Meditation–CRISIS IN AMERICAN CHURCHES

God’s church in America is in crisis. Various Protestant denominations have splintered over doctrinal issues, while the Roman church faces increased scrutiny and legal challenges resulting from failure to protect congregants from unfaithful clergy. What does this mean for us as faithful members? Who is to blame? All of us? Whose responsibility is it to work through the mess, ours or just the paid leaders? What do non-believers see when they see the church in disarray? Let’s take a quick look at what’s happening within one church — the United Methodist Church — as it struggles to minister to its membership about the homosexual community in light of the Bible’s teaching.

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“Men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” John 3:19 (NASB)

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. … They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” — 2 Timothy 4:3a, 4 NIV)


THE AMERICAN CHURCH IS IN CRISIS TODAY.

J.Meditation.ChurchInCrisisThis is not the first time, and the Bible tells us it won’t be the last, but this is now, and whatever happens, it will be our legacy — the legacy of those of us who are alive now.

Just check the headlines of our national media, and you’ll see scandals in the Roman church, fractious debate among Methodists, soul-searching within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Look back a short while, and you’ll see divisions within the Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Episcopal churches.

While the specific issues differ within each denomination, the core issues are similar: in some way, they revolve around sex and gender, human relationships, faithfulness, and expected gender roles. (A quick Google search will pick up relevant articles in addition to the above links.)

The issues can be specified further with pinpoint accuracy: the result of man’s sin nature and constant rebellion against God.

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THE PRESBYTERIANS, Lutherans, and Episcopalians have drifted from the headlines for the time being, while the Roman Catholic Church and United Methodist Church have filled the gap.

The Roman church is paying a heavy price for its institutional failure to confront sexual abuse of children — boys and girls, but mostly boys — and of women, called to serve alongside ordained priests. Legal battles and court settlements will burden the institution for years to come, but the greater damage will be its tainted witness to a world in need of answers.

Right now, I want to focus on division within the Methodist church.

The Methodist church is exposing its inner divisions to the world at large over the issue of homosexuality — both its active practice among congregants and the calling of active homosexuals to the clergy and  bishops.

views2As an international body, the Methodist church is split further between the more liberal church in America, which teaches tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality, and the more traditional branch in Central Europe and especially in Africa, which strives to follow the Bible’s authority.

A recent vote by delegates to the General Conference exposed the rift as Americans largely voted to adopt a more inclusive church discipline, while the Africans voted to stay with a stricter interpretation of Scripture.

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THAT DECISION did not sit well with many American Methodists, some two-thirds of whom preferred a less restrictive plan that would have permitted each congregation, and its pastor, to determine its acceptance or rejection of homosexual clergy and members.

Unfortunately, the public dialogue from disaffected Methodists has served only to exacerbate the division.

Most of the commentary has been to lament those who want to maintain Biblical purity as being “intolerant” or “judgmental,” as people who claim a “moral superiority” and “smug rightness of viewpoint” and who, of course, are “legalistic.”

Words matter, and the terms we use frame the debate. While the reformers term the debate between “traditionalists” and “grace-filled,” the debate might better be termed as between the “faithful” and the “revisionists.”

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AT THE HEART of the Methodists’ quandary is the role of Holy Writ; specifically,  whether the Bible is the inerrant and infallible word of God or whether it is merely inspired text written by men, who were flawed (as we all are) and wrote against a 64. Church_Doctrinehistorical and geographic backdrop far different from our own.

The distinction, then, is whether the 21st century American believer should read God’s Word as being eternal and universal because God is perfect and never changes, or if the Bible should be read in some “holistic” manner, in which the reader inhales the overall “sense” of the Bible and then fills in the details according to the current culture’s understanding.

The rift is huge, and the debate rages on. We are left to wonder how much prayer goes into the argument, especially among those who declare that “God didn’t write the Bible.” We can rest assured that those who quote Scripture telling us God did write the Bible are on their knees in prayer for direction.

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WHERE DOES THIS GO?

Jesus established His church to proclaim His message to the world and to provide love and support for those drawn to it. He vowed that “all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18 NLT). He said His church will prevail.

In the end, Jesus wins.

But what does it do for a weary, broken world now, when those who claim to love their Lord and have access to His Holy Word are so unfaithful in the conduct not just in their personal lives but in their witness through the various church bodies?

While we are all “treated” to the current discord within the Methodist and Baptist churches, and difficult legal issues confronting the Roman church, let’s not forget the Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Episcopal churches, whose divisions continue to simmer.

We need a heart change.

Forgive us, Lord Jesus.


PRAYER

O FATHER GOD, we have fouled up Your church so badly. We have  scandals in one J9. OPEN BIBLE w IMAGEbody, discord in another. We fight over important matters with members who don’t hold to the Bible’s eternal and universal truths, and we quarrel with others about trivial items that have no impact on our witness. Lord, You told us Your church will prevail, despite our arrogance, greed, and pride. Lord, we ask You to forgive us as we lay down our sins at the foot of the Cross. Lord, we repent of our selfishness. Lord, forgive us and supernaturally make Your church a strong voice for Truth. In the mighty name of Jesus, we pray. Amen


Questions for Personal Meditation and Group Discussion:

1. How impacted are you personally by the rancor, faithlessness, and discord within the various church denominations specifically and across the board in Christendom? Does the issue affect your worship experience or is it, for you, just a matter for church leaders to handle?

2. To what do you attribute the divisions that exist within the various denominations? Do you believe in any way you have contributed to the problem, and do you believe you can make a difference to bring healing?

3. Have you (or your family) switched church denominations or congregations within a denomination within the last 10 years as a result of divisions within your church? Have you (or your family) prayed for church healing? Where do you see the various church denominations going over the next generation?

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

Meditation–GOD CALLS US TO WITNESS

As believers in the Word of God, we are called by Him to witness for Him in the way we conduct ourselves and how we speak. There is no wiggle room, nor should we look for any. Instead, we should pray for opportunities to witness, praise God when they come, and then speak in gentleness and love. Before speaking, however, we are called to live lives that glorify God. Why? Because our testimony is hallow if our lives are no different from the world’s and because our witness is faithful only if we are transformed–truly converted. The Holy Spirit will change the way we live and give us the words to say. Hallelujah!

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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?


“Abraham was only one man when I called him. But when I blessed him, he became a great nation.” Isaiah 51:2b (NLT)


IN MY NEW LIFE as a born-again Christian, one of the loneliest moments I feel is when I sense an opportunity to witness verbally for the Lord. No, I’m not proud of that, because I long for and pray for those opportunities.Men Sharing Gospel

The problem is, I often feel totally inadequate.

I am never certain of whether the moment actually is the right time, or if the person before me is a willing recipient.

I don’t know if I’ll sound like a self-righteous Bible-spouter filled with judgment and condemnation … 

Or — and this is my hope — I’ll sound like the committed believer I really am, eager to share the Good News of my salvation and to extend an invitation to the other person.

In other words, in my mind, it’s all about me! Of course, I realize that’s not what the Bible teaches us. Jesus reminds us to “abide” in Him and He promises to “abide” or “remain” in us (John 15:4-7).

We are given assurance throughout Scripture of God’s faithfulness. The Bible tells us, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” — Psalm 37:5 (CSB)

Still, I know that, in that moment, all the other person will see is me standing or sitting in front of him or her while I feel very much like the weight of their eternity rests on my shoulders.

It does not, and I know it does not, but I still feel it does.

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GOD IS FAITHFUL despite my inadequacies. If there is any failure to communicate the message of salvation, that fault rests with me. God has given me the gift of speech, the knowledge of Scripture, the heart to share, and I have prayed fervently for this opportunity.

Why then am I struck dumb with fear?

If I could write the script, I would place the encounter within a congenial conversation, with both of us sitting and sharing our observations of life.Woman Sharing With Woman

Then, the conversation naturally would lend itself to giving a personal testimony. I don’t shrink from that situation, nor do I shrink from those  conversations were the other person either asks me about my faith or even chides me about my faith.

Where I am fearful is when there is no obvious entry point to the conversation, when we’re rushing to go about our day, or when there is a palpable discomfort between the other person and me.

Is this the right moment? Perhaps so, perhaps not.

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IF THE SITUATION involves a family member, then I am in greater anguish because I feel a greater responsibility, even though I know that if my listener rejects me or my message of hope, he or she actually is not rejecting me but really is rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 10:16).

Our Lord instructs us as parents to teach His ways to our children (Deuteronomy 11:19), so my failure to teach my daughters about the Lord when they were young weighs heavily on me, especially when I contemplate their eternal fate, if they don’t accept God’s offer of salvation.

Our Lord says the world’s sin is that it has rejected Him (John 16:9; Jeremiah 2:13), but Paul reminds us that they cannot accept what they have not been taught (Romans 10:14).

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IN THE END, I need to trust in the Lord and His faithfulness, knowing that His love for my children and family members, my friends and neighbors, my co-workers and even total strangers who come into my life for a moment or two far outweighs the love I ever could have for them.

At the right time, He will tug at their heart, and then they will decide whether to accept the blessings He offers or continue to stumble in darkness (Rev. 3:20; John 6:44).

My job is to remain faithful to my Lord’s promptings, knowing that He remains with me forever (Matthew 28:19-20).


PRAYER

50. Open_BibleO Lord, merciful and mighty, come into our hearts in a big way, overwhelming us with love, forgiveness, grace, and compassion, so that we might share those blessings with all You call us to serve. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen


Questions for Personal Meditation and Discussion:

1. How do you feel when you are in conversation with someone and you sense God is giving you an opportunity to witness for your faith? Do you feel energized (you should!) or fearful (understandable). Afterward, how do you assess your obedience? Did you witness or let the opportunity pass?

2. Does God’s calling on your life seem real to you? Can you take in the idea that God calls you as a believer to minister to others, that it’s not just the job of professional church staff, missionaries, and those “specially called” but that He loves to use the simple, the humble, and the contrite of heart?

3. Can you imagine the thrill of meeting someone in Heaven who is there because you’ve lived your life as a model of grace and compassion or because you offered encouragement from the Lord that led them to conviction? Can you meditate on how amazing that would be?

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

Meditation–TRUSTING OUR GOD

Sometimes it’s difficult for us to let go and accept — in faith — that this is God’s universe, not ours, and that He is in control, and we are not. That’s true not just for the big things but for the little things, as well. Just as the Father knows when a sparrow falls (Matthew 10:29), so He is involved in the intricate inner workings of our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). The Lord wants our obedience (1 Samuel 15:22) over worship, which means He requires our faith and acceptance of Him (Hebrews 11:6). In return, the Lord promises us life (John 10:10, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28).


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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?


“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.”  Psalm 139:1-3 (NKJV)

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”Isaiah 40:28 (ESV)


THAT AMAZINGLY PROLIFIC AUTHOR, Anonymous, penned these words, and they are so true:

“God knows the future, you don’t. So stop worrying and make wise decisions based on His Word and trust Him with the results!”

J28.Trusting Our GodMost of us want some control over our lives. Some of us go so far as to be called “control freaks,” meaning we strive for absolute control over the events around us, people’s actions, and even the outcomes.

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GOD TELLS US THROUGH His Holy Word that this is His universe (the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind” — Daniel 5:21 ESV); He has sovereign rights over it; and we are not in control.

Jesus tells us, Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” (Luke 12:25 NIV). The Lord’s half-brother, James, warns us against self-confidence. How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (James 4:14 NLT)

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INSTEAD OF TRYING to claim God’s glory, we need to let the power of God’s Holy Spirit work through us. Jesus assures us that we should “abide” in Him and He will “abide” in us, “for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NASB)

When we place our faith and trust in Almighty God, we’ll find He can exceed our every expectation, “above and beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20 CSB).

J28. Trusting_Our_GodGod is in charge. He loves us, and through the blood of His Son, He claims us. We should not strive to take His glory or run His universe or even control our lives and the lives and events around us. We should humbly ask Him to graft us onto His tree of life and live lives that testify to His goodness.

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JESUS COMMANDED IT: In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 NET).

Peter repeated it: “Your conduct among the heathen should be so good that when they accuse you of being evildoers, they will have to recognize your good deeds and so praise God on the Day of his coming.” (1 Peter 2:12 GNT)

Trying to accomplish everything ourselves is not only failing to trust in God, but it turns us into our own god. Besides not working, it violates God’s First Commandment (see Exodus 20:2a-3 BSB):

“I am the LORD your God. …  

You shall have no other gods before Me.”


PRAYER

O Lord God, Our Heavenly Father, forgive us when we fail to trust You, to know, Father, that You alone are worthy, You alone are good. Through our pride and arrogance, we usurp 50. Open_BibleYour authority over Your creation and, most of all, over our lives. That leads to our peril. Lord, help us bend the knee to Your glory and goodness and learn to lean on You in all our ways, knowing You will make our paths straight. Lord, we pray these words in the mighty name of Jesus. AMEN


Questions for Personal Meditation and Group Discussion:

1.  Do you find it difficult to recognize fully and completely that God is in charge of His universe and we are not, that our actions will be in accord with His plan or we will be in disobedience?

2.  Why is it difficult for you to relinquish control over your life? Do you believe that God exists and that He has a plan for your life, or do you reject God and proclaim “this is my life, my body, my will” and seek your own glory? 

3.  How real is God for you? Is He a figment of our imaginations or does He live in Your heart? How big is your God? Is He big enough to require your attention? Can He deliver on His promises? Should you strive to obey His will? Is He just a Sunday morning ornament or is He an everyday companion? Can you claim for your own life God’s promise in Jeremiah 30:22 CSB: “You will be my people, and I will be your God.”

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

Meditation–GOD’S GRACIOUS LOVE

God’s gracious love extends beyond what we can imagine. He is supernatural; we are natural. He is infinite; we are finite. His love generates our love; His compassion generates our compassion; His mercy and forgiveness generate our mercy and forgiveness. Praise God that, through Jesus Christ, we are His family. Let us praise Him and share the Good News!

God’s gracious love extends beyond what we can imagine. He is supernatural; we are natural. He is infinite; we are finite. His love generates our love; His compassion generates our compassion; His mercy and forgiveness generate our mercy and forgiveness. Praise God that, through Jesus Christ, we are His family. Let us praise Him and share the Good News!

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?

“What shall I render to the LORD [For] all His benefits toward me?” Psalm116:12 (NKJV)


HOW GOOD THE LORD IS TO US!

The Lord’s goodness and mercy are magnificent … they are daily … they are without number.

How would we know or how could we calculate each blessing He has bestowed on us?

Our days are numbered, yet each breath we take is a gift from God. Each sunrise is His 43. God's-Gracepromise of another day; each sunset is a time to reflect on His goodness.

Each open door offers us possibilities; each closed door keeps us from disaster. When we pray, He hears our voice; when we come to Him, He answers; when we repent of our sins, He forgives; when we praise His name, He restores.

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THE PSALMIST SINGS PRAISES TO THE LORD:

      • “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1 ESV)
      • “Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy.” (Psalm 100:1-2 NLT)
      • “I will praise the LORD at all times; my mouth will continually praise him.” (Psalm 34:1 NET)

Fellow Christian blogger Heather Quiroz in her Dec. 31, 2018, post (“Yes, God Loves Failures Like You and Me”) said this: “I see a faithful, steadfast,  immovable, loving God who does not give up on sinners like you and me. I see a love that draws people in, not to shackles and shame, but to freedom and deliverance. Truly, it is love that sets people free and it is God’s enduring love that reminds me that I am not who I used to be, but I am being made into His image and He’s sticking with me through the process.”

How can we possibly take those words in without crying out in praise to a holy God Meditation-God's Gracious Lovewhose love and mercy abound!

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WHAT MORE COULD I WANT than to be with the Lord, to walk where He walks and lie down in His presence?

Again, the psalmist captures this desire: “A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!” (Psalm 84:10 NLT)

This wish is fulfilled by the LORD’s own promise to us: They shall be My people, and I will be their God.” (Jeremiah 32:38 NASB)

Paul tells us that whether we live or die, “we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8 NIV), so that, for us who believe, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 BSB)

The psalmist again in Psalm 145:1 (NET):

“I will extol you, my God, O King! I will praise your name continually!”


PRAYER

50. Open_BibleOur Father God, Your love for us is so amazing. It extends beyond what we can image. We know we are not worthy, yet You have called “righteous” and “sons of God” if we believe in Your Son, whom You sent. Thank You, Lord, our Father. In Jesus’ name, AMEN


 

Questions for Personal Meditation and Discussion Groups:
  1. Do you believe that the Lord is good to us, even when we are in pain, or do you believe He is good to us only when He “answers” our  prayers the way we want them answered within our preferred timeframe?
  2. Do you believe the Lord has a plan for our lives and that His good plan and good timing are in our best interests, even if we do not understand at the time, even though we could be blinded with fury and pain at the “unfairness” of our plight?
  3. Can you comprehend the intense abiding love that God has for His creation? Or does it seem so unreal as to be the stuff of dreamers and charlatans? Could it be that the very creation itself cries out in praise to the Creator, that all honor and glory are His alone? If that is even remotely possible for you, what will you do about it? What will your response be?

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

Meditation–OUR FAMILIES WON’T LISTEN

Even our Savior felt the sting of His family’s rejection. When we pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance to help us encourage family and close friends to experience God’s saving grace, we find hardened hearts. Yes, we know we’re planting seeds and can console ourselves with prayer that God will sent an agent who’ll water those seeds, and then, at the right moment, God’s light will shine on those watered seeds, and they’ll begin to grow. But it won’t be while we’re standing there, pouring our heart out. Our families and closest friends may be receptive to the Word coming from someone else, but not necessarily from us.


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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?


“Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is honored everywhere except in his hometown and with his own people and in his own home.’” Mark 6:4 (NCV)


OUR FAMILIES WON’T LISTEN TO US.

We love them, and our hearts are burdened for their salvation and their *eternal* destiny.

We see our adult children — beautiful, young and vibrant, successful in a worldly way — and yet, when we look into the eyes that look back at us — eyes that look like our eyes set in a face much like our own — we see rejection.

Rejection of the Bible. Rejection of Jesus Christ. Rejection of salvation.

We cannot help but morn.

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THEY DO NOT SEE their rejection of the Savior as actually *rejecting* the offer of salvation from the Lord of all creation. They see it, more likely than not, as a rejection of people, people like their mother and father, people like some of their aunts and uncles, and rejection of a grandparent or two.

Maybe it’s just a rejection of “those people” — a projection of every negative stereotype they can project onto people they neither know nor associate with — yet, who nevertheless become shields as they protect themselves from the Truth of Jesus Christ.

“It’s a lifestyle choice,” they say. “I’m glad it works for you,” they say. “You be you, and I’ll be me,” they say. “Okay?” they say.

Not okay.

Another translation presents our text source this way:  “Then Jesus told them, ‘A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.’” Mark 6:4 (NLT)

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EVEN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST faced rejection of His message from His immediate family, as well as His neighbors and townspeople. It was not until He was raised from the dead that the family came around.

31-jesusteachingreligiousleadersWe read in Acts that James, Mary, and other siblings of His were gathered with the apostles in the Upper Room. James became a church leader and wrote the book of James, one of the most instructive tomes in the Holy Bible.

The rest of us will not be raised from the dead, so we will not have a dramatic moment of confronting our disbelieving family members, showing them our execution scars and reminding them of the many times we told them about our earthly fate.

We know in Heaven, the Lord will bathe us with a blessing that will wipe away every tear and keep us from sorrow (Rev. 21:4), but that’s for Glory; this is for now, and our family’s rejection of the Messiah’s call (Rev. 3:20) pierces our hearts with pain.

It’s supposed to.

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WHEN JESUS TOLD US, “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8 ESV), He wants us motivated to be intentional in spreading the Good News of what the Lord has done for us (see Mark 5:19). It’s that pain for the salvation of our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and anyone else the Lord places in our lives that motivates us to share the Gospel with others.

As we try but we fail to convince our loved ones of Jesus’ love for them as individuals, we are reminded over and over again that it never is within our power to convince someone to accept Jesus Christ.72.Family_Bible_Study

The verses of 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 tell us that one person sows the seed by witnessing for the Gospel, another one waters the seed, but it is only God’s Holy Spirit that can open a hardened heart and turn it in a new direction (cf Ezekiel 36:26, 1 Corinthians 1:18).

None of that reassurance takes the pain away, of course. The Lord prepared us in John 15:18 that the world (those close at hand and those far away) will hate us because first it hated the Lord, and again in John 3:19 that men (and women) love the darkness more than they do the Light.

We are to do our job, and our job is clear: To witness by our actions and our words (see 2 Peter 1:5-8).

The rest is up to others and their relationship — or non-relationship — with the Savior. We turn the matter over to Him through prayer.


PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, You have burdened our hearts with sharing the salvation story withour loved ones … and even with those we barely know. We confess our inability to 68. Holy_Bible_Crosscarry the message forward with grace and conviction, when we are too aware of our own shortcomings. We feel we are unworthy ambassadors for so great a message. Yet Jesus called  us to be His witnesses and assured us, that with the power of the Holy Spirit, we could accomplish more on earth than He could do in his bodily form. Lord, we believe Your promises to be trustworthy, and we ask Your guiding hand as we seek to live lives — in word and deed, and in thought — that honor You and Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. AMEN


QUESTIONS for Discussion Groups:

 

1. Have you experienced this difficulty in witnessing for the Gospel with your family? If not, is it because they’re believers … or because you haven’t tried?

2. If they are believers, how was the Gospel presented to you at home? If they are not believers, what keeps you from sharing the Good News with them?

3.  Regardless of your success or failure at home, what experiences have you had sharing the Gospel with neighbors, more distant friends, and even strangers? Are they more receptive to your testimony than family? If so, why is it? If not, why not? Have you tried to share the Word? If not, what stops you?

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

Meditation–SUFFERING IN SILENCE

We suffer in silence when we fail to believe in the God of Creation. He has offered us a life with abundance if we believe in Him, His promises, His Son, but when we — through pride — strive to live life on our own, we fail, sometimes immediately and sometimes over time, but we fail. He remains faithful to pick us up, whenever we repent and call on His name. Will you call on Him today to help you through your pain? You don’t have to suffer in silence anymore. Praise God!

We suffer in silence when we fail to believe in the God of Creation. He has offered us a life with abundance if we believe in Him, His promises, His Son, but when we — through pride — strive to live life on our own, we fail, sometimes immediately and sometimes over time, but we fail. He remains faithful to pick us up, whenever we repent and call on His name. Will you call on Him today to help you through your pain? You don’t have to suffer in silence anymore. Praise God!


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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?


“Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God.” — Psalm 42:11 (CSB)


WE OFTEN SUFFER IN SILENCE.

Alone. Unrecognized. Unknown.

We feel as though the ebb of life has passed us by. No one knows our name, or our struggles, or our shame.

We hide the truth in our hearts; sometimes, it’s so deeply hidden, we hide it from ourselves.

We want to fix it, but we don’t know how.menarguingatwork

“If only *they* will change, everything will be all right,” we say. “If *our circumstances* were different, this would all go away.”

But it doesn’t. Day after month after year, nothing changes. Yes, there are ups and downs; yes, there are escapes built into our regime, but in the end, it remains the same: missed opportunities, sadness, despair. No hope.

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THE BIBLE RECOGNIZES THIS HUMAN CONDITION and speaks volumes into our hearts. Oh, if only we would let go and let God. If only we could drop our burdens at the foot of the Cross. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28 NASB)

We hear those words, but they ring hallow. How could this be? How could Jesus take away the sting of our affliction? Does He hear our prayers? Does He care about our lives? Isn’t He too busy with more important things, bigger things, other people?

Jesus assures us we’re important to Him. Look at the sparrows, He says, speaking of unimportant members of the animal kingdom. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” (Matt. 10:29 NIV) “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matt. 10:30 NIV).

God knows us. God sees us. God cares about us.

Jesus says, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NLT)

That’s love. That’s true love.

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THEN WHY DO WE SUFFER SO?

David tells us in the Psalms, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” (Psalms 34:19 ESV).

Paul tells us that “we rejoice in our sufferings” because the experience of going through these troubles “produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character 55.Holy-Spirit-Descends-Bibleproduces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

James, the half-brother of Jesus, reminds us that we should take comfort in our troubles as “nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2-3 NET)

Endurance, he says, leads us to wisdom; and, if we lack wisdom (which we do), we “should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand.” (James 1:5 NET)

Trials, Peter says, “show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold … and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NET)

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SO, WHAT ARE WE TO MAKE OF ALL THIS?

Here’s what God says to us through the Psalms:

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them shout for joy forever. May you shelter them, and may those who love your name boast about you. For you, LORD, bless the righteous one; you surround him with favor like a shield.” (Psalms 5:11-12 CSB)

“Protect me, God, for I take refuge in you.” (Psalms 16:1 CSB)

“I always let the LORD guide me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalms 16:8 CSB)

“I called to the LORD in my distress, and I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.” (Psalms 18:6 CSB)

46. Sin_JesusChrist_God

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalms 46:1 ESV)

 

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THE CASE HAS BEEN TRIED. The jury has come back. Here is it’s verdict:

“We find God’s message to be True; we find it Trustworthy. In it, we find our Salvation.”

Case dismissed. You, the tormented, are free to go.

Go with God.

He will guide you and sustain you. In all matters, He will love you and hold you in the palm of His hand. He will cry tears alongside you (“Jesus wept.” John 11:35 NIV).

He will never forsake you.

    • “God will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6 ESV)
    • “The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 ESV)
    • “Every moment you know where I am.” (Psalm 139:3b TLB)
    • “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’” (Isaiah 41:13 ESV)
    • “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

Finally, this, from the Master’s own voice (Matt. 28:20 ESV):

“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, full of love and mercy, hear our prayer, O Lord. Reach down and wipe away our tears. Take our hand and lead us. Wrap us in your strong arms. Keep us safe. Be with us. Although our faith falters, your steadfastness never fails; although we stumble, you never grow faint; although we’re tired, you’re never weary. Lord, lead us as you promised, that if we trust in You with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding, and in all our ways acknowledge You, You will make our paths straight (Prov. 3:5-6). Lord, we claim that promise for ourselves and give You all the praise, honor, and glory. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray, AMEN


QUESTIONS:

1. Do you find it difficult to believe that the God of Creation knows who you are, loves you, cares for you, and even died for you to pay the debt of your sin? Amazing? Yes, but true! Can you claim this truth for yourself this very day?

2. Do you find it difficult to claim the truth that God’s grace is bigger than your sin, that He can cover your pride, greed, arrogance, malice, and envy, and so much more? He said He can. His Word says He can. Can you claim that truth today and for all eternity?

3. Do you find it difficult to believe that the God of Creation, Almighty God, kind of the universe is calling you today to repent of all your sin and turn to Him for forgiveness? Why suffer any longer with the demons who have owned you for months or years or even decades? Today is the day of your deliverance. Call on Him. He’s listening. He cares. He can heal you.


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


 

Meditation–AVOIDING FOOLISH PURSUITS

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


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


WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PRAYER

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


QUESTIONS:

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

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

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

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