Meditation … CARING FOR ONE ANOTHER

Especially during times of stress, we in the body of Christ should serve as a model for gracious service. Jesus said He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for our sins. He commissioned us to consider the needs of others before our own. We can accomplish this by staying in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is renewed within us by prayer.

Especially during times of stress, we in the body of Christ should serve as a model for gracious service. Jesus said He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for our sins. He commissioned us to consider the needs of others before our own. We can accomplish this by staying in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is renewed within us by prayer.


Hebrews 12:15 (NLT) Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God.

Hebrews 12:25 (NCV) So be careful and do not refuse to listen when God speaks.

Hebrews 3:15 (CSB) Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.


50. Open_Bible
God’s Holy Word speaks into our hearts … if we allow Him in.

THE WRITER OF HEBREWS gives two instructions: one to those who have received God’s redeeming grace and one to those who remain outside His grace.

To believers, he says we should care for one another so that no one will fail to receive “the grace of God.” To unbelievers, he admonishes them not to harden their hearts when they “hear his voice.”

WE OBEY THROUGH PRAYER

HOW DO WE, as believers, work to ensure that both instructions are followed?

Through prayer and only through prayer. We pray for our continued fellowship and obedience, and we pray for the opportunity to share the Gospel in word and deed with others.

Jesus reminded us (John 15) that we are to “abide” in Him and promised He would abide in us; that He is the vine, we are the branches, and that, without Him, we can do nothing.

ASK FOR OPEN HEARTS

SO, WE CANNOT guarantee or ensure that unbelievers will listen to the Good News when presented, but we can pray in advance that God will give us the words to say, the opportunity to say them, and receiving hearts to hear them.

The rest is up to God’s Holy Spirit and the unbeliever.

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PRAYER

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O LORD, help us to be faithful to Your command for our lives. Give us the people You want us to reach, the opportunity to reach them, the right words to say, and the right tone to say them, and give them open ears and willing hearts to listen and believe. We lift this prayer in the redeeming and sanctifying name of Jesus Christ, AMEN


JESUS PROCLAIMED: “REPENT AND BELIEVE”

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

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

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


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

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

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

Those are just a few examples.

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

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


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

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

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

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

Really?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

So we shall.

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

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

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

Only the return of Jesus Christ will alter that dynamic.


PRAYER

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

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

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

 

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

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


MODERN MARRIAGES ARE IN TROUBLE … EVEN  CHRISTIAN ONES.

WHY IS THIS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God didn’t leave the marriage life to chance.

No way!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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VARIOUS AUTHORS HAVE EXPRESSED this point in recent books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?

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

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

We need to listen.

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

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

Another translation says it this way:

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

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


PRAYER

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

BATTLING SPIRITUAL WARFARE

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


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

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

I FELT LIKE I WAS FALLING THROUGH A BLACK HOLE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Without fellowship with God, we feel isolated and alone.

 IT WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THIS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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POSTSCRIPT: HE WAS PREPARING ME FOR THE WEEK AHEAD.

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

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

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

Here’s His reminder for us:

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


PRAYER

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

Meditation–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.


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!