Meditation–BEING BOLD IN OUR WITNESS

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


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“And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” — Acts 4:31 (NASB)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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OUR LORD ALSO TOLD US to expect blowback.

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

What should our response be to such attacks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You will be my witnesses.”

Let us rejoice!


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

~PRAYER~

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


Questions for Personal Meditation and Group Discussion:

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

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

Meditation–HOW DO WE WITNESS FOR CHRIST?

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

How best to do it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE BIBLE AFFIRMS THAT TRUTH.

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

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

Meditate on these verses:

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

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

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

“You will be my witnesses.”


PRAYER

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


Questions for Personal Meditation and Discussion:

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

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

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


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

Meditation–CRISIS IN AMERICAN CHURCHES

God’s church in America is in crisis. Various Protestant denominations have splintered over doctrinal issues, while the Roman church faces increased scrutiny and legal challenges resulting from failure to protect congregants from unfaithful clergy. What does this mean for us as faithful members? Who is to blame? All of us? Whose responsibility is it to work through the mess, ours or just the paid leaders? What do non-believers see when they see the church in disarray? Let’s take a quick look at what’s happening within one church — the United Methodist Church — as it struggles to minister to its membership about the homosexual community in light of the Bible’s teaching.

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

“Men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” John 3:19 (NASB)

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. … They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” — 2 Timothy 4:3a, 4 NIV)


THE AMERICAN CHURCH IS IN CRISIS TODAY.

J.Meditation.ChurchInCrisisThis is not the first time, and the Bible tells us it won’t be the last, but this is now, and whatever happens, it will be our legacy — the legacy of those of us who are alive now.

Just check the headlines of our national media, and you’ll see scandals in the Roman church, fractious debate among Methodists, soul-searching within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Look back a short while, and you’ll see divisions within the Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Episcopal churches.

While the specific issues differ within each denomination, the core issues are similar: in some way, they revolve around sex and gender, human relationships, faithfulness, and expected gender roles. (A quick Google search will pick up relevant articles in addition to the above links.)

The issues can be specified further with pinpoint accuracy: the result of man’s sin nature and constant rebellion against God.

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THE PRESBYTERIANS, Lutherans, and Episcopalians have drifted from the headlines for the time being, while the Roman Catholic Church and United Methodist Church have filled the gap.

The Roman church is paying a heavy price for its institutional failure to confront sexual abuse of children — boys and girls, but mostly boys — and of women, called to serve alongside ordained priests. Legal battles and court settlements will burden the institution for years to come, but the greater damage will be its tainted witness to a world in need of answers.

Right now, I want to focus on division within the Methodist church.

The Methodist church is exposing its inner divisions to the world at large over the issue of homosexuality — both its active practice among congregants and the calling of active homosexuals to the clergy and  bishops.

views2As an international body, the Methodist church is split further between the more liberal church in America, which teaches tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality, and the more traditional branch in Central Europe and especially in Africa, which strives to follow the Bible’s authority.

A recent vote by delegates to the General Conference exposed the rift as Americans largely voted to adopt a more inclusive church discipline, while the Africans voted to stay with a stricter interpretation of Scripture.

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THAT DECISION did not sit well with many American Methodists, some two-thirds of whom preferred a less restrictive plan that would have permitted each congregation, and its pastor, to determine its acceptance or rejection of homosexual clergy and members.

Unfortunately, the public dialogue from disaffected Methodists has served only to exacerbate the division.

Most of the commentary has been to lament those who want to maintain Biblical purity as being “intolerant” or “judgmental,” as people who claim a “moral superiority” and “smug rightness of viewpoint” and who, of course, are “legalistic.”

Words matter, and the terms we use frame the debate. While the reformers term the debate between “traditionalists” and “grace-filled,” the debate might better be termed as between the “faithful” and the “revisionists.”

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AT THE HEART of the Methodists’ quandary is the role of Holy Writ; specifically,  whether the Bible is the inerrant and infallible word of God or whether it is merely inspired text written by men, who were flawed (as we all are) and wrote against a 64. Church_Doctrinehistorical and geographic backdrop far different from our own.

The distinction, then, is whether the 21st century American believer should read God’s Word as being eternal and universal because God is perfect and never changes, or if the Bible should be read in some “holistic” manner, in which the reader inhales the overall “sense” of the Bible and then fills in the details according to the current culture’s understanding.

The rift is huge, and the debate rages on. We are left to wonder how much prayer goes into the argument, especially among those who declare that “God didn’t write the Bible.” We can rest assured that those who quote Scripture telling us God did write the Bible are on their knees in prayer for direction.

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WHERE DOES THIS GO?

Jesus established His church to proclaim His message to the world and to provide love and support for those drawn to it. He vowed that “all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18 NLT). He said His church will prevail.

In the end, Jesus wins.

But what does it do for a weary, broken world now, when those who claim to love their Lord and have access to His Holy Word are so unfaithful in the conduct not just in their personal lives but in their witness through the various church bodies?

While we are all “treated” to the current discord within the Methodist and Baptist churches, and difficult legal issues confronting the Roman church, let’s not forget the Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Episcopal churches, whose divisions continue to simmer.

We need a heart change.

Forgive us, Lord Jesus.


PRAYER

O FATHER GOD, we have fouled up Your church so badly. We have  scandals in one J9. OPEN BIBLE w IMAGEbody, discord in another. We fight over important matters with members who don’t hold to the Bible’s eternal and universal truths, and we quarrel with others about trivial items that have no impact on our witness. Lord, You told us Your church will prevail, despite our arrogance, greed, and pride. Lord, we ask You to forgive us as we lay down our sins at the foot of the Cross. Lord, we repent of our selfishness. Lord, forgive us and supernaturally make Your church a strong voice for Truth. In the mighty name of Jesus, we pray. Amen


Questions for Personal Meditation and Group Discussion:

1. How impacted are you personally by the rancor, faithlessness, and discord within the various church denominations specifically and across the board in Christendom? Does the issue affect your worship experience or is it, for you, just a matter for church leaders to handle?

2. To what do you attribute the divisions that exist within the various denominations? Do you believe in any way you have contributed to the problem, and do you believe you can make a difference to bring healing?

3. Have you (or your family) switched church denominations or congregations within a denomination within the last 10 years as a result of divisions within your church? Have you (or your family) prayed for church healing? Where do you see the various church denominations going over the next generation?

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

Meditation–GOD CALLS US TO WITNESS

As believers in the Word of God, we are called by Him to witness for Him in the way we conduct ourselves and how we speak. There is no wiggle room, nor should we look for any. Instead, we should pray for opportunities to witness, praise God when they come, and then speak in gentleness and love. Before speaking, however, we are called to live lives that glorify God. Why? Because our testimony is hallow if our lives are no different from the world’s and because our witness is faithful only if we are transformed–truly converted. The Holy Spirit will change the way we live and give us the words to say. Hallelujah!

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


“Abraham was only one man when I called him. But when I blessed him, he became a great nation.” Isaiah 51:2b (NLT)


IN MY NEW LIFE as a born-again Christian, one of the loneliest moments I feel is when I sense an opportunity to witness verbally for the Lord. No, I’m not proud of that, because I long for and pray for those opportunities.Men Sharing Gospel

The problem is, I often feel totally inadequate.

I am never certain of whether the moment actually is the right time, or if the person before me is a willing recipient.

I don’t know if I’ll sound like a self-righteous Bible-spouter filled with judgment and condemnation … 

Or — and this is my hope — I’ll sound like the committed believer I really am, eager to share the Good News of my salvation and to extend an invitation to the other person.

In other words, in my mind, it’s all about me! Of course, I realize that’s not what the Bible teaches us. Jesus reminds us to “abide” in Him and He promises to “abide” or “remain” in us (John 15:4-7).

We are given assurance throughout Scripture of God’s faithfulness. The Bible tells us, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” — Psalm 37:5 (CSB)

Still, I know that, in that moment, all the other person will see is me standing or sitting in front of him or her while I feel very much like the weight of their eternity rests on my shoulders.

It does not, and I know it does not, but I still feel it does.

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GOD IS FAITHFUL despite my inadequacies. If there is any failure to communicate the message of salvation, that fault rests with me. God has given me the gift of speech, the knowledge of Scripture, the heart to share, and I have prayed fervently for this opportunity.

Why then am I struck dumb with fear?

If I could write the script, I would place the encounter within a congenial conversation, with both of us sitting and sharing our observations of life.Woman Sharing With Woman

Then, the conversation naturally would lend itself to giving a personal testimony. I don’t shrink from that situation, nor do I shrink from those  conversations were the other person either asks me about my faith or even chides me about my faith.

Where I am fearful is when there is no obvious entry point to the conversation, when we’re rushing to go about our day, or when there is a palpable discomfort between the other person and me.

Is this the right moment? Perhaps so, perhaps not.

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IF THE SITUATION involves a family member, then I am in greater anguish because I feel a greater responsibility, even though I know that if my listener rejects me or my message of hope, he or she actually is not rejecting me but really is rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 10:16).

Our Lord instructs us as parents to teach His ways to our children (Deuteronomy 11:19), so my failure to teach my daughters about the Lord when they were young weighs heavily on me, especially when I contemplate their eternal fate, if they don’t accept God’s offer of salvation.

Our Lord says the world’s sin is that it has rejected Him (John 16:9; Jeremiah 2:13), but Paul reminds us that they cannot accept what they have not been taught (Romans 10:14).

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IN THE END, I need to trust in the Lord and His faithfulness, knowing that His love for my children and family members, my friends and neighbors, my co-workers and even total strangers who come into my life for a moment or two far outweighs the love I ever could have for them.

At the right time, He will tug at their heart, and then they will decide whether to accept the blessings He offers or continue to stumble in darkness (Rev. 3:20; John 6:44).

My job is to remain faithful to my Lord’s promptings, knowing that He remains with me forever (Matthew 28:19-20).


PRAYER

50. Open_BibleO Lord, merciful and mighty, come into our hearts in a big way, overwhelming us with love, forgiveness, grace, and compassion, so that we might share those blessings with all You call us to serve. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen


Questions for Personal Meditation and Discussion:

1. How do you feel when you are in conversation with someone and you sense God is giving you an opportunity to witness for your faith? Do you feel energized (you should!) or fearful (understandable). Afterward, how do you assess your obedience? Did you witness or let the opportunity pass?

2. Does God’s calling on your life seem real to you? Can you take in the idea that God calls you as a believer to minister to others, that it’s not just the job of professional church staff, missionaries, and those “specially called” but that He loves to use the simple, the humble, and the contrite of heart?

3. Can you imagine the thrill of meeting someone in Heaven who is there because you’ve lived your life as a model of grace and compassion or because you offered encouragement from the Lord that led them to conviction? Can you meditate on how amazing that would be?

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

Meditation–TRUSTING OUR GOD

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I am the LORD your God. …  

You shall have no other gods before Me.”


PRAYER

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


Questions for Personal Meditation and Group Discussion:

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

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

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

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

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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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?

“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.

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?

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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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