Meditation–THERE IS ONLY ONE TRUE GOD

In our pluralistic society, where truth is relative, and every religious tradition is thought to teach the same basics, it is considered rude and bigoted to proclaim: Not True! There is only one true God, not because we, His followers, proclaim it but because He has revealed it to us. All other religious traditions are man-made; only the Jewish and Christian religions worship the God of revelation, and only Christians (for now) believe in His Son. The Bible teaches that, in the end, the Jews also will believe.

In our pluralistic society, where truth is relative, and every religious tradition is thought to teach the same basics, it is considered rude and bigoted to proclaim: Not True! There is only one true God, not because we, His followers, proclaim it but because He has revealed it to us. All other religious traditions are man-made; only the Jewish and Christian religions worship the God of revelation, and only Christians (for now) believe in His Son. The Bible teaches that, in the end, the Jews also will believe.


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?


“I know now that the Lord is greater than all other gods, because he rescued his people from the oppression of the proud Egyptians.” — Exodus 18:11 (NLT)

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” — John 17:3 (NIV)


WE’VE ALL SEEN THE BUMPER STICKERS.

COEXIST, adorned with symbols representing several religious traditions: the Cross, the Coexist SymbolStar of David, the Crescent, and a peace symbol. Those symbols represent Christianity (Cross), Star (Judaism), Crescent (Islam), pentacle (Wiccan, pagan).

The other symbols on the typical bumper sticker include a yin and yang symbol (representing “balance” and “harmony” in nature), the male-female symbol, and a second pagan/Wiccan symbol.

The bumper sticker, distributed through the Coexist Campaign, claims to represent religious diversity in hopes of fostering tolerance among the various religions, that is, respect for and acceptance of another person’s “religion” even if it is foreign to one’s own religious teaching.

Here’s the problem: God is not a coexist God, and the “coexist movement” is antithetical to Christian teaching because it posits the falsehood that “all gods” are equal and that “all religions” teach basically the same thing and lead to the same conclusion.

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67.Jesus_Welcomes_AllCHRISTIANITY’S BASIC DISTINCTION from all other religious systems is that God, Himself, defined the “religion” by revealing himself to us (see Romans 1). All other religions are man-made. They are invented, defined, created, and structured by humans.

Christianity teaches that God reveals himself, first, through nature; that is, through creation. Second, He reveals himself to us through our consciences, which teach us that there is a code of right and wrong. Third, He reveals himself to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is both fully divine and fully human. Fourth, He reveals himself through the Bible, the Holy Word of God.

No other religion can make the claim of revelation.

A second basic distinction between Christianity and man-made religions is that God created humans in His image, that God seeks a personal relationship with each individual, that God comes looking for his creatures, and that God died for our sins and was raised from the dead to show us  what our future looks like if we accept Him into our lives.

No other religion can make the claim of creation.

No other religion can make the claim that God sacrificed himself to reclaim us from our sins. 71. Looking-at-the-Cross

Even Judaism, Christianity’s closest cousin, fails to make those claims because that religion does not recognize Jesus as the divine Son of God, co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

While there are similarities in basic religious beliefs — presence of supernatural creatures, better natures to strive for, presence of sacred rituals, rigid system of “right” and “wrong” — those similarities exist because we all are created by the same God, who created us in His image and breathed life into our souls.

Those similarities do not defeat the statement that Christianity alone worships the one true God, as He has revealed Himself to mankind.

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GOD IS VERY CLEAR that we are to stay away from foreign “gods” and worship only Him.

Here is a sampler of familiar passages, as given to us through various English translations:

      • “I am the LORD your God. … You shall have no other gods before me.” — Exodus 20:2a-3 (ESV)
      • “For you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” — Exodus 34:14 (NASB)
      • “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” — John 14:6 (NIV)
      • “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus.” — 1 Timothy 2:5 (CSB)
      • “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” — John 5:44 (NKJV)

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IN OUR PLURALISTIC SOCIETY, the notion that there is only one God and that He is the God Christians worship, is not a popular concept.

J9. OPEN BIBLE w IMAGEIn fact, those of us who profess to believe in Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior are ridiculed for our beliefs. We are thought to be “bigots,” “hypocrites,” “legalistic,” “fundamentalists,” “haters,” and probably more.

Fine. That’s okay. Our Lord and Savior was beaten and crucified for teaching the Truth, and His closest disciples were martyred for their faith.

The Bible clearly states that mankind prefers the darkness of sin to the light of Jesus and His Truth.

“And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness [their sin] more than the light, for their actions were evil.” — John 3:19 (NLT, amp. mine)

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ONCE WE ACCEPT THAT GOD IS ONE,  that He created us, and that we are His possession and all of creation — from the farthest star to the smallest nano creature — belongs to Him, we can give praise and honor to the Source of life, instead of bowing down to the gods and substitutes that we’ve made.

When we faithfully receive the gift of life from the God of the Bible, we can testify to that truth, as the apostle Paul taught us, without fearing rebuke or torture:

“Do you think I am trying to make people accept me? No, God is the One I am trying to please. Am I trying to please people? If I still wanted to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10 NCV)


PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, You have revealed yourself to us through nature, through our 50. Open_Bibleconsciences, through the testimony of your Son, Jesus Christ,  and through your Word, as inspired through writers from Moses to David to Isaiah to Luke and the Apostles. Finally, you have revealed yourself to us through our hearts, as You speak to us and transform us from nonbelievers with hearts of stone to believers with hearts of flesh. You, God, are the only God, and there is no one like You. To You, O God, goes all the praise, honor, and glory! In Jesus’ mighty and holy name, we pray. AMEN


Questions for Personal Meditation or Small Group Discussion:
      1. Can you accept God’s claim to be the only one and true God, that He exists and that He has revealed himself to us, through nature and the Bible, through our consciences and the testimony of Jesus, so that all of mankind knows of Him and is without excuse if they don’t believe?
      2. Can you understand and accept that the *coexist* movement, while it sounds noble, tolerant, and mutually respectful, actually violates God’s explicit command to place no other gods before Him and that we, His creation, are not to worship or tolerate other objects of worship?
      3. Can you accept God’s truth that He alone is the *Absolute* and worthy of our worship and praise, even while the world teaches differently, that all religious system are essentially the same? Can you see that the world’s teaching is a false doctrine and harmful to our well-being and our salvation?
      4. Now that you see God’s command that He alone is worthy of worship, how would you answer those who hold to the world’s contrary and sinful view? Will you pray for God’s guiding hand in your life?

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

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!


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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?


“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?


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?


“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–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–TRUSTING OUR GOD

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I am the LORD your God. …  

You shall have no other gods before Me.”


PRAYER

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


Questions for Personal Meditation and Group Discussion:

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

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

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

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