~Meditation~ OUR LIFE’S WORK

One of the more difficult lessons to learn — besides learning that God’s grace covers all of our sins and that He was willing to let His Son suffer and die to pay our debt — is this: God has done all of the work for our salvation. All we’re required to do is believe Him. So many of us still look for a chore list or tabulation of our good and bad moments. No, God has made it clear: We never can earn our salvation, but, by His mercy, we don’t have to. It’s a free gift of God’s grace. Our job is to accept it.


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“What can we do to perform the works of God?” they asked. Jesus replied, “This is the work of God—that you believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:28-29 (CSB)


HOW CAN WE EARN OUR SALVATION?

That is a normal question that most of us have asked.

Some really don’t ask the question because, most likely, they’re afraid of the answer. It might be along the lines of Jesus’ statement in Luke 18:22 NIV:  “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” They don’t want to give up their possessions or their “lifestyle” for Jesus.

Or else they imagine they’ll feel “called” to some remote jungle where the natives will spear them and feast on their remains. They don’t want to make a life-changing sacrifice.

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STILL, IT IS A normal question because it mirrors our life experiences on earth.

59. Woman-prayingEvery task we perform; every job we’re given; every responsibility we hold requires us to perform at a satisfactory level as judged by someone else. If we don’t measure up, then we’ll lose our position, whether it’s to lose a business we started or a position to which we’ve been hired or appointed, or even to lose a marriage or friendship or even our freedom.

Yet, in God’s world, the equation is turned up-side-down (or, perhaps, it’s turned right-side-up).

God is the judge, but God also is the only actor. In terms of salvation, God is the only one doing anything. There is nothing for us to do; indeed, there is nothing we can do. We are incapable of earning our salvation because the ticket price is too high. We cannot pay it.

So God earned it for us and then gives it to us as a free gift. All we need to do is accept it.

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AHH, SO EASY … yet so few manage to accept God’s free gift.

43. Jesus-Praying-for-MeThe Bible says that Jesus is the only path to salvation (see John 14:6), that He is truth (see John 17:17), that His name is the only one given to us for salvation (see Acts 4:12), that all who call on Him will be saved (see Joel 2:32, cf. Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13) and that, once saved, no one can snatch them from His hand or the Father’s hand (see John 10:28-29).

Yet, despite all that Our Lord Jesus Christ says to assure us that He wants us to live with Him always (see John 14:3, John 17:24), it is still natural for people to assume they have to earn salvation, to work hard enough to please God because that’s the way everything is done in this life.

Praise God that He has lifted the burden from our shoulders and placed it on His own. Paul, as usual, says it right (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV): “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”


PRAYER 1

Our Heavenly Father, please forgive us when we find it so difficult  to see You as 44. Cross_on_Biblesomeone who can forgive our sins, that You could love us so much that You would send Your Son to bear our punishment, and that You would guarantee us eternal life in Paradise if we would just believe in Your Son. Help those who are struggling with that amazing grace and help those of us who believe to testify to the truth with humility and love. We pray this in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, AMEN

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PRAYER 2: O Heavenly Father, our Father God, our Dad, even our Daddy, thank You for Your magnificent love, for Your mercy and grace, for Your eternal faithfulness. You have given us the eternal gift of life, of peace. We endlessly praise Your holy name. Instill in our hearts a measure of love, forgiveness, patience, and grace so we might extend it to others. Lord, may they see Your light shining through us and give You the glory. In Jesus’ name we lift this prayer. AMEN


QUESTIONS:
      1. How difficult is it for you to accept God’s free gift of grace as your sole obligation to ensure your salvation and eternal life in His Kingdom? Does it seem so easy that there must be “a catch”? Does it seem so difficult that you might be required to sacrifice more than you feel you are able?
      2. How important is it to you to know and understand God’s plan for your life? Do you even believe God has a plan for your life? Do you think you could learn more by reading the Holy Bible, His inspired Word?
      3. What, if anything, stops you from learning more about God’s will and His role in human history? Does it stem from a back experience years ago … or does it come from the incredible gift of grace that exceeds our human ability to comprehend?

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

~Meditation~GOD RESTORES LIFE

No matter how bleak our lives look like at certain seasons, God is with us — if we will allow Him. He can turn the lean times into a great harvest, all for His glory. He does the work — we accept in faith.

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?


“Remember how short my life is. Have you created everyone for nothing?” Psalm 89:47 (CSB)

“Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good.” Psalm 90:15 (NLT)


DURING THE LEAN TIMES, when it appears as if our lives are a wisp of smoke that evaporates and leaves no trail … when misery encompasses us, suffocating us, as we struggle to survive, during those times, it is very easy to wonder if God exists or, if existing, really cares.

The Bible (*see Romans Chapter 1*) clearly states that men everywhere for all time know that God exists, so there is no excuse for not honoring Him. Yet, believer or not, life is a struggle, and many times exist when our faith is tried.

Before I became a Christ follower (November 2010), my life meandered along one rocky path after another, so that, in sober moments, I wondered if there was any point to it.

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AFTER I TURNED  to Jesus Christ, He breathed life into my dead soul and showed me a53. man-power-of-prayer better way to live. He told me my life and conversion were an illustration of His Truth in John 10:10 (ESV): “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.”

He certainly transformed my life from a wasteland into an oasis. Yes, an oasis of life, water, sunlight, and joy, surrounded by the empty lives of others who still walk in darkness.

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GOD ORDAINED THAT I would read both verses above from the Psalms today, each speaking to me from a different translation. In one Psalm, the author bemoans the futility of his life and wonders if God’s creation amounts to anything. Certainly, I have walked along that road for most of my life.

Yet God, in His boundless mercy, gives us the second verse, where the Psalmist (possibly Moses) prays that God will give us gladness, joy, and life to compensate for the years of suffering.

This Psalm recalls the promise God already made. You can find it in Joel 2:25, 27 (NKJV): “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten. … I am the Lord your God and there is no other.”

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CAN THERE BE any response to God’s mercy and love but one: “Yes, Lord, I believe! Thank You, Lord Jesus! You gave me life, and now I can truly live. Lord, save even me.”

From Psalm 89:52 (NASB): 

“Blessed be the LORD forever! Amen and Amen”


PRAYER

O Heavenly Father, we are so grateful for Your love and mercy. You have promised to68. Holy_Bible_Cross restore the lost years of our lives — those years when we wondered in the wilderness without Your Spirit in our hearts. Now that the Holy Spirit has sealed us for the Day of Redemption, please use us to further Your Kingdom by our actions and our speech. All the praise, honor, and glory are Yours, O Lord. In the mighty name of Jesus we pray, AMEN


QUESTIONS:

1. Have you ever felt abandoned by God or that, just maybe, you aren’t good enough for Him to bother with? Can you start to believe that the Holy Bible – the Word of God – says you do matter to Him, that He knows you and cares for you?

2. Could you start to explore His Word on your own, reading 15-30 minutes a day whenever you can to see what message of reassurance, of grace and forgiveness, of unqualified love He has promised just for you?

3. If you don’t think you have the time, could you just ask Him to provide it for you? Let Him show you where you have 15 minutes to spend in His Word.

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

Meditation–SAVED BY GOD’S GRACE

Salvation is a gift from God. The Bible clearly states it. Yet, our verbal testimony — explaining the joy in our hearts or the saving power of Jesus’ Christ — goes to reason. We “take in” what was said and process it. Jesus urged his followers to hear what He told them and think about. For us to make any sense out of the Gospel message, the Holy Spirit has to be working in our hearts and minds, even though we may not be aware at the time of His presence. The entire process from death to life, from sin to salvation, is choreographed by God the Spirit as a loving, generous gift to us. Our job is to receive the gift with thanksgiving


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


“For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9 (NET)


GOD SAVES US BY HIS GRACE FOR HIS GLORY.

You can just picture the shame and humiliation of the young Jewish woman as she was dragged out her home — or maybe it was the young man’s home — and brought before J. Woman.AdulteryJesus.

What little clothing she wore no doubt was ripped, exposing more of her body than was appropriate for outdoors. All of her accusers were male.

She raised her arms to hide her face as though her identity was a secret. In a tight-knit community, everyone knew who she was and knew her reputation. Fingers were pointing and tongues were clicking.

“Teacher, we caught this woman in the act of adultery,” one of the accusers shouted. “Moses told us that the punishment for adultery is stoning to death. What do you say we should do?”

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THE APOSTLE JOHN TELLS US (John 8:1-11) that upon hearing the charges, Jesus bent down and, with his finger, wrote something in the dirt. The Bible doesn’t tell us what He wrote, but that doesn’t stop us from  speculating.

Perhaps Jesus, noticing that the accusers brought only the female partner and not the male, scribbled from Leviticus 20:10, “the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death” (NKJV).47.Open_Bible

Before finishing, Jesus stood up and exhorted them to let whichever one of them was without sin cast the first stone. One by one, starting with the eldest, the accusers walked away until only the woman, shamed, shaking, humiliated, and frightened was left with the Master.

Jesus told the young woman with love and compassion that He was not condemning her for her sin but encouraged her not to sin anymore, to use this moment as a point of redemption. We can assume this was a life-changing moment for her.

Yes, God saves us by His grace for His glory.

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JESUS’ PROMISE TO REDEEM US because He is the Lord is an amazing guarantee.

From our human perspective, we want Him to redeem us for our sake, yet the greater guarantee is the one the Lord gives us, that He will save us for His sake because He is the Lord, and He will not share His glory (Isaiah 42:8).

He assures us in both the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 5:9) and the New Testament (2 Corinthians 11:2) that He is a “jealous” God, jealous for His glory, and that jealousy is our protection. In the vernacular, we can “take that (promise) to the bank.”

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LIKE THE YOUNG WOMAN, her male companion, and her accusers, we were dead in our sins, unable to save ourselves; unable, even, to seek salvation. Yet God’s gift to us is the same one Jesus gave the shamed adulteress: Grace.

J.Woman-Jesus-AdulteryGrace is God’s gift to us. Grace is not a reward we earn for the good things we’ve done, nor even if those good things outweigh the bad things.

Even our best deeds are seen by a holy God as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) and that’s without counting the purity of our hearts. God sees into our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7), so He knows whether our wonderful acts of service were to help others and spread the Gospel or to earn kudos from our neighbors.

“Look at Bart!” we imagine the crowds exclaiming. “He’s such a Godly man; and what about Janice, isn’t she just an angel?”

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THIS IS WHERE JESUS ENTERS OUR WORLD.

The Master steps into human history to save us from our sin. He tells us in John 10:10 that, unlike the thief who came to steal, kill, and destroy, He came to give us life and to help us experience that life with abundance.

Paul tells us the Holy Spirit — the Counselor the Lord promised (John 16:7) — continues to do a “good work” inside us, and that work will be perfected when we’re in Glory. (Philippians 1:6)

God’s grace is sufficient to cover our sin — all of it — past, present, and future.

God’s amazing provision for us is all His doing. He conceived the plan; He did the heavy lifting; He made all the preparations.

Then He let us make the decision.

Whether to accept the gift … or reject it.


PRAYER

68. Holy_Bible_CrossO merciful and bountiful Father, we humbly fall to our knees, physically and in our hearts, thanking You for Your grace. Lord, without Your gift, our lives would be meaningless. We are in awe. Who are we, Lord God, that You should care about us, and yet You made us in Your image and sent Your Son to redeem us. Forgive us, Lord, and grant us Your peace. In the mighty name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray. AMEN


QUESTIONS:

1. How real for you is God’s promise of grace-filled salvation? Is that something you can understand? Do you believe it’s even true? Do you believe God’s love can encompass your sin?

2. In your life’s experience, has anyone ever offered you something without “strings attached?” Do you believe, in your heart, that God has attached “strings” to His offer of grace? Do you believe “faith” is a condition too high for you to bridge?

3. Do you believe the Bible is correct when it tells us that our best deeds, when seen by a holy God, are considered as “filthy rags”? Can you accept the Bible’s statement that that same holy God, seeing our sinful natures, could still love us enough to pay our debt to reconcile us to Him forever?


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

GOD CHOSE US—AMAZING LOVE!

God reveals Himself to us through His creation and through Scripture. He lays claim to our lives, not to dominate us but to give us life to the fullest! We are in a tug-of-war between a world that hates the Eternal Light and pulls us down and the loving grace of our Creator who sacrificed His Son to redeem us. What should be an easy choice for everyone to accept turns out to be an easy one for most people to reject. How sad for them, but how glorious for us who believe!

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?


“You did not choose me; I chose you.”  John 15:16a (NCV)

I chose you to come out of the world.” John 15:19b (NLT)


GOD CHOSE US!

These words of Jesus must be the most reassuring words ever spoken.

We are born and slowly become consciously aware of our existence … and soon we realize just how fragile life is.

54. Man.Asking.QuestionsWho am I? Why am I here? Do I have a purpose? What is to become of me?

Will I die? What is that like? Is there life beyond … well, you know … beyond the end?

All normal questions. Down through the ages and throughout the cultures, humans have tried to answer those questions.

For most people, the answers are made-up, fabricated, mere fairy tales, concocted by medicine men, self-anointed priests, great warriors, and then passed down to each new generation. Worship ceremonies built around ritual and superstition solidified the “religion.”

But for God’s people, the ones who believe that He created all of the universe, including us, the answers are different.

God has revealed Himself to mankind.

He also has told us who we are (Gen. 1:26 ESV): Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” 

We are God’s creation, and He fashioned us after Himself.

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IN THE BEGINNING, when God began this life-on-earth adventure, He took qualities of His being — courage and strength and bravery — and scooped up some dust from the ground and combined them into the first man — Adam, which in Hebrew means “earth.”

After showing Adam that he was one of a kind — higher than the animals but far lower than God, Himself — He took a rib from Adam’s side.

41. Jesus_Adam_EveHe mushed the rib together with a different set of qualities that God  possessed — grace and beauty and empathy — and created the first woman as companion and helper to Adam. Adam called her Eve, meaning “mother of all living things.”

Such a glorious start to God’s perfect plan. Yes, there was a quick downturn when Adam and Eve failed to obey God, but God didn’t give up on them.

He came looking for them and pronounced his plan for salvation through Jesus Christ.

When Jesus walked the earth, He saw the multitude in need of a shepherd and declared in John 15:16 (NCV):  

You did not choose me; I chose you.”

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THE APOSTLE JOHN, who referred to himself as “the one Jesus loved,” stressed the divine commandment to love God and one another. In his first letter, he wrote: “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19 ESV).

That concept should give us such reassurance, that the Creator not only fashioned us, but fashioned us after Himself and pours love onto us.

There’s more. It’s even more profound than that. This is how God rescues us from sin and temptation. Here’s what James (the half-brother of Jesus and leader of the early church) has to say in James 4:7-8a (CSB):

“Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Indeed, those are  comforting words.

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YOU PROBABLY KNOW friends and family members who “worship” some idol or god of 43. God's-Gracetheir own creation: their family, job, status, boat, computer, house, or even a trait or characteristic—witty, attractive, intelligent, personable.

How do those gods stack up against the God who is Creator of the Universe, the One who comes looking for us, the One who allowed Himself to be tortured and executed for our eternal benefit, the One who draws us close with protective arms when we seek shelter from life’s storms.

Yes, God intervenes in human affairs, from beginning to end. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, God says He chose us.

Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, quotes God in Jeremiah 1:5 (NET):

 “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb I chose you.”

Luke, writing of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:15 ESV, quotes God,

“He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”

No other god devised by man’s imagination has ever done any of those things. No, they’re all inanimate objects, or nothing but the creation itself, or mythical creatures concerned mostly with their own sinful pursuits.

We worship a God who reveals Himself to us! A God who seeks us. A God who comforts us and protects us.

We did not choose God. He — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — chose us.

He continues to choose us!

Glory to God in the highest!


PRAYER

O Loving and Merciful Father, please forgive us for our  stupidity and sinful pride that keep us from fulling giving ourselves to You in a life-affirming manner. We hold something back, 44. Cross_on_Bibleafraid to let go of every piece of our selves, yet You gave up the glory of heaven to assume the likeness of man, and then gave up the desire for life by humbling Yourself to die on a cross — for us. LORD, show us the way back to You through the Holy Spirit, that we might walk hand-in-hand with our Creator in the Paradise of love that He creates. Heaven is now for those of us in the LORD. All the praise, honor, and glory are Yours. In Jesus’ name. AMEN


QUESTIONS:
  1. Can you relate to a supernatural Being who says He created you, wants a relationship with you, and even sent His Son to pay the debt for your rebellion against Him, so that by believing in Him, you will be reconciled to that supernatural Being? That Being is God. He chose you. He still does. Will you choose Him, too?
  2. Do you find yourself “worshipping” things more than God? Maybe it’s your car or your computer or your video equipment, or maybe it’s your job or your house or even your family? God says to place Him first in your life. Do you find that hard to do?
  3. Does knowing God chose you give you more sense of your purpose in life, of who you are and what might be expected of you? Do you like knowing that God has a plan for your life … or would you rather just live your days following your own dream? Would you be surprised if God gave you the aptitude and desire that He can use to shape you into the man or woman He intended? Can you see how you could be useful in His eternal plan?

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