O Lord, when we resist Your command to pray for those we dislike and those who cause us harm. May Your will be done. In the mighty name of Jesus, we pray. AMEN


QUESTIONS:

1. Has God placed someone in your life who needs your prayer support? Are you reluctant to offer that support because (a) it’s none of your business, (b) you feel inadequate to the challenge, (c) the person hasn’t asked?

2. Being serious in your self-appraisal, do you really believe God will listen to your prayer and grant your request, or do you think (a) God is too busy managing the universe, (b) you aren’t important enough (or good enough) for God to care about, (c) the person you should pray for is not a believer?

3. Whatever your answers to the above questions, can you take a moment and ask God to fix the problem you see: in your heart, in the other person’s life? Can you ask God to show you how much He cares for you?


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


 

Meditation–WE NEED JESUS IF WE WANT LIFE

Jesus made it clear in His earthly ministry that our salvation was a free gift of God in response to our faith, and that we must be “born again” to experience Heaven. Left out of the equation was rejection of God’s message, failure to believe in His saving grace, and our attempts to earn salvation through our good works. We are totally dependent on the Lord Jesus for our eternal life. When we accept that truth, we give all of the glory to God, which is where all the glory belongs.

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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?


 

“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:12 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3 (NIV)


WE NEED TO BE SURE WE HAVE JESUS IN OUR LIVES.

It’s really that simple.

Jesus … and no other.

Pastor Louie Giglio, in his book ~Goliath Must Fall: Winning the Battle Against Your Giants~, lays it out this way:

“Yet this kind of belief is more than simply mentally ascribing to something as true. It’s putting all your trust in Jesus to be all he says he can be in your life.”

Have you done that? Have you come to grips with the single most important decision you can make in your life, whether you have latched onto a saving relationship with the Creator of the universe, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Savior of the world?

72.Jesus_TeachesHave you told him, “I believe”?

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JESUS ILLUSTRATED THIS POINT one day with His disciples. After asking them about the chatter in town as to who men (and women) thought He was, He drilled down to the essential question for all of our lives:

“Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15 NCV)

The Bible tells us that Simon Peter immediately gave the correct answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16 NCV)

Later, another one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot, gave a different answer: “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” (Matthew 26:15 NIV)

Those two answers are polar opposites, and yet they represent the totality of possible answers:

“You are who you say you are” … or … “You aren’t.”

“I will follow you” … or  … “I won’t.”

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GOD’S WORD TELLS US that He gives life to those who believe in Him and follow Him, but that those who do not believe will not be rewarded with the abundance that God intended for everyone.

Here are just two examples, one each from the Old Testament and the New Testament:

“Today I ask heaven and earth to be witnesses. I am offering you life or death, blessings or curse. Now, choose life! Then you and you children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19 NCV)

“A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10 CSB)

Is there a greater shame in all of life than that many of God’s creatures — men and women fashioned in His image — willingly choose to have little or nothing to do with Him?

In Noah’s day, they were wicked and thought only of evil (Genesis 6:5).

In Jesus’ day, they called out to Roman authorities: “Crucify him!” (Luke 23:21)

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HAS ANYTHING CHANGED?69.Love_God

What about today?

Today, God’s people are called “bigots” for calling out sin among the populace.

No, that does not mean that all of God’s believers are without sin — only Jesus holds that honor — but God’s believers are called to turn from sinful ways and show their good works before men that men will give the glory to God (Matt. 5:16; Titus 2:7).

Remember the prophet Amos’s litany to the ancient Israel? He called out their sin and God’s response to their continued sin. You can read it in Amos, Chapter 4. God kept saying, “Yet you have not returned to me.”

As a people individually and collectively, we have failed to “return to [God]” with the obedience and humility to which we are called. If we do, the Lord has promised to hear that prayer:

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV)

For those who do not believe, there will be judgment (2 Thessalonians 2:12). For those who do believe, there will be life (Romans 8:1).

Our Lord said it this way in John 3:36 (NET):

“The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him.”


PRAYER

Father God, maker of heaven and earth, please hear our prayer of repentance. We need 44. Cross_on_Bibleyour love and grace to experience life with all the abundance You intended when You created us. Forgive us, O Lord, for our sinful ways, for our disobedience, for our unbelief. Turn our hearts toward You and toward life. We pray in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen


QUESTIONS:
  1. What does being “born again” mean to you? Does the Lord’s use of that phrase in John 3:3 mean something special to you? Does it sound different coming from Him than from someone else — a family member, neighbor, pastor or Bible teacher? Can you take Jesus’ statement at face value and believe Him when He says you must be “born again” to experience life?
  2. Do you believe you have turned from your sinful ways, the natural ways we tend to act because sin is in our hearts? Do you base you answer on your personal effort or are you dependent on the Holy Spirit living within you? Do you accept that your salvation is determined solely by God’s grace and not by your works?
  3. Do you see a difference between “head knowledge” and “true faith” when it comes to salvation? Do you understand that simply knowing that Jesus is Lord is not enough to be saved? Can you ask Him into your heart now?

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

 

 

Meditation–ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER

Earlier this week, we devoted this column to promoting other blog sites written by writers who promote a Christ-based, biblical message. Here is a summary of the other blog sites mentioned. As I continue to learn about more Christian writers, I would be honored to share them.

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?


“So let us try to do what makes peace and helps one another.” Romans 14:19 (NCV)

“But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.” Hebrews 3:13 (CSB)

“Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.” Philippians 2:3 (NET)


OUR GOD CONTINUES TO AMAZE US!

Earlier this week, this column was devoted to promoting other blog sites written by writers who promote a Christ-based, biblical message.

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Official Seal

To present 15 or so recommended sites required far more work than I had anticipated, but the reward for doing so also exceeded anything I could have imagined.

I have been thanking the Lord for giving me the opportunity to learn more about the wonderful work He is doing through other hands. As time goes on, I would like to continue to promote and encourage fellow bloggers who love the Lord and have answered His call.

Here is a summary version for quick reference of the websites presented in the original blog. You can find the original one here: (http://bit.ly/2Q8dB7j). Note below the corrected website link for “Focused and Free.” (Please attach no significance to the list order.)

  1. Heather Quiroz — who writes To Declare His Glory (heatherquiroz.com)
  2. Karl D. Rhoads — who writes Focused and Free (https://www.focusedandfree.net) – please note the correction from the weblink supplied in the article. Karl migrated his blog to a new platform.
  3. Karina Lam — who writes Karina’s Thought (https://karinasussanto.wordpress.com/)
  4. Dee at Sealed in Christ — The ministry name for this blog (https://sixthsealministries.wordpress.com/)
  5. John Eli-Garay — who writes a column of the same name (https://john-eli.com/)
  6. Jess Kidding, found at (jesskidding17.wordpress.com)
  7. Rip-Roar Get High on Life — He’s at (https://riproarghol.wordpress.com/)
  8. David Istre writes Bible Exposition (https://bibleexposition.blog)
  9. Ian Michael writes Jesus Our Deliverer (https://jesusourdeliverer.wordpress.com/)
  10. Elle, who writes Elle’s Everyday, (https://elleeverydaysite.wordpress.com)
  11. Liz, who writes Adventures in Grace (https://childofgrace10142001.wordpress.com)
  12. Ryan Callahan, who writes Ryan Callahan’s Blog, (https://authorryanc.com)

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SEVERAL WRITERS WHOSE BLOGS I wanted to showcase, but who are more established, are:

      1. Godly Chic Diaries – She is at https://gcdiaries.wordpress.com/
      2. Beauty Beyond Bones —She is at https://beautybeyondbones.com/
      3. David Fischer — He is at https://damarministries1991.wordpress.com
      4. Inmate Blogger — They are at https://inmateblogger.com

Since posting this recommendation, I received an e-mail giving a history of the inmates’ website. You can find the story of how Steven & Suzie Jennings established this website in 2013. In February 2014, they were married.

This explains the riddle for me: So many of the inmates thank “Suzie” for their opportunity to reach the outside world. You can read about the website here: https://inmateblogger.com/2018/11/01/a-brief-history-of-inmate-blogger-the-co-founders/.


PRAYER

68. Holy_Bible_CrossOur majestic Lord and Savior, the Creator and Sustainer of all life. To You goes all the praise, honor, and glory. You are an amazing God, filled with love and grace, justice and mercy. Thank You for claiming us for Your glory. Thank You for giving us eternity. In Jesus’ powerful name we lift this prayer. AMEN


 

Meditation — LIVING BY FAITH, NOT REASON

God’s promises to mankind are based on His good provision but require our acceptance. Why? Because He graciously gave us the gift of free will. That means we can accept — or reject — life. We cannot reason our way into salvation, where we take control, connect the dots, and conclude that salvation is possible and that we possess the means to attain it. It is a matter of faith, where we place our total confidence in the Lord to provide for our needs. Because we cannot attain salvation on our own, we also cannot lose it on our own. God keeps us for His glory.

Find blog posts at LoveAndGrace … tweets at Twitter.

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?

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 (CSB)

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NET)

WE COME TO GOD T56. Prayer-Partners-menHROUGH FAITH, NOT THROUGH REASON.

Our sinful natures and finite minds cannot combine to produce within us a saving power apart from the grace of God. It is His will that we may be reconciled to Him. It is not of our own doing, that we might boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

LET’S SEE HOW THIS WORKS.

A man (or woman, if you’re a woman) comes into your life and asks for some help. He (or she) is struggling with life and thinks you might be able to help. Why? Well, because you’re a bit older, more mature, more settled in your life, which is a good indicator that you may have experienced whatever it is that he (or she) is going through now and lived to tell about it.

So you set up shop, share a cup of coffee and a Danish, and sit back to listen to this person’s tales of woe.

You say: “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”

Other person says: “?”

He (or she) is stumped.

He (or she) mumbles something about going to church or having spent a couple of weeks one summer at church camp and, then 20 years ago, memorized a few verses before his (or her) grandmother got sick … and, basically, that’s it.

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NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY, you’re unable to get this person to acknowledge, beyond some lame comment, that he (or she) even has a need for such a personal relationship, assuming that such a thing actually exists.

72.Family_Bible_StudyThe Bible is clear that such a thing actually does exist and that we are ~commanded~ by God to seek it. He promises this: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” — Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV)

Yes, God draws us to Him first (John 6:44), but we have the privilege — and responsibility — to respond through faith (Ephesians 2:8).

Jesus said to store up for ourselves “treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20), not in this world, because our heavenly treasures are under God’s faithful keeping and will not be tarnished or broken or lost. They will be ours forever.

We then pray with our young charge and exhort him (or her) to begin praying to Jesus Christ to ask that He would intervene in their lives and show them where they have 15 minutes a day they weren’t aware of to spend in prayer and Bible reading. You say that if he (or she) is sincere in that prayer, Jesus will deliver.

You remind them of what the Bible says: “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).

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AS YOU PART FOR THE DAY and watch this child of God drift away, you raise a silent prayer on their behalf, asking God to give them eyes to see and ears to hear. You know that if he (or she) does not turn to the Heavenly Father, whatever difficulty they may be facing will not end well.

If, however, this person does turn to the Lord, then he (or she) can lay claim to God’s promises to be with them and protect them through the storms of life (John 10:10).


PRAYER

O LORD, our merciful and majestic Redeemer, our Creator and Sustainer,  our Savior, we 44. Cross_on_Biblethank You for the opportunities You give us to reach out to others when they are in need, when they come to us for help. Lord, may we always point them to You, to Your sustaining grace, to Your everlasting love, to Your merciful justice. We pray also, O Lord, that as they ask You in prayer for time in their day to spend personally and intimately with You, that You will shower them with time and desire and so change their lives. In Jesus’ powerful name we pray. AMEN


QUESTIONS:

1. Do you find it difficult, if not impossible, to find a regular time each day for prayer and Bible reading? Do you think it’s even necessary to spend time alone with God every day? Would you feel comfortable asking God to find the time for you, or do you think He’s way too busy with more important stuff?

2. Why do you think it might be a good idea to hear from God’s Word each day and enter into prayer with Him regularly? Do you believe He intervenes in human affairs and longs to intervene in your life?

3. Are you uncomfortable with the idea that our response to God’s gift of salvation is a matter of faith and not of reason? Do you see that faith means we’re placing all of the burden on God, whereas reason means we are the ones who have earned salvation?


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