Meditation–LOVING OUR WIVES AS CHRIST COMMANDS

Jesus Christ was very clear regarding marriage, that God had created male and female, that the two would become one flesh, and that, while equal spiritually in God’s eyes, they were designed differently for different and complementary roles. The husband’s role is to be spiritual leader, protector, and provider. He was commanded by God to submit his will to Jesus Christ. As the husband submits to Christ, he can lead his wife properly, so she can submit to her husband as to the Lord. God’s equation works; man’s sinful nature defiles perfection. Praise God that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Second Lady Karen Pence, model Christian marriage on a world stage.

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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?


“In the same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”  — Ephesians 5:28 (NET)

“Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” — Colossians 3:19 (ESV)

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE AND HIS WIFE KAREN, the U.S. Second Lady, have modeled grace and Christian faith while serving their country at the  highest levels of political power.

As a man who lives his life by biblical values, including the value of loving and honoring his wife, the Vice President does not meet with women without his wife being present.J.37.Marriage-Pence

That practice, called “the Billy Graham rule,” is followed by other Christian men. The Christian pastor and author Max Lucado often references that  rule for his own life.

The famed evangelist, Rev. Franklin Graham, has encouraged the faithful to pray for our leaders and that the Lord will raise up Bible-believing Christians to serve at all levels of government, from the White House to the most local water district and school board. We also are called to pray for their staff aides to be faithful to the Lord’s teaching.

By all human measures, the Pence family serves as a national reminder of what that call looks like. As believers, we can be very proud of their service.

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BECAUSE OF THEIR FAITH, we should not be surprised that the Pence family comes under attack, both for serving the Lord and for serving each other in honoring their marriage. (We’ll look at the attacks against them for serving the Lord in another post; this post focuses on their Christian marriage.)

Today, between one-third and one-half of all new marriages will end in divorce, 64. Perfectly_Onedepending on the information source one finds, and those figures do not include the couples whose marriages remain legally binding while the spirit of love and cooperation has diminished.

One law-based source placed the average age of divorce as between 25 and 34, with the majority of divorces occurring within the first seven years of marriage.

Here’s what one former Pence staff aide, a woman, said of working with Pence when he was a congressman: “This is by no means a partisan issue. Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, independent or couldn’t care less, if you choose to prioritize your marriage and esteem your family while faithfully carrying out public service, you should be praised.”

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THE BIBLE, GOD’S HOLY WORD, is very clear about marriage and the man’s role in this institution: men are to love and honor their wives. (Ephesians 5:25, 1 Peter 3:7)

64. Man-Woman-CreatedYes, the Bible also says women are to honor and respect their husbands and submit to their authority but only as their husbands obey God’s command to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1).

That means the husbands are supposed to follow Jesus Christ, and then they can lead their wives spiritually. When husbands do that, their wives can submit to them, as to the Lord.

The key is that husbands go first, then their wives can respond in safety and flourish as women, protected and honored.

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GOD WANTS MEN to love their wives. That message permeates the Bible from the moment God created woman and presented her to Adam to be a “suitable helper” (or ezer kenegdothrough the teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles in the New Testament.

The Bible says, “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her” — Genesis 24:67 (NASB).

Evangelist Billy Graham said in his article on marriage and the home:

“I do not see how your home can be truly and deeply happy unless Christ is the center of your home. If you are having difficulties and irritations and problems in your home, bring them to Christ.” (Billy Graham, “A Christ-Centered Home,” Decision, Sept. 2018, pp. 34-37).

The apostle Peter, in reminding us that men are to live with their wives “in an understanding way, showing honor” emphasizes that husbands must treat their wives as *spiritual equals* while recognizing they are *physically and emotionally vulnerable* “so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7 ESV, emph mine)

“So that your prayers may not be hindered.” Those are God’s words spoken through the apostle Peter and addressed to every married man.  God holds husbands to account for the way they treat their wives. He promises He will not hear their prayers if they mistreat their wives.

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GOD HAS PLACED A GREAT BURDEN on husbands to be the spiritual leaders, p72.Family_Bible_Studyroviders, and protectors of their families. He also has given husbands the strength and guidance of Jesus Christ to help them shoulder that load.

Those men who try to manage without the leadership and encouragement that only God’s Holy Spirit can provide are bound to fail. Even those who routinely call on the Lord will struggle. We are human, and this life is pre-glory.

When we see elevated to high status a God-fearing man and woman who are committed to serving the Lord first, then each other second, and then to attend to their families, friends, and the wider community third, we ought to thank God for His grace and mercy and show our respect for the couple.

We are not to worship the couple nor place them on a pedestal — that is idolatry, but we are to respect them and thank God for them.

As a result, we can see them as models for our lives. As the apostle Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 11:1 (GW):

“Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”


PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, You have been so graciously good to us, creating us, loving us, and 50. Open_Biblecalling us as Your own, even sending Your Son to pay our sin debt. Lord, in my role as a husband, would You help me love and honor my wife, whom You gave me, knowing that she is equal spiritually in Your eyes, Father, but emotionally and physically vulnerable, needing my loving protection. Lord, help me lead her spiritually, as I submit my will to the leadership of Jesus Christ. Thank You, Lord! In His name. AMEN


Questions for Personal Meditation and Small Group Discussion:
    1. Can you see that God has created man and woman to be spiritual equals but gifted them differently so they would complement one another in marriage, becoming one flesh? Can you see that God has assigned men to lead their wives and families spiritually, as well as protect them and provide for them?
    2. How seriously do you take God’s statement through Peter that He will not listen to an unfaithful husband’s prayers? Can you see that if God is not listening to your prayers (or your husband’s prayers), the fault lies with the husband’s lack of faithfulness, both to his wife and to the Lord?
    3. Can you see the great importance God places on godly, biblically sound marriage that He would raise up a Christian husband and wife to global significance? Can you see the devil’s attempts to discredit God’s perfect design through personal attacks against the Vice President and Second Lady?

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? If so, please indicate in the Comment field. God bless!

 

Meditation—BEING BOLD FOR GOD

While most of us in our walk with Christ know we are called to be His witnesses in this life – both in our actions and in our words – some of us may find the commandment not to be the privilege it was intended to be but a burden, one best left to others – *paid church staff*, for example. For those who feel the burden, let’s pray that God will lift that burden (heart of stone) and replace it with a sense of wonder (heart of flesh), of awe —and, yes, of privilege — to witness for the King.


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


  • “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” — Acts 4:31 (NASB)
  • “Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.” — Proverbs 16:3 (NCV)
  • “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” — John 8:11 (NIV)

GOD CALLS US TO BE BOLD IN SHARING OUR FAITH.

We know this because the Bible is filled with Divine admonitions to walk in faith, to 56. Prayer_corporate-prayerspeak with gentleness, be slow to anger, be ready at all times to explain the joy that is in our hearts, love and forgive others, and store up our treasures in Heaven, where the moths won’t destroy it and thieves won’t take it away.

Yes, we can recite those commandments, but what do they look like in our everyday lives?

After all, we live in a darkened world were even the most ardent church-goers will remind us not to “push” our religion onto people or judge their sin pattern.

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RECENTLY, I ENGAGED IN TWITTER in support of Vice President and Mrs. Pence, both of whom are strong Bible-believing Christians unashamed of their faith. My tweet also thanked the Rev. Franklin Graham for his tireless defense of the Gospel and his support of the countr’s Second Couple.

Naturally, response from the Twitter-verse was swift. Most of the responses were favorable — a series of similar comment, “likes”, and some repostings. However, there always is the nay sayers who become personal in their denunciations of my tweets, referencing the Bible as “fiction,” and being relentless in their assaults. They’re like yappy little dogs who grab your pant leg and won’t let go.

All of this raises questions in my mind as to how a committed Christian should respond:

  • Counter every negative response,
  • Ask a question in return, exposing the commenters’ lack of faith, or
  • Ignore all of it after posting the original tweet.

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FORTUNATELY, I TRIED TO STAY IN PRAYER and live out the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I figured if I maintained patience and prayed for wisdom – all of which the Bible counsels us to do – God’s Spirit would reveal a better response on my part than I would come up with given my initial instinct.J. Woman.Adultery

The Spirit revealed to me that I should act with the same grace and mercy that Jesus displayed in John 8, when He was confronted with a woman the Jewish elders had *caught* in the act of adultery. Jewish law said that adulterers – both the male and the female – were to be stoned for their transgression, yet the elders only presented the female for Jesus’ rebuke.

Instead, our Lord showed grace, wanting to save a lost soul – the wanton woman’s – over meting out justice. Perhaps He was swayed by the elders’ failure to produce the male culprit and saw the trap for what it was. Until we’re in glory, we’re unlikely to know what it was He wrote in the dust with His finger, but it could have been the entire citation in Leviticus 20:10 that condemned *both* parties, not just the more vulnerable one.

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IN THE END, that’s what I decided to do: Find a way in each of my comments to model grace rather than unleash my rapier-like retorts designed to draw the commenters’ blood.

J33.God Holds Our HandsBeing bold for the Gospel clearly required showing grace and mercy and trying, as best I could, to direct the adversary’s thoughts toward the Holy Word of God.

Let His light be the judge of our conversation. Let His grace cover the commenters’ sinful/hurtful thoughts. Let His love turn the commenters’ heart from stone to flesh.

Being bold for the Gospel does not mean that I am taking the authoritative position that Jesus took in His ministry. He is divine and human; I am only human.

Being bold for the Gospel, for me, means turning the other person’s attention over to the Messiah.

Isn’t that what Paul advised us to do in 1 Corinthians 3:6 (NLT)?

“I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.”

PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, we rejoice that You have been so good to us, showering Your grace, 50. Open_BibleYour mercy, Your forgiveness, and Your love on us, even though we, in our sin, do not deserve anything but Your judgment and wrath. Quicken our hearts, O Lord, to seek after You and Your truth and then display that truth in our actions and words with those You place in our lives. Lord, bless those who persecute us. Claim their lives for righteousness. Claim them for Yourself. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN


Questions for Personal Meditation or Small Group Discussion:

1) How do you envision being bold for the Gospel? Does God call you to witness to others about your faith? If not, why do you suppose that is? Have you taken the Gospel into your heart in a personal way, or have you been content simply with listening to the message of love and hope and assuming that was enough?

2) When you witness for the Gospel, what techniques or practices work best for you? What don’t work? Do you rely on God’s Holy Spirit to guide you, or do you handle this by yourself under your own power? Have you seen a different result between those approaches? Why do you think relying on God’s power over yours leads to a better outcome?

3) Do you consider it a privilege to witness for the Lord Jesus in your personal life? Or, do you see His command to be His witnesses to be a burden that needlessly complicates your life and is best left to the professionals, however you define them?

4) Do you think your response — consider it a privilege versus a burden — may reflect your own relationship to the Lord? If you see witnessing as a burden, could you pray today for the Lord to lift that burden and fill your heart with the grace necessary to share His Gospel?


Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? If so, please indicate in the Comment field. God bless!

Meditation–GRACE TO ACCEPT FORGIVENESS

Accepting forgiveness takes humility. Yes, extending forgiveness and seeking forgiveness also require humility, the yielding of selfish pride to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone, but accepting forgiveness it when it’s offered also requires a yielding of pride. We must expose our vulnerability to another person, one who is aggrieved by us and is emotionally upset by our actions or comments. We must be forgiven both by God and by man, not just one of them. Both extending forgiveness and seeking forgiveness require humility, but accepting forgiveness also requires humility … perhaps why God insists on forgiveness.

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

  • “Finally I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” — Psalm 32:5 (NLT)
  • “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”  — James 5:16 (CSB)
  • “Happy is the person whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned.” — Psalms 32:1 (NCV)

 

THE BIBLE TELLS US TO SEEK FORGIVENESS FROM BOTH GOD AND MAN.

God will forgive the eternal consequences of our sin when we confess our sin to Him and repent of (turn away from) our sinful behavior. But He says  His forgiveness is not enough. We also must seek forgiveness from others — family members, neighbors, co-workers, friends — whom we have wronged.53. man-power-of-prayer

Forgiveness is a healing process, both for the one asking forgiveness and for the one granting it. The one asking forgiveness must humble himself to admit wrongdoing — the one forgiving must humble himself to reach beyond the hurt he suffered to extend grace.

There’s a third component: accepting forgiveness when it’s offered. With our veneer of pride, that can be a tough one.

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ONLY THE SIN OF HUMAN PRIDE keeps us from granting, seeking, or accepting forgiveness. Failure to grant, seek, or accept forgiveness keeps the hurt inside, building up into a rage that is neither healthy nor helpful.

When we fail to grant forgiveness to another, that becomes our sin toward that person because we stop the healing process, and we need to ask forgiveness for that failure.

When we fail to seek forgiveness from another, that also becomes our sin toward that person because it keeps the grievance alive. We need to ask for forgiveness for that sin, too.

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FAILURE TO ACCEPT FORGIVENESS when it’s offered also is a sin against the person with whom we’ve had conflict.

Failing to forgive, failing to seek forgiveness, and failing to accept forgiveness form a repeating cycle.

God offers us a way to break that cycle. It’s called “grace.” He offers grace to us and commands us to offer grace to others … to offer forgiveness, to ask for forgiveness, and to accept forgiveness.

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WHY NOT ASK GOD for His help in asking forgiveness from someone … and for extending it to someone, even if he or she has not asked for it? While you’re at it, why not ask Him to help you accept someone else’s forgiveness of your sins against him/her?

Whether you need to ask for forgiveness or you need to grant it or you need to accept it, could you pray with me and other readers of this post the following prayer, asking God to speak into our hearts His message of forgiveness and grace?

Here’s God’s promise if you do: “Happy is the person whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned.” — Psalms 32:1 (NCV)


PRAYER

O Gracious and Merciful LORD, we confess our sin to You of human pride. We want to live our lives the way we want to to satisfy our desires, not the desires You have planted in our hearts. We confess that all too often we love our sinful ways, even though we cause hurt to others and to ourselves. Change our hearts, O LORD, from hearts that love sin to hearts that love God’s grace. Then, LORD, help us to extend that grace to others needing grace from us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Questions for Personal Meditation or Group Discussion:
  1. Do you need to ask someone close to you for their forgiveness for something you said or did that hurt them? Do you hesitate to do so because you don’t think you did anything wrong? Do you hesitate because that person also said or did something that upset you? When someone offers forgiveness to you, do you find it difficult to accept?
  2. Can you see where this cycle leads? Failure to forgive, failure to seek forgiveness, and failure to accept forgiveness keep the personal grievance alive. Both sins stem from our sinful pride. Can you see that sin for what it is?
  3. Does your hesitation to extend forgiveness — or to seek and accept forgiveness — show you the grace and mercy of a loving God who forgives you when you repent? Can you understand that your sin with God goes only one way? You sin against Him, but He does not sin against you, yet with our fellow man, the sin goes in two directions? How amazing is it that God is so willing to forgive us?

PRAYER

50. Open_BibleO Gracious and Merciful LORD, we confess our sin to You of human pride. We want to live our lives the way we want to to satisfy our desires, not the desires You have planted in our hearts. We confess that all too often we love our sinful ways, even though we cause hurt to others and to ourselves. Change our hearts, O LORD, from hearts that love sin to hearts that love God’s grace. Then, LORD, help us to extend that grace to others needing grace from us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Questions for Personal Meditation or Group Discussion:
  1. Do you need to ask someone close to you for their forgiveness for something you said or did that hurt them? Do you hesitate to do so because you don’t think you did anything wrong? Do you hesitate because that person also said or did something that upset you? When someone offers forgiveness to you, do you find it difficult to accept?
  2. Can you see where this cycle leads? Failure to forgive and failure to seek forgiveness both keep the personal grievance alive. Both sins stem from our sinful pride. Can you see that sin for what it is?
  3. Does your hesitation to extend forgiveness — and to seek forgiveness — show you the grace and mercy of a loving God who forgives you when you repent? Can you understand that your sin with God goes only one way? You sin against Him, but He does not sin against you, yet with each other, the sin goes in two directions? How amazing is it that God is so willing to forgive us?

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you?

If so, just indicate in the Comment field. God bless!


Meditation—TURNING FROM GOD

God’s people, those called by His name, those who claim to walk with His Son, do not really know Him, the Bible tells us. That means, He says, His followers are dying inside. They claim to know the Lord, but they don’t pay attention to their pastors and teachers, and their pastors and teachers often mislead them. God wants us to respond to Him and call on Him as our God.


Find blog posts at LoveAndGrace … tweets at Twitter.

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


“My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me.”Hosea 4:6 (NLT)


LET’S TAKE A QUIZ.

It’s Sunday morning, the church is filled with well-dressed men and women singing hymns and reciting liturgy. Some take out their Holy Bibles to follow along as the pastor reads the morning’s text.

J3x.Turning From God-WorshipQuestion is: How many of them, your fellow worshippers, would you say have a “personal relationship” with the Lord? 

Not just have a “head knowledge” of who He is, or the ability to spout off two or three Bible verses about Him, but who really walk with the Lord and consider their relationship with Him to be the most precious gift they have, a bedrock foundation for their earthly lives?

Go ahead. Take a look around. What about her? Or that man over there? What about the young family sitting in front of you?

Or, more to the point, what about you?

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WHAT IS “KNOWING THE LORD” REALLY ABOUT?

Here’s one explanation, taken from a Commentary from the New Living Translation Bible:

67.Jesus_Welcomes_All“Knowing God means entering into an intimate relationship with him. It means identifying with God and learning to view everything as God does. Knowing God will transform our thoughts and actions, our priorities and values, and our relationships with fellow human beings.”

Why is this quiz important, you may ask?

For the answer, let’s go back to our source text. Here’s the same verse from a different translation:

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”  (Hosea 4:6 NKJV)

In this passage, the God of creation is lamenting that the people He created, the people He loves, don’t know Him, and because they don’t know Him, they are suffering inside and dying.

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GOD IS DOING MORE than lamenting. In the text of Hosea, an Old Testament prophet, He is calling His people to return to Him, to repent of their wrongdoing and seek forgiveness, a gift He has promised to give.

But they don’t repent. They don’t turn back to God.

Why not?

Here’s the reason God gives. Let’s look at it from two translations:

“Even though I gave them all my laws, they act as if those laws don’t apply to them.”  (Hosea 8:12 NLT)

“Even if I gave her [Israel] ten thousand laws, she’d say they weren’t for her—that they applied to someone far away.”  (Hosea 8:12 TLB)

Can we see the problem here?66.Jesus_Changes_Everything

Many of those people who we see singing each Sunday morning or thumbing through their Bibles to find the day’s teaching or shaking hands with one another during the greeting do not know the Lord.

They don’t know the Lord they supposedly are praising.

They are being “destroyed,” in God’s terms, because “they don’t know me.”

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IT’S NOT LIKE they haven’t been told.

God has placed learned men in their lives, from the Old Testament prophets to the New Testament apostles to the current crop of pastors and teachers, but, God is saying, no one is listening!

“And I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the song of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’”  (Jeremiah 6:17 NASB)

“But you replied, ‘No! We won’t pay attention!’”  (Jeremiah 6:17 NLT)

Do His people know of God?

The Bible says they do.

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  (Romans 1:21 NIV)

How does God respond when His people refuse to listen?

How should He respond?

“Because they did these things, God left them and let them go their sinful way, wanting only to do evil.”  (Romans 1:24 NCV)

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WHAT NOW? What should we do about this situation? What does God want us to do?

He tells us to respond to Him and to call on Him as our God:53. man-power-of-prayer

“For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”  (Hosea 6:6 CSB)

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  (Micah 6:8 ESV)

Here’s the crux of it, for each us, and for each of those fellow worshippers we asked about earlier. It’s the same question for everyone:

“But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”  (Matthew 16:15 BSB)

Along with the plea comes a promise: forgiveness and abundant life.

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

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”  (Revelation 3:20 NASB)

Now, isn’t that a God worth knowing!!


PRAYER

O Lord, our loving and merciful Father, who also is a just and jealous God. You call us to 50. Open_Biblelove You, to turn to You, to know You as our God. Yet, we confess that, all too often, out of sinful pride, we go our own way, refusing to listening, and making excuses instead of obeying. Please forgive us, Abba Father, and instill within our hearts a loving desire to obey You, worship You, and adore You. We lift this prayer in the mighty name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen


Questions for Personal Meditation and Group Discussion

1. Do you claim Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? Do you, or others you know, “do church” on Sundays without a personal connection with the Savior?

2. Do you see people who call themselves “Christian” acting any differently or talk any differently from those who do not claim a Christian connection? If so, why do you think that is so?

3. When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15), how would you answer that question? Do you understand that Jesus wants a personal relationship with you and that your answer to that question will determine your eternal fate?


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

Meditation—“DO WE SUFFER ENOUGH FOR THE GOSPEL?”

Jesus was clear enough when He told us that we would have to suffer for the Gospel. He also said if we were not willing to pay that price, then we could not be His followers. What did He mean by that? Simply this: Our love for the Savior would put us at odds with the world around us. Men and women would push back against us. Yes, some of us would pay heavy physical costs, but most of us would suffer emotional slights, loss of friendships, and difficult relationships with some in our own families. All of it would be worth it to walk with Christ. But here’s the test: If you haven’t experienced that push back, are you walking with Him?


Find blog posts at LoveAndGrace … tweets at Twitter.

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


“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil J33.Suffering for the Gospelthings about you falsely on account of me. Matthew 5:11 (NET)

“For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 (CSB)


DO WE SUFFER ENOUGH FOR THE GOSPEL?

Did you read the source text verses above? I mean, did you really read them? Please don’t breeze past them as if they were obstacles separating you from the Meditation.

They are God’s Words placed in His Holy Bible for us to follow. He wants  us to know that if we are going to be believers in Jesus Christ, there will be heartache and difficulty — maybe even torture and death — in our journey.

Jesus told us that if we believe in Him and follow Him, we will face persecution. We will be hated by some, we will face difficult relationships, and we will encounter — at the very least — uncomfortable moments in social gatherings.

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J33.Crist Suffered for UsLIVING FOR CHRIST is not for the faint-of-heart. It’s not a comfortable gig in which church becomes a networking opportunity to add to our business contacts or where we volunteer for a high-profile position to place on our resumes.

It’s plain old living for Christ 24/7/365 — a full-time vocation — that will cause us anguish and heartache … if we’re sincere in our faith-walk. We will hurt for those loved ones who remain lost in their disbelief. We will be singled out for abuse at work or the playground, shunned at parties, talked about by those bearing grudges.

Is that what you signed up for?

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I SIGNED UP FOR easy burden, light yoke. Instead, I got spiritual warfare,  suit of armor.

That’s right. I was brought into the fold because I loved what Jesus said in His comforting moments, like this one:

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30 NIV)

Yes, I got that, for sure, when I came to faith. But soon after I repented of my sin and asked the Lord to captain my life, I got a knock on the door from the Evil One:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB)

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TRUE, I WAS TOLD about spiritual warfare, but, frankly, I didn’t pay much attention to J33.Armor of Godthose teachings and had little idea what it was about. I certainly didn’t expect it would involve me. I mean, who was I that “heavenly powers of darkness” would bother me?

But they did. They noticed right away that I had switched teams and they were, literally, *hell bent* on getting me back.

They almost succeeded, too, but Jesus fought back. He was good to His Word that no one could snatch me from His grip.

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HERE ARE TWO PROMISES, one from the Old Testament and one from the New, that testify to God’s grace in keeping us as His own:

“From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.” (Isaiah 43:13 NLT)

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28 ESV)

J33.God Holds Our HandsNow, as comforting as those promises are, they form our protective shield when the world comes after us, which it will.

It will, but only if we are sincere in our walk with Christ … only if we are willing to proclaim our faith, to open our mouths, to give public testimony to the work the Holy Spirit has done and is doing in our lives.

Pastor Francis Chan, in his book Letters to the Church (David C. Cook. Kindle Edition (p. 130)), wrote these words:

“According to Jesus, far from having no cost, following Him will cost you everything. Far from promising a better life, He warned of intense suffering.”

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SO, BACK TO THE BEGINNING. 

Do we suffer enough for the Gospel?

He told us what the cost would be. This is how we’ll know if we’re being faithful to the Gospel:

Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 CSB)


PRAYER

O Lord, who was and is and is to come, we praise Your Holy Name. Our Father God, 50. Open_Biblewe are so grateful for Your Son’s sacrifice on our behalf to reclaim us as His own. Let us not fail to follow Him daily, to take up our cross of suffering, to endure whatever persecution or betrayals come our way because of the Gospel. Abba Father, we claim Your promise that You’ll grab our hand and never let go. In turn, Lord, let us never fail to rest in that promise. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen


Questions for personal meditation or group discussion:

1. Are you willing to risk everything, including loss of family love and friendships, to follow Jesus? If not, what holds you back? Can you comprehend the sacrifice He made for you when He was beaten and crucified to atone for your sins?

2. What do you think of when someone tells you that, as a Christian, you will be called to suffer for the Kingdom? Do you think it’s “fair” that you’re caught up with spiritual warfare, that the “heavenly powers” are fighting for your soul?

3. Can you see God’s amazing grace pour through this lesson, that His love for you and the rest of His creation is so great that He has provided “a way out” for those who believe in His Son, that they will not perish but have everlasting life?

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you?

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


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

“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)

+++40.Jesus_Always_With_Us

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.