Meditation — LIVING BY FAITH, NOT REASON

God’s promises to mankind are based on His good provision but require our acceptance. Why? Because He graciously gave us the gift of free will. That means we can accept — or reject — life. We cannot reason our way into salvation, where we take control, connect the dots, and conclude that salvation is possible and that we possess the means to attain it. It is a matter of faith, where we place our total confidence in the Lord to provide for our needs. Because we cannot attain salvation on our own, we also cannot lose it on our own. God keeps us for His glory.

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“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 (CSB)

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NET)

WE COME TO GOD T56. Prayer-Partners-menHROUGH FAITH, NOT THROUGH REASON.

Our sinful natures and finite minds cannot combine to produce within us a saving power apart from the grace of God. It is His will that we may be reconciled to Him. It is not of our own doing, that we might boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

LET’S SEE HOW THIS WORKS.

A man (or woman, if you’re a woman) comes into your life and asks for some help. He (or she) is struggling with life and thinks you might be able to help. Why? Well, because you’re a bit older, more mature, more settled in your life, which is a good indicator that you may have experienced whatever it is that he (or she) is going through now and lived to tell about it.

So you set up shop, share a cup of coffee and a Danish, and sit back to listen to this person’s tales of woe.

You say: “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”

Other person says: “?”

He (or she) is stumped.

He (or she) mumbles something about going to church or having spent a couple of weeks one summer at church camp and, then 20 years ago, memorized a few verses before his (or her) grandmother got sick … and, basically, that’s it.

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NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY, you’re unable to get this person to acknowledge, beyond some lame comment, that he (or she) even has a need for such a personal relationship, assuming that such a thing actually exists.

72.Family_Bible_StudyThe Bible is clear that such a thing actually does exist and that we are ~commanded~ by God to seek it. He promises this: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” — Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV)

Yes, God draws us to Him first (John 6:44), but we have the privilege — and responsibility — to respond through faith (Ephesians 2:8).

Jesus said to store up for ourselves “treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20), not in this world, because our heavenly treasures are under God’s faithful keeping and will not be tarnished or broken or lost. They will be ours forever.

We then pray with our young charge and exhort him (or her) to begin praying to Jesus Christ to ask that He would intervene in their lives and show them where they have 15 minutes a day they weren’t aware of to spend in prayer and Bible reading. You say that if he (or she) is sincere in that prayer, Jesus will deliver.

You remind them of what the Bible says: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” — 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV).

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AS YOU PART FOR THE DAY and watch this child of God drift away, you raise a silent prayer on their behalf, asking God to give them eyes to see and ears to hear. You know that if he (or she) does not turn to the Heavenly Father, whatever difficulty they may be facing will not end well.

If, however, this person does turn to the Lord, then he (or she) can lay claim to God’s promises to be with them and protect them through the storms of life (John 10:10).


PRAYER

O LORD, our merciful and majestic Redeemer, our Creator and Sustainer,  our Savior, we 44. Cross_on_Biblethank You for the opportunities You give us to reach out to others when they are in need, when they come to us for help. Lord, may we always point them to You, to Your sustaining grace, to Your everlasting love, to Your merciful justice. We pray also, O Lord, that as they ask You in prayer for time in their day to spend personally and intimately with You, that You will shower them with time and desire and so change their lives. In Jesus’ powerful name we pray. AMEN


QUESTIONS:

1. Do you find it difficult, if not impossible, to find a regular time each day for prayer and Bible reading? Do you think it’s even necessary to spend time alone with God every day? Would you feel comfortable asking God to find the time for you, or do you think He’s way too busy with more important stuff?

2. Why do you think it might be a good idea to hear from God’s Word each day and enter into prayer with Him regularly? Do you believe He intervenes in human affairs and longs to intervene in your life?

3. Are you uncomfortable with the idea that our response to God’s gift of salvation is a matter of faith and not of reason? Do you see that faith means we’re placing all of the burden on God, whereas reason means we are the ones who have earned salvation?


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


 

God’s Charge to Us: Defend My Word

Throughout the Bible, we see the Word of God attacked, mocked, and disregarded by His people. The ancient prophets were killed; the apostles of Jesus were killed; and through the ages, many of His disciples and followers have been killed or tortured. Many more followers have been rebuked, sued, spit upon, slandered, opposed, or in some other way silenced. His Word is clear to us: We are to proclaim the Good News and do so in a loving and gentle fashion while living lives that testify to God’s grace. While living that out isn’t easy, fortunately, we have help: God provides the strength through His Holy Spirit.

“Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.” — Jude 1:3 NLT

“If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.”      2 John 1:10-11 NLT

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Comments welcomed. Let’s share what God says to His saints.

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GOD’S HOLY WORD IS UNDER ATTACK.

We know God’s people around the world — in Turkey, Nigeria, China — are in physical peril. Many of them are killed, tortured, or imprisoned for  their beliefs.

But, in the Western world, God’s Word is under attack, as well.71.Hatred_Targeting_Christians

Of course, we can look at FBI “hate crime” statistics, which show violent crime targeting Christians to be low compared to crimes against Jews and Muslims, but the real story for Christians lies beyond the statistics.

To see the real culprit in the Western world, we need to look not to reports of violent crimes against believers — we need to look at how “respectable” people distort the Word of God.

Satan’s ways to punish Christians in Nigeria or Iraq or Turkey won’t work in the U.S. or Canada or other Western countries. His line of attack will be more subtle.

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MOST OF THE ATTACK WE FACE in Western countries is “group think” — the mindless, reflexive opposition that can be laughed off. Mention your faith in Jesus Christ or allude to His life-changing impact on your life, and someone is bound to throw out “a bunch of hypocrites” without any more thought behind the comment than a sneeze.

Here are just some more notable examples of this intolerance, notable solely because the Christians impacted are famous, not because the  response is any different from what everyday believers face:71.Hatred_Christians_pin

    • Vice President Pence is belittled for following the “Billy Graham rule” when associating with women in the office, a rule that pastor and author Max Lucado also follows;
    • Later, a television talk show hostess labeled the vice president “mentally ill” for believing the Lord talks to him;
    • Christian bakers are sued and threatened with loss of their business when they refuse to bake cakes honoring homosexual “marriage” ceremonies;
    • Collegiate Bible-based groups are removed from campus for promoting God’s values regarding sexual orientation and marital activity against the college’s or university’s secular values of “inclusion.” Most of the college population would approve of the administrations’ actions, if the “victim” group is Christian.

Social media have become a cesspool of anti-Christian bias and hatred.

The Rev. Franklin Graham’s Twitter posts, offering Scriptural encouragement or asking for prayer in the wake of an earthquake, mass shooting, train wreck, or other tragedy or disaster are routinely met with vitriolic ugliness from the depths of hell, usually from the militant homosexual lobby.

Yes, faithful believers also respond to Graham’s posts with prayers and gratitude, but the hatred gets intermingled with God’s redeeming grace.

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SO, WHAT?

Well, that’s the all-important question, isn’t it? What difference does it make to us? How does all of this swirl of activity impact our cozy lives, lived out in our comfortable homes with the love and support of our families and close friends?

What, if anything, are we supposed to do about it?

71.Jesus_Commands_LoveThe Bible — God’s Word — seems to be pretty clear that Jesus has commanded us to take part in the world, to proclaim His message from the rooftops, telling the mighty and the lowly alike, that Jesus has paid the price to redeem us from our sin.

Besides the verses that begin this column, here are just a few more of God’s commandments to us:

    • “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” — Mark 8:35 (ESV)
    • “But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” — Acts 4:19-20 (NIV)
    • “For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” — Galatians 6:5 (NLT)
    • “But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells the Good News?” — Romans 10:14 (GW).

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THERE’S NO WAY AROUND IT.

Look for an escape hatch all you want. Search for the asterisk that says “only sometimes” or “when you’re in the mood.” Or even ask for advice from your friends, the ones who are struggling with their own faith commitment, for advice.

When you’re done looking in the wrong places for the wrong answer, Jesus invites you to come back home.

71. Looking-at-the-CrossCome back to the Truth of Jesus’ message. You know what it is: Your sins are forgiven, grace and mercy are offered to you, and the assurance of salvation is yours.

In exchange, Jesus wants you and me to testify to His love in our lives. We will not be measured by someone’s response; only by our giving.

If we offer the truth of Jesus Christ to a loved one, or a neighbor, or a co-worker, or even a total stranger, Jesus will not downgrade us if we’re met with rudeness or disdain or anger.

He will not hand us a demerit or two if this person remains unconvinced, unmoved, or unrepentant.

However, He will scold us if we miss the opportunity to share the Good News that lives in our hearts.

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WHY WOULD WE PASS UP THE CHANCE?

We know the world remains as hostile to the saving message of Jesus Christ today as it always was, even before He was born and prophecy told of Him.

Slipping from the truth of God’s Holy Word is an easy and dangerous slope. It occurs within churches that want to re-interpret the Bible to make it “relevant” to a fallen world; it occurs within the hearts of churchgoers who fail to take the teaching of salvation seriously and mistakenly assume their perfect attendance means something.

How God’s heart must hurt for the lives of His broken people.

Before He ascended back to heaven, Jesus told His disciples that the Father had given Him “all authority” on heaven and earth. With that legitimizing statement, He then commanded them — and us — to spread His message of love and forgiveness to everybody in the world (Matthew 28:18-20).

It should be our joy to comply.

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PRAYER: O Lord, our God and Savior, please forgive us when we  fail to protect and defend 44. Cross_on_Biblethe Holy Word of God, when we fail to live according to its principles, when we fail to forgive others as we have been forgiven, to love others as we have been loved, and to serve others as we have been served. Strengthen our voices, O Lord, to speak in favor of the Truth that has changed our lives and that can change the lives of those whom You place in our paths. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. Do you see God’s Word under attack from a disbelieving world? Do you see this occur in your life or only in the lives of others? If you don’t experience rejection, disbelief, censure, could it be that you are not witnessing for the Gospel?
  2. Do you believe we are called to defend Jesus’ testimony, or is “religion” something that should be kept private, i.e., it’s just your own business and no one else’s what you believe? Is your answer supported biblically? If not, do you want to change something in your life?
  3. Do you believe universal and eternal truth exists? If so, is this something we can know? How would we know what it is? Jesus said He is the Truth. Do you believe Him? Would you like to? Can you talk to someone (comment on this blog, for example) for direction?

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Reaffirming God’s Perfect Design for Men & Women

God created men and women in His image and gave them traits that He, Himself, has. Every bit of courage and grace, protectiveness and nurturing that He gave to men and women, came from Him. He possesses all of every trait, but in His wisdom gave more of some traits to Adam and more of other traits to Eve. In His design, Adam and Eve … and their progeny … were to work together to mimic the Godhead, where Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each one God and equal in status, have different roles, which complement one another.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27 ESV)

When God created humans, he made them in the likeness of God. (Genesis 5:1 GW)

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31 NIV)

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Comments welcomed. Let’s share what God says to His saints.

DOES GOD PROMOTE THE ORDINATION OF FEMALE CLERGY?

This question, and questions similar to it, are taking center stage in Christendom as men and women of faith search their Bibles for answers — and disagree about what they find.

For every person’s reference to 1 Timothy 2:12 NIV (“I do not permit a woman to teach or 64. Man-Woman-Createdto assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”) comes someone’s reference to Galatians 3:28 NIV (“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”)

Not only are the verses used to square off against one another, but the two sides to the question disagree about what the apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, meant when he wrote them. In other words, does one side or the other misread Paul’s words?

Against the backdrop of church doctrine is the secular world’s various opinions about the role and status of women generally, not just in Western countries influenced by Christianity but also in non-Western countries, where Christianity’s reach often is tenuous to non-existent.

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WITHIN THE BODY OF CHRIST ARE WRITINGS from men and women of strong faith and conviction who see the issue from radically different  perspectives — and this difference contributes to disunity within the church.

64. Journal WritingIs that disunity a healthy sign of vibrant thinking, top-notch scholarship, and faithful prayer, or is it the troubling signs of satanic meddling intended to scramble the energies of clergy and lay leaders, alike?

Major church voices — like John Piper, Tim Keller, and Wayne Grudem — argue quite strongly and persuasively that God has laid down a “complementarian” position, where men and woman are equal in their Creator’s eye in spiritual significance but whose assigned tasks in life differ according to the strengths and weaknesses He designed into them.

Other leaders — Bill Hybels and Charles F. Stanley, for example — take a different approach, while not driven by secular culture still more acceptable to it, known as “egalitarian.” This view strips away gender-related differences as nonessential, leaving bare the person’s  individual skills, interests, experiences, and dreams as the driving force in church and family role.

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BECAUSE THE CHURCH EXISTS IN THE WORLD, what happens in the world around the 64. Globechurch affects its theology. That does not mean “changes” its theology, so that church doctrine bends toward the worldly view. It means that it “impacts” the thinking, the questions asked, the answers given, the prayers raised, the interpretations advanced, the factions created.

Paul urges us in his letter to the Roman church “not [to] be conformed to this world, but [to] be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 BSB)

So, it is clear from Paul that the world’s clamor for doctrinal clarity is not the standard by which the church should be led. Instead, the church — both the institutional organizations and the body of believers as individuals — should be directed by God’s pronouncements.

So, what does God say about the matter?

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TWO POINTS SEEM TO BE VERY CLEAR in God’s calculus.

One is His clear assignment of leadership and headship responsibilities to Adam, not to Eve. Also clear is His presentation of Eve to Adam as his helper, not the other way around (Genesis 2:20b-22).64. Male-Female_Brains

The second is His statement that, as a result of Eve’s deception, her desire would be to rule her husband, but he was to have a fiduciary or protective role over her (Genesis 3:16).

Also clear, because of Adam’s disobedience, God decreed that Adam’s toil would be made more difficult (Genesis 3:17-19).

The difference in makeup and role carries starts with the family and carries over to the church.

The marital relationship involving men and women was established by God in Genesis 2:24 NIV (“For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”).

The relationship is explained in detail in Ephesians 5, where Paul tells women they are to “respect” their husbands and men are to “love” their wives. The duties of “loving” and “respecting” set up dual roles — which are complementary but not identical.

A man is supposed to use his physical strength, deeper voice, tougher body, and aggressive hormones to shield his wife from harm, even to the point of laying down his life for her, if required. Of course, the directive to  lay down his life can be analogized easily into self-sacrificial love for his wife, so that he cares for her, ensuring her well-being.

The directive for women to respect their husbands is to recognize the man’s 64. Partnershipsresponsibility to care, protect, and provide for his wife and children. The wife is to acknowledge her husband’s servanthood and the sacrifices he makes, the risks he takes, and the responsibilities he shoulders to keep them housed, fed, educated, insured, and safe.

God’s design keeps men and women in a mutually reinforcing partnership that mimics both the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) as well as God’s relationship with us (Christ and the Church).

Paul called this relationship a “profound mystery.” (Ephesians 5:32a NIV)

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WHY, THEN, IS THERE SO MUCH TURMOIL over the question?

There is no doubt but what our sin-stained lenses distort our vision of God’s creation. When the Almighty says through Paul that “Christ is the head of every man,” and “man is the head of a woman” (1 Corinthians 11:3 NASB), this either sounds, on one hand, as comforting as warm bath water or, on the other hand, as grating as fingernails on a chalkboard.

64. Church_DoctrineThe alignment established by God is completed when the woman submits to her husband, who in turn submits to Jesus Christ, who in turn submits to God the Father (1 Corinthians 11:3b NASB).

No doubt that men and women have sinned their way way from the “love” and “respect” cycle, so that men use their advantages of strength and dominance to disrespect and badger women while women use their advantages of cunning and wile to milk a man of his assets for their own selfish needs.

No wonder few of us can come to the doctrinal table without stained hands and distrustful hearts. After all, who can trust the other sex when the conflicts of our sin-infused world have led us away from the model God created and taught us.

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THE ISSUE OF FEMALE PASTORS and church leaders has been hijacked by those who look not to the Bible for instruction but to their own reasoning. It was never intended to be about superiority and inferiority or higher  ranking and lower ranking.

The complementarianism of God’s creation was designed to enhance mutuality, where 64. Perfectly_Onethe various strengths our Creator gave to men and women were intended to compensate for their corresponding weaknesses — a man’s strengths compensate for the woman’s weaknesses — and the woman’s strengths compensate for the man’s weaknesses.

God created us in His image, so that every strong, noble, and courageous trait that Adam and his progeny possess came from God — just as from God came every graceful, elegant, beautiful, nurturing, and tenacious trait that Eve and her progeny posses.

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WHILE THIS MEDITATION believes the “complementarian” position is aligned better with Scripture, and the “egalitarian” position is a misreading of Scripture, our LORD grieves when doctrinal disputes interfere with church unity.

Perhaps believers were never supposed to have all of the answers to life’s questions, for Moses tells us in Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Jesus reenforced this by saying God’s gift of salvation is based on our faith, not our reason: “At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.” (Matthew 11:25 NLT)

Instead of human pride leading to church spin-offs and hurtful accusations, this could be a moment when humility would lead all believers to join in prayer for God’s direction.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV)

What is it that is unseen?

“Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 BSB)

God’s grace. Our faith.

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PRAYER: O LORD, we pray that You will open our eyes to  the Truth of Your Word. Humble 44. Cross_on_Bibleour hearts so that we turn to You for direction, not to rely on our own ways, thoughts, and desires. Lead us to see the wisdom of Your creation and to follow and obey You, honoring how You made us. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. When answering life’s deepest questions, do you search the Scriptures as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11) for God’s answers, or do you rely on your own understanding and reason?
  2. How do you handle Scriptural teaching that may conflict with your thoughts? Do you ask God to explain His Word or do you substitute your reason for what you read?
  3. How do you help other people, some who are struggling believers and some who are skeptics and deniers, understand God’s eternal truth?

Today Is … Loving Others as Christ Loves Us

The Bible tells us as followers of Christ to live lives that are worthy of respect so that we will reflect well on the Holy Spirit’s presence in our hearts. We’re also to be ready to testify to the life-changing power of Jesus’ love.

“My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring.” — 1 John 3:18 (NCV)

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” — 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)

God calls us to witness for Him 24/7/365. We are to live out the Gospel in how we act, think, and talk. While this includes sharing a word of encouragement with a brother or Cross Over Biblesister, and looking for opportunities to do so, it’s also about putting God’s Word to use in how we live our lives.

Then, when someone asks about the joy we feel, we should be ready to explain how Jesus Christ has changed our hearts. That’s when we share the Word in personal testimony.

QUESTION: Are you ready to share with someone — a family member, co-worker, neighbor, or even a stranger — your faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Whether you answered “yes” or “no,” could you take a moment and pray along with me and other readers of this post the following prayer for God’s guidance?

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PRAYER: O Gracious LORD, our Heavenly Father, we thank You for being a God of love and a God of mercy. Work on our hearts, O LORD, to turn them from stone to flesh, from hard hearts that are self-centered and prideful into hearts of love, hearts of mercy, hearts of service, hearts of encouragement, hearts of teaching, hearts of testimony. Lead us to serve You, for Your glory. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

LORD, Teach Us How to Pray

Prayer is a privilege bought by Jesus’ blood. The Father grants us the right to come to Him in conversation, to praise His holy name, to ask forgiveness for our sins, to thank Him for all of His blessings to us, and to ask Him for additional gifts … all of which He wants to do. If we don’t see the privilege for what it is, we should ask Him to grant us joy in our prayer life, and He will do it.

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. (John 14:13 NLT)

“We do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.” (Daniel 9:18 ESV)

“You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3 NASB)

What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words. (Proverbs 18:21 GNT)

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HERE’S A QUIZ.

GOD TELLS US TO PRAY.

59. John 17-Jesus Prays for UsOne of the most endearing images among the Bible’s 66 books is recorded in John, Chapter 17, when Jesus, the Christ of the living God, prays to God.

The Bible tells us the mystery of the Trinity, in which each of the three components of the one unity — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — are God, yet here we have the Second Person of the Trinity praying in the Third Person of the Trinity to the First Person of the Trinity.


What does He pray about? Well, in verses 20 and 21, He prays for us!

Yes, He also prays for Himself as He’s about to be arrested, flogged, spit upon, mocked, stripped, and then nailed to a Cross for our sakes; and, yes, He prays for His disciples, those men who soon enough will begin to spread the message of Jesus Christ as Savior of the world.

But He also prays for us, those of us who were to be born more than 2,000  years later.

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IN LUKE CHAPTER 11, JESUS’ DISCIPLES asked Him to teach them how to pray.

This is such an amazing request because, as we’ve seen, the disciples have watched as their Teacher finds a quiet spot to pour His heart out to the Father and to seek guidance. “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He [Jesus] went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NKJV)

59. Jesus-Praying-to-GodThe disciples at this point realize there is something special about Jesus, but they cannot fathom that He is God, and that when He prays, He prays to God.

There is such mystery in the Trinity!

Jesus gives them a prayer template, which we call the Lord’s Prayer, but Jesus assures them that they should pray in His name and that He will answer their prayers (John 14:13). This means that the One who kneels before us in prayer also promises to answer our prayers when we pray to Him.

Later, after Jesus has been crucified and resurrected and then returns to Heaven, his younger half-brother James, one of the new church’s pivotal leaders, picks up this theme of praying in Jesus’ name.

James says in James 4:2-3 that we do not receive answers to our prayers, in part, because we never come to God in prayer and ask … and, in part, because when we do ask, we pray with selfish motives.

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IT SEEMS SO HOPELESS SOMETIMES.

How are we, as unworthy as we are, to approach the throne of the Creator of the universe and make known our petitions? What do we do when we are told that most of our prayers are self-centered?59. Woman-praying

In his best-selling book on prayer, Circle Your Prayer, Pastor Mark Batterson says that if we’re honest with ourselves, “most of our prayers have as their chief objective our own personal comfort rather than God’s glory.”

That means that when we approach the throne of Grace, we treat the moment like young children waiting to sit on Santa’s lap at the Mall with our list of toy demands.

Pastor Rick Warren, in his classic book, The Purpose Driven Life, reminds us that we are made in God’s image, and that “God designed your spirit to communicate with him.” God wants us to pray to Him, Warren says, noting that “worship is your spirit responding to God’s spirit.”

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DANIEL GOT PRAYER RIGHT.

Everyone remembers Daniel as the dude in the Lion’s Den. Because he  refused to bow down to worship an image of the king, he was thrown into a den with several very hungry lions and lived through the night because God kept the lions at bay.

Humble-Man-PrayingWhen Daniel prayed daily to God, he did not do so out of pride or entitlement or obligation, nor did he waste God’s valuable time on a grocery list of selfish wants and needs. He prayed for forgiveness of the sins of his people and for God to refresh his soul.

“We do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness,” Daniel says in one prayer, delivered on his knees in deep reference and humility, “but because of your great mercy.” (Daniel 9:18 ESV)

In other words, Daniel humbly told the LORD he was using the moment to ask for grace, not because Daniel felt he was deserving of God’s blessing but because he acknowledged that God alone is good.

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SO, HOW DO WE USE OUR MOMENT?

How do we come to the Creator, who grants us access through the blood of His Son, to present our petitions, to seek forgiveness, to ask for healing, to give praises and thanks?

Pastor John Piper offers various thoughts based on Scripture, leading with these: we should pray that God would exalt His name in the world, that God would extend His kingdom in the world, that God’s holy Word would triumph in the world, and for the fullness of the Holy Spirit in each of our hearts.

That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with petitioning God for a better job, or help in marriage, or healing from affliction, or children who are better behaved, or even that God will help us find our car keys — all of those are warranted — but it does mean that somewhere in the prayer we should recognize the need for God to proclaim His glory throughout the world … and that such proclamation should start with us.

59. Standing-At-CrossJesus modeled that prayer, starting with “hallowed be Your name” followed quickly by “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Then, Jesus said we should ask the Creator for personal benefits.

In fact, the Bible says that God will place in our hearts the very desires He wants us to pray for, then when we pray for them, He grants them.

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13 NIV) leads to “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalms 37:4 ESV).

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ASK YOURSELF THIS ABOUT YOUR PRAYERS: If your prayers were answered, just as you asked God to answer them, in the manner and timing you wanted, to accomplish the goals and objectives you set, would the answer benefit anyone besides you?

If not, do you (we) need to make any changes in our prayers?

Here is a prayer request offered by the apostle Paul: “This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love.” (Philippians 1:9 ERV)

The apostles Peter and John, when released from prison, led the other disciples and followers of Jesus in a prayer for continued boldness in witnessing: “Now, Lord … enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” (Acts 4:29 NIV)59. Girl-praying-with-dolls

When was the last time you (or I) asked God to increase our love for other  people and that God would increase our knowledge and understanding along with that love? When was the last time you (or I) asked God to increase our boldness for the Gospel?

Yes, asking God to provide safety for our wife when she’s out shopping during a sudden rainstorm, or help in preparing for a new business presentation, and health and healing for an aging parent are all wonderful prayer requests — and so is seeking divine revelation to locate those car keys — but God may well be calling you (and me) to join Him in something greater.

Perhaps He is calling us to ask to be part of His glory, to play a role in His goal for our lives. Paul said this 2,000 years ago to the church in Philippi (Philippians 1:11 NCV), but the words apply equally to us today, “that you will be filled with the good things produced in your life by Christ to bring glory and praise to God.”

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44. Cross_on_BiblePRAYER: O LORD, our Heavenly Father, let us not hold our precious prayer time with You to be something of drudgery or something we fear. Help us to realize the incredible privilege You afford us, You, the Creator of the universe and all of life, created us in Your image and then gave us — even after we rebelled against You — the privilege of coming to You in prayer. LORD, may prayer change our lives, and may You use our changed lives to change the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Galatians 5: “Fruit of the Spirit”

In Galatians, Chapter 5, the apostle Paul reminds us that two spirits are at war within us — the spirit of darkness, which rules this world, and the Spirit of Light, which is God’s eternal Spirit. Through Christ’s work on the cross, we no longer are slaves to our sinful natures; however, we need to choose to live by the Spirit. Moral impurity, idolatry, and jealousy are some manifestations of the spirit of the flesh.  But the fruit of God’s Spirit include love, joy, peace, and patience. The contrast is startling. Through Christ, we, indeed, are new beings.

“Live your life as your spiritual nature directs you. Then you will never follow through on what your corrupt nature wants. … They are opposed to each other. (Galatians 5:16-17 GW)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25 ESV)

This meditation is Part 5 of a 6-part series on Galatians. Part 1, “No Other Gospel,” is available here. Part 2, “Crucified With Christ,” is here. Part 3, “Law and Promise,” is here. Part 4, “Born of the Free Woman,” is here.

Missed a blog post? Find prior posts at LoveAndGrace and tweets at Twitter.

I AM FREE!

WOW! YES, I AM!

Free to be me, free to laugh, free to dance, free to say whatever I want. No  chains to bind 45. Children_Ignoring_Parentsme, no tasks to complete, no master to please.

I am my own man (or woman) …

… and who are you to say any differently?

How does “my thing” (whatever it might be) in any way harm you, keep you from being you, doing your own thing, get in your way.

I’m not hurting anyone. So. Leave. Me. Alone!

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WOW, INDEED.

Does that litany strike home? It does for me.

I can remember those youthful collegiate and graduate school days spent pouring over books, writing term papers, making new friends, dreaming big dreams, and just thoroughly enjoying being a young adult.

Except that I wasn’t really free at all, not by a long shot.

52.SinI was a slave to my sinful nature, but I was unaware of it. I had no clue. I imagine that put me in some pretty stellar company. There are a lot of people who have no clue how beholden they are to the pull of their sinful nature. Sadly, many of them are Christians … or, at least, church-goers … let’s call them “church-ers.”

Because of God’s grace, that would change. The voice of Jesus Christ would penetrate the surrounding fog: “The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] came that they [men and women] may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 NASB, emph. mine)

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THE APOSTLE PAUL writes to us in Galatians, Chapter 5, to live our lives not according to the will of the flesh, but of the Spirit of God. He reminds us that those two spirits — that of God and that of the flesh — exist in tension within us. They compete against one another. 

One spirit leads us into darkness, lies, and slavery, while the other frees us from bondage and leads us into the light — the only place where we truly can be free.52. Sinful-nature-at-war-with-God

It’s easy to tell the two spirits apart, Paul reminds us; in fact, He tells us “the acts of the flesh are obvious” (Galatians 5:19 NIV): among them are sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, and so many others.

Then, he warns us that “those who live like this,” that is, those men and women who are unrepentant in their hearts, who have not come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, who persist in living in the bondage of their sin, those people, he says, “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21 NIV).

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WE DON’T HAVE TO LIVE like that.

Jesus told us in His earthly ministry that He had a better message: “Come to Me, all of you  who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 CSB)

He told us if we listen to His words and build our lives on solid ground, His grace and mercy would help us withstand the storms of life, and, yes, those storms surely would come. (Matthew 7:24-25)

“Then you will know the truth,” Jesus said, “and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 BSB)


LOS FRUTOS DEL ESPIRITU

Amor, Gozo, Paz, Paciencia, Benignidad, Bondad,

Fidelidad,  Mansedumbre, Dominio Propio.

Contra tales no hay ley. — Gálatas 5:22-23


Those who, in Paul’s words, “belong to Christ Jesus,” are set free from the bondage of sin. “They have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24 ESV)

Of course, remaining sinful beings, we will continue to commit sins, but we no longer will live in sin or be attached to or enslaved by sin (1 John 3:6 ESV).

And what are the signs of that Spirit, the Spirit of God’s holy grace? Paul says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

52. fruit-of-the-spirit

Against that Spirit, he says, “there is no law,” that is, the Old Testament law does not apply, but the new covenant, the covenant of God’s grace DOES apply.

Paul’s parting shot in this chapter are words we need to claim for our own and write them in our hearts, much like the ancient Israelites were instructed by God through Moses to obey the law (Deuteronomy 6:6).

Our obedience to God hasn’t changed through the millennia; only the covenant has changed because God has replaced obedience to the law with obedience out of love to His grace.

Paul says: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25 ESV)

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PRAYER: O LORD, our majestic Savior and King, we humbly come to You, unworthy of prayer except as You grant us through the life blood of Your Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Place within our hearts a love for the Lord, a desire to be holy, a willingness to serve. Let us focus each moment on the spiritual gifts that You require of us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, because against such virtues, O LORD, there is no law. In His Name be all the glory and honor. Amen.

 

Galatians 4: “Born of the Free Woman”

The story of Sarah and Hagar is so symbolic of the promises of God that the apostle Paul uses it to explain how we, as followers of Jesus Christ, are children of the free woman, not the slave woman — that we are saved by grace as a free gift from God, not bound as slaves to the law to be judged by our failure to obey. Why, Paul asks the Galatians, would you want to rebind yourselves to the law when God through His Son has freed you by His grace! Why would we, as His followers today, want to bind our souls to the misery of being slaves to our works, our fears, our doubts — our guilt. Jesus has freed us from all of that!

“So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:7 NIV)

“There is a Scripture that tells us what to do: ‘Expel the slave mother with her son, for the slave son will not inherit with the free son.’ Isn’t that conclusive? We are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.” (Galatians 4:31 MSG)

This meditation is Part 4 of a 6-part series on Galatians. Part 1, “No Other Gospel,” is available here. Part 2, “Crucified With Christ,” is here. Part 3, “Law and Promise,” is here.

Missed a blog post? Find prior posts at LoveAndGrace and tweets at Twitter.

THERE WAS A FAMILY THAT HAD A YOUNG SON AND ALSO OWNED A  SLAVE.

51. adam-eve-teaching-children-82611-galleryAt first, when the boy was young, the slave, who was an adult and trusted by the child’s father, watched over the boy and guided his steps. You might say, the slave “ruled over” the child.

As time went on, however, their roles changed. The child grew to be a man, while the slave remained … well, a slave.

As the child became a man, he was entitled to an inheritance from the father. Not so the slave, whose term of service never changed.

Enter a benevolent outside force that scrambled the picture in a way the world had never seen before. This external force said it could do for the slave what the law was unable to do.

This external force could graft the slave onto the family tree, giving him the same rights as the natural child; in fact, freeing him from his servitude, making him a co-equal son with the natural son, and granting him an equal inheritance from the father.

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THAT’S ONE WAY OF LOOKING at Paul’s letter to the Galatians. In what our Bibles call 51. Envelope-to-the-Galatians“Chapter 4,” (the chapter headings were not in the original text of the letter), the apostle explains the migration that God the Holy Spirit provides everyone of us who progresses from our natural state — that of “unbelief” — to a new, born-again, state, that of “belief.”

In Paul’s terms, we are all slaves from birth by virtue of Adam’s and Eve’s rebellion against God, which ushered in our sinful state. To correct our behavior, God issued the Law, which started with the Ten Commandments. Paul tells us that the Law could not make us virtuous because we could never obey it entirely and consistently.

It’s main function, Paul said, was to show us our inequities, our imperfections, our sins, so that we would realize our need for the saving power of God the Son.

Once we accept the saving power of the Son, the Holy Spirit floods our hearts and takes up residence, creating within us a new person. Paul explains, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

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TO EXPLAIN HOW THIS SLAVE-SON-HEIR transition takes place, Paul took the Galatians (and us) back to the days of Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, and his wife, Sarah.

51. abraham-and-sarah-bible-storyGod had promised Abraham and Sarah that He would provide them with a son and that through that son, Abraham’s descendants would populate many nations and would become as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Speaking of Sarah, God said to Abraham, “I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” (Genesis 17:16 ESV)

As time went on, Abraham and Sarah, by this time 90 to 100 years old, felt that God had not provided the son He had promised them, so they wanted to help Him out, without asking His consent. So Sarah “gave” Abraham her maidservant, Hagar, to bear a son for her.

They named this son “Ismael.” Ismael was beloved by Abraham, but God said Ismael was not the child of God’s promise to Abraham. There would be a second son, this one born of Sarah. They would name him “Isaac,” and Isaac would be the son of God’s promise. The covenant would pass through Isaac, not Ismael.

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PAUL WALKS US THROUGH the story by recounting the tension that developed in Abraham’s house between the two son-bearing women—Hagar, the maidservant who provided a son (Ismael) for Sarah when Sarah remained barren, and Sarah, who later provided a son (Isaac) when the Lord opened her womb.

The Bible tells us that when Isaac was weaned, Abraham threw a great feast for him, but Sarah pleaded with him to discard Hagar and her son, saying Ismael’s continued presence could jeopardize Isaac’s inheritance. (“That slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac,” Sarah told Abraham. Genesis 21:10 NIV)

When Abraham asked God what he should do, God told Abraham to obey his wife, Sarah, reaffirming for Abraham that the covenant that God declared would pass through Isaac, not Ismael.

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THAT BRINGS US BACK to the beginning of our account where there are two sons — one son born of a slave woman into slavery and one son born of a free woman into the rights 51. Hagar & Ishmael Augo4of inheritance.

Here’s where Paul wants us to take special note. As he continues his letter from the points made in Galatians 1-3, that it is God’s grace that provides us with salvation, not our good works, Paul reinforces this amazing truth: that the Lord transforms us, we who are born with sinful natures as slaves of sin, into sons of the Father and, as sons, then as heirs of his good fortune (Galatians 4:7).

Paul tells us that the Law, expressed in the Old Testament, was meant “to lead us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24 NIV) so that He could save us through our faith and His grace (Ephesians 2:8 NIV).

Once the we have been led to God the Son through God’s grace, we become sons of God the Father. Because we are sons, along with the Son, God the Father then sends God the Holy Spirit into our hearts.

Through that transition, done entirely by God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are transformed from slavery into sonship and, as sons, “God has made [us] also an heir” (Galatians 4:7 NIV).

51. Holy-Spirit-descendingIn effect, we who once were born of the slave woman now are children of the free woman and, thus, of God’s promise.

Born into sin; reborn into salvation!

All because of God’s grace.

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PRAYER: O LORD, our Heavenly Father, it is only by Your grace and mercy that we can enjoy life and have it abundantly, as Your Son assured us. We give You all the glory for the blessings You have given us. Help us understand, or at least appreciate, the transition You have provided for us from our birth into sin and slavery under the Law to sonship with the Eternal Son and, with Him, being heirs of the promise. We thank You, we praise You, we honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.