JESUS PROCLAIMED: “REPENT AND BELIEVE”

When our Lord began His public ministry, His message was simple and direct: “Repent and believe, because the Kingdom of God is at hand.” That’s still the message we, His followers must take to the world. “Repent of your sins and believe that God is here.” That command from the Lord is even more pressing today when God’s people are opposed so viciously by counter forces. 

Mark 1:15 (NLT): “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”

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


OUR COUNTRY IS BROKEN. It is severely conflicted, sharply divided into opposing camps. 

This plays out in many areas of public life where is no possibility of compromise or consensus.

  • There is no compromise between those forces who accept God’s teaching that life begins at conception with those forces that believe life starts only at birth … with the caveat that the newborn can still be allowed to perish, if that was the mother’s intent.
  • There is no compromise between one side that views marriage as the union of one man and one woman with those who replace that structure with alternative arrangements.
  • There is no compromise between one group that says “religious liberty” means the opportunity to live out one’s faith during the week with the other side that restricts that definition to cover one hour of worship on Sunday mornings.

Those are just a few examples.

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Isaiah 5:20 (NLT): What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.

Romans 1:21 (CSB): For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened.


The Bible warns against this, calling those things “good” that God says are evil or calling “evil” those things He says are good. 

Is marriage between two women or two men good … or is it evil? 

One side says it is “evil” and cites to God’s Word for His commandment.

The other side calls it “good” and relies on human reason and experience as witness. Not only that, but this side calls those who stand by God’s Word “bigots” and “haters.” 

Really?

God told the prophet Isaiah nearly 2,800 years ago that “sorrow” awaits those who switch good and evil from what God ordains to what man desires. God also says (Malachi 3:6) He never changes. He remains the same (Hebrews 13:8) throughout eternity.

That means what God declared as “evil” three millennia ago remains “evil,” and vice versa with “good,” regardless of man’s “progressive” wisdom.

†††

Mark 4:9 (BSB): Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Isaiah 6:9 (NET): He [God] said, “Go and tell these people: ‘Listen continually, but don’t understand! Look continually, but don’t perceive!’”


TALKING TO THE “OTHER” SIDE is like talking to a brick wall.

  • Heterosexual marriage? No, that’s an outdated construct benefitting the “patriarchy.”  Besides, God (or the apostles) could not possibly have foreseen the love relationship that can bind two peope of the same sex.
  • Religious liberty? No, there’s separation of church and state, and your “religion” becomes the building block for a theocracy, rather than a secular republic. 

Each of those points can be refuted easily, but the self-styled “progressives,” those who claim they are not caught in the quagmire of the past, refuse to listen to their moral inferiors, to those they consider less literate, less worthy, and less moral than they are. 

Why, they ask, should they listen to the great unwashed, who basically are “bigots” and “religious nuts.”

†††

THERE’S NO JOY in pointing to the sad outcome awaiting those who spurn the Word of God in the latter days. For the time being, they are part of the mission field. 

So we shall.

Still, we, as a country, remain deeply divided. … with a divide that grows deeper with each passing year.

There is no reason to believe that another election, which occurs in November 2020, will change that dynamic. 

Regardless of who wins the White House, the Senate, and the House, the division will grow. 

Only the return of Jesus Christ will alter that dynamic.


PRAYER

ALMIGHTY GOD, have mercy on this country, we pray. Guide our leaders to be men and women of great faith, who hire top staff who share that faith and who serve honorably as public servants, beholden first to You and then to us. Forgive us, O Lord, for our failure to listen to Your Word and the hardness of our hearts. Direct and strengthen those of us who are Your children to lead by example, living our lives as Christ taught us to. We ask this is the loving, merciful, and magnificent name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN

BUILDING BETTER MARRIAGES (Through “Love” and “Respect”)

God created the institution of marriage when He created Adam and Eve. He told us through His Word that men are to love and honor their wives, and women are to respect their husbands. Our marriages work better when we follow God’s design. Even our conflicts are useful, if we encourage one another to be more like Christ — more loving, compassionate, forgiving, and patient.

 

Ephesians 5:33 (NKJV): Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. 

1 Peter 3:1, 7 (ESV): Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands. … Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel.


MODERN MARRIAGES ARE IN TROUBLE … EVEN  CHRISTIAN ONES.

WHY IS THIS?

Some marriage counselors point to the obvious culprit of “selfishness,” in which both the husband and the wife marry their partner for self-centered reasons. 

Their energy is focused on making certain their spouse makes them happy.

Yet, a marriage that survives in a loving and tender way requires  the opposite energy — selflessness, in which the husband and wife are asking, “What can I do to make you happy?”

So, instead of husbands and wives taking from their partner, they give to their partner.

†††

GOD INTRODUCED MANKIND to the marriage covenant while he was in the state of innocence, in the Garden of Eden, before sin entered the world.

Marriage was a “good” thing that God designed to bring one man and one woman together “as one body,” in which each partner brought his/her strengths to the relationship, covering the other’s weaknesses.

The Holy Bible tells us that God made man and woman in His image, so we know that in creating Adam, the first man, He took some of His characteristics (such as courage, bravery, and strength) and gave those traits to him. 

†††

WHEN HE MADE EVE, the first woman, He took other characteristics of Himself (such as beauty, grace, and charm) and gave those traits to her.

Both were created to be equal in God’s eyes but with different characteristics and abilities so as to complement each other and prepare them for different tasks.

God didn’t leave the marriage life to chance.

No way!

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GOD GAVE US DIRECTIONS on how husbands (men) and wives (women) should act and react, think, speak, and desire in this intricate and delicate relationship.

The marriage relationship, the Bible tells us (Eph. 5:32) is so fundamental that it mimics the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Church. 

In that model, the husband takes the sacrificial role of Jesus, while the wife takes the obedient role of the church.

†††

UNFORTUNATELY FOR MANKIND, most of marital history has occurred after the Fall, when sin entered the world.

Part of the curse God proclaimed was that Eve (and subsequent women) would desire to rule her husband Adam (and subsequent men), while God placed ultimate responsibility for the marriage’s success on Adam (and his successors).

This tension set up the current difficulty in marriages, where the husband and wife wrestle with each other, usually in quarrels, arguments, and ultimatums, to gain the upper hand, when God wants us to work out our issues peacefully. 

Yes, our struggles are useful for smoothing the edges in our relationships, but in the end, we’re to find a common level of accord. That can happen either by chance (not effective) or by following guidelines set by God (effective).

†††

GOD SPOKE THROUGH HIS APOSTLES to guide men and women in their marital roles.

Both Paul and Peter point to this maxim: Men (husbands) are required by God to love their wives, and woman (wives) are  required by God to respect their husbands. 

Why?

Well, counselors tell us that men crave respect more than love, while their wives are more willing to offer love; and women crave love more than respect, while men are more willing to offer respect. 

So, God tells us to focus on the trait our spouse most desires and that we have the most trouble giving.

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VARIOUS AUTHORS HAVE EXPRESSED this point in recent books.

In Sacred Marriage (Zondervan, 2000, 2015. p. 11), Gary Thomas asks: 

“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

Emerson Eggerichs, in Love And Respect (Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2004), said this about what God expects of husband and wives:

“Wives are made to love, want to love, and expect love. Many husbands fail to deliver. … Husbands are made to be respected, want respect, and expect respect. Many wives fail to deliver.” (Kindle, p. 5)

What happens, Eggerichs asks, if husbands and wives fail to act according to God’s design? He writes:

“[W]ithout love from him, she reacts without respect; without respect from her, he reacts without love.” (Kindle, p. 6)

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WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?

In every case, when we are obedient to God’s design, we benefit; when we chart our own course, we fail.

God knows us. He created us, so He can tell us what will work and what will not work. 

We need to listen.

We can use the wisdom that God gave to Solomon as our guide:

“Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17 (NASB)

Another translation says it this way:

“As iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other.” – Proverbs 27:17 (NCV)

Our marriages are designed for husbands and wives to challenge one another to become more holy, more committed to God, and more committed to one another. Through that connection, we are to become the “one flesh” He intended.


PRAYER

OUR GRACIOUS HEAVENLY FATHER, we humbly come to You, repenting of our selfishness, as we (husbands/wives) seek our own pleasure, our own happiness, our own needs from our spouse, when You have designed us to serve our spouse, to seek his/her happiness over our own. Lord, You showed us how to do this when You stooped before the Apostles and tenderly washed the encrusted dirt from their smelly feet. O Lord, how much love the Savior has for His creation. Create within us, Father God, a new heart. Remove our hearts of stone, O Lord, and give us hearts of flesh. In the matchless name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray. AMEN

BATTLING SPIRITUAL WARFARE

God created men and women to honor Him and to fellowship with Him. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin entered the world and destroyed that relationship. God, in His mercy, gave us a way out of our mess, but our lives in this world are in constant turmoil, as we struggle against our hearts, the world, and the devil.


  • Gen. 2:16-17 (GW): The Lord God commanded the man. He said … “You must never eat from the tree of the knowledge of good  and evil because when you eat from it, you will certainly die.”
  • Gen. 3:1, 4 (NCV): One day the snake said to the woman, “Did God really say that you must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?” … The snake said to the woman, “You will not die.” 
  • John 11:35 (NASB): Jesus wept.

GOD’S intent was to give man and woman Paradise.

I FELT LIKE I WAS FALLING THROUGH A BLACK HOLE.

It was an ugly feeling, as though Satan had his icy grip on my soul.

Even stranger, I thought, was how evil could torment my soul while I was in church, supposedly worshipping the risen Lord! Wasn’t that supposed to be a “safe zone,” an oasis from spiritual warfare?

Apparently not. We’re not exempt from the spiritual battles, no matter where we are. 

I recently read a post from a woman in Australia, who writes as “Perth Girl,” who experienced something similar, a feeling of doubt and confusion when confronted in church with the grim news that a dear friend’s cancer had returned. (You can read it here: “Doubts“)

So, the apostle Paul was right, there “isn’t any temptation that you have experienced which is unusual for humans.” (1 Cor. 10:13 GW)

Her experience was similar to mine, and her remedy was identical to mine: Go to God in prayer.

†††

Without fellowship with God, we feel isolated and alone.

 IT WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THIS.

God created man and woman to unite in marriage and live in harmony with the world He made and in fellowship with Him.

Instead, our forebears disobeyed God, ate from the forbidden tree, and immediately suffered the consequences … which have passed down to each one of us.

We have fallen out of fellowship with God, our marriages are filled with conflict, and our personal lives are a daily struggle.

We didn’t listen to His warning, but fortunately, He gave us a solution. 

We can find it throughout His Word, but James, the half-brother of Jesus, said it best: 

“Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:7-8a CSB)

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MY EXPERIENCE this time with spiritual warfare had a happy ending.

I told God from the depths of my anguish that as soon as we got home, I was going into my office and, in solitude, reach out to him,  pouring out my soul.

I did. I told Him of my anguish. I told Him of the evil that filled my heart. I told Him how frightened I was of that feeling. I told Him I felt distanced from Him, and that I knew I was the one who had moved … not Him.

In response, He bathed me in His love, His reassurance, and His presence.

†††

POSTSCRIPT: HE WAS PREPARING ME FOR THE WEEK AHEAD.

There is no doubt in my mind but what God allowed the devil to mess with me that recent Sunday in church because He knew that I, like Job in years past, would call out to Him.

He reassured me of His love for me and of my salvation. That reassurance has blessed me in the two weeks since. 

Yes, I will need frequent reminders of His love. That was just one bright spot on God’s sanctification highway.

Here’s His reminder for us:

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13 NASB)


PRAYER

O HEAVENLY AND MERCIFUL FATHER, we are so grateful for Your everlasting and unmerited love. You bath us in glory. You breath life  into our bodies. You restore our souls. You refresh our minds. You deepen our faith. There is no evil that can befall us that is greater than Your power to control and defeat. We are safe in Your arms. O Lord, keep us from wandering. We know You’ll look for us and bring us back, but we don’t want to leave the sheepfold. Bless us and keep us, O Lord, in Your warm embrace. In Jesus’ holy and majestic name we pray. AMEN

Meditation–TELLING OTHERS ABOUT GOD

Now that God has restored our relationship with Him through the sacrifice of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, He calls on us to spread the news … to tell others what the Lord has done for us. How? We are to live our lives with patience, joy, and love, and we’re to share a word of encouragement or give a testimony. We should be prepared always for the opportunities and seek His help. He has assured us of two things: He will always be there to give us the words to say and help us through the situation, and we cannot succeed without Him. May all the praise, honor, and glory go to the King!


Find blog posts at LoveAndGrace … tweets at Twitter.

Comments welcomed. Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion. Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?


“But Jesus … said to him, ‘Go to your home and to your people and tell them what the Lord has done for you, that he had mercy on you.’” — Mark 5:19 (NET)

“We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” — Acts 4:20 (NLT)

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20a (NIV)

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” — Matthew 5:16 (NASB)


GOD HAS GIVEN US AN AMAZING JOB TO DO FOR HIS KINGDOM!

Please read those Bible verses at the top again and take them in. They are familiar text Humble-Man-Prayingand easy to rush through, but they are critically important for us to hold in our hearts to help us share the soul-saving message of Jesus’ transformative love.

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EIGHT YEARS AGO, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. From that time forward, He has captained my soul, creating a new man, a new person, a new being inside of me. I am grace-bought, and my life belongs to Him.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” — 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (CSB)

So, what am I to do with this wonderful event?

The mandate He has given me is the same mandate He has given you if you also have given your life to Christ.

What are we to do with this wonderful event?

Here’s what Jesus has commanded you and me to do — we are to share the Gospel with the world: “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8 NIV).

That means we are to share the grace of Jesus Christ with family and friends, neighbors and co-workers, and even the strangers we meet.

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WE ARE TO SHOW OTHERS — and tell others — about the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Fortunately, God doesn’t leave it to us to figure out how to do this. In His Bible, He tells us:Woman Sharing With Woman

To show others, we are to “let [our] light shine before men that they will see our good works and give glory to the Father.” (Matt. 5:16)

To tell others, we are to “tell them what the Lord has done for you.” (Mark 5:19)

In layman’s terms, we are to act and talk as though we are the regenerated men and women the Holy Spirit has claimed (justified) and is changing daily (sanctified) to become more like Jesus Christ.

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WHAT A DAUNTING TASK, RIGHT?

I mean, who are we — you and me — to handle this Kingdom work? Are we equipped as believers to carry the message of Christ’s redeeming work into an unbelieving world?

We saw what happened to Jesus when He took the message of God’s redeeming work to a world that didn’t want to be confronted. His creation rejected Him. (Just read John 1:9-11.)

41.Bible_Words_Spoken_by_God.Consider the obstacles — the Bible tells us that, in this world, men and women love:

  • darkness more than light, (John 3:19, Proverbs 2:13)
  • sin more than righteousness, and (Micah 3:2, Psalm 52:3)
  • lies more than truth. (John 8:44, Romans 1:25)

With that as backdrop, who would listen to us? What is it we can say to them? Are we to quote Scripture at length? Preach to them? Convict them of sin?

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FORTUNATELY, GOD’S WORD gives us practical instructions on how to witness for the Lord. Here are some ideas:

    • Be Prayed In — Peter tells us to “always be prepared” to tell others, when they ask us, about the joy that is in our hearts and the hope we have for eternal life with our God. (1 Peter 3:15)
    • Be Spirit Driven — Jesus tells us to be His witnesses, but He also assures us that we “will receive power” when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives. He will not leave us alone. (Acts 1:8; John 14:18)
    • Be Imitators of Christ — We are to act as Christ acted, showing humility and gentleness, but also boldness and righteousness. “Imitate me,” Paul says, “as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

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SO, THREE KEY STEPS — we are to pray for God’s grace to guide us, be receptive to the power of God’s Holy Spirit, and model our behavior after Christ’s life.

New Cross Hope

The Bible offers us so many clues as to what the Lord wants from us, “to walk humbly with our God,” “to love one another,” “to forgive one another,” “to be born again,” and, most of all, to “believe in Him whom He has sent.” (Micah 6:8; 1 John 3:11; Ephesians 4:32; John 3:3; John 6:29)

Jesus told us that people would know that we are His followers if we do what He has told us to do (John 15:14). Those are His commands. We are blessed if we do them.

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THE APOSTLE PETER SAID it’s one thing to be persecuted for our faith if we model Christ-like behavior and encourage others with our speech; it’s another thing if we’re being persecuted because we come off like judgmental, sanctimonious jerks. (1 Peter 4:14-16)

We all have the potential in our Christ walk to toggle between both worlds.

It’s a humbling conviction to realize that even when we want so much to show the love of Jesus Christ to a world hungry for salvation that — unless we are prayed in and receiving the Holy Spirit — we will try to win souls for Christ under our own power, and we’ll fail miserably.

Jesus warned us (see John 15) to abide in Him and be fed from His energy and direction, because without Him, He said, we can do nothing.

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AS A RELATIVELY NEW CHRISTIAN, I take great comfort in knowing that Jesus won’t leave me to fend for myself, that He understands what I’m going through, and that He is ever ready to guide me through the thickets of life whenever I’m humble enough to accept His help.

May all the praise, honor, and glory go to Almighty God!

May we join the psalmist in praising Him as we are called to serve Him (Psalm 100:1-2a ESV):

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!

Serve the LORD with gladness!”


PRAYER

Dear Lord God, our Heavenly Father, thank You so much for Your healing and saving grace. T44. Cross_on_Biblehank You for paying the price of our debt and then empowering us to tell others the joyful news! Lord, please forgive us when we fail to see the opportunities before us or when we shy away from sharing our faith. Forgive us when people thank us for our good works and, like glory hounds, we fail to give You the credit. Lord, Your salvation is too wonderful. You are too lovely. Thank You for making us Your own. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN


Questions for Personal Meditation or Small Group Discussion:

1.  Do you pray regularly that the Lord will give you the opportunities to share the good news of your salvation and be with you as you give a word of encouragement or a short snippet of your personal testimony? If not, what holds you back?

2.  Can you see the beauty of God sharing the salvation story with us and empowering us to tell the world the Good News? Do you see that this opportunity is a blessing and not an obligation, and that all of us, not just vocational Christians, are called to minister to others?

3.  Can you see how we are bound to fail in sharing our faith if we try to do it under our own power, that we need to be “prayed in” and let the power of God’s Holy Spirit work through us? Do you have experience evangelizing on your own? How did that work? Can you see the difference when you count on God’s Spirit to direct you?


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


Meditation—BEING BOLD FOR GOD

While most of us in our walk with Christ know we are called to be His witnesses in this life – both in our actions and in our words – some of us may find the commandment not to be the privilege it was intended to be but a burden, one best left to others – *paid church staff*, for example. For those who feel the burden, let’s pray that God will lift that burden (heart of stone) and replace it with a sense of wonder (heart of flesh), of awe —and, yes, of privilege — to witness for the King.


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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?


  • “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” — Acts 4:31 (NASB)
  • “Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.” — Proverbs 16:3 (NCV)
  • “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” — John 8:11 (NIV)

GOD CALLS US TO BE BOLD IN SHARING OUR FAITH.

We know this because the Bible is filled with Divine admonitions to walk in faith, to 56. Prayer_corporate-prayerspeak with gentleness, be slow to anger, be ready at all times to explain the joy that is in our hearts, love and forgive others, and store up our treasures in Heaven, where the moths won’t destroy it and thieves won’t take it away.

Yes, we can recite those commandments, but what do they look like in our everyday lives?

After all, we live in a darkened world were even the most ardent church-goers will remind us not to “push” our religion onto people or judge their sin pattern.

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RECENTLY, I ENGAGED IN TWITTER in support of Vice President and Mrs. Pence, both of whom are strong Bible-believing Christians unashamed of their faith. My tweet also thanked the Rev. Franklin Graham for his tireless defense of the Gospel and his support of the countr’s Second Couple.

Naturally, response from the Twitter-verse was swift. Most of the responses were favorable — a series of similar comment, “likes”, and some repostings. However, there always is the nay sayers who become personal in their denunciations of my tweets, referencing the Bible as “fiction,” and being relentless in their assaults. They’re like yappy little dogs who grab your pant leg and won’t let go.

All of this raises questions in my mind as to how a committed Christian should respond:

  • Counter every negative response,
  • Ask a question in return, exposing the commenters’ lack of faith, or
  • Ignore all of it after posting the original tweet.

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FORTUNATELY, I TRIED TO STAY IN PRAYER and live out the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I figured if I maintained patience and prayed for wisdom – all of which the Bible counsels us to do – God’s Spirit would reveal a better response on my part than I would come up with given my initial instinct.J. Woman.Adultery

The Spirit revealed to me that I should act with the same grace and mercy that Jesus displayed in John 8, when He was confronted with a woman the Jewish elders had *caught* in the act of adultery. Jewish law said that adulterers – both the male and the female – were to be stoned for their transgression, yet the elders only presented the female for Jesus’ rebuke.

Instead, our Lord showed grace, wanting to save a lost soul – the wanton woman’s – over meting out justice. Perhaps He was swayed by the elders’ failure to produce the male culprit and saw the trap for what it was. Until we’re in glory, we’re unlikely to know what it was He wrote in the dust with His finger, but it could have been the entire citation in Leviticus 20:10 that condemned *both* parties, not just the more vulnerable one.

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IN THE END, that’s what I decided to do: Find a way in each of my comments to model grace rather than unleash my rapier-like retorts designed to draw the commenters’ blood.

J33.God Holds Our HandsBeing bold for the Gospel clearly required showing grace and mercy and trying, as best I could, to direct the adversary’s thoughts toward the Holy Word of God.

Let His light be the judge of our conversation. Let His grace cover the commenters’ sinful/hurtful thoughts. Let His love turn the commenters’ heart from stone to flesh.

Being bold for the Gospel does not mean that I am taking the authoritative position that Jesus took in His ministry. He is divine and human; I am only human.

Being bold for the Gospel, for me, means turning the other person’s attention over to the Messiah.

Isn’t that what Paul advised us to do in 1 Corinthians 3:6 (NLT)?

“I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.”

PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, we rejoice that You have been so good to us, showering Your grace, 50. Open_BibleYour mercy, Your forgiveness, and Your love on us, even though we, in our sin, do not deserve anything but Your judgment and wrath. Quicken our hearts, O Lord, to seek after You and Your truth and then display that truth in our actions and words with those You place in our lives. Lord, bless those who persecute us. Claim their lives for righteousness. Claim them for Yourself. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN


Questions for Personal Meditation or Small Group Discussion:

1) How do you envision being bold for the Gospel? Does God call you to witness to others about your faith? If not, why do you suppose that is? Have you taken the Gospel into your heart in a personal way, or have you been content simply with listening to the message of love and hope and assuming that was enough?

2) When you witness for the Gospel, what techniques or practices work best for you? What don’t work? Do you rely on God’s Holy Spirit to guide you, or do you handle this by yourself under your own power? Have you seen a different result between those approaches? Why do you think relying on God’s power over yours leads to a better outcome?

3) Do you consider it a privilege to witness for the Lord Jesus in your personal life? Or, do you see His command to be His witnesses to be a burden that needlessly complicates your life and is best left to the professionals, however you define them?

4) Do you think your response — consider it a privilege versus a burden — may reflect your own relationship to the Lord? If you see witnessing as a burden, could you pray today for the Lord to lift that burden and fill your heart with the grace necessary to share His Gospel?


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

Meditation—TURNING FROM GOD

God’s people, those called by His name, those who claim to walk with His Son, do not really know Him, the Bible tells us. That means, He says, His followers are dying inside. They claim to know the Lord, but they don’t pay attention to their pastors and teachers, and their pastors and teachers often mislead them. God wants us to respond to Him and call on Him as our God.


Find blog posts at LoveAndGrace … tweets at Twitter.

Comments welcomed. Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion. Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?


“My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me.”Hosea 4:6 (NLT)


LET’S TAKE A QUIZ.

It’s Sunday morning, the church is filled with well-dressed men and women singing hymns and reciting liturgy. Some take out their Holy Bibles to follow along as the pastor reads the morning’s text.

J3x.Turning From God-WorshipQuestion is: How many of them, your fellow worshippers, would you say have a “personal relationship” with the Lord? 

Not just have a “head knowledge” of who He is, or the ability to spout off two or three Bible verses about Him, but who really walk with the Lord and consider their relationship with Him to be the most precious gift they have, a bedrock foundation for their earthly lives?

Go ahead. Take a look around. What about her? Or that man over there? What about the young family sitting in front of you?

Or, more to the point, what about you?

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WHAT IS “KNOWING THE LORD” REALLY ABOUT?

Here’s one explanation, taken from a Commentary from the New Living Translation Bible:

67.Jesus_Welcomes_All“Knowing God means entering into an intimate relationship with him. It means identifying with God and learning to view everything as God does. Knowing God will transform our thoughts and actions, our priorities and values, and our relationships with fellow human beings.”

Why is this quiz important, you may ask?

For the answer, let’s go back to our source text. Here’s the same verse from a different translation:

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”  (Hosea 4:6 NKJV)

In this passage, the God of creation is lamenting that the people He created, the people He loves, don’t know Him, and because they don’t know Him, they are suffering inside and dying.

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GOD IS DOING MORE than lamenting. In the text of Hosea, an Old Testament prophet, He is calling His people to return to Him, to repent of their wrongdoing and seek forgiveness, a gift He has promised to give.

But they don’t repent. They don’t turn back to God.

Why not?

Here’s the reason God gives. Let’s look at it from two translations:

“Even though I gave them all my laws, they act as if those laws don’t apply to them.”  (Hosea 8:12 NLT)

“Even if I gave her [Israel] ten thousand laws, she’d say they weren’t for her—that they applied to someone far away.”  (Hosea 8:12 TLB)

Can we see the problem here?66.Jesus_Changes_Everything

Many of those people who we see singing each Sunday morning or thumbing through their Bibles to find the day’s teaching or shaking hands with one another during the greeting do not know the Lord.

They don’t know the Lord they supposedly are praising.

They are being “destroyed,” in God’s terms, because “they don’t know me.”

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IT’S NOT LIKE they haven’t been told.

God has placed learned men in their lives, from the Old Testament prophets to the New Testament apostles to the current crop of pastors and teachers, but, God is saying, no one is listening!

“And I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the song of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’”  (Jeremiah 6:17 NASB)

“But you replied, ‘No! We won’t pay attention!’”  (Jeremiah 6:17 NLT)

Do His people know of God?

The Bible says they do.

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  (Romans 1:21 NIV)

How does God respond when His people refuse to listen?

How should He respond?

“Because they did these things, God left them and let them go their sinful way, wanting only to do evil.”  (Romans 1:24 NCV)

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WHAT NOW? What should we do about this situation? What does God want us to do?

He tells us to respond to Him and to call on Him as our God:53. man-power-of-prayer

“For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”  (Hosea 6:6 CSB)

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  (Micah 6:8 ESV)

Here’s the crux of it, for each us, and for each of those fellow worshippers we asked about earlier. It’s the same question for everyone:

“But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”  (Matthew 16:15 BSB)

Along with the plea comes a promise: forgiveness and abundant life.

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

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”  (Revelation 3:20 NASB)

Now, isn’t that a God worth knowing!!


PRAYER

O Lord, our loving and merciful Father, who also is a just and jealous God. You call us to 50. Open_Biblelove You, to turn to You, to know You as our God. Yet, we confess that, all too often, out of sinful pride, we go our own way, refusing to listening, and making excuses instead of obeying. Please forgive us, Abba Father, and instill within our hearts a loving desire to obey You, worship You, and adore You. We lift this prayer in the mighty name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen


Questions for Personal Meditation and Group Discussion

1. Do you claim Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? Do you, or others you know, “do church” on Sundays without a personal connection with the Savior?

2. Do you see people who call themselves “Christian” acting any differently or talk any differently from those who do not claim a Christian connection? If so, why do you think that is so?

3. When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15), how would you answer that question? Do you understand that Jesus wants a personal relationship with you and that your answer to that question will determine your eternal fate?


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

Meditation—“DO WE SUFFER ENOUGH FOR THE GOSPEL?”

Jesus was clear enough when He told us that we would have to suffer for the Gospel. He also said if we were not willing to pay that price, then we could not be His followers. What did He mean by that? Simply this: Our love for the Savior would put us at odds with the world around us. Men and women would push back against us. Yes, some of us would pay heavy physical costs, but most of us would suffer emotional slights, loss of friendships, and difficult relationships with some in our own families. All of it would be worth it to walk with Christ. But here’s the test: If you haven’t experienced that push back, are you walking with Him?


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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?


“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil J33.Suffering for the Gospelthings about you falsely on account of me. Matthew 5:11 (NET)

“For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 (CSB)


DO WE SUFFER ENOUGH FOR THE GOSPEL?

Did you read the source text verses above? I mean, did you really read them? Please don’t breeze past them as if they were obstacles separating you from the Meditation.

They are God’s Words placed in His Holy Bible for us to follow. He wants  us to know that if we are going to be believers in Jesus Christ, there will be heartache and difficulty — maybe even torture and death — in our journey.

Jesus told us that if we believe in Him and follow Him, we will face persecution. We will be hated by some, we will face difficult relationships, and we will encounter — at the very least — uncomfortable moments in social gatherings.

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J33.Crist Suffered for UsLIVING FOR CHRIST is not for the faint-of-heart. It’s not a comfortable gig in which church becomes a networking opportunity to add to our business contacts or where we volunteer for a high-profile position to place on our resumes.

It’s plain old living for Christ 24/7/365 — a full-time vocation — that will cause us anguish and heartache … if we’re sincere in our faith-walk. We will hurt for those loved ones who remain lost in their disbelief. We will be singled out for abuse at work or the playground, shunned at parties, talked about by those bearing grudges.

Is that what you signed up for?

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I SIGNED UP FOR easy burden, light yoke. Instead, I got spiritual warfare,  suit of armor.

That’s right. I was brought into the fold because I loved what Jesus said in His comforting moments, like this one:

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30 NIV)

Yes, I got that, for sure, when I came to faith. But soon after I repented of my sin and asked the Lord to captain my life, I got a knock on the door from the Evil One:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB)

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TRUE, I WAS TOLD about spiritual warfare, but, frankly, I didn’t pay much attention to J33.Armor of Godthose teachings and had little idea what it was about. I certainly didn’t expect it would involve me. I mean, who was I that “heavenly powers of darkness” would bother me?

But they did. They noticed right away that I had switched teams and they were, literally, *hell bent* on getting me back.

They almost succeeded, too, but Jesus fought back. He was good to His Word that no one could snatch me from His grip.

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HERE ARE TWO PROMISES, one from the Old Testament and one from the New, that testify to God’s grace in keeping us as His own:

“From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.” (Isaiah 43:13 NLT)

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28 ESV)

J33.God Holds Our HandsNow, as comforting as those promises are, they form our protective shield when the world comes after us, which it will.

It will, but only if we are sincere in our walk with Christ … only if we are willing to proclaim our faith, to open our mouths, to give public testimony to the work the Holy Spirit has done and is doing in our lives.

Pastor Francis Chan, in his book Letters to the Church (David C. Cook. Kindle Edition (p. 130)), wrote these words:

“According to Jesus, far from having no cost, following Him will cost you everything. Far from promising a better life, He warned of intense suffering.”

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SO, BACK TO THE BEGINNING. 

Do we suffer enough for the Gospel?

He told us what the cost would be. This is how we’ll know if we’re being faithful to the Gospel:

Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 CSB)


PRAYER

O Lord, who was and is and is to come, we praise Your Holy Name. Our Father God, 50. Open_Biblewe are so grateful for Your Son’s sacrifice on our behalf to reclaim us as His own. Let us not fail to follow Him daily, to take up our cross of suffering, to endure whatever persecution or betrayals come our way because of the Gospel. Abba Father, we claim Your promise that You’ll grab our hand and never let go. In turn, Lord, let us never fail to rest in that promise. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen


Questions for personal meditation or group discussion:

1. Are you willing to risk everything, including loss of family love and friendships, to follow Jesus? If not, what holds you back? Can you comprehend the sacrifice He made for you when He was beaten and crucified to atone for your sins?

2. What do you think of when someone tells you that, as a Christian, you will be called to suffer for the Kingdom? Do you think it’s “fair” that you’re caught up with spiritual warfare, that the “heavenly powers” are fighting for your soul?

3. Can you see God’s amazing grace pour through this lesson, that His love for you and the rest of His creation is so great that He has provided “a way out” for those who believe in His Son, that they will not perish but have everlasting life?

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you?

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Meditation–HOW DO WE WITNESS FOR CHRIST?

God chose from the moment He created Adam and Eve to give His most glorious creation — mankind, formed in His image — the job of maintaining and having dominion over the lesser parts of creation — the animals, plants, and the land, itself. In the same manner, He has ordained His followers to preach the Word of salvation to all mankind, both in the we live out our lives and in our testimony of His grace in our lives. This is a gift … and He promises to be with us every step of the way.


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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?


`You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.” Matthew 10:18 (NLT)


THE LORD CALLS US TO BE HIS HANDS AND FEET, to speak truth to power, to defend the Gospel.53. Man_Woman_praying

This is more than just a parade of words, a familiar litany of cliches. It is an incredible truth.

As we go about our daily lives, how many of us consider God’s instructions to “teach[ ] them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20a CSB)? We might “understand” this in our adult Bible study, but do we live it out once we emerge from the classroom?

Jesus, the Messiah, the Holy One of God, calls on each of His followers to trumpet the Good News of Salvation to a darkened and hostile world.

How best to do it?

  • 1. Be prayed in,
  • 2. Be immersed in God’s Holy Word.

Hear now the words of theologian and writer Robert A. Cook:

“Hide God’s Word in your heart, and you will find yourself speaking of it, living by it, illustrating its truth by your character and conduct, and, in general, having a highly effective witness as a result.”

—Robert A. Cook, Now That I Believe, (Moody Publishers, Chicago. 1949, 1977)

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J9. OPEN BIBLE w IMAGEHOW COULD MERE MORTALS like ourselves be empowered to share the Gospel with others, who may not even be interested in hearing it? Hear again Cook’s words: “Always remember that your one business as a Christian is to aid in completing the evangelization of the world.”

That is, we are called by God, Himself, to share the Word by evangelizing. Also, we are called by God to witness through our actions and good deeds. Jesus tells us (Matt. 5:16 NKJV) to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Cook assures us that we, in Christ, are more than able to handle the task. “You may as well face the facts: If you’re born again, you are a different person.”

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THE BIBLE AFFIRMS THAT TRUTH.

“Therefore, if anyone [is] in Christ, [he is] a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” — 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)60. Faith-in-Jesus-Christ

We need to claim God’s promises for our lives. We need to accept His faithfulness. When He says He will be with us, and He will not abandon us, we need to believe that.

Meditate on these verses:

  • Deut. 31:6 (NKJV): The LORD your God, He [is] the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you”;
  • Matt. 28:20 (NET): Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age”
  • John 14:18 (NIV): “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Our God is faithful. He will not abandon us. He will give us the words to say. He will shower us with His love.

Even more so, He has commanded us to do so (Acts 1:8 CSB):

“You will be my witnesses.”


PRAYER

Our Lord and Heavenly Father, thank You for Your faithfulness. Thank You,  Lord Jesus, 69.GOD_With_Usthat You are with us always. You will show us when to speak a word from the Lord into someone’s life. You will guide our hearts so that our actions will honor You. You will guard our hearts from the evil one, so that we will win every battle. In the end, Lord, You win, You reign forever and ever. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen


Questions for Personal Meditation and Discussion:

1. Does the idea of being called by the Creator of the universe to witness for Him fill your heart with dread or does it fill your heart with awe that He has chosen *you* to be His instrument to spread His light to a sin-filled world?

2. Do you have difficulty believing that He will step in and help you navigate the waters of disbelief, that He can use you with your specific gifts and strengths, your connections, your opportunities to further His Kingdom? If so, have you prayed for faith and discernment around this issue?

3. If you have been faithful, have you seen the fruit of your efforts, sometimes immediately but more often over time? When you do, have you given Him the credit, knowing that only the Holy Spirit can open hearts and draw people to the Heavenly Father?


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

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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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?

“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.