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.


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“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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“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–BEING BOLD IN OUR WITNESS

God has given each of us a series of commands. We are to love Him, love each other, pray for one another, serve one another, and offer forgiveness. We also are commanded to seek Him and obey Him. Those are the main ones. Then we are commanded to tell others about Him. We are not to shrink from that task in fear or embarrassment. We are not to be intimidated or fear loss of human relationship. Instead, we are to claim God’s promise that He will be with us at all times. In short, like first-century Christians, we are to be bold!


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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)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” — 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

“Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.”— Proverbs 16:3 (NCV)


THE LORD WANTS HIS BELIEVERS to proclaim His truth to a dark and hostile world. He has commanded us to do so, and He has promised to help us do it.

J.WitnessingForGodYet, way too often, those who call themselves Christians sit idly by, while those hostile to faith malign Christian beliefs and values, falsely accusing believers of a hatred and bigotry toward their fellow citizens.

That lie is used repeatedly by those lobbying for laws and practices favorable to a homosexual or transgender lifestyle, practices that God clearly has denounced in His Word. (Romans 1:26-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Jude 1:7)

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THERE IS NO EXCUSE for anyone claiming to be a follower of Christ failing to step up and boldly proclaiming God’s Truth — His love and mercy, but also His judgment and wrath. Proclaiming one side of God’s glory while denying or ignoring the other side is false testimony.

We do no one any good when we fail to tell them the totality of God’s Word, both of His blessings for obedience and His punishment for continued and willful disobedience.

Here’s what the apostle Paul says in Romans 6:16 (NLT): “You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.”

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WHEN THE LORD TOLD HIS DISCIPLES to go into the whole world and teach all that He had commanded them, He assured them that He would go with them. He promised that power would come upon them from the Holy Spirit, whom He would send. (Matt. 28:19-20)(Acts 1:8)

There is every reason to believe that both the commandment and the assurance the Lord gave to First Century Christians are ours to claim as Twenty-First Century Christians.57.Playground-taunts

The mandate is the same, the assurance is the same, and something more is the same: the Truth is the same.

Jesus told us that He is the Truth (John 14:6) and that He and His truth remain the same throughout all time. (Hebrews 13:8)

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OUR LORD ALSO TOLD US to expect blowback.

The world loves darkness more than the Light (John 3:19) and because the world hates Jesus, He told us the world will hate us, too. (John 15:18)

What should our response be to such attacks?

Here’s what the Lord’s half-brother James said, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” — James 1:2-3 (ESV)

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WHEN THE ENEMY strikes back, we can take comfort in the experiences of those who walked before us and know we are joined in the battle with those walking alongside us.

“When we, as spiritual men and women of prayer and faith, attempt to do something significant for God, the enemy is sure to resist us,” Pastor Jim Cymbala writes. (1)

But we can take heart. Cymbala tells us that we do not fight the battle alone. “He (the power of God) meets us in the moment of battle. He energizes us when there is an enemy to be pushed back.” (2)

Pastor Francis Chan exhorts us similarly: “If we can humble ourselves and learn to absorb rants graciously, our best days can be ahead of us.” (3)

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THE OPPORTUNITIES TO WITNESS for the Lord are all around us. We see them every day. Sometimes it’s a result of something someone says or maybe something we read or it’s on mass media. It might be the hurtful comment from a loved one or the malicious comment from a co-worker or neighbor.

We cannot escape from the evil around us, nor should we try. The solution is not for us to run and hide —it’s for us to stand our ground and confront. Yes, we are told to be gentle and loving in our response (1 Peter 3:15) and there are many teachings in God’s Word exhorting us to be patient and respectful of others. (Proverbs 15:1; James 1:19)

But let us as believers not think, even for one moment, that our Lord is not charging us with the awesome task of speaking for the Kingdom when the opportunities arise.

Just before His ascension, Jesus gave His disciples this command (Acts 1:8 NIV), and it is a command that He gives us, His followers, today:

“You will be my witnesses.”

Let us rejoice!


  1. Cymbala, Jim. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire (p. 208). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. Cymbala. (p. 173). Kindle Edition.
  3. Chan, Francis. Letters to the Church (p. 201). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.

~PRAYER~

O FATHER GOD, our Heavenly Father, we rejoice that You have made us in Your image and 68. Holy_Bible_Crossfor Your glory. We rejoice that you who have made us neither slumber nor sleep but keep watch over us day and night, reassuring us that no one can snatch us from Your hand. We know that You are with us when the times are troubling and when they are pleasant, when we are broken and hurting, and when we are at peace and feel blessed. O Lord, Your steadfast love endures forever. Lord, give us those opportunities to tell of Your goodness to us that we can be a blessing to those You place in our lives. In Jesus’ almighty name, AMEN


Questions for Personal Meditation and Group Discussion:

      1. Do you believe in God’s commandments and promises, that He wants to use you and other believers to further His Kingdom and that He will be with you — in spirit and in truth — all the while?
      2. Can you trust His word, as revealed in the Holy Bible, that He loves you and wants a personal relationship with you? If not, what do you see as the roadblock? Is it God’s problem or your problem? Can you take that problem to God in prayer and let Him solve it for you?
      3. Have you really and truly confessed  your sin-filled heart to the Lord and asked Him for forgiveness, repenting of your sin and seeking His Lordship in your life? If not, please do so now. He has told us in His Word your eternal fate rests on this one act. He has assured each of us of forgiveness and salvation if we call on Him.

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

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.

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.