Today’s Meditation … THINKING ABOUT OUR LIVES

As you reflect on God’s Word, can you see how he is calling you — yes, you! — to be His special friend?

“Fools will believe anything, but the wise think about what they do.” (Proverbs 14:15 NCV)

“Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” (Psalms 14:1 NLT)

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RECENTLY, PROF. STEPHEN HAWKING — a brilliant theoretical physicist and avowed God denier — perished from this life. Like everyone, upon earthly death, he met the Lord. My fear is that it did not go well with him. Even sadder is the outpouring of AA. night-sky-starssupport from among his fan base, praising his skepticism and denial.

Psalms 14:1 NLT says, “Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” 

What about our loved ones who join Hawking in his non-beliefs? How do we reach them? How does one live a life that lacks self-reflection or that doubts the eternity that God has placed within out hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). 

How does a person, especially an educated and highly intelligent one, ignore the sacrifice our Lord made on the Cross to atone for our sins?

Let us pray that the Lord will quicken the hearts of our loved ones who do not know the Him, softening their resistance to Him. Let us pray that He will strengthen our walk with Him that we might be better witnesses for His saving grace.

PRAYER: O LORD, our LORD, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. The heavens 44. Cross_on_Bibledisplay Your glory, the variety of life shows Your imagination and creativity, our very bodies show Your kindness and consideration. Thank You for molding us in Your image. Lead us to be faithful witnesses for the Truth, to be God-honoring in our thoughts, our speech, and our deeds. For the Kingdom’s glory. We pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.

QUESTIONS: Whether you need to ask for forgiveness or you need to grant forgiveness, did you find it comforting to pray this prayer? Could you feel God’s Holy Spirit moving through your heart? How can you move forward in asking God to speak into your heart His message of forgiveness and mercy? Are you convinced now that God exists and that He is calling you — yes, you! — to be His special friend?

 

Resisting Our Temptation to Lie

God tells us not to lie. Telling the truth is one of the 10 Commandments, which places lying as a no-no right up there with murder or stealing your neighbor’s new car. Why is the truth so important to God? Could it be that our very salvation hinges on whether we can believe God’s promises to us? He takes great pains to impress upon our feeble minds that He is telling us the truth when He says our salvation depends on our believing in Him. To make that clear to us, He wants us to practice that same trait.

So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. (Ephesians 4:25 NLT)

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices. (Colossians 3:9 ESV)

Dishonest scales are detestable to the LORD, but an accurate weight is his delight. (Proverbs 11:1 CSB)

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Join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion.

“YOU SHALL NOT GIVE FALSE TESTIMONY AGAINST YOUR NEIGHBOR.”

That verse, from Exodus 20:16 (NIV), is the Ninth Commandment.

61. God-Writes-TenCommandmentsOne of the Big Ten that God gave to mankind through Moses. With His hand, He chiseled the words onto stone and told His people to obey each of the 10 commandments so they would be righteous before Him.

Were we to rephrase the Ninth Commandment, we might replace it with the more direct wording from Leviticus 19:11 (NIV): “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.”

There it is, plain and clear: “Do not lie.”

Some of us might want to look for a caveat, starting with the word “except,” as in “except in certain circumstances,” or “when the truth will hurt someone,” or “when the truth implicates us.”

Well, those caveats don’t appear in Scripture.

What’s more, Jesus emphasized their importance when the rich young man asked Him what he must do to merit eternal life. Jesus 

told him to  obey the commandments. The man asked, “Which ones?”

Jesus replied, “All of them.”61. Rich-young-man

While Jesus didn’t list all of them, He did reference a few key ones. In the same breath as “never murder,” He said “never bear false testimony.” (Matthew 19:18 GW)

So, in God’s eyes, lying and killing convict us equally.

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OF COURSE, THE BIBLE IS VERY CLEAR that salvation is the free gift of God’s grace for those who believe in Him (Ephesians 2:8) and is not a reward for good behavior. That point is true simply because no man or woman is perfect when measured against God’s perfect standard (Romans 6:23).

However, in this discourse on the rich young man, Jesus’ focus was less on earning salvation — which we cannot do — than it was on being obedient to God’s commandments. Jesus also used the occasion to signal the importance of honest dealings with one another.

The commandment to be truthful — that is, not to deceive — is part of a package of commandments, including not to steal from another, not to covet another’s possessions, not to destroy another couple’s marital bonds, as well as not to kill someone.

The rule against deception undoubtedly refers back to Genesis 3, when  the serpent
deceived Eve into eating the “forbidden fruit,” which she then shared with Adam, her husband.

We easily can see the chain of malevolent events kicked off by that deception, from our forebears being kicked out of the Garden, to Adam tending soil that bears thistles as well as food, Eve suffering more in childbirth despite the joys of motherhood, and the frequent conflict between husband and wife caused by human sin.

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LYING IS A BIG DEAL TO GOD.

Most of us see lying as a bad thing, but certainly not the type of wrong we would equate with murder or armed robbery. Yet God is focused on lying like He was eradicating cancer.

61. Garden-of-Eden-EveIn one of the first books in the Old Testament, the LORD declares, “God is not a man, so he does not lie.” (Numbers 23:19 NLT)

In one of the latter books in the New Testament, the writer declares “it is impossible for God to lie.” (Hebrews 6:18 NIV)

Then, there’s this commandment from Paul to the church in Colossae. “Do not lie to one another,” he said, “since you have taken off the old self with  its practices.” (Colossians 3:9 BSB)

In other words, since your heart has been changed by the LORD through your salvation, you must act differently; you must be more Christ-like; you must not lie to one another.

Then there’s Paul’s strong condemnation of lying in his letter to the Roman church, when he said “God gave them over” to their sins, why? “because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” (Romans 1:25-26a NIV)

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WHY IS LYING SO IMPORTANT TO GOD?

Because our salvation depends on God’s faithfulness.

The whole point of God’s message to us is that we can trust Him.

        • When He tells us that Jesus so loved us that He gave His life to atone for our sins (John 3:16), He meant it.
        • When He tells us that salvation is found in Jesus and in Jesus only, that His is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12), He meant it.
        • When He tells us that all who call upon the name of the LORD will be saved (Romans 10:13), He meant it.

God went to extraordinary lengths to demonstrate His faithfulness and veracity to us. He loves us and wants us to know that He will make good on His promises no matter how we respond.61. God-gave-them-over-Romans-1

The first covenant God made with mankind was with Abraham (called Abram, at the time), and it was one-sided. God ordered Abraham to dissect a three-year-old female calf, a three-year-old female goat, and a three-year-old ram. Traditionally, both men entering the agreement walked between the split animals.

The Bible tells us when darkness came, Abram fell into a deep sleep, during which God — and God alone — walked between the two halves, signaling that God was bound to His side of the covenant regardless of Abraham’s obedience.

The Bible describes it this way: “After the sun had set and darkness had deepened, a smoking vessel with a fiery flame passed between the split-open animals.” (Genesis 15:17 CEB)

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GOD’S GREATEST DISPLAY of love for mankind was in sending Jesus, His Son, to bear the punishment for our sin. To make that equation work, that exchange of the Sinless One sacrificed for the redemption of the sinful many, required complete trustworthiness.

Jesus emphasized that in His ministry. Recall these words:

        • “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37 ESV) (Jesus appearing  before Pontius Pilot), or these:
        • “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV), (Jesus teaching His disciples), or these:
        • “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17 BSB) (Jesus praying to the Father before His arrest and crucifixion).
        • “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” (John 8:32 MSG) (Jesus talking to his followers).

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THE ‘TRUTH’ IS WHAT DISTINGUISHES GOD from other sources of enlightenment. God is not just trustworthy; He is the very epitome of Truth.61. Jesus-Truth

We base our salvation on this … on being able to trust the living God, the God of the Bible, for our very souls. Here are words of assurance that God purposed to include in His Word to us:

        • “My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word.” (Psalm 119:81 NIV)
        • “So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!” (Hebrews 10:35 NLT)
        • “But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us.” (Galatians 5:5 NLT)
        • “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NASB)
        • “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:10 NKJV)
        • “Now faith is being sure we will get what we hope for. It is being sure of what we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NLV).

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WE CANNOT ESCAPE IT.

Our salvation is based on God’s faithfulness, and we must trust Him.

In turn, He demands that we be faithful and trustworthy in all our dealings.

Seems only fair.

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PRAYER:  LORD, our faithful redeemer. You have told us that You are Truth and that we 44. Cross_on_Biblemust be truthful in all our dealings with You and others. It is through Your truth that we know of our salvation, that we will be with You in Paradise. LORD, we pray for the strength and courage to be honest and faithful in all of our actions. We praise You, LORD, and give You all the glory. In Jesus’ Name. Amen

QUESTIONS:

  1. Does telling the truth as a commandment rank with refraining from committing murder, as you see it? Why do you suppose God equates the two sins? Is it to show us that breaking one commandment, regardless of how insignificant it might seem to us, violates God’s holy and righteous standard and renders us in need of a Savior?
  2. Can you see instances where you think shading the truth a bit is the wiser course of action for everyone involved? If so, are you as confident of that position now as you were when you began reading this meditation?
  3. Based on the Scripture shared in this meditation, how would you counsel a friend or young person who asks you for advice? Would you remind him/her of God’s commandment not to lie? Would you take your own advice? 

Today’s Meditation … AVOIDING AVOIDABLE DANGER

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” Proverbs 27:12 (NIV)

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DANGER AHEAD!

What could be clearer than a warning sign?

Yet how often do we heed sound advice? How often do we shake off the wise counsel of others, preferring to take our own advice, even when we’re filled with rage, flooded with baseless hope, or propelled by the logic of prior ill-thought-out decisions?

45. Children_Ignoring_ParentsProverbs warns us that wise men and women listen to the warning signals,  the red flags in our lives, and take evasive actions. The foolish among us — including us in our foolish moments — fail to listen.

Then, as the Bible says, we pay the price for our stubbornness, our pride, and our foolishness.

Wise counsel, indeed, given to us for free from our Creator and Life Sustainer.

QUESTION: Why is it so hard for many of us to accept the wise counsel of others, especially when they mean to help us and not insult us? Can it be our sinful pride refuses to recognize an encouraging word? How can we pray for softer hearts that long for wisdom?

PRAYER: Our gracious heavenly Father — Your love for us knows no end. Not only did You send Your Son to pay the penalty for our sins, but You’ve given us a roadmap with Your Holy Word — the Bible — on how to live faithfully this side of glory. Help us, Lord, to overcome our stubborn sinful pride and listen to Your wisdom. Help us to see the dangers that lie ahead when we’re off course and give us the wisdom to avoid the pitfalls. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen

Today Is … Loving Others as Christ Loves Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Followers of Christ—How Should We Act?

We might not be blessed with the opportunity to stand with a repentant unbeliever and witness that person’s passing from death to life, but the Bible clearly says we will have the opportunity to plant the seed that someone else waters and water the seed that someone else plants. To make our witness effective, our lives need to reflect God’s glory, be obedient to His commands, and be free from sinful life styles.

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They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. (Titus 1:16 NIV)

But they continued to sin against him, rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High. (Psalm 78:17 NIV)

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (1 John 3:6 NIV)

WHO ARE YOU TO TELL ME HOW TO LIVE? WHEN DID YOU BECOME GOD?

For any follower of Christ who has risked a relationship with a family member or close friend to point out the sin in their lives, those words, harsh and unyielding, sting. There is no way to sugarcoat it.41. Jesus_Adam_Eve

In fact, the feeling of rejection from a loved one can be so powerful, that many faith-based Christians retreat from any possible confrontation, comforting themselves in lifting a few prayers, knowing that for God, even the most unredeemable person is an  easy fix.

The amazing reality is that while God can do all things, He has chosen to work through us, His creation. From the very beginning, God told Adam and Eve, before The Fall, to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28 NIV). The resurrected Christ, before His ascension into Heaven, commissioned His followers to “go and make disciples …, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV).

Part of the mystery of God’s creation is that He has chosen to work through men and women of faith, despite our failings, our fears, our weaknesses, and even our own poor witness.

Jesus knew the work would be difficult. He knew we would be rebuffed often, so He encouraged us to have some perspective: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18 NIV). This was prophesied in Isaiah 53:3 NIV: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.”

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THE LORD ALSO GAVE US A POWERFUL TOOL to use in helping our loved ones. It is His Holy Word, the Sacred Writ: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 BSB).

That means the Word we read daily in our walk with Christ to inspire us, to ground us, and to guide our lives is the same tool He has given all mankind. We only need to share it. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here; we don’t need to create our own theology; we don’t have to struggle with magic formulas that will reach the unreached.

God gave us the tool to use. We need but point people to its power.Picture 072

Try this some time. When talking to an unbeliever, present the Bible to them. Ask them  to hold it for a few minutes. Watch as their hands disappear, quickly pulled away from the Book as though it were a leaping flame.

The Bible has Power. It is a living book, filled with the Word of God. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19 NIV).

The unbeliever knows that the Bible holds a power that is stronger than their own will. To continue in their unbelief, they must reject it totally, stay as far away from it as possible. Even the conventional believer — the churchgoer who thinks taking communion is a profession of faith — will own a Bible. It will remain on the bookshelf where they stuck it the day their church presented it to them. Unread. Gathering dust.

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BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BELIEVER’S WITNESS? How are we living our lives? At home, at work, in our neighborhoods, with our family and friends? Do we make a difference in the way we act or talk? What about our thoughts? We may think they’re private, but doesn’t desire lead to sin?

Here’s what James, the half-brother of Jesus, says: “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15 NIV).

So, does our witness back up our words?

Yes and No.

No, if our words are of judgment and condemnation. In that case, we are hypocrites. 41.Filthy-Rags

Since we all sin (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23 NIV; “and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” – Isaiah 64:6 NIV), we cannot act in judgment of our neighbor, who will be justified in throwing back at us Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:3 NIV: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

However, YES, a resounding and vibrant YES a thousand times over, if we point to the glory of God, admitting that we are sinful creatures who have been reborn by God’s redeeming love (“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).

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WE CANNOT SHY AWAY FROM REACHING those whom He has placed in our lives who need to hear the Word of God! We cannot let our insecurities stop us from an open witness.

Sometimes, that witness takes the form of a kindness — an encouraging word, helping with a task, or even offering to assist.

Sometimes, it requires an open discussion, perhaps leading with a question seeking permission. “May I ask you something?” 

41.FemaleHoldingPlantSometimes, it needs a bold declaration of God’s love for His creation.

“You know, (name of person here), God tells us that He loves us so much He was willing to come to earth in human form to die for us, to pay the price for our sin, yours and mine, to restore us to a right relationship with Him. What do you think of that? Isn’t that awesome?”

Sometimes, it allows for a full-on statement of God’s design to reclaim His creation for Himself.

“In fact, (name of person), He said there is no sin you or I could do, no pattern of sinful behavior, no limit to hurting ourselves or others that His sustaining Grace can’t defeat. (“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” – Romans 6:14 NIV). Are you willing to ask for that help from Him right now? I can help you, if you’d like. It’s your call, but I’m here to walk with you every step of the way.”

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WE MIGHT NOT BE BLESSED with the opportunity to stand with a repentant unbeliever and witness that person’s passing from death to life, but just as Paul taught us in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, we certainly will have the opportunity to plant the seed that someone else waters and even water the seed that someone else plants.

In either case, God is the one who will make the plant grow. At that point, we just step aside and watch the glory of God transform this man or woman.

Three key points, then, for those who want to serve the Lord.

First, is to give Him the praise and glory for how He has reached down and transformed our lives to live out the Gospel every day. “May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God” (Philippians 1:11 NLT).FemalePrayingHands

Second, is to act out the Gospel. “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves” (James 1:22 NLT).

Third, is to give up sinful life styles. “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:6 NIV). “No one who is born of God will continue to sin” (1 John 3:9 NIV).

Alleluia!

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PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, help us in our unbelief to believe, in our sin to seek repentance, in our words to be helpful, in our deeds to be obedient, in our thoughts to be pure, all for the glory and praise of Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen

God Tells Us: ‘Go’

The Lord requires us to “Go” and live lives reflecting his glory — his love, his mercy, his justice. We are to act in his name.


Bible Verses to Help Us Through the Week

The message of “GO” is woven throughout the Bible’s 66 books so that providing one week of  devotions will leave out important verses. You might have selected God’s command to Abram (renamed Abraham) to leave his home for Canaan or His command to Moses to confront Egypt’s pharaoh on behalf of the Jewish slaves. More important than the verses we select is how we respond to God’s command in our lives to “go.” Meditate on these verses—and your personal favorites—and spend time with God this week, asking him: “Where do You want me to go?”

Continue reading “God Tells Us: ‘Go’”

Finding Strength

 

Back Camera

“And it shall come to pass, that everything that lives, which moves, wherever the rivers shall come, shall live.” Ezekiel 47:9 (NKJV)

Our Strength Comes From the Lord

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Verses From the Bible to Guide Us Through the Week

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This week, meditate each day on the beauty of the day’s verse. We’ve culled from a variety of Bible versions to give a glimpse into the richness of God’s word. The Western world is blessed to have available God’s word in many translations for daily instruction. You might find a version that you’d like to learn more about, or you might prefer to stay with the version of your personal Bible. God speaks to us in many ways. Our job is to listen … and obey.

MONDAY — Philippians 4:13 (NLT) “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

 TUESDAY — Psalm 121:1-2 (ESV) “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

WEDNESDAY — John 15:5 (GW) “I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who live in me while I live in them will produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t produce anything without me.”

THURSDAY — Jeremiah 32:27 (NIV) “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”

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FRIDAY — Nehemiah 8:10 (NCV) “Don’t be sad, because the joy of the LORD will make you strong.”

SATURDAY — 1 Corinthians 1:25 (NASB) “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

SUNDAY — Isaiah 40:30-31 (MSG) “For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.”

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, as we meditate each day on Your Word, which tells us that You, Lord, and You alone, are our source of strength, we pray that You will lift our hearts. Create within us a desire to soak up Your light and let it shine through our broken lives to illuminate a world hungry for Truth. In Jesus’ Name. Amen