God-Honoring Talk: How Are We Doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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OKAY, I’LL GO FIRST.

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

Nope.

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

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

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

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

I struggle with this sin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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HOW CAN WE EVER MANAGE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know I am going to try.

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

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

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

Then, I am going to watch my tongue.

How about you? Want to join me?

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

QUESTIONS:

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

God Says, “I Am With You”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOD IS WITH US.

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

He says He is with us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pride.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to these comforting words, spoken by Jesus Himself:

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

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

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

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

QUESTIONS:

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

Marriage: Are We ‘Too Busy’ For Our Spouses?

Marriage is the first institution created by God. Right after creating Adam and Eve and bringing Eve to Adam to be his partner, He told them that a man should leave his father and mother and join his wife in marriage so that the two of them would become as one. That relationship would be solidified with the addition of children. Yet too often the marriage relationship limps along with husband and wife failing to listen to the other one. Yes, each must work on communication skills, but the skill most lacking is the one of listening, taking in, understanding. Sometimes, it takes patience to spend a moment. Jesus modeled patient, listening behavior for us. 

 

So God created humans in his image. … He created them male and female.” (Genesis 1:27 GW)

“This explains why a man … is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” (Genesis 2:24 NLT)

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Comments welcomed. Let’s share what God says to His saints. Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion. Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?

LET’S SNOOP A BIT.

We’re going to drop in on the Johnsons, a young married couple with two children, a heavy mortgage, and very busy lives.

“Dave, can you help me with something?” Sally shouts from upstairs, exasperation in hercouplearguingshadow voice.

“I can’t now, honey,” he replies. “I’ve got to finish this project before noon, or my boss will kill me.”

A few days later, Dave is on the phone with a computer technician who says his network, which he thought was secure, has become corrupted by someone who has turned off his firewall, leaving him without protection.

To fix this emergency, he is told, will cost several hundred dollars.

“Sally,” he calls out from his home office. “Got a sec? We’ve got a problem with our network, and I think we’ll need to invest in getting it fixed. Can you come here?”

“Not now, Dave. I told you I have to prepare cookies for Jamie’s scout group and then we’re meeting Diane and her kids for lunch. Can we talk about it later?”

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WELL, THAT WAS ALL TOO COMMON. A busy couple, each caught up in doing his or her manwomanarguespecial projects — all valuable, all necessary — but neither one with enough patience to listen to what the other one is saying, to what the other one wants. Each one demanding some of the other’s time. Neither one actually communicating.

As a result, neither spouse gives his or her mate the support needed in the moment.

Over the years, this pattern becomes engrained so that no one talks about it or notices their own complicity. Yes, each one can recite examples of how the other was seemingly “too busy” to help out, but, when it comes to their own involvement, they can justify every time they failed to help out.

It usually starts with a failure to listen.

So, how does God see this interaction? Is this what He intended when He breathed life into the first man and woman and planted them in the Garden, telling them to have dominion over the earth and its animal and plant  kingdom, to have children together and raise them, and to be so close as an entity that they would become “one person,” instead of two?

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GOD CREATED HUMAN BEINGS in the beginning. He made us in His image, and He divided us into male and female, each equal in His eyes but with different traits and characteristics.

jesus_facepalmHe also created marriage and said that men and women should leave their parents and “cleave” to one another as one entity.

The spousal relationship of husband and wife is a unique human institution that closely mimics the Trinity of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: each person equal but with different characteristics.

By becoming one person, both the man and the woman as husband and wife were charged with listening to one another, to helping one another, and to complementing each other’s weaknesses with their own strengths.

They were not created to make demands on one another to satisfy their personal needs but to make pleasing the other their primary goal.

Scripture is clear on that in so many places, including this familiar passage directed specifically to marriage: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. … Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church.” (Ephesians 5:22, 25 ESV).

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A PASTOR RECENTLY SAID that he can tell whether a woman’s husband is leading her spiritually the way God intended just by looking at her face.

Is she happy? Does she radiate joy? Does she seem fulfilled? Or, instead, does she scowl a lot or look apprehensive or dejected?

70.Happy_WomanIn God’s calculus, a woman whose husband is obedient to the Lord by leading her spiritually, by being her head, will be a woman who feels safe and protected and, therefore, free to express herself, to open up her loving and vulnerable heart.

A woman whose husband is not obedient to the Lord, who uses his greater strength and loud voice to intimidate her and frighten her, will be more guarded, less sure of herself, and less willing to express her inner feminine side.

A key component of leading a woman the way God intended is for the man to understand and practice sacrificial love, the way Jesus sacrificed Himself to protect and nurture His great love, the church.

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THE IMAGE OF JESUS wrapping a towel around His waist to wash His disciples’ feet (John 13) is a very striking one. He told His disciples that no student is above His teacher (Matt. 10:24), so He expected us to carry on as He did. 

He was the perfect model of male headship; He modeled leadership … and sacrificial service; courageous boldness … and gentle caring. He worked hard, never complained, loved the people around Him, and stayed true to His mission.

When Paul says husbands are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave 70. Jesus_Washing_Discipleshimself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25 NIV), he is describing a sacrificial love that places the wife’s interests before his own.

That is why Paul can tell wives to “submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22 NIV). Once the husband is modeling Jesus’ behavior, any woman would submit to him as “to the Lord,” because the husband is acting biblically … and this allows the wife to respond biblically.

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SO, HOW DOES THIS relate to listening?

The basic intersect point between husband and wife is conversation.

Sometimes, that interaction is speaking words; sometimes it’s sharing tasks. Other times it’s making plans, handling emergencies, or serving others.

When one party or the other fails to listen to his/her mate, that intersect point becomes disconnected. The disconnect separates them from “being one,” as God planned, into separate individuals, each with separate needs, wants, interests, and goals.

That’s not how Christ interacts with His church, and it most certainly is not how the Christ, Holy Spirit, and Father interact in their perfect relationship in the Trinity.

“Honey, I’m sorry. What did you say?”

Not much, perhaps, but it’s a start.

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PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, so merciful and mighty, please forgive us for our prideful 68. Holy_Bible_Crossfailure to listen to our spouses, to give our wives the love and honor you’ve commanded us to, to give our husbands the respect and submission that are your plan. You have set the perfect example for marriage in the life of our Lord and Savior, who taught us of His love for His church, and the love that abounds within the Holy Trinity. Lord, help us to follow that model in our marriages, to Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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QUESTIONS:

1. Do you see a failure in your marriage (or other significant relationship) for each person to listen to the other one? If so, do you see that as a problem that should be resolved, or is it just in the nature of things to be endured?

2. How can you do a better job of listening to your husband/wife? Would you need to become more patient? Is that a trade-off you’re willing to make? Should your spouse become less demanding?

3. Regardless of how well you and your spouse communicate, do you see a role for Jesus Christ in your marriage? If you saw Jesus standing behind your spouse, reminding you that he/she is a “child of God,” would that alter your attitude and behavior?

Choosing Joy: Evening or Morning

From the Old Testament’s first books through the the New Testament’s last books, God shows His love for us by letting us choose if we will accept His grace as a free gift for our lives. He longs for us to accept that gift and even gave His Son’s life to pay the debt for our sin. Those who do not accept God’s teaching squander the richness of life that He offers for momentary thrills that so often — sometimes immediately and sometimes over time — cause so much pain. With man’s way, the end is grief. With God’s way, the end is life.

Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b GW)

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! (Psalm 126:5 ESV)

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

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

WE EXPRESS OUR DEEPEST EMOTIONS THROUGH SONGS AND POEMS.

Here is just one example of how God shows us the difference between His way and our way — it’s captured in the lyrics of these two songs:

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68.Woman_CryingMan’s View:

Maybe the sun’s light will be dim/

And it won’t matter anyhow.

If morning’s echo says we’ve sinned,

Well, it was what I wanted now.

Angel of the Morning

God’s View:

You stay the same through the ages/

Your love never changes/

There may be pain in the night/

But joy comes in the morning.

Your Love Never Fails

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THE STORYLINE IN BOTH SONGS is similar, with the twist coming at the end. In the song praising man’s view of life, the “joy” comes first, but it’s a false joy that leads, inevitably, to sorrow and hurting.

The song praising God’s view of life, however, shows that God’s nature is unchanging — He’s perfect and without blemish. He promises to guide us through the difficulties of life and grant us, in the end, eternity with Him. So, in His view, the joy is real, and it is the reward for faithfulness, and it comes at the end.

Both songs can be applied toward a well-deserved weekend. After five days of commuting, dealing with the difficulties of anyone’s line of work (check out God’s comments in Genesis 3 as to why that is so), and the mounting stress of financial concerns, personal interactions, and possibly fear of drifting through life, here comes the weekend!

68.Woman_Praising_GodFriday evening, and we’re energized to “party” with a capital “P” and just have some fun, maybe get drunk or high, definitely drive our cars fast, and, yes, find some willing gal or guy to “hook up” with.

All of that “fun” will just blot out the hardships of real life and give us some thrills.

The next morning, though, we might fight a headache, could face a painful breakup with a girlfriend/boyfriend, deal with a serious dent in the new car, and wonder what went wrong.

Next weekend comes, and we’re back at it again. In man’s view of life, we never learn.

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WHAT WOULD THE WEEKEND in God’s view look like?

God rested the seventh day during creation, so He urges us to take some rest, too. Since
He created us, He knows we need to pace ourselves. In the Old Testament, He created the Sabbath for the Israelites to worship Him every seven days.

For the New Testament church, that rest, or sabbath, could be any day, but we know we should find time to step away from our tasks and to-do lists.

We would want to worship Him, of course, so there would be church service, with a wonderful opportunity to sing His praises, hear a message based on Scripture, and enjoy fellowship with other believers.68. Nursery

The weekend would not just focus on our worship, though. There should be an opportunity or two for service projects.

For some people  during a particularly hectic time of life, that service could be confined to helping out at church — parking lot ministry, or volunteering in the nursery, or being part of the collection team that passes the plate — are just some examples.

As our schedules ease up, maybe we find more time to volunteer in a homeless shelter or distributing canned food to those in need.

Instead of a headache, guilt feelings, and a dented car, we’re more likely to feel energized, especially if we felt the Lord’s nudge to serve His Kingdom in some capacity.

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SO WHAT IS OUR LESSON from all of this?

God does not promise us a carefree, stress-free life — not after we rebelled  against Him in the Garden of Eden — but He does promise to help us through the pain of life, if we let Him.

Unfortunately for us, most people are still rebelling against Him. They want to “do” life on their terms, ignoring the rules and guidelines put in place by their Creator.

In a world of sin, an offer to spend a Friday night with our peers, mixed with plenty of alcohol and a zest for adventure beats out a weekend of Bible study, soup kitchens, and prayerful meditation.

But once we let God into our hearts — we confess our sins to Him and acknowledge our need for Him — that calculus changes.

The script is flipped.

68.Circle_Against_DrinksThe booze party with a roomful of strangers, all acting weirdly, no longer sounds attractive. We start to see the party with a big circle around it and a diagonal line drawn through it.

Instead, we find real joy — authentic joy — in helping a poorly dressed stranger to a hot meal or to help a young child learn a Bible story or just raise our arms in praise during a worship song.

The fellowship of saints begins to look more inviting than the fellowship of drunks.

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OF COURSE, THERE IS ONE MORE scenario to work through. That’s the one where the weekend is neither the hipster party nor the worship service, but just a suburban family of 4 or 5, with a small dog and a minivan and soccer games and barbecues and friendly neighbors.

Jesus pointed out the rebellion here, as well. It’s the story recorded in Mark 10:17-25, where the rich young man who bragged to our Lord that he had obeyed all of God’s laws since his youth yet wondered what more, if anything, he should do to merit eternal life.

When Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give the money away and come join Him, the man chose, instead, to hang onto his possessions, regardless of the eternal consequences.

Don’t be fooled. The Bible clearly tells us that the only way to God’s Paradise is through Jesus Christ. (Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” — John 14:6, NKJV)

Those weekends with the drunken friends are soon outgrown, but how sad when people substitute for them the pleasant day at the beach or gathering of family — without any invitation to accept the outstretched hand of their Savior.

No matter how pleasant it may look on the outside, man’s view is always hollow on the inside.

God’s view is solid inside … and it lasts forever.

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PRAYER: O LORD GOD, how it must pain You to watch Your Creation  rebel so often and 68. Holy_Bible_Crossso thoroughly against You. Yes, You created us in Your image, yet we constantly push You away in favor of our walk, our own values, our own joy. Lord, would You please come into our hearts and transform them in hearts that hunger for Your love and Your way. In Jesus’ name. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. Do you find Jesus’ invitation to come to Him as the only way of salvation too limiting and not quite right, that maybe there’s more than one way to get to Paradise?
  2. Do you chaff when confronted with the possibility that your choices in life are not good ones for you or even more so that the Creator has a plan for your life and you might not be following it?
  3. Having read this meditation, are you more willing to consider that God’s view of our lives can be more rewarding than our own view is … in no small part because He made us?

Doctrine Vs. Unity: A False Choice?

The evangelical brand of Christianity is splitting, perhaps beyond repair, into rival camps. While the fabric was being torn for decades, the rip is more noticeable as a large voting bloc supported the presidential election of Donald Trump over rival candidates. Only Trump selected an evangelical running mate and promised to support policies the bloc supports. Other candidates actively opposed those policies. Recently, the anti-Trump evangelicals held a conference bemoaning their minority status. Where does this brand of Christianity go … and will there be a healing balm?

“But as for you, speak the things that are consistent with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1 BSB)

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:22 NLT)

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

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

ARE CHRISTIANS TODAY TO CHOOSE between sound doctrine or a unified church?

Is that a real question or is it a false choice? Can we have both? Have we ever had either?

Where do you stand?

67.Conference_LectureRecently, some 50 evangelical leaders gathered at Wheaton College in Illinois to discuss the fate of the evangelical religious movement.

The impetus for the meeting, according to organizers quoted in various media accounts, was to assess the spiritual health of the evangelical community after the 2016 election of Donald Trump as president, especially in light of polling that shows 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for him.

(The definition of “evangelical” was not mentioned in most media accounts, but generally it encompasses four basic beliefs: inerrancy of the Holy Bible, Jesus’ redeeming work on the Cross, salvation through a personal relationship with Jesus, and a call to evangelize.

(Also, there is an apparent discrepancy in the poll survey in which news organizations that commissioned the poll were more interested in the subset of “white evangelical” than in “non-white evangelical.” Finally, the term “evangelical” was not defined in the survey.)

Therefore, 20 percent of white evangelicals did not vote for Trump. Of that number, some voted for one of his opponents, while others declined to vote at all.

Conference organizers — let’s call them “the 20 percenters” — expressed dismay and frustration with the vast majority of their fellow believers — let’s call them “the 80 percenters” — who voted for Trump.

They drew the conclusion that the 80 percenters were destroying the brand, that evangelicalism had reached a “crisis,” and that something must be done to restore its tarnished image.

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ATTENDANCE WAS INVITATION-ONLY. So if your name wasn’t on the invite list, the organizers did not want to hear from you. 

67.SocialMedia_globeProminent names that were not invited included Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress, both supporters of the Trump presidency, although not necessarily of the man. Their writings and public utterances have been supportive of Trump’s policies when they line up with traditional evangelical values.

Prominent names that were invited included New York City megachurch pastors Tim Keller and A.R. Bernard. At one point in the proceedings, Keller characterized the divide among evangelicals this way: “We are being driven apart because there’s now a Red and a Blue evangelicalism,” thus imitating the political divide within the secular world.

What, then, about the 20 percenters? What values does their testimony support, especially since the winning candidate not only selected an evangelical running mate but not one other presidential candidate even sought the evangelical vote or promised to meet the voting bloc’s social policy goals.

Evangelicals have been strong supporters of religious liberty, marriage between one man and one woman for life, sanctity of life from pre-born through physical death, and support for Israel’s right to exist, among other concerns, but how do the 20 percenters defend their vote for another  candidate either lukewarm toward those values or outright opposed to them?67.MyWay_MyWay

Not said.

It didn’t come up.

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WHAT IS THE STATE TODAY of the body of Christ? As of now, more than one month since the two-day conference ended, no “statement” has emerged summarizing its findings, leaving the public without a sense of how conference organizers would respond.

Members of the president’s faith advisory council noted that the conferees held more “progressive” views on social issues than does the president and his evangelical supporters.

Some evangelical organizations, such as Focus on the Family, are dialing back their political involvement, believing it can interfere with the Gospel message they want to promote, while other groups are ramping up their efforts to preach the Bible to a world in darkness.

But those nagging questions just won’t go away: Should Christians — in particular, evangelicals — promote the values they believe God has laid out in the Holy Bible regardless of secular world pushback … and now pushback from within the body of Christ?

How does the secular world, eager to discredit God’s Word, view the apparent split within the evangelical community?

You know those complaints:

  • 55.Holy-Spirit-Descends-BibleYou claim to love the sinner but not the sin, but do you really love the sinner?
  • Can words written 2,000 to 3,000 years ago really be valid universally for all time?
  • How can you claim to know the ultimate truth? Who made you the arbiter of what’s right and wrong?

Should the evangelical movement split into rival factions, each representing its version of truth, or should the various factions find a unifying message to heal those divisions?

Belief over unity? Unity over doctrine? Engage in the world; retreat from it?

Are evangelicals becoming the religious-based arm of the secular fight between “conservatives” and “progressives,” between Republicans and Democrats?

For those of us who believe the Holy Word of God is the Almighty’s love letter to us, that He is perfect and unchanging, our conviction rests in His eternal truths. We believe that He has told us clearly what He expects of us, and the expected criticisms from non-believers lack impact.

Fair enough, but now it’s reached a new level: much of the invective comes from within the body of Christ.

Witness the meeting at Wheaton College.

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THERE ARE TWO SIDES to this story, as there are to so many stories.

Those who organized the conference downplayed any anti-Trump messaging, 67.Agree-Disagreeemphasizing the discussions, the prayers, and the “painful conversations” that took place, according to one religion writer for a secular newspaper.

Yet those “painful conversations” were how the evangelical movement  could continue
unstained when 80 percent of their fellow believers voted for  a candidate they all conceded was flawed morally, but who was the only candidate who pledged to honor biblical values in his policies.

On the other hand, news reports showed that several attendees left the conference when it became clear to them the proceeding was not just to express dismay with the election results but, more alarmingly, a roasting of the 80 percenters who voted for him.

Those defectors said the conference by its very nature was political and was not an attempt to unify the faithful.

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AS THE SUMMIT ENDED, one of its the organizers reportedly said that in future meetings, evangelical leaders will “fan out in all kinds of directions,” as Christians recognize diversity within their movement.

However, the non-invited Franklin Graham said on FaceBook that he is “not interested in fanning out in all kinds of directions” but wants to focus on one direction only: “reaching lost souls” and “calling people to cross the line from death to life, in Him [Jesus Christ].”

He further said the word “evangelical” should not be used in a secular political context but only in promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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67.Jesus_Welcomes_All

WHERE ARE WE NOW?

Apparently, there is a deep split within the evangelical body of Christ, just as there are fissures growing within Christendom’s denominations. Each faction claims to be following Jesus Christ while questioning the faith commitment of the other side.

The Bible tells us what to expect in the future … and it isn’t pretty.

Listen to the apostle Paul counsel his young friend, Timothy:

You may as well know this too, Timothy, that in the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian.  (2 Timothy 3:1 TLB)

Yes, and those who decide to please Christ Jesus by living godly lives will suffer at the hands of those who hate him. In fact, evil men and false teachers will become worse and worse, deceiving many, they themselves having been deceived by Satan.  (2 Timothy 3:12-13 TLB)

Is everyone in the evangelical community looking to the Bible for guidance … is only one side … if so, which one?

Paul, again:

For there is going to come a time when people won’t listen to the truth but will go around looking for teachers who will tell them just what they want to hear. They won’t listen to what the Bible says but will blithely follow their own misguided ideas. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 TLB)

Are those 20 percenters — the ones who supported a candidate opposed to biblical values, as well as those who declined to vote — are they substituting their own values for the ones laid down in Scripture?

The prophet Isaiah:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20 NASB)

God warned us through Paul what He will do if we disobey Him:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:28 ESV)

Whether the evangelical movement is irrevocably split or can reconcile in Christian unity may be less important than where we are in our individual walks with Christ.

In the end, He will call us to account for our words and deeds, not hold us responsible for the larger church movement.

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PRAYER: O merciful and mighty Father God, our hearts break for the failure of our witness. You called us to be light to a fallen world so that men  and women would see our 44. Cross_on_Biblegood works and give You the glory, but we’re stumbling about in the dark ourselves. Lord, speak into our hearts with Your words of wisdom. Forgive us our pride and self-importance and recast our gaze to the road You light for us, to that straightened path You’’ll make for us, through the narrow gate You told us to find. Lord, you’ve given us a choice: help us choose life. In Jesus name. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. Do you see doctrinal splits within the various Christian denominations (Catholic and Protestant) and even within the ranks of evangelicalism? Do they matter to you? Does this matter to you, or do you toss it off as “inside baseball,” just the stuff for the full-time paid Christians? Has this event stayed under your radar?
  2. What effect do you think conferences and forums, such as the one held at Wheaton College, have on the body of Christ and its internal connections? What effect do you think they have on the external world when their deliberations are covered extensively by secular media?
  3. Do you think discussions about the divisions within Christendom (whether among evangelicals or within denominations) weakens our fellowship? Do you believe the body of Christ should refrain from such discussions and focus solely on the spiritual matters that bring us together?
  4. Jesus Christ prayed for unity in His church. He also said His mission was to proclaim the Truth. Has His church remained unified, and does it proclaim the Truth? If you could pick one quality or the other — “unity” or “truth” — which would you value more? Why? Can you understand why your neighbor might disagree with you?

Resisting the Father of Lies

With so many lies in the world, how can we ever know what is Truth, or if there even is truth? Jesus Christ assured us that He is the Truth, that He tells the truth, that we can believe Him. He backed up His comments through miracles of healing, making it clear that no one could do what He did because no one else was God. His most dramatic Truth was predicting the manner and timing of His crucifixion and resurrection from the dead, and then His rising from the dead to live forever. We can believe Him; we can rest our salvation on His truth.

“This is why I was born and came into the world: to tell people the truth.” (John 18:37 NCV)

You belong to your father, the devil. … When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44 NIV)

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” (James 4:7b-8a NLT)

Find blog posts at LoveAndGracetweets at Twitter.

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

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

THERE ARE SO MANY LIES IN THE WORLD TODAY.

They come at us from all angles, from people who think we should trust and from people we hardly know, from people in authority and from people close to us.

Sometimes, they mean to lie, knowing full well they mean to deceive; other times, they 66.Web_Of_Liesbelieve the lies they’re telling and so deceive  themselves along with us.

Sometimes, those lies hurt; other times, they can be dismissed.

But with all of those lies, how can we ever know the truth? Do we even believe there is a truth? Or is everything we believe “relevant,” acknowledged only in relation to something else?

For those who have come to hear the voice of Jesus Christ and to accept Him into their hearts as their personal Lord and Savior, there is comfort from the world’s lies.

Jesus is Truth. We can believe in Him.

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THE BIBLE TESTIFIES to the Truth.

Jesus told His accusers that it was to “bear witness to the truth” that He came into the world. (John 18:37) He assured His disciples and believers down the ages that the Father’s “words are truth.” (John 17:17) He announced that He, Himself, is the “way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)

He prefaced His promises with promises of truth: “Verily, I say unto thee,” or “Truly, I tell you,” depending on the English translation. While the words differ among translations, the message is the same: “Listen to Me. I am telling you the Truth. You can, and should, believe Me.”

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THERE IS A SECOND WAY Jesus tell us the truth: He show us.

66.Jesus_Changes_EverythingTelling is one thing: it points to the way. Showing demonstrates the truth of the promise.

Jesus shows us the Truth by changing our lives.

The Bible is clear that when we accept Jesus’ call to forgive our sins and captain our souls, He sends the Holy Spirit to begin a complete makeover. The Spirit will convict us of sin, show us with increased clarity the truthfulness of Jesus’ claims, and strengthen us to withstand opposition.

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THE TESTIMONY OF CHANGED LIVES is the greatest tribute to the truthfulness of God’s Word.

There is no need for argument or debate, no quibbling over doctrinal disputes, no questioning the point of it all. Changed lives leads to a personal testimony that leads to sharing the Gospel (or the Good News) with the rest of the world.

Jesus urged us to let our light shine brightly in this darkened world so that men would see our *good works* and, recognizing the change in our lives, give the glory to the Heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:16)

Our commission is to live the Gospel daily in every situation, praying constantly, and letting the Holy Spirit bring His fruit to bear in our lives. That  fruit is described as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

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66. God-never-made-a-promise-that-was-too-good-to-be-trueSO, WHAT IS HAPPENING IN YOUR WORLD?

Are you finding it easy or difficult to believe in the miracle of life that God offers us through Jesus Christ? Does it seem *too good to be true*? Does it seem to be a *fanciful tale* or a *crutch for the weak*?

Are you so ready to close your mind to the possibility that He is, actually, who He says He is? That He is God. Are you so ready to close your mind to the life-changing transformations you may have seen in someone close to you — possibly a family member, maybe a friend or a neighbor or even a co-worker?

Are you so ready to ignore His offer to give you rest from your labors, to offer a salve for your troubles, to give you answers to those questions that torment you?

Jesus is the answer to the “whys” of life, even when we cannot understand them in this life, at this time. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9), so, of course, we no more can understand everything He does than a hamster can understand what we do.

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WHEN THE LIES OF THE WORLD envelope you, and you start to question and doubt and wonder and take that short road to total disbelief, could you hold on a moment and take stock of what’s really going on in your life? 

Jesus told us that those who disbelieve Him are sons (and daughters) of the devil, that 66.Mean_kidsSatan is real, and Satan is the *father of lies.* He is the “great deceiver.” His sole purpose is to take you from God’s embrace and throw you into the garbage.

He does not want you as Jesus wants you; he just doesn’t want Jesus to have you. Satan is like the mean kid who will upturn your lunchbox just to see your sandwich fall to the ground; he doesn’t actually want to eat lunch with you.

Jesus, on the other hand, will help you pick up your sandwich and give you a new one that tastes much better than the old one … and, if you’ll let Him, He’ll sit at lunch with you.

He’ll be your friend.

So, there’s your choice. Believe Satan and live a life filled with lies or believe Jesus and share in the Truth.

Jesus said it is the “truth” that will “set you free.”

Pretty easy choice.

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PRAYER: Our Father, our gracious and loving Father, we bless You and  praise You for Your 44. Cross_on_Biblefaithfulness, for Your loving kindness, for Your mercy. We thank You for showing us that Jesus is the Truth, while Satan, the enemy, is a lier and a deceiver. There is no truth in him. Remove the scales from our eyes and those You have asked us to pray for that we may see the lies for what they are and the Truth that is waiting for us to grasp. In Jesus’ loving name we pray. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. What, if anything, holds you back from accepting the call of Jesus to let Him into your life? Are you afraid He’ll want you to give up something dear to you? Is it your alcohol or drug abuse? your temper? your love for money? your prideful arrogance? your affair with a co-worker?
  2. How can this meditation help you make a decision for Jesus Christ? Would you like prayer? Can you use the comments section to ask for prayer from the editor and other readers?
  3. What issues are you struggling with that you would prayerfully ask this meditation to address?

Acting by God’s Mighty Spirit

God gave us bold hearts to be His witnesses, both by how we act and how we speak. Of course, all of this is predicated on what we think and feel — those internal discussions eventually pop out in words and deeds. Either they glorify the Son or they dishonor Him. Let’s pray that God will change our hearts from stone to flesh and give us the encouragement to share our “good works” in His name, for His glory, with a world in need of redemption.

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7 NASB)

I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13 GW)

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NKJV)

Find blog posts at LoveAndGracetweets at Twitter.

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

Join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion.

HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER THIS QUESTION?

As a born-again Christian, what gives you the greatest pleasure this side of Glory?

Is it praying to the Creator of the universe, knowing He hears your prayers through the shed blood of His Son?

64. Journal WritingIs it reading the Holy Bible, the inspired word from God’s own lips to encourage you through the valley of life until you reach Paradise? Is it gathering with other believers in fellowship or in worship, sometimes joining forces in service to the wider community, sometimes raising voices in praise, sometimes holding hands as prayers are offered?

Here’s my thought: It’s knowing that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for as long as we are given life, we are called by our Lord to witness to His saving grace. 

That means we are “walking with Christ” not just during worship but also when pumping gasoline into our cars; it’s not just when we’re engaged in a community service project or mission trip to a foreign country but also when we’re standing in line at the grocery store.

It’s not just when we’re engaged in knees-on-the-floor heartfelt prayer to our Savior but also when we’re playing golf or tennis with our friends and neighbors.

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WHAT’S SO AMAZING is that Jesus calls us to a life of service. He wants us to proclaim the Good News to those He places in our lives. Some of them are close family members, but others are co-workers, neighbors, friends … and even total strangers we meet as we go about the daily grind.

Are we smiling? Are we helpful when someone needs a hand? Do we offer encouragement when someone is hurting? Do we step in without expecting help in 65.Woman_Carrying_Groceriesreturn? Are we willing to give without expecting acknowledgement or thanks?

What about our speech? Is it course and offensive? Does it ridicule or insult someone? Does it make someone uncomfortable to hear us? What about those “jokes” that require someone (person or group) other than ourselves to be the punchline?

Then, our Lord told us that it is not only what we say and what we do that counts in His book. No, for Him, it includes our thoughts. What evil has been rattling around in our heads, just waiting for an opportunity to mature into a nasty comment or unfortunate act?

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JESUS HAS PREPARED US for those trials and tribulations that mark our walk with Him. He has stiffened our spine, given us resolve, strengthened our nerve so that we will not shrink from extending a hand or word of grace.

Of course it can be daunting when facing a situation where we feel called upon to witness with our words. It’s often tough enough to give of our time for an act of service or share our treasure to help finance a worthy venture.

65.Hidden_ThoughtsBut what about those moments when we need to share with someone an account “for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV), and we wonder as we begin to speak just how they will receive our answer … and what they will think of us?

Some of us handle those moments with greater skill and grace than do others, and prayer and practice certainly lead to a better experience, but isn’t it comforting to know that Jesus, who has commanded us to share His Word with the world, has equipped us already not with a timid spirit but with a spirit “of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7 NASB)?

He’s given us the basic tools we need. He has made our job easier.

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EASIER BUT NOT EASY.

Nothing is easy in our walk with Jesus Christ. We will be assailed by a  hostile world. We will be tripped up by someone eager to see us fall.

Okay, so we know that, but the Bible tells us that those who persevere to the end will receive eternal glory (Matt. 24:13) and that our present suffering (or even those awkward moments) cannot compare with the glory that awaits us in God’s Paradise (Rom. 8:18).

65.Bold_Heart

It’s not at all close to an even exchange.

So, what’s holding us back? Let’s “pray up” and go boldly, letting our light shine in a darkened world, that others may see our good works and give the glory to our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).

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PRAYER: Our merciful and mighty Father, give us boldness to proclaim Your love and mercy to a world lost in darkness and sin. Give us hearts, O LORD, that live for You and honor You in our speech, actions, and thoughts. Through Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. Do you feel a sense of dread and helplessness when you sense a moment coming when you might be called upon to offer a word of encouragement from the Lord, to share part of your testimony, to tell someone the life changing impact the Holy Spirit has had on your life?
  2. Do you feel in those moments you could just take a breath, pray to the Lord quickly and silently to give you the words, and then trust that He will?
  3. In those moments, are you — be truthful now — more apprehensive of what your companion (friend, family member, neighbor, co-worker) might say about you than you are what Jesus Christ might think? Are you aware that in Luke 9:26, He said He will be ashamed before His Father of those who were ashamed of Him on earth? Does that change your response?