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.


 

Jesus and the Two Blind Men

What a difference between Jesus and those who profess to follow Him. When He was on the road to Jerusalem to be beaten and executed for our sins, He had time and love and patience and compassion enough to help two blind men regain their sight. While He showed this love, His followers, who were not about to sacrifice anything for anyone, told the beggars to leave them alone. While we are called to live lives that are holy, no one comes to the Cross because of us; they come to the Cross because of Jesus and His love for us all.

Two blind men were sitting by the road. Hearing that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd following Jesus sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more. Jesus stopped and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” “Lord,” they said, “we want our eyes to be opened.” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately, the men regained their sight and followed Him. (Matthew 20:29-34 NIV, edited)

IF EVER THERE WERE a Bible story that pointed out what’s wrong with the church and its mission outreach, this is it.

Here was Jesus walking along a dusty road followed by, what various translations call “a large crowd,” “a great multitude,” “an immense crowd,” — basically, the church at the  time — when they passed by two beggars on the side of the road. The beggars were blind and seeking alms.

jesus-heals-two-blind-menWhile they could not see the proceedings, they could hear the pounding of sandaled feet, the excited murmur of voices, and the general hubbub associated with the assembly of many people.

When they heard the commotion was caused because Jesus was present, they reached out to Him for help. “Lord, Son of David,” they called out. The phrase, “Son of David,” was the Jewish phrase for the long expected Messiah, so, in truth, they were acknowledging the Divinity of Jesus.

And what was the multitude’s response? The Jesus followers. The disciples, groupies, hangers on, and wannabes. You know, the church!

They told the blind men to “shush,” that they were a bother. Jesus’ followers (the church, at the time) was too busy following Jesus to pay attention to human suffering along the roadside.

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AHHH, BUT NOT JESUS.

He wasn’t too busy. He heard their cries for help. He stopped the action and called them over, and then, to check their faith, He asked what they wanted Him to do for them. Imagine that — the Son of God asking His creation what He could do for them. Continue reading “Jesus and the Two Blind Men”

Demons and Disciples: Two Responses to Jesus

Jesus shows us two responses to His earthly ministry. One is from the demons, who knew who He was and rejected Him; the other is from His disciples, who, through faith, followed Him, even without full knowledge of His person. Today, He invites us to follow Him on faith, not on knowledge.

The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him!’” (Matthew 8:27 NLT)

“And (the demons) cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’” (Matthew 8:29 NIV)

TWO VERSES APART. TWO SEPARATE RESPONSES.

In Matthew’s account of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, two radically different responses to the man Jesus were presented a mere two verses apart.

In the first case, His disciples — that is, followers of Jesus himself — expressed amazement that Jesus could be awakened during a storm and, 

Two Responses to Jesus - Winds
Jesus calms the raging sea.

with a single word, stop a storm that threatened their small boat. They wondered who He was!

In the second case, evil demons — that is, followers of Satan — cried out in anguish that Jesus, whom they knew as the Son of Almighty God, had come to send them to eternal punishment before their allotted time. They were inhabiting a man who lived among the tombs and, knowing Jesus would heal the man, begged Him to send them to a nearby herd of pigs.

How strange that those who knew Jesus were following the wrong guy and those who one day would shape the world for His Kingdom still hadn’t caught on that this was God’s Son.

True enough, the disciples knew Jesus was special. After all, they had obeyed His call to follow Him and had seen Him feed 5,000 men (and many more women and children) from a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Top that off when, in a desperate panic, they had just awakened Him from a sound sleep to tell them their boat was taking on water in a sudden storm.

Jesus-heals-troubled-man
Jesus heals a troubled man.

Even so, they weren’t quite sure what to make of it all.

The demons knew. James, a half-brother to Jesus, assures us in his New Testament letter that “the demons believe … and shudder” (James 2:19 NIV). So, the point is made that, at least with Jesus Christ, seeing is not the same as believing.

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AT FIRST GLANCE, it would seem that the demons were more in tune with the Creator of the universe than the apostles were, even though the twelve men watched the Lord daily heal the physically and mentally ill and teach with authority in the various synagogues. Continue reading “Demons and Disciples: Two Responses to Jesus”

Will Christians Lead Political Debate or Abdicate Responsibility?

God’s sovereignty prevails over the course of men’s lives. His will will be done, regardless of man’s great plans. When countries ignore His moral laws and applaud those who flaunt them, He has said He will withdraw the hand that restrains sin and evil and leave us to our depraved selves. Is that a society we want for ourselves? Christians must lead as “light and salt” of the world, defending God’s moral law and conducting ourselves in civic affairs with love and humility.

“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind” (Rom. 1:28 NIV)

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalms 14:1 NIV)

“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Two thoughts on the 2016 U.S. political season, a brief analysis, and a conclusion:

First Thought: the electorate is angry and divided. During the primaries, three candidates (Republicans Donald Trump & Ted Cruz; Democrat Bernie Sanders) led a populist assault against Washington. 

Christian-Civil GovernmentTrump alone survived, leading to a predictable result: Old Guard politicians and establishment figures from both parties joining forces against Trump, their common foe. Too soon to tell if the electorate, wearied from a year of politics, will yawn and back the establishment candidate or continue the assault and overturn the status quo.

Second Thought: the real possibility that Almighty God is withdrawing his protective hand as our country’s arrogant leaders—and a growing number of private citizens—ignore His biblical instructions for our lives.

The apostle Paul wrote: “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper” (Romans 1:28 NASB) and again: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them” (Romans 1:18-19 NIV).

Old Testament prophets told rebellious Israel that, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God” (Isaiah 59:2 NLT) and “Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the LORD your God?” (Jeremiah 2:17 ESV). King David, who lived under the covenant before the Cross, was so fearful of God’s rebuke for his sins, that he prayed: “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11 NIV).

While God after the Cross will not remove the Holy Spirit from His believers, calling His gift “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14), nevertheless, continued disobedience on our parts still erects a barrier between us and the God of mercy. This grieves the Lord who has assured us it is our obedience and salvation that He wants to see: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

Analysis: Christian values, as many have seen, have given modern society so much to cherish — among them hospitals, civil liberties, abolition of slavery, modern science, elevation of women, and regard for human life — against the shameful record of non-believers fomenting devastation and suffering on their own people.

The difficulty with discussing civic matters from a biblical perspective is that the Bible is clear only that some matters pertain to God and His affairs while others pertain to the state. Unfortunately for U.S. society, our national government now is usurping the moral sphere, replacing God’s moral law with political policy and defending that usurpation on a false reading of the Bible!

Followers of Christ cannot let that go unchallenged.God & Government

However, we are still called to be “light and salt” to the world and to express our views in humility and with love. While God made it clear He abhors homosexual conduct and abortion, Christians could differ on issues such as the U.S. taking in Syrian refugees or revising the tax code. Christians must forthrightly defend Scripture, but where the trail is muddled, Christ’s followers must reach their positions through prayer and promote them lovingly, even when disagreeing with one another.

Conclusion: It is imperative that followers of Christ lead the way this election year in the U.S. by boldly defending God’s laws and by conducting civic affairs in a civil manner. That would preclude the ad hominem attacks so favored by the unfaithful. We are called to support civil government (Rom. 13:1-7), but we must pray that whichever party’s candidates prevail in this ugly election, hearts will be softened to hear—and follow— the Lord’s voice.

PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, we pray Your grace as our countrymen vote this November. We pray that our country’s leaders, and those who seek to replace them, will be open to Your voice and seek Your will, not just rhetorically when it’s politically useful, but in their personal lives and public acts. We also pray that You will lift up men and women who follow the Lord to seek political office at all levels of government so that our country, state, local communities, and school districts will be led by those who seek the Lord’s will. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen

Don’t Make It Difficult for Those Turning to God

All to often, we Christians are poor ambassadors of the message our Lord left with us. We should not stand in the way of non-believers searching for Truth in their lives. We should make it easy for them to seek — and find — the Lord’s saving grace. He made salvation easy. He did all of the hard work. We just need to point the way.

“And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” Acts 15:19 (NLT)

“I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” Acts 20:21 (NIV)

THIS MUST HAVE BEEN AN EXCITING MEETING!

The glitterati of the Jewish Christian world — Jesus’ remaining apostles and church elders — were gathered in Jerusalem to hear a progress report from two missionaries, Paul and Barnabas, who had been evangelizing the Good News to the Gentiles.

Girl Praying - Turning to GodThe whole idea that God wanted the non-Jewish world to be saved from eternal damnation was a difficult enough concept for many of the Jews to understand, but worse, they were hearing reports that Paul and Barnabas were teaching salvation by faith, not by good works. Moreover, they were teaching that Gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism before becoming a follower of Christ and that they were not bound by the Law of Moses. 

No, the Gentiles would be saved by God’s grace and their belief that Jesus was God, died sacrificially for their sins, and was raised from the dead to sit at God’s right hand.

There was a lot of ground for the church elders to cover.

The Book of Acts, written by the doctor, Luke, tells us that Paul and Barnabas reached Jerusalem and were “welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders” — that is, until the Pharisees swung into action. That was the same crowd that Jesus said “woe to” on many occasions, accusing them of substituting their rules, their regulations, and their mandates for God’s law of love and forgiveness.

“The new believers must become Jews first,” the  Pharisees thundered, “and they must keep the law of Moses.”

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INTERESTING.

Man Praying - Turning to GodNowhere in the four Gospels does Jesus ever say that His followers must convert to Judaism and follow Moses’ law to be saved from God’s wrath. Instead, in John chapter 3, Jesus says His followers must be “born again.” In Luke chapter 9, He says His followers must “take up their cross daily” and follow Him.

But the Pharisees, as usual, were adamant.

The apostles and elders kicked those ideas around, when Apostle Peter stood up to address them. Naturally, Peter would speak first. There was a hush as he looked around the room, waiting for order.

He reminded them that “some time ago,” God made it known that the gospel of Jesus Christ was to be preached to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews and that He would accept all into His Kingdom “by giving them the Holy Spirit,” the same as He gave to the Jews.

Peter rebuked the elders, saying God would purify the Gentiles’ hearts by faith. “Why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” Peter asked.

You can feel his exasperation.

“No!” he told the stunned assembly. “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

After Peter sat down, Luke tells us that Paul and Barnabas related their experiences and how the Gentiles were responding warmly to the salvation message.

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YOU CAN’T BEAT WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.

For shear drama, this must have been the top moment.

God Reaching Out to ManSo far, the apostles Paul and Barnabas had spoken, the Pharisees had had their  moment, and Peter had spoken.

Could it get any more dramatic?

Yes, actually, it could.

The next man to stand is the one Luke tells us had the final say.

It was James.

Not just any James. This was James, the half-brother of Jesus Himself. The one who Luke tells us in chapter 8 accompanied his mother, Mary, and siblings to tell Jesus He was embarrassing the family with His teaching and should return home and tend to His carpentry business.

The James that Luke tells us in chapter 4 was sitting in the temple in the family’s hometown of Nazareth when Jesus read from Isaiah that “the Spirit of the Lord is on me” and proclaimed to all of their neighbors that the verse was about Him. Yes, the James who watched as the townsmen wanted to stone Jesus!

Yup, that James, but not that James.

The James who stood up at that moment in that meeting knew who His Lord and Savior was. In human terms, he knew his older half-brother was God.

That James stood up and closed the argument with these words inspired by the Holy Spirit — words of grace, mercy, and wisdom: “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. It is my judgment that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

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DON’T MAKE IT DIFFICULT TO WIN CONVERTS TO CHRIST.

James’ words trickle down the centuries to the present era, where we also are called by Almighty God not to make it difficult for those who hunger for the Truth of salvation, whether by our actions or our words.

Instead, we should make it easy for them to ask God for His forgiveness, to thank Him for the gift of grace, and to ask Him to live in their hearts.

When James’ words were relayed to the Gentile community outside Jerusalem, Luke tells us in Acts 15:31 (NIV) how they reacted:

“The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.”

Praise God!

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PRAYER: Our merciful and loving Heavenly Father, we just praise your holy name. We give thanks that You are a God of love and compassion, of patience and caring. Your gift of eternal life with You is too wonderful to comprehend. Help us in our witness to avoid placing obstacles or barriers of any kind in the way of your lost children. Rather, help us to extend loving, accepting, benevolent hands to those reaching out for Your Word. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen

PRAYING BOLDLY

The Lord calls us to pray boldly, asking God for big things; yet, too often, we’re timid. We ask God to fix the little things that bother us today. Sometimes, those little things seem big, like salvation for our children or to cure a loved one’s malignancy, but those prayers merely ask God to take care of the situation. They don’t really involve us. Jesus said He wants us involved in our prayers, so that we become part of the solution we seek. That’s where boldness comes in, by aligning ourselves with God in salvation’s story.

Now to Him who is able to do infinitely more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us. — Ephesians 3:20 (BSB)

‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You.’ — Jeremiah 32:17 (NASB)

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man, this is impossible; but with God, all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (BSB)

THERE IS AN AMAZING STORY OF JESUS IN THE GOSPEL OF MARK.

Okay, you say, aren’t the Gospels filled with amazing stories of Jesus?

One moment, you say, He’s raising Lazarus from the dead, then He heals 10 lepers and  restores sight to two blind men. He stops a woman’s hemorrhage just by her touching His cloak. He feeds 5,000 men — the Bible tells us men, Pray Boldly - lightningin addition to women and children, so there probably were 15,000 people — then He does it again with 4,000 men — plus their families — shortly afterward. If that weren’t enough, He tells the wind to shush and the waves to quiet.

Even the disciples were incredulous, asking themselves, “Who is this man?” (Mark 4:41 NLT)

True enough, but this story in Mark is different from the others. This one focuses on Jesus in a way that clearly transports him from an earthly realm to a heavenly one.

Before I tell you the story, I have a question for you.

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HOW BOLD ARE YOUR PRAYERS?

Well, how big is your God?

My guess is your God is no bigger than your prayers. If your prayers are small, probably your God is small. To pray boldly, as the Scriptures encourage us, requires a big God. A God big enough to have created creation, itself — including you.

If you’re like me, you’re probably a bit in awe of praying to the Creator of the universe. Here we come in prayer, armed with a wish list of stuff Man Praying Humblywe want Almighty God to take care of, much like giving him His morning “To Do” list. Even while we lay our requests at His feet, we can’t help wondering if our weak requests in our puny lives in our insignificant corner of the universe is even worth His attention?

What would it take for each of us to take Him seriously when He beckons us to prayer?

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LET’S GO BACK TO THE STORY.

Jesus comes down from a mountaintop with three of His most trusted disciples — Peter, John, and James — and He finds a distraught man whose son is acting strangely. The  men approaches Jesus and urgently tells him his son is possessed with a demon that causes him to froth at the mouth and fall to the ground, going rigid. Sometimes, the man said, the demon throws his son into the fire to burn him.

Then the man tells the Lord, while pointing to the nine other disciples who did not accompany Jesus to the Woman Praying Earnestlymountaintop, “I asked Your disciples to cure him, but they weren’t able to.” The man searches the Lord’s face earnestly, then asks, meekly, much like many of our prayers, “Can You help him?”

Mark records the Lord’s answer to the man, which, really, is the Lord’s rebuke to us: “What do you mean, if I can? Anything is possible if a person believes.”

Then Jesus commanded the demon to leave the boy and never return.

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JUST ANOTHER WONDERFUL STORY OF JESUS, YOU SAY?

No, not exactly. What makes this story so spectacular is what Mark tells us happened just before this healing incident occurred, back when Jesus was on the mountaintop  with His inner circle of trusted disciples.

Mark tells us that on the mountaintop, while Jesus’ three closest disciples watched, “Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and His clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than earthly bleach could ever make them.”

During this transforming moment, Peter babbled something inane, as Peter was wont to do, but Mark passes over it quickly, dismissing it as mere background noise.

Then, Mark tells us: “[A] cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is My dearly loved Son. Listen to Him.’”

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THIS SEQUENCE OF EVENTS IS POWERFUL.

There is a testimony for us. There are so many ways that our Lord tells us to pray boldly, even telling us that if we have the faith of a small mustard seed, we can pray in the Lord’s name, and He will move mountains for us (Matthew 17:20 NIV).

Why, then, don’t we?

Adult Man in PrayerEven as believers, we are likely to pray “small.” Most of our prayers focus on our lives, and our families and loved ones. As part of prayer and fellowship groups, we extend our  prayers to include those members and their concerns; and, yes, we open our eyes to the suffering around us and pray the Lord’s intervention to sooth our concerns.

What we don’t do is go beyond ourselves and petition God, who tells us not to be anxious about anything, but to share everything with Him in petition and thanksgiving.  (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

There’s nothing wrong with our prayers for our loved ones and for help in those areas of our lives where we hunger for God’s tender grace. It just that God is so much BIGGER than that. We seldom ask Him to go beyond the routine request.

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JUST THINK OF JESUS TRANSFORMED ON THE MOUNTAINTOP — and meditate on just who He is — and what He can do … and then meditate on how little we ask of Him.

How bold are your prayers? How big is your God? 

One pastor said that health and wealth and miracles are Pray Boldly (script)wonderful things, but the Apostle Paul told the church in Ephesus that He prayed that the love of the Lord Jesus Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith.

To what end? To this end: “[That you] may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19 NASB)

NOW, THAT’S BOLD!

PRAYER: Our heavenly Father, forgive us for offering You timid prayers, which often are just a list of our wants and needs, when You call us to pray boldly for Your kingdom, that Your will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Help us to see a grander vision that You want for us, to pray boldly and then offer ourselves, in obedience to Your call, as part of that prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen


PRAYING FOR BOLDNESS

Jesus often tells us He can handle our requests, like this one: “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man, this is impossible, but with GOD all things are possible.’” — Matthew 19:26 (BSB)

Apostle Paul sought boldness: “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, divine utterance may be given me, so that I will boldly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it fearlessly, as I should.” — Ephesians 6:19-20 (BSB)

Here’s a prayer for the early disciples after Peter and John were released from prison: “And now, Lord, consider their threats, and enable Your servants to speak Your word with complete boldness. — Acts 4:29 (BSB)

Paul leaves us with this thought: “Pray without ceasing.”— 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (BSB)

GOD’S KEY QUESTION

God asks us to answer this key question: Who do you say Jesus is? Is He the Messiah or an imposter? Apostle Peter believed in Jesus; Apostle Judas betrayed him. One question; two different answers. We also must decide.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:15-16 (NIV)

And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. Luke 22:4 (NIV)

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THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION men and women, created in the image of God, are called to answer is the simple one Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do you say I am?”

The Bible records two answers Who-Do-You-Say-That-I-Am (Luke 9-20)from two disciples, Peter and Judas. Peter answered right away, declaring that Jesus, looking every bit a man just like them, dressed in robe and dirty sandals, a man who tired after a long day’s work with no place to lay His head at night, was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

Judas responded later. He sold access to the rabbi for 30 pieces of silver. To Judas, Jesus was an imposter. He promised to be a king, but He showed no interest in leading a rebellion against Rome to free Israel from under its heel.

Two different answers from two men called by Jesus to follow him daily for three years, to pray with him, and to hear him teach the crowds, call out the religious leaders’ hypocrisy, lay a healing touch on a person sick or lame or blind, and even raise a dead man back to life.

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ONE QUESTION, TWO ANSWERS. Really, those are the only answers we can give, and we are called to choose between them.

Because of our fallen natures (we are born in sin through Adam’s disobedience), our default answer is to reject Jesus. For most folks, busy with their lives and striving to get ahead, it’s an easy call. Jesus is not relevant to them. He might have been a good man or a wise teacher, but, let’s get real, He lived a long time ago in a community primitive by today’s standards, and his words and deeds have little relevance to us.

Except.

If that is so, if his life 2,000 years ago in the Near East is irrelevant to our lives, then why are we still talking about him? What is it about Jesus that compels us to address that question of who He is throughout our lives, down through the generations, around the globe, wherever his message has gone?

Sure, He said He was God, but any crackpot can claim a false identity. Yes, He backed up his claim with miracles witnessed by thousands, Most Important Questionand yes, it is said He spoke with authority on the Scriptures, an uneducated man besting the most learned scholars of the day, often leaving them speechless with his responses to their vexing questions.

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BUT SOMETHING WAS DIFFERENT about him, even before his resurrection from the dead. 

He knew the people He talked with. He read their minds; He understood their hearts. He loved them. He reached out with promises of hope and love and mercy and kindness and forgiveness … and life. Life. Abundant Life. Joy in this world and eternity with God.

No one who encountered Jesus could be indifferent. No in-between with him. Either you were with Peter and worshipped him … or you were with Judas and wanted him out of your life.

Who Jesus is is the most important question you — and I — are called to make. Each one of us comes to a decision alone. How we answer that question will determine how we live our lives … and how we spend eternity.

So, who do YOU say Jesus is?

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PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, we know that coming to grips with that one question, ‘Who do I think Jesus is?’ is the most important question we will ever answer. We pray that we will come to see him as our Lord and Savior and give thanks that He sends the counselor to live in our hearts and guide our steps. Help us to live our lives in obedience to him for his glory. Amen