Meditation: PETER’S THREE ANSWERS TO JESUS

We can learn so much about ourselves by studying the apostles’ lives. The largest character by far is Peter. When Jesus asked the Twelve who they thought He was, it was Peter who declared Him Lord. Later, this same Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Through God’s mercy, Peter was reinstated, proclaiming his love for the Lord, and becoming a lion for the Gospel. We, too, as disciples may vacillate between being bold and being cowardly. With God’s mercy, the Holy Spirit will strengthen our character over time so that, like Peter, we will end up saying, “You know all things, Lord. You know I love You.”

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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?

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“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.”  (Matt. 16:15-16 NIV)

“You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” (John 18:17 NIV)

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” (John 21:15a NIV)

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AS BELIEVING CHRISTIANS, who can name our date of salvation and proudly carry our Holy Bibles to worship and weekly Bible study, our hearts beat proudly to read the words of Peter, the impetuous apostle, to the Master’s question.

After Jesus asked His disciples who their families, friends, and neighbors thought He was, He drilled down to the essential question that He asks of all of us:

72.Jesus_Teaches“Enough of this dancing around the issue,” He might have said. “In the end, it doesn’t really matter who these others think I am. The real issue is ‘Who do YOU think I am.’”

Yes, Peter jumps in with the God-inspired response: “You are the Messiah, the Christ of the living God, who was and is and is to come, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. All things were made through You and nothing was made except what was made by You to serve Your glory.”

While Peter didn’t make a speech, in essence, that’s what he was proclaiming.

We love to read his answer over and over because we know that is the correct answer—and in our hearts, it’s our answer, too.

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UNFORTUNATELY, THE STORY doesn’t end there.

There’s a second answer that Peter gives, at a different time in a different place, when the circumstances were different.

It’s one of denial.

“Are you a believer?” the co-worker asked. “Are you a follower of Jesus Christ, the alpha57.Playground-tauntsand the omega, the beginning and the end?”

“Oh, no, not me!” Peter responded. “Whatever are you suggesting? Where would you have gotten that idea? No, I’m just like everyone else. I don’t believe in that nonsense. A bunch of religious kooks, if you ask me.”

Sometimes, we act like the first Peter, but too often we tend toward the second Peter.

Maybe our words aren’t so strongly stated, but maybe it’s because we don’t speak at all.

We remain strangely quiet when the circumstances require us to speak up; we blend into the crowd when the circumstances require us to step forward; we look to “discretion” when the circumstances require us to be bold.

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WHICH PETER ARE YOU?

Truthfully, we probably are both Peters. Sometimes we do speak out our faith and we do so boldly without regard to the reactions of others. At other times, we’re not so sure we should speak out, and so we say nothing.

While being quiet could well be the correct posture at that moment, that moment soon passes, replaced by another moment, and in that second moment, our silence is denial of our Lord.

Fortunately, for believers, there is Peter’s third answer. When Jesus is resurrected, He corners Peter and asks him if he loves Him. Peter says he does. Two months later, when the Holy Spirit is given to him and the other disciples, Peter becomes a lion for the Lord.

After that, Peter never waivers, even unto the point of crucifixion. Legend says he demanded to be executed upside down, considering himself unworthy to be executed head up as the Master was.

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31-jesusteachingreligiousleadersGOD IN HIS MERCY gives us another chance … and another chance … and another chance.

With the Holy Spirit’s prodding, we slowly become more Christlike in our thoughts, actions, and words.

We will have moments of bold witness, and we will have moments when we fail to speak out when we should, but the Lord will give us more moments to share our faith.

Our prayers should be that over time, we’re more like the first Peter more often than the second Peter.

In the end, we should become the third Peter (see John 21:15-22).

“Yes, Lord, You know I love You.”

Then He will tell us what He told the third Peter:

“Follow Me. Feed my sheep.”

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PRAYER: Our Father God, we know that we will  let You down sometimes, even while we will step up boldly at other times. Help us grow in the Holy Spirit so that the bold times outnumber the timid times. Lead us to know when we should act, when we should speak, and when we should remain quiet and in the background. In the end, Lord, we should follow Your lead, not our own. In Jesus’ name. Amen

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QUESTIONS:

1. Are you a Christian who believes your actions speak of your love for God so that it is unnecessary for you to speak about your witness? Can you find biblical support for your position?  

>What do you make of Peter and John in ACTS 4 who proclaimed they were “unable to stop speaking” about the Lord and what they had seen?

2. Do you ever feel you don’t have the “right words” to say or that you don’t know the Bible well enough to witness or that your faith is either too new or too shaky to be a good witness?

>What do make of Jesus’ words in LUKE 12 when He says the Holy Spirit will direct your speech?

3. Have you ever experienced an opportunity to witness — in deed or in word or both — and failed to “pray up” before you began, figuring you had the situation well in hand?

>What do you make of Jesus’ admonition in JOHN 15 when He says that without Him we can do nothing?

4. Can we at LoveAndGrace pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.

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Today’s Meditation … Grace And Sin

Without a guiding light, man is left to his own devices. The Bible tells us … and our experience proves it … that without direction, our actions are base, selfish, and cruel. When God intervenes to show us a better way, too often we reject Him, preferring still our sinful desires. For those who do believe, however, He promises Paradise.

Find blog posts at LoveAndGrace … tweets at TwitterComments 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?

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“In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” Judges 21:25 (NLT)

“This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19 (NKJV)

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EVIL. PURE EVIL.

There is evil in the world. There are evil people in the world. There are evil deedscommitted every day in the worl46. Rebellion_Against_Godd.

Much of the evil is unspeakable: torture of political prisoners, rape of women and girls as an act of war, abandonment of born children and abortion of those unborn, acts of terrorism against unsuspecting innocents — all of those in addition to acts of nature that cruelly take human lives.

We yell and scream, “Why? “Why, O Lord, is there such evil in the world?”

Some cry out without naming the Lord because they don’t believe He exists; or, if He exists, that He’s relevant or cares about us.

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THE ANSWER SURROUNDS US.

52.SinGod created a perfect world and allowed his prized possession — men and women — the freedom to choose to obey Him and be blessed or to disobey Him and be cursed. We chose to disobey Him. Evil is the result.

Yet, the Bible tells us that God so loved us that He sent His only Son into the world to live as a sinless human being among us and then, being found without blemish, slaughtered for our sakes, to pay the debt for our sins and to restore fallen mankind to Him. (see John 3:16)

The Bible says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” — John 3:17 (NIV)

Men still rejected Him, loving the darkness and their own sin more than the grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness offered by their Creator. (see John 3:19) By rejecting the Creator, men also reject a guiding light; and, without a guiding light — be it a king or priest or prophet — men still do what is right in their own eyes. (see Judges 21:25)

For those who do believe, who are called by His name and seek forgiveness, repenting of their evil deeds and their sinful heart, God promises everything — Paradise with Him forever. The Bible says, “Everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16b (NLT)

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PRAYER: Our Father God, how could we  repeatedly reject Your loving and merciful overtures of support? How could we be so blind to the life-giving promises You make, 68. Holy_Bible_Crosspreferring, instead, to live out the sinful desires of our hearts? You have been so gracious and forgiving, so quick to love us and so slow to condemn us. Thank You for being a God of mercy as well as a God of judgment. Lord, hear our prayer of repentance, forgive our sins, and restore us to a right relationship with You — and keep us on the straight path that You have laid out for us. In Jesus’ name. Amen

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QUESTIONS:

  1. Is the God of the Bible real for you? Do you believe He created you and the world around you and that He has a plan for your life? If not, what keeps you from taking the step of faith necessary to claim your inheritance as a child of God?
  2. Do you use the excuse of pointing out the sins of others, ignoring the clear fact that God will hold you accountable for your actions?
  3. If you were to die today, do you know (or can you guess) where you will spend eternity — be it with God, without God — or do you maintain there is no after-life? If you were willing to open your heart to God’s saving message, do you know what you should do about it or whom to consult?
  4. Can we at LoveAndGrace pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.

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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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God-Honoring Talk: How Are We Doing?

How does our daily speech reflect our commitment to honor God’s saving grace in our lives? Are we encouraging others with uplifting words, or do we use the occasion to stab someone? Too often, especially via social media, those who claim to walk with Christ let their inner heart show. That’s the part Jesus said defiles us. He also said we will be held accountable for every careless word. The stakes are high. Let’s recommit to asking the Holy Spirit to strengthen us so that our light will shine and unbelievers will see our good works and give glory to the Father.

“A fool expresses all his emotions, but a wise person controls them.” Proverbs 29:11 (GW)

“If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:15 (NIV)

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

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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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OKAY, I’LL GO FIRST.

Today, I will admit that I am not at the point where every comment I make is God-honoring.

Nope.

That includes sarcastic asides, judgmental comments, unnecessary silliness, and —72. Man_Tape_Tonguesometimes — just plain stupid.

The Bible says, “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way” (James 3:2 NLT).

So, I am admitting that I have a control problem. I cannot control my tongue.

I try to. I pray about it. I’ve been convicted enough times. Well, apparently not enough times for me, but certainly I’ve been convicted enough times for anyone else, right?

I struggle with this sin.

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HOW OFTEN DO I leave a social occasion, whether a church service or Bible study, whether a family gathering or neighborhood outing, or even a quiet evening at home with my wife when I don’t regret something I said.

No day is complete without my saying something I wish I hadn’t said.

Does that happen to you, too? Maybe I’m alone here, but I don’t think so. There are too 57.Tongue-firemany reminders in the Bible that God takes our speech seriously, and He wants us to, as well.

What do you make of Jesus’ comment that God will hold us accountable for our speech?

Check this out: “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak” [emphasis mine] (Matthew 12:36 CSB).

Don’t miss this one. Jesus Christ, the Second Person in the Trinity, told us that when we die, we will be held to account for every harmful, stupid, judgmental, or silly thing we have ever uttered!

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HOW CAN WE EVER MANAGE?

Fortunately, we don’t have to because that same Jesus Christ bore our sins on the cross.

The Bible tells us that God poured out our sin on His Son (see 2 Corinthians 5:21) to pay our debt so that now — pay attention, please! — “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 ESV).

That means when we are called to account, our Savior will stamp “Debt Paid” across our name, and we will be welcomed into Paradise.

The apostle Paul was clear in Romans 5 and 6 that just because God’s grace — His free gift of salvation — has been granted to those of us who believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, does not give us license to continue to sin.

Instead, we are called to live righteous lives that reflect His glory. We are to be His witnesses.

Want proof? Please take a moment and just look up in your Bible these three comments 72.Jesus_Teachesfrom Jesus — not comments from an apostle or an esteemed teacher or a famous author, but from the Master, Himself — that speak of our witness and obedience to Him: Luke 6:46, John 15:14, Matt. 5:16. Seriously, look them up now.

They should convict everyone of us to be mindful of every action, word, and thought we have.

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FRIENDS, OUR WITNESS IS TARNISHED by our course talk, gossip, judgments, and downright careless remarks.

What must break God’s heart is the circular firing squad within the Christian community.

Can you even read an account — either from a church-based organization or the secular press — where various factions aren’t complaining about the lack of Christian witness of someone else within the body of Christ?

That’s just the mild stuff. The really heartbreaking reality is that whole  denominations have split and are splitting over doctrinal differences and interpretations of God’s Holy Word. Many within the church are leaving the Bible’s timeless truths to find something more “relevant” to modern culture, leaving a fractured testimony in their wake.

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WHAT MUST THE SECULAR WORLD — the world of doubters, self-centered, and darkened souls — think when they see how we act.

Okay, for those of you who didn’t look up those three verses from Jesus’ lips, here are some key words: “Why do you call me Lord,” “You are my friends,” and “Let your light shine.”

72.Family_Bible_StudyNow, look them up. Read them. Pray over them. Ask God to place them in your heart every day.

Ask Him to help you live them out as you live out the Gospel of God’s forgiveness and mercy.

I know I am going to try.

I’m tired of adding misery and conflict to a world that has too much of it, already. I’m tired of boarding that ship to Tarshish when I’m supposed to be riding a donkey to Nineveh.

I’m signing on to God’s great mission field.

I am going to pray daily that God will continue to do the good work in me (see Philippians 1:6) that He has purposed (see Ephesians 2:10, Hebrews 13:21).

Then, I am going to watch my tongue.

How about you? Want to join me?

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44. Cross_on_BiblePRAYER: Dear Lord, our Heavenly Father, the Creator and Judge of the  Universe, we praise Your holy name; we ask forgiveness for our self-centeredness that leads to pride, to foolish talk, to broken witness. Lord, lead us to guard our tongues from slander, gossip, sarcasm and all manner of speech that does not honor our Savior. In Jesus name we pray. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. Do you ever find yourself making comments that you wish you hadn’t made? Were they gossipy, slanderous, judgmental, or even just silly or useless or even downright stupid? Where does that come from? Can you pray that God will take away your words that do not honor Him?
  2. Do you cringe to see how other Christians treat other members within the body of Christ? Is their behavior God-honoring? What do you think the secular world thinks when it sees the critical way we see one another within the church? Can you pray that God will take away the division and pettiness that do not honor Him?
  3. Do you see how your sinful pride makes you prone to saying hurtful things to others or becoming petulant? Can you pray that God will take away the prideful arrogance that causes you to dishonor Him with your words?

God Says, “I Am With You”

God’s promise to be with His people is a comforting thought. From our earliest days, knowing that mommy and daddy were within a cry’s sound helped us face our darkened room and sleep with peace. As we grow and mature, we long to replace that loving protective presence. Fortunately, God is there. He created us, He has promised to love us, and He will save us from the consequences of our rebellion … if we let Him. That is grace, that is mercy, that is love. Praise God!

The Lord answered, “I will be with you.” (Judges 6:16 NIV)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NIV)

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, `Do not fear; I will help you.’ “ (Isaiah 41:13 NIV)

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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?

GOD IS WITH US.

What an amazing thought! What an incredible concept! The creator of the universe, the 69.GOD_With_UsOne who designed all life forms and brought them into being, takes a personal interest in each one of us.

He says He is with us.

Jesus tells us that not even the lowly sparrow falls to the ground without the Father’s knowledge and against His will (Matthew 10:29), so how much more precious in His sight is the life of men and women, whom He made “in our image, in our likeness” (Gen. 1:26 NIV). Why, even the hairs on our heads “are all numbered” (Luke 12:7 NIV).

In that most famous psalm, David exalts, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4 ESV).

In the Old Testament, God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah proclaiming, “You will be my people, and I will be your God” (Jeremiah 30:22 NLT).

Finally, at the end of the New Testament, the apostle John writes, “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them’” (Revelation 21:3 NLT).

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69. ValleyOfDeathTHERE IS NO MORE SATISFYING feeling than knowing God Almighty loves us.

Consider this: God exists, and He made us. He did not need to make us. He did not need us to complete Him. He wants us.

How horrifying, how completely terrifying it would be if God were not a loving and merciful Being! Let’s not even start to think about what kind of an existence we would have, if that were the case.

Praise God that He is merciful and loving. Yes, He is just, as well, and we cannot forget that. He will repay evil for evil, and He will punish those who have refused to listen to Him and obey Him.

But it is His justice that makes His mercy so meaningful. His justice gives meaning to our lives — there is a system of rewards and punishment for how we live — but His mercy is what allows Him to forgive us over and over again, when we repent of our sins.

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WITH SUCH A GREAT OFFER, why do so few people seem to recognize it or claim it for their lives?

What motivates the vast majority of people to forego the richness of a personal relationship with the Almighty in favor of “going it alone.”

Pride.

The Bible says pride is the original sin. Pride is what led Eve, and then Adam, to ignore God’s warning against eating the “forbidden” fruit (Genesis 3:1-7).69. Narrow_Gate

The book of Proverbs tells us, “Arrogance causes nothing but trouble. It is wiser to ask for advice” (Proverbs 13:10 GNT). James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote a short book in the Bible full of good advice, one of which is this: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10 ESV).

Jesus even warned us against making the wrong choice. He told His disciples (and us) to “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matt. 7:13 NIV).

How tragically sad that so many of our fellow humans choose the broad road that leads to destruction instead of the narrow road that leads to glory and peace with God.

How sad it must have been for Jesus, knowing He came to earth to die for our sins, to utter those words, proclaiming that most of the people He created and loves are not interested in choosing Him back.

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ONE OF OUR LORD’S most endearing traits is that He is “long-suffering.” Some translations say “patient,” or “slow to anger.”

One of my life verses testifies to the Lord’s patience with even those who, like me, are stubborn:

69.Love_God“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 NASB).

The Bible is clear, however, that “patience” does not last forever.

“But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom. 2:5 NLT).

“For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” (Rev. 6:17 NIV).

For those of us who do believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, God spares us from that wrath.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1 ESV).

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9 ESV).

Listen to these comforting words, spoken by Jesus Himself:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17 NIV).

God truly is with us, so much so that He comes looking for us (Gen. 3:9), stands patiently at the door of our hearts, waiting for us to let Him in (Rev. 3:20), and guarantees, promises, and covenants that He will provide us an eternity with Him if we just turn our hearts to Him in repentance (Acts 2:21).

What an amazing deal that is. What an amazing God He is!

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68. Holy_Bible_CrossPRAYER: O Loving and Merciful Father, Your goodness is well beyond anything we could ever imagine or hope for. Your unmerited grace is more than we could ever earn or deserve. Lord, we love You, we honor You, we praise You. Thank You, Lord, for Your mercy and for the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins. In His precious name we pray. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. What does God’s promise to be with us mean to you? Do you realize that His promise is good only for those who are “saved” through His Son’s blood? Salvation is a free gift of God for those who repent of their sins. Is this something you want in your life? If not, why not?
  2. Do you instinctively hesitate whenever anyone mentions God might have a plan for your life? Are you unsure you want someone else laying a claim on you? What if He wants you to do something you absolutely refuse to do. Is that a real concern for you? What if He has prepared you for the task? Does that change your answer?
  3. When God tells us He is patient with us, do you wonder if He ever gets around to punishing the evildoers and rewarding the good ones? Do you think He might be too patient to suit you? Can you learn anything from His patience? Would you like to?

Marriage: Are We ‘Too Busy’ For Our Spouses?

Marriage is the first institution created by God. Right after creating Adam and Eve and bringing Eve to Adam to be his partner, He told them that a man should leave his father and mother and join his wife in marriage so that the two of them would become as one. That relationship would be solidified with the addition of children. Yet too often the marriage relationship limps along with husband and wife failing to listen to the other one. Yes, each must work on communication skills, but the skill most lacking is the one of listening, taking in, understanding. Sometimes, it takes patience to spend a moment. Jesus modeled patient, listening behavior for us. 

 

So God created humans in his image. … He created them male and female.” (Genesis 1:27 GW)

“This explains why a man … is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” (Genesis 2:24 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?

LET’S SNOOP A BIT.

We’re going to drop in on the Johnsons, a young married couple with two children, a heavy mortgage, and very busy lives.

“Dave, can you help me with something?” Sally shouts from upstairs, exasperation in hercouplearguingshadow voice.

“I can’t now, honey,” he replies. “I’ve got to finish this project before noon, or my boss will kill me.”

A few days later, Dave is on the phone with a computer technician who says his network, which he thought was secure, has become corrupted by someone who has turned off his firewall, leaving him without protection.

To fix this emergency, he is told, will cost several hundred dollars.

“Sally,” he calls out from his home office. “Got a sec? We’ve got a problem with our network, and I think we’ll need to invest in getting it fixed. Can you come here?”

“Not now, Dave. I told you I have to prepare cookies for Jamie’s scout group and then we’re meeting Diane and her kids for lunch. Can we talk about it later?”

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WELL, THAT WAS ALL TOO COMMON. A busy couple, each caught up in doing his or her manwomanarguespecial projects — all valuable, all necessary — but neither one with enough patience to listen to what the other one is saying, to what the other one wants. Each one demanding some of the other’s time. Neither one actually communicating.

As a result, neither spouse gives his or her mate the support needed in the moment.

Over the years, this pattern becomes engrained so that no one talks about it or notices their own complicity. Yes, each one can recite examples of how the other was seemingly “too busy” to help out, but, when it comes to their own involvement, they can justify every time they failed to help out.

It usually starts with a failure to listen.

So, how does God see this interaction? Is this what He intended when He breathed life into the first man and woman and planted them in the Garden, telling them to have dominion over the earth and its animal and plant  kingdom, to have children together and raise them, and to be so close as an entity that they would become “one person,” instead of two?

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GOD CREATED HUMAN BEINGS in the beginning. He made us in His image, and He divided us into male and female, each equal in His eyes but with different traits and characteristics.

jesus_facepalmHe also created marriage and said that men and women should leave their parents and “cleave” to one another as one entity.

The spousal relationship of husband and wife is a unique human institution that closely mimics the Trinity of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: each person equal but with different characteristics.

By becoming one person, both the man and the woman as husband and wife were charged with listening to one another, to helping one another, and to complementing each other’s weaknesses with their own strengths.

They were not created to make demands on one another to satisfy their personal needs but to make pleasing the other their primary goal.

Scripture is clear on that in so many places, including this familiar passage directed specifically to marriage: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. … Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church.” (Ephesians 5:22, 25 ESV).

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A PASTOR RECENTLY SAID that he can tell whether a woman’s husband is leading her spiritually the way God intended just by looking at her face.

Is she happy? Does she radiate joy? Does she seem fulfilled? Or, instead, does she scowl a lot or look apprehensive or dejected?

70.Happy_WomanIn God’s calculus, a woman whose husband is obedient to the Lord by leading her spiritually, by being her head, will be a woman who feels safe and protected and, therefore, free to express herself, to open up her loving and vulnerable heart.

A woman whose husband is not obedient to the Lord, who uses his greater strength and loud voice to intimidate her and frighten her, will be more guarded, less sure of herself, and less willing to express her inner feminine side.

A key component of leading a woman the way God intended is for the man to understand and practice sacrificial love, the way Jesus sacrificed Himself to protect and nurture His great love, the church.

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THE IMAGE OF JESUS wrapping a towel around His waist to wash His disciples’ feet (John 13) is a very striking one. He told His disciples that no student is above His teacher (Matt. 10:24), so He expected us to carry on as He did. 

He was the perfect model of male headship; He modeled leadership … and sacrificial service; courageous boldness … and gentle caring. He worked hard, never complained, loved the people around Him, and stayed true to His mission.

When Paul says husbands are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave 70. Jesus_Washing_Discipleshimself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25 NIV), he is describing a sacrificial love that places the wife’s interests before his own.

That is why Paul can tell wives to “submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22 NIV). Once the husband is modeling Jesus’ behavior, any woman would submit to him as “to the Lord,” because the husband is acting biblically … and this allows the wife to respond biblically.

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SO, HOW DOES THIS relate to listening?

The basic intersect point between husband and wife is conversation.

Sometimes, that interaction is speaking words; sometimes it’s sharing tasks. Other times it’s making plans, handling emergencies, or serving others.

When one party or the other fails to listen to his/her mate, that intersect point becomes disconnected. The disconnect separates them from “being one,” as God planned, into separate individuals, each with separate needs, wants, interests, and goals.

That’s not how Christ interacts with His church, and it most certainly is not how the Christ, Holy Spirit, and Father interact in their perfect relationship in the Trinity.

“Honey, I’m sorry. What did you say?”

Not much, perhaps, but it’s a start.

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PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, so merciful and mighty, please forgive us for our prideful 68. Holy_Bible_Crossfailure to listen to our spouses, to give our wives the love and honor you’ve commanded us to, to give our husbands the respect and submission that are your plan. You have set the perfect example for marriage in the life of our Lord and Savior, who taught us of His love for His church, and the love that abounds within the Holy Trinity. Lord, help us to follow that model in our marriages, to Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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QUESTIONS:

1. Do you see a failure in your marriage (or other significant relationship) for each person to listen to the other one? If so, do you see that as a problem that should be resolved, or is it just in the nature of things to be endured?

2. How can you do a better job of listening to your husband/wife? Would you need to become more patient? Is that a trade-off you’re willing to make? Should your spouse become less demanding?

3. Regardless of how well you and your spouse communicate, do you see a role for Jesus Christ in your marriage? If you saw Jesus standing behind your spouse, reminding you that he/she is a “child of God,” would that alter your attitude and behavior?

Choosing Joy: Evening or Morning

From the Old Testament’s first books through the the New Testament’s last books, God shows His love for us by letting us choose if we will accept His grace as a free gift for our lives. He longs for us to accept that gift and even gave His Son’s life to pay the debt for our sin. Those who do not accept God’s teaching squander the richness of life that He offers for momentary thrills that so often — sometimes immediately and sometimes over time — cause so much pain. With man’s way, the end is grief. With God’s way, the end is life.

Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b GW)

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! (Psalm 126:5 ESV)

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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.

WE EXPRESS OUR DEEPEST EMOTIONS THROUGH SONGS AND POEMS.

Here is just one example of how God shows us the difference between His way and our way — it’s captured in the lyrics of these two songs:

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68.Woman_CryingMan’s View:

Maybe the sun’s light will be dim/

And it won’t matter anyhow.

If morning’s echo says we’ve sinned,

Well, it was what I wanted now.

Angel of the Morning

God’s View:

You stay the same through the ages/

Your love never changes/

There may be pain in the night/

But joy comes in the morning.

Your Love Never Fails

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THE STORYLINE IN BOTH SONGS is similar, with the twist coming at the end. In the song praising man’s view of life, the “joy” comes first, but it’s a false joy that leads, inevitably, to sorrow and hurting.

The song praising God’s view of life, however, shows that God’s nature is unchanging — He’s perfect and without blemish. He promises to guide us through the difficulties of life and grant us, in the end, eternity with Him. So, in His view, the joy is real, and it is the reward for faithfulness, and it comes at the end.

Both songs can be applied toward a well-deserved weekend. After five days of commuting, dealing with the difficulties of anyone’s line of work (check out God’s comments in Genesis 3 as to why that is so), and the mounting stress of financial concerns, personal interactions, and possibly fear of drifting through life, here comes the weekend!

68.Woman_Praising_GodFriday evening, and we’re energized to “party” with a capital “P” and just have some fun, maybe get drunk or high, definitely drive our cars fast, and, yes, find some willing gal or guy to “hook up” with.

All of that “fun” will just blot out the hardships of real life and give us some thrills.

The next morning, though, we might fight a headache, could face a painful breakup with a girlfriend/boyfriend, deal with a serious dent in the new car, and wonder what went wrong.

Next weekend comes, and we’re back at it again. In man’s view of life, we never learn.

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WHAT WOULD THE WEEKEND in God’s view look like?

God rested the seventh day during creation, so He urges us to take some rest, too. Since
He created us, He knows we need to pace ourselves. In the Old Testament, He created the Sabbath for the Israelites to worship Him every seven days.

For the New Testament church, that rest, or sabbath, could be any day, but we know we should find time to step away from our tasks and to-do lists.

We would want to worship Him, of course, so there would be church service, with a wonderful opportunity to sing His praises, hear a message based on Scripture, and enjoy fellowship with other believers.68. Nursery

The weekend would not just focus on our worship, though. There should be an opportunity or two for service projects.

For some people  during a particularly hectic time of life, that service could be confined to helping out at church — parking lot ministry, or volunteering in the nursery, or being part of the collection team that passes the plate — are just some examples.

As our schedules ease up, maybe we find more time to volunteer in a homeless shelter or distributing canned food to those in need.

Instead of a headache, guilt feelings, and a dented car, we’re more likely to feel energized, especially if we felt the Lord’s nudge to serve His Kingdom in some capacity.

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SO WHAT IS OUR LESSON from all of this?

God does not promise us a carefree, stress-free life — not after we rebelled  against Him in the Garden of Eden — but He does promise to help us through the pain of life, if we let Him.

Unfortunately for us, most people are still rebelling against Him. They want to “do” life on their terms, ignoring the rules and guidelines put in place by their Creator.

In a world of sin, an offer to spend a Friday night with our peers, mixed with plenty of alcohol and a zest for adventure beats out a weekend of Bible study, soup kitchens, and prayerful meditation.

But once we let God into our hearts — we confess our sins to Him and acknowledge our need for Him — that calculus changes.

The script is flipped.

68.Circle_Against_DrinksThe booze party with a roomful of strangers, all acting weirdly, no longer sounds attractive. We start to see the party with a big circle around it and a diagonal line drawn through it.

Instead, we find real joy — authentic joy — in helping a poorly dressed stranger to a hot meal or to help a young child learn a Bible story or just raise our arms in praise during a worship song.

The fellowship of saints begins to look more inviting than the fellowship of drunks.

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OF COURSE, THERE IS ONE MORE scenario to work through. That’s the one where the weekend is neither the hipster party nor the worship service, but just a suburban family of 4 or 5, with a small dog and a minivan and soccer games and barbecues and friendly neighbors.

Jesus pointed out the rebellion here, as well. It’s the story recorded in Mark 10:17-25, where the rich young man who bragged to our Lord that he had obeyed all of God’s laws since his youth yet wondered what more, if anything, he should do to merit eternal life.

When Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give the money away and come join Him, the man chose, instead, to hang onto his possessions, regardless of the eternal consequences.

Don’t be fooled. The Bible clearly tells us that the only way to God’s Paradise is through Jesus Christ. (Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” — John 14:6, NKJV)

Those weekends with the drunken friends are soon outgrown, but how sad when people substitute for them the pleasant day at the beach or gathering of family — without any invitation to accept the outstretched hand of their Savior.

No matter how pleasant it may look on the outside, man’s view is always hollow on the inside.

God’s view is solid inside … and it lasts forever.

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PRAYER: O LORD GOD, how it must pain You to watch Your Creation  rebel so often and 68. Holy_Bible_Crossso thoroughly against You. Yes, You created us in Your image, yet we constantly push You away in favor of our walk, our own values, our own joy. Lord, would You please come into our hearts and transform them in hearts that hunger for Your love and Your way. In Jesus’ name. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. Do you find Jesus’ invitation to come to Him as the only way of salvation too limiting and not quite right, that maybe there’s more than one way to get to Paradise?
  2. Do you chaff when confronted with the possibility that your choices in life are not good ones for you or even more so that the Creator has a plan for your life and you might not be following it?
  3. Having read this meditation, are you more willing to consider that God’s view of our lives can be more rewarding than our own view is … in no small part because He made us?